The New Year Bike: 1978 Harley-Davidson XLCR

Owned by Mark Harrigan since new, this 1,776-mile Harley-Davidson XLCR is original right down to the tires.

| July/August 2016

  • 1978 Harley-Davidson XLCR
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • Mark’s XLCR still wears the original Goodyear tires from 1978.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • The odometer reads just 1,776 miles from new.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • 1978 Harley-Davidson XLCR
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • The bike is as original as they come. The odometer reads just 1,776 miles from new.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • 1978 Harley-Davidson XLCR
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • Harley offered a dual seat as an option for 1978, but Mark’s bike wears the standard solo saddle.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • Owner Mark Harrigan rides his XLCR just twice a year, on New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July, but he puts about 25,000 miles a year on his collection of bikes.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • Former H-D machinist Jim Haubert.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • In 1977, the $3,595 asking price of a new XLCR was a lot when a new Suzuki GS750 could be purchased for around $2,200.
    Photo by Nick Cedar

1978 Harley-Davidson XLCR
61ci (997cc) air-cooled OHV 45-degree V-twin, 81mm x 96.8mm bore and stroke, 9:1 compression ratio, 61hp @ 6,200rpm (claimed)
Top speed:
106mph (period test)
Single 38mm Keihin
4-speed, chain final drive
Weight (wet):
485lb (220.5kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG:
4gal (15ltr)/40-50mpg
Price then/now:
$3,595 (1977)/$12,000-$18,000

Every New Year’s Day, Mark Harrigan, as he has for many years, goes for a ride on his 1978 Harley-Davidson XLCR, a bike he has owned since it was new. This is a little more involved than simply going on a ride, as the Harley spends most of its time in Mark’s living room. During the month of December, it sits behind a fully decorated Christmas tree.

Mark’s New Year’s Day usually starts with the family project of taking the tree down and putting the ornaments away for another year. He then gets out a couple of ramps, making sure there’s no sticky goop on them before using them to bridge the steps between the living room and the garage. He then pushes the Harley out into the garage and installs the battery, which has been patiently waiting on a trickle charger. He checks the tires and the oil. He inspects the chain and the brakes. He adds some fresh gas. He pulls out the choke. Then he hits the button. “It cranks twice and fires, every time,” Mark says.

Like many kids who grew up in the Sixties and Seventies, Mark started out riding small, offroad machines. By 1978, he was the proud owner of a Suzuki GS1000 and a big-bore Yamaha. Even though he was just 21 years old, Mark had an appreciation of classics. “I had an early appreciation for old cars, and I felt that some things had a collector’s value,” he says. One June day, Mark was hanging out on his lunch hour, idly going through the local newspaper when he saw an ad posted by a nearby Harley dealership for a Harley-Davidson XLCR Sportster, out the door for $2,900. Here was a classic, sure to become a collector’s item Mark thought, and it was on sale! He ran over to the shop after work — “It was little more than a glorified garage,” he says — and maxed out his credit card to buy it. It was the first Harley Mark had ever owned.

AMF days

7/21/2016 8:31:08 AM

I recently rode one for the better part of two days on a Retro Tour. It had so much torque, It was like riding a beast. It was a thrill to ride it.

7/18/2016 9:15:51 AM

"Too extreme for the market" or just too unlike a cruiser for Harley's traditional buyers? How well has any Harley with sporting intentions ever sold? The market seemed to love BMW's R90S which was a radical departure from its staid touring bikes, very expensive, and no doubt influenced the XLCR.

7/15/2016 4:17:07 PM

The "Amazing how reliable" comment was in reference to my other higher mileage Harley's including my 1978 FXS with 109,000 miles. All have been very reliable.

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