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Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom

Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom

3.8 from 10 reviews

1200 Custom. A Different Experience!

I have been wanting to try a Harley Davidson for as long as I remember ! The twin cylinders, the finishes they have, and that sound! So it was with much anticipation that we made our way to the good people at Morgan and Wacker in Newstead, Brisbane on a Friday night to pick up a brand new 1200 Custom as it is simply known. ( Under the Sportster Family banner.) They go for about $19,250 (plus on roads). Lola there had been extremely helpful in obtaining one for me as usually they hire out the larger "bagger" models such as the Heritage Softail which I felt in no way ready for at this point... She even let us pick it up and do the paperwork/card procedures after hours as they had an event on ! Wonderful service. (Although event probably a one off really.)

So in due course we fired it up... Now I had heard a Harley Davidson at a bike expo a few years back in 2014. It was on a rolling road so people 16 and over could start it up, rev it and actually ride through the gears etc while stationary. Anyway at the time I thought it was almost sewing machine quiet. This is what I was expecting with the 1200 Custom. Not so ! It fired up with an awesome rumble. It had some aftermarket S&S pipes. My friend and I just looked at each other, both thinking "Oh Yeah!!"

So off I rumble into the night, heading for home with a full weekend's riding ahead for myself and my friend, who is to accompany me on my Yamaha FZ8. The first thing to master with a Harley is those indicators... two different press switches. One on each side... I don't know of any other bike that has this and it takes some getting used to. Press to indicate then press again to cancel If right is on and you press left then it will switch over to left and it will also self cancel when moving. At least that part is good. Otherwise it's quite distracting until you get used to it...I think they need to ditch this system.

The whole bike still shakes and rumbles like you are in an ancient bomber. I'm told the older ones were worse before rubber mounts. This of course is part of the mystique. I use moulded earplugs all the time nearly when riding. I especially needed them here, had forgotten them ! At least the next day I wore them...

One of the first things that strikes you-apart from the noise and shaking-is just how tall the gearing is. I don't think I got out of first gear for the first couple of k's through the city. Didn't need to really. First is good until close to 80 kph when you hit the the rev limiter at about 5500 rpm. In spite of its tall gearing you can really feel that massive torque in first. Second will easily get you up around 120 kph. For noise reduction, third is good to sit on for the open road. Forth and fifth are almost wasted unless you want to push the bike to silly limits it is hardly designed for. This thing is mostly for cruising but it will do more...

Our trip was to Blackbutt via Mt Glorious and the open sweepers around Wivenhoe dam etc. It handled both the tighter bends and the open sweepers very nicely at more moderate speeds than out and out sports bikes. I did not scrape it. Better riders than me might. The steering is heavier than, say, my FZ8 of course but really not too bad. As always, ride to your abilities, the bike's abilities and the conditions. One thing I found was that going downhill, I left it in first once again as up to 80 kph was plenty for me and I found the more than adequate v twin engine braking confidence inspiring for downhill twisties. So all in all a pleasant ride out in the sticks but a bit more of a chore in peak hour ! Speaking of brakes...well they are adequate...front feels a bit wooden compared to what I'm used to. Could really use twin disks and the back one? Like most bike back brakes...adequate, but not too powerful. Which really is as it should be. They are ABS but didn't test this. Front forks felt ok. Rear shocks can bottom occasionally, quite spine jarringly ! Both my friend and I found this on 80-100k country roads. An indictment of our road system too, of course, but this isn't the last word in suspension, although in fairness we did not play around with the preload... If that doesn't work maybe a set of Ohlins?

Kudos though, for the riding position, 'pegs, handlebars and seat. I just loved the whole setup and the height. I am about 182 cm so not exactly short and found it ideal. This, along with the beautiful chrome and spoke looks, metallic paint finish, are what I loved best about the bike. Pegs forward a bit but not too much. Brake and gear levers perhaps a bit long to reach. Gear shifting obviously a bit slow but quite pleasant and will loosen up a bit as the bike puts up some k's. Fuel range and economy seemed about the same as my Yamaha. I estimate 7-8 litres/100km and maybe 250k's out of a tank. Maybe better with more frugal riding than we did.... It's a 17 litre tank so no worries like those smaller "peanut" tanks!

