New Motorcycle/Review

Harley-Davidson 1200 Sportster Custom

Alexis Bachofen

I always find that Harley's grow on me over time. I initially wonder what I am doing riding a Harley, as it's not really me, but a couple days into a test I settle down and begin to enjoy the ride offered by the American machines. So very different from the Suzuki Hayabusa last week! Either you like Harley's or you don't. If you do you always will, if you don't it's generally for one of two reasons. Either you have never ridden one, or you have and you have also ridden Italian, British or Japanese bikes that are simply not in the same league. The Harley-Davidson is a personal choice and although I personally wouldn't buy one tomorrow. I would buy a Harley due to its unique character, if I had far too much money and two other bikes already parked in my underground garage. There's just a personality, a character, present in a Harley, sometimes lacking from many other manufactures.

The best thing about a Harley is the culture surrounding it. Harley-Davidson's have become legendary worldwide and suggest that little bit more to riders not looking at breaking land speed records. They are also easily customized to suit the individual user and riding style. The Sportster 1200 Custom gives a purchaser that little bit more than the norm. A larger 21in. front wheel, solid rear wheel, short handle bars and forward controls give the Sportster a sleeker look and feel, that is relaxed and effortless to ride. With a typical soft Harley suspension setup, it's tough not to enjoy the pleasant ride. Most of the bike is also finished off in chrome, including the engine, control panel and larger front headlight. Basically it looks great, further complementing the Sportster's attractive look as an entry level Harley.

The Custom offers a relaxing ride further enhanced by its gearbox. Pulling from lights is easy and then flipping through the gears, accelerating down the road, you rarely need 5th. With ample torque and not too much vibration, I found the Custom a pleasure along the coast, through the hills and also on the Freeway. When you're approaching lights that suddenly change, the Sportster's 1200cc engine instantly responds to an increase in throttle. Due to the nature of your body weight and the forward controls it's also easy to cut through traffic, safe in the knowledge that car drivers can hear you coming from miles away. I should apologize to all my neighbours as the Custom I was riding had "Screaming Eagle" pipes, which were deafening. Noisy pipes are part of a Harley and I wouldn't have it any other way, I just hope my ears stop ringing soon!

The Custom is only let down by its small tank, as a cruiser this comfy could be ridden for a long time. I managed to squeeze 160k's out of the tank before I ran out of juice in town. Luckily Harley's still have that traditional fuel switch, providing the thirsty engine with a couple reserve litres of petrol. Selling for around $16,500 it's a very fair price for a Harley-Davidson, with many shiny extras.

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