Road test: 2015 Harley-Davidson SuperLow 1200T

Our writer dodges less-enlightened road users on the updated Harley.

Harley-Davidson’s SuperLow 1200T has plentiful torque, paired with substantial ABS brakes. Courtesy Harley-Davidson Motor Company
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In a digital age, transportation doesn’t get any more analogue than an air-cooled Harley-­Davidson. The engine fitted to this, the SuperLow 1200T, has remained unchanged since 1986, with the addition of fuel injection in 2007 the only major alteration – and that’s just how the party faithful likes it.

Hard-core bikers sneer at ­Harleys, dismissing them as overweight machines for riders who can’t ride, unable to even mention the name without blathering on about unwelcome vibration and suspect handling characteristics. Neither of which I have a problem with – not that they’re accurate descriptions these days anyway. For me, the throb of an air-cooled V-twin engine is one of motoring’s finest anachronisms, and its unmistakable lowdown grunt makes for the kind of performance I like. Because being on two wheels scares me half to death, especially in this country, and having plenty of controllable torque at the twist of my right wrist means I’m at ease. Sort of.

This particular model was, until last year, only available with the venerable 883cc engine, but Harley’s engineers managed to find a way of squeezing the larger 1,200cc unit into its compact frame, and this is my first time experiencing it. It has been two years since I was last on two wheels, but everything comes back to me straight away – it’s like, err, riding a bike. You don’t forget.

It’s a good-looking machine. Less obvious and ostentatious than other models, there’s still plenty of shiny chrome on display, with the engine nicely detailed, and two thick pipes emerging and running the length of the bike, terminating just underneath the right-hand-side pannier box. The wheels are particularly lovely, with five dual-spokes adding a touch of modernity, and the handlebars are upswept and nicely spaced. Its seat is generous and comfortable, and as the name suggests, quite low down in the chassis, making for a riding position that’s nice and upright. An easily detachable Perspex screen is the only nod to rider protection, and in these parts at least, it’s best left in situ unless you want to be beaten half to death at speed by wind and airborne dust.

On the move, there’s plenty of torque available at low revs, and it’s nimble and easily manoeuverable, thanks to its rather steep forks and relatively compact dimensions. Wind open the throttle, and it feels much quicker than it actually is, speed piling on in easily controllable doses as I select each of its five gears. The clutch is stiff but not uncomfortable, and the (ABS) brakes, despite being single discs front and rear, are more than up to the job of hauling this 272kg motorcycle to a standstill in no time at all.

Over the four days I have the SuperLow, my confidence in its ability to keep me out of trouble grows constantly, and I’m able to weave in and out of gridlocked traffic to the front of queues without worrying about its girth. It’s simple to operate, and not, in any way, intimidating – which is vitally important when you ride on two wheels as infrequently as I do.

As a commuter bike, then, it works just fine, but its real calling is for the open road, and I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to use the SuperLow for long distance cruises across the Oman border, where the breathtaking coastal routes are ideally suited for such journeys. With the convenience of those twin panniers and a seat that easily accommodates two adults, it could be the perfect vehicle for exploring this region’s sights, especially because you’re sat bolt upright to drink in the views – something else that adds to its usability.

There are only two problems with using motorcycles for touring in this country. One, the weather is about to get too hot to even entertain the idea of riding for pleasure. Then there’s the issue of other motorists, and the scant regard many of them have for other road users. You can’t let your concentration slip for even a split second, and in the space of four days, I have a number of close calls, particularly with drivers of articulated lorries.

But that may not be enough to put you off, and for many, it’s inconceivable that a car could be used when there are bikes to be ridden. I haven’t reached that stage, and I doubt I ever will, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the sense of freedom that can only be experienced on a high-powered motorcycle. The Harley-Davidson SuperLow 1200T (that “T” stands for “Tourer”, by the way) ticks all of my bike boxes, and I do find myself trying to justify buying one. It’s cheaper and easier to run than a car, and offers so much more in the way of old-school charm and character. The only thing stopping me is a fear of other drivers not seeing me. They would definitely hear me, though – what a glorious sound it is. Highly recommended.