’78 Harley Davidson XLCR Cafe Racer
Regular readers of these posts and the MotoWorld blog, www.themotoworld.com know, I love Cafe Racers. Having built a couple and ridden many, they are my favorite type of motorcycle. Some come out just right and some, well…not so right. Some have the look and the performance, others just the look. I have seen rat bikes that the owner tries to pass off as a cafe bike, and bikes that with only one or two more details would make it perfect. Everybody has their own vision of a Cafe bike.
A Cafe Racer isn’t what you would call a comfortable ride…clip on’s or clubman handlebars, rearset footpegs, a thinly padded seat that is farther back because of the longer tank (makes the reach to the bars even that much further) and you certainly can’t take your girlfriend for a ride…sometimes that’s a good thing. A good Cafe Racer has been stripped down to the basics and hot rodded to go fast. A Cafe Racer is the epitome of the phrase, ‘form follows function’.
In past years even the factories have sipped the Cafe Kool Aid. In 1976, BMW brought out the R90S, not quite full Cafe but going after the style. The good thing that BMW did was give the ‘S’ model a better suspension and more power than a standard R90, form and function went hand in hand. Honda too tried their hand at a Cafe style bike with the GB500. They really gave a go at the British look, hence the moniker ‘GB’. The GB was a great looking single cylinder bike that had the style, but just didn’t sell. Today, a nice GB will fetch some good money. Even The Motor Company, Harley Davidson, couldn’t resist the trend and Willie G’s first job as a stylist for Harley was the XLCR Cafe Racer. To the Harley faithful it was blasphemous, and it didn’t sell.
Now, I have never been much into Harley Davidson’s, don’t fit the lifestyle mold I guess, but an XLCR is on my Christmas list each and every year…honey, are you reading this??? I love the styling of the XLCR, (I think ‘ol Willie G did a great job), but there are problems with the bike, the main one…It’s an AMF Harley Davidson. A little history here, in 1969 Harley Davidson merged (sold out to) AMF, you know the people that make bowling balls and machines. Quality ( as marginal as it was anyway) dropped big time and after twelve years of a sliding reputation and lagging sales, Harley Davidson bought itself back. Now, back to the XLR. Besides the cool look, HD made a pretty trick frame for the CR, they mated a Sportster front half with an XR750 back half to help the handling and it sort of worked.They gave the new bike a triple disc setup which was a good improvement over the stock Sportster brakes. The motor, the stock Sportster 1000cc unit.
I rode an XLCR a couple of times and here’s my quick report…good standard Harley grunt at any RPM, in any gear; the brakes feel like two blocks of wood on the rotors; stock carb starves the motor, ignition can be spotty at times (and always at the wrong time, but that’s another story), handling is vague, and it’s uncomfortable. Now, the good…good standard Harley grunt at any RPM in any gear, it looks cool and I want one still.
I found my Christmas present this morning on ebay. Up for auction is a stunningly beautiful 1978 XLCR. It had been sitting in storage since 1982 and when it was brought out into the light of day the new owner went right to work. This HD Cafe racer got a thorough going over. New tires, chain, clutch and cable, brake pads, a new S&S carb (which the bike needed badly…not this bike per say, but all of ’em) and a few other things. The owner says it is mechanically perfect. The motorcycle has only 13,600 miles on it which is not too many at all. The bike got a beautiful gold pin striping job by the previous owner and looks just right on this bike. The XLCR when new, sold for a whopping $3595, now, a nice one can lighten your wallet by around $10,000. A good investment back then but who knew??? Click on the pics to see if this is a good investment for you. Or maybe you’d like to get it for me for Christmas? Honey, are you still reading this??