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Bike Profile - Posted 27th May 2011

1977 Harley Davidson XLCR 1000
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While everyone else in the late seventies was building 'factory customs', Harley Davidson jumped on the Cafe Racer bandwagon with their black on black XLCR. Paul The Destroyer rides an original example...

Isn't it strange how failures become revered and collected?

Witness a few examples - the Ford Edsel, the Amphicar and the DeLorean. All sold in derisory numbers but have since become prized amongst collectors. In the field of bikes there aren't that many examples but amongst Harleys one stands out above all the others. The XLCR.

Built during the AMF years, it was designed by Willie G Davidson himself as his personal project. It should have been marvellous, as it consisted of an XR frame with a blacked out XL1000 engine. The bodywork was loosely based on the XR with a seat unit that tapered to the rear light and a "coffin" tank also finished in black.

Seeing this bike featured in the June 1977 issue of Superbike magazine had a lasting effect on me... 1977 Harley Davidson XLCR 1000

Willie G had noticed that European riders had modified their standard bikes with low bars and rear set pegs to create the Café Racer style that we all know and love. In my opinion the XLCR was probably too little too late because during the mid 70's the custom bike craze was in full swing, and it was a fairly radical departure for a Harley styling wise; if you look at most HD's of the 70's they were all cruiser styled bikes.

Consequently the XLCR suffered one of two fates; either snapped up by collectors or left to languish on dealer showroom floors. This was a great shame as it could have a big seller if it was launched maybe 10 years earlier. It lasted for two whole years in the range and was dropped in 1979.

So, all this adds up to the fact that to see an XLCR is very rare, and you also need to add in that 2,000 were produced in 1977 and 1,200 in 1978. That's just 3,200 worldwide and the world is a pretty big place. That's why an XLCR's normal habitat is either a museum or under a sheet as part of a collector's hoard, quietly gathering both dust and value.

History lesson over, let's fast forward to now. Our favourite Optometrist has a good collection of 70's exotica and part of this is an XLCR from 1977 that is both original and unmolested. There's just one difference though; it gets used. I was lucky enough to be given the chance ride from south west London down to the spring Real Classic bike show at the Ardingly Showground just past Gatwick.

Who *is* the Man Behind The Mirror?... 1977 Harley Davidson XLCR 1000

So what's the XLCR like?

Well first there's the riding position, which is standard 70's sport bike. A nice gentle lean forward to straight bars with your feet tucked behind you. The bike is incredibly slim and the initial impression is of a much smaller machine. I would say all the controls fell easily to hand but I struggled with the indicators for the first few miles. Harley saw fit to put individual buttons on each grip, and by button I mean a tiny one. Plus you have to keep your thumb on the button to make it work, so if say you are turning right which we all know is possibly the most dangerous manoeuvre on British roads, you have to keep your thumb on the button to keep the indicator on while braking and blipping the throttle to change down. Needless to say I had trouble, as I'm not very dexterous.

Aside from that minor gripe the bike is very nice. It actually vibrates less than my Evo Sporty and was much happier at motorway speeds. The screen of the small fairing did a great job of minimising the windblast aiding comfort. On the subject of comfort that seat really is as painful as it looks. The first 40 miles were o.k. but after that the wriggles set in followed by a warm left butt cheek from the oil tank when we were in traffic.

1970's styling, 1940's engine design... 1977 Harley Davidson XLCR 1000
Cafe Racers on Right Now....

Once out of town and in the twisties the riding position works really well, giving good control in the corners with average ground clearance. The handling really is something special as it's set up quite firm and there's no silliness with wallowing or head shaking. I was happily keeping up with Jerry the Old Rocker although I feel he could have disappeared into the distance if he felt like it.

The engine was great with waves of torque in most gears to aid fairly rapid forward motion. Once out on the motorway it felt like it would run up to and through the 90 mph barrier really easily, not that I tried obviously officer. The biggest surprise is how your senses are fooled. You sit on a slim bike with this big booming exhaust note coming from somewhere. You honestly think it can't be me, odd that.

To me it's a real shame that the XLCR didn't sell, as aside from the seat it really is a nice bike to ride. This might have something to do with the fact that this particular bike was rumoured to be a press bike so it was built properly, unlike a lot of the products of the AMF years.

The XLCR has enough character to keep you entertained and to remind you that you are riding something just a little bit special.


With its chest-high seat, the XLCR does not favour shorter riders... RealClassic Magazine, May 2011, Issue 85

The very bike that Paul rode - pictured here with its proud owner - is featured in more detail in the May issue of RealClassic magazine, available as a single issue from the first of June 2011.


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