All Tests – The American woman who wants to invade Europe! – Used HARLEY-DAVIDSON

The American who wants to invade Europe !

All Tests - The American woman who wants to invade Europe! - Used HARLEY-DAVIDSON

Like Christopher Columbus, Harley-Davidson wants to conquer new horizons. If the explorer discovered the States by mistake, Harley is perfectly targeting Europe … but without yet succeeding in colonizing the market: would the XR 1200 be the chosen one? ?

Directly inspired by the legendary XR 750, a dirt racing motorcycle, archi titled in the United States (read our box below), the new Harley-Davidson XR 1200 should enter the European market this spring: the result of close collaboration between the Milwaukee R&D department and the European teams, the machine was designed and designed specifically for the Old Continent (read).

This "high performance street bike with an incomparable look", in the words of Harley-Davidson Europe Marketing Director John Lewis, will be distributed first on the European market, before arriving in Uncle Sam’s country: a strong and surprising message from a manufacturer who has always capitalized on its "made in USA" culture in a country where patriotism is exacerbated.

"The incredible enthusiasm of the public for the XR 1200 prototype and the impatience of our customers and the media across Europe have confirmed our interest in developing a Harley-Davidson inspired by our competition machines."said Bill Davidson, director of product development for the brand..

And if the team in charge of the file communicates copiously on the racing culture of the American brand (yes, yes!), Its designers gladly recall the preponderance of the requirements of the European customer in the development of the machine..

Thus, our multiple speed champion Adrien Morillas has long participated in the development of the XR 1200 and "the average size of the European biker was taken into account in the design of the machine".

The intentions of the American giant are clearly innovative and herald a turning point in the history of a firm which has seen very little in more than a century: "With a more than generous lean angle, a sport suspension specially tuned by Showa – including an inverted 43mm forks -, high performance Nissin brakes and special Dunlop Qualifier tires, the XR 1200 could become the Harley-Davidson the more European to date", considers the manufacturer.

The objective is to "600 or 700 sales in France, but certainly more in view of the reactions of the public !", confides François Tarrou, marketing director at Harley France. The XR 1200 is for"at 70 or 80%"to a new clientele, eager to drive a roadster"typical motor"and to the exclusive line, continues François Tarrou.

Entering directly into competition "with Yamaha XJR 1300, Kawasaki ZRX 1200, even Ducati Sport Classic and some German twin flats", specifies John Lewis, the twin-cylinder of 1200 cc intends to assert serious assets to win the favors of a public of connoisseurs in this highly competitive segment. !

In the tradition of a legend…

The history of the Dirt Track

Appeared at the beginning of the twentieth century in the United States, this spectacular discipline was contested on old racetracks: neck and neck on dirt tracks, 18 drivers compete for 25 laps without brakes (only the rear brake was made mandatory a little later for security reasons) !

Trading at more than 200 km / h – sliding! – 180 ° turns, without any electronic assistance, pilots can only count on pure technique and a good dose of courage! The season begins most of the time in March and lasts all summer until the final in late September or early October. Nicknamed the "Wrecking Crew" by fans, the official Harley-Davidson team was quickly the mistress of the category and its best representative, Scott Parker, won some nine titles in the category. !

Note that big names in the international speed scene cut their teeth in Dirt Track or Flat Track: Randy Mamola, Eddie Lawson, Kenny Roberts, Kevin Schwantz and more recently the 2006 MotoGP world champion, Nicky Hayden himself !

In the tradition of the legendary XR 750 born in 1970 and became "one of the most successful racing bikes of all time", the XR 1200 is the worthy descendant of this bike which won no less than 28 titles in the United States during Dirt Track or Flat Track races (read our box).

Despite everything, the new version of the American manufacturer departs (very) noticeably from the references of its illustrious predecessor: the latest preparations of XR 750 reach 100 hp for a weight close to 130 kg, while the new XR 1200 displays 250 kg dry on the scale and only 91 hp available at 7000 rpm !

