To most of my friends and industry colleagues, me owning and riding a Harley-Davidson – my first-ever! – is a bit of a strange thing. Given my history of motocross and road racing along with my mainstream motorcycle magazine work (where cruisers were covered but not the primary focus), that’s understandable.
But, man …. in the 30 or so days I’ve owned this 2012 Harley-Davidson XR1200X, I’ve been grinning ear-to-ear and telling everyone I know – riders and non-riders alike – how much flippin’ fun I’m having.
And it’s not just because the XR is Milwaukee’s sportiest machine ever, aside from the race-only VR1000 of the 1990s. It’s mostly because it’s a Harley-Davidson through and through. It shakes, as most Harleys do, the engine jumping around on its rubber mounts like a cooped-up pup. It sounds ferocious, especially through the Vance & Hines exhaust it came with. The sensations through the pegs, seat and handlebar are Pure Visceral Joy. And those fourteen legendary letters on the fuel tank? Well, they speak for themselves.
I find myself looking for things to do on it, reasons to ride, whether it’s blasting to the top of one of the local ski canyons or to run errands. Lately I’ve been looking for new roads to check out, places to visit, people to see.
Boiled down, I’m enjoying riding again. Not as a job, but as a fan of the sport. And it’s mostly due to this motorcycle. A good thing.
Researching and finding the bike was fun, too, and I got some helpful XR encouragement from a couple buddies. Paul James, who works for Harley-Davidson, owns one, as does (or did) Rapid City’s Terry Rymer, who’s been a Harley dealer and race-team owner and enthusiast forever. I decided I wanted the later-spec X model, which looks bad-ass with its wrinkle-black engine and swingarm, but more importantly (or so I thought) has the upgraded Showa fork and reservoir shocks.
I looked online for about a month, finally spotting the one on eBay – the bad-ass black-on-black color, just 11K on the clock and in near-perfect condition. I mostly despise eBay due to the many ass-wipe bidders there who can and often do waste a seller’s time and money, so I figured I’d try the seller’s local-area Craigslist – and bingo! I contacted the seller, negotiated a deal and, a week or so later, drove to Denver to get it. I’d have preferred to fly there and ride back to SLC (Covid kept me in the truck), but after a 1000-mile day and sixteen hours on my ass, I had the XR in my garage. And a happy boy was I.
The Metzelers on it were several years old, hard and squared-off badly, so I immediately spooned a set of Dunlop’s awesome RoadSmart III sport-touring skins onto its 19-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels. And what had been a sketchy, harsh-riding handler that did not want to turn at all was suddenly and almost magically a totally different motorcycle, with perfectly linear steering, superb contact-patch feedback and tons of grip. Plus, the RoadSmart’s dual-compound construction means there’s more durable rubber in the center of the tire (and plenty of sticky stuff on the sides), so even a lot of errands and highway miles won’t square ’em off.
Besides re-valving the not-as-great-as-I-thought fork and shocks, I’m not sure what else I’ll do to the thing, though the folks on the XR1200 Owners’ Forum (XR1200ownersgroup.com) have tons of ideas and expertise on what works and what doesn’t. I’m looking into becoming a HOG member, I bought a set of SAE wrenches and sockets for my toolbox (was all-metric previously), and I even got me some H-D-appropriate riding gear, including a pair of Harley-Davidson boots (two pairs, engineer and western) and a very cool H-D modular helmet. I’m loving the MotorClothes stuff and will report on it all next issue.
It took nearly fifty years in motorcycling, but I’m now, officially, a Harley-Davidson owner. And I’m liking every bit of it. See you in Sturgis!
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