Motorcycle: Sportsters - XL1200S Sportster Sport, 1996 - Present
Date: Sunday, October 31 @ 22:50:30 UTC
Topic: Motorcycle, Motorcycles, Motor Cycle
XL1200S Sportster Sport, 1996 - Present
By the mid-1990s, the redoubtable Sportster family was approaching its fortieth birthday — and beginning to show it. True, Evolution V2 engine technology had reached the old XL steeds on the 883 and 1100 Sportsters for the 1987 model year. Twelve months later, Milwaukee unleashed the first of the family's 1,200cc models, the XLH. Essentially this was the old 1,100 engine with the bore increased from 85.1 to 88.8mm. The stroke remained unchanged at 96.8mm, the same as the 883. Other than a change to five-speed transmissions and belt drive across most of the Sportster family in 1991, the range remained largely unchanged until the appearance of the 1200S in 1996. Along the way, it had definitely lost some of the fire that had burned in the first of the breed all those years before.
Those first Sportster Sports were perhaps a case of "close, but no cigar." Initially, their chief distinction was the adoption of improved, fully-adjustable suspension components at both ends, mated to softer, grippier tyres — but the engine remained stubbornly unmoved. Sportster fans had to wait another two years before the model truly reached its peak, but the 1998 Sportster Sport was surely worth the delay. In broad terms, the engine was little changed from previous Sportsters, with its hydraulic tappets, dry sump and triple-row primary chain driving a wet multi-plate clutch and toothed-belt final drive. Naturally, the 1200S carries higher overall gearing: 2.103:1 compared to 2.259: Ion the 883.
However, a comprehensive engine revamp had raised torque figures by an average of 15 per cent throughout the twin's 2,000—5,500rpm operating range. The model now had both the chassis and the engine to justify its "Sport" aspirations at last. Essential to these improvements was an all-new ignition pack igniting not one, but two spark plugs in each cylinder, promoting quicker, more efficient burning of the incoming fuel/air charge. Although a conventional carburettor was retained — a 1 1/2 n (40mm) constant velocity Keihin instrument equipped with an "accelerator" pump — combustion control was further improved by an electronic management system even more sophisticated than the V Fire III set-up fitted to its sister models. The system, incidentally, also affords high-tech electronic diagnostic capabilities.
These measures allowed Harley-Davidson's engineers to bump up compression from 9:1 to 10:1, offering a substantial increase in mid-range power.
As well as lumpier pistons, the revised powerplant benefited from a larger, less restrictive exhaust system and new camshaft design. The camshafts offer both higher lift and longer duration, again with the emphasis on enhancing mid-range torque. Harley can claim a peak torque figure of 78 lb/ft (106Nm) at 4,000rpm, over 50 per cent higher than the 883. With not only much improved power characteristics but better throttle response as well, the Sport feels even stronger than the figures might show. The 1200S looks every inch as mean and muscular as a Sportster should, with its clean lines and understated black engine highlights.
Nor is this a deception, for the twin-plug
Sport package delivers genuine punch. Better still, it stops and handles in a most un-Milwaukee-like manner — a mantle several more recent models have since adopted, to welcome effect.
In short, this not only proved to be the best XL for years, but perhaps was also the model with which Harley rediscovered the Sportster's roots, and made a great addition to the range.
Engine: ohv V-twin
Weight: 518 lbs (235kg)
Wheelbase: 60.2m (1,530mm)
Top speed: 110 mph (177kph)
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