I 've been drinking the orange Kool-Aid. And I think it might have been spiked.
A year or so ago I wrote about racing at Harley Night at Costa Mesa Speedway. I've since been back twice. And I'm here to tell you, what looks like a bunch of rodeo clowns from the grandstands is waaay more serious on the track. Never mind the guy with the horns on his helmet, the blue hair or the Evel Knievel cape, the only place you'll see more steel shoes is at an AMA Grand National dirt-track.
So naturally I had to set up my long-term XR1200 to work better and look the part. I mean somebody's got to play the Jay Springsteen card, right?
First order of business was pitching the heavy stock exhaust and bolting on a SuperTrapp 2:2 Tunable Megaphone System ($985 from www.supertrapp.com). Not quite XR750-style high-pipes, this stainless-steel system's twin mufflers angle up to give the bike the look of a dirt-track racer. And they do look bitchin' from a few feet away. It's only when you get up close that you notice the high-school shop-class welds and cheap, stamped-steel end caps. Whatever happened to those trick machined-aluminum bits?
Worse, the SuperTrapp pipes significantly reduce cornering clearance in right-handers. Maybe they took that "straight, turn left" thing a tad too literally? One spirited run down a twisty road and the metal was worn thin as a soda can. A polite email informing the PR person of this shortcoming resulted in a defensive reply: "That depends on how you ride." Yes, it does. And how exactly would you have me ride the sportiest Sportster ever?
On a positive note, the SuperTrapp system halved weight to just 15 pounds while boosting output considerably. With a Screamin' Eagle Street Performance Tuner Kit ($329.95) installed, rear-wheel horsepower shot from 75.7 bhp at 6750 rpm to 80.6 bhp at 6500 rpm. Torque also rose from 69.2 lb.-ft. at 3750 rpm to 70.3 lb.-ft. at 5000 rpm. Granted the 1200cc V-twin might make even greater power with more than 16 diffuser discs bolted to the end of the mufflers, but the exhaust note already sets off car alarms.
Now that go-power was addressed, it was time to focus on whoa-power. The stock Nissin four-piston front brake calipers are top-shelf parts; they're just connected to spongy rubber lines. A front brake line kit from Storz Performance ($168.25; www.storzperf.com) rectified that. Made by Goodridge, the kit incorporates a set of black vinyl-coated braided-steel lines plus a machined-from-billet junction that bolts to the bottom triple clamp. The result is a firmer lever that doesn't fade in repeated applications.
While I had Steve Storz on the line, I hit him up for one of his gel seats ($225). Made by Saddlemen, this is slightly thicker than the stock foam pad and much more dense, resulting in increased legroom and greatly increased long-range comfort.
As you'll read elsewhere in this issue, the formerly European-only XR1200X is being sold stateside in 2011. When that model debuted last summer, Harley began offering its uprated Showa suspension to XR1200 owners for $1499.95-a killer deal considering you get a Big Piston fork and twin gas-charged, piggyback-reservoir shocks, both fully adjustable.
The difference is night and day. The fork remains plush yet dives significantly less under braking, while the shocks are noticeably firmer. Although I was initially dismayed that the shocks are the stock length (the racers in the new AMA Vance & Hines XR1200 series run much longer ones), the bike rides higher in the stroke so cornering clearance isn't as much of an issue.
So set up, my XR looks, sounds and performs great, both on the street and at that all-important bullring in Costa Mesa. In three visits to Harley Night I've finished fourth, third and second. You only get one guess where I hope to finish next.