Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Roadster Motorcycle Reviews on Cycle Insider (15)
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2010-01-23 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Roadster Motorcycles View Listings

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Traded my 04 XL1200R for an 08 FXD just cause I wanted a big twin. The XL had 50K miles on the clock at trade in time but was able to get good monry on my trade-in. The XL had taken me to work every day, rain or shine, on weekend excursions, and short trips and long trips alike, even off-road on occasion. Only problem I ever encountered was the starter motor failed at 32,000 miles. New unit installation was time consuming but not difficult at all. Averaged 52 MPG (stage1), powerful enough to wheelie, fun to ride and surprisingly comfortable with a sundowner seat. I miss her.
- yorgo, miami, Florida

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2007-08-29 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Roadster Motorcycles View Listings

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3rd bike. 1st: '97 Kawasaki Vulcan 500 (fantastic bike also for the size) 2nd: '98 Suzuki Marauder 800 (a complete mutt, like riding a wet washcloth, unresponsive, washy, unresponsive) Customized and sold. Now, the good news!!! I was looking into an older 1400 Intruder. Very pretty motor, and tons of power, also look great when a good customizer takes ahold. But to be honest, I LOST MONEY ON BOTH JAP BIKES. Even with the 1000-2000 I dumped into both of them... I took a bath. Only one option then...Harley. Because although Victory is an American owned company, they do not hold value like the Harley. 2nd issue: Who wants to spend 20 grand on something that will sit for 4 months during the snow??? This left the Sportster. And I did my homework too. 2004 WAS THE YEAR!!! Every issue addressed. Vibration, gone, great braking, hellishly fast, stronger frame, better cooling, where do I stop??? But then there's the guys who say that it's a chick's bike. BS. This bike has more HP per pound of motorcycle than the 1450's. Fact. You can also lay it into corners like a track bike. I put highway pegs on it and it's everything I was looking for in a motorcycle. JUST THE ROADSTER. The Customs look a little to jappy for me. The OLD, RETRO, PEANUT tank is what gives the bike that nostalgic look...the way a motorcycle is supposed to look. The Roadster has the non too baffled factory exhaust too. Loud enough without just being an a*hole to your neighbors. And motorcycles are SUPPOSED TO SHAKE. It rumbles and shakes like an angry mental patient waiting to rip someone in half when idling. don't get me wrong, I like the Superglides and the Springers in the big ones...But most of the guys who will run their mouth about this bike, haven't ridden it. It's my bike, not my girlfriend's...hence the solo seat is how it is meant to be outfitted. No saddle bags, or big two up seats with studded backrests. It's a track bike. And the factory seat sucks...so what? You can buy a comfortable one. Personally, some bikes are made for saddle bags, windshields, two up seats, leather tank bags...and all that crap. I am a purist. On a purist motorcycle. You, the road, the bugs, the speed, the smells, and the fact that you know you are riding something SOLID. I have friends who own 1300 VTX's and 1100 V Stars...And they all say the same thing when they ride mine. That bike is SOLID. And if you're a chrome freak (I was), this probably isn't your bike either. But if you love motorcycles, you want to get your money back out of the bike, if you like deep corners, great responsive speed, the Harley rumble, and knowing that when you go to start it...it starts everytime, then this is the bike for you. My only issue. There is a design flaw with the mechanism controlling the front brake lever...I read about it, and it doesn't happen to everyone, but some of them, including mine...has a constant signal sent to the brake lights because of play in the brake lever. Rubber band??? Back spring (my choice) and you're good. don't waste 500 dollars for Harley to tell you some crap I just did. You can bleed your brakes for improved pressure, but you still have the play that turns the brake light on. I've had bicycles with more problems. OH yeah, the easiest oil change of any bike I've had yet! You can do that yourself too. GREAT BIKE...1st Harley. I'm never going Jap again. I can lose money at the casino.
- bryce whitehead, lincoln, Nebraska

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2007-06-17 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Roadster Motorcycles View Listings

