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Arturo Rivas

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Endurance test final balance of the Halrey-Davidson XL 1200 CA.

Arturo Rivas

With all your senses: The XL invites you to relax and enjoy.


Thanks to the 17-liter tank and almost five liters of fuel consumption, the range is perfectly suitable for touring.


Partly creepy grip level of the tires trimmed for mileage in wet conditions.


Only minor carbon deposits on the valve plates and in the combustion chambers, the valve seats hardly widened and tight, shafts and seals in working order.


The heads of the air-cooled twin have proven to be robust.


Built to last: massive crankshaft with marine diesel look. The distance could not affect the connecting rod bearings and eyes, nor could the entire crank drive.


The tracks left by the piston pin are not critical, the radial play of the pin in the piston is flawless. The piston play, however, has exceeded the wear limit. Clear traces of friction on the piston skirts can be seen.


The complete gearbox was presented in excellent condition. It could go back into the motor housing, negligible traces on the driving claws or, like here, a shift fork are not worth mentioning.


The air-cooled cylinders are still dimensionally accurate, but clear tracks of the pistons can also be seen on the raceways.


An ambivalent picture with the clutch: all friction disks are in perfect condition. Some of the steel disks are discolored but not warped. Clear chatter marks adorn the basket and mainly the hub.


Basically, the workmanship and surface quality of the Harley is really good. After two winters, the front wheel bearings were still ready for replacement, which was done as part of the 32000 inspection.


Each valve has its own short camshaft, and they all look perfect, including bearings, rocker arms and hydraulic valve lifters.


The generously dimensioned gearbox bearings also held up perfectly.


Neither the compression nor the pressure loss measurement show any abnormalities.


Relaxed mood: The Harley ambassadors Frank Klumpp (left) and Ditmar Gruhn (3rd from left) were satisfied.


The XL 1200 CA works through the full range.

mps photo studio

For the less experienced, we recommend going to the workshop to assemble the fork damper kit.

mps photo studio

Thanks to the Fehling luggage rack, fat luggage rolls can now also be stowed away.

Yvonne Hertler

Longer mirror arms could actually be built in from the factory.

Yvonne hertler

The MRA lens is a worthwhile investment, as it significantly increases comfort on long journeys.

mps photo studio

Harley’s own forward pegs ensure a comfortable seating position.

mps photo studio

(1) H.-D.-Premium-Ride-Shocks (short), (2) Wilbers Type 530 TS Road, (3) Series damper, (4) Progressive Suspension "412 Series Regular", (5) H.- D.-Premium ride shocks (long), (6) Öhlins shock absorber HD 754

Tobi Wassermann

The defective stator was exposed as the culprit and replaced.

Tobi Wassermann

The complete rear light had to be replaced because the cover glass is not available as an individual part.

Rainer Froberg

Is the alarm system possibly drawing too much power??


The rear strut of the belt cover broke.

Arturo Rivas

Connoisseurs who are looking for a suitable companion for a relaxed country tour will get their money’s worth here.

mps photo studio

The stainless steel Custom Exhaust silencers from Remus are available with a black or chrome finish. In line with the powerful torque, a bassy, ​​voluminous sound unfolds in the middle turning range. There is a slight slap when closing the throttle grip.

mps photo studio

The Miller Silverado is available with three different end pieces in matt black or polished. Like the Remus mufflers, they give a strong center and pack a little more power on between 4000 and 5000 revolutions. Slightly louder than the series and slightly stronger exhaust slap.

mps photo studio

The Screamin ‘Eagle is part of the official Harley-Davidson accessory program. In terms of sound behavior, they are a little more restrained than the standard parts, but they help the Sportster XL 1200 CA to achieve a discreet performance advantage from 4000 rpm.


