After 1,000 miles here are a few comments on my experience with my new 2012 Harley Sportster 1200 Custom
Recent bikes I have owned: 1988 Suzuki Katana 1100 (GSX1100R), 2007 Honda VTX 1300, and a 2010 Kawasaki Vulcan Voyager 1700 touring bike.
Why I bought the Harley: The Vulcan Voyager is just too big and heavy for short fun rides.
2012 Harley Sportster 1200 Custom (Vivid Black)
- Easy to ride. This bike is very easy to ride probably because of its low weight. Very nimble and fast especially with the power to weight ratio of the 1200cc motor.
- Sounds great. The 2012 Sportster 1200C with Vance and Hines slip-on exhaust sounds great. No backfires, no changes to ECM. If you want loud pipes then forget the Harley Screaming Eagles – those are not much louder than stock. Want to make some thunder then get the Vance and Hines.
- Best shifting transmission. By far, the Harley has the best shifting transmission of any Japanese bike I have owned. The Voyager 1700 and the VTX 1300 both had a noticeable clunk in shifting from first to second gear. The Sportster goes through the gears flawlessly.
- Nice headlight. I don’t know what it is, but this bike has a great headlight with a beam that has illumination 180 degrees. Seems better than the lights on my Voyager touring bike - Primary plus two additional wide-angle lights.
On the fence
- It’s a rough ride. Riding the Voyager is like sitting on a cloud. On the Sportster you can feel every bump. Even compared to the Honda VTX1300 the Harley is a rough ride.
- Vibration. None of the Japanese V-Twin bikes that I’ve ridden every vibrated this much. The vibration is sometimes at the worst speeds. For example, at 55 mph there is noticeable vibration through the foot pegs. You have to go 75 mph+ in 5’th gear to rid of this vibration. In fact, at 75 mph the bike is smooth as glass. But, 75 is 20 mph over the speed limit here near Chicago Illinois.
- Two-up. I don’t think this bike is big enough for 2 people.
Observations and suggestions
- No liquid cooling. Harley does not use liquid cooling on any of its bikes – even the touring model. Most Japanese V-Twins are liquid cooled. So what happens when it overheats?
- Oil Dipstick. Who invented this thing? Crazy.
- Oil Change. Do yourself a favor and spend $10 on the Harley end-cap oil wrench.
- Synthetic Oil. I put this in on the first oil change - Mobile One V-Twin 20w-50. I bought a case of 6 from Amazon.com for $60 with free shipping. Seems that the motor top end value noise is reduced with the Mobile One.
- Size. The 1200 Sportster seems like a small bike. But, I have a hard time judging since all I have to compare it to is the Voyager touring bike.
- Service Manual. Do yourself another favor. Get yourself the Harley Service Manual. About $48 online and well worth it. Accept no substitutes.
- Low fuel indicator. The tank on the Sportster 1200 Custom holds 4.5 gal. My low fuel light comes on at 2.5 gal. Is that your experience?
- No Tach. Anyone got any idea of what RPM the motor is at running at 55 mph in 4’th and 5’th gears… or in any gears at any speed for that matter?
Not sure I regret getting the 2012 Sportster 1200 Custom. Thinking back, I should have bought the Fat Bob. The Fat Bob was more like the bike I was looking for.
What kept me away from the Fat Bob was that I got sticker shock. The dealer priced it at $17,500. I probably could of got it for about $16,000. But still. My 2010 Vulcan Voyager touring bike was $17,000 and that has everything. Seemed to me $16K was a premium price for not much of a bike (compared to a full out touring bike at $17K)
I got $800 off the 2012 Sportster MSRP of $10,299. Out the door price on the Sportster was slightly over $11,000 including the dealer installed Vance and Hines exhaust and all taxes, plates, and mark-ups.
Would $5,000 more for the Fat Bob be worth it?
I like my 2012 Harley Sportster 1200 Custom. It’s the perfect bike for an hour or two of joy riding on a nice day. The bike is easy to ride, nimble, forgiving, and fast with the 1200cc motor and low weight. So these days, the Harley is the bike of choice and the 2010 Vulcan Voyager sits in the garage waiting for the next long trip.