2012 Harley-Davidson Sportster SuperLow vs. Triumph America [Video]
Prestige-brand cruisers that won’t crush your pocketbook
2012 Harley-Davidson Sportster SuperLow $7999 – $8499
Harley-Davidson doesn’t specifically promote the SuperLow as an ideal motorcycle for new riders and/or women. But take into account its 26.8-inch seat height as part of its compact ergos, and this Harley’s dimensions are integral to its overall appeal for a raft of riders that find larger bikes intimidating.
With that low seat height, a rider can easily straddle the bike, and in almost any case comfortably put both boots flat on the ground – this quality alone can do wonders for instilling in riders confidence they can physically manage this motorcycle’s 563-pound running-order weight. Not immediately apparent about the SuperLow’s seat height is what partially contributes to bringing the saddle as low as it is: limited suspension travel.
Two inches and some change is all the dual coil-over shocks have to move up and down to absorb whatever you and the road throw at them. On roads in good repair the Harley provides decent ride quality, but hit a large enough expansion joint or pothole and you’ll immediately use up those two inches of travel. When this occurs there’s nothing else for the impact of the bump to do except keep moving up until it reaches the rider. On a street or stretch of freeway in bad shape you might find the SuperLow rides on the rough side.
The rest of the layout for rider controls includes footpegs placed near the center of the bike, in the mid-mount position, and an easy reach to the one-piece handlebar.
Taken as a whole, the ergonomic set up makes for a snug fit if you’re around 5-feet-10-inches. And if you’re 6-feet and above you’ll probably find the SuperLow is simply too cramped an environment for extended rides. For anyone below that stature threshold, the SL provides a cozy cockpit. A caveat worth noting is how easily a rider’s elbows can obscure the mirrors’ rearward view. I found this an unusual experience – it’s often problematic on sportbikes but not so much for cruisers.
With a 59.3-inch wheelbase (4.3 inches shorter than the Triumph) the SuperLow is a spry lil’ handler. Steering effort is light, and the Harley transitions easily between corners. Nevertheless, the just-barely-there rear suspension travel rears its head once again. As a result of the SuperLow’s low-ridin’ ways, the bike is woefully limited to how far it can lean into a turn before the footpegs or lower exhaust mounts grind themselves into the asphalt. This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, but you’ll either have to accept this reality soon and learn how live with it, or find that it’s annoyingly restrictive to sporty riding.
The dual-piston front caliper found on many Harley cruisers is also what the SuperLow uses to reel in speed. Lots of previous experience with this common Harley brake set told me not to anticipate anything beyond adequate stopping power. This time out, though, I was impressed with how effortlessly the simple set-up halted the Harley’s forward progress – just a couple fingers squeezing the brake lever was all that was needed.
Instrumentation consists of a speedometer with an LCD inlay displaying mileage, tripmeter and clock, with an array of warning lights in the speedo mount – it’s a simple package but works well with the SuperLow’s clean, unembellished styling.
By virtue of the SuperLow’s borderline-diminutive dimensions, it’s not the motorcycle for everyone. But for those riders looking for a modestly sized cruiser with full-size performance, the SuperLow should find its way on their short list. Icing the cake is the ability to park the legendary Harley-Davidson brand in your garage for a mere $8000.