Jens Möller-Töllner, test editor: "It has two sides"


Thomas Schmieder, test editor: "Appearance is not everything"

Katrin Sdun

Harald Humke, Managing Editor: “Almost like a real one
Motorcycle "

Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 CA in the 50,000 km endurance test

Relaxed, robust, uncomfortable

Twenty years ago, a 1200 Sportster passed the endurance test. And proved to be remarkably reliable. The addition to the name Sportster now stands for a whole range of models. The 1200 stayed. And their reliability?

E.Somehow it was also about family honor. For five years, Harleys Road King led the endurance test ranking. Then came Honda’s CBR 600 F, which, however, did not enjoy the place in the sun for long because BMW’s Roadster R 1200 R ousted it from there after a short time. But that is also history by now, Yamaha’s MT-07 currently tops the list of the most reliable and affordable machines. The Road King had meanwhile slipped down to fourth square.

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Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 CA in the 50,000 km endurance test
Relaxed, robust, uncomfortable

Criticism of driving comfort

Because after initial praise for her relaxed nature and the relaxed roaring twin, the first complaints found their way into the logbook. At first sporadically, then more often. The suspension comfort offered did not match the relaxed appearance of the Harley at all. The stubborn struts were just as much in focus as the underdamped fork. Especially in connection with the roughly regulating ABS. The perforated ring in the hub for the ABS sensor is kept correspondingly small. Which ensures a clean look on the front wheel, but also does not provide as many impulses per wheel revolution to the ABS computer as a larger rim mounted on the brake disc. The low lean angle was also not very well received – admittedly only in the dry, in the wet the tires, regardless of whether they were of French, Italian or other origin, got rid of their fat due to catastrophic wet grip.

The XL could of course not do much for its tires. But what she could do: still ensure sunshine, and always when she was just allowed to transport her rider through the country in a casual and relaxed manner. She did that with considerable perseverance. Which only took a short break once when starting problems arose at 15,726 kilometers. During the subsequent inspection, a defective alternator was exposed as a culprit and replaced. Around this time, the first complaints about constant travel jerks appeared in the logbook. In addition, the less ergonomic seating position, which was softened by the forward notches from the Harley accessories program, hardly found supporters. But these are ultimately things that result in deductions in the chapter on comfort. Apart from that, the XL just chugged along well, marched on undeterred and ate up kilometers, also thanks to the 17-liter tank, which was sufficiently large. Also in the second half of the marathon distance. She ran and ran and ran. And actually emulated the great performance of the big sister Road King. So everything is fine. One should think so. Because just as reliably as it ran, just as persistently a few nicknames came up during the second half of the test distance. Although apart from small things such as a broken toothed belt protection or the vibrated rear light lens, there was only one other defect to report: the front wheel bearings were ready for scrap after almost 31,000 kilometers. Otherwise the technology held up.

Various little problems


The XL 1200 CA works through the full tidy.

The 1998 Sportster had its engine still rigidly bolted to the frame and crumbled countless bulbs, three license plate holders and license plates, the instrument panel and the front cylinder head bracket during the endurance test. The XL refrained from such malaises. Nevertheless, the driving pleasure dwindled with increasing mileage.

The manageable performance of the suspension elements, like the toothless, poorly metered brakes, did not generate enthusiasm anyway, and the new mapping that was installed over 25,168 kilometers had not been able to eliminate the annoying constant-speed jolting. On the contrary. Complaints about this bad behavior appeared more and more frequently in the logbook. Low-speed rolling was hardly possible anymore, the throttle response jerky in the partial load range, the concentricity at low speeds modest. Especially when the engine is cold. The twin only ran smoothly from medium revs. During the 32,000 inspection, the unworthy driving behavior was once again put on the to-do list – without success.

To make matters worse, the clutch began to slip at the odometer reading 42,600, which was fixed for the time being with readjustment of the push button, but reappeared at the end of the endurance test. In any case, the fun with the Harley had meanwhile a decent dump, despite its actually impeccable reliability.

As a rule, in the evening, when vehicle fleet manager Tobi Wassermann blows Halali on the key rack at the end of the day, the XL key was often the last one a pilot got. The fact that it refused to start shortly before the end of a November morning and thus awakened memories of the starting problems due to the defective alternator almost seemed like a reaction of defiance. It is possible that the alarm system was drawing too much power, but this can be checked at the dealer and fixed by exchanging an updated security module.

