January 18, 2010
Harley XLCR Cafe Racer – Too Soon or Too Late for Harley?
Growing up in the age of cafe racers and choppers I never really got into choppers, but was blown away by cafe racers and the high performance and racer look in general. My first motorcycle, a tired old Honda Superhawk I bought used in college, ended up wearing low bars, low restriction air cleaners and “racer’ exhaust. Over the years I have owned and enjoyed many cafe racer motorcycles, including a mostly original Harley XLCR in the original sinister all-black finish. Not as nice as the machines I am showing here, but not bad.
Introduced by Harley-Davidson in 1977, the 1000 cc, V-twin XLCR is viewed as either a hug mistake or an under appreciated cult bike today. Harley produced 1,923 XLCRs in 1977 and hoped to capture some of the market already enjoyed by BMW with their R90S, and other sportbike manufacturers.
The 1977 Harley XLCR was mounted in a newly designed frame that featured longer rear frame rails to mount the rear shocks more vertically and the rear shock mount close to the rear wheel axle for improved handling. Each XLCR left the factory on Morris cast aluminum mag wheels, which were sportier than wires.
The eye-catching bodywork was turn on or off, depending on your idea of what a motorcycle should look like. the gas tank, bikini fairing, and tail section were made of fiberglass, and the oil tank was new for this model. The basically stock 1,000cc Sportster engine was finished with a wrinkle black finish, and breathed out through the unique “Siamese” exhaust system.
Focusing on the “sport” part of the Sportster, this model featured triple disc brakes – two up front and one in the back, low handlebars to allow the ride to lean forward into a racer tuck, and rearsets – mounting the riders pegs and foot controls farther back. The rearsets also included mounting the foot shifter backwards to reverse the shifting pattern – GP style.
Harley continued to produce and sell the XLCR in 1978, manufacturing 1,201 models. And the only major difference I have been able to uncover was the optional dual seat. The factory claims to have built 9 more XLCRs in 1979, probably out of whatever parts were left over from the previous year.
While the Harley Cafe Racer looks great to today’s eyes, it was never a good seller when new. Many Harley dealers has new models on the showroom floor for sale several years after Harley discontinued manufacturing them.
Looking back, I sometimes wonder why I sold my 1977 Harley XLCR – I still think it is a handsome looking machine with classic cafe racer lines. But then I remember how the handling and brakes weren’t up to the task. Still it is a good looking Harley!