2012 Harley-Davidson Seventy-Two

Revenge Of The Peanuts

The Peanut Tank is officially back. When the H-D Forty-Eight came out two years ago sporting the 2.1 gallon retro fuel container, it might have been seen as an aberration. Now that two Harley models sport the tiny tin, it’s definitely a trend. My first bike was a Sportster, and back then, we couldn’t get the things off fast enough (to trade up for a larger tank), so that we could increase our range to more than 50 miles between fill-ups. For us it wasn’t retro; it was merely the inconvenient truth of riding a Sportster.

But nowadays, keepin’ it real, and goin’ old school trumps all. So the Peanut is back. Except this time, the Peanut is the centerpiece of a bike visually similar to the recent choppers that have boosted its popularity, as well as the old-timey bikes of the Seventies, which is where the Seventy-Two gets its name. While the first of the modern peanuts (the Forty-Eight) was a tribute to burly mid-century bobbers, the Seven-Deuce is from the glam and disco era. But try selling that difference to the Millennial 20-something who is the target audience, and you just might get a blank stare.

Details, as usual, are the Motor Company’s forte. Like several of its Dark Custom stablemates, the Seventy-Two has no central taillight (just a pair of double-duty turn signals) and a sidemount license plate. Unlike on those cousins (Iron, Nightster, Forty-Eight), the Seventy Two brings a unique grey finish and acres of chrome, as well as a bit more travel in the front shocks and some chopperesque length. The tallish bars have electricals routed inside to keep distractions from the long chrome arms to a minimum. Even the very brief seat has an attention-getting textured surface that drew quite a few comments from bikers in the know.

I’m gonna throw down and say that big ape hangers (which is to say, anything much higher than your shoulders) are ergonomically stupid. I mean, it’s a fashion choice, and as fashion goes, it’s not that extreme, but don’t try to make them out to be anything else. That said, mini apes are kinda awesome. You get 70-percent (give or take) of the badass look of a big ape, with none of the issues. In fact, minis offer some significant advantages over traditional bars. Not only do you get a nice, spread-out riding position, but with all that leverage over the front end, you can toss the bike around quite handily. The magic of apes is that they encourage countersteering…even for those who don’t believe in it. Lean into a turn, and you’re automatically countersteering with an ape-equipped bike.

The longer-travel shocks on the Seventy-Two (compared to the most-slammed Sportsters) were a blessing. Despite less than a half-inch more travel at the rear (over 2 inches more up front), it’s like night and day over the Dark Customs listed above. Readers of this magazine may recall that every review of a recent Sportster reads something like this: “Great bike…if only it had suspension.” This one breaks that mold, holding its own on fairly bad roads, and not slapping the frame rails into the ground over speed bumps.

The seat was a different story. Don’t get me wrong; for the size of it, it does a remarkable job. It’s supportive and contoured well, and probably works great for someone about 30 pounds lighter than my 195ish. But if I owned this bike, it would be the first thing to be swapped out—for something larger. Overall ergonomics are just dandy. Riders taller than six feet may feel hemmed in by the not-so-forward controls, but most should fit quite nicely. Obviously, the very short might have trouble with the Seventy-Two, but if you’re 5-foot 1 and looking at a bike with apes and forwards, you’ve got issues I’m not qualified to deal with.

Like all 1200 Sportsters, it’s a relatively light bike, with a healthy dose of power and torque. The leverage from the big bars make it feel like an absolute toy, especially around town, easily blasting from light to light and around corners.

On the freeway it’s not quite as comfortable. Sure, the widely-spaced gear ratios and rubber-mounted engine make for smooth sailing, but with all the leverage over the front end and fairly light steering, it pays to keep a light touch at high speeds. Hanging out in the wind can tax your core muscles a bit, however. On the upside, apes actually flow air better than average bars that keep arms at the rider’s side, thus creating an even larger parachute to collect the wind.

Back roads on the Seventy-Two are fun as well. A very controlled suspension package keeps the wheels on the road, as the light, torquey bike rips around corners. The skinny front tire puts some limits on the fun, but as my dad told me years ago, if you don’t ask too much of the skinny rubber (ie, braking while turning) it’ll do fine. The single front brake caliper feels plenty strong and responsive, yet never locked up the front, even in aggressive riding.

Just don’t take this new Sporty too far afield though, as the low fuel light will ignite at about 55 miles. Once I figured out that I was getting a consistent 40mpg, I knew I could trust it for about 20 miles more. The “reserve” is approximately .65 gallon.

We had some sort of check engine light issue with our test unit; both the battery icon and the engine light illuminated a few times, but it never had issues starting or running. We were told later that our unit had a bad voltage regulator, which would have been covered under the two-year warranty.

Many bikes have been fondly described as fun little bar hoppers, but this might be the bar-hoppingest one yet; it shines for around town and short trips, and riding for the casual rider. But beyond that, it'll do quite a bit more, especially if there isn't a shortage of filling stations in your area. CR


BASE PRICE $10,499
COLORS Red flake (+$700), flat black, blue
STANDARD WARRANTY Two years, unlimited mileage
TYPE Air-cooled, 45-degree V-twin
DISPLACEMENT, BORE X STROKE 1200cc,88.9mm x 96.8mm
VALVE TRAIN OHV, pushrod¿actuated
FUEL SYSTEM Port Fuel Injection
WET WEIGHT 555 lbs
RAKE/TRAIL 30.1 ° / 5.3 in.
WHEELS Laced chrome
FRONT TIRE 90/90-21
REAR TIRE 150/80-16
FRONT BRAKE 292mm disc, dual-piston caliper
REAR BRAKE 260mm disc, single-piston caliper
FRONT SUSPENSION 39mm fork; 5.69 in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Preload-adjustable coil-over dampers; 2.12 in. travel
FUEL CAPACITY 2.1 gallons
INSTRUMENTS Speedometer w/ dual tripmeters and clock