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Racing the Harley-Davidson XR1200

Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The sheer size of the Harley took Atlas some time to get used to  though despite limited track time our Executive Editor was on pace right away  running up front all weekend.
MotoUSA was invited out to New Jersey Motorsports Park to race in the all-new Vance & Hines XR1200 spec class as a guest of Harley.
The track that lies in front of me is completely wide open; a massive sea of pavement waits as I strap my helmet and a microphone is shoved into my face. A quick interview with the trackside announcer and then another for Speed TV and it’s time to close the visor and focus. Easier said than done, as I sit and try to wrap my head around what is about to come. I’ve qualified on the front row for the first time in my AMA career. And it’s aboard a 520-lb Harley-Davidson, nonetheless.

I’m racing the Vance & Hines XR1200 spec class at New Jersey Motorsports Park and what was initially supposed to be a relaxing and fun weekend of riding and racing just got pretty serious all of a sudden. With a definite shot at the podium, one of the few things I have yet to accomplish in professional racing, it was time to lay it all on the line!

Backing up a bit, it all started at the 2011 Harley-Davidson XR1200X press introduction earlier this year. While the XR looks far from a “racing” or even really “sporting” machine at first glance, the Milwaukee crew who produce 1200cc V-Twin decided to launch the bike at Road America. Choosing one of the county’s premiere racetracks to introduce such a street-based machine had many of us journalists somewhat perplexed. Turns out they knew something we all had yet to figure out. The XR was far better on the track than meets the eye. And because of this, Terry Vance, the founder and head of Vance & Hines (exhaust manufacturer and proprietor many times over of several professional racing teams), had an idea. Why not get back to AMA’s racing roots? Back to the days when the Bostrom brothers and many of today’s top professionals got their start in the Harley 883 class, but do it with the XR1200 in a basic spec series aimed to provide tight racing and a stepping stone for today’s youth as well as a place for those V-Twin-loving riders to shine.

The 2010 Harley-Davison XR1200 in full race trim as built by Vance   Hines.As per the rules you are allowed the Vance   Hines hop-up kit as well as internal fork modifications and aftermarket shocks  plus rear-sets and a few other basic mods. Otherwise everything else must remain stock.
As per the rules, riders are allowed to add the Vance & Hines hop-up kit as well as internal fork modifications and aftermarket shocks, plus rear-sets and a few other basic mods. Otherwise, everything else must remain stock.
To promote this class the boys at Vance & Hines teamed up with Harley and the HOG (Harley Owners Group) and prepped an XR racebike to the series’ specifications and then invited different journalists or magazine representative to each of the five rounds in this inaugural running of the series. MotoUSA was presented the opportunity for the New Jersey round of the AMA championship and as the only staffer here to have ridden the XR in stock trim, not to mention the tiny bit of racing experience I have, yours truly was drafted in as the pilot.

But don’t mistake the term 'drafted' for unwilling or forced, as after the surprising amount of fun I had riding the bikes in OE trim, the thought of racing the all-new class was more than enough to get my adrenal glands pumping out excessive amount of endorphins. Variety is the spice of life, they say, and this would surely not be akin to anything I had ever experienced.

In an effort to keep costs down, the XR class only runs on track Saturday and Sunday, no Friday practice like the rest of the AMA classes. This was done to try and entice more competitors by making the class as affordable as possible; it allows riders to take less time off work, one less night in a hotel, reduced tire bills and so on. And in a class where the bikes are all virtually identical with the amount of suspension tuning and set-up changes being very limited, an extra day of practice become far less critical. The only people it really hurts are those new to the track at which the event is being held. Thankfully we previously had some seat time around NJMP, though limited, having ridden a pair of Jordan Motorsports Superbikes in a one-day test this time last year.

First Practice: Saturday (11 a.m.)

