There’s nothing like the look, feel, and of course the sound of big air-cooled Twins. Motorcycle USA pits America’s Harley-Davidson Sportster XR1200 against Italy’s Moto Guzzi Griso 1200 8V in this comparison.
Way back when, before the modern proliferation of liquid-cooled sportbikes there were styled air-cooled motorcycles. Devoid of any flashy bodywork these machines could be recognized by their rounded headlight, swept handlebar and steel frame; wedged within, a loud, rough-running air-cooled V-Twin engine. In those days, your coolness factor was measured by the size of the finned metal V between your legs.
Things in the two-wheeled world have changed considerably since, and, while in sporting form the naturally-cooled engine configuration has taken backseat to the liquid-cooled set-up (for a number of reasons, including: smoother running, less noise and more power when displacement is compared tit-for-tat). What it can’t mimic is an air-cooled engine’s shake, rattle and roll—the fundamental building blocks of an engaging ride.
It’s also difficult to top in terms of aesthetics. Think about it: How much better does the uncluttered appearance of a finned engine as compared to the dense, industrial packaging of a liquid-cooled unit?
Although it was designed and assembled right here in the U.S., oddly enough, the folks over at Harley-Davidson originally planned on keeping its new XR sporting creation for European consumption only. However, response from those who attended last year’s Spanish press introduction was so overwhelming that word literally spread to the suits and ties in Milwaukee. A few short months later the XR is now available right here in the good ol’ U S of A where it belongs.
The Griso, on the other hand, has been around since 2006. It’s how Italy does big air-cooled sport. However, for this year it got a significant upgrade in the form of a new, larger, 8-valve engine. But will it be enough to hold off the attack from Harley’s latest sporting entry?