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New 2011 H-D 1200 Custom Gets Really “Custom”

“Custom” used to mean a customizer actually built a unique, one-off motorcycle just for you. Then it morphed into the oxymoronic “factory custom,” with thousands of identical bikes rolling out of factories in America and Japan. For 2011, Harley-Davidson is introducing a customizing program for its mid-year release 2011 Sportster Custom that could shift the word back to what it used to mean. 

Even if you just want the basic bike, the 1200 Custom gets a lot of changes (for a Sporty) for 2011. New five-spoke cast-aluminum wheels get fat 16-inch tires front and back. A wider fork with polished triple clamps further accents the wide stance. The venerable “eyebrow” over the headlamp is restyled, and the front is matched by a smaller, reshaped tail lamp. MSRP is $10,299, a $300 bump over the 2010 1200 Custom. 

Harley Davidson is now offering its “H-D1” factory customization program to buyers of the 2011 Sportster 1200 Custom. Through a tool on its website, customers can choose wheels, bars, engine finish, paint and graphics and other details in over 2600 possible combinations.   Once the prospective buyer is satisfied with how his new bike will look, he or she can go down to a participating dealer and get “fitted” for the bike, with dealership personnel recommending bars, seats, controls and accessories that will ensure a perfect fit for the rider.

According to a video on the H-D site, radical adjustments like suspension and seat-foam alteration can be made to make sure everybody (read: even very short people) has a bike they can safely manage. The order is placed, and within a month or two the built-to-order bike is delivered to the waiting customer. Victory actually  started this program for 2011 as well with its Cross Roads tourer, and it’s not just good for the consumer—dealers can keep less inventory in their showrooms and warehouses, a key advantage these days. 

I’m looking forward to a time when buying a new bike is a more involving experience, where a motorcycle is tailored to the individual like a suit of leathers. Modern “just in time” manufacturing and communications makes this not just possible, but inevitable. But will it mean the end of the days of snapping up last year’s leftover models at steep discounts?  Probably not—no amount of computer power or slick marketing will eliminate the foibles of human error.


  1. MikeD says:

    I like the Yellow/Black one.
    Just not swallowing that “Farm Tractor Tire” of a front tire.
    Why not 17″ front and back ? It would give the rider a “really wide spectrum” of tire choices, not to mention better handling.
    Oh, wait ! , we are talking about a cruiser here, and not just any cruiser but an H-D. No chance for evolution of The Breed.
    Echoing others, the XR1200 was going in the right direction, but they slapped an 18″ hoop on the front, SMALLish tank, that HIDEOUS(for sure made of lead HEAVY) Ducati Exhaust knock off, a steady diet of donuts, milk & oreos and all went down the drain from there.

    Keep trying H-D, u could get my attention and money someday.

    P.S: If i wanted heavy with benefits i would rather buy a Bandit 1250 ABS and still have some $ to buy an aftermarket can and other bits and pieces.

  2. Neil says:

    I own a Harley Nightster 1200 and it is all about the motor. I’ve owned many Japanese inline fours, twins and now a Suzuki TU250 single as well. In each gear the Harley pulls like a tractor yanking a stump out of the ground and once settled into a 40 mph glide down a back road there’s a nice rumble that you become part of. I added Ohlins shocks (nice to actually have an engineering mind in the old noggin) so the ride is now nice and smooth. Everywhere I go people are bound to say, “That’s a Sportster? What year?” – If we want something else, there’s lots of else out there. The price is made in USA. And we have choices there too. Style? I agree with innovation. Love what Confederate did, for example. But it is simply not what Harley Davidson is. Look at the Ducati Diavel. That is, the different cruiser with light weight etc. – But, it’s not a Harley.

  3. T. Rollie says:

    How much do my kids yearn for a beautiful Buick? How many times have I heard, Dad, I really like that Oldsmobile, but I like the Cadillac even more. Harley has a serious youth problem. They need to hope that at least folks in their 40’s start falling in love with a Harley, after they sell their Japanese or European ride. I wish them well. But for the kind of money Harley asks, I’d certainly look at the latest European bikes first…

    • H-D says:

      i am only 20 and have a HD 1200 custom and wouldnt trade it for anyother brand of bike. my buddies have foreign bikes but wish they had mine. so HD def. do appeal to the youth. I like to keep my money in america not overseas!

