"The high-compression, high-flow heads and performance cams make every trip through the gears pure excitement.

And the agile, new frame makes every road an asphalt playground. It's the Sportster 1200 Roadster"... that's what the brochure said.

The Evolution of a Harley-Davidson Legend.

Harley-Davidson has capped its year-long centenary celebrations with the introduction of a completely new Sportster range. “Harley-Davidson roars into its next 100 years at full throttle,” said Bill Davidson (Director of Harley-Davidson Product Development). Highlights of the 2004 XL Sportster is all new with a redesigned, rubber-mounted XL Evolution engine, a stiffer frame, and lower seat heights. Four models, including the new XL1200R Roadster, acknowledge the 47 years of Sportster heritage, but deliver new levels of comfort and performance. Blending 47 years of tradition with a host of technological updates, the Harley-Davidson Sportster is all new for 2004. Since it was introduced in 1957 as a raw-boned, high-performance Harley, the Sportster has become an American icon, always evolving yet staying true to its roots, still retaining the character that has been the soul of the Sportster. The new motorcycle is narrow and agile in the Sportster tradition, but takes the XLs to a new level of performance and comfort.

The XL Evolution V-Twin, that has powered the Sportster since 1986, is completely redesigned for 2004. The engine retains its traditional 45-degree cylinders, bore and stroke is unchanged, at 3.5 inches x 3.8 inches for the 1200. To enhance engine cooling, new cylinders and heads have larger fins while new oil jets are directed at the bottom of both pistons. New pistons have an improved high-speed ring pack designed to help extend upper-end life. Lighter pistons and connecting rods boost the Evolution 1200 redline from 5500 rpm to 6000 rpm. Many engine covers and gaskets have been changed to improve sealing. A new timing system uses the flywheel to determine engine timing, reducing engine complexity and enhancing calibration and spark delivery. The traditional XL timing cover is retained for styling. The Roadster engine has high-flow cylinder heads with an oil drainback feature. The engine is also fitted with high-performance cams for increased torque output. Compression ratio is 10.0:1. The engine has also been restyled, with a new look for the primary, sprocket and derby covers and a new shape for the classic, oval air cleaner cover. New two-piece rocker box covers sets the new engine apart. The exhaust cross-over pipe is hidden behind the mufflers to give an uninhibited view of this beautiful motor. Peak horsepower is rated at 70bhp at 6000 rpm and 93 Nm of torque at 3300 rpm, an increase of more than 15 percent over the previous 1200 engine. Rubber engine mounts isolate the rider from engine vibration, improving long distance comfort. The new twin-cradle, steel frame and swingarm were designed to deliver better handling. Three tie-links also connect the engine to the frame. The result is a new frame and powertrain combination that’s 126 percent stiffer than that of previous Sportster models. The new frame locates both the battery and oil tank under the seat, with symmetrical covers on each side, a change that looks better and also allows a more comfortable riding position. The new oil tank has a great looking pushbutton dipstick. And the frame now incorporates a cylinder steering head lock.

All 2004 Sportster models also have a wider rear fender covering a wider 150mm rear tyre that replaces the 130mm rear tyre used on previous models. A new braking system reduces initial lever effort and includes dual front disc brakes. The Roadster offers 13-spoke aluminum wheels, a timeless, classic-look 12.5 litre fuel tank and tachometer.

Thanks to Mishka Moller and Malcolm Tennant at Harley-Davidson Johannesburg for the ride. The only criticism I have for the new Roadster is the front footpegs are too wide, I preferred the pegs on my old 1200 Sportster Sport. Come to think of it, I also preferred the suspension and the handlebar of the old Sportster Sport over this new Roadster.  Kenn Slater


2004 Specifications XL 1200R Sportster Roadster

Engine: 45º, Air-cooled, V-Twin (Evolution™ engine).

Valves: Pushrod-operated overhead valves, with hydraulic self-adjusting lifters; two per cylinder.

Displacement: 1202 cc.

Bore x Stroke: 88.8 x 86.82 mm.

Compression Ratio: 10.0:1.

Fuel System: 40 mm constant velocity Carburettor.

Engine Torque: 93 NM @ 3300 rpm

Engine Horsepower: 70 bhp @ 6000 rpm.

Fuel Capacity: 12.9 L. Reserve Fuel Capacity: 1.9 L.

Oil Capacity: 3.4 L.

Dry Weight: 251 kg.

Length: 2245 mm.

Seat Height: (measured laden with a 103kg muscled rider) 703 mm

Ground Clearance: 141.0 mm.

Rake: 29.6 degrees.

Trail: 116.8mm.

Wheelbase: 1520 mm.

Wheels: 19 inch front, 16 inch rear, 13-spoke aluminium cast.

Tyres: Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series. Front: 100/90-19 57H. Rear: 150/80B16 71H.

Primary Drive: Double row chain, oil bath, mechanical tensioner, 57/38 ratio

Final Drive: Gates carbon fiber reinforced polychain belt, 68/30 ratio

Clutch: Multi-plate,wet

Transmission: Five-speed. Ratios: 1st 9.14, 2nd 6.28, 3rd 4.87, 4th 4.0, 5th 3.40

Frame: Mild steel, twin cradle.

Swing Arm: Mild steel, rectangular section

Front Fork: 39 mm telescopic with polished aluminium fork bracket

Brakes: Caliper Type Dual-piston front and rear.

Disc Type: Front (dual) 292 mm. Rear 292 mm.

Suspension travel: Front wheel 141 mm. Rear wheel 104 mm

Battery: Sealed 12-volt, maintenance-free, 12 amp-hour.

Starting: Electric start

Headlamp: Quartz halogen 55-watt low beam, 60-watt high beam

Turn signal lights: (self-canceling).

Indicator Lights: High beam, neutral, oil, turn signals and security system.

Exhaust System: Staggered shorty duals.

Instruments: Electronic speedometer; odometer; resettable tripmeter; diagnostic readout.

Colours: Vivid Black, Brilliant Silver, Smokey Gold, Lava Red Sunglo.

Warranty: 24 months (unlimited mileage)

Service Interval: First 1,600 Km; every 8,000 Km thereafter.

Price: R109 000.00

A neat, compact, sexy bike, I want one... again!  Photos by Kenn Slater

Test bike courtesy of Harley-Davidson Johannesburg