Sunday, April 11, 2010
It impressed on many levels - the 1202cc V-twin stored its strength predominantly in the midrange, with a livelier buzz nestled close to the 7,000rpm red line. The stylish but sizeable 250kg mass was masked by the bike's fairly satisfying handling and the footpegs on our launch models were ground to a pointed slant as a result.
The new XR1200X (note the extra X) is less of a new model and more of an improvement over the original, an evolutionary step for the XR concept. The spring-loaded pegs now return to the correct position if kicked so there's no more sudden flailing of unanchored legs, and the suspension has been upgraded with fully adjustable 'sport-tuned' Showa rear twin shocks and inverted front forks.
A lick of dark denim paint blackens the engine casing, mudguards, forks and tail unit and the straight-shot pipes are bathed in the same moody shade. It's attractive, provided you like black. It has all the same style cues of the base model, but there's an aggressive edge to its appearance that makes it look solid, dependable and serious. The XR1200X is supposed to challenge Europe's other popular air-cooled twins, bikes like Ducati's Monster 1100 or BMW's R1200R. Are these changes enough to make it a competitive alternative?
The 90bhp evolution engine remains untouched from last year's model, and in that respect, there are no surprises. The power delivery is predictable and linear, with a lazy rolling character that becomes more energetic higher up the rev range.
With the addition of fully adjustable suspension, it should be possible to find settings that suit your riding style and your expectations of the bike. On standard settings, the XR1200X proves it can handle the challenge of pleasing a European market. It needs to manhandled, you have to take charge and be decisive about attacking corners and the bike doesn't exactly fall into bends with over eagerness, but it does dive readily in when pushed.
On the straights, the XR1200X is more than capable of sustaining healthy motorway speeds, and while the protection is obviously limited and far less than the BMW's it wouldn't become an issue until you've delved into license-losing territory. Of course, all Harley-Davidson's come with a truly comprehensive list of optional extras and the original bike had a variety of touring accessories.
Unfortunately, the XR1200X's tank is actually a gnat's whisker leaner (from 13.3 litres to 13.25 litres) and after just 109 miles, mine ran only on fumes and sheer determination to make it to the nearest garage, so touring paraphernalia seems a little ambitious. As does taking a pillion - the passenger seat is quite small and along with the absence of grab rails, the XR1200X is obviously designed with solo riders in mind.
While the small ribbed protection on the upper pipe should prevent your pillion from melting the soles of their boots on the exhaust, it may be a different story for your thighs. The heat radiating from the cylinder heads is pleasantly warming on winter rides but I wonder how cool the XR1200X will feel in the summer sun? It's worth noting too, that the bike I rode had obviously been standing in the rain at some point. It was already weathered, with two small patches of brown rust forming from the pools of water that had previously collected in the ends of both exhausts.
Model: Harley-Davidson XR1200X, £9,170
Engine: Air-cooled V-twin of 1202cc, producing 90bhp
at 7,000rpm and 74 ft lb at 3,700rpm
Transmission: Belt through five-speed gearbox
Dry weight: 250kg
Seat height: 795mm
Fuel capacity: 13.25 litres