Range revamped for NZ
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.