Harley-Davidson CA1200 Sportster

What is it?

The 2013 Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom XL 1200 CA is the second smallest of the Harley range, after the 883 Sportster. A very old design that Harley keeps reinventing it is, nevertheless, an ideal entry-level bike for those interested in the cruiser segment. Some of the range feature forward mounted “Easy Rider” foot pegs, while others are of the straight-down variety. Try a few different models to see which position suits you best.  As with all Harleys, the range of after-market accessories is almost limitless, allowing you to customise the Sporty to suit your own individual needs.


Air-cooled, Evolution (following on from previous Engine types like the Rocker) the Evo 1202cc-engine has new rubber  mounts, aluminum heads and cylinders that lighten the load of the bike and improve air-cooling efficiency and there is also electronic fuel injection. Final drive is belt, handling the engine’s output of 98Nm@3200r/min.

Style, instruments and equipment

Classic Harley Sportster styling: low seat, laid-back riding position, almost straight “drag bike’”-style handlebars. You’ve got some chrome centre-mounted clocks to look at and the paint finish is a two-tone candy apple, beer bottle colour. The engine is a matt black powder-coated Evolution finish, enhancing the Sportster look. This model comes with Screaming Eagle exhausts and had a pleasant throaty sound. Fitted optional extras on this model were some really snazzy stereo HD speakers and accompanying iPod5 adapter. Also spoked wheels, clad with 16’’ Michelin Scorcher tyres finishing a limited edition custom look. No fancy rider aids like ABS or traction control here.


The 1202cc engine creates a decent amount of power; however the five-speed gearbox seems to be out of sync with the engine tuning. At 80km/h the engine feels like it’s struggling, often necessitating a downshift to even things out – the engine becomes almost jerky in top gear, which could be a gearing issue on this particular model. At highway-legal speeds the CA feels composed, with a top speed of 160km/h easily achievable, although not recommended. (Again, I think the 16’’ wheel size may have something to do with the higher speed instability, but this is purely speculative. I suggest taking one for a test ride and finding out for yourself.)

Ride and Handling

The ride position is classic Sportster, low down in the frame with arms outstretched and is very comfortable – more streetfighter than cruiser.

I enjoyed commuting on this bike and found that the engine noise alerted cars to my presence – when parked up at a traffic light, the bike would always get admiring looks from car drivers. Fuel consumption was indicated at around 20km a litre, not bad at all for a bike that weighs a little short of 250kg. A nice feature is the reserve light indicator that comes on when the fuel is starting to run low.

I did not like the very low foot pegs, which scraped going around each corner (that’s weird, most people love scraping something when going through corners – ed). And the little pillion seat is totally useless – one person actually preferred walking home to getting a lift back. I think that Harley have added this “seat” purely for styling – this bike is brilliant as one-person bike, but sucks as a two-person carrier (you can try different seats, there are plenty to choose from).

The test bike emitted a strange sound at low speeds, which I will raise with Harley on returning the bike – this took away some of the enjoyment of the ride at slow speeds, but was not evident at higher speeds.

The fat 16’’ Michelin tyres, custom made for Harley Davidson, do make the bike very nimble (they tend to turn a little easier than bigger wheels) – at the front is a 130/90 and at the rear, a 150/80.

A special mention must go to the excellent brakes on this model, both front and rear brakes worked extremely well under harsh braking conditions.

The suspension, or actually the lack of it, should be mentioned. The ride on this bike is hard, really hard.


Like: I really like the sound of the bike, that special Harley sound amplified by the Screaming Eagle exhausts.

Dislike: Strange engine noise at lower speeds and the gearbox.

Verdict and rating

Harley has created another piece of riding art here and this bike will make many a weekend rider very happy indeed. But it felt a bit average. 6/10

Also consider

Kawasaki Vulcan, Yamaha Star Bolt, Moto Guzi Giso 8 V, Ducati Diavel Strata and also Victory.

Specifications for 2013 Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom XL 1200 CA

  • Engine   Air-cooled Evolution 1202cc
  • Gearbox  Five-speed, belt drive
  • Power   n/a
  • Torque  98Nm@3200r/min
  • Weight  251kg, dry
  • Seat height  710mm
  • Fuel capacity  17 litres
  • Fuel consumption  +- 5litre/100km
  • Warranty and servicing  Two-year unlimited km, service and maintenance plan available.
  • Price  R128 995
  • Ridden by Bikeroutes  April 2013
  • Review by  Mukhtar Mukuddem

More info from  www.harley-davidson.com/wcm/africa 


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