Harley-Davidson is bringing its 2011 XR1200X to the U.S. market. The '09 XR1200 was finally brought over Stateside in '10, and the early release '11 XR1200X follows suit after making its debut in Europe earlier this year.
The highlights begin with Showa's Big Piston Fork (BPF) and nitrogen-charged rear shocks handling suspension duties, both fully adjustable for spring preload, and rebound and compression damping. Carrying over from the XR1200 are dual 292mm full-floating front brake rotors clamped by Nissin calipers, and lightweight three-spoke cast wheels wrapped in OEM-spec Dunlop D209 Qualifier tires. The cast aluminum swingarm designed specifically for the XR series-3.3 pounds lighter than the standard XR steel unit-returns, albeit with a coating of flat black paint. The engine is the same fuel-injected XL Evolution 1203cc V-twin found in the standard XR1200, Harley's first to have oil-cooled cylinder heads.
Interestingly, Harley decided to hold its press launch at Road America, a racetrack known for its fast straights and high-speed turns, to coincide with the new AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 spec class.
On the track, the XR1200X steered remarkably light for a bike weighing 573 pounds wet-the Harley engineers did a fantastic job of disguising that little detail. It's easy to write that off to the wide bars, but with ultra-conservative rake and trail figures of 29.3 degrees/130mm, it's obvious the right balance of steering geometry, suspension, and tires are the real reason for the steering's responsiveness. Major direction changes took a little work, but again, far easier than you'd expect for such a heavy bike. Obviously the engine lacked the top-end horsepower to pull hard all the way down Road America's long straights, but its boatloads of low-end torque worked well out of the corners.
Ground clearance was only adequate, with the footpeg feelers quickly and easily hitting the deck with moderate aggression. In order to keep the hard parts off the ground, hanging off like a sidecar monkey was required to maximize the lean angle available. Pushing the pace revealed some chatter from the front fork, especially getting into the heavy braking corners.
One area where the Harley engineers couldn't hide the weight was braking. Unfortunately there is no hiding 573 pounds of mass, and after a few laps of repeatedly slowing the XR1200X from 120mph for Canada Corner, the brakes began to show a lot was being asked of them. Of course, backing off a bit and riding the XR as it was intended to be ridden on the street was actually very fun and rewarding.
It remains to be seen whether the flat-track heritage is enough to make American riders overcome a Harley that doesn't have high bars and forward-set pegs. Another catch with the XR is the price: $11,799 saddles it up next to some heavy competition for the non-Harley-loyalists. The American motorcycle scene is very polarized between sportbikes and cruisers. Europe understands this bike-only time will tell if America does. -John Olsen
2011 H-D XR1200X
Type: Air/oil-cooled, pushrod 45-degree V-twin
Displacement: 1203cc (73.4ci)
Bore x stroke: 88.9 x 96.8mm (3.5 x 3.812 in.)
Compression ratio: 10.0:1
Induction: Electronic sequential port fuel injection, single 50mm throttle body, single injector/cyl.
Front tire: 120/70ZR-18 Dunlop D209 Sportmax Qualifier
Rear tire: 180/55ZR-17 Dunlop D209 Sportmax Qualifier
Rake/trail: 29.3 deg./5.12 in. (130mm)
Wheelbase: 59.8 in. (1519mm)
Fuel capacity: 3.5 gal. (13L)
Claimed wet weight: 573 lb. (260kg) full fuel tank, ready to ride