When you think about motorcycle road racing, Harley-Davidsons generally aren’t the first thing that comes to mind. But the folks at Vance & Hines — along with their XR1200 Series — have done an incredible job of changing that thought process over the past couple of years.
Rewind to 2008, when Harley introduced the XR1200 Sportster in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Magazines were quick to cover what are most likely the sportiest bikes ever produced by the motor company.
Small racing leagues began popping up in Spain and Italy with “fun” being they key word whenever someone found a need to explain the XR1200 series. The powers that be in Milwaukee suffered an ear beating from American riders who wanted to know why the new Sporty wasn’t available in the U.S. By the following year, the XR1200 was finally available in its country of birth.
The professionals at Vance & Hines know a good thing when they see it, and the company promptly rolled out the XR1200 Series for 2010 in conjunction with Harley-Davidson. The idea is simple: Take an off-the-showroom-floor XR, slap on the Vance & Hines Race Kit and hit the racetrack.
The Vance & Hines kit features only bolt-ons — internal modifications are not permitted — and this accomplishes a couple of things. For one, it keeps the expense of racing to a manageable level, and it levels the playing field. These factors add up to bar-to-bar racing that is just as exciting for the fans as it is for the racers.
The inaugural 2010 racing season was limited to five races, and was double that number last year. Heavy hitters like Scott Russell, Steve Rapp and Jason Disalvo threw a leg over their modified Harleys, combined with young guns like Danny Eslick, the Wyman brothers, Michael Beck and Chris Fillmore.
And the excitement. Did we mention the excitement? How often do you see XRs three or four across in a corner, or race leads change hands multiple times on the last lap with the winner unclear until the last corner? It happens a lot if you’re watching this series. The buzz was such that the XR riders were asked to bring their brand of action to Indy to run during the MotoGp weekend.
In 2012 the racing has been tight and promises to stay that way as the series heads to Miller Motorsports Park this month in Utah.
Maybe they’re not the fastest bikes on the track, nor do they have the heftiest horsepower, but the XR1200s are definitely the most fun to watch. Too often fun gets lost in the translation when it comes to professional sports. But these XRs are bring smiles to racers and fans alike.
If you like good old-fashion bar-to-bar racing, do yourself a favor and catch an AMA race. They’re coming to cities across the country this year, and doubtless will arrive within biking distance of your hometown. Make a weekend of it. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.