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    Default Sportster year identification

    Hey guys I had a XLH 1200 sportster given to me that was found in a storage unit. Working on gettin it on the road again but I’m having a hard time identifying year.. VIN says it’s 1990 but it’s got a belt drive which I’m told they didn’t start til 1991... I want to rebuild motor and convert to chain drive.. buying gasket kit and conversion kit is tricky because both kits are different for 90 and 91.. I ordered a gasket kit thinking it was a 90 based off VIN but don’t wanna open it up til I know I have the right seals.. . anyone got some knowledge on this?

    also is there an easy way to tell if i have a 4 speed or 5 speed? (and before anyone says it...motor is already out so i cant just shift through the gears and count)

    thanks for your help
    Last edited by Quint; 10-20-2020 at 8:24 PM.

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    What year does the title say it is??????????? If you don't have a title you need to get it in your name before you spend another dime on it.......

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    There is a host of differences to spot the 2, Primary cover, Open the cover and check the selector comes to mind, but outside features as well. Dont recall them all off the top of my head, but a google search will help, Someone like Dragstews probably can recite them all.

    http://www.harley-performance.com/harley-vin.html

    That might be worth looking at as, not all info out there is accurate,, But my thoughts are, the splines are different so you just cant slap on a belt drive to a 4 speed to my knowledge.

    Does the frame number match the motor? Common to swap in a motor when a problem happens, Seems obvious but likely scenario.

    But the Belt drive indicates 5 speed. Heres details from Sportsterpedia..

    1990.
    --------------------------
    XLH 883 and XLH 1200 changes include:
    New paper air filter and paint options
    40mm Keihin CV carb - constant velocity with an accelerator pump
    One piece, right hand flywheel (pinion shaft no longer has a taper)
    Oil pump drive gear, spacer and pinion gear now depend on clamp load to remain in position. The “T” key aligns the pinion for timing.

    --------------------------------------
    1991
    All model changes include:
    5 speed tranny replaced the 4 speed
    Hydraulic lifters were replaced with automotive type units
    New ignition module
    Oil pump given internal cast feed lines
    Breather system moved from the crankcase to the heads with (umbrella valves) in rocker boxes
    Alternator moved from behind clutch to the crankshaft (faster spinning rotor produces peak output at lower rpm)
    Primary cover redesigned for easy removal
    New rubber mounted rider foot pegs
    New 401/402 series Dunlop tires, old Dunlop k-291 tires replaced with K402's
    Turn Signals became self-canceling with signals from speedo
    Right side timing hole
    Tappet blocks, rear motor mount, oil filter mount integrated with case
    One piece push rod tubes to reduce leakage
    Camshafts are now supported on the inboard side by bronze bushings for reduced noise
    5/8” hex Champion spark plugs
    The crankcase breather (umbrella valves) were relocated to the rocker boxes breathing directly through the A/C backing plate bolts.
    Change from 24oz to 40oz of fluid for primary / transmission
    The clutch pack had an increase in the number of clutch plates, material was also changed from cork to paper.
    New primary chain adjuster.
    Gates belt drive replaced chain on 883 deluxe and 1200 models.
    Jiffy stand re-located further back on frame for improved customer access.
    The new location prevents the 5 speed engine from being retrofit to earlier Sportster frames.
    1991 replacement crankcases have no oil system bypass and have the cam gear oiler hole in the gearcase 395)
    XLH 883 and XLH 883 Hugger changes include:
    O-ring chain final drive
    XLH 1200 changes include:
    Steering stem nut cover
    Paint Colors:
    XL 883 (all models): Vivid Black, Wineberry Pearl, Bright Sapphire Metallic, Vivid Yellow, Bright Candy Ruby. 396)
    XL 1200: Vivid Black, Dark Sapphire Metallic/ Bright Sapphire Metallic, Vivid Yellow/ White, Dark Candy Ruby/ Bright Candy Ruby, Candy Sapphire Sun Glo. 397)

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    BTW? Why in the hell would you want to get rid of the belt drive? I have owned a LOT of bikes, American, Asian, Italian, and mostly English and I LOVE belt drives (Primary and final drives).

    So many good reasons, a few that come to mind
    A) Saves a ton of weight in recip. mass,, the butt dyno tells me it helps.
    B) Rarely need to adjust or service
    C) CLEAN! A lot easier to keep clean
    D) Safety! A chain needs lube and a chain oiler can malfunction oiling the back tire. (* Not all bikes use a oiler)
    E) Costs, I find I dont spend as much on a belt drive bike, I have multiple sporties and Buells.
    F) Less damage prone & Danger. When a belt wears out or breaks, it does not kill your bike, crack the cases or lock up your trans or rear wheel. I have had cases grenaded from both primary and final drive chains. I had a bike once lock up on me at speed with a chain failure. Worst I ever saw on a belt was a modern Triumph where the belt shredded and clogged the drive. Being stainless thread reinforced it was a bitch to get it out,, but no serious damage.

    Ive had people tell me the belts cant handle the HP on a Buell, BULLSHIT! My 98 Lightning left the factory with 97 hp at rear wheel. My XBs are 100-100+ HP at rear wheel which is over DOUBLE what a stock 883 and just under double a 1200XL. Buell Belts run forever and are supposed to be lifetime, Im not that optimistic,, but they look good & last a long time.

    LOVE ME BELTDRIVES. Many hipsters ditch them because some 'tard on social media says they aint cool.

    * I have an 86 Sporty with a 1200 kit and some other mods,, It got crashed but making it into a Bobber.

