Harley-Davidson XR1200 launch

TWO Magazine Editor In Chief, Grant Leonard, is one of the first journalists in the world to test ride the all-new Harley-Davidson XR1200 - he reports back his findings from sunny Spain

The XR1200 knocks out over 90bhp

I'M REPORTING direct from the launch of the XR1200 in Valencia where Harley-Davidson
have achieved a couple of firsts.

One is to build a bike exclusively (for 08 at least) for the European market. The
XR1200 is a design initiative of Harley-Davidson Europe, borne almost of a
frustration of trying to sell bikes built for the American market to bikers who
frankly expect at least a minimum level of performance from their motorcycles.
Performance defined as handling, braking and power delivery, facets that have
different benchmarks in the USA.

The second is to succeed in building a traditional Harley-Davidson that you can
actually ride quickly without getting in a mess. Traditional is the key word too as
the bike is a styled on the legendary XR750 flat-tracker, a pure racebike which has
dominated a domestic dirt track sport for 30 years and has started the career of
several American Grand Prix World Championship contenders and champions - and
carried Evel Knievel over a load of parked buses, ad nauseum (his, quite often).

Indeed the launch was attended by nine-times AMA Grand National Dirt Track Champion,
Scott Parker, who also helped develop the XR1200. He won them all on the XR750.

Until now, if you wanted an XR750 replica you needed to buy an expensive kit from
the likes of Storz Performance. It’s surprising and massively ironic that the
initiative for a factory job had to come from Europe – as we don’t really race dirt
track over here, XR750s are non-existent in the Europe.

Based largely on a Sportster XL1200 road bike the XR1200 has Showa suspension,
Nissin brakes and a pepped up motor. It’s also cleverly captured the essential look
of the XR750. The bottom line from the launch is that it meets expectations – but
always in the Harley-Davidson context.

It’s stable, brakes well, hits 125mph reasonably quickly and can be chucked on its
side and peg-scraped with wanton abandon. If you’re trying to get a feel for where
it lands in the rankings, the XR1200 has been benchmarked against bikes like the
Ducati Monster, Yamaha MT01 and Kawasaki ZXR1200. My view is the XR stands
comparison to those models. So if they do enough to float your boat, the XR should
do too.

If you were waiting for the first report and this is it, you can feel safe in
staking your deposit (on a £7655 OTR asking price). Full report will be in TWO
magazine on sale Thursday 24th April.