First practice rolled around and it was time to see what these beasts were all about. At over 520 lbs and less than 90 hp twisting the rear wheel, the XR has the power-to-weight ratio of a clapped out Honda Civic; combined with the series' spec sticky DOT Dunlop tires, we knew tire sliding of any kind would not be coming from the rear end. If either end was going to break traction it was going to be the front. Not an area you want to have losing grip, though considering the tire’s prowess we figured this wouldn’t be an issue either. Wrong! (More on that later…)

Hard on the gas exiting the final corner at New Jersey Motorsports Park  Executive Editor Atlas puts his head down in an effort to try and get that elusive first career AMA podium.
Hard on the gas exiting the final corner at New Jersey Motorsports Park, Atlas puts his head down in an effort to see what the XR behaved like when pushed to its limits. The results were borderline scary.
After a couple laps reacquainting myself with the track and attempting to wrap my head around some of the bikes nuances and quirks (this would turn out to be a never-ending endeavor) it was time to put my head down and see what the XR behaved like at speed. Whoa, damn!

I’m sure many of you have read stories where we moto-journalists refer to a bike as feeling “hinged,” which is common when a motorcycle’s chassis flexes excessively in the lateral direction, relaying to the rider a twisting feeling, especially as the machine is pushed closer to its limits. While this is usually a very minute amount of flex, something which an inexperienced rider may not feel at all, on the Harley it’s so apparent one can literally see the entire bike twist when the engine is revved – at a standstill. Due to the air-cooled V-Twin powerplant being rubber mounted in the frame and the transmission cases directly attached to the swingarm (again with rubber mounts), the end result is, well … let’s just say, unorthodox.

It’s for this reason that when first pushing the XR to its limits the bike starts bucking, wiggling, twisting, (insert any other word for of a violent snake-like motion here), which then pumps up your arms almost instantly – mine did at least. I never get arm pump on a road racer. Never. Motocross is a totally different story, but on the pavement not even 220-hp Superbikes can prevent the blood from flowing in and out of my arms properly. Three laps in on the Harley and I felt like my arms were the size of watermelons; I was in serious trouble.

The Vance   Hines gauge cluster shown here is allowed per class rules and features a digital tach and gear-position indicator  though most competitors choose to run the stock use as the analog tach is easier to read for some. The front number plate  also in the Vance   Hines kit  is vented to allow air flow to the oil cooler which is relocated directly behind it. A shotgun-style side-exit exhaust is part of the Vance   Hines hop-up kit which one must purchase to participate in the XR spec class.
Some of the modifications allowed include an aftermarket gauge cluster (top); vented front number plate and oil cooler relocation behind it (middle); and shotgun-style exhaust (bottom). All are available from Vance & Hines.
After a quick stop in the pits and conferring with my crew chief, Matt King, he said all the previous riders had the exact same issue initially and it wasn’t until they learned so loosen their grip on the bars and just let the bike do its thing that any kind of relief was to be had. I needed to try something, and fast, or this was going to be one seriously long weekend. Time to get loose, baby.

Easier said than executed, as the Harley squirmed between my legs like a lap dance from an epileptic stripper, releasing my kung-fu-death-grip not only got rid of my arm-pump, it actually aided in slightly reducing the amount the bike moved around; the more I fought it the more she fought back. (Hmm, strangely reminiscent of my home life…)

Next up on the whoa-crap-that’s-strange list was the amount of weight (or lack thereof) on the front end. With the seating position of a standard, though modified to be as high and far forward as Vance & Hines could get without chopping the frame apart, the rider still sits very far back with almost no weight on the bars. The kicker is that to go fast on these freight trains one has to carry as much corner speed as possible and really work the front end, as getting a good corner-exit drive consists of simply dumping the throttle wide-open as you pass the apex, something which requires very little riding ability, as highsiding with throttle alone feels nearly impossible.

While trying to get my brain wrapped around the following, um, quirks, we were able to get in a few flying laps, the best of which being a low 1:34. This was enough to put us in the top-five, though not far out of fourth. That said, sixth through eighth weren’t far behind us, so being complacent was out of the question. We knew more was needed.

Qualifying: Saturday (4:15 p.m.)

