2010 Harley Davidson XR1200X Owner review
I've long been interested in the Shortlived Harley Davidson XR series. Very likely because there just wasn't many of them around, and then the whole concept was a big departure to what was considered a Harley.
Admittedly initially it was with repulsion, which in time turned to curiosity, then fascination. For me, it was not 'love at first sight'.
One guy described the overall aesthetic as a bike that 'looks ugly from all angles. I'd agree it's a bit of an oddball but absolutely not ugly from all angles. It also depends whether we're talking about the first or second series - the latter with the blacked-out engine and denim paint option which to my eyes worked far better especially in black as it pulled it all together.
Some of the early bikes with the silver powder-coated engine looked like a home built project built from fridge parts in a particular light. In any case, I must admit this bike always looked better in the flesh than photographed. Like some people, they just weren't built for the limelight.
What's the big deal anyway, isn't the XR just another Sporster?
Yes, and no.
While the XR engine is based on the Sportster, significant changes to the engine internals, intake, cooling and the way it goes like a bat-out-of-hell justify me saying that it is really quite a different beast altogether. XR performance is what a lot of builders try to make the Sportster into, and not many succeed.
Made initially for the European Market, Harley was trying to tap into the sportbike market which was all-the-rage at the time. Despite a decent attempt, the XR was a bit too porky and underpowered in comparison to Japanese and Italian sportbikes. In short, they didn't sell too well. As it often happens, they because more popular when Harley stopped making them.
The XR1200X Model
The X model out in 2010 and featured some cool styling changes an well as upgrades suspension front and back. Visually the blackout out engine looks boss and pulls the whole bike together.
Handling the XR1200X
Arguably the sportiest Harley ever made, the XR was made to Handle, and has the capacity to do so. Clearance is impressive - it isn't easy to scrape anything on this bike. However, it doesn't just tip into a corner; it does take some getting used to. With the right amount of counter-steering and shifting your weight on the pegs and seat, she will corner sweetly. It does take effort and concentration - like any good relationship. Doze off to la-la land, and you'll find yourself far further on the outside of the corner then you imagined.
The ergonomics are a little odd, despite being quite sporty. Take a regular mid-mount Sportster. Make it a good deal taller, take the bars forward a bit and the pegs back a bit. Give it hard shocks, and hard seat.
To date, I've ridden the bike around 3500kms within 4weeks and am still getting used to it. Sometimes it feels a bit awkward but ultimately rewarding.
The suspension was clearly meant to be on the sporty side, therefore quite stiff. Both front fork and rear shocks are fully adjustable with preload, compression and rebound - not something you see on a Harley usually, and this one is now a decade old.
As with any springs, they have to be set up suitably to what you usually ride on. A race track setup will suck hard on bumpier backroads and vice-versa.
A case in point, our particular bike seemed like it was set up for Laguna Seca circuit, which meant that on the street it was like riding a plank of wood down concrete stairs — easily remedied by easing the dampening settings. Dialled in, it provided a good measure of compliance over bumps but still the firmness and control you'd expect of a 'Sporty' motorcycle.
Who's it for
People who want a Sportier Harley, Fans of Sportsters who want more oomph.
The XR (taking vintage into account), is an offensive primitive beast of a motorcycle and certainly not for the lovers of smooth inline fours. This moto-bush-pig, shakes, grunts, snorts, gets very hot under the collar and is about a subtle as an angry bull in a porcelain shop. If after riding a few hours you aren't destroyed by the shaking and the noise, then it might be the wind blast that finally finished you off. It's grumpy when it's cold, and also when it's hot at low rpm.
The ergonomics of the stock seat will have you begging for mercy within two hours, and you might want to get some fireproof jeans for your right leg as the exhaust doubles as a chicken rotisserie. The XR is an angry bronze-age tractor that's as heavy as a small car with go-fast bits on it.
That said, it's easily one of the most fun machines I've had the pleasure of riding — a visceral experience to the core that will have you buzzing hours after dismounting. Its eccentricities make you want to know it more and ride more. Cracking open the throttle feeling it surge at 4,000rpm to its redline of 7,000 and you're onboard a P52 mustang fighter plane in a dive. It sounds proper sublime and simultaneously unmerciful.
The sound and presence of the XR are the highlights for me. In the end, I think it's more of a muscle bike than a sports bike, much like the Mustangs and Chargers of the old Days — more grunt and engine sound than outright performance. Of all bikes I've owned, this one gets the most attention (if that's important to you).
It's a menacing and unique bike that any enthusiast or collector should start taking seriously before they are all gone.
It's a polarising machine which you'll likely love or hate. Or perhaps like me, grow to love it over time.
Specifics of the bike we're writing about:
2010 Harley Davidson XR1200X
- Vance & Hines Black Widow competition pipes
- Screaming Eagle Pro tuner with Dyno Tune
- K&N Air Intake
- and Plenty of other knick-knacks that make it look cool but no performance differences.