In our search for accessible high performance, here's another possible direction.
Harley Davidson's Sportster isn't a performance machine, even though in the earlier years some thought it was. The Sportster plays the role of entry level Harley, a way to get a genuine HD nameplate without the price of admission required by a Softail or V-Rod or one of their other models. It's always been a bit of a compromise and pretty harsh if you rode very long, but, like any Harley, there are a lot of accessories and aftermarket parts available to make the Sportster into your own special bike.
If you go through the Harley Davidson accessories catalog, you tend to get pieces that make the Sporty look like a mini FXR, a sort of downsized cruiser. But look elsewhere for a bit and you find a lot more and you can even make the humble Sportster into a pretty good looking retro dirt tracker.
Storz Performance has a group of parts that collectively form the XR1200 conversion kit. About a year ago, they completely redesigned everything from their earlier kit to fit the new rubber mounted Sportster and the end result looks really nice to my eyes.
You get appearance and performance items like an aluminum tank, fiberglass seat and rear fender, rearsets, a wider rear tire, inverted forks, a BUB XR style exhaust, new brakes and rotors plus quite a bit more, and the end result is a very nice looking bike with better handling than stock plus a weight loss of 83 pounds.
The overall look fits right in with other retro models like the Triumph Scrambler and the Paul Smart Ducatis. When you think of it, I'm surprised Harley doesn't build something like this themselves to capitalize on this growing market, though there's really no need to mess with Storz I guess. This is another way of answering the question of what Harley will do to appeal to a new crop of riders when some of their current owners get older, attract some younger riders with cool looks, performance and a sit up riding style.
If there's a problem with the kit it's the overall cost when you add everything together. Storz suggests buying everything in stages so you don't get hit with the bill in one chunk and it lends itself to that approach. You can get appearance items like the tank, seat and exhaust to quickly get the visuals right, then add the rest to get the handling upgrades. The engine has all sorts of possibilities,too, HD performance parts are everywhere.
This kind of redesign and performance upgrade makes a lot of sense. You can start with a basic bike and turn it into something quite a bit different. This particular kit takes advantage of the torque of the V-twin for real world riding and gives it a little better handling but still keeps you upright. The retro dirt tracker styling gives you a pretty neat machine that would make a lot of riders happy, the more I look at this, I wouldn't mind one of these myself.
A friend of mine did pretty much the same thing some years ago, starting with a Sportster 883. By the time he was done, the engine was a lot larger and after experimentation with a lot of different cams and intakes, he had one helluva machine. We would do some roll on comparisons with whatever I was on at the time, including a Vmax and a big Ninja, in every case, I would win but I had to be in a reasonable gear to begin and until the speed picked up a lot, he was right there. Like I said, accessible performance.
The street going dirt tracker is a nice look, decent handling and comfortable ergonomics. Mert Lawwill's Street Tracker does the same thing, though his bike is a complete finished motorcycle, not just parts.
There are probably lots of bikes that would benefit from this treatment, some a lot more affordable, too. Makes you wonder why this isn't being done more often and what other brands and models would be good candidates. Ideas?
Link: Storz XR Conversion Kit