The 2009 XR1200 hit US Harley showrooms around the same time The Motor Co divested itself of Buell – likely angering the XR’s biggest potential group of buyers. Too bad really, because the XR1200 (especially when the upgraded XR1200X suspension bits) was, and still is, a terrific bike.
I recently had the opportunity to revisit the XR1200, riding a low, low miles, all original, black/ silver 2009 model. This was the first year for the US, with Europe/ Asia getting the bike in a year earlier in 2008. Interesting side note, this particular bike spent most of its time in a Plexiglas table displayed at an Ohio bar. Easy to understand why- the XR1200 is a great looking bike!
From any angle, the XR1200 looks great. With a nod to famous H-D XR750 dirt track bikes, the high pipes, scooped seat, and wide upright bars give the bike an air of purpose. Sitting on the bike, it feels slightly tall, narrow, light (for a Harley) and balanced. The seat’s a bit slim on padding, but roomy and well-shaped for the rider. Can’t speak for pillion accommodations, but the rear seat with cover and high passenger pegs imply the XR1200 is best solo. The analog tach and digital speedo highlight minimalistic instrumentation that’s easy to read and tells all you need to know.
The fuel injected XR fires instantly and settles into the familiar Harley shake at idle. Motoring onto the street, the instant throttle response feels a bit jumpy at first, but easy clutch pull and friction zone smooth things out quickly. The mid-to-slightly-rear pegs feel a bit odd for the first few minutes, then everything about the riding position feels just right for an easy city ride or a bit of twisty fun. Cracking the throttle, at nearly any speed in nearly any gear, and this torquey sportster smoothly pulls HARD all the way to its 7,000 redline. Ripping through the light shifting gears, the glorious sound from those twin stacked pipes alone should have sold thousands of these bikes!
Leaving city streets behind, it’s easy to forget you’re riding one of Harley-Davidson’s popular “entry-level” series of bikes. The triple-disc brakes (no ABS) are easy to modulate and work very well. The sparky bits are all placed high enough to allow a fair amount of lean before grinding. Tire grip and well-sorted suspension take the bike’s easy balance to near flickable levels- a phrase normally antithetical to Harleys. While no Buell XB, this is a Sportster that would make a reasonable commuter- and one not embarrassed to roll with the sporty bike crowd on the weekends.
My brief but thoroughly enjoyable ride reminded me why motojournalists raved about the XR1200 in its day. It also left me confused it’s been mostly overlooked by the riding public. Discontinued in 2013, the XR1200 is arguably the best sporty Sportster ever offered and should have been a massive sales hit. Today one can find excellent examples for extremely reasonable prices and own with confidence of knowing the vast Harley-Davidson network and aftermarket will be there for support into the foreseeable future.
Special shout of thanks to Steve at Fairport Harbor Motorcycles for the use of this awesome ‘09 XR1200 – which I understand is available for purchase to a good home!
Keep Riding Local, Dreaming Global, and rolling safe. See you on the road!