Robust mechanics


The dismantled engine was quite robust.

Apart from that, it should therefore be expressly mentioned again here: Otherwise, the Harley never let its pilots down and unwound its kilometers with stoic composure. Nonetheless, some people might have breathed a sigh of relief when Gerry Wagner set about dissecting the US bike. From the outside, it had weathered the rigors of two winters and three autumn trips extremely well, the paint and chrome survived the distance with practically no damage, and the quality of the surfaces and workmanship is impressive. When dismantling the engine, it was time to grab. The components seem massive, as if they were built to last. Above all, the huge crankshaft and the motor housing with the powerfully dimensioned roller bearings for crankshafts and gear shafts. As the XL did not use any significant oil or showed any major weakness in the final measurement of the driving performance, the expectations were that no unpleasant surprises should come to light. Dial gauges and feeler gauges then confirmed this prognosis. In addition to traces of friction on the cylinders and piston skirts, the running play of the two pistons was noticeable. These are outside the tolerances. In addition, the piston pins have left clear tracks in the pistons, which are ripe for replacement. Likewise the oil pump, the housing of which is adorned with a strong groove. The problem of the clutch is likely to be caused by a tired disc spring and the chatter marks on the basket.

For the rest of the mechanics, however, you can keep your thumbs up. The gearbox, shift drum and claws are perfect, minimal marks on a shift fork only indicate that these parts were actually in use. You could then go back into the engine housing and be good for another 50,000 kilometers. The entire valve train from the camshafts to the rocker arms and valves has not been damaged. The valve seats are also hardly widened, only with slight traces of fire. Freshly ground in, the valves could be put back into the cylinder head.

Sportster drives cheaply

4th Pictures

Pictures: Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 CA in the 50,000 km endurance test

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Balance after 50,000 kilometers

Cylinder head: The exhaust valves have slight traces of burns, all valve seats are hardly widened, valve stems and guides are also in order. The camshafts as well as bumpers, rocker arms and hydraulic valve lifters are inconspicuous.

Cylinder / piston: The pistons and cylinders show clear traces of running, on the pistons there are rub marks. The piston running clearance has been exceeded. Only minor oil carbon deposits.

Crank drive: The crankshaft drive, which is completely mounted on roller bearings, is in good condition, the axial play and radial play of the connecting rods are within the tolerance range.

Power transmission: The gear wheels show hardly any wear apart from slight traces on a few driving claws, as do the shift drum and forks. The clutch basket and hub have clear chatter marks, the steel disks are discolored but not warped. The primary chain tensioner shows clear tracks.

Frame / chassis: The paintwork and chrome plating are in good condition, the steering head and swing arm bearings are free of play. The hard chrome layer on the belt pulley has partially flaked off. Two screws of the swing arm mounting on the engine housing were corroded.

Harley-Davidson comments …

… for the chassis and ABS coordination, the defects in the front wheel bearings and alternator, constant speed jolts, slipping clutch, piston running play and starting difficulties after long periods of inactivity. The answer was summarized in the following statement. It should be noted that the XL 1200 CA was of course serviced by the authorized dealer during the endurance test, but the listed errors still occurred.


Relaxed mood: The Harley ambassadors Frank Klumpp (left) and Ditmar Gruhn (3rd from left) were satisfied.