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This is my second update review; however, I can't seem to find the first update. Anyway, at 19,500 miles absolutely nothing has broken on this bike. No leaks or paint problems either. The build quality is absolutely TOP DRAWER and the ONLY parts replaced are two sets of tires and about 7 oil filters. I have ridden this bike VERY HARD for 3 and a half years, with most shifts at the peak torque rpm with no ill effects. It burns less than 1/2 quart of oil between oil changes every 3,000 miles and still delivers 60 mpg cruising at 2,500 rpm. After almost 4 years, I have been offered to sell the bike for $500 less than what I paid for it back in late 2003. Try doing ALL of the above with a go-fast-but-cheaply-built metric bike! Hah! Trust me, you won't get even half way. I recently added all the engine work listed below in the Upgrade/Accessories list. I have just finished the second break-in period and had it dyno tuned. The bike still has tons of torgue off the line with a LOT more horsepower. It is now marginally faster than the crotch-rockets off the line and up to about 40 mph. You should see the looks in their beady, squinty eyes at the next stop light! And so what if those rice-burners blow past me after about 50 mph? Harleys are NOT race bikes. Harleys are cruisers and that's what they do the very best. In a few months or so, I will provide another update based on the roughly 30% rear-wheel horsepower (rwhp) increase. In the meantime, buy American!
- Flush Garden, San Diego, California

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2005-05-03 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Roadster Motorcycles View Listings

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Ok, so all my buddies told me not to buy a Sportie. Too small, not enough power, no fun to ride and "a girls bike". All I have to say is this - NO WAY! This is one fine bike, very easy to ride, looks and sounds realy cool. This thing has plenty of power for quick passes and just plain getting ya down the road. Taking it up through the gears, you can easily get lost in the moment and be idoling down the road at a good 80 mph before ya know it. I do experience some "bottoming out" with a rider, but slowing down a bit it is not a problem at all. I have not had one lick of trouble with it and will gladly buy my next bike new from Harley as well. The only drawbacks are low after market parts availability, a hard seat and 3.3 gallon tank. Pulling over every 110 miles or so is a major pain. Beyond those minor drawbacks, this is one bike I heartedly recomend!
- Winslow, Delmar, Maryland

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2005-04-11 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Roadster Motorcycles View Listings

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Just picked up my black/cream 2004 1200R last week and have already washed it three times... just for the hell of it. So far a great, powerful, stable bike that gets a lot of attention on the street. I am upgrading from a 600CC Kawasaki Eliminator, which felt unstable and got tossed around at highway speeds. I am still riding my new Sporty gingerly as it breaks in. Will give an update at a later date but for now I am in heaven! I was going to buy a Suzuki Boulevard M50, but it was only a few $$$ cheaper than my sporty and full of plastic crap everywhere. Once you own a Harley, few people go back to metric bikes. Harley parts are no more expensive than the metrics, are so well made, and there are just so many opportunities to customize these bikes.
- Dan, Richmond Hill, Ontario

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2005-02-13 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Roadster Motorcycles View Listings

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I bought an '04 Sportster "R" model sight unseen from an HD military sales office while in Afghanistan. I could have bought a Dyna or Softail but after reading about the new Sporty, chose it for the combination of features, performance, and value. I chose the R model because I wanted the better ground clearance and dual front brakes for a sportier ride. I also had the dealer install a full Stage II kit with the high flow air cleaner, 44mm carbs, hotter cams, 7k rpm ignition, and Screamin' Eagle slip ons. I am entirely satisfied with this bike. It is smooth, powerful, good looking, and comfortable. I took it on a 5500 mile trip and the bike never failed me. It did develop a small oil leak at the starter motor gasket which was replaced under warranty. For the price of a stock Dyna, I was able to add several thousands of dollars in accessories and now have a unique ride which runs circles around most H-Ds, especially when the road curves. don't feel you have to have a "big twin", the new Sportster is a great alternative and much more fun to ride on a back road.
- Mitch, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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2004-12-11 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Roadster Motorcycles View Listings

