Range re­vamped for NZ

South Waikato News - - MOTORING - By PAUL OWEN

The Har­ley-David­son Sport­ster range has just un­der­gone some ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion fol­low­ing the New Zealand dealer con­fer­ence in Welling­ton.

When the Kiwi re­tail­ers told the mo­tor com­pany that they couldn’t col­lec­tively sell 50 or more XR1200s in a year, the Sport­ster model most suited to our roads got the chop (and, no, I don’t mean it re­ceived a low­ered cus­tom frame and a raked­out front end). Seems we’d rather look at our Har­leys than ride them as we pre­fer them to be as low slung as pos­si­ble and bug­ger the cor­ner­ing clear­ance is­sues that this pref­er­ence causes. With the higher-rid­ing XR’s ban­ish­ment to other mar­kets more ap­pre­cia­tive of its more ex­cit­ing han­dling dy­nam­ics, the newly-minted XL1200C Cus­tom in­stantly be­comes the sporti­est new Sport­ster on the New Zealand mar­ket.

It’s a ti­tle the XL1200C earns en­tirely by de­fault. The defin­ing fea­ture of the Cus­tom is the nice fat front tyre that matches one that’s only slightly fat­ter at the rear and this har­mon­is­ing of the tyre pro­files has re­sulted in one of the bet­ter steer­ing Har­leys. Add the shorter wheel­base and lighter mass that en­liven the han­dling of the en­tire Sport­ster range over the Big Twins and the Cus­tom feels like a bike that’s as keen to carve a line through a curve as a Gurkha fighter is to draw blood af­ter he ex­tracts his sa­cred curved dag­ger from its scab­bard. How­ever, un­like the Gurkha, the XL1200C will leave the job half done. For it runs out of ground clear­ance long be­fore it runs out of avail­able tyre grip and ploughs fur­rows in the road sur­face with the rider’s foot­peg in left han­ders and the lower of its two shot­gun ex­haust pipes in the corners track­ing right. Get home af­ter any half-en­thu­si­as­tic ride on the XL1200C and you’ll wince at the road scars you’ll see in that lower right pipe.

This is a pity be­cause the Sport­ster pow­er­train is a bit of peach as long as the en­gine is 1200cc in size in­stead of 883. The five-speed gear­box shifts ac­cu­rately and the frame’s rub­ber en­gine mounts ab­sorb the vibes so they only have mas­sag­ing ef­fect.

NOT SO SPORTY: The XL1200C is more about the way it looks than the way it rides and per­forms.

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