Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycle Reviews on Cycle Insider (53)
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2010-09-11 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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This is the best all-around standard bike available! At under 600 lbs., it is easy to maneuver around town but heavy enough to be comfortable on the highway. It's plenty quick and easy to handle. The paint job and chrome work are first class. You can customize it to your personal taste with tons of aftermarket/Harley parts. Make no mistake, this is no "starter bike". I had a metric bike prior to this and while I enjoyed it, I like my Harley better. It has character, class, and a mechanical feel to it that to me is what a motorcycle should be.
- Tzarofsmurfs, KC, Kansas

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2005-04-08 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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First off, like most of us on this web site, I love to ride whether it be on a Harley or another medium sized cruiser. I am however very fortunate in that I have been able to purchase the real deal, (made in payments every month) Harley-Davidson, and see what the difference is from riding other bikes with similar styling. I have upgraded the seat to a Sundowner H-D seat and it has made a huge difference in riding comfort for me and my wife. It has a much wider surface area and doesn't concentrate all the bumps directly up my spine to my jawbone. No windshield, no stage 1 or SE exhaust mods done yet and it has run flawlessly since purchased last year. I did heed the advice of one reviewer who mentioned ways to beat the so called "Harley Tax", and have changed my own oil and air filter so far. I would hope that most people who own motorcycles for any period of time are somewhat mechanically inclined. For anyone thinking of purchasing one of these Sportsters or other Harley, I have to tell you get what you pay for and that is a high quality bike made of parts that are durable and user friendly. Example, take an air cleaner off of any metric bike and change the filter, it will most like be very light weight and be chrome plated plastic. Now visit a friend or Harley shop and try the same. The difference in parts is incredible, great fit and finish with all real steel parts, I washed and dried my air cleaner cover and swore it was no different feeling than our "good" pots and pans. Silly? Maybe, but for my money I want the real deal. Check out the battery cover, steel there too. Final words, it's expensive to own any make of bike. Secondly, it's cool to own a Harley. Third, after purchase you will be hounded to join HOG, make your bike louder and to dress the part of a biker. Fourth and final, group rides are fun, but venturing out on your own is more peaceful and adventurous feeling. Signed, a very satisfied Harley Owner.
- Tony, Blair, Oklahoma

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2005-03-29 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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Well winter is over here in the East and tomorrow will be the first day in months I can ride to work. I have had my 1200C out a few times over the winter and she ran well. A bit cold blooded, but what carbed engine isn't? I do my own maintenance as it will significantly reduce maintenance cost. If no more than your own oil changes and basic inspection you'll save hundreds if you ride a lot. Since my last review I have added the sundowner seat, now I ride just over 50 miles one way to work and man what a difference! Well spent couple hundred dollars. I also added the windshield, great for cold weather, but the top of the panel sets right in my field of vision forcing me to crouch, works but would be nicer if higher or a bit lower. As for winter care, the bike sat under the cover for a month in Dec/Jan. One nice Saturday I decided it was nice enough to go for a spin, well carb + cold + weak battery = NO RIDE. The next week I ordered a Solar battery maintainer which I mounted to the wall outside my garage. Well except for the 2 weeks I forgot to plug her in, my battery has been full power ever since and cranks like it is mid July. Basically I would recommend this $34 purchase to anyone who lives in cold winter states. It is well worth the money and will cost much less than a new battery.
- foglema, frederick, Maryland

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2005-03-02 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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I've enjoyed my 1200. We buy the bike and hope that the dealer we purchased it from stands behind it when problems occur, and they will. I have had a few of the problems mentioned in these reviews but my dealer fixed them and gave me a loaner bike while mine was down. You must pay the Harley tax to get a 1200 to run right. Too bad they didn't come with EFI. I'm dealing my 1200 off this month and will miss it greatly. It's a great bike for an intermidiate size bike. I highly recommend this bike.
- dh, South Beach, Florida

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2004-11-23 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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IT'S NOW BEEN A YEAR. I am so glad I did this for myself and my 50th birthday. When I turned 40, I let go of my 1100 Virago...a sense of "responsibility" overcame me!! After 10 years of going crazy looking at every bike around me, I mounted this wonder. In May I took a 7 day round trip, 2750 miles to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Jerome, and over Yosmite pass...freezing my butt off with the biggest smile on my face. I feel so safe, confident & free on my metal horse.
- lenny, lucerne, California