  4. chris says:

    Wow 2011 and the so called motor company comes out with more obsolete junk,How long are they going to continue to make bikes that were obsolete when they . first came out 50 years ago.They owned a great company in Buell ,but they really screwed them up by not letting Erik comew out with the great designs he had,and in reading all the magazine articles that have been written since HD closed them you come to realize just how stupid harley really is CEO keith Wandell said that harley davidson does not want to be in the adrenalin market.(meaning no sport bikes) Hello Wandell but motorcycles ARE about adrenalin Another ex. is that Harley spent more money on designing the rear fender of the Rocker than they gave Buell for the entire 1125 project.Well i guess when you spend a boat load of money you get a Boat anchor

  5. tommy says:

    A John Deere would go faster, handle better and be cheeper.

  6. Roger says:

    Harley vs. TW 200? That could be an interesting road review. Do it!

  7. Beaufort says:

    There’s one problem with just-in-time, built-to-order bikes: you can’t test ride them before you buy them.

  8. Hoshiko says:

    I will give HD one point for having options, many manufacturers won’t even deal with it, at least here in US. Most bikes in Europe have ABS option at least.
    I kind of like the front tire (TW200) but, unless I’m buying the tractor, sorry bike to put in my leaving room, all I see is the same old 1950s technology in a 2015 price tag.

  9. Stinky says:

    This is so sad. This is Custom? I’ve owned and own (kinda) a few sportsters (XLCR Cafe Racer, S1,Ulysses). I’d like to see some sporty geometry with some ability to go more than a hundred miles between fillups. The XR1200 was a step in the right direction but is pretty overweight with no gas tank and no way to put another on. Why oh why did they go with 16 inch wheels, the XR has odd sizes too. So far the standard has settled on 17s. How can you get the pegs where they oughta be? Evidently we just don’t understand the freedom & individuality of motorcycling like the Custom Cruiser guys.

  10. Dave says:

    H-D common stock has skyrocketed since March 2009. Who would have thought ? They know how to run a business even if their bikes are old school.

    • Stinky says:

      Wallstreet can make stock jump by selling the future and ruining the company for following decades for the next quarter jump. All the CEOs went to the same school and read the same books and do the same thing when handed the reins. Cut wages, threaten to move overseas unless proper bribes and ransoms are paid, sell or give away anything that doesn’t pay bonuses immediatly even though the market is going that way. Build some great buggy whips don’t go with those newfangled cars!

    • Tim says:

      Their stock has risen recently because they’ve made decisions which will adversely affect long term viability, in order to increase short term gains.

      Most traders today don’t buy stocks with the intention of holding them long term, so Harley is looking good to them right now. I’d suggest to anyone buying Harley stock for the long term, to look elsewhere for another investment.

  11. Tom Shields says:

    To be honest, I’m a big fan of the consumer having a la carte choices for anything from cars to scooters to cable channels.

    Good on HD for offering it. Too bad they’re still Harleys, though.

  12. Old town hick says:

    I may be a bit off-topic here since this article is about “factory customization” of a current model, but what I would be truly intersted in from HD is a bike designed for what a marketing team might call Balanced Performance Dynamics. The XR1200 begins to address this issue, but when I recently went into a dealer to sit on one I found the air cleaner where my right knee wanted to be, footpegs that are still too far forward, and rake-and-trail dimensions that still seemed a bit chopper-esque. The basic model that they start with is just too antiquated to be band-aided into a reasonable performance bike. I wanted to like it…but couldn’t.

    I think I could be okay with the engine if it were wrapped into a chassis that allowed an appropriate riding position, good brakes, proper wheel and tire dimensions, and suspension with quite a lot more travel. Better yet, how about using that V-Rod motor that has been fairly wasted for a decade now, sitting in a pseudo drag bike? And heck, with proper ground clearance the thing might even be able to have…a centerstand!

    After thirty years of riding while having owned 18 bikes from Japan, Italy, and Germany, and trying out a couple dozen others, I know that anything in Harley’s current lineup is light-years from what I want to own/ride. 95-110 HP at 500 about pounds wet with decent handling and brakes (ABS equipped), and 5-6 gallons of fuel are about right for my current (and probably maxed-out) skill set and risk tolerance. Relatively simple options like saddlebags, shield/fairing, GPS would be desireable, allowing for meaningful customization AND added profit opportunities.

    The parameters listed above were mastered by other manufacturers a long time ago. It shouldn’t be hard for HD to do the same, and they would then have a legitimate shot at making me a customer. I suspect that many other experienced riders have similar sentiments.