With only 40 minutes of practice under our belts it was time to qualify already. Short and (hopefully) sweet was the theme of the weekend in Jersey. The qualifying session would be 45 minutes and with a new set of tires mounted and the bike filled with just the right amount of fuel, it was time to see if we could go after that coveted front-row starting spot.

My teammate for the weekend was Harley’s own media relations manager Paul James (talk about one cool PR guy) who has been running the entire series on his own dime, so we devised a plan which would hopefully help us both. Since the bikes don’t run a fairing and weigh so much, the draft can provide a huge advantage, sometimes worth several tenths of a second. Because James was a couple seconds back of where I was in first practice, he was looking for someone to tow him around the track. And as Paul isn’t the smallest guy in the class, the hole he punched in the wind made for a perfecting drafting partner.

One of the key attractions of the Harley class is when riders are close enough in skill level it never ceases to provide a dull moment  as overtaking come be done relatively easy. Atlas was teamed up with Harley-Davidson PR guy Paul James for the weekend in New Jersey  the pair helping each other greatly in qualifying.
Atlas (72) and teammate-for-the-weekend Paul James (70) paired up in qualifying to take advantage of the draft. The result was a serious drop in lap times for both and a front-row grid position for Atlas, the first of his AMA career.
The plan was for James to lead with me right on his rear wheel as we exited the pits and began the out-lap. He would stay in front as we got our bikes and brains up to speed and tires at optimum temperature. Then coming through the final series of esses that lead onto the straight to complete the warm-up lap, James would drop the hammer and ride as hard as he could while I simultaneously dropped back ever so slightly. This would allow a slight buffer and give me the ability to get a run though the final corner and onto the front straight, drafting past Paul to start my flying lap. He would then tuck in behind me and I would become his carrot as I pushed as hard as I could for the remainder of the lap. This would give me a draft and him a tow.

The plan sounded perfect. But you know what happens to perfect plans, right? Yep, they never go as planned. Except this time that is! For what must have been one of the first times in my racing career, an elaborate plan actually went off without the slightest hitch. We actually ran this team-drafting tactic several times, the second of which turned out to be the best. After dropping back just enough and catching his draft just was we clicked into top gear, I bolted past with a head of steam unlike any other pass down the straight all weekend. Not surprisingly I had the highest trap speed of anyone in qualifying. This was followed up by the hardest I had pushed all weekend, the XR bucking and snaking underneath me to the point it actually started to scare me in spots.

But the result was a drop of over two seconds, getting into the low 1:32.2s and qualifying fourth, which meant the outside of the front row. Another bucket-list box was checked: Qualify on the front row for a professional race. James was equally as happy, dropping over two seconds off his practice times and qualifying eighth; this put him directly behind me on the grid, opening things up for yet another teammate plan.

Race: Sunday (12:15 p.m.)

After a quick morning practice to shake things out we were ready to race. Everything felt great and after a quick parade lap and a couple grid interviews for TV, there I sat, a long stretch of open track sitting in front of me. It’s been since my club racing days that a front row grid greeted me prior to battle, the sea of asphalt waiting is almost eerie in a way. No one but I could mess this up. I had a clear shot into Turn 1 and due to the way AMA laid out the grid, qualifying on the outside of the first row actually meant I was on the inside of the track. GEICO Racing teammates Jake Holden and Kyle Wyman joined me on the front row in the first and third spots, respectively, split by young flat track protege P.J. Jacobson in second.

I’m not sure if it was my position on the front row or just a complete brain fade, but as the red lights went out and the green flag dropped I just sat there. Though only for a split-second, it felt like I dropped an anchor and completely parked it as everyone else flew past me. Thankfully my brain quickly kicked back into gear, however, and I dumped the clutch and got the beast rolling. A lack of power and its weight kept the XR from wheelieing hardly at all and off we went.
Atlas gets interviewed on the grid prior to the start of the AMA Vance   Hines XR1200 race in New Jersey.
Atlas gets interviewed on the grid prior to the start of the AMA Vance & Hines XR1200 race in New Jersey.