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2004-11-17 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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I've had my 1200 Custom for about 6 months. I think Harley redesigned this bike with us women in mind. Lowered the seat height so my feet touch the ground, not like riding a saw horse anymore. The engine vibration isn't noticable even after 2 hours in the seat. I do have a new Sundowner seat, very comfortable, and the position is perfect for me in reaching the handlebars. The power is awesome, can out run my husband's Ultra, and the passing power is there and noticable in seconds. Great handling bike, has been comfortable for me on the long trips. I have added hard saddlebags, windshield, chrome, looks like a baby Dyna. Great Job Harley. This is a perfect bike for us women!
- GTanner, Tucson, Arizona

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2004-10-19 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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Let me start by saying this is my first Harley but not my first Harley experience. I grew up around these bikes from knuckle heads to evo's. My first recomendation is to buy a good seat. Having never sat on my stock seat (and for good reason) I bought the H-D sundowner and love it. Like all H-D's and V twins in general, it vibrates some, but not nearly as bad as the old Sportys. I haven't had one problem in 6800 miles, no leaks or anything else. As far as engine noise goes, like ALL air cooled engines it makes some noise. I hear a lot of complaints about engine noise, well I'm a mechanic and I can tell you air cooled engines make more noise than water cooled engines. Reason being the water jackets around the cylinder and pushrod tubes inslate or muffle the engine noise. Air cooled engines obviously don't have water in them so they make more noise. I hope that helps some people. I buy H-D because I don't need a complicated bike. I like things simple, and if I had to explain, you wouldn't understand. As far as the performance goes, it's got loads of torque to get out of its own way, the new 1200 engine is good stuff. Rides 2 up without any problems. These "new" Sportsters are built to keep. So if you like H-D's and you're looking to buy one, test drive this one at the next open house at your dealership and see for yourself.
- Smith, Columbia, Connecticut

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2004-10-01 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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As Forrest said "04 Sportsters are like a box of chocolates". I've read various reviews and am pleased and relieved that I got a good one. I'm probably like most Sportster buyers, buying to the extent that I am financially able to & my first Harley. So I agree putting down the $$ a 1200C costs, I expect a more than average quality bike that should run perfect from day one well into the future. I have not changed anything mechanical on it yet. Not because I don't want louder pipes, a more comfortable seat or handle bars that pull back farther but because to do any of that, (except the seat), has additional costs other that the one thing you want to change. The bike has run great from day one and even better after the 5,000 mile service. I did change all fluid to synthetic at last service and swear it runs smoother. I am very pleased with the quality of the bike and feel that Harley pride on or off of it.
- Tony, Blair, Oklahoma

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2004-09-29 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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I knew going in that this bike was just going to be a template for me to work on. So it's going to cost me some serious bucks to get it right. The stock seat was crap but the Mustang seat with the riders backrest is just simply Heaven! I had a sore back with right arm numbness with the stock seat but it's great with the custom Mustang. $700.00 roughly is again, some serious $$ but well worth every penny. Ride safely all!
- Joseph Gutierrez, Wilmington, California

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2004-09-13 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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Not only is this my first Harley, this is my first motorcycle, ever. I had never ridden a motorcycle in my life until last fall when my wife and I took the Harley Rider's Edge course (I'm 53). Having no experience on any other kind of bike, all I can offer are my opinions after 3400 miles. All I know is I love this motorcycle! It has loads of power, corners beautifully, and has never leaked a drop of any kind of fluid. I love my Vance and Hines exhaust system I recently added (lots of power, great Harley sound) as well as the pillow-look touring seat for added comfort. For someone of my height, the 'forward' gearing becomes 'standard' gearing position and has proved to be plenty comfortable. I've ridden for hours at a time with only occasional breaks and, again, have had no problems. I have had great dealer support and an excellent mechanic working on my bike, so no problems there, either. I knew going in that parts and bike check-ups were pricey, so I accept this. So, what can I say? A great bike, highly recommended! For me, this bike's a keeper, no need to ever 'trade up'!
- R. Doren, Littleton, Colorado