Several of the points raised have now been resolved through targeted model updates on the current Sportster models. As with the chassis components that have been used on most Sportster models since model year 2016. Since then, emulsion struts and a new cartridge fork ensure a more sensitive response. The ABS vote criticized by MOTORRAD was also revised in the course of this. In addition, more robust wheel bearings are used in younger Sportster models. In our opinion, the remaining points are individual cases that we expressly regret. We will investigate clutch wear and the increased piston clearance. Likewise, the constant drive jerk that occurred in the test vehicle from MOTORRAD. In our in-house evaluations, we cannot find any noticeable accumulation of such cases. As with any problem, we generally advise customers to contact their Harley-Davidson dealer for diagnosis and service. We work closely with our dealers to track errors and problems and fix them as soon as they become noticeable – during the warranty period and afterwards. Michael Pflughoeft, Manager, Corporate Media Relations, Harley-Davidson Motor Company

Accessories for the Harley-Davidson XL 1200 CA being tested

Yvonne hertler

The MRA lens is a worthwhile investment, as it significantly increases comfort on long journeys.

In everyday life, the Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 CA definitely offers the opportunity for functional improvements. The problem of luggage storage can be solved relatively easily. The specialist Fehling (www.fehling.de) offers the easy-to-mount Rearrack 7042 for the Sportster for 83.90 euros, which fits discreetly between the seat and the number plate. An annoying little thing can be turned off just as easily: The standard mirror booms are too short and show more upper arms than traffic behind. With the Magazi mirrors from the Louis range (44.95 euros), the consideration can be improved a little.

To ensure that cruising with the Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 CA remains casual in the long term, we also took care of the long-distance qualities. MRA (www.mra.de) offers a number of different panes in different tint levels. We decided on the transparent Road Shield "RO", which was almost universally praised for its wind protection. Together with the holding kit, it costs 98.80 euros. The testers didn’t like the standard footpegs. The feet rest more comfortably on the forward notches from the in-house accessories catalog. The Forward Control Kit (604.50 euros) ensures a much more relaxed sitting posture. However, it does not offer more freedom of lean angle than the original notches. In addition to the tires, the suspension elements have also been a frequent criticism. The fork, for example, lacked reasonable damping. The "Premium Ride Single Cartridge Fork Kit" should improve the situation. The damping behavior after the conversion was not really premium. With Kit, the fork barely had any negative spring deflection while standing. The front stands higher, which worsens the driving stability. However, when braking hard, it sagged completely due to a lack of progression. Only longer struts bring the balance back into balance.

Tire recommendation

Both the first Michelin Scorcher tires and the alternatively mounted Pirelli Night Dragon and Michelin Commander II offer decent dry performance, but made few friends with poor wet grip. Clear case for a tire recommendation. But the range of tires in 130 / 90-16 and 150 / 80-16 is thin. Even the alternatively mounted Metzeler 888 could not convince in the wet compared to the Commander II. If the coarse ABS of the Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 CA is also responsible for long braking distances, there is a general lack of cornering grip. Because Dunlop, Continental and Metzeler have new or heavily revised tires in the starting blocks for 2017, we have decided to postpone the tire recommendation in favor of a major cruiser tire test to April 2017.

Shock absorbers

mps photo studio

(1) H.-D.-Premium-Ride-Shocks (short), (2) Wilbers Type 530 TS Road, (3) Series damper, (4) Progressive Suspension "412 Series Regular", (5) H.- D.-Premium ride shocks (long), (6) Öhlins shock absorb HD 754

The short original shock absorbers (3) are characterized by slack damping, no bottom-through reserves, and little spring travel. Accessory struts were ordered with the stipulation that they could cover a driver’s weight of 70 to 100 kg. Both the short (1) and the longer (5) struts from the H.-D. range (769 euros each) can be adjusted in the preload via threads. Thanks to its soft spring, the short version is more suitable for lighter drivers and improves comfort and stability compared to the series. The 43 mm longer version is not quite as sensitive, has a harder spring for heavy riders and has a successful set-up and significantly improves handling and lean angle of the Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 CA.

The 21 mm longer suspension struts from Progressive Suspension (365.50 euros, (4)) also have to be pretensioned strongly due to the soft spring, which then provides a little more maneuverability and freedom from leaning. But their damping is too weak. The 18 mm longer Wilbers dampers (679 euros, (2)) offer convincing responsiveness. Strongly preloaded, they offer greater comfort and freedom from lean angles, but could use more compression damping and therefore do not reach the level of the 42 mm longer Öhlins dampers in terms of driving stability (680 euros, (6)). Great compromise between solid stability and comfort. Top responsiveness, better handling, plus reserves, a clear purchase tip!

