Harley Davidson XLCR 1000 Café Racer


Make Model

Harley Davidson XLCR 1000 Café Racer


1977 - 79


Four stroke, 45° V-Twin, OHV, 2 valves per cylinder.


997 cc / 60.8 cu-in
Bore x Stroke 81 x 96.8 mm
Cooling System Air cooled
Compression Ratio 9.0:1
Lubrication Dry sump


38mm Keihin carburetor


Starting Electric

Max Power

68 hp / 50.7 kW @ 6200 rpm

Max Torque

60 lb ft / 81 Nm @ 3500 rpm
Clutch Wet, multiple discs, cable operated


4 Speed 
Final Drive Chain

Front Suspension

Telescopic forks

Rear Suspension

Dual shocks swinging fork.

Front Brakes

2x 254mm disc 

Rear Brakes

Single 254mm disc

Front Tyre


Rear Tyre


Wet Weight

220 kg / 485 lbs

Fuel Capacity

9 Litres / 2.3 US gal

Consumption Average

45 mpg

Standing ¼ Mile  

13.2 sec

Top Speed

115 mph

The Harley-Davidson XLCR was an American café racer motorcycle manufactured by Harley-Davidson between 1977 and 1979. Some say that designer Willie G. Davidson created it from the existing XLCH Sportster, initially as his personal vehicle. The bike was actually designed by a committee of three people: Bob Modero (an engineer at Harley) Jim Haubert (Jim Haubert Engineering) hired as an independent Skunkworks contractor and Willie G. Although he was not present, this group had a strong styling influence from Dean Wixom when the three decided, as one of the starting points, to enlarge a dirt track XR750 fuel tank. Mr. Wixom was the original designer of this fuel tank.

Changed styling included the addition of a "bikini" fairing, slim front fender, reshaped fuel tank, a pillion-free saddle and unique "siamesed" two-into-two exhaust. It was "largely ignored" by consumers when launched in the 1970s, and "famously a sales flop", a "narcoleptic turner" due to long wheelbase and cruiser-like steering geometry, with "lethargic performance" but by thirty years later, had become a collectors item.

The Harley-Davidson XLCR1000 is unique in the range of models built by the famous Milwaukee, Wisconsin, company, in that it is definitely not built on the same 'laid back' lines as its tourer stable-mates. In fact the CR part of the title stands for Café Racer, and the Harley is unquestionably one of the most aggressive looking Café racers available.  Although outwardly different from the other Harleys, the XLCR still has the famous V-twin engine which, with very undersquare dimensions of 81 mm X968 mm, displaces 997-5cc.

A45degree unit, the engine features a 9:1 compression ratio, simple pushrod operated valves, a single 38 mm Keihin carburetor and all the reliability one could possibly need. Unsophisticated it may be, but the engine could pull a house down with its 68 bhp at 6200 rpm and, although undisclosed, probably around 60 lb ft of torque. Although the torque figure is not quoted by the company they do say that the 'secret amount' is produced at 3500 rpm, well down the rev scale but just the thing for instant acceleration in any of the XLCR's four gears. An electric start is the only concession to modern times in the engine and it copes surprisingly well with getting the engine under way. Unlike a silky smooth Japanese multi, one is very well aware of when the Harley's engine is running. It has an off-beat exhaust note, it rumbles and shakes and leaves the rider in no doubt as to its capabilities.

 The engine, wet-multi-plate clutch and gearbox are mounted in a very narrow duplex frame to which is attached a rear end similar to the famous long-track Harley racers. Conventional springing is used, by courtesy of Showa of Japan, with neat alloy wheels built by Morris. Kelsey Hayes disc brakes are fitted all round. Lowered bars are fitted, there is a neat little windscreen, a 4gal fuel tank and a combined single-seat/rear fairing added to the machine, and just about everything is black, from the tinted wind screen and fairing to the matt-finish exhaust system.  When first astride the XLCR one is aware that it is smaller than it looks as it weighs a trifling 485lb (low by Harley standards) and is as slim as a pencil. One's hands are greeted by two enormous grips that feel seven sizes too big and one settles into the comfortable saddle, which is quite low at 30-5ins from the ground. Once the carb has been primed with the throttle and the carburetor-mounted choke lever pulled out, the engine will fire immediately and settle down to a 900 rpm idle. The clutch is extraordinarily heavy and the gearchange is vague, but once first has been selected one can rocket away from a standstill with the quarter mile coming up in just over 13secs.

There is really little point in taking the engine above 6000 rpm and even changing gear at 4000 rpm allows rapid progress. The bike's top speed is really governed by its low gearing as the red line speed of just over 110 mph in top can be reached with no fuss at all. Vibration and a deafening roar are other factors that make approaching the red line of 6500 rpm of little value.  With grippy Goodyear tyres and a long wheelbase, the Harley handles and corners well, with plenty of feel of the road being transmitted to the rider. In fact, on bumpy surfaces it would be fair to say that the ride can be quite jarring, but that is worth trading for a Harley that handles. Braking is 'fair to middling' in the dry, but just about non-existent in the wet, and waiting for the discs to work in the rain is hair-raising to say the least. On the other hand, the Goodyear A/T covers cope well in most conditions and the XLCR is a lot less of a handful than most of its stablemates on wet roads.

Source of review : Super Bikes by Mike Winfield