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2004-09-03 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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Just hit 2000 miles and no problems to this date. Still love the bike. Just had Vance and Hines StraightShot Pipes put on after 4 month wait on back-order. Pipes sound awesome and noticed slight increase in power. Pipes look great too. Vance and Hines is definitely the way to go if your looking for a louder deeper rumble. Cost about $500, but well worth it. I also notice a cough once and a while but seems to disappear after warming up and with several miles.
- painter, erie, Pennsylvania

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2004-09-02 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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Bought new in April. Absolutely love the lines of this bike, traditional but refreshed. Very cool, very hot rod, for the money. I looked long and hard at the Honda's, but American chrome and stainless and the Harley brand sold me. Feels great under me. This is my first H-D. Had my 1,000 mi service recently. About $289 out the door - ouch!! No leaks, starts and runs good. Will cough when I slow, stop, and hit the throttle, then COUGH, but if I gently roll the throttle and don't hammer it at that second it won't so much. Told the dealer about it and when I got back from service, it felt like they added about 5 horse, and it didn't as much!! Everything was better - maybe the service was worth the $. I notice the valve lifter noise in the 25-45 mph range, after that the wind takes over! Clattery though, like V8 valves that need adjusting. Would like better rear shocks if they make 'em. Overall am extremely pleased. SE pipes, kit, cleaner to come possibly next season. The sundowner seat is mandatory. Would like to grow into a softail someday perhaps, but this is a GREAT bike so far.
- DMZ, Des Moines, Iowa

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2004-08-26 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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After owning a Sportster for several years, I was ready for a new bike. I vacillated between a Road King and a Sportster for some time, finally decided to stick with the Sportster. I am confident I made the right decision. While you can't beat the big twins for long distance confort, the Sportster just begs to be ridden hard. More smiles per mile than the big twins by far. Although the oil dipstick is still a pita, everything else works well. The stage one didn't give the big performance improvement like before, and I was almost tempted to leave the stock pipes on... almost. I have the sundowner seat and am very satisfied. I couldn't stand the stock shocks and changed them for progressive 412s immediately. This is a bike that I plan on keeping for a long time.
- Ben, San Jose, California

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2004-08-25 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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I have 2500 miles on the bike. Still runs good and I have had no problems. Switched to Syn3 at 1000 mile interval and seems to run a little quieter. I still have stock pipes and cleaner. This bike runs fine. The only time that I have had a carb fart is when I did not warm it up properly. It is a little cold blooded. I bought the Mustang wide Vintage Solo seat with back rest. It makes all the difference in the world, as far as comfort on long rides. The back rest is nice, but probably not necessary.
- D. Gilbert, Freindswood, Texas

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2004-07-25 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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Sold my Vulcan 800 and bought a 1200c smokey gold and black. I am suprised that HD could make such a nice bike for so cheap. The cosmetics are awesome; real chrome, not much plastic on this machine. This is not a throw away bike; I believe it will stand for many years over the metrics. The engine and transmission are rock solid providing a lot of torque and horse power for a v-twin. You know you have a machine under your seat because you can hear and feel it. Maintenance is easy to do, even for someone with limited mechanical skills. My confidence in riding the sportster is improved over previous years. The more I rev the engine the smoother it gets. The pull back risers and forward controls put someone at my height and disposition into a perfect riding position. I only have one complaint; the seat is a joke for two up riding, HD should have put a better seat on it. For solo riding it is perfect for any trip under 4-5 hours. This bike is perfect for a rider looking to have torquey fun. Do not think this is a beginner bike; out of all the HD's the sportster has a higher center of gravity, making it harder to ride, but is better in the curves and twisties. This bike has more power to weight ratio of all the others except the v-rod. I hope this review helps some of you make a good decision, but in the end buy what you want and like, and keep the rubber side down.
- Steve, Honolulu, Hawaii

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2004-07-15 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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Harley-Davidson did the entry level buyer a huge favor with the '04 Sportster 1200 Custom. This is a lot of bike with a lot of style for a great price. I've had mine for a month and have 1200 miles already. Now I'm ready for the Sundowner seat so my wife will keep riding with me. The stock seat is rough on the passenger. I need to get some better pipes too. The stock pipes sound nice, but I can't even hear my bike when riding with other bikes. Several people have asked me if it is a Softtail. It allowed me to get a bike without a peanut tank without spending more for a Deuce. Nice Job Harley-Davidson!
- John Webb, Overland Park, Kansas

