Cohn Racers’ Harley XR1200X is ready to play dirty
If you love the wall of torque delivered by a Harley V-twin but not the laidback handling, the Sportster XR1200X is the bike you need.
The XR1200X was the sportiest of Sportsters, with over 90 hp on tap from a high-compression engine, and supple Showa ‘big piston’ forks. At the start of this decade, it was sold in Europe for a couple of years—then filtered through to the US, where it won plaudits from road testers and owners alike.
The rarity of the XR1200X means we don’t see many in custom shops. But Cohn Racers managed to find one, and have tweaked it for better performance on both asphalt and hard pack dirt roads.
The shop is run by Chete P-Ilzarbe, who left Apple to found his own motorcycle garage. They’re based in Miami, Florida: “The perfect place to seduce high profile, millionaire clients,” Chete says. “Especially those who are thirsty for the most exclusive, or the newest and latest!”
That sort of client is very demanding, but the guys behind Cohn Racers have meticulous attention to detail. “We share the same philosophy: everything matters on our builds.”
“We’re currently a three-man shop, although we get help from friends in the trade,” Chete adds. “All three of us have loved bikes since we were kids, and there’s an age gap between us—which gives us a nice combination of old and new school style.”
When the brief came in from their client, Chete and his crew knew it had to be answered by a large American V-twin with knobby tires. “We looked at the Dyna and the Sportster, and then realized the XR1200X was the way to go—it had that flat tracker vibe.”
The vision behind ‘Muscle R’ was to create a mean and athletic stance, capturing the essence of modern muscle cars. But first, Cohn Racers had to find a XR.
“We searched nationally for several weeks with very little luck,” says Chete. “And ended up finding a really clean one. It’d been traded in at a Suzuki dealership, 175 miles up the coast in Melbourne.”
The bike had low mileage and was in A+ condition. It was immediately stripped down and a flatter rear frame was welded on, along with new mounts for the tank.
The Showa suspension on the XR1200X is pretty good, but Cohn Racers have given this one a complete front-end conversion. That means ?hlins forks, a Brembo racing master cylinder, 320mm rotors and eight-piston calipers. It’s all connected up via custom triple trees and stainless brake and clutch lines.
The stock three-spoke cast aluminum wheels are gone, replaced by a custom-built set of wire wheels. “After lots of research, we decided to go for Shinko 805 tires. It’s hard to believe how well they ride on the road.”
The ECU has been retuned for better engine response and smoothness—not least because the huge stock mufflers are now gone.
But the most obvious change is the new bodywork. “We worked closely with our customer to come up with the leather theme on the tank,” says Chete. “It’s reminiscent of 1950s race cars, with the leather hood straps. Vintage racecars always inspire our builds, with cues like wire wheels, loud exhausts and headlight grills.”
The bodywork is fashioned out of carbon fiber, including the tank, front fender, side covers and rear plate holder. There’s also a new seat pan, upholstered with Alcantara by Relicate Leather.
On the electrical front, Cohn have kept most of the stock XR1200X harness but added LED turn signals, a brake light integrated to the license plate frame, and their own custom faced speedo.
‘Muscle R’ is one of those bikes that looks like a helluva lot of fun to ride, and a genuine dynamic improvement on the original. “On the mechanical side nothing in particular was especially hard, but it was quite a learning curve,” says Chete.
“It looks like something CVO at Harley could have built. We try not to be tacky or over the top with our builds: I’ve always thought that was what brought the chopper craze down.”
Most importantly, Chete and his crew managed to remove 67 pounds (30 kilos) from the original weight, so this Sportster now tips the scales at around 484 rather than 551 pounds dry. Which makes it even faster, better handling and better looking than the original. And able to handle a little of the rough stuff, too.
“The bike is just a dream to ride,” says Chete.
Of course, every builder sings the praises of his creation. But in this instance, we’ll take him at his word.
Cohn Racers | Facebook | Instagram| Images by Raw 350