2001 H-D FXSTD Deuce vs. BMW R1200 C Phoenix

Swing low, sweet chariot...

story by MO Staff, Created Jan. 07, 2001
Swing low, sweet chariot...

Torrance, California, January 7, 2001 --

"Dayam foo, dat shiznit is TIGHT! What iz dat? Itz a Harley, right?"

"Uh, yea... It's a Softail Deuce."

"A Deuce? Shi*, dat shi* iz DOPE!"

In typical fashion, Minime beat HackFu to a "rustic" diner. As he was removing his gear, a "local" had approached him in regards to the motorcycle he was riding. We join the conversation already in progress.

"Uh, sure... its, um, dope."

They proceeded to discuss international politics and the slumping Blue Chip, when...

"Oh, TRIP, whass dat?"

Our friend had spied HackFu turning into the parking lot, navigating carefully between strategically placed oil puddles and cigarette butts.

"Oh, thats a Beemer. It's an R-twelve-hund..."

"Fo real? I din't know bee-em-dub made cruisaz..."

A cruiser? BMW? We all knew what the "C" in R1200C stood for, but we had never given it much thought. We've always imagined the 1200C to be more "standard" than "cruiser." We had a slight revelation when we rode it, though. And seeing it parked next to the Motor Company's preeminent cruiser, the Deuce, we realized something vitally important: The R1200C is a damn fine cruiser.

You'll have to forgive us. We view most BMWs the same way a Formula One tire changing crew member views the air-hose to his impact wrench: Reliable and dependable. Nothing really fancy, but an integral part of our livelihood, regardless. The Phoenix iteration of our 2001 R1200C was, as our new friend put it, "all dat'n mo!"

It sho, er, sure was.

Not that we're saying the Deuce is a big slouch. With 61.1 hp, it does pretty well for itself. Cruisers have a reputation for being ill-handling, heavy, bad-braking piles of second-rate, chromed steel. Harsh? Yes. The truth? Probably. These new machines have proved otherwise, though. The BMW's performance can be rationalized by its German heritage. But what about the Deuce?

And, as many gawkers and would-be-tire-kickers would ask, "which one is the best?"

Harley-Davidson FXSTD Softail Deuce  When we first rode the Deuce in the Fall of '99, we instantly saw qualities that made this model stand out from the rest. The Twin-Cam 88B motor, fuel-injection, tight chassis and, more importantly, the subtle styling cues, showed us that Harley-Davidson could incorporate modern design philosophies while maintaining their unmistakable bloodline. Pardon the clichˇ, but this was the Harley-Davidson for the new millennium.

The Deuce's tenure at MO only proved that statement. The bike's smooth and reliable engine kept us happy except for one problem, this being slightly less oomph than we'd expect from a big, burly V-twin. No matter, we'll be resolving that issue momentarily (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). The captain's seat has a "scoop" design that our taller riders found comfortable. The pillion seat, while sparse, was adequate enough for short jaunts through the city. Longer journeys will more than likely require different seating arrangements or an on-call proctologist. Thankfully, the counter-balancers on the rigid-mount 88B motor work wonderfully at keeping the vibes at more than pleasant levels.

The Deuce's handling proved stellar for bike of its stature, but we found braking performance to be somewhat lackluster. The addition of another caliper and disc to the chromed fork legs would slow things down far better. Which brings us to complaint number two: The front forks are extremely soft compared to the rather well set-up rear. Unfortunately, brake dive and vague front-end feedback became the rules of the road. Granted, to most cruiser fans, these issues would be a mere pittance. But we're comparing the H-D to a BMW remember? 2001 BMW R1200C Phoenix The engine is typical BMW fare. Its air/oil-cooled, four-valve, fuel-injected, boxer-twin is satisfactory for all but the most power-hungry cruiser fan. Although the engine does display some buzz, it is in no way intrusive to the general riding experience. Power spooled on quickly and smoothly with the redline approaching too quickly for some of our more spirited riders. The noises coming from both the engine and exhaust proved to be trance-inducing, putting us in a Zen-like state with the surrounding motionscape. In sharp contrast, the noises from the Deuce made us feel like we were part of the bike, one step removed from our surroundings.

Page 2Mechanically, the Phoenix is identical to the standard R1200C. In fact, most of the custom parts can be retrofitted to a stock R1200C. However, the Phoenix rolls on new, three-spoke BBS rims. Extra illumination is provided by the addition of two driving lights flanking the main headlight. The turn signals feature nouveau-chic, clear lens covers (the bulbs are amber-tinted), and their housings are chrome-plated. The alternator cover, oil cooler bezel, brake lever and clutch lever have all been chrome plated for further refinement and some additional oohs, aaahs and shiznits.

Further visual differences between the standard R1200C and our Phoenix include the two-tone Mandarin and Graphite paint scheme, a smoked windscreen and a lack of a pillion pad. The two-tone paint job features hand-painted striping accentuating the natural lines and curves of the bike. The smoked windscreen proved effective considering its size. It did take much of the wind off of the chest area, but don't count on it for all-weather riding protection. The solo-seat configuration was chosen to compliment the minimalist lines of the back-end of the bike. For those that wish to take a traveling companion, the solo-seat can be swapped out for the standard dual-seat.

Handling is completely predictable as is normally the case with a BMW. The Telelever front suspension delivered as advertised and offered dive-free braking while cornering remained smooth and settled. Its single-sided swingarm exhibited very mild driveline lash but caused little concern for any testers. The trellis-style sub-chassis and engine combine to form a very flex-resistant and stiff frame.

