Pre-owned Harley-Davidson 1200 Custom: Ownership experience

I found the bike to be quite nimble in city, unlike my initial test ride impression. I guess there is a learning curve to riding the Harley optimally.

BHPian sharad_kmc recently shared this with other enthusiasts.


I have been a member of this forum since my college days at Manipal, unfortunately I have not able to contribute meaningfully to the forum so far. I have always had a soft corner for the superbike segment, but as a medical student on a shoe string budget it remained a distant reality. Once the college got over, I got into my specialization and thanks to the new-found wealth (P.G stipend) the first thing I did was to get a Honda CBR 250 ABS in the pearl heron blue colour. I rode the bike for the next few years till I got into my super specialty programme. Interestingly motorcycle crashes contributed the largest chunk of patients in our neurosurgical ward. This somehow dampened my biking ardour to an extent and the bike was used on occasional weekend rides around Indore with my better half as pillion.

Fast Forward:

The CBR lay in the parking collecting dust owing to lack of time, thanks to hospital and family commitments. Meanwhile in an unrelated incident my cousin totalled his bike and was eyeing the Apache as an upgrade. I had hardly used my bike during the past year and felt my biking days were over. I transferred the CBR 250 to my cousin, thinking maybe this way at least the bike would get the care it deserved. A few months passed by and COVID happened, life as we knew it changed. Medical professionals were hit hardest, and we lost numerous patients and friends during the second wave. Somewhere during the enforced solitude I realized that I was missing my biking days. I would often surf through the various motorcycle classifieds columns and try to read up on random motorcycle trivia.

The Chase:

I had a look at the Royal Enfield 650 twins, the fit and finish were great, and the ride was quite satisfactory. During this period, I also got a chance to experience a friend’s Harley Super low. The bike was a 2013 model with SE exhausts and a few cosmetic modifications. The quality of chrome and the presence of the bike belied its age. When I fired up the bike and first heard the “potato-potato” exhaust note, I was smitten. I was advised to go slow with this new-found love for Harleys in view of possible service issues as I stay in a small city with the nearest Harley service centre 110 km away in Ranchi. One of my friends was also looking at used Harleys, we decided to narrow down the search to Iron 883 and Super low range. I tried the usual suspects such as OLX, friends, friends of friends, the Harley showroom for leads. I personally preferred the Super low over the Iron 883 thanks to the chrome and the overall stance. The price range of the available models ranged from 3.0 to 5.7 lakhs. I was the supporting actor in this saga with my friend as the star of the show. I was worried about what my better half would think about this sudden urge to spend money on a used motorbike. Most of the Super low and Iron 883 examples were either too overpriced or too old/poorly maintained. A couple good bikes were shortlisted, and my friends and I drove down to Ranchi to have a look at the shortlisted bikes. The shortlisted 2013 Super low was a white blue combination with a SE exhaust, the owner was a chilled-out guy and was upfront about the issues with the bike. The second bike was an iron 883 with comprehensive service history and SE exhaust and few other accessories. I had requested the local Harley technician to go over the bikes and to suggest the likely problem areas. Waterfall Harley Davidson (Ranchi) has a small foot print with a couple of technicians and sales staff. The showroom has a few customer bikes in the service bay with hardly any display bikes or accessories. They are a subsidiary of the Bengal Harley Davidson dealership at Kolkata. The technicians are well versed with the routine service work and escalate the issues to Kolkata as needed.

The Harley technician was critical of the Super low I had my heart set on and gave me a preventive maintenance bill of almost 1 lakh plus. That I was disappointed will be an understatement, as I had loved the chrome and the chopped rear stance the bike. The Iron 883 was in good shape and received a green light from the technician. I was supposed to drop the technician to the showroom before I left for home. My friend liked the Iron 883 but the owner didn’t budge on the asking price. Looking at my dejected countenance the technician casually mentioned that there is a custom 1200 I could look at on my way home. The Owner was an enthusiast, well known in the biking circles and had maintained the bike painstakingly.