By this time my nap on the line had allowed the entire second row to pull alongside me, a couple pulling well ahead as we accelerated down into Turn 1. Holden had decided to try and wheelie halfway down the front straight – I still have no idea how he did it – meanwhile I was floundering around in an attempt to make back up the positions I lost. At one point in the drag race to the first corner I was as far back as seventh or eighth, Holden right in front of me. Luckily, though, with the exception of Jacobson and Wyman up front, everyone else decided to brake excessively early into Turn 1, allowing Holden and I to dive back up the inside and just barley slot into third and fourth, respectively – a few elbows may have been rubbed to accomplish this, but these are Harleys we’re racing, so rubbing is just part of the game!

Holden made quick work of the leaders, passing Jacobson in the third corner and Wyman by the end of the first lap. Initially I had hoped to follow him through, but both P.J. and Kyle were over a second quicker than I was in qualifying and Holden even further in front, so judging by that I had to come to grips with the fact that a podium finish was probably a pipedream. But come race time, the two youngsters in front giving me a tow, the lap times dropped in an adrenaline-fueled, V-Twin-powered haste. From doing 1:32s in qualifying we were all running in the low 1:31s from the first flying lap on; over a second dropped once again and things felt surprisingly quite comfortable at that pace. In fact, without a lap timer on the bike I had assumed we were actually running slower than in qualifying. I didn’t know of our pace until after the race and my crew gave me the low-down. I was surprised.

Atlas decided to take a nap on the line  just to be sure and give everyone else a fighting chance.
Atlas decided to take a nap on the line, just to be sure to give everyone else a fighting chance.
As Holden slowly pulled away at the front, though to the tune of less than half-a-second a lap is all, Wyman, Jacobson and I were glued nose to tail. None of us had made any passes for position but just being able to run their pace was promising. But come Lap 3 and we nearly threw it all away. At our heightened pace I was riding the front with quite a bit more aggression than in practice or qualifying and when the tire was brand new this wasn’t an issue. Though as it started to go off a few front-end slides ensued, one fairly big one entering Turn 3. This had allowed the pair in front to get a four or five bike-length gap.

Having just lost their draft I was unsure if I had the pace to make the gap back up. I knew I could stay with them, but could I pick it up and reel them back in? Had you asked me before the race I would have told you definitely not, but that’s why we race, and I was quickly glued back to Wyman’s rear wheel; Jacobson had made his way past for second spot on the fifth lap.

This changed everything. Having just made up nearly a second deficit to a pair that I had assumed would walk away from me, and not feeling like I was totally on the ragged edge yet (I was definitely pretty close to the edge, though), something clicked and my goal quickly changed. All I need was to get by one of them and a podium was mine; yet another huge check for the bucket list. For the next three laps I stalked Wyman, sizing up where he was quicker and where I would make up time. Where could I make the pass? I could make up quite a bit of ground on the brakes into Turn 1, so with a ripping drive through the mega-quick final corner and a solid draft I knew I could out-brake him into the first corner.

Atlas had his hands full off the start in the XR race at New Jersey  leading a multi-rider pack in the early going  one which he would eventually pull away from.
Atlas had his hands full off the start in the XR race at New Jersey, leading a multi-rider pack in the early going, one which he would eventually pull away from.
Lap 8 for the 12-lap race began and it was time. Jacobson looked to be getting away at the front of our group ever so slightly so it was now or never. I made sure to ride as smart as possible for the first three-quarters of the lap, staying as close to his rear wheel as possible without making any mistakes. Leading onto the front straight is a long, mini-carousel-type left that shoots you into the esses and then through the rippin’-quick final right-hand turn.

I had lost a tenth in the long right that leads into the mini-carousel left, so to be sure I was close enough to get a run in his draft I charged the left-hander a bit harder than the lap prior, though not all that much harder. Unfortunately we were already on the limit the lap prior and my added speed put me well past it, the front proceeded to completely fold and go into one of the longest, slow-motion slides I’ve ever had - without ending up on my head. Somehow I didn’t go down (I still have no idea how), the front end regained traction as I approached the edge of the track. I stood the bike up with such violence I nearly highsided over the front tire. Whew!

