What We Know About the Harley-Davidson High Performance Custom 1250

Dennis Chung
by Dennis Chung

Full details will be revealed July 13

Earlier this week, Harley-Davidson teased a new Revolution Max-powered model that will be revealed July 13. The announcement called it a new model for the “sport segment,” and included a glimpse of the bike, which bears a striking resemblance to the Custom 1250 concept first shown in 2018.

Here’s the original concept:

And here’s the latest teaser image:

Harley-Davidson also showed a full view of the bike during its Q1 presentation (pictured up top, but you can see a slightly larger version here). We’ve previously written about the differences between the prototype and the earlier concept model, noting a new radiator, bash plate, front fender, mirrors, license plate holder, brake lines and Harley-Davidson-branded Dunlop tires.

Still, there remains some questions about this new bike, and how it fits into Harley-Davidson’s lineup. Let’s try to answer some of those, based on what we currently know.

What will the new bike be called?

When the concept was first revealed in 2018, Harley-Davidson referred to it as a “1250cc Custom” model. From that, we, and everyone else, started referring to the bike as the Custom 1250, but it’s important to remember that Harley-Davidson never actually used that name itself.

From its initial reveal up until June 2020, the bike was listed on Harley-Davidson’s website as a “Future Custom Model”. Sometime that June, Harley-Davidson updated the page and began referring to it as a “High Powered Custom Model”.

All of this suggests that “Custom” was always just a placeholder name and was not intended to be used for a production model. Harley-Davidson did the same thing with the Bronx, referring to it first as the Streetfighter 975 before revealing its eventual name.

So, what will the new model be called? Based on trademark applications filed in the last few years, two names stand out as potential monikers: Nightster and Bareknuckle. Bareknuckle is a somewhat awkward name, but it could be a fit if Harley-Davidson intends to market it as an aggressive, muscular model.

The black paint job and the blacked-out engine in the teaser image, however, might suggest the Nightster name may be a better fit. Of course, Nightster isn’t an entirely new name, as Harley-Davidson previously used it for a Sportster model.

Will this new model be replacing the Sportster?

From the reader comments on our previous coverage and on various Harley-Davidson forums, a lot of people are making the assumption that this new model will be replacing the Sportster family. The existing Sportster line is on it’s last legs, already discontinued in Europe and dwindling down to just three models in the U.S., so a replacement is definitely in order. With a 1250cc engine, just slightly larger than the 1200cc Sportster, it seemed to be a fit. The teaser announcement also hints at this, with the tagline “From Evolution to Revolution,” name checking the Sportster’s EVO engine and the new Revolution Max.

The biggest problem with this theory is that the new Custom model is not being positioned as an entry-level model like the current Sportsters. The new bike is described as “showcasing unmatched Harley-Davidson technology, performance and style,” but apart from the style aspect, this seems antithetical to what the Sportsters currently represent in Harley’s lineup. The liquid-cooled 1252cc Revolution Max engine in the Pan America claims 150 hp, but even if it is re-tuned for the Custom, it would still be a huge jump from the 65 hp claimed by the Forty-Eight’s air-cooled motor.

If the new Custom does replace the Sportsters, it will be part of a rebranding of the name, with a heavy emphasis on “sport” and performance (or, at least Harley-Davidson’s definition of “sport”). In the first quarter report, Jochen Zeitz, Harley-Davidson’s chief executive officer, said that this second Revolution Max model will “redefine the premium middleweight cruiser segment.” Harley also considers the Sportsters to be middleweight cruisers, but the “premium” aspect would leave a gap in the lineup for less expensive, smaller displacement models, one that might be filled by a new air-cooled engine with variable valve timing.

What do we know about the Custom’s specs?

Apart from the engine, all we know about the Custom’s specs can be gleaned from the photos. Barring any changes from prototype to production, we can assume an inverted fork, feet-forward controls, raised handlebars and a single front disc brake. If the engine is unchanged from the Pan America’s tuning, we can expect a claimed 150 hp.

The sign-up page on Harley’s site for the bike’s reveal shows a slightly different version of the teaser image, showing more of the thin-looking seat and a hint of the top of the fuel tank (click on the image above for a higher-resolution version). Interestingly, this larger image edits out the VIN sticker visible on the smaller teaser image, but it did leave the VIN stamped on the headstock.

Based on these two images, we deduce that the VIN for the prototype Custom is “1HD1ZCS17MB300175”. The first three digits of a VIN are the World Manufacturer Identifier, which for Harley-Davidson, is “1HD”. According to Harley-Davidson’s VIN decoder information, the “1” in the fourth digit stands for a displacement larger than 901cc.

The “ZC” represents the internal model code for the Custom. For those curious, the Pan America is ZD while the Pan America Special is ZE, reflecting their familial connection. The seventh digit is the engine code, with “S” representing the Revolution Max 1250 engine. The “1” in the next spot indicates a 49-state configuration (California models would have a “2” in this position).

The “7” in the ninth spot is a VIN check digit, while the “M” confirms the bike is considered a 2021 model (a 2022 model would be marked as “N”). The “B” indicates the motorcycle was assembled at Harley-Davidson’s York, PA., factory, while the last six digits are sequential numbers to differentiate each individual motorcycle.

None of this VIN data is surprising, though the engine code may suggest a fairly similar state of tune. Of course, this is the VIN for the prototype; things may change on the final production model.

All will be revealed July 13

Full information on the High Performance Custom model will be revealed on July 13, which might mean the Revolution Max-powered bike will be at the July 16-18 International Motorcycle Show in Sonoma, Calif. The reveal will also be a few days after another big Harley-Davidson launch in the LiveWire One electric motorcycle.

We’ll have full coverage of both launches here on Motorcycle.com, but check this space if we get our hands on any details sooner.

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Dennis Chung
Dennis Chung

Dennis has been a part of the Motorcycle.com team since 2008, and through his tenure, has developed a firm grasp of industry trends, and a solid sense of what's to come. A bloodhound when it comes to tracking information on new motorcycles, if there's a new model on the horizon, you'll probably hear about it from him first.

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2 of 69 comments
  • BobM BobM on Jul 06, 2021

    I really hate that everyone thinks that the Sportster is the entry level bike, I'm sure the profit margin isn't as big but dang if the Sportster isn't in a class by itself, and that's actually a good thing. Hopefully they will bring out something to compete with naked sportbikes at a decent price and performance level. I really think they have the ability but between a dealer network that doesn't seem to care (I was there last week and it has more clothes than my local Kohl's) and what I think is the fear of change I don't think they have it in them.

  • Taran1900 Taran1900 on Jul 07, 2021

    Honestly, after looking at a picture of this thing, I don't care what you know about it. I think I just puked in my mouth...