1997 Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Specsby Susan Dorling
In 1997, Harley-Davidson set a new overhead-valve engine in a narrow, nimble frame and the Sportster legend was born. The best-selling model of the line, the Sportster emerged from the relatively dark ages of the 1950s with the introduction of the Evolution motor in 1986 and burst into the future, its raw power mesmerizing Harley performance acolytes everywhere. Modified and refined ever further in the ensuing years, the 40th anniversary 1997 XLCH Sportster 1200 Sport and XL Sportster 1200 Custom both feature freer-breathing pipes for a massive power boost, vastly improved suspension and a more generous-capacity, travel-friendly fuel tank.
XL Sportster 1200 Sport
Characterized by its raw, understated good looks and power, the 1997 XL Sportster 1200 Sport features a redesigned two-piece seat which converts easily into a solo seat. At the heart of this agile motorcycle, is a 1,200cc Evolution engine synchronized with a five-speed transmission that provides 71 ft.-lbs. of torque at 4,000 rpm. With a 28.9-inch seat height, the Sport is higher than the Custom. Its rigid frame is 87.6 inches long with a wheelbase of 60.2 inches and ground clearance of 6.7 inches. The exhaust features staggered shorty duals.
True to its name, the Sport is the epitome of a high-performance motorcycle, featuring cartridge-type suspension units with multi-spring reload, and compression and reload damping adjustments. The rear shocks feature a remote nitrogen reservoir to help keep the oil from overheating under hard use. The reservoir's bladder separates the gas from the oil to prevent aeration. The forks have a multi-position adjustable rebound and compression damper which are velocity-sensitive and provide incremental damping as movement increases.
The Sport features a dual-disc front brake with two-piece floating brake rotors, significantly reducing lever pressure. The combination of sticky Dunlop K591 Elite Sport tires, high-performance braking system and innovative suspension enhance the overall handling and facilitate high cornering speeds.
Additional Sport Specs
The Sport's cockpit features an electronic speedometer with odometer, resettable trip meter and a tachometer. The Sportster 1200 Sport is a relatively lightweight motorcycle with a dry weight of only 497 lbs. Fuel economy is 52 highway miles per gallon and 45 city mpg with a 3.3-gallon fuel capacity, and oil capacity of 3 quarts.
1997 Sportster 1200 Custom
Powered by a 1,200cc Evolution engine that provides 71.0 ft.-lbs. of torque at 4,000 rpm., the lavishly-finished Custom is an easy-to-handle ride with superb maneuverability; its five-speed transmission provides quick acceleration from all speeds. The Custom's rigid frame is 87.25 inches long and with its relatively low seat height of 27.12 inches and ground clearance of only 4.5 inches, the Custom is an ideal choice for riders of shorter stature and any rider who likes a low-profile ride. Primary drive is triple-row chain and the Custom has a single-disc front brake and slotted-disc rear wheel. The exhaust features staggered shorty duals.
While the Custom does not have as many high-performance features as its Sport sibling, unprecedented styling sets it apart from all of the other Sportster models. From the chrome and black engine treatment and 21-inch laced front wheel to the chrome handlebar clamp and riser combined with a bottom-mount headlamp, the Custom is easily the most glamorous Sportster family member.
Additional Custom Specs
The Custom features an electronic speedometer with odometer and resettable trip meter. The relatively lightweight motorcycle is 490 lbs. dry weight, balanced by a low center of gravity that increases the ease and quality of handling. Fuel economy is 52 highway mpg and 45 city miles per gallon. Fuel capacity is 3.3 gallons; oil capacity is 3 quarts.
- ChuckHawks.com: Sportster
- Harley-Davidson: History 1950's
- "The Harley-Davidson Century"; Motorbooks; 2004
- "Harley-Davidson Sportster Performance Handbook, 3rd Edition"; Buzz Buzzelli; 2006
Based in Ontario, Susan Dorling has written professionally since 2000, with hundreds of articles published in a variety of popular online venues. Writing on a diverse range of topics, she reflects her passion for business, interior design, home decorating, style, fashion and pets.