Luckily, what was basically a crash I somehow managed to save through a serious dose of luck and my trusty left knee puck. But as my front tire slid off into the distance so did my shot at the podium, the massive moment allowing Jacobson and Wyman to pull away by over a second in one lap. They continued to gap me for the next couple laps as I worked to get my head back in the game. I was able to get back into the 1:31s with two laps remaining and make some of the distance back up on them, but it was too little too late. With over 30 seconds in hand in front of fifth place, I brought it home fourth. It may not have been the podium we had hoped for, though all things considered it turned out to be one heck of a weekend.
Coming inot the weekend we had a general idea of what the XR would be like to race having ridden it in stock trim at the press launch several months back at Road America. Upon riding the race version we relized the two fell virtually nothing alike.
Cranked over and exiting the final series of corners at New Jersey Motorsports Park, Executive Editor Atlas puts his head down in an effort to try and get that elusive first career AMA podium. After post-race tech and the RMR team caught cheating, that podium was his!

With a front-row qualifying and fourth-place finish, this would go down as the most successful weekend in my professional racing career. Sure it may have been aboard a wobbly, bucking and squirming Harley-Davidson. And sure the class competition might not be as deep as some of the others. But considering our best lap times were within a tenth of fast young-gun Jacobson and less than half-a-second back of former AMA Superstock race winner Jake Holden, who has been racing an XR all season, to finish where we did far exceeded our expectations.

Oh, and did I mention, it was an absolute riot the entire time! Harley-Davidson’s XR1200 might not be as fast as a Suzuki GSX-R1000 or handle like a Yamaha R6, but racing the XR combines a feeling of nostalgia mixed with modern technology to make for a class unlike anything else out there, one which provides a new sound and feel to road racing, a feel which our sport could benefit from greatly. Right now grids are a little thin, hovering around 10-12 regular riders. But add another 10 series’ regulars, plus a few wildcards here and there, and a 25-rider Vance & Hines XR grid would without question provide some of the closest racing of the weekend.

Here’s hoping another 10-15 people put teams together for 2011 and Harley still has that VIP bike available for one-off rides. I’m still itching for that elusive AMA podium (nevermind, we just got it!) and I would kill for another shot at it on the XR next season! It was that much fun…

