XR1200 Race Series Shows Promise

XR1200 racing action at Mid Ohio

XR1200 racing action at Mid Ohio

Look at the photo above, it's from the past weekend's XR1200 race at Mid-Ohio which was won by Danny Eslick. It certainly seems like some great racing action, there's nothing about it that indicates anything other than competitive racers fighting for position in this brand new series and that's exactly what I would expect. The neat thing about it is the fact they're on Harley Davidson XR1200s. Seeing a Harley based race series back on the track is great and, if anything, is probably one a lot of riders can relate to.

There's always a portion of the spectating bystanders who can't bring themselves to watch anything but the fastest pro classes, no matter the venue, to them, motorcycle racing doesn't count unless it's MotoGP or Superbike, and only the fastest streetbikes qualify as something worth modifying for the track, but the faster the bike, the fewer there are who can even dream of riding at that level. As we've said so many times here, the average 600cc inline 4 is so far beyond the capabilities of the buyers who proudly park them in their driveways it makes you shake your head.

The XR1200 is a lot of bike and itself, probably beyond the capabilities of many who look down their noses at the V-Twin, but getting somewhere close to the performance possibilities it offers is something an owner could actually think about doing. Someone could buy an XR and reasonably imagine himself getting on the track and getting his knee down, and having a helluva lot of fun in the process, firing up the bike in your garage, knowing guys are racing it on weekends and thinking, "Hey, maybe I could do that."

Maybe racing XR1200s is "reality racing," racing on a level where more riders might realistically be able to participate. It won't appeal to the inline 4 crowd, but I think it may have a strong appeal to potential or current owners of Harley Davidsons, even those who don't ride Sportsters. That's a positive and I like it.

Link: Harley Davidson

Related: AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Series
Also see XR1200 motorcycles for sale


  1. Mike says

    They look cool, and HD doesn’t seem to be selling many, so why not race them? There will always be plenty of spare parts, lol.

  2. MXG says

    Looks great to me. That pack would be an awesome sound! If the Harley faithful will come out and support the brand…at the track…then this idea has a real chance to work. Support Your Local Harley Racer!! Good luck to all involved…!! (from a Ducati rider)

  3. says

    You say it won’t appeal to the inline-4 crowd, but I wonder where all those riders in the photo learned their moves. Certainly not riding softails and road kings.

  4. Chris says

    “…the average 600cc inline 4 is so far beyond the capabilities of the buyers who proudly park them in their driveways it makes you shake your head.”
    And what really makes me shake my head is when someone states….”Oh, that’s only a 600?”
    I like the XR…and if I could afford one, it would be in my garage next to my 600.

  5. kneeslider says

    @Merlin: “I wonder where all those riders in the photo learned their moves.”

    I can’t say where all of them learned, but Shawn Higbee learned racing on Sportsters and Buells before he got into racing on other bikes.

  6. jim says

    Can’t find anything wrong here. Affordable bikes with useable power that won’t overwhelm the average rider’s skill level, yet deliver sufficient performance that they won’t be boring — that’s how it used to be for weekend racers. I’m not a big fan of H-D with its “lifestyle” marketing; however, it sometimes does something honest, and this is one of those times.

  7. BoilerUp! says

    Used 600 in full street trim, $3,000-$5000, Go Race! Track prepped 600, $2,500-$4,500, Go Race! New XR1200, $10,799, Go Race? Now if this open to older 883’s and 1200’s it be a little easier for the average Joe or Jane to get on the track. The XR1200 is heavy and expensive, and not the most user friendly to new riders and racers alike. AMA needs an entry level racing event that will get bikes on the track and fans in the seats, I think that reaching out the Harley crowd is a positive step, but I am not so sure this is the bike to do it. Who knows, maybe the future Buell Blast replacement will be that bike to fill this void. I always loved the Aermacchi Sprints in full race trim. I hope for the best for Harley and for the AMA, but their past history leaves me less than optimistic.

