2012 Sportster 1200 Custom Ride Review - Harley Davidson Forums

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2012 Sportster 1200 Custom Ride Review

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Old 07-21-2011, 06:51 PM
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Ken Baer Ken Baer is offline
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Default 2012 Sportster 1200 Custom Ride Review

The bike you see below was ridden by me over a two day period and 200+ miles. The road conditions spanned the full spectrum on planet earth: dirt, gravel, freeway, curvy mountain switchbacks, and asphalt surfaces that went from table top smooth to the worst conditions I've ever ridden in 40 years. The bike was a bone stock 2012 1200 Custom with 400 miles. I'm posting this report for anyone thinking about buying a Sportster for the first time, or if anyone is thinking about buying this newer model.
Background on me: 57, 5"10", 32" inseam, 145lbs. Currently ride a 2010 Road King and a 2001 ZRX1200 Kawasaki. My last Sportster was a '78 XLCR. I used to road race competitively and tend to ride bikes as fast as they can be ridden, esp. on mountain roads.
My impressions:
- Has The Look. If you're into classic muscle bike styling then you will love the look of the bike ... and the attention it gets.
- Ergonomics. This bike "fit" me absolutely perfect. Seat, foot peg, handlebar position, etc, all spot on. Seat cushion was fine. I rode it seven hours straight the first day and was completely comfortable at the end of the day.
- Solid Feel. The suspension has great dampening while not being overly sprung. When the going gets really rough the suspension keeps the rubber on the ground. No floaty-boaty feel here. A low center of gravity helps, too.
- Great low RPM throttle response. The thing moves. Smooth torque delivery. On tight mountain roads you can easily squirt ahead of slower cars, or timid sport bike riders.
- EFI throttle sensitivity. Harley has earned kudos for this. No On-Off-then-On throttle abruptness, like some of the metrics, even at high RPM. Very predictable.
- Rock steady. During HARD left to right cornering transitions I could not get the chassis to exhibit the dreaded hinge-in-the-middle. Even 90MPH through the sweepers, or during hard front braking while leaning into a turn, the thing was a rock. At 120MPH (indicated) either sitting upright, or tucked, the thing was dead stable. You could easily ride at top speed with one hand, if you choose. Some sensitively to strong side winds, but not bad.
- Steering feedback. Generally good, but I could definitely feel a slower steering response feel in comparison to the 1200 Low model that comes with the skinnier 19" front. The 19" front gives a sharper rider feedback, especially in the turns.
- Stopping power. The rear is calibrated to be very predictable, as is the front. If I buy one I would add a second front disk to make it more powerful.
- Vibration control. Certainly better than the older non-rubber models, although it was not vibration free. This bike wanted to run at 75MPH where it was glass smooth. Lower RPMs are where the vibs are, especially under load. Still, the vibs are low frequency and not obtrusive. This is the forth rubber mounted Sportster I've ridden and it shook the most. It was also the one with the lowest mileage so maybe they soften up as the miles rack up.
- Cornering clearance. Limited, for sure. I laughed as I scrapped the foot peg sensors all the waaaaaaaay around the corners since they touch down so early, but I understand why the factory does it (for all the newbies).
My conclusion: The bike is a total hoot to ride. Comfortable, stable, friendly, and always eager to take on whatever is ahead. Sportsters have always had the look, the feel, the sound, and in many ways personifies what people think a motorcycle should be. Refined in some ways, and yet still crude in others, the total package is a bike that, for me, is unforgettably fun to ride. And that's why I ride in the first place.
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Old 07-21-2011, 07:14 PM
coastierider coastierider is offline
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Hey thanks for this review. I just purchased a 2011 with the twotone Sedona Orange/Black paint. Just waiting on the pipes, a/c, and remap to be installed so I can ride it. You hit up on every question I had and it looks like I made the right choice.
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Old 07-26-2011, 12:24 AM
Benggolf Benggolf is offline
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Great write-up Ken. Recently bought a 2011 Sportster 1200 Custom in brilliant silver pearl. Enjoyed riding the bike and in fact find myself going for the Sportster instead of my other Harley, 2010 Dyna Custom.

I find the Sportster to be more nimble and easy to ride given my height (5'4") and short legs (28" inseam). My next mod will be the reduced height seats.

Last edited by Benggolf; 07-26-2011 at 12:49 AM.
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Old 07-26-2011, 08:02 AM
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Thanks for the comprehensive review. It's good to hear that, despite what all the doomsayers have said, the MoCo is still producing Sportsters true to the name.
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Old 07-26-2011, 09:16 AM
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Thanks for the great review. I have a 2004, 883custom that I ride the heck out of, 2 up most of the time. I get loads of grief from others that think my bike is too small, but I just smile. Next time I might get the 1200 version but I will probably stick with the sporty for all the reasons you said. Well done!

Last edited by oldncrzy; 07-26-2011 at 09:22 AM.
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Old 01-29-2012, 07:01 PM
Beetlejuice Beetlejuice is offline
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Just put downpayment on a 2012 xl1200c. Haven't even taken her for a test ride (too cold), but she just looked and felt right (my only ride is a 1968 Bonnie). Thanks for the review... makes me feel I chose the right bike.
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Old 03-11-2012, 08:20 AM
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Yup, thanks for the write-up. Just what I was looking for!!!!
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Old 03-11-2012, 09:34 AM
IBGary IBGary is offline
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I agree. I've bee. On a 1200 R for 4 yrs and couldn't be happier. Classic MC, refined in some areas, but let's you know its a Sportster. I like the solid feel of the shift. Unlike my Euro and Japanese bikes I k.ow when it shifts.
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Old 03-11-2012, 09:38 AM
bg1 bg1 is offline
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I have had this exact bike since last August. All you say is spot on. It is a hoot and will be out today for the first time since it was tucked in for winter!
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Old 07-02-2012, 10:21 PM
McSporster McSporster is offline
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Thumbs up Great review -- Thannks!

After a "few" years of enjoying my last Sportster, I sold it and moved "up" to a Road King a couple of years back...and, I have really missed the Sportster no matter how much I try to tell myself (and my aging back, knees, etc.:-) that the King is "it"! ...just stopped by the dealer this week and looked closely at the "new" 1200 Custom and I was 98.9% hooked! Now, having found and read this review with virtually every question one could need/want, I've moved "up" to 100% sold on the "new" Sporty. Now, ...gotta count the pennies and make a deal on a trade (yes, definitely a trade "up"!;-) to this really great all'round bike.
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