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Saturday, 26 November 2011

Friday bike

Yes, I know it's Saturday!

Some manufacturers set out (or end up!) with a distinctive 'signature' that defines their products. A lot of the British companies stuck by the parallel twin, Ducati and Moto Guzzi are defined by their V twin engines, BMW their flat twins, and most of all Harley Davidson with their custom V twins. The Harley signature is so well defined that other manufacturers try to copy it as closely as patent laws allow. (Remember Harley tried to take a legal action against Honda who they said had copied their distinctive 'potato, potato' engine sound?)
You've got to admire Harley Davidson as they've made a successful business out of marketing a range of bikes that are distinctively different from other manufacturers, and are the one brand non-motorcyclists have heard of. Personally, I don't get the Harley 'thing', but enough people do to keep the company going, and if that's what they want, who am I to disagree?
However, there is one (and only one) Harley V twin that I have ever wanted or admired, and to underline the fact that I don't get the Harley 'thing', it's their least successful model!

The 1977-79 XLCR Cafe Racer. Built as a competitor to European and Japanese sports bikes, and latching on to the 'cafe racer' fashion popular in the US at the time, it never really 'gelled' as a model. Too different from the norm for Harley riders, and too expensive and slow to compete with European and Japanese bikes, it was destined to fail.
Basically just a Sportster engine in a modified Sportster frame with alloy wheels, good brakes (a first for a Harley!), but stupendous styling! Most Harleys are, to British tastes, pretty ugly and styled in the 'tart's handbag' mileau, but the XLCR looked really sharp. A BMW type fairing, a tank similar to a Honda CB400, a tailpiece influenced by flattrackers, and THAT exhaust, all added together to create a well balanced package. The beautiful way the exhaust downpipes flow in then out of each other is a work of art, and are the icing on the cake as far as I'm concerned.
Whilst it's undoubtedly a beautiful bike, owning one might be a bit of a chore as the engine is very low tech and it was built during an era were build quality was far down the list of priorities for Harley. But would it be any harder to live with than a 70s British bike?
According to what I could find on the Web, about 3,200 were built, and no doubt very few made it to the UK. So few in fact, that I've never actually seen one, and have only seen a couple for sale (for ludicrously high prices) over the years.(Cue Larry coming along and saying 'I've got three in my shed, and they only cost me $10 each!')
More details here.


  1. Oh I wish, but there is a woman who used to work for the school district, who has two of them and an old Knucklehead. Of the bikes HD made, the XLCR is one I admired, and of course who would turn down a classic old Knucklehead. She also owns a Classic Chris-Craft speed boat. These were all left to her by her husband who unfortunately passed away a few years ago. She is savvy to what they are worth, and is justifiably tired of creepy vultures trying to talk her out of them. Her son has been helping her get them going again,so if she decides to sell, she should get a fair price for them.
    A hotted up Alloy Sportster done up in the XLCR style might make an interesting ride, wonder how many have done that?

  2. I think that this is the only Harley that I actually like the look of. Even Willie G. Davidson, senior vice president & 'chief styling officer', of HD reckons that it's the best looking bike his company ever produced. I think that there was some talk of possibly resurrecting the model for the European market a while back, but I think that the V-Rod probably fulfilled that role.

  3. Though I've owned a 2003 Dyna Super Glide FXD and just got rid of it, the XLCR is the only other HD that I would buy. Back in the 70s when this came out I drooled over it to no end. Still want's even on my list of "Dream Motorcycles" along with a Triumph X-75 Hurricane and a real BSA Rocket 3