  8. Ken Fontenot says

    Great to see another Harley roadracing class! These new XR1200’s are nice machines and I’m sure they would be a blast on the track. Love the idea of Harleys being used on Sunday afternoons for something other than Tavern to Tavern riding! Hope this class catches on.

  9. Penectomy says

    Nice write up. Great to see some positivity on the internet. I am sure the comments will eventually turn into a bench racer pissing match but there is little that can be done about that.

    The XR is a great bike. Sure it wont appeal to everybody but it is an excellent bike that seems to be appreciated much more in Europe.

    Funny that comment boards were full of vitriol for HD for NOT selling it in the US (both in regular and then X varieties). Lot’s of “Bring it” and “I would buy that if I could…stupid HD” type comments. Then those same people changed to critique the suspension and would only by the unavailable X version “I would buy that if I could…stupid HD.”

    Now those same internet heros crap on it for not selling (which is not a forgone conclusion). Hater will be haters.

    I love my 09 XR and look forward to trading up to the XRX soon for about the same as doing the suspension mods.

    Keep up the good work with this Blog!

  10. Penectomy says

    BoilerUp! – Little unfair to compare used bike prices to new bike prices, isnt it? This is a spec series race not a track day.

  11. rohorn says

    I’m surprised this class wasn’t named “Keith Wandell’s Little Racing Hobby”.

  12. JP says

    the old 883 series had some guys who are now top names in it and some really good racing. They used to have to pull double duty too iirc and run some dirt to get max points. Sorta like the old AMA days.

  13. doug s. says

    too bad a 10 year old stock buell would take the podium every time, if out there w/these bikes. i don’t look down my nose at the motor, yust the t-f-u company that makes it…


  14. John A. Mc Dowell says

    So why not start a 400cc series, and let the Buell Blast in?
    HD should have continued developing the … never mind, they “killed” Eric Buell

  15. mxs says

    Over 10K, heavy machine … I just don’t see the fun and affordable going together.

    I agree though with you that 600cc+ is overkill for most people who end up buying them. The problem is SV650 is just touch heavy and requires quite a few bits to be fixed first. There is just not an affordable bike, < 600cc light weight (easy on tires) on could easily purchase for local racing or track days. If I had the budget XR1200 requires I surely would opt for a different machine (super single most likely …). That's just me …

  16. pabsyboots says

    you know what this looks like ? 80’s superbike racing, remember wes cooley and big KZ GS and CB’s
    those bike and riders looked fantastic werestling those flexy beasts around the track and these guys do too, tho i’m sure these 1200’s handle a whole lot better

    im not a harley fan per se but this looks like a very exciting race series to watch especially if they slide em and the noise has to be great

  17. Chris says

    I remember a few months back when this was first talked about and the “conversion kit” for this series consisting of a diff. tank, tail section, exhaust and some other little items was about $4500, and that’s on top of the $10k for the bike. I ride a Harley about 15k mi. a yr and I grew up riding jap, italian and british bikes and if I wanted to get into road racing I wouldnt do it on an XR at this price when a Buell with the same V-twin rumble can be had much cheaper. Plus the pay outs for podium placing is $1000-$2000? What gives?

  18. Tinman says

    Chris, If your into racing to make money your in for a rude awakening. These Spec racers are either sponsored or just do it for the love of sport. Traditionally Spec racers are the cheapest to run because of the limited mods and low stress on the mildly tuned machines. At the end of the season the cost may well be less than a used modified racer would cost to campaign.

  19. anonymous says

    Given a new SV650 is almost half the cost of a XR1200 before HD’s dealer markup, I don’t see this becoming much more than a fringe thing for HD guys, who are usually more concerned about how loud they can make their bike than how fast they can ride em anyway.
    Does aprilia still import it’s 2stroke race bikes? Those had a nice step from rs50, to rs125, to rs250 and already had a one make race series for the 250. If they’d had a better dealer network, they might’ve sold more.
    Or ideally, a company could make/fit affordable racebike frame conversion kits for the hot MX engines.
    But really, racing is a damn expensive hobby, and this a helluva recession. Anyone who would be looking to race on the “cheap” is probably too busy keeping their heads above water.

