I had wanted to build a bobber bike for years, and when I saw that Harley had this flat-track-style bike on their inexpensive (for a Harley) Sportster platform, I was sold.
The look it just right. Low seat, visually has lots of engine, and with the blacked out bits and fork condoms, it looks like a badass. The swing-out license plate holder looks like a custom touch as well.
The seat height and standard-like ergos are by far the best for a 5'8" (173cm) shorty like me that I have thus far ridden. It's also 20lbs lighter than the next lightest Sporty model, and because of it, it is by far the easiest-to-handle bike I've ever ridden at low speeds - rivaled only by the little Suzuki I rode at my MSF course. Beware, though, that anybody much taller than I will probably feel rather cramped aboard this bike.
The powerplant is a nice piece. Rated at a healthy 79lb-ft @ 4000rpm, it is internally the same 1203cc Evolution V-twin that powers other 1200 Sportsters. If you like electronic fuel injection, you will like this setup. A closed-loop system with 02 sensors, it comes to life easily, though the wait for the computer to complete its self-diagnostics after you flick the switch to "run" can be frustrating at times. It also promises lower emissions and better fuel economy to keep those hippies at the EPA happy. For someone like myself who prefers carburetors, the EFI becomes a frustration as the fuel pump and wiring also have to be dealt with when converting to carburetors.
All that aside, the bike has decent torque, though the tall gearing means that you feel like you're winding it our pretty hard before shifting. With its light chassis, better-flowing heads, and hotter cams that it's been using for several years now, along with the rubber-mounted engines that debuted for the '04 season, it becomes a motor that has a tractable, wide powerband and loves to be pushed. The consensus is that in stock form, it's a mid-low 13-second bike. The stock exhaust has good sound quality, but is on the quiet side to conform with the EPA's noise pollution rules.
Similarly, the chassis likes to be pushed. Toss it into corners, apply throttle, and it comes around easily and confidently, with nicely controlled throttle steer. This is where the low, stiff suspension and favourable centre of gravity come into play. However, you pay a heavy toll - courtesy the low, tough attitude, the rear suspension has little travel and thus can at times resemble a hardtail in its ride quality. You very quickly learn to effectively scan the road ahead for bumps and avoid them, or lift off the seat over larger bumps.
Distance riding would not be a specialty of this bike. Sure, the wind blast can be taken care of with a windshield. Bags, highway pegs and forward controls can be added. And it will easily loaf along at extralegal speeds all day long. But the stiff ride and small tank would be a nuisance at best - your low fuel light will come on at around 80-100 miles despite having well over a gallon left in the tank.
Fuel economy so far has been so-so at just over 45mpg on two highway tanks and one commute tank, but as the engine hasn't completely run-in yet, I suspect it will improve over time. Harley claims 42mpg city and 57mpg on the highway.
Overall, this is a great bike for me. It fits like a glove and inspires confidence at low speeds, yet it's well-powered, looks amazing, and promises good fuel economy.