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RSD Clarity Sportster Air Cleaner Review

Wednesday, January 15, 2014
We love the boost our 2004 Sportster 1200 Custom project bike got from the addition of a set of Vance & Hines RSD Slant Exhaust, the new pipes eliminating the popping and crackling we were experiencing in addition to making it livelier at the throttle. Now that we had addressed spent gases, it was time to bolster the good air coming in too, so we opted to throw on a Roland Sands Design Clarity Air Cleaner as well.

The Clarity Air Cleaner we sourced is a direct replacement for the stock unit and fits XL Sportsters from 1994 – 2013. It is CNC machined from billet aluminum and comes complete with a K&N air filter. The face plate is made from transparent polycarbonate so it allows a peek at the internal workings of the carburetor. We choose one with a Contrast Cut to match the design of the Clarity Sportster Derby Cover we had already installed. By machining some of the black anodizing off, it brings out more of the details in its design.

The stock backing plate and breather tubes had to come off in order to throw on the new one included in the RSD set.
The stock backing plate and breather tubes had to come off in order to throw on the new one included in the RSD set.
The new backing plate is much smaller than the stock Sportster one. The breather tubes slide over to form a good seal on the breather bolt heads.
The new backing plate is much smaller than the stock Sportster one. The breather tubes slide over to form a good seal on the breather bolt heads.
The RSD Clarity Air Cleaner comes with a K N filter that breathes much better than the stock Sportster one.
The RSD Clarity Air Cleaner comes with a K&N filter that breathes much better than the stock one.
Our 2004 Sportster 1200 Custom is much more responsive at the throttle now that weve added the Slant Exhaust and RSD Clarity Air Cleaner.
First we had to take the stock air intake off. Two screws hold the air filter cover in place, while three torx screws cinch down the air filter element. With those out of the way, you can access the two hollow breather bolts. We removed the small O-rings on each before unscrewing the breather bolts, then pulled off the stock backing plate, too.

Putting on the new intake is just as straightforward. It starts by installing a new backing plate and two breather standoffs with two new breather bolts that come with the set, torqueing them down to 15 lb-ft. After making sure the backing plate is lined up with the breather bolts, it’s time to slip in a small gasket and secure the backing plate in place with three ¼-20 bolts. Two rubber breather tubes are slipped on to the breather tubes next, followed by attaching a small secondary plate. With all that in place, it’s time to attach the air clean itself. The front face plate, polycarbonate window and K&N filter came assembled as a single unit from the factory, so it’s just a matter of feeding five screws through spacers and tightening them down to the face plate with a couple twists of the torque wrench to 8 lb-ft. A little Loctite was used on all the fasteners per RSD instructions. After that, it was time to fire that baby up.

Ahh, what a sweet rumble we got from the Slant Exhaust. While air had to fight through the concealing stock cover, the carb is being force fed now thanks to the open design of the RSD Clarity Air Cleaner. It’s definitely breathing freer now. Crack the throttle and it launches much better as the most noticeable improvements are on the low end. Overall it’s more responsive and allows us to wind out gears a bit longer. We haven’t thrown it on a dyno yet to see if we got any measurable gains because we’re still hoping to add a new Mikuni carb and get it all dialed in first, so keep an eye out for those numbers in the future.

On the aesthetic side, the new RSD Clarity Air Cleaner gives it a racier, more modern look. It’s much smaller than the stock unit so you get a better look at the engine now. The coolest part is being able to peek through the clear window at idle, roll on the throttle, and watch the needle squirting fuel into the carb. Stylish, functional, and efficient, it definitely bolstered our Sportster all the way around.

We’ve got the ball rolling on our XL1200C project, but have plenty more coming. We’re looking forward to digging into the front end next, swapping out bars, running new cables, and updating the fork internals with a Progressive Suspension Low Monotube Fork Kit. Stay tuned for more good stuff from our 2004 Harley Sportster 1200 Custom project.

* Roland Sands Design Clarity Air Cleaner - Buy it at the Motorcycle Superstore MSRP - $468.99
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