Be aware, though, there is NO fuel gauge ! Just a warning light. I have no idea what range you still have when this comes on. Internet "advice" is mostly American and varies. The speedo is quite small and a bit hard to read as is the LCD display below it, but you can scroll through odometer, trip one, trip two, time and gear selected/rpm. So fairly comprehensive. Neutral and ABS light and alarm etc. Neutral is a bit fiddly but easier with practice. Once again it was new so will probably select more easily with time. It also has keyless proximity activation via an electronic smart keyfob and alarm which activates when keyfob is away far enough from the bike. No key to insert. Just one for the steering lock. They recommended 98 octane fuel too.

So..would I have one ? Yes. If I could afford another bike. Not ready to give up my naked sports bike yet. I'd make some improvements. Shocks, gearing, if different belt and pulley ratios are available, I'd gear it lower. Not much else. Tyres seemed up to the job. I think they were Harley Davidson branded Michelin but don't know what they are like in the wet. Would go one step up from standard on the pipes but I think these ones were a couple of steps up ! Oh and I'd spend a lot of time just looking at it.... :) ( Many thanks to the good people at Morgan and Wacker for arranging the weekend hire! I have no affiliation with them.)

Date PurchasedJul 2018

Smiles for miles

Everytime I get on it I have a blast, and as I sit here now I'm planning my next ride (maybe a short blat this evening?). I would have given it 5 stars if the factory suspension was any good, but once I sorted that out this is just a great machine. i have owned and ridden faster (Japanese and European) machines, but this is just so much more fun and engaging. With a few suspension upgrades it handles really well, surprising a lot of Sportsbike owners when I catch them in the twisties. It's got a heap of torque and doesn't mind revving a bit. I also rode some bigger Harley's before purchasing mine, and they were ok, but the Sportster is fun. With a little more research I would recommend a 2010 Sportster 1200C, get mag wheels, 13" Progressive 444 shocks, Intiminators for the forks and some preload fork caps, and a Mustang Vintage Solo seat. Then just go and have fun.

Date PurchasedMay 2017

Quality workmanship

I have problem with the ridding stability with this bike so I deside with my mechanic to take closer look and see what is wrong and we was absolutely stun how the back wheel is mouted to a main frame on this xl 1200 harley.The engeneers at Harley Davidson Joking with as .work on frame this is technical catastrophe !!! And for that money it’s a terrible job what they did!! If you don’t believe
See your self.sory bud I have to writ-it.so next time i will buy bike from company that know what they doing!!milan v.

Date PurchasedMay 2009

HARLEY DAVIDSON 2005 XL1200C 'Custom'

When you talk about Harley Davidson's HD bikes most people look at the twin cam softail or touring models.

Having owned a 2005 FXST Softail (carby version) I wanted to go back to the Harley 'family' but own something (for me anyway) a little different.

I have always gravitated to big capacity cruisers over the years e.g. Vulcan 2000, Vulcan Nomad 1600, Royal Star V4 1300, Suzuki M109R 1800, Harley Softail 1450, Honda VTX 1800 you get the picture.

I started to look at Sportsters. I wanted something light, easy to maintain myself, enough power & the 'classic' Harley 'carb' sound.

The Sportster XL1200 Custom has the rubber-mounted XL Evolution 1200 engine.

It has custom touches including a spoke 21-inch front wheel, front disc, 16 inch slotted disc rear wheel, chrome engine covers, forward controls and pull-back chrome handlebars and riser.

Some other features include; High-compression, high-flow cylinder heads, High-performance cams, Black powder-coated engine w/ chrome covers, New 1-inch diameter rear axle and stiffer swing arm, Forward foot controls, Chrome bullet headlight & 4.5-gallon fuel tank.

As with any purchase I make in cars or bikes, I always look for something which is close to 'stock' or comes with parts to return it to OEM 'stock'.