Exhaust systems for the Harley

Remus Custom Exhaust

The stainless steel silencers from Remus (www.remus-motorrad.de, 1,164 euros) can be ordered black or chrome-plated. There are six different end caps to choose from. We decided on the chrome-plated version with slash cut ends. The mufflers have an EG-BE and together weigh 5.3 kilos (series: 6.8 kilos). Tea bassy, Voluminous sound matches the powerful torque that they give the Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 CA in the mid-range. Slight slap when closing the throttle grip.

Miller Silverado

The stainless steel silencers from Miller (www.miller-custombike.de) are polished or available with a matt black finish and with EG-BE. There is also a choice between three different end pieces. At 5.4 kilograms they are almost as light as the Remus mufflers. And they also help the Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 CA to have a stronger middle, with even more power between 4,000 and 5,000 revolutions. Sound slightly louder and livelier than the series. Slightly stronger exhaust slap.

Screamin ‘Eagle

The official Harley-Davidson accessory program contributes a set of Screamin ’Eagle silencers for the exhaust system. At 740 euros, the screaming eagles are the cheapest of the three accessory exhaust systems. At 6.6 kilos, they are almost as heavy as the series parts, sound similarly reserved even at low speeds, almost smoother. They only give the Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 CA a subtle performance advantage from 4,000 rpm.

Reading experiences

In spring 2016 I bought the Harley XL1200 C new. I now have 16,000 km on the clock. Gasoline consumption around 4.5 to 6.0 liters depending on driving style. At lean angles, there is often road contact with the lower muffler on the right. I’ve already worn off the straps. The tires are problematic in the rain. So I’m waiting for your long-term test result with regard to tire alternatives. I changed the mirrors at your suggestion. I am very satisfied with the Harley so far. Günter Weichhan

I would like to answer your call and report on my first tour with my Sportster XL 1200 CA. In August 2017 my tour started from the Erzgebirge via the Königssee, Nockalm, Malta Hochalmstraße, Großglockner, Zillertal and the Bavarian Forest. In terms of weather, from heavy rain to sun, from 12 to 37 degrees Celsius pretty much everything was included. The moped made it through the entire tour without complaining. Apart from gasoline, nothing had to be refilled. Thanks to the retrofitted touring bench, the notches moved forward and the higher handlebars, the physical strain was kept within limits. After about 2,000 kilometers with countless wonderful curves and views back home, the anticipation for the next tour grows. Mike Wetzel

Once fell in love with the silver Sporty 883 from 2013, Put in the 1200cc Harley engine and just go! Fantastic engine shaking with timeless chopper design. It has enough torque and power for the country road. The workmanship is good, only the carelessly laid cables and hoses are ugly to say the least. The double disc brakes. The belt drive is great. Alone on tour, roll up and go. The original Harley sports tires should go down, the Avon AV71 / 72 are far better. I don’t care about the shelf life. And the Sporty is handy anyway. The gearbox shifts as smooth as butter and the "Klong" fits the concept. A year ago I treated myself to the Screaming Eagle struts and the cartridge fork interior. No matter what everyone says, a difference like day and night. With a pillion passenger, who leans against the removable sissy bar at a comfortable knee angle, she no longer strikes and moves steadily on her way. Does not touch down so early when it is well biased. I prefer the centrally mounted footrests to the forward one. The only drawback is the alarm system, which drains the battery pretty quickly. After ten to 14 days, things get tight to start. Timeless motorcycling, without frills. A. Wolf

Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 offers in price comparison

1000PS marketplace app

The Harley Davidson Sportster range is also very popular in the used market.

The Sportster models are real classics and the selection on the used market is correspondingly large. Almost every year of construction of the Sportster 1200 is represented with several copies and the differences in used prices are large. Here is an overview of all used Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 models: used Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 in Germany.

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