I’m not sure, exactly, what the point was to this test. The guys at MCN took a few days to ride and compare the Harley-Davdison XR1200, the Ducati GT1000, and the Moto Guzzi Griso 1200. Their conclusion: The XR1200 isn’t a benchmark sportbike.
A look of shocked surprise failed to cross my face upon hearing this.
First, it’s really an odd test. In what possible world is a cruiser, even a retro, race-inspired cruiser, going to be a benchmark sportbike?
In Harley terms, the XR1200 is a pretty powerful machine. At 90HP, it packs about 15 more horses than an XL1200. And, as one of the reviewers notes, it handles way better than any Harley ever built. Harley isn’t trying to appeal to the liter-bike crowd. They are trying to get some younger appeal going with riders that want some more sportiness and better handling than is currently available anywhere in the HD line, with the possible exception of the V-Rod, and still have a bike that is recognizeably a Harley-Davidson.
And at that, it looks to me like the XR1200 delivers.
And, as they also note, it has a presence that none of the other bikes have.
You can bitch and moan about Harley’s all you want, and denigrate them to a fair-thee-well, but at the end of the day, all around the world, the Harley-Davidson has a cachet that no other motorcycle has. Their bikes are the ones that the other cruiser manufacturers take styling cues from.
If you can now get a Sportster with signifigantly more muscle and better handling, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. And, I’ll bet Harley sells the initial run of 750 like hotcakes. They seem excited over at HDForums, anyway.