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Purchased Dec '03, now has 8500 miles and still completely stock, and is a great ride. Ridden in all types of conditions from flatland to high mountain passes (9000 ft+) and only had one problem with a front rocker cover oilleak at about 2000 miles, which the dealer fixed. It cruises smoothly at 70-75mph no problem, and is quick, nimble and precise on curvy back roads. Weight to horsepower ratio allows me to keep up with the larger displacement bikes, especially on hills. The only minor vibration is about 2800 to 3000 rpm and is sensitive to proper adjustment of the primary chain. Once over 3000rpm 65+mph it is really smooth. Mileage is great at 70 mph gets 52 mpg, city about 45mpg, cruising mountain roads 2500 rpm average 57 to 62 mpg. I thought I wanted a bigger bike a while back, you know a boy and his toys, but when I looked at the prices starting about $4000 more than what I paid for my Sportster, and knowing how this bike performs, I decided to grow up. I am going to invest in a Mustang seat, as the stock seat gets a little uncomfortable on long runs.
- C Clark, Fresno, California

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2004-10-23 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Roadster Motorcycles View Listings

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My father loved H-D motorcycles despite oil leaks under new bikes in the dealer showroom and poor quality control new from the factory. I didn't want to like something just because of a "name". I am not a Harley-Davidson "fan". The production changes on the Sportster XL1200R are an under statement. Honestly, I was going to buy an BMW for a 300,000 mile motor. But with AMSOIL v-twin synthetic motor oil, double platinum plugs, and 91 octane gasoline I get outstanding performance with the H-D at factory stock specifications. I can run 90 mph at 4000 rpm and look out the rear view mirror! This bike handles curves better than any stock bike that I have owned previously in 30 years. I get an average of 48 to 55 mpg in variable driving conditons. Thank you H-D for catching up and saving a great H-D bike category from extinction.
- Ray Fisher, Indianapolis, Indiana

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2004-10-04 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Roadster Motorcycles View Listings

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After not having ridden a bike in 20 years and having tested a friend's '96 Sporty I was a little concerned about 'starting' up again on the new Sportster 1200R. However, this is a diferent animal. I was pleasantly surprised at the comfort at any speed (no vibration anymore), its quickness (not a pocket rocket, but with the upgrades (see below) no slouch either - will do 0-100 mph in under 12 sec. all day long). Take it for short trips or long rides, it doesn't matter. It does it all well. Only drawback is the smaller tank, but I liked the higher stance of the Roadster (although same relative seat height) vs. the Custom for making those tight, aggresive corners without scraping the sides, plus the addition of the tach and dual front disc brakes. But that's really personal preference. The quality of the build and paint are outstanding. Very reliable. It is one solid bike and a good value. After having tried some others, it's well worth the little bit extra that you pay for the cache over the other look-a-likes. You will get it back on resale. The dealership has been great - cooperative, professional and very helpful. I think Harley will have only one problem once the word gets out about the new Sportster - keeping up with demand.
- John Walker, Warwick, Rhode Island

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2004-05-24 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Roadster Motorcycles View Listings

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I have owned a black 1200R for a month and have put 1075K's on it. I am very happy with the bike. It rides really well. Runs perfectly, no oil leaks. Bike has lots of power. Once the break in is over, it's a different bike with the expanded powerband. I have ordered a mustang seat, to make it more passenger friendly. I haven't changed the pipes. The bike has lots of power and is terrific fun. I like to ride early on weekends and I am sensitive to the neighbours. My only problem is getting enough time to ride it. It is beautifully made and looks great. Love the classic tach/speed setup. Bike stops well too. I got 172K's on the last tank of gas. It's a keeper.
- Bruce Mayo, Ottawa, Ontario

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2004-03-31 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Roadster Motorcycles View Listings

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I thought I was crazy to buy another bike after just getting a 2003 Bonneville T100 (which I love BTW), but once I got on this Black Beauty, I knew my money was well-spent. After doing the Stage I modifications, this things has bucketfuls of torque, and when I took it on an extended back roads ride through the PA hill country with some of my Triumph sport bike buddies, they were amazed that I had no trouble keeping the pace through the twists. Once I added the frame-mounted highway pegs, it also became very comfortable on extended rides (but I wouldn't want forward controls, like the Custom). The tachometer and the dual front discs are much appreciated. And after I added the right accessories, this is now the definitive Working Man's Harley (with just the right amount of flash) I totally love this bike. Between this and the Bonnie, I now have the Holy Grail of Classic Bikedom in my garage!
- John , Boalsburg, Pennsylvania

