Tom Myers’ 1969 XLCH Sportster

The story of a 1969 Harley-Davidson XLCH that’s been in the same family for more than 50 years.


Photo by Nick Cedar

An American who wanted to buy a new motorcycle in 1969 had a lot of choices.

Honda was building the CB750, BSA had both a twin and a triple on offer, Kawasaki was selling its iconic H1 500cc 2-stroke, and Norton was selling the Commando twin. Triumph Bonnevilles were popular, as were Ducati singles and BMW twins. Tom Myers walked past all these alluring imports and bought one of the 5,100 Harley XLCH Sportsters produced that year. “My Dad was always a Harley guy,” he explains. More than fifty years later, Tom still has that XLCH.

“My first bike was a Yamaha YDS-2, but I lusted after a Sportster since I was very young. After the YDS-2, I had a Sportster, bought used, but it was stolen. Understandably, I was pretty upset. My parents helped me buy this 1969 Sportster as a replacement for the one that was stolen.”


Tom Myers’ XLCH is unusual in many different ways, besides being a one-family survivor. To start with, Tom bought it to use as transportation, and chose options based on functionality. At the time, Harley was building two different Sportster versions: the XLH (4-gallon tank as standard, touring tires, a 12-volt battery and coil ignition and an electric starter) and the XLCH (peanut tank standard, magneto ignition, no battery, and racing tires). 1969 Sportster buyers had an optional choice of either tank, and Tom wanted the larger tank that was standard on the XLH version of the Sportster. The dealer Tom bought his bike from swapped the tank with the one on an XLH on the floor.

3/25/2021 3:47:43 PM

I've written bout these earlier. MC mag won't let me read more so in short: "Right Model Right Make Right Yr" nothing looks like, smells like, sounds like the way a motorcycle should as much as this very one (well XLCH).

1/6/2021 10:26:53 AM

I had been driving bikes since 1966 and most of the bike riders I knew were afraid of buying a Harley for the same reason that happened to the writer of the article. They were scared to death of it getting stolen by the local Harley riding 'gang', so they bought Japanese or in a few instances British. Sad but true. In about 2015 I ended up with a vandalized AMF 1979 Sportster that just sits in my garage along with my 3 old Hondas. Don't know whether to part it out or fix it. Don't know that if I fix it to ride I can stand the vibration. LOL

1/2/2021 4:23:28 PM

I don't remember the exact year but it was probably 1967 I was downtown on my Yamaha YDS3. I came out of the local magazine, candy shop and saw a, I think green, XLCH parked across the street and immediately started drooling. It was the bike we all dreamed about in those days, but they were completely out of reach. Fast forward to 2014 I decided to ride again after a few years of not riding but after many years on Airheads. I bought a used 2006 Sporty which I rode for a couple of years. Sportys are really neat bikes but I moved on to larger cruisers. I currently own a large Moto Guzzi which is kind of heavy for my aging body. This past summer I started looking for a smaller bike to compliment my Guzzi and considered a Sporty again but got a V7lll Guzzi instead. One of the reasons I got the Guzzi instead was that I saved quite a bit of money with the small Guzzi. It is sad to see that Harley is phasing out the Sportster as it has been such a good bike all these years. I honestly believe it is the best bike Harley has ever built.

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