So it’s hard to imagine driving the machine with your foot out and the rear sliding! Even driving "in the European", the machine is likely to mark time in the face of competition with a larger engine compartment and less mass…

The machine uses the basics of a Sportster XL 1200: the frame in particular (modified at the front, at the level of the engine mounts and the rear buckle), but also the engine.

But Harley-Davidson did not stop at disguising a Sportster with a European flavor: modern technologies hitherto unheard of by the American manufacturer are appearing on the XR 1200..

The engine has seen its compression ratio copiously increased to reach the record value (for a two long stroke) of 10: 1. Better: thanks to the addition of parts straight from the Buell catalog, the mill accepts 7000 rpm and outputs a little more than 90 hp, which is quite simply the highest power for a production air motor produced at this day by Harley-Davidson.

Even more surprising: the use of high-performance vertical injection (just above the engine) and above all "an electronically controlled active air intake system", copiously fed by the large air inlet located to the right of the tank.

These characteristics are generally found more on super sporty models than on a Milwaukee twin. The designer of the machine, Frank Savage (to whom we also owe the Sportster), explains that these technologies were essential to comply with the draconian Euro 3 standard, which also explains the substantial size of the catalyzed exhausts with lambda sensors. : however, the use of these technologies has also allowed us to "stick" to the XR 750 spirit, since everything is grouped under the tank, which contributes to the minimalist aspect of the whole with the triple triple tree clear. . But traditions have not been forgotten since the design of cylinder heads and camshaft housings, for example, are very specific".

Still, the important Harley-Davidson "Research & Development" department (47,000 square meters for 580 engineers!) Pushed radicalization to the point of equipping the motorcycle with Japanese peripherals, such as the Nissin double calipers with 4 pistons, 43mm Showa fork and two rear combinations from the same brand !

Developed specifically for the XR 1200 (the brakes were also designed in-house, then ordered from Nissin), all these parts only display their logos and are intended as much as possible with the spirit of the machine. And screwdriver addicts will be at their expense, since the suspensions do not accept any other adjustment than that of the preload !

Finally, the American will evolve pavement of Dunlop Qualifier specially designed for it and whose dimensions are similar to European guns (120 / 70ZR18 at the front and 180 / 55ZR17 at the rear). Its aluminum swingarm both saves weight (nearly 1.5 kg) and achieves satisfactory rigidity.

Contact: a Harley without fear and without reproach ?

It was under the sun of Valencia, Spain, that the veil was lifted on this machine of a new kind at Harley-Davidson: the opportunity to discover a machine more compact than a Sportster, quite thin at the level of the tank. (made in resin), but above all with very few chrome…

Hunting for weight and European target oblige, the Americans did not hesitate to abandon their favorite material in favor of lighter and more discreet elements: "the exhaust, for example, is not chromed to meet the expectations of our European audience: we have even tried to refine it as much as possible thanks to the "D" shape of the outlets", tells us Frank Savage.

In accordance with this desire, the XR 1200 even offers a very readable white tachometer and a digital display counter: no frills, however, since only two trips, the speed, the rpm and the usual indicators (as well as that of the electronic alarm in addition to the coded immobilizer) are available thanks to the button located … behind the tachometer !

The line is quite successful, even if the whole does not breathe the announced "racing spirit". However, the orange color suits him particularly, supporting without blushing the comparison with the XR 750 of the champion Scott Parker..

The finish, correct, mixes beautiful parts (engine casings, swing arm, tank, "aviation" type cap of the gasoline and oil tanks placed under the saddle) and unfortunate details: the two silencers weigh down the whole, just like the oil cooler placed to the left of the engine and which is also enlarged "to better respond to the optimization of the essential oil circuit, given the performance achieved"…

Same observation at the level of the passage of certain cables (the accelerator in particular), which gives a side "mess" as opposed to the very clean front part.

A cathedral with a shoehorn

Main dish of the machine: its 1202 cc tumbled twin, which is fully visible! A veritable cathedral shoehorned into the chassis, it is thanks to it that the mimicry with the XR 750 works: the impression "two wheels, one engine, one handlebar" finds all its essence there, especially if one does not include a slightly loaded and long rear section.

