What’s a man to do when his exuberant sporting aspirations are killing his Harley-Davidson Road King? As the result of its owner trying to keep up with his fellow corner-carvers, the King has floorboards that are worn thin as razor blades and its heavily modified engine is on its umpteenth rebuild.
For Jose Munoz, a 48-year-old A/C technician and frequent flier on Southern California’s finest backroads, the merciful act was to buy an XR1200 as backup. That was his retaliation in the arms race when his riding buddies began purchasing Aprilia Tuonos, Ducati Hypermotards and the like. But although the stock 2010 XR certainly helped close the performance gap, Munoz wanted more, particularly after taking his new bike to a track day. The 1200 has since undergone a four-month makeover that upped the ante in both power and handling.
An engine build was first on the list, with Bennett’s Performance (www.bennettsperformanceinc.com) handling the work. That involved a $662.50 labor tab to remove and install the entire top end, hone the cylinders, fit a Dynojet Power Commander PC 5 ($369.95; www.powercommander.com) and dual Auto Tune modules ($369.99). Bennett’s used custom-order CP Pistons ($492 from www.shakerproducts.com) with 3.504-inch standard bore and 10.5:1 compression. The stock heads were ported and polished by Branch-O’Keefe (www.branchokeefe.com) for an $850 charge that included full reassembly with 1.900 intake and 1.610-inch exhaust valves, Hi-Lift spring kit, bronze manganese valve guides and Viton seals. An additional $164.84 covered the cost of a top-end gasket kit from Cometic (www.cometic.com).
Having dropped a sizable chunk of change for engine parts and service, Munoz felt that the enhanced sight and sound of a gorgeous FMF Racing Apex exhaust system ($1999; www.fmfracing.com) would be money well-spent. It was an even easier sell, since the full titanium system shaves a whopping 29.7 pounds off the bike and offers dramatically improved cornering clearance. On FMF’s rear-wheel dyno, the completed engine package produced a dozen additional ponies throughout the upper half of the rev range and an absolutely linear delivery bottom-to-top, with peak readings of 92 hp and 81 ft.-lb. of torque.
Next, Race Tech Suspension (www.race-tech.com) gave the stock fork its full treatment consisting of a cartridge kit ($1299.99), heavier-rate springs ($129.99), adjustable-preload fork caps ($249.99) and an additional $235 for machining and assembly. The Race Tech shocks ($1449.99) are longer than stock and provide the full gamut of adjustable compression and rebound damping, spring preload and ride height.
Fully committed and on a roll, Munoz bought his baby expensive new shoes, as well. The BST carbon-fiber wheels ($3570 with ceramic wheel bearings; www.brocksperformance.com) weigh 15 pounds collectively with bearings and sprocket carrier installed. The stock XR rear-wheel assembly alone supposedly weighs nearly 40 pounds. The move from the stock 18-inch front rim to a 3.5 x 17 required the front fender to be lowered, a task Munoz took upon himself. The new wheels also opened a whole new menu of tire choice, with sticky Dunlop Sportmax Q2 hoops selected for this project.
Treated to a day of play aboard Munoz’s hot-rodded XR, I was impressed to find that the engine starts, idles and revs every bit as civilly as a stocker; it’s just that this one is endowed with a double-digit torque boost in the meat of its power delivery. The carbon-fiber-skinned FMF muffler was pleasingly loud without being too brash when hard on the gas, yet surprisingly subdued when the bike was ridden with a social conscience at cracked throttle. This came easily, as crisp throttle response and abundant torque off idle allowed for sub-3000-rpm short-shifts around town. A stock XR1200 feels short of gearing and revvy at freeway speed, a sensation that’s amplified when you uncork the exhaust.
With the suspension dialed-in for its larger owner, the ride on the freeway pounded me pretty hard, but the payoff came once I reached the twisties. At 507 pounds without fuel, this XR weighs 54 pounds less than our last stock testbike, and that weight loss and significant reduction in wheel inertia have greatly improved handling agility. A light touch on the XR’s wide, dirt-track-inspired handlebar is all that’s needed to bank the bike in or flip-flop it through esses. I refrained from being too aggressive flicking into corners to avoid unsettling the chassis, but it was great fun snapping the bike upright exiting corners with uncanny quickness and ease. The modified fork allowed assertive use of the stock front brake without fear of suspension bottoming.
A self-proclaimed habitual tinkerer, Munoz sees more areas to be addressed, commenting on the heresy of $20 rotors on $3500 wheels and the benefit a six-speed gearbox would yield on the freeway. Modifying a sporty bike can be an addiction, and once you’ve tasted the fruits, why stop? “You can buy a Duc for $13,000 and you’re ready to go.” Says Munoz. “But this bike draws a crowd every time I park at the Rock Store.”
I could see in his eyes and hear in his voice that keeping pace with his riding pals—and doing it H-D-style with a small bell hung from the lower triple-tree—is priceless.