The XL1200R Roadster is a straightforward, honest standard-style motorcycle.
In 2003 I was looking for a new bike after several years away from riding (school and work), and having previously owned and loved airhead boxer BMWs, was looking for a midsize, general-purpose bike with a standard riding position. I was considering the Triumph Bonneville and Thunderbird, Honda CB750 Nighthawk, and H-D Sportster.
I looked at the 2003 Sportster Sport, but the vibration levels and other aspects of the design turned me off. I was close to buying a Triumph (a good deal on a leftover 2003 Thunderbird in red was very tempting) when the 2004 rubber mount redesign was announced, and after seeing a demo bike at a dealer, I placed an order immediately.
I picked it up in February 2004 and have pleased with it over the past four years. It has good power, handles and brakes well, and has been reliable and low maintenance.
As purchased, the bike was very stable and handled corners in smooth roads well, but it handled anything with bumps badly. The front and rear suspension setups were too soft, and both rode harshly over rough pavement and felt unstable in bumpy corners. I replaced the stock front fork springs and oil with Progressive springs and heavier fork oil, and the rear shocks with the H-D factory remote reservoir shocks from the pre-2004 Sportster Sport model (they fit perfectly). They transformed both handling and ride comfort over bumps. This setup should be standard in the 1200R.
Unlike the previous reviewer, I have not had backfiring problems with the stock carburetor jetting. I considered the usual muffler replacement, but have decided to retain the stock exhaust and jetting. I have been satisfied with the engine's power and do not want a louder exhaust.
Range with the 3.5 gallon tank is limited. With only 2.5 gallons before needing to go to reserve, I refill every 100 miles. If I find a 4.5 gallon tank from a Custom in the right color cheap on eBay, I may purchase and install it. This would require replacing the seat, which I have considered doing anyway. The seat is OK on short rides but is too mushy to be comfortable on rides over 4 hours.
Maintenance requirements are very low. Change the oil and filter at regular intervals, check tire pressures, winterize properly. That's it. Belt rather than chain drive is a great advantage over the other bikes that I considered. I had two "first year of a new model" problems in the first two years of ownership, but both were remedied after the factory figured them out, and neither has recurred since.
I have used my Roadster for urban commuting, weekend rides on country roads, and Skyline Drive rides, and it has handled all of these situations well. I don't do long-distance tours, but with a windshield, hard bags and highway pegs it would probably handle those situations fine as well. Overall, it's a solid machine that would be a good choice for anyone looking for a basic motorcycle with a standard, upright riding position, rather than a specialized sportbike, cruiser, or full-dress tourer.