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2004-07-09 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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The new sportster is a terrific bike. I am fortunate to have, what I consider, the perfect combination. I ride a Kawasaki KLR650 around town when I go to the store, and ride the KLR to work every day. It has better handling, lighter, more comfortable on speed bumps or pot holes. But then, after work and on the weekends, the new Sportster is a far superior bike out on the open road. My wife and I have taken some small road trips (about 150 miles) and it's totally comfortable, smooth, runs lazily along at 70 mph with no effort. Now granted I immediately replaced the seat with the sundowner and as I read another person review that seat, he said it best by saying "it cups your butt" My wife also finds the seat very comfortable. This bike is so good that I know its a keeper. There is absolutely no need to upgrade to a touring bike in the future. that's just my opinion but then I'm just a 3000 mile per year guy. I imagine the 10,000 mile + guys and gals out there might see things differently. I have had no problems, no leaks, no funny noises, people give me a lot of compliments on the new styling as well, we have the sierra red. So again, we are totally and completely impressed with this bike. Even more so than I used to be with my KLR, which I am still totally impressed with that bike as well. I feel I've got the best of both worlds.
- Tim, Reno, Nevada

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2004-07-08 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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I bought a 2004 Glacier Pearl White in March 2004. I have been riding on the road 29 years and riding offroad 10 years before that. I have had, or ridden about everything out there. Probably owned 200 bikes in my life and this is one of the most pleasurable bikes I have ever ridden. I am 6'3" and the only confort issue is the hard seat, but I am leaving it on because it looks so good. Hopefully with time it will get softer or my butt will get harder. I have had it over 100 mph many times. It is still smooth at 105 mph. You can see out of the mirrors or let go of the bars if you want. In high gear at 70 - 80 mph it just takes a few seconds to reach 100 mph. Real responsive on the interstate and very fast off the line for a Harley. I live in the mountains of NC and it handles like a dream in the curves. Seems like you just can't run into them hard enough. It has never leaked a drop of anything, always starts right away, and nothing has ever vibrated loose. The only time a wrench has been on it is for the 1000 mile (1326) service. I have always liked my Harleys, but they weren't dependable and always leaked. After all these years Harley finally got it right.
- RJ Chandler, Asheville, North Carolina

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2004-06-29 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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I have had my 2004 Harley Davidson 1200 custom sportster for about a month now and I love it. I drive over 50 miles each way to work and I have to say it handles and rides like a dream (after I adjusted my rear shocks with more preload). And not to mention the power the new evolution motor has, it's a lot more than I ever expected. This is my first Harley and I did a lot of research before buying it but the new style, chrome, fat gas tank and rear tire sold me. Every time I drive it I get a lot of compliments from all sorts of people. So if you don't want to spend a ton of money on a bigger harley, the new sportster is for you. Enjoy.
- Paul Nagaj, Jackson, Michigan

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2004-06-20 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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Picked my 1200C a few days ago, and I can't explain how much I love it so far. This is my first bike and have never ridden before. I purchased the black 1200c and added many accessories. Only have 150 miles so far, but if this beauty continues to perform like the first 150, I have no complaints. Plenty of response and power, and the look speaks for itself. The detailing on it is magnificent. I'm sure I'll want to go bigger in the future but I don't think it would involve trading this beast in. This cycle is a definite keeper. Too many compliments to count. While I was at the dealer finishing the paperwork with my salesman, I watched as a couple that entered the dealer walk over and was showing too much interest in my bike. Another salesman came walking over to our location and asked my salseman if that 1200C just came in and if it was for sale. After my salesman told him I was taking it home, the interested couple appeared as though they wanted to cry! I would definitely recommend this cycle to anyone who appreciates Harley's, and to any first time rider.
- bp, dc, Pennsylvania

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2004-06-19 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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Fun to ride in town and surprisingly responsive on the back roads. I rode it down to work one windy day (53 miles one way). The wind beat the crap out of me and the seat's side rails dug into my hind end after the first 45 minutes of the ride. Definitely not a long distance bike, but a real treat around my house. Very little vibration with the rubber mounted motor. The fork lock did break on me at 300 miles, and I haven't gotten it fixed yet.
- Eric, New Milford, Connecticut

