Cruising Cali’s coast on the Iron 1200
Photography by RS
Having just spent a couple of weeks with the LiveWire—one of the most expensive bikes in Harley’s lineup—we changed things up and went to the other end of the spectrum to roll with the $9999 Iron 1200.
It’d been a couple of years since my last sojourn with the air-cooled Harley, and I’ll admit to being curious to try one since they came out in 2018.
The Iron is basically a bored-out 883 Sporty, using the air-cooled, 1202cc, Evolution motor that’ll get you a claimed 74 lb-ft of torque at 3500 rpm, matched to a five-speed gearbox.
It’s got essentially the same chassis, suspension and brakes in the preload-adjustable twin rear shocks and non-adjustable conventional fork, and twin-piston front and rear brakes. Basic is a word that comes to mind here. It’s the same setup Harley has used for eons, which can be both a good and a bad thing, depending on your point of view.
Style-wise the Iron 1200 is a hark back to the roaring ’70s with small ape hangers, and a 3.3-gallon tear drop gas tank resplendent in the AMF-style font that appeared so many great racing Harley’s of the time.
You’ll be riding solo on the Iron 1200 just as you would on the 883, and if you don’t mind a distinct curve at the rear that can curve your lower back (as it did mine) it’s almost comfortable. Almost.
Harley designers have gone for the custom look with the 1200 and they’ve done a good job, in my amateurish eyes. The low-slung slash-cut mufflers, blackness on the headlight cowling and air-cleaner, plus the rather cute fork gaiters make for a pretty good looker, which translates into a ride I surprisingly didn’t despise as much as I thought I would.
It’s a harsh ride on the 1200, no doubt. The rear shocks will give you real shocks if you’re riding on anything but a smooth surface. It gets worse if you slouch, as I have been known to do on a Sporty. At this point, you’ll get such a whack you’ll instantly be standing up straight, just like the teacher told you all those years ago.
Do this, and the ride becomes much more pleasurable. The front is likewise rather unsympathetic to road corrugations, but it’s not as pronounced as the rear.
On smooth roads, the ride is actually rather nice. There’s plenty of torque on offer, but a sixth gear would be a nice addition to the five-speed gearbox. You’ll get plenty of Harley vibes through the pegs but not as many through the bars as expected, especially not once you quickly get to sixth gear and let the Hog hum its way down the Pacific Coast Highway.
This is absolutely not a bike to cover long miles on. But it does have a niche it can fill. The Iron 1200 brings a custom look for under $10K with the right name on the tank and the right sound, if that’s your jam.
I see it as a bit of a blank canvas. Upgrade the suspension, perhaps put some heat wrapping on the exhaust and you’ll have yourself a pretty funky bike. CN
2020 Harley-Davidson Iron 1200 Specifications
||Air-cooled 45° V-twin, 4-stroke
|Bore x stroke:
||88.9 x 96.8mm
||39mm fork, non-adjustable
||Twin shock, non-adjustable
||2-piston caliper, ABS
||2-piston caliper, ABS
|Weight (wet, claimed):