  20. JesseC says

    Would have had me if this was on a buell…. Tell HD sells the buell brand i wiill not support anything to do with them and if possibly sway people from buying their bike.

  21. Penectomy says


    I assume from your comment that you were a big supporter of the Buell Lightening Spec series? How did you do, what were your experiences? Was it more or less expensive than the XR series?

  22. Richard Gozinya says

    Still think this series would’ve been better with a little more variety. Ducati GT1000s, maybe Moto Guzzi Grisos, BMW R1200Rs. All air/oil cooled twins, no fairings, could be fun to see that. That said, I’m glad they’re enjoying themselves.

  23. Dawg says

    A Harley without chicken strips! I’ve never seen a Harley rider nearly getting his/her elbow on the deck!! Reminds me of the old superbike racing in the early 80s.

    When do we get the HD Supermoto?

  24. doug s. says

    you really think an xr would stand a chance against a duc gt1000? the duc has only one or two more hp, but it weighs 175lbs less! you know – a *real* motorcycle?


  25. Tyler says

    I gotta agree with Richard Gozina, introduce a couple other manufacturer’s and I promise you HD would either have to build a better bike, or take their ball and go home and suffer the disdain of the motorcycle community. I like the XR1200, and personally I love sportsters (first, third and ninth bike I’ve owned) and have my eye on an Iron883 at some point, but dammit they just cost too much for what you get, and that’s a shame. That is not just directed at the top-of-the-line XR, all of the XL line is too pricey (not to mention the big twins). Its a shame, when it comes to dollars alone, I’d rather get a 796 Hypermotard.

  26. HarrySeaWard says

    Tyler – The Motard stickers for $10K and the Iron for $8K. How you could cross shop the two is another story.

    The XR1200x cost a little more than the 796 Motard (10k vs 12K) but the same as the less 1100 Motard. Sure it weighs more but the routine maintenance is much simpler and less expensive. Both the XR and the motard are nice bikes. Those two seem to make sense to cross shop. Cant fault you there.

    But why do you feel the Iron is overpriced? As compared to what?
    Vstar Midnight Custom: $6790
    HD Sportster Low: $6999
    Triumph Bonneville: $7,699
    Boulevard M50: $7,799
    HD Iron 833: $7999
    Honda Shadow Phantom: $7999
    Honda Shadow RS: $7999
    Vulcan 900 Custom: $8349
    Moto Guzzi V7: $8,490

    Sure you can throw out some of the Sportbikes that have higher performance for about the same cost, but those bikes are serve a completely different audience. What they offer may not be considered by the buyers of the bikes above. Nothing wrong with that, just different preferences and tastes.

  27. says

    Boiler up, A Buell Blast motor weighs the same as a Sportster with a cyl and head missing. An Aeromacchi single weighs the same as a Sportster motor with 200lbs missing. I think the Sprint CR turns something like 11K RPM’s and the Blast maybe 6.5K. The Blast was never intended to go over 50mph with a girlfriend or wife in the saddle. The Sprint was way deeper into a competition design from the onset.

    The XR1200 is being raced with a spec kit supplied by Vance & Hines. What this series will do is tell the factory what kinds of stuff will fail in a high stress situation week after week. About half way through the series, ask one of the riders what type of service is required after a race weekend. That is, besides a crank, valve job and valve springs. This is a hot Sportster motor, not a Japanese race motor. This motor wasn’t designed to have some “Hot Dog” wringin’ its neck for 25 miles. It’s gonna get expensive, just as with the last generation of Sportster series. Fast? Yes. Exciting, close racing? You bet! Cheap? Not on your life.