This is the 2nd bike I have every bought from a dealership & it was by accident. It is a 2 owner 2005 XL1200C (carby) blue/silver with 'screaming eagle' slip-on pipes & re-jetted carby. Everything is bone stock ... handlebar, grips, paint, seat ... stock & only 32 000 kms ...

The bike was a trade on a new Harley & wholesaled to the dealer I bought it from. To cut a long story short, I drove by the yard, saw it in the lane way, made some enquiries, took it for a hour & a half ride, and bought it for $6250 cash (as I was actually on my way to see a private seller Sportster - go figure) with 12 months rego.

I really love the simplicity of this bike. I adjusted the clutch, changed oils including brake fluid, plugs, changed brake pads and went through the service schedule in my service manual (a must have) including steering head adjustment. Easy & fun with a great deal of satisfaction of doing it myself.

The bike is light, fast (for me anyway), fun & easy to manage.

I am 6'3 & so far have found the OEM forward controls very comfortable. I was considering a Accutronix Forward Control Extension Kit but have not needed it. I'll put some serious hours in the saddle then make a decision.

Sportster parts & accessories tend to be cheaper than the big v twin Harley's and there are great online forums/resources you can tap into.

My advice would be to look at a 2004 onward here's some things you should know;

2004 – The frame is 100% redesigned & now uses a rubber mounting system for the engine to reduce vibration. Battery was now enclosed, the bike also had a redesigned hamcan, transmission door and a new oil tank.

2005 – Minor change this year, the rear axle was expanded to 1″ for increased stability.

2006 – The new XR1200 is announced. The bike is a modern interpretation of the now legendary XR750 race bike, it uses the same Evolution V-Twin as the stock Sportster with a new Down Draft DDFI II fuel injection system.

2007 – Fuel injection is now installed as standard on all Sportsters.

2008 – The front axle is slightly enlarged and the rear axle is decreased in size a little, both are now metric and have the same size – 25mm.

2010 – The engine control unit is moved to allow more room for aftermarket seat selection.

2014 – All new electric system is installed on all Sportsters, larger brakes are now standard, keyless entry is offered, the Evolution engine has an increased compression ratio and ABS is offered as an option.

Although they look great smaller 'peanut' style tanks have a limited range, great for the city but you will be looking for fuel stops on your country runs. My custom has the 4.5 Gallon tank.

But if you have your heart set on an earlier Sportster thats fine, but do your research first before you splash out your 'hard earned'.

Safe Riding ....

Date PurchasedNov 2016

Yesteryear and nothing remarkable

XL1200C Sportster
In today’s world of cruiser bikes that are on the market the choice is varied and vast all having different technologies but similar in style so how does the 1200 sportster fit in to this market? Well it fits in by style but by no means by technology.
This bike feels like yesteryear nothing remarkable to it at all. Going through the hills it is under par compared to other cruisers on the market and made quite obvious when you’re in a group ride and in every corner your gap between the other bikes gets longer because the sportster does not handle and to add to that not a lot of power down the straights. Around 67.7 HP @ 5680 rpm in fact. On the country roads on the flat stuff the bike seem at its best. Stopping power is good as the bike pulls up in an emergency stop very well. However like so many of the Harley Davidson products they have problems. So it is a yes to oil leaks and a yes to failed ignition twice on this one. A new clutch after 16k and a burnt exhaust valve that was very costly and ended up been a full top end rebuild. Simply the engineering quality just is not there.
In summary for some,the Sportster will make you feel like;You’re the man or may be even feel like you have made it big in the biking world in some way by riding this great USA brand name. Or for others they may feel like they have grown a tough looking beard and can't smile at anyone. But for me it’s a below average bike that will undoubtedly fail when pushed hard on a regular basis Way way before the competitors bikes do.So if you ride a bike quite hard then don't touch the sportster. And even if you don't ride one of these hard well then failure is just a matter of a very short time.