UPDATE: In a surprise turn of events, the bucket list has just been checked again! Both race winner Jake Holden and third-place finisher Kyle Wyman were disqualified from the race following a technical inspection of parts sent back to AMA Pro Racing’s headquarters in Daytona Beach, Florida. As a result, second-place finisher P.J. Jacobson has been awarded the win, his first in AMA competition, while yours truly inherited second position, another career-first AMA Pro Racing podium. We may not have done it on track (extremely close), but cheating is cheating, the AMA determining that RMR Racing (who both riders rode for) had been modifying their ECUs to allow for additional revs, giving their machines a definite performance advantage, a direct violation of the rules. So as such MotoUSA takes its first-ever professional racing podium, the only American publication to ever have a full-time staffer finish in the top-three in AMA Pro Racing competition. Considering how hard we worked on-track, on a bike totally new to us, you can bet we'll take it and soak up all the possible glory we can -- looks like it's time to get some champagne and spray the office!
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Brian Brown -Trying to contact Luis Jose Sanchez GIll  January 14, 2011 04:14 AM
Jose, I see that you posted your opinions above. I am trying to locate photos of a Jimmy Adamo Ducati TT1-F1 that he raced in 1987. You shot a photo of him ahead of Marco Luchinelli at Laguna Seca, before his battery went flat, it was published in the 1987 August issue of American Roadracing. Do you still have this image, I would like to purchase a print of it, and any more that you may have. My email is bbrown291@comcast.net Thanks for your help! Sincerely, Brian Brown
donny -Did Harley Davidson go insane ?..... What happened to you Harley ?  December 8, 2010 06:25 AM
Buell was building better bikes then Harley using there own own engine redesigned . The Thunder Storm engine 984cc &1203cc . The 1203cc engine 84ft/lbs of torque at just over 2500 RPM. The powerband pumped out 85% of they engines power. It also has a zero maintenance belt drive system that never needs to be touched . Mass centralization & low unsprung weight. The new Helicon engine with 1025cc hitting 146hp just before 10,500 RPM topping out at 82ft/lbs of torque. Most of the Buell bikes had seat ergonomics. This made riding the bike comfort not a pain. This also includes the passenger position. With a triple "tail system "touring is made even easier .(PS) Harley thinks there XR1200 will replace all that ?.... Are they taking crazy pills at Harley ?..... I LIKE HARLEY,BUT" WOW". I em a cruiser guy,but i em not mentally ill .
Jose Luis Sanchez Gil -Huh? Say What?  October 5, 2010 09:25 PM
"So as such MotoUSA takes its first-ever professional racing podium, the only American publication to ever have a full-time staffer finish in the top-three in AMA Pro Racing competition. " I seem to recall Cook NIelsen taking third at the '76 Daytona Superbike race and winning the Daytona Superbike race in '77 on a Ducati. Oh yeah, he was the editor of Cycle Magazine, so he would qualify as a full time staffer.
Big Ron -Entertaining  October 3, 2010 09:25 AM
Steve, Nice article. I watched one of these races on the tube recently and it was extremely entertaining; lots of passing, sliding and braking. I attended the GP at Laguna Seca this past year and it was boring compared to the AMA Superbike races. Almost no passing, very little racing. It almost looked like they were qualifying. All the winner had to do was ride mistake free from the first turn to the last; he was never challenged. Bostrom and Hayes battled the entire superbike race. THe race was 2-3 seconds per lap slower but much more interesting.
Smarter than u -Must Be on HD Payroll  October 2, 2010 07:03 PM
What an absolute waste of editorial space writing about racing Harley Davidson XR's. These are the same outdated junk that Harley spits out every year and you have the nerve to call this crap modern technology. You must be on HD payroll to publish this outlandish crap. These things are just slicked up outdated sportsters and you go all ga ga over them. What an total waste of time writing about this junk and then trying to make them sound like racing these underpowered overweight sleds would even be fun. How much is Harley paying you?????
Busa Rider -Real Racing Bike  October 2, 2010 06:55 PM
Oh my God a real racing Harley Davidson motorcycle. With 70 or so asphalt ripping horsepower these bikes should be awesome. Its about time that Harley got a real hi performance motorcycle. This should really boost Harley sales when everyone finds out they can get a bike that will blow all the Jap bikes off the street. Iam going to sell my Busa and get a real Harley racing bike.
Bimmer -Get Real  October 2, 2010 08:17 AM
LOL - I'll take my S1000RR BMW to the track if these guys want to race. What a joke - a Harley in a race - get real and quit trying to make a Harley look like a real modern motorcycle. A Harley is nothing but a 1960 bike at 2010 prices. Overpriced, overweight and outdated crap.
