The rise in sales of touring motorcycles — usually larger bikes equipped with luggage and windshields designed for multi-day trips — may have some smaller-sized riders feeling uninvited to the party. Often referred to as “baggers,” these motorcycles are heavier and larger and that can make smaller or newer riders uncomfortable. Bikes sized “just right” for these riders often lack essential touring amenities.
The Sportster SuperLow 1200T is Harley-Davidsons way of filling the gap in its lineup for a smaller touring bike. The Motor Company increased displacement (and therefore power) of its 883 Sportster SuperLowto 1200cc and added creature comforts to make it more appealing for motorcycle touring.
But hanging extra goodies on a “smaller” motorcycle doesn’t automatically morph it into an honest-to-goodness touring machine. Power, engine performance, rider ergonomics, comfort, and other considerations factor into the touring equation, too. I took the Sportster SuperLow 1200T on a multi-day nearly 1,000-mile trip through southern California alongside my husband, Tim (who was riding a Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic) to evaluate its touring capabilities.
Ive ridden and owned many different Harley-Davidson motorcycles over the years going back to the 1990s, but I felt that this 1200Ts engine vibrated a lot, more than what Im used to feeling on a Harley-Davidson. I felt the vibration in the handgrips and floorboards in every gear, and found it difficult to see what was in the mirrors until I was traveling pretty fast. Only until about 60 mph in fourth gear or 70 mph in fifth (top) gear, did the vibration finally subside enough to see clearly in the mirrors. That said, “feeling” the engines vibration is part of what makes a motorcycle a Harley-Davidson motorcycle a Harley-Davidson. I highly recommend a test ride if youre considering the 1200T to make sure youre comfortable with the vibration over a long ride.
Fuel economy seems to be close to the 48 mpg Harley-Davidson estimate. The fuel tank holds 4.5 gallons, giving riders more than 200 miles per tank … an important factor for a touring motorcycle.
The grips on the SuperLow 1200T are a smaller diameter than most Harley grips — 1.3 inches compared to the usual 1.5 inches — and feel perfectly sized for my smaller hands. The clutch and brake levers are non-adjustable meaning the distance between the levers and the handgrip cannot be adjusted. (Adjustable levers are common on many Japanese cruisers.) Fortunately, the smaller diameter of the handgrip gives my shorter fingers more “reach” to the levers, and the pull to engage the levers requires no additional effort. I never experienced any discomfort holding them in for long periods of time like at stop lights or in stop-and-go traffic.
Braking is adequate on the 1200T. Single discs in front and rear each use dual-piston calipers. The optional ABS works very well and is a $795 add-on I recommend. Electronic fuel injection is spot-on with no jerking or hesitation, and acceleration is quick and responsive when rolling on the throttle.
Touring usually means bringing along “stuff,” and though the rigid, lockable saddlebags look good, they don’t hold much more than a couple-day’s worth of gear.
The chrome speedometer is easy to see and displays a variety of information controlled by a toggle button on the left handlebar. Without removing your hand from the grip, each push of the switch changes the information displayed, cycling through an odometer, clock, two tripmeters, gear indicator, and tachometer.
The addition of the touring accessories, along with a larger engine displacement, does indeed change the 1200T from a boulevard buddy to more of a long-haul friend as long as you don’t mind a little engine vibration and limited cargo capacity. But riders of smaller stature seeking a Harley-Davidson that fits them while promising the ability to tour more comfortably would do well to consider the Sportster SuperLow 1200T.
Specs At A Glance: 2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Superlow 1200T
Engine Size: 1202cc
Seat height: 26.1 inches
Weight: 599 pounds
Fuel capacity: 4.5 gallons
Colors: Vivid Black, Black Quartz, Velocity Red Sunglo, Billet Silver/Vivid Black, Deep Jade Pearl/Vivid Black, Purple Fire/Blackberry Smoke, Cosmic Blue Pearl
Price: Starts at $11,799 (add $795 for ABS; add $395 for security system)
We applaud Harley-Davidson for finding a way to enable smaller-sized riders, as well as those on a budget, a way to tour comfortably and keep up to speed adequately on the highway with their friends on larger and higher-powered motorcycles. The SuperLow 1200T is a nice step up from a beginner motorcycle for riders just starting to tour overnight on their bike.