The driver’s seat appears welcoming, even if its edges will eventually bruise the upper thighs after a day of driving. What is more, the thinness of the tank does not really benefit driving comfort since the knees hit the airbox and literally cook in town, because of the heat given off by the high engine. !

The driving position is however not atypical (especially for a Milwaukee model!) And the handlebar – saddle – footrest triangle is suitable for the greatest number: a driver of one meter sixty-three places his feet on the ground without worries, but those over the meter eighty have more difficulty to be comfortable.

Gripping the controls is easy and intuitive. Only "BMW type" turn signals require a bit of getting used to, but it is pleasant to note that Harley-Davidson has provided a warning function, which is triggered by pressing both controls at the same time..

The secondary transmission is made by belt tensioned automatically thanks to a pulley: this is a puncture in the catalog of the Buell brand, on which the manufacturer announces a longevity of nearly 80,000 km. Well integrated and efficient, the device also has the advantage of reduced noise in action, but especially the absence of tedious (and messy) chain lubrication.

On the practical side, the machine hunts for the superfluous, even if it means sacrificing the essential: if it is possible to block the handlebars – directly on the steering column -, the maneuver is not easy, even less with gloves! Red card also on the gas tank cap mounted without hinge or lock, thus exposing the user to some possible inconvenience…

Finally, if the (small) passenger seat rises, there is no lock there either to protect the contents and especially a really small available space: impossible to fit a "U" and the rain pants must be carefully folded to hope to take part to travel !

Aware of the habits of the Old Continent, the manufacturer offers a range of semi-rigid fabric saddlebags that can be overcome with a top case of the same material: practical, but not really aesthetic on this type of machine. !

Installed on the handlebars, the user will rail against a crutch placed just under the left footrest and therefore very difficult to unfold: fortunately, this one is stable and has a not too pronounced inclination, which is reassuring when parking a machine of more than a quarter of a ton in working order !

Note also the good visibility offered by the mirrors and their easy adjustments: only the vibrations present when stationary or below 1800 revolutions will reduce their effect..

In the saddle: a healthy engine in a healthy chassis !

Eagerly awaited by the press and by the designers of the machine, our first rounds of the wheels on the American handlebars will take place in the city, on the motorway, on fast and winding, even bumpy roads: nothing will have been spared at the new XR 1200 lasting nearly 200 km !

From the first meters, the machine exudes a pleasant feeling of comfort and safety: if the engineers of the R&D department have gleaned 1.5 degrees on the fork angle and nearly 25 mm on the wheelbase, the XR 1200 still has royal stability, mixed with surprising agility in view of the dimensions of the machine !

"We made the choice of stability on the XR 1200, thanks to the modification of the geometry on the front end and the Dunlops specific to the machine. But the goal was also to keep steering easy and intuitive", explain Frank Savage and John Lewis.

"Intuitive", the term is perhaps a little exaggerated, but it is clear that with its semi-recessed footrests and its wide handlebars, the evolution in the city will not be akin to the priesthood !

Of course, the high weight (263 kg with the full) and the turning radius a long hair will never allow you to compete with a T-Max, but without some small flaws (of youth?), The practice would have nothing of far-fetched: let us quote pell-mell the firm clutch which ends up wearing down the left hand, the heat released by the engine directly on the thighs, the "good vibrations" of the twin when stationary which will end up tiring, the precise gearbox but lasts as well as the slight play on the throttle which adds to a brutal response below 2000 turns to thwart your evolutions at low speed.

On the motorway, the machine shows an obvious goodwill, even if the lack of protection and the wide handlebars will not push you to the speed limit. Otherwise, the 91 thoroughbred American horses will respond and pull you out of the acceleration lane with ease, pushing hard relentlessly and with a delightful intake noise from 3000 laps to 7000 in the red zone. !

This regime allows this "new age" Harley-Davidson to exceed the 200 km / h mark in fifth gear! Better: braking is matched and the Nissins provide response and slowing capacity to match most sporty roadsters on the market !

Such efficiency, however, should be wary: the geometry of the bike and its weight quickly cause blockages in the front. As for the frame, it turns out to be up to the task and negotiating large beating curves will not cause any parasitic reactions, except for the astonished gaze of people being overtaken. !