The bike looked pristine and seemed to call out to me as the garage was opened. The bike was parked on a HD branded kick stand base plate with a trickle charger. There were a good number of accessories on the bike including the SE exhaust, Bluetooth MTX speakers, extra touring lights, lockable live to ride cap, highway foot pegs, aftermarket led smoked indicators, the Live to ride Derby and air filter covers, Daymaker headlight and to top it off the bike had the option of the single touring seat and the sundowner dual seat with rear sissy bar.

What started as a casual bike hunt for me with no real hope of liking anything, suddenly turned real with the unexpected big game in sights. The asking price was reasonable and quite value for money (if the accessories were taken in consideration). I bid my goodbyes to the bike and the owner with a tentative promise of seeing them again soon.

My wife and the family were understandably unhappy with my born-again biker avatar and reminded me of my professional commitments and lack of riding time. I truly think Indian roads are not the safest for two wheelers and willingly committing to a big-ticket purchase is probably an impractical decision from most angles. However, all I could think of was the bike. Gradually the family reached an uneasy truce and I was allowed to get the bike home. Took the day off from work the same weekend and drove down to Ranchi with my wife to evaluate the bike. The bike was 2017 Oct registered ABS version in deep black and sparkling chrome. I had thought of negotiating, but the lure of owning a well maintained machine proved too strong. The owner accompanied me to the DTO and the paperwork was submitted on the same day. I got the seats switched to the sundowner dual seat option. The bike was delivered to my home 110 km away by the Harley folk, in pouring rain.

The owner was a gentleman and gave away all the original parts in carefully preserved boxes. And to top it off I was also given a brand new, yet to be installed touring windscreen which had been ordered earlier. The bike was a treasured family member as was evident from the farewell it received from the owner's household.

Riding Impressions:

I rode the bike in town and adjacent NH33 over the weekend. The SE exhausts are not as loud as it appears initially. The bike is powered by a 1200cc V twin power plant with 67.7 BHP and 96 Nm of torque. I kept the tire pressure as 32 psi upfront and 38 psi in the rear tire. I found the bike to be quite nimble in city, unlike my initial test ride impression. I guess there is a learning curve to riding the Harley optimally. As I fire up the bike for the occasional short rides, the popping exhaust and the vibrations seem like a shot of espresso after a tiring day at work. Have heard numerous fried clutch horror stories and my aim remains to avoid riding with half clutch depressed. The bike has its share of idiosyncrasies and I am still getting used to the weird switch placement. The Bluetooth speakers are surprisingly good with good bass and treble. Do not think the roads in city are the right place to try out the speakers, as the bike seems to attract eyeballs regardless. The rear does bottom out with pillion on the scientifically designed potholes on the NH33. The Harley is at home in the 4th gear at 50 km/hr with the exhaust sonorously chugging away. The engine does feel hot at city speeds, but the roasted thigh sensation disappears as the bike picks up speed. The bike is not my daily ride, as riding the Harley to the hospital will just be too much trouble with all the safety gear. Have averaged approximately 18-20 km/l with my riding pattern. The previous owner, however, got 22 km/l consistently with mixed usage. My Sunday mornings are devoted to cleaning and polishing the bike for now. It keeps my twins involved as well, leaving the wifey with some valued me time.

The society watchmen and drivers are fascinated with the “imported bullet” as they call it. Have already seen the bike as the profile picture of quite a few of the society drivers. I have since then got a cover for the bike to minimize the dust and to discourage the selfie lovers. My colleagues at work are divided in their opinion regarding this purchase. Few of them feel it’s an unnecessary buy at this stage in life, the rest think I am living the dream.


I will turn 40 in November this year, wonder if the impulsive Harley purchase was the midlife crisis one commonly hears about. I do realize that I will not be using the bike to its full potential and it is meant more as a Sunday ride for me. The bike ticks the happiness box for me in spades in my to-do list and encourages me to stay fit. My wife has been tolerant (so far) of the regular amazon packages with various riding and cleaning paraphernalia reaching our home. The twins are equally excited as this is the first motorbike they have seen up close.

I would like to close with a often repeated quote from Paulo Coelho: "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."

Thanks for reading the long-winded monologue guys.

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