Date PurchasedMar 2012

Fast and loud

I have had this 2014 Sportster with 5000km on the clock for a month now, bought it with a super tuner so previous owner must have had it tuned for performance and plenty of custom chrome on it & 2 into 1 aftermarket exhaust. It's pretty thirsty but I think it's the performance tune.
Really fast bike, getting used to riding a cruiser from sports bike so turning, throttle response of the v twin and riding position all so different. It's very loud, have to ride with ear plugs but a real head turner and get plenty of compliments.
Really like the modern features, keyless starting, immobilizer & alarm, abs brakes. Also the modern pretty much maintenance free EFI engine & drive belt. No more greasy chain oiling, maintenance, checking and the mess..!
It's doing everything I bought it for so very happy. Very, very fast bike, rarely get to use the 5th gear because I do the speed limit most of the time..!! The tune on this bike likes the higher RPM's. I did test ride a couple of other stock Sportster's but they felt a bit mute & weak. I highly recommend spending a bit more & getting the super tuner for a performance tune.

Date PurchasedOct 2016

Just a great old school bike with a splash of modern

I have a 2014 xl custom , love this bike , stock it's just a plain Jane , it is reliable and full of history .l hate all the cruisers with wide full tanks like steering a wheelbarrow. The custom is nimble has good torque and is good in city traffic and highway cruising will sit on 120 kph all day. Don't believe all the negatives about Harley's this bike has a bullet proof motor do your homework search the net you will be surprised . I have searched and ridden heaps of bikes over 40 years I have found a great bike and a riding brotherhood . Ok stock the bike needs some attention I have done a stage 1 Screaming Eagle kit ( heavy breather , pipes, and remapping) bike goes superb suspension put in Ikon progressive front fork springs and 7610 rear shocks handles so good now.Also added the Harley reduced reach handle bars gives the bike a more relaxed riding position is now a more comfortable ride , bars can be changed without having to change cables, bars are one inch wider and back about 2 inches feels really good .There are so many after market options with a sporty it can be a blank canvas. All in all I have found a great bike which hasn't given me any trouble "Live to Ride"

Worst bike I have ever owned

Bought the 2013 model harley sporster custom. Has broken down three times had the computer break down and they reset computer then riding home the computer shut itself and was replaced. This time it died again and when the fuel sensor in tank was removed it was open electrical and was broken very dangerus. This bike has only done 4200 kms and is nearly out of warranty. And showing rust. Harley did fix the problems no questions asked as they should. However very unsatisfied with this model it has some good points as a cruiser but in my opinion the quality of this bike is not great for what there worth.

Love it!

Great bike!Been riding for over 30 years. Purchased a 2014 1200custom, and never had any problems with it. Just love it!


I ride a 2008 Xl 1200C and dont ever think i will regret having bought this bike as my first harley. Its brilliant, easy to style and if its more power you want , its easy to add on more. Just a few tips to nmake this bike even better.Obviously when bikes are made as stock we tend to find one or two things about them that we dont really like after a few rides. It is up to the individual to change what you dont like on your ride . Think of the relationship between you and your bike as one between lovers. you dont always get the perfect partner but it is up to the two of you to compromise and learn to tolerate each other's likes and dislikes to make the relationship count. Her's a few tips which worked for me and might even work for you too. 1. change the stock shocks as the are not all that comfortable 2. Better breathability so change the air filter and you will definately notice the difference in throttle response 3. Aftermarket pipes definately make my day everytime i jump onto my bike and crank it. Even those who deslike noise can use quiter baffles and achieve awsome results nevertheless 4. power commander to manage your fuel system tops up the icing. Remember this is a Harley, America's icon motorcycle since years ago and it is made to keep that reputation for generations to come. If you do not have time to be passionate about what you own, you have very little to appreciate from it as evidenced by other people who just write negative things about these bikes all the time.Do not be dismayed by people who think that they know everything about bikes . No one knows everything but God!!!. FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Sports feel and handling with better sitting position much more comfy compared to a sports bike!
I wish it had the dash on the tank like the other model Harleys. Needs at least the fuel gauge that is visible.Standard shocks are not the most comfy!

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Questions & Answers

I'm trying to find frame mounted highway pegs for my 2008 custom1200 xl sportster. But I don't know my frame size. Any help?
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Sportster 1200 Custom
Price (RRP)18750
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