The damping also proves to be up to the task – despite its lack of adjustments – and only large shocks will cause a little dry reactions: also be careful of the sensitivity to the handlebars, present if you tense the handlebars too much when clear acceleration.

A two-faced Harley

Once on the secondary network, the true nature of the XR 1200 is expressed: smooth but full of character, the engine purrs from 2,500 to 5,500 rpm, speeds which will correspond to the most frequent use range..

But, a first on a Harley, the mechanics will accept without flinching to take 1500 additional turns, providing astonishing length and efficiency! And the rest of the picture is to match: the grip of the brakes on the angle will not send you to the pipe breaker and the inverted fork provides a fairly precise feeling of the road..

Consequently, the desire to play with the limits appears inevitably: these will be quickly seen by the most furious, punctuated by generous friction of the toe clips, even of the exhaust! Too bad, as the bike seems to be able to accept being able to pass even faster in curves.

What’s more, the heavy weight of the Milwaukee beauty will also remind you to order: beware of tight hairpins and bends that close, because the machine hardly tastes the joys of improvisation. !

Bikers drawn to American-style sports can also turn to the cousin brand, Buell, even if the latest born in Erik Buell’s workshops, the 1125 R, will be powered for the first time by a Rotax engine. !

Finally, it is the "fast rolled up" driving style that suits the XR 1200 best: take advantage of the machine’s torque to avoid downshifting, brake late (but not too late!), Occupy the entire width of the road to register the bike on the angle without hesitating on the throttle: in the opposite case, the large bowls of more than 600 cc each violate the chassis which then seems to break up by dragging you towards the outside of the bend !

The go-around is done without ulterior motives: the modest power combined with good traction allow you to exit curves generously, without requiring your pilot to master the gliding à la Nicky Hayden. This one would certainly appreciate the bite of the rear brake, even if the device lacks sensitivity.

The parasitic vibrations are discreet thanks to the mounting of the engine on silent blocks, even if at 4000 stabilized revolutions, a few ants will happily cross your feet !

Discreet too, the noise of the exhaust appears a little muffled, far removed from the usual "melody" of the brand’s machines: the Euro 3 standard is also rife across the Atlantic, even if once again the noise of the admission remains flattering.

Overtaking does not require any particular precaution, as long as the tachometer needle remains above 3000 rpm: below, the response on the last three gears may lack conviction for a bi of this displacement..

Finally, the evolution below 1800 turns will inevitably lead to chatter and a response to sudden acceleration: difficult in these conditions to extricate yourself from certain very tight hairpins without downshifting or disengaging..

A concept to follow ?

Finally, this Harley-Davidson is easily offered to its user, despite architectural specificities. Where the Milwaukee firm is making a step towards its European customers, it is by offering them the possibility of having a little fun thanks to this new concept, without allowing them to compete with a Superduke or a Speed ​​Triple. !

Pleasant and rather successful, the American should meet a clientele eager for sensations without artifice and attached to the culture and the statutory side of the brand. Offered at a moderate price (11,395 euros for the black model and 11,595 euros for the gray and orange models), the American may however suffer from its lack of equipment and practical aspects.

A test not quite transformed compared to the (high) expectations of the brand, where a CB 1300 or an XJR 1300 will offer a more powerful engine, a lower weight of 20 to 30 kg, a more attractive price and a floor allowing more fantasy.

But never mind: the XR 1200 remains a good bike in absolute terms and John Lewis, Marketing Director H-D Europe, even whispers in our ears that it could be further radicalized: "in fact, this project to invest in Europe dates back to 2000: at the time, we seriously looked at the expectations of this very specific market. From then on, the first step was taken with the 883 Sportster in 2001, then with the Street Rod which did not meet the expected success because of a too high price and a name roadster which was not justified. From then on, the bet was taken to develop the XR 1200, a product that comes from an impulse from Harley-Davidson adapted to European demand. We can even say that the firm is ready to go further in radicalization if demand requires it. !"To be continued … Stay connected !

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