Steve@33 -Good Learning Bike  October 2, 2010 08:13 AM
This is a good bike to learn how to race on. They are not fast so there is not much danger of getting hurt. Maybe HD could sell these to the racing schools. This would make a great bike for women also and HD could bring out a special model in pink with a pink seat and everything. It would be a big seller.
Ex Harley fan -Bring Buell back if you want to race  October 2, 2010 08:07 AM
Skipper has a good idea there but to make it a "real" harley race these bikes have to have 3 foot tall handle bars and straight pipes and the cool saddle bags with tassels on them. As you know a harely is not a harley unless the moron riding it has loud pipes and the tall handle bars. These XR's are not real harley's. If harley wanted to race they should have left Buell in the mix. That was one big mistake and just when Buell was getting rid of the outdated harley motor and getting the Rotax motor. I think that is why harley dumped Buell. The Rotax motor would have been such a huge improvement and it would have been a big embarrassment for harley.
Skipper -Slow racing?  October 2, 2010 08:00 AM
Ha Ha - a slow race - what a good idea.
Pete66 -Good Laugh  October 2, 2010 07:59 AM
Thanks for the article as it gave me a good laugh that I needed after a hard day at work. I think Harley will need more than racing a few of these XR's against each other to get public interest. Sure the Harley lemmings will love something like this just to see a Harley in a race - if you want to call it that. Maybe the bar hopping Harley crowd will like something like this but other than a good laugh lets see some articles on "real motorcycle" racing. I must admit that this is the first time that I have seen a Harley rider with a helmet on. Maybe they should wear the standard Harley pirate outfit with a do-rag and the fingerless nose picker gloves to make it more Harley like.
Walter Latham -Bike in a Box racer  October 2, 2010 02:36 AM
I built no.14 of the Custom Chrome V Bikes. And it rides exactly as you have described in your article. I wore the front tire out in less than 1500 miles. I made a number plate for it and a standard headlight for it right in the beginning and used a screen for the oil cooler. I recently sold my R-1 Yamaha which was faster and quicker. But the V-bike when ridden at the top of my game has humbled a number of Japanese bike owners. I was told by a group of arrogant younger guys that it was the first time they ever saw the taillight of XXX Harley. What did they expect showed up at the bar in full leathers and a helmet in a no helmet state. Great article guess what I am going to ride Tomorrow Sunday. I am looking forward to more great articles.
Not Impressed -Oh Wow  September 30, 2010 09:11 AM
Wow a Harley racing against other Harley's. This is because there is nothing short of a motor scooter that a Harley can beat in a real race. It would be cool to see all the Harley guys in there pirate outfits out there racing each other. My son has a Suzuki Burgman 650 scooter and I'll bet there is not a Harley anything that can beat it. What an exciting race - a bunch of XR1200 plowing around a race track - give me a break. If Harley would have kept Buell in the picture with the Rotax motor instead of the boat anchor Harley motor then maybe......
Steve Atlas -Thanks Guys!  September 28, 2010 08:55 PM
I really appreciate all the kind words fellas! I was totally surprised but I had an absolute blast that weekend! As much as I was a skeptic at first, after taking part in the class I can see why Vance & Hines put it together. Those guys know a thing or two about racing all kinds of motorcycles and just because these bikes don't make 200-hp doesn't mean they can't provide the same, if not better racing action. And while I wish we had stood on the podium and sprayed champagne at the track, the end result still checks the same box on the bucket list and still gets the same $2000 purse check from the AMA. And considering how far past the limit I had to ride those 12 laps to finish as close of a fourth-place as we did, I'll definitely take it! I would love to come back next year and try to win one. I honestly think with some practice we would have a realistic shot, especially considering our best race lap was within half-a-second of race winner Holden’s best time and quicker than third-place Wyman! Either way, it’s a podium finish I will cherish no matter how I got it, and if you are thinking of getting into professional racing this really is one of the best ways I can think of. Just ask the Bostrom brothers, both of which came up from racing the old AMA Harley 883 class to Superbike stardom. !
mogman -XR1200 race /review  September 28, 2010 05:34 PM
