First Ride Review
Despite the traditional stereotypes, younger riders and women make up a substantial, and ever-increasing, portion of Harley-Davidson’s customers. The Motor Company says that in 2012, it held 50 percent of the U.S. market share for men and women riders ages 18-34, and over 60 percent for women ages 35 and up.
To more directly target that audience, last March Harley used the sunny stage of Daytona Bike Week to launch its latest motorcycles, the SuperLow 1200T and Low Rider. Neither bike is all new in name or equipment, but for 2014 they’ve been changed enough to appeal to a new generation of motorcyclists that wants to go farther and ride lower for less coin.
The SuperLow 1200T features the same easy-handling chassis dynamics originally developed for the SuperLow 883 and outfits it with more power and equipment for the long haul. The result is a smaller, lighter touring Harley customers can ride right off the showroom floor and onto the Interstate. And with an entry-level price of around $12,000, it even costs less than many comparable metric tourers.
In the saddle, it’s immediately apparent the SuperLow is designed for more diminutive motorcyclists. The rider triangle is cramped for an average-sized adult with a 33-inch inseam; the narrow handlebar positioned my wrists only about seven inches directly above my knees. Neat mini-floorboards allow a bit of leg movement and were stout enough to permit me to quickly stand up and stretch out my legs. Taller riders need not apply, but with a Reduced Reach touring saddle that pushes the rider two inches forward, the 1200T’s ergonomics should be just right for Harley’s stated target audience of those who stand 5-foot, 1-inch to 5-foot-7.
The Evolution 1200 engine is impressively responsive, with loads of low-end grunt that makes it easy to start out from a stop and power out of corners. For a touring bike, I would’ve liked a bit more on-ramp acceleration, and a taller top gear to reduce vibration.
The 1200T is relatively light—nearly 120 pounds less than H-D’s lightest Big Twin tourer, contributing to its poised cornering and nimble maneuverability. Its suspension seems vastly improved over street-specific Sportsters, particularly in the rear, where the 32-click adjuster knob allows easy changes to accommodate a passenger and/or cargo. Braking is strong, although in 2014 we think it’s time that all quote-unquote touring bikes come equipped with ABS. The copious saddlebags detach easily with a key, and the adjustable, detachable windshield is effective at diminishing high-speed buffeting. Factory-installed rear docking hardware eases the installation of an optional luggage rack and passenger backrest. Finally, the new Sportster switchgear provides a left-hand info-toggle switch that’s ideal for touring riders; so is the bike’s estimated 216-mile fuel range. For those who feel Big Twin tourers are too cumbersome, H-D now has a touring cruiser for you.