  28. Tinman says

    Mule, I restore Aermacchis as a side job, They are no different than any other HiPo motor, very finicky and could never pass a 2010 emmissions test. The XR engine is a rugged oil cooled fully tested production engine, that still makes its power in a MUCH lower RPM range.( this is a good thing) You had best believe the durability of the XR is in a much better class than the old Sprints ever were. I love the old Sprints, but lets take off the blinders here. There is no comparision.

  29. Tyler says

    HarrySea, you are correct, my comparison was between the XR and the HM796, not the Iron. Having not priced cruisers in a while I am a bit shocked to see what small ones are going for, so I guess I stand corrected in terms of what constitutes an “entry-level” price point.
    I am not a racer, and prefer a more streetable bike than a pure replica liter class machine. I own a Ducati ST3 and a 900SS and given day-to-day riding I enjoy the 900 much more due to its light weight, good smooth power (with flatslide carbs) and small proportions. To that end I feel the XR is geared toward a rider like myself, except for the light weight part. Its monstrous to stand up on one, which leads me back to the mini-hypermotard 796. Powerful, light, good looking, and contrary to popular belief the air/oil cooled 2 valve Ducatis are fairly easy to maintain and very reliable. To each their own, I would absolutely die for a lightweight sportster themed like the XR, and had in fact begun aquiring parts from Storz for my last 883 (1993MY) until I lost it in a wreck. Alas HD for some ridiculous reason developed the rubber mounted frame and added what, 45 pounds or so to accomodate the change. It’ll never be what I want it to be. Close, but not there.

  30. tim says

    that looks like a hell of a lot of fun to me. I’m just saying.

    I want to get an XR1200 and take out in group 1 on the next trackday. And yeah, it reminds me of 80’s Superbike racing too.

  31. Eaton says

    I just posted about a dream bike XR500 version of the XR1200. How great would that be for ‘Advanced Riders Edge’ to LEARN how to race. I would take them up on that! I don’t know anything about this type of riding, but I would like to learn on an inexpensive, (not terrifying), race type bike (that I could also ride home on.)

  32. says

    Tinman, My blinders were already on the bench! I was comparing the Blast to an Sprint, not the Sprint to an XR750. The XR’s spinning at 9.5K (a lot for a Harley) makes for a frequent/short/expensive service life as well.

  33. says

    Tinman, I believe I misunderstood you. You are comparing a Sprint race spec motor at race RPM’s reliability to an XR1200 emmisions legal streetbike at street speed’s relialility. Yes the XR wins that one. Now race the XR1200 at top RPM for the race duration. “Please stay clear of the debris field!”

  34. todd says

    I’d like to have the jewels to lean over that far in a turn. Too many squirrels and gravel strewn corners for me though. I don’t know many people who could even approach the limits of a Ninja 250, let alone a full-on race spec bike like this XR. There’s just something in our heads that keep us from going in deep without grabbing a handful of binders. I guess that’s what track practice is for and why not everyone is a sponsored racer.


  35. iplaypearldrums says

    80’s style….?…..I bought a KAW ZRX for that….but I love the XR….just lack of $$$ keeping me from parking one next to my Victory.
    One could always jump cars w/ an XR…lol.

  36. Mike says

    The old 883 dirt track class was fun to watch & sounded great. I`m sure this series is the same. But… something your average Joe will participate in, highly unlikely. I don`t see how anyone would consider it a cheap way to go racing.
    As for the average Harley rider going to spectate, just as unlikely. They`re just not road race fans in general. They never liked the old CR, most of `em looked down their noses at Buell, & few of `em like this bike either. If they were into performance HD would sell more V-Rods. Maybe a Street Glide series would get a few of `em to show up.
    They do seem to support the drag races & dirt track abit more.

  37. zoz says

    I bought an XR1200 thinking It would help slow me down yet in my daily commute I actually find I am going just as quick without trying as hard .the only thing missing is the scary top end of the fireblade go figure