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2004-06-13 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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I recently purchased the 1200 custom and am 100% pleased with it. I'm still breaking it in, but it will do everything I need in a bike. People love the looks and the sound and as time goes on it gets better with every run. I think the 883 would be too small for a lot of people especially if you're going to ride two up. The speed and power are all anyone needs, this thing will go like a scared cat on crack. I can't imagine why I would need to put more upgrades on because it's just perfect in every way and I'm 240 lbs. If you're contemplating buying the 1200 don't, just go buy it, it's a wonderful machine and believe me I researched a lot of bikes before I bought the 2004 1200. I thought about the hondas and yamahas for a good long time now all my friends that drive them are wishing they would have bought a 1200 Harley-Davidson. you're only fooling yourself by buying anything other than a Harley and you know it. Good Riding !
- Gotta love those 04 1200 customs, Hogtown, Ontario

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2004-06-09 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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I bought the 04 1200 custom as my first bike and the only bike I have ever ridden. Let me say, if they were all this good, I don't know why I didn't buy one before. I bought the sportster as my first bike because I wanted something easy to learn on. I have not had a single problem, well, the footpeg that hangs out the shifter fell out, but that's because they didn't use any lock-tite on it. So I replaced that, and haven't had a SINGLE problem yet. A couple of these reviews say they had nothing but problems, well, I had nothing but FUN with this beast. Something else, I hear different mph limits from different people for the break in period. My dealer said under 50 for the first 50 miles, and then under 65 for the next 450. But, I was looking through the owners manual, and for those 450 miles, you weren't supposed to go over 70 and shift at 25,35,45,55. So, that's what I did. Just wanted to throw that out there. I took it on the Memorial Day Wash D.C. Rolling Thunder ride/parade, and I was getting looks like crazy. Of course I chromed almost the whole thing out, but people were really interested. Even some of the old time riders at this biker bar. I love this one so much.
- Corey H., Waldorf, Maryland

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2004-06-09 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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After riding metric bikes & after being pressured enough, this bike was choosen due to the price & number of upgrades available. After dropping a few bills on it, it is the best bike I have ever ridden & that's been many. Very fast & comfortable, although the seat is a little firm. It was money very well spent!
- James, New Iberia, Louisiana

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2004-06-03 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Custom Motorcycles View Listings

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I traded in my 2002 XL1200C for a lava red 2004 1200C at the end of March and just got it's 1000 service. The low mileage is due to the weather, not because we didn't want to ride it. I had my old fixed leather saddle bags and sports windscreen transferred to the 04 and had a backrest and pad fitted. First 1000 mile impressions are, it's fast. More low down pull and power up through the gears. It's way smoother than the old Sporties but don't believe the hype that it doesn't vibrate at all. At a stand still the engine leaps around in the frame and gives the worst of the vibs but once you are under way it smooths out. The mirrors are clear until 60 in top and then clear again at 70 when you start getting a buzzing through the foot pegs which continues up to at least 90 but thats as fast as I have had it. I have seen reports that the Japanese brakes aren't as good as the old ones. It's hard to tell because you are just travelling that much faster on the 04. That is one disadvantage of the smoother engine is you have to keep your eye on the speed and remember which gear you're in because you don't "feel" the engine like the old ones. The bars and foot pegs are closer to you so I sit more up right and the smaller grips are good for my small girlie hands. The seat looks great but is only good for about an hour on the front and my wife reacons the rear is only good for one buttock! I removed the extra silencer guards on the pipes because of the lack of left hand ground clearence, and they looked awful. No clearence problems on the right so far, unlike the old one. The only other point is the battery cover keeps falling off, if it wasn't for the saddlebags holding it on I would have lost about three of them down the road. The clips that hold it to the frame rail were changed at the 1000 mile service but no improvement. Anyone else had this problem? One last point for anyone in the U.S. complaining about the price of Harley spares and parts. I have just ordered a sundowner seat from the U.S. and even with shipping, money transfer fees and duty it will be still less than half what it would cost from a U.K. dealer! Ride Safe Enjoy the Summer
- Rich Clements, United Kingdom

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