    • Mark P. says:

      “…I think I could be okay with the engine if it were wrapped into a chassis that allowed an appropriate riding position, good brakes, proper wheel and tire dimensions, and suspension with quite a lot more travel…”

      Yeah, but then it’d be called a Buell and Harley would kill it off! 🙂

  13. GaryF says:

    I would not hit my dog in the butt with a Sportster. Harley axes Buell and gives us THIS crap? Sad … really sad.

  14. Kenneth L Springhetti says:

    Perpetual Sportster Rehash.. HD has their own “Custom Chrome” catalog and is just doing in the showroom, what most million dollars Sportster owners used to do from the Fat Book catalog…


    • jimbo says:

      Kenneth, that’s a pretty astute observation.

      Mini’s website gloats of 2500 (maybe millions, I forget) different combination/variation of each model. BMW cages are long and rightly criticized for having too many packages, combination of packages, followed by hundreds of separate options for each model.

      Creating and/or filling some human need or desire to be different is just so much marketing hogwash…”nothing new under the sum”.

  15. Ze says:

    new lights, wheels, bars, graphics …
    same handling, weight, brakes …

    ps: Dick, is this captcha a guessing game? they should improve this thing.

    • jimbo says:

      It’s “Dirck, an apparently common name in some parts of the globe (one of my customers is named “Dirk”).

      It took me forever to figure out to ignore spaces between words, apparently inserted only to fool the bots. Hope that helps! Oh, and look closely for commas.

  16. kpaul says:

    Hasn’t Victory done this for years? for more models?

    • tepi says:

      BMW has done this for at least a couple of decades. There’s nothing “custom” about it, unless you call a Honda Civic a custom – it has many more configurations available

  17. Mach VIII says:

    Ha! Reminds me of (less capable) Yamaha TW200 with that stupid looking balloon of a tire/wheel up front.

    Back to the parts bins once again for Harley. New for 2011, now you the buyer can raid the parts bins yourself and make your very own “new model.” [yawn] Still a turd of a bike with an overweight underpowered lump. Pass.

  18. rg500g says:

    I own a heavily modified RG500 gamma and a bone stock 1971 BSA Lightning. I have a lot of fun on either bike, and about all they have in common is that they are both motorcycles. The HD is also a motorcycle, believe it or not – just not one that I’d own, but it is a motorcycle and it does appeal to a certain segment. For what it is I won’t knock it. The concept of getting ‘fitted’ is not new, but within HD’s franchise network it can be well executed. Frankly, I’d rather see this approach to customizing an HD than putting it on a dyno and throwing a bunch of Screaming Eagle parts at it. There are a lot of folks who hopefully will buy the bike, love it, not do Starboyz standing monos on it down a highway in rush hour, will buy a HD applique for that Bikram toned deltoid, and grow the motorcycling population on the roads. I can’t complain.

  19. William says:

    Wow, that is one good looking Kawasaki Vulcan.

  20. todd says:

    Still wont’ get me to buy a hog!!!! yada yada yada!! Boring!! Same old, same old crap!

  21. Dean says:

    I agree that other manufacturers should offer SOME options with their models, like color, seats, etc.

    But I don’t care what color it is, that is one Turd of a Harley! Once again, changing lights, clamps, and rims slightly and calling it a new model? Nothing says “Sporty” like a rear wheel in the front! Bring on the handling course!

  22. jimbo says:

    HDs 1200 Customs look great, esp. the top one in butterscotch. Providing so many “custom” choices to buyers reminds me of something…


    I’m not really that interested in any new bike. But the above-described “H-D1” factory customization program reminds me of BMWs fall 2008 “Lo-Rider factory custom” concept, look just as good as HD’s 1200 Custom and guaranteed to have twice the performance.

    Maybe the US bankers who ruined the world economy (none charged to date) sunk the Lo Rider. I still yearn for the Lo Rider because it specs and looks so good. Even the most hardened cruiser-hater might like it.

    See if you agree

  23. Tim says:

    I’m not a Harley guy at all, but the yellow and black sportster isn’t bad looking. At least they’re more like real motorcycles as compared to the boats that their bigger bikes are.

    Still, at that price, there are a lot better, faster, lighter, more reliable options out here.

  24. Kevin says:

    I’m a 50 year old guy whose ridden bikes since I was 8. I’ve had fire breathing sport bikes, dirt bikes, standards and a couple of touring BMW’s all the while enjoying the technology as it lept about the bike impoving every segment it touched. By the mid 1990’s the technology had raised the speed at which we all eventually crash to an unacceptable level. I wasn’t having fun any more. Riding had become more than a little scary with exception of track days.