How do they compare? They both get looks. And, while the Phoenix handled better, the side-stand would put a frequent damper on our left-turn fun. The Deuce, on the other hand, wasn't as agile or quick-steering as the BMW. An almost 200 pound weight difference assures that the Deuce will never be mistaken for an agile and nimble ride. Still, it was predictable and could carry nearly equal amounts of lean angle no matter what direction you turned. The sidestand did get in the way on aggressive lefts, but it didn't impede nearly as much as the BMW's ground-finder did. Both twin-cylinder powerplants could use a horsepower injection, and both transmissions were notchy, but positive. The Deuce had a more laid-back cruiser position, while the BMW had a more upright, standard seating position.  What we have here is two different machines designed to fill the exact same niche: big-bore, twin-cylinder boulevard cruiser -- with panache.

If we picked the Deuce as the winner, would we be denying the R1200C's sharp handling and innovative good-looks? Nothing else on two wheels is as cruiserish without emulating something out of Milwaukee. Conversely, if we picked the Phoenix, would we deny the FXSTD's soft curves, trend-setting good looks and predictable handling?

Which route do we go? Aye, and there's the rub (no pun intended). If it makes any difference, the Phoenix iteration of the R1200C is on a limited production run of only 200 units. The Deuce, on the other hand, is a standard Harley production model. If you have the greens to front for some exclusivity, the Phoenix would get the nod. Nevertheless, given its proven upgradability and ultra-relaxed riding position, the Softail Deuce wins it for us.

"Ah shi*, a be-em-dub and a Harley... they's expensive ain't they?"

"Uh, yea, the BMW has an MSRP of $15,100, while the Deuce has one for $16,235."

"I guess peeps don't buy'em fo' da cost though..."

"No, no they sure don't"


Rider's Opinions

Brent "Minime" Avis

Handling wise, the BMW is able to bomb around right-handers like no cruiser's business. ample ground clearance good feedback make it a clockwise-carver. Left handers, though, you'd better watch out. I think I dragged the kickstand once when I was upright at a stopsign. Seems you don't even need to put the stand out for it to hold the bike up. It drags THAT early.

Conversely, the Deuce was pretty good all around. Of the Harleys, it's the bike that I think best combines boulevard looks with decent cornering performance. You can rail right along on this bike.

The HD also had decent brakes that were hampered only by a lack of outright power (where's dual discs?) and severe fork dive that didn't match up well with the rather stiff rear end. The BMW, meanwhile, was more balanced and had beter brakes -- sometimes. The BMW had brakes that were a bit mushy and often needed one pump before you actually applied the brakes. Not a good thing.

The motors were a surprise on the dyno. the BMW felt like it had more power than the numbers suggest. Maybe there's less weight there? Anyway, the H-D felt choked off and needs pipes (stage one!) while the BMW was just about boulevard perfect. It did its job well and turned more heads than the BMW! Great paint, cool windscreen, BBS rims, beautiful brushed aluminium (spelt british way, of course), chrome everywhere and impeccable detail in styling set this bike apart from the crowd.

The H-D looks like, well, a Harley. I loved its looks but the BMW was just so different -- in a cool way -- that it gets my nod here.

Oh, the ergos: The BMW puts you in more of a position of control, whereas the Harley is more of a "let's cruise to the beer store and back" pose position.

Max Power = 61.6 hp @ 5250 rpm
Max Torque = 72.2 ft/lbs @ 3100 rpm

Max Power = 56.4 hp @ 5000 rpm
Max Torque = 65.7 ft/lbs @ 3000 rpm

BMW R1200C Phoenix (Independent)
Engine : Fuel-Injected, Air/Oil Cooled, Horizontely Opposed, 4-valve, twin cylinder.
Bore x Stroke : 101mm x 73mm
Displacement : 1170cc
Compression : 10:1
Ignition : Electronic
Fuel Capacity : 4.5 gallons
Transmission : 5 speed with dry clutch
Drive : Shaft
Front Suspension : Telelever, non-adjustable.
Rear Suspension : Monolever, preload adjustable.
Front Brake : 2x 305mm floating rotors, 4-piston caliper, ABS II
Rear Brake : 1x 285mm floating mount, 2-piston caliper, ABS II
Front Wheel : 2.5 x 18in
Rear Wheel : 4.0 x 15in
Overall Length : 92.1 in (2340 mm)
Wheelbase : 65.0 in (1650 mm)
Ground Clearance : 6.8 in (172 mm)
Seat Height : 29.1 (740 mm)
Rake, Trail : 60.5 deg, 3.39 in (86 mm)
Claimed Dry Weight : 482 lbs. (219 kg)

Harley-Davidson FXSTDI Softail Deuce
Engine : Fuel-Injected, Air cooled, 2-valve, V-Twin
Bore x Stroke : 95.25mm x 101.6 mm
Displacement : 1450cc
Compression : 8.9:1
Ignition : Electronic
Fuel Capacity : 4.9 gallons
Transmission : 5 speed with dry clutch
Drive : Belt
Front Suspension : Standard, non-adustable.
Rear Suspension : Standard, preload adjustable.
Front Brake : Single, 292mm, 4-piston caliper
Rear Brake : Single, 292mm, 2-piston caliper
Front Wheel : 21 in
Rear Wheel : 17 in
Overall Length : 95.4 in (2422 mm)
Wheelbase : 66.6 in (1690.3 mm)
Ground Clearance : 5.6 in (140.9 mm)
Seat Height : 26 in (658.9 mm)
Rake, Trail : 34 deg, 5.0 in (127 mm)
Claimed Dry Weight : 644.6 lbs (292.7 kg)

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