Review: Harley-Davidson Iron 1200

It’s hard to ignore the fact that in recent years Harley-Davidson has been broadening its range to seduce a wider audience. The most talked about models that Harley will soon launch are the electric LiveWire (already in September of this year!) and an adventure bike that will see daylight only next year but that’s already causing quite some stir. It’s safe to say both bikes belong in the “pretty particular” category.

Luckily, Harley doesn’t forget the beginner bikers. Proof of this is the 750 engine that was introduced in 2015, first in the Street 750 and later in the Street Rod.

Still, the lightest Harley isn’t always a novice’s first choice, which is why the Sportster range was expanded this year with the Iron 1200. Indeed, a big 1202 cc engine, but in the slender body of the Iron 883. Yet its price is just slightly higher than the 883’s: the Iron 1200 starts at £ 9,395 while you ride a new Iron 883 from £ 9,045.

So isn’t that bigger twin cylinder engine too much for a beginner? Well, I found the Iron 883 to have a nice engine but it lacked some excitement. The Iron 1200 wants to remedy that. The newcomer delivers 96 Nm and 67 hp while the 883 does 70 Nm and 52 hp. But other than a clear difference between the engines the bikes seem very alike: frame, suspension and brakes remained unchanged.

The sitting position is typically Harley and requires some getting used to if you’re new to riding Harleys: the foot pegs are placed wide and force you to ride legs spread. The mini-ape handlebars aren’t exactly low, but certainly not too high to become tiring or awkward. Even more, the handlebars guarantee a comfortably upright position, and because they are right there in your peripheral view, the Iron 1200 turns out to be a remarkably convenient lanesplitter.

Yet it would be too much to call the Iron’s comfort excellent. The suspension travel is short and offers little margin, but the seat causes the biggest issues. At first it feels good but the longer the distances you ride, the worse it feels. The seat forces you to stay in the same position, so you’ll have a numb butt if you don’t pause regularly.

The highway also is to be avoided because of the vibrations in the foot pegs at those speeds. Moreover, the wind is tiring for the upper legs. On the positive side: you can skip some leg exercises at the gym.

Lower speeds also generate vibrations (mainly in the seat and handlebars) but you could ignore those with a little love for the bike. By the way, you’ll experience the greatest vibrations when the bike’s idling. As if the Iron wants to shake you out of its seat.

Of course you don’t buy a Sportster for idling or for only riding the motorway. On winding roads the Iron feels at home. The air-cooled Evolution V-Twin is not extremely powerful, but it certainly has enough power for some good fun. It’s striking how light the Iron 1200 steers and how easy it dives into corners. It even invites you to play …

Should you accept that invitation, you’ll notice that the playground is rather small. The engine surely want to fool around a bit, but the rest of the bike has a hard time following. Fast cornering and heavy braking immediately create unrest in the frame. The foot pegs also scrape the asphalt too quickly for a sporty cornering style. In addition, the single disc front brake lacks power for dynamic riding. Then again, the rear brake is very predictable.

Of course you could ask yourself if an Iron 1200 is a smart choice if you like to ride sporty. The Iron is clearly made for cruising. And because low revs hardly bother the engine, the third gear seems to be fit for about anything.

The no-nonsense equipment fits the bike’s character perfectly: no traction control (not necessary!), no fancy gadgets. ABS, an alarm and a keyless ride is about everything you get. And of course there’s the basic analog speedometer that’s been around for years.

Conclusion

The Harley-Davidson Iron 1200 is an attractive bike for anyone considering their first Harley, their first motorcycle or just a cool yet accessible bike. The Iron rides nice as long as you don’t want to be too sporty. If you try that, you’ll notice that the engine is too powerful for the other components. Then again, a stiffer frame, a better suspension and stronger brakes would raise the price, which happens to be one of the Iron 1200’s strong points: the 1200 is only slightly more expensive than the Iron 883. Why you would even consider an 883? That’s a mystery to me.

Pros

+ Comfortable as long as you don’t want to ride for hours
+ Attractive price for a cool Harley package
+ Interesting beginner bike for those considering a Harley

Cons

– The frame doesn’t like sporty riding
– Unimpressive front brake
– Vibrations on the highway

Tech specs

Engine

Engine: air-cooled, Evolution™
Bore: 88.9 mm
Stroke: 96.8 mm
Displacement: 1,202 cc
Compression ratio: 10:01
Fuel system: electronic sequential port fuel injection (espfi)
Exhaust: black exhaust headers and black mufflers

Dimensions

Length: 2,200 mm
Seat height, unladen: 735 mm
Ground clearance: 110 mm
Rake (steering head): 30°
Trail: 117 mm
Wheelbase: 1,515 mm
Tires, front specification: 100/90b19 57h
Tires, rear specification: 150/80b16 77h
Fuel capacity: 12.5 l
Oil capacity (w/filter): 2.6 l
Weight, as shipped: 248 kg
Weight, in running order: 256 kg

Performance

Engine torque: 96 Nm at 3,500 rpm
Horsepower: 67 hp / 49 kw at 6000 rpm
Lean angle, right: 27°
Lean angle, left: 28°

Drivetrain

Primary drive: chain, 38/57
Gear ratios (overall) 1st: 9.315
Gear ratios (overall) 2nd: 6.653
Gear ratios (overall) 3rd: 4.948
Gear ratios (overall) 4th: 4.102
Gear ratios (overall) 5th: 3.517

Chassis

Wheels, front type: black, 9-spoke
Wheels, rear type: black, 9-spoke
Brakes, caliper type: dual-piston front, dual-piston rear

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