First Ride: 2006 Harley-Davidson XL1200 Low

Harley has dropped the seat height on its Sportster to make it appeal to those of a lower disposition. Non-vertically challenged Grant picks the short straw.

Posted: 22 September 2010
by Grant Leonard
Hogan misplaces right foot, shocker
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Click to read: Harley-Davidson XL1200 Low owners reviews, Harley-Davidson XL1200 Low specs and to see the Harley-Davidson XL1200 Low image gallery.

You don't have to be fat with a big beard to look good on a Harley. In fact, Harley is taking as many personal physical attributes out of the equation as possible to include everyone in the great American alternative lifestyle. The Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Low is a new model. The whole Sportster range had a fundamental makeover a couple of years ago introducing rubber to the engine mounts and with it relief all round. The Low is so-called as it has a very low seat - 667mm. Almost anyone can sling a leg over.

Most Harleys are low to the ground anyway, especially the big capacity models. The Sportster is more of an upright machine, which gives it more ground clearance, thus justifying its name, to a degree. It comes in two capacities, 883 and 1200. These are the entry-level Harleys - a relatively cheap and easy way in.

This new 1200 looks fantastic with its scalloped seat, bob-style rounded tank and high-rise bars: the perfect Harley profile and more like the highly attractive big inchers in the range . Chrome is luxuriant and it's the kind of bike that people gawp at and has you nipping out to the garage just to stare at it.

"1200cc and mounds of torque will keep any wrist happy!" says the Harley-Davidson website. Nice copy writing. So before we alienate the more macho among us, I'll translate - such is the spread of power, your wrist will not tire through constantly opening and shutting the throttle to change gear. Quite true too. The 1200 has plenty of power in standard form and is a much preferable option to the 883, which is flat and disappointing. But it's not intimidating by any stretch at all, ever. Just a nicely-powered ride.

H-D quote a peak of 68lb.ft of torque at 3300rpm. They shy away from a horsepower figure as it usually looks rather embarrassing by today's stratospheric standards but for a bike that revs out probably around 6000rpm, 3300rpm is a reasonable place to surf. It is a lumpy 1200cc twin after all.

But the selling point of this latest version of the Harley Sportster is the low-set seat, with direct appeal to ladies as well as short gentlemen. That said, I'm just under six feet and found the ergonomics on commuting journeys fine, so it will be acceptable to all shapes.

Where this goes wrong is the relative position of your coccyx to the top of the rear shock - in fact, side-on you can draw a straight line from the rear hub to the back of your skull. This puts a lot of emphasis on quality of suspension and the padding of the seat. Unfortunately neither are up to it and you can get a seriously upsetting jolt if you catch a couple of bumps in succession.

If I bought one I'd fit some decent rear shocks immediately. Less urgent of an update and reflected in the bike's price is the lack of a second disc at the front. The brakes are stop-go items, but the Sportster needs more. The one disc option on this model is sorely lacking, but you can always add an extra one.

But all in all, the new Sportster Low is a great introduction to the Disneyesque world of Harley-Davidson, providing, through Harley 'Motorclothes' shops, 'the look' and, through the Harley Owners' Group club, instant biker lifestyle. I know that sounds a little cynical, but it's not meant to be. The whole thing is a great take on motorcycling - try it. You might like it.

VERDICT

The Low is a great introduction to the Harley-Davidson world and lifestyle. It's cheap but the ride isn't relaxing.

Harley-Davidson XL1200 Specs

SPECS
TYPE - CRUISER
PRODUCTION DATE - 2006
PRICE NEW - £6995
ENGINE CAPACITY - 1200cc
POWER - N/A
TORQUE - 68.6lb.ft@3300rpm   
WEIGHT - 251kg
SEAT HEIGHT - 667mm   
FUEL CAPACITY - 17L   
TOP SPEED - N/A   
0-60     - n/a
TANK RANGE - N/A



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