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2014 Harley-Davidson Sportster SuperLow 1200T ride review

By Shadow

Timing is everything. Adhering to its usual highly secretive modus operandi, Harley-Davidson announced a mid-2014 model-year launch that included the introduction of the new SuperLow 1200T just one day before the start of Daytona Bike Week, allowing rallygoers to see, touch and ride it. And with Harley’s desire to expand its demographic reach, it was high time that The MoCo bring out a smaller touring machine for entry-level riders as well as those of shorter stature. The average height for men in the U.S. is 5′ 9 1/2″, and for women, 5′ 4″. The SuperLow 1200T is intended for riders from 5′ 1″ to 5′ 7″ in height, and my 5′ 4″ frame falls squarely into that range.

2014 Harley-Davidson Sportster SuperLow 1200T

2014 Harley-Davidson Sportster SuperLow 1200T

 

The quick-detach windshield uses lever-release clamps and can be adjusted to match the rider's height

The quick-detach windshield uses lever-release clamps and can be adjusted to match the rider’s height

The SuperLow 1200T is based on the SuperLow 883 chassis, first introduced in July 2010 for the 2011 model year. Along with the additional cubic inches, the 1200T offers a number of other features geared specifically towards touring. The most notable of these is the pair of standard-equipment saddlebags that, surprisingly, offer about the same amount of storage as my Switchback. The saddlebags can be locked for security (although with a separate key), and though they are not technically quick-detach, removal is easy with the right tool. And docking hardware for a detachable luggage rack or backrest comes standard on the 1200T.

Michelin Scorcher 11T touring tires wrap the black and silver split five-spoke aluminum wheels

Michelin Scorcher 11T touring tires wrap the black and silver split five-spoke aluminum wheels

Mounted on the front end is a detachable 14″ clear windshield with lever-release clamps that do not require any docking hardware, and as such, can be adjusted on the upper forks to accommodate the rider’s height. The Reduced Reach two-up touring seat allows the shorter rider to more easily reach the hand and foot controls. And the seat is quite narrow near the tank, permitting the rider’s legs to more easily reach the ground. A favorite feature of mine is the rider mini-footboards that are moved 3″ forward from the SuperLow 883, providing a lot more legroom and comfort for the long haul.

Suspension for the SuperLow 1200T has been specially designed, with the front forks tuned for touring. The rear suspension consists of a standard “twin tube” shock on the right, and on the left is an adjustable emulsion shock where the preload is controlled using an easy-to-grip dial. This rear suspension system, previously available only on Tourers, allows for simple adjustment without using tools or having to remove the saddlebag.

The vinyl-over-hardshell saddlebags hold a surprising amount of gear, rivaling the storage capacity of Harley's next-larger touring bike

The vinyl-over-hardshell saddlebags hold a surprising amount of gear, rivaling the storage capacity of Harley’s next-larger touring bike

Front and rear wheels are black and silver split five-spoke aluminum wrapped in Michelin Scorcher 11T touring tires—a solid 120/70 18″ up front and a 150/70 17″ in the rear. The “premium performance” braking consists of a 300mm rotor, dual 34mm pistons and high-efficiency aluminum front master cylinder in the front and a 260mm rotor and dual 38mm pistons in back. ABS brakes and a fob-controlled security system are available as a factory-installed option package.

The SuperLow 1200T is the first Sportster to feature factory-equipped saddlebags and windshield as standard gear

The SuperLow 1200T is the first Sportster to feature factory-equipped saddlebags and windshield as standard gear

The single handlebar clamp-mounted gauge is comprised of an analog speedometer with digital tach, and toggle-through odometer, tripmeter, gear indicator and clock. The fork stop on either side is rigged to provide a bit more room before locking the handlebars, allowing for a greater turning radius but necessitating the relocation of the front directionals to the triple clamp. This turn-signal repositioning does, however, make for a better look.

The left rear emulsion shock adjusts preload easily with the use of a dial

The left rear emulsion shock adjusts preload easily with the use of a dial

Shiny details such as the cloisonné tank badge, chrome-plated saddlebag badging, headlamp visor and handlebar clamp, turn signal covers, instrument housing, air cleaner cover and engine, primary and transmission cover and other chromed bits lend a classy demeanor to the 1200T. And unlike the saggy leather bags on my own Sportster, the 1200T saddlebags should hold their form permanently due to the vinyl-over-hardshell composition.

My test ride revealed some of the 1200T’s performance characteristics, such as the ability to perform jackrabbit starts, much like its brethren in the 1200 Sportster line. At just under 600 pounds running weight—about 120 pounds less than the next-size-up touring machine, the Switchback—that 70.8 ft. lb. of torque makes this bike a lean, mean touring machine. The handling is like any other Sportster; tight control in curves and easy to manage while performing low-speed maneuvers. The tradeoff, however, for the low seat position is the 4.2″ of ground clearance, meaning that it won’t lean as far as the Iron 883 or the Seventy-Two with their 4.7″ clearance, and certainly not as far as the 5.3″ clearance for the full-size Tourers. That said, I would venture to guess that most new riders won’t be testing the lean-angle limits of the 1200T anyway.

New mini-footboards move the rider position 3" forward, and make it easier for the rider to place feet flat on the ground and reach the sidestand

New mini-footboards move the rider position 3″ forward, and make it easier for the rider to place feet flat on the ground and reach the sidestand

Stopping power was superb, as the 1200T I rode was equipped with the optional ABS braking system. The front end didn’t take much of a nosedive during sudden stops, nor did it pogo when I rode over a set of railroad tracks. The rear suspension, fixed at one of the lowest dial settings, was soft but not mushy, and still did the job. One could theoretically reach back and adjust the left shock dial when riding, although I wouldn’t recommend such a move. During a lunch stop, I turned the dial… and turned the dial… and turned the dial to find the highest setting. The ride was somewhat stiffer after that, and I imagine it would perform nicely with a passenger or some luggage on the back. The seat, although more plush with foam than any other Sportster model, is rather narrow and, in my opinion, not up to the task of long-haul touring; my back and “sit bones” began to ache after a while. I’d suggest gel inserts for the seat or a gel seat pad. Of course seat experience is quite subjective so your miles may vary.

At $11,799 MSRP for Vivid Black, $12,114 for Candy Orange and $12,334 for the two-tone Birch White/Midnight Pearl, the 1200T is the highest-priced model in the Sportster line. That said, when I bought my basic, stripped-down Sportster nearly 15 years ago, I had to purchase every touring-related component separately—the Harley leather saddlebags and mounting hardware, detachable H-D windshield and mounting hardware, docking hardware for my sissy bar and luggage rack, and aftermarket front and rear suspension components. The cost in today’s dollars would be at least $2,500 extra, plus countless hours ordering and installing parts from various vendors and going through the trial and error of fitment and compatibility problems. With the factory touring setup, you can be sure that every component works together seamlessly, at no additional cost or effort. All in all, my SuperLow 1200T was a nice little touring package offering a ton of fun, and I’d happily ride it anywhere.

2014 Harley-Davidson Sportster SuperLow 1200T

2014 Harley-Davidson Sportster SuperLow 1200T

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