Harley 1200 Custom review: Handsome, but not the sportster to arrive on
Sometimes it’s hard to make out if Harley Davidson motorcycles are better to arrive on, or to ride on. We test the new Sportster, the 1200 Custom, to see where this apple falls.autos Updated: May 08, 2016 11:14 IST
The 1200 Custom is derived from the Forty-Eight and so shares the V-Twin engine but it’s slightly longer, the seat is a bit higher, and it weighs a little more too. The good part is that the 1200 Custom comes with a more touring-friendly 17-litre tank, instead of the 7.9 litre tank on the Forty-Eight. Then there’s the chrome.
Swing a leg over the saddle and you’re greeted with a retro-style single-dial analogue speedometer with a small digital display for the odometer, trip-meter and tachometer. While a small bar above the speedometer houses the neutral, indicator and a fuel warning lights, the 1200 Custom does not get a fuel gauge. The switches are the same as on other Harleys; with the indicator buttons on either sides. Now it could be that I have really small hands, but it is impossible to reach for the right-side indicator button if you’re on the throttle. The seating position however, is rather relaxed, with a nice long seat, forward-set foot-pegs and swept-back handlebars.
Thumb the starter button and the 1,202cc V-twin engine thunders to life. The engine vibrates massively at idle but it will never threaten to part ways with the chassis. An absolute joy is the familiar Harley rumble.
As you set off, you’ll notice that the gear shift is clunky and takes place with a thud. Once you get a move on, the 96Nm of torque is instantly noticeable. However, due to the way the engine has been calibrated, the Custom isn’t the smoothest. The clutch also feels heavy and cumbersome in traffic. Not to mention the massive amount of heat from the air-cooled engine sitting between your legs.
On the highway, the Custom feels particularly serene between the 100-120kph mark but the stiff suspension makes the going painful. It returns mileage of 15.21kmpl in the city and 18.38kmpl on the highway, which is respectable for a 1,200cc motorcycle. And despite its 268kg, it is easy to manoeuvre.
While the made-for-Harley Michelin Scorcher tyres look great, the grip levels fail to give confidence. The desire for grip is intensified by the lack of ABS. But Harley is offering new, improved brakes with a light lever, which means sudden braking will cause the front tyre to protest loudly as the wheel locks up.
For all the die-hard Harley fans out there, the 1200 Custom is a handsome motorcycle for a decent price. At Rs 8,90,000 (ex-showroom Delhi), the 1200 Custom sits Rs 50,000 shy of the Forty-Eight and is the more practical. However, mechanically the Custom falls short and while it offers something different from the other sportsters, this isn’t the one to ride, or arrive on.