Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

As Cool as Steve McQueen; on Two Wheels

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

As Cool as Steve McQueen; on Two Wheels

Article excerpt

Byline: By HARRIET RIDLEY

YOU just wouldn't associate Harley-Davidson with history's most successful race bike.

Yet the manufacturer from Milwaukee's XR750 has won more US flat-track races than any other motorcycle in any other championship.

Flat tracking is like speedway, but much faster and, being American, on bigger ovals. Anyone who's seen Steve McQueen's On Any Sunday can't fail to be in awe of this sport where real men battle it out on the coolest-looking motorcycles with the craziest sideways style imaginable. The alloy-framed version of the XR750 that came out in 1972 still dominates most of the grid at US dirt track events.

And it's this machine that Harley-Davidson has based its new XR1200 on. But much to the fury of American enthusiasts, the bike is destined for Europe only, at least for the time being. Harley has built the XR1200 to lure sportsbike-loving Europeans to the brand with a stylish and altogether different kind of sports machine.

It expects demand to be strong enough to use up all the production capacity of its Milwaukee factory. So the US will just have to wait.

And the XR certainly is cool, starting from the seating position where the low bars and rearsets give a very different feel to the high-bars, feet-forward position we've come to expect from a Harley.

There's some beautiful detailing including the gorgeous exhausts that snake their way to the right of the bike, the short rear-end of the bike that's a radical departure from the bulky cruiser-style of most Harleys, and the air-cooled V-twin engine that's on display in all its glory with neat air intakes that feed into the airbox.

But it's also let down by some careless detailing, from the agricultural nuts and bolts, a key that doesn't fit comfortably in the steering lock, to irritating footpegs that fold up too easily.

I also wonder about durability - I left the XR parked outside my house in the rain overnight and found the first signs of rust on some fittings by morning. But I love the round digital speedo that sits on its own, clearly displaying your speed. …

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