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

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Back in the 1950s the sportster was the "super bike" of choice. If not the 1st. It should reclaim the title with the 2004 Roadster. Great machine. Big "Thanks" to Harley-Davidson.
- jim estes, georgetown, Kentucky

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2004-02-24 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Roadster Motorcycles View Listings

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So far this bike rocks. This may not say much by itself, but consider that I'm selling my 2001 Honda ST1100 because I love this Sportster. I checked this bike out on the recommendation of a friend who is a die hard Harley guy. I'm very glad I did. So far I'm not quite past the break in period, but it seems to be everything Harley needed to build in a Sportster. My one and only complaint is the seat. Coming from such a comfortable bike, the ST1100, the stock seat felt like a plank with some vinyl wrapped around it, not to mention the tapered passenger seat was pretty much a joke, but it looked really good. I bought the Sundowner bucket seat from Harley, and to borrow a quote from my friend, "it feels like two large hands cupping your butt," it very comfortable and worth every penny. The seat is the only reason I gave it 4 stars for comfort. The rubber mount has seemed to take the old Sportster vibration, and turn it into a jump, much easier to deal with. So far at 55 mph and 75 mph, it actually seems to have less vibration than my ST1100, and you can actually look back through the mirrors and see traffic behind you instead of a blur. To make the comparison fair, I ripped through some of the same twisted Smokey Mountain roads that I was very familiar with on the ST1100. I was able to go through the turns at the same speeds without putting any metal on the ground, so performance and handling are great, unless you like bikes such as the Yamaha R1, then you'll probably be buying replacement pegs after you grind these down. The other big improvement I have noticed is the final drive ratio. Previous Sportsters felt "wound out" on the interstate, where the new bike feels like it's right at home. It seems to have the same final drive ratio as my friends Dyna Superglide sport, and has no problem hanging with the big twin 88's. Most shops are giving test rides, and if you are in the market for a new bike, and have never considered a Harley due to the vibration, I highly recommend you check this one out before buying a Japanese bike, not that there is anything wrong with Jap bikes. I was anti-Harley for a long time, due to the fact that if you didn't want to spend $15,000 or more, you had to deal with hand and butt numbing vibration. This is no longer the case. Thank you Harley Davidson!
- Shaggybob, Chattanooga, Tennessee

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2003-11-26 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Roadster Motorcycles View Listings

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Harley - Congratulations on finally making the Sportster a rider friendly bike. Very smooth, excellent power (unmodified), good riding position (5'11" - 200 pounds). Quality control top-notch in every area. Changes? Suspension pretty poor. Works Performance shocks (about $300) and Lindemann Engineering respringing and valving of the front forks worked wonders. Soft luggage added (Cortech Sport Bags fit under the turn signals and above the exhaust) and it's ready to tour. The changes between the 2003 and 2004 Sportster are tremendous and make the bike a serious consideration for anyone wishing to purchase a cruiser / semi-sport style. Depreciation will be zip (probably) and I doubt anyone will feel the need to move-up to a Big Twin anytime soon. Check this thing out - it's really quite a machine.
- Jthurber, Mountain View, California

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2003-10-22 2004 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 1200 Roadster Motorcycles View Listings

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I recently purchased a 2004 1200R Sportster. She's black and she's beautiful. This machine corners like a sport bike, rides like a dream and has an abundance of power. The quality and finish is outstanding. It's one mean machine. Now about the Sportster vibration. I am pleased to report that the notorious vibration is gone and you can use your mirrors. However there is minimal vibration. Come on, if there wasn't any it would be an import and I didn't want an import. But I will be honest; at about 75mph it's as smooth as glass. There are a few modifications that I recommend. First I am not a fan of the smaller handgrips. The larger handgrips are easy to install so try it your self. Next is the seat. It's not passenger friendly so you better think about purchasing something a bit more affable if you want to give rides to your friends. And it's a Harley; they will of course want to go for a ride! I am also planning on re-jetting and adding a K&N air filter which some refer to this as the Harley Tax. I guess it's a small price to pay Well, it's a fantastic bike and you will be very pleased with your purchase. I plan on keeping this bike for a very long time.
- Chip, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

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