milwaukee mike & others alike, Paul James, plus others and the inimitable Erik Buell pioneered the XR1200 engine. The same engine that is on the Ulysses, which, with a chip, tires and air filter change, will out run and handle the bikes above mentioned. Steve did a great job in this article because he was impassioned by a motorcycle that really had a PAIR. Although slower, he showed that the true beauty of racing is the the feel, fright, flight and finish. Hats off from a Buell nut.
Snowman -Great article!  September 26, 2010 06:43 PM
What a great write-up. I was expecting a snobby review just bashing the xr. Yes, we KNOW it's not the fastest bike out there, but what fun, man! Riding and racing is supposed to be fun, no? Props to Harley for putting some cash into this. The trick in racing is to race what you got, and racing a mostly stock XR1200 sounds like a blast to me. Yeah, I used to ice-race cars, and it was way more fun to race equal and slower cars that took some real DRIVING than the latest greatest factory ride. You proved your worth. Makes me wanna saddle up.
Mike C -Just like a real race  September 26, 2010 04:20 PM
Except S-L-O-W-E-R. I think it's great that hardley ableson has it's own class as that is the only way it can be competative. Well enjoy it while it lasts guys. I can forsee hardley discontinuing the model for the usual farm equipment it sells.
Shin- -MotoUsa's 1st podium  September 26, 2010 12:30 AM
Steve my man you are the man! love this line "he more I fought it the more she fought back. (Hmm, strangely reminiscent of my home life…) " something we all learn bout bikes(and women) eventually ! oh and.. well done MotoUsa!
Skeesm -Renaissance Man Maybe?  September 24, 2010 04:39 PM
Great job Steve, enjoyed your report greatly, seems you towed your journalistic skills to a new, higher level right along with yours and your teammate's riding skills. You know, if you can sculpt something and speak a second language you'd be a Renaissance Man in my book, about the highest complement anyone can pay a man in the secular world.
milwaukee mike -great job, great article  September 23, 2010 07:59 PM
This is a Harley that HD fans can finally get behind. Good riddance Buell.
Workinghard -That is HD's best effort at a sporty bike?  September 23, 2010 07:18 AM
With basically the same motor, it makes less power and weighs much more the the sharp handling XB12R.
TL -Competitive Class but slow  September 23, 2010 06:34 AM
How would a race prepped XR1200 compare to a bone stock Buell 1125R on the track?
racelover -dare  September 23, 2010 02:37 AM
when harley will race again others.
Keith -My kind  September 22, 2010 11:24 PM
Thanks for your hard work, Steve. Excellent job all round, Motorcycle USA. This is my kind of journalism to lap up line by line - you've been able to give your readers a good feel of what it would be like to lap hard on the new(ish) H-D twin. Years back I was able to stay with much more powerful bikes on a great-handling 80hp Ducati 900SS during a track day meet at Kyalami, but clearly H-D needs to take immediate cognisance of what you're revealing regarding the frame and weight and get the darn thing sorted. Please Harley-Davidson, go the whole hog and build a truly desirable, rorty sportsbike with a long shapely tank, low bars and 130hp (at least)at the back wheel.
Ben B -Loose  September 22, 2010 11:20 AM
I would be willing to bet that learning to be loose on the bars is what kept you from tucking the front. You gave the bike a chance to recover on its own.
Bartlay1 -DQ  September 22, 2010 11:11 AM
Do you get a trophy too? Great job and what a surprise to be awarded 2nd after inspection! Check that box off, you earned it.
KIRK -CONGRATS ON YOU 2ND PLACE FINISH!!!  September 22, 2010 11:08 AM
I just saw the AMA press release. Congrats! Will we see you ar Barber this weekend?
Fran Barnes -Great article.  September 22, 2010 10:41 AM
That header says it all. What a great article, ride and experience for you. Love the comments by 'Racer1'..My son, yup, that one,had good experiences on the Harley, along with 10+ other bikes. Talk about riding slow bikes, fast! He knows.
Cknugget -Yep  September 22, 2010 09:28 AM
Great result on the bike. The first I read about this class I thought it was a joke, and I ride a sporty. That was until a test ride on a stock one. The class is not a joke and should provide fun races to watch in upcoming seasons.
JJ -2nd place  September 22, 2010 09:15 AM
Looks likes you got your podium with the 2 DQs!
hdowner -kidding  September 21, 2010 10:39 PM
Harley vs Harley
Racer1 -Great result -  September 21, 2010 07:45 PM
Great write up - good job! There is nothing like riding a slow bike fast for adrenaline and the feeling of being continually on the edge. I was going to say I'd like to have a go, I'd probably love it actually, but reading your account makes me realize how spoilt I am with the R6 and it's impeccable manners. Who am I kidding though... I'd love a crack at racing an XR1200!
Aaron B. -I watched you race  September 21, 2010 07:05 PM
Great race. I got to speak with the mechanic in the fan meeet and greet. Bike #72 get ridden by "guest" riders. Awesome day out there. Great article, thanks!