How to Take a Harley-Davidson Sportster XR1200 From Street to Racetrack

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Harley-Davidson XR1200 street version (top) and track ready (bottom) Photos: Harley-Davidson

Forget the tricked out crotch rockets buzzing around the track with their high pitched whine and near-horizontal, knee-scraping leans into the turns. Motorcycle racing in this country used to be the domain of American made bikes that were lightweight and powerful. And you sat upright on them. Those bikes are staging a comeback. Starting just last year, AMA Pro Racing added a new event to their schedule: The Vance & Hines XR1200 Race Series.

By XR1200 they mean the Harley-Davidson Sportster XR1200. The same bike you can buy from the dealer and use to cruise down the coast on the weekends. But if you’ve got a jones to test your speed and skills out on the track, you can also take your XR1200 and line it up on the starting grid. You’ll just need to make a few modifications, courtesy of the $3,500 Vance & Hines XR1200 AMA Spec Kit, and some skill with tools.

What you get in the Vance & Hines XR1200 race kit (Photo: Harley-Davidson)

I was at the Indianapolis Speedway this past weekend for the Red Bull Indianapolis MotoGP and to watch a Harley race there for the first time in 100 years. And I got a chance to see these bikes up close and see how they differ from the regular street bikes. In true “stock” racing form, the bikes looked very similar to the street versions (with the obvious mods to the seat, rear fender and suspension). It’s a throwback to when stock racing meant actually racing stock engines. (Right, NASCAR?)

An XR1200 gets tuned in the pit (Photo: Eric Rogell)

According to AMA rules, the engine and transmission must remain the same as on the street bike to keep it competitive, but a high-flow air filter can be used. Teams can replace the factory rear shocks with more tunable systems (which, besides the rider, is what many race teams claim win races), but the front forks must utilize the factory fork legs. In addition to the Vance & Hines supplied race kit parts, race teams are also allowed to upgrade their suspension, hand and foot controls, brake components and instrumentation. As well as adjust the position of the handlebars to the driver’s preferred position. One interesting difference between the bikes’ transmissions: On the race bike the shifter is one up and four down, the opposite of on the street bike.

Still want to race? Here are the specs on the street XR1200X and the dozen items included in the Vance & Hines kit that make it track ready. Spend a little time in the garage, and just over $15K, and you can start your own race team. And start chasing that prize money.

Harley-Davidson XR1200X (MSRP $11,799)

What stays the same on both the street bike and race bike:

  • Isolation-mounted XL air-cooled Evolution® 1200 cc V-Twin engine with black powder-coated finish
  • Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI), high-performance camshafts, precision oil-cooled cylinder heads, five-speed transmission and a large-capacity oil cooler
  • Cast aluminum swingarm
  • Wide, low-rise handlebar
  • 3.5-gallon fuel tank with aircraft-style aluminum alloy fuel filler
  • Rear black 3-spoke cast aluminum wheel: 17 in. x 5.5 in.

What gets changed when you go racing:

  • Upswept, high-volume 2-1-2 straight-shot exhaust system with satin black finish
  • Showa® fully adjustable rear shock absorbers and Showa big piston front forks
  • Nissin® dual front brakes with 292mm full-floating rotors and four-piston calipers
  • Michelin® Scorcher® “11” tires designed specifically for the XR models (These are replaced by the race spec Dunlops)
  • Gloss Black, 3-spoke lightweight Cast Aluminum wheels with orange highlight, 18-inch front / 17-inch rear
  • Compact instrument display with white-faced analog tachometer, digital speedometer, dual trip meter and clock
  • Front black 3-spoke cast aluminum wheel: 18 in. x 3.5 in

Vance & Hines XR1200 Race Kit (MSRP $3,500)

  • Front Fender Kit
  • Steering Damper Kit
  • Steering Stop Assembly
  • 17” Front Wheel
  • Widow 2-1-2 Stainless Exhaust System
  • Racing Fuelpak Tuner
  • Seat Undertray Kit
  • Seat Assembly
  • Belly Pan Kit (Required for all AMA Road Racing)
  • Number Plate Kit
  • Oil Cooler Relocator Kit
  • Decal Kit
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