    I’ve watched HD carefully all these decades wishing they could produce something I could use knowing full well that someday each of us has to find a way to have fun within the legal limits. This Sportster isn’t my dream bike. I can’t ride with my feet forward and the bike is quite overweight. Storz does make rearsets however, and everything else about the bike can be brought upto acceptable street performance levels. The HD’s are now reliable, smooth, belt driven, big gas tanked, low maintenance and no matter what the naysayers say, they are cool.

    The question is “how much am I willing to spent for this?” By the time one gets the HD options, brakes, suspension, exhaust, rearsets, etc. all sorted out one will have over 15K in this modest street bike. Is that too much? For me it still is. ….but it’s getting a heck of a lot closer to something I might buy. Especially since all I want to do is have a little fun.

    • clasqm says:

      @Kevin: Why not just get the XR1200, then? It seems more in line with what you want

      • Kevin says:

        The XR1200 is a fine bike except for fuel range. By the time you tune like you want it, i.e. pipes, K&N, fuel remap etc. the smallish tank is a major handicap. I live in the Blue Ridge mountains near Deals Gap where gas stations can get very scarce at times. The XR feels a little “swollen” at times too. Very plastic.

        Actually I’d rather own a 796 Duc Monster except for this same fuel range problem. That and the stupid tank jams my package up. Can’t the Italians figure out how to make a fuel tank for a man?

  25. Brinskee says:

    I agree – these photos should work well as sleep aids when I’m suffering from insomnia. Good luck Titanic – oops, I mean Harley Davidson.

  26. Dennis says:


  27. Marc says:

    Another parts bin Harley…..
    When they come out with something really “New” I might care.
    Can’t wait to see what Eric Buell comes up with now that he isn’t tied to HD

  28. ABQ says:

    I wish that they would put the rear indicator lights all the way to the back. The current position limits the type of bags you can put on, and limits the space inside of those you can use. And, just give us the five gallon tank they have on the dyna. While they are at it add a tachometer.

  29. Mitch says:

    Sorry, but I believe it is a cheaper looking motorcycle and looks more like a Japanese cruiser than a harley – paint scheme, front rim/wheel, etc.

  30. Mickey says:

    Wow 2600 possible combos for customising. Great idea. I applaud Harley for the effort. Better than buying a “standard” bike and having to change all that stuff afterwards yourself thereby buying 2 seats, 2 sets of bars, 2 sets of pipes, custom painting etc etc. Wish”.

    One of the biggest complaints of most motorcycles manufacturers is that each year they offer the same old bike in “bold new colors and graphics”. However you don’t get an option in those colors or graphics. Would sure be nice if you could.

    Would have loved to have an option on color, seat height, foot peg location, bar height and bend, heated grips, cruise control etc on my Honda ST.

  31. Pushrod says:

    Actually, “custom” used to mean you built your OWN dadburned bike to assure a perfect fit for a particular rider. But that means the rider must know more about the bike than just the monthly payment and the paint color.

  32. falcodoug says:

    Bla, bla, bla, same thing again.

  33. Gene says:

    Can you order it with horse power?

    • William says:

      No, for that you have to go to the parts counter and ask for the screaming eagle upgrade.

    • Neil says:

      Short stroke motors like the Ducati DO create more hosepower at the expense of torque and Harley DID with their VROD which I have ridden and which is very nice indeed. Having said that, there is nothing like letting the clutch out on my Nightster and it moves immediately. The whole first two thirds of the throttle is great. And that’s what I want pulling out into traffic. On the highway I would like more horsepower, but, a Harley Superglide twin cam 88 six speed will give you just that. I’ve written to Harley and made the same arguments on various forums. But now that I have ridden my Sportster, I see what it’s about. Cruising through my town on the main drag on my Sportster, people everywhere are watching me cruise and I am enjoying it. Every place I stop, people are chatting about the paint and the Ohlins and the fork gators and so on. It’s a real motor-cycle. Raw. Rough edged. Tractor like. Unrefined. It ain’t French bread! That’s what it’s all about. Try it.

  34. Austin ZZR 1200 says:

    Great. The target demo for this (20-somethings) will have fun building it online only to be gravely disappointed by the tractor-inspired lump that gets delivered.

    Feeble, HD. The world is passing you by…

  35. Travman says:

    The new taillight and headlight eyebrow look stupid. They should have left them alone.

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