Café Americana: The Harley-Davidson XLCR

Legend has it that the Harley-Davidson XLCR was Willie G. Davidson’s baby, a bike he designed for himself.
By Phillip Tooth
July/August 2012
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The Harley-Davidson XLCR looks too heavy, too long and too big to be anything better than a hog dressed up like a greyhound.

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Sometimes when you look at a bike you just know it’s going to be a disappointment. Take a good look at the Harley-Davidson XLCR café racer and you’ll know what I mean.

A café racer is supposed to be light and lean and quick, the perfect tool for thrashing between coffee bars or carving a path through city traffic and racing mates along tight and twisty roads. When you see a properly prepared Triton or Norvin, you know it’s going to be good. The XLCR looks too heavy, too long and too big to be anything better than a hog dressed up like a greyhound.

Legend has it that the XLCR (“CR” for Competition Racing or Café Racer, depending on who you want to believe) was Willie G. Davidson’s baby, a bike he designed for himself in 1974 that so impressed his bosses at American Machine and Foundry — then owners of Harley-Davidson — they decided to put it into production for the 1977 season. Willie G., head of the styling department and grandson of co-founder William A. Davidson, had taken the stock 1,000cc XLCH Sportster with its peanut gas tank and cow horn handlebars as his starting point.

If you want to ride this Harley-Davidson XLCR — or any one of a dozen other classic big twins — speak to Joel. You can reach him through RetroTours. — Ed. 

Order the July/August 2012 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read this article in its entirety. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email. 

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