Harley-Davidson XL1200C Sportster 1200 Custom - Middleweight Motorcycles

Displacement ain’t everything.

Harley-Davidson XL1200C Sportster 1200 Custom

Middleweight Motorcycles: Harley-Davidson XL1200C Sportster 1200 Custom

So, what size is it?” This ranks as one of the more annoying and unimaginative questions you can get from the guy in the parking lot attempting to make small talk. Sometimes, I just feel like pointing and saying, “It’s that big. You’re looking right at it...” But, then again, I’m kind of a jerk.

So, what makes a bike big, small or in between? With cruisers, a good definition of “middleweight” could simply be something that is approachable, fun around town but still highway-worthy.

Harleys, long thought of as the “big bikes” of our two-wheel world, have been largely immune from the size creep infecting cruisers from other manufacturers. Even The Motor Company’s Big Twins have remained a more human size than many of its competitors’ bikes.

Within H-D’s line, Sportsters are definitely the bikes that best fit the definition of “middleweight.” And while the Sportster Custom 1200 may seem large by virtue of its displacement, in terms of ergonomics, (perceived) weight and approachability, the “big” XL is definitely a middleweight cruiser. In fact, it’s only 5 pounds heavier than the more traditional entry-level Sportster, the Iron 883, while being no more difficult to ride or handle.

Compared to the identically displaced but lower and more compact Forty-Eight Sporty, the XL1200C feels a bit more top-heavy, especially with its more-pulled-back bars on tall risers and larger, 4.5-gallon tank; but the comfortable ergonomics and more secure-feeling, notched seat provide an enhanced level of confidence on the road. This makes the “bigger” Custom more approachable and versatile than the “smaller” XL1200 models, even though you might not get that impression by just sitting on all of them on the showroom floor.

The 1200 Custom was the first Harley model to offer the company’s HD1 “factory customization” option, with the 2013 Street Bob having just been added to the program. Other models can be personalized using H-D’s online “Bike Builder,” but it requires a new owner to either install the options themselves or pay the dealer to do it. With the XL1200 Custom and now the Street Bob Big Twin, the installation is done on the assembly line. Our Sporty had a factory-installed Screamin’ Eagle Stage 1 intake, slip-on performance mufflers and a front spoiler.

In a category that’s all about looking and feeling just right, finding the cruiser that fits your style and body size is, more likely than not, going to be “your” middleweight. Any label someone else puts on it will probably be irrelevant.

Ride your own ride, right?

Ups Downs
Accessory pipes sound oh, so right Feels fairly light, but a 553-lb. dry weight
Comfortable, with decent range Accessory pipes pretty much mandatory
H-D's "Bike Builder" app lets you set up lots of options at purchase Firm, short-travel suspension
Price: $10,809
Dry weight: 556 lb.
Wheelbase: 60.2 in.
Seat height: 27.7 in.
Fuel mileage: 36 mpg
0-60 mph: 4.2 sec.
1/4-mile: 12.93 sec. @ 102.22 mph
Top speed: 118 mph
Horsepower: 67.7 hp @ 5680 rpm
Torque: 72.9 ft.-lb. @ 4300 rpm