Harleys\' current build quality is exceptional and reliability a non-issue. I personally thrashed the absolute pantaloons off of one of these for 3000 miles back in 96\' when the new (then) big-braked and suspended Sportster Sport was originally released. It took all I could dish out (and more) and did everything I asked, including stop and start at the relevant command.
In those hard 3000 miles I didn\'t even look at the rear belt drive, yet alone adjust it - it\'s no maintenance hawg. I think I even sold the sucker for a profit too - Go Figure? As an evolutionary standard, this one is even better still. I don\'t think it\'s a bike that could or should be knocked until you owned, rented or ridden one.
A fair comparison between this bike and others? Think of it in terms of a beach cruiser bicycle vs. the latest mountain bike. Outside of its natural habitat, the Beach Cruiser kind of sucks. It has that nasty minimalist brake (singular) and a too wide a sweep of handlebar, let\'s not even mention that silly banana seating arrangement.
In comparison to a modern suspended zoot suit mountain bike, it\'s very archaic. However, at the beach or on a boardwalk setting though, it\'s perfect - it\'s the epitome of cool - same with this 1200SS. It excels in its field, and that field is not as narrow as one would first think. It\'s got equal portions of cruise-ness and sporty-ness.
For starters, it\'s a great around-town bike with lots of torque for squirting away from traffic and traffic lights. It\'s way narrow and a breeze to maneuver, be it traffic or paved back streets. It\'s a slow revver too and finds it\'s cruising sweet spot at a nice low 3500 RPM, which sees a decent 75mph "cruise" speed on the clock. The revs can be manhandled further up the rev-range but it\'s not worth the effort, especially no wind protection and the corresponding vibes to go with it.
The engine is, as previously mentioned, air-cooled with twin plug heads. Compression is 10.0:1, the same as the 90-BHP Buell\'s. If you\'re a latent fiddler there\'s lots to do to this motor if you want to go digging around.
The seat is a pretty decent semi-bucket style and is comfortable enough to run a full tank of gas through without any major pains (make sure you use the good stuff tho\' Bro: 90+ octane \'cause this sucker likes to ping). The passenger seat is a little small, but I love small-bottomed ladies - so it\'s all good for me. The Harley-D catalog features a fair few options in this department for both operator and/or passenger.
The pegs are forward without being too far forward, they didn\'t drag all the time I rode which is sometimes too easy on other cruiser styles.
The switchgear is a good looking and chunky albeit a little funky, featuring the left and right turn signal buttons on each respective bar side. Quite a few times I found a turn signal whilst looking for the starter. It\'s no biggie though; some extended ownership time will cure that. The clocks are old school with analog style tach and speedo and they\'re ideally situated for casual observance as too are the row of idiot lights.
The bars too are ergonomically perfect (for me) they are a cross between a superbike bar and a dirt track version, not too wide and perfectly situated for my 6 foot-and-a-bit frame. The clutch is a tad stiff, but bearable especially as you\'re not breaking at the wrists like those other type of new fangled sportbikes.
Harley shares Honda and Yamaha\'s love for aftermarket goodies too - H-D\'s version, Screaming Eagle, offers literally a 101 options for the Sportster, either performance or comfort, dress up or dress down - your call. As a fully-fledged Harley member you also personally get to dress up in all sorts of neato gear, from retro racer Dude, or if it\'s your bag, lots of clothing verging on the Village People in style.
Girlies love them too because regardless of what Harley Davidson you ride, you\'re perceived to have your finances in order - CA girls at their best (j/k).
OK, so I\'ve confessed that I used to own one of these bikes - my revisit was everything I remembered and some. It even satisfied my hooliganistic tendencies by wheelie-ing like a mad thing and I was very reluctant to let her go. I kept this tucked away in my garage for nearly two months before the Harley reps found me.
For the real world, the bike is very substantial, favors metal over plastic and solid technology over fly-by-night techno-wizardry. Your neighbors will love you, it\'ll look good in your garage, as said it\'s extremely fun to ride and will probably look good for another 46 years… unlike Rodney Dangerfield.