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Rediff.com  » Getahead » PHOTOS: From Bikaner to Jaisalmer on Harley XR1200X

PHOTOS: From Bikaner to Jaisalmer on Harley XR1200X

October 11, 2013 15:50 IST

PHOTOS: From Bikaner to Jaisalmer on Harley XR1200X

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Abhinav Mishra

TopGear took a spin on Harley's sportiest bike through Rajasthan. Here's how the beast responded to desert, rain, grime and the tar...

You have balls of steel". That's what people tell you when you do something really crazy or courageous. Something that involves a certain amount of risk.

Something that may probably make others shudder. No, I'm not talking about clicking candid pictures of your boss at a party and putting it on Facebook. Obviously something like that does make you worthy of a pat on the back, but that's pretty much it.

But when I say balls of steel I mean it in an Evel way. Yes, I said Evel, not evil. As a kid, you've probably heard Evel's holy name. He would have been your inspiration when you attempted stupid stunts on your bicycle. Sure, your parents blew a fuse when they discovered your shenanigans. But to
your friends, you were the Evel Knievel of the neighbourhood.

Evel Knievel was an American legend, a daredevil who made a living doing ramp-to-ramp jumps on a motorcycle.

And one of his most famous jumps was on a Harley Davidson XR750 over 19 cars. That was a world record in 1971. A record held by Evel for 27 years before being broken by someone else. Again on an XR750.

Jumping records were not the only thing Evel broke. In a career that spanned over a decade-and-a-half, Evel also made it to the Guinness Book of World Records -- not for a jump, but for having broken the most number of bones in a lifetime.

That's 433 broken bones if you're interested.

Why this sudden history lesson on an American daredevil, you ask? Well, because I'm riding a Harley-Davidson XR1200X, a bike that pays homage to the XR750. The XR750 was Evel's favourite bike, apart from being Harley's most successful dirt track racer. So yes, unlike a lot of Harleys, which come with large padded seats to rest fat bottoms, the XR1200X is meant for a slightly different breed of riders.

I don't really dislike the Fat Boy or the Road King, but I think they're just too big for our kind of roads. That and their laidback riding positions can make it pretty cumbersome to manoeuvre those bikes in city traffic. So it was refreshing to see a Harley that was as comfortable leaning into corners as it was cruising down straight roads.

The route that we chose for the XR-X was NH15, from Bikaner to Jaisalmer. This route would help the bike see good tarmac and also a bit of dirt. As mentioned earlier, the bike does have a certain dirt-track pedigree and I was sure it wouldn't mind kicking some dirt.


Image: Harley XR1200X
Photographs: Varun Chawla/TopGear

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PHOTOS: From Bikaner to Jaisalmer on Harley XR1200X

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Looks can be deceptive.

The XR-X looks more like a jazzed up cruiser pretending to be a sports bike. Only on close inspection do you notice most of the changes.

The suspension set up is completely different from any other Harley on sale.

The front gets inverted forks that improve stability and the rear get fully adjustable suspension that can be set to your liking. The sporty theme continues with a blacked-out engine and double-barrel exhaust. It also gets a funky instrument pod that reminds you of the moto-Terminator from
Terminator Salvation.


Photographs: Varun Chawla/TopGear

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PHOTOS: From Bikaner to Jaisalmer on Harley XR1200X

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Starting the journey from Bikaner, we got stuck in some city traffic thanks to the heavy rains that were battering the whole of Rajasthan. In this stop-and-go traffic, with trucks spewing black smoke up my nose, the XR-X's engine temperature kept rising as I crawled at snail's pace. This was
not what I had in mind when I set out in the morning.

After battling the morning traffic, we finally made our way to NH15. This is where the XR1200X came into character. The massive 1200cc V-twin seemed to have finally started breathing normally as I started to speed up.

The XR-X's motor makes 91bhp and 100Nm. This may not sound like much, but the torque output is really impressive in the real world.


Photographs: Varun Chawla/TopGear

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PHOTOS: From Bikaner to Jaisalmer on Harley XR1200X

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Thing is, the XR-X might be the sportiest Harley around, but like other Harleys it concentrates more on torque than high-revving mayhem. This is why the XR-X redlines at 6500rpm when competitors like the Ducati Monster rev up to 8000rpm. The competition also produces 10-15Nm less torque than the XR-X.

All that torque does make the clutch feel heavy, especially in city traffic. On an open piece of road though, the story is different. Just slot the XR-X into gear and the rear tyre provides tremendous grip as the 260kg bike lunges forward.

The 17-inch Dunlop D209 Qualifier rear tyre was specifically developed to handle the massive torque this motor produces.


Photographs: Varun Chawla/TopGear

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PHOTOS: From Bikaner to Jaisalmer on Harley XR1200X

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There was ample opportunity to use all that torque on our way to Jaisalmer. This highway mostly consists of straight roads and long bends. There are no sudden twists and turns and road quality is mostly consistent. Also, low traffic density makes this highway perfect for amateurs and experienced
bikers alike. And yes, not to forget the scenic beauty that follows you all the way.

What makes the XR-X all the more fun to ride on these roads is the upright seating position, which is towards the sportier side. Upswept handlebars are designed for easy reach and the seat is comfortable while cornering or cruising.

The foot pegs, seat and handlebar are perfectly placed. This may be the sportiest bike that Harley has in its stable, but it's still comfortable enough for long-distance riding.


Photographs: Varun Chawla/TopGear

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PHOTOS: From Bikaner to Jaisalmer on Harley XR1200X

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With that big engine and sporty dynamics, I finally got bored puttering around at double-digit speeds. So shifting down to third, I twisted the accelerator. The revs build fast and the bike climbs effortlessly to 120kph. The exhaust produces a thunderous note that gets deeper as the needle
moves closer to the redline.

The best I managed was a top speed of 172kph. I think with the tall fifth gear, you'd need a much longer stretch of road to reach Harley's claimed 200kmph top speed.


Photographs: Varun Chawla/TopGear

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PHOTOS: From Bikaner to Jaisalmer on Harley XR1200X

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The XR-X also has impressive stopping power. No matter what speeds I did, the brakes slowed the bike down effortlessly, even under hard braking. The XR-X didn't lose composure and managed 60-0kph without any drama.

In rainy Rajasthan, it coped with all the slush and mud very well. I was reluctant to push it further because it came shod with on-road tyres. But given the right set of rubbers, the XR-X should be as much fun to ride on a dirt track as it is on tarmac. The most surprising bit about the XR-X was how
usable it felt in the most varied conditions.


Photographs: Varun Chawla/TopGear

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PHOTOS: From Bikaner to Jaisalmer on Harley XR1200X

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It braved everything from heavy rains to bad roads and city traffic.

You don't need to be a daredevil like Mr. Knievel to ride around this stretch of highway from Bikaner to Jaisalmer. What you do need is a bike like the XR1200X and an adventurous streak. But most of all, you need balls of steel.

And that has nothing to do with courage. You'll need them to survive the heat radiated by the 1200cc air-cooled motor when you're stuck in traffic.

Experience the all new sporty Harley Davidson with BBC TopGear Magazine India


Photographs: Varun Chawla/TopGear

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