    I have a 98 and 2000 Sporties as well. Currently the 2000 is my rider. The feel and ride of the difference between an early evo sporty and later is a world of difference. My nephew comes over to ride sometimes and he liked the 86-4 speed because it felt "Vintage" and rode like a tractor so, being a 23 yr old thought that was cool. But the later 5 speed is SOOO much nicer to ride.

    BTW, You DO know both the 4 and 5 speeds are basically 1:1? Its all down to gearing which you can change. 883 and 1200s are geared different.

    Same with a Buell XB9 (900cc) vs the XB12 (1200 cc) but the Buells gear the primary different, and some models the final drive belt. But they usually have different cams and some flywheel weights.
    The XB9 can be bumped up to a 1200, but they ride totally different, XB9 is meant to rev more and the 1200 is all about Grunt and torque.

    Horses for courses. Baker Drivetrain does make a expensive kit to convert a 5 speed to a 6 speed but impossible to stuff a 5 speed into a 4 speed case or at least everyone says so.

    FUN FACT, When Norton America was here in Oregon Kenny was worried about building a GOOD tranny into the modern Nortons. Originally 952-they ended up as 961. George Latus, of Latus HD here locally said, "Why not use a sporty trans?,, No patent anymore and plenty of aftermarket companies make them" So thats what they did, The modern Nortons use a Sportster/Buell based 5 speed and Kenny toyed with Some Baker 6 speed kits. Baker told him when he could scale production to suit with big enough numbers/volume, they would make him a good deal on production 6 speeds for all Nortons.
    Norton got sold by the investor to the UK so rest is history.
    But Modern Nortons use a Suzuki Clutch. Alternator and Toyota rocker arms. The starter is the same as Buell/Sportster but its universal to many makes and brands and my Kubota Tractor uses the SAME starter!
    Last edited by Dougtheinternetannoyance123; 10-20-2020 at 10:29 PM.

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    no title, like i said, it was found torn apart in a storage unit after months without payment, became property of the owner of the facility who then gave it to me, i have been through the motions with law enforcement and has no theft record, am putting motor in new frame and starting from scratch, the new title will be registered to frame

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    thanks doug, lots of useful info in there.. hopefully will help me narrow it down

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    Differentiating between the XL four and five speed:

    The output pulley or sprocket nut has a 1 7/8 hex and is a left hand thread on the five speed.

    The nut on the four speed is much smaller, maybe 1 1/4 hex, and is a right hand thread.

    If yours has a belt, dollars to donuts it's a five speed, but there were four speed belt kits available for the XL.

    You can use the stock '91 chain sprocket to convert the motor to chain final drive. It uses a 530 chain. On the later five speeds you will have to make a 1/4" spacer to fit behind the sprocket.

    One letter in the motor serial number denotes the year. The parts manual gives the details. Post your motor number up here, leaving the last five digits blank for security, and someone will be able to tell you what year motor you have.

    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quint View Post
    i have been through the motions with law enforcement and has no theft record, am putting motor in new frame and starting from scratch, the new title will be registered to frame

    That sounds like a great plan. Be sure and ask all the questions you have and post up some pics of your build............

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    Quote Originally Posted by JBinNC View Post
    Differentiating between the XL four and five speed:

    The output pulley or sprocket nut has a 1 7/8 hex and is a left hand thread on the five speed.

    The nut on the four speed is much smaller, maybe 1 1/4 hex, and is a right hand thread.

    If yours has a belt, dollars to donuts it's a five speed, but there were four speed belt kits available for the XL.

    You can use the stock '91 chain sprocket to convert the motor to chain final drive. It uses a 530 chain. On the later five speeds you will have to make a 1/4" spacer to fit behind the sprocket.

    One letter in the motor serial number denotes the year. The parts manual gives the details. Post your motor number up here, leaving the last five digits blank for security, and someone will be able to tell you what year motor you have.

    Jim
    first 10 of VIN are 1HD1CAP35L

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quint View Post
    first 10 of VIN are 1HD1CAP35L
    Motor serial number is needed, not the frame number.

    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by JBinNC View Post
    Motor serial number is needed, not the frame number.

    Jim
    `ok that one is CAPL1*****

    also based off the info you gave about the pully nut mine has a 1 1/4 hex so i guess ive got a 4 speed

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quint View Post
    `ok that one is CAPL1*****

    also based off the info you gave about the pully nut mine has a 1 1/4 hex so i guess ive got a 4 speed
    Based on that motor number, you have the motor that was original to the bike, or at least one from the same year, 1990.

    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by JBinNC View Post
    Based on that motor number, you have the motor that was original to the bike, or at least one from the same year, 1990.

    Jim
    awesome,, so from the information you have given me i can pretty much confirm that this is in fact a 1990 xlh 1200 with a 4 speed transmission.. thanks for all of your help, you have no idea how stressed this had me haha

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quint View Post
    no title, like i said, it was found torn apart in a storage unit after months without payment, became property of the owner of the facility who then gave it to me, i have been through the motions with law enforcement and has no theft record, am putting motor in new frame and starting from scratch, the new title will be registered to frame
    So special construction..

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quint View Post
    awesome,, so from the information you have given me i can pretty much confirm that this is in fact a 1990 xlh 1200 with a 4 speed transmission.. thanks for all of your help, you have no idea how stressed this had me haha
    I was not aware of those 4 speeds with a Belt drive. I learn something new everyday! BTW, If you DO ditch the belt drive, I could be interested as I have a 86 and in theory maybe I can make it work. A rigid frame belt drive would be sweet if the spacing-length can be done. The belt would last forever on a rigid.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dougtheinternetannoyance123 View Post
    I was not aware of those 4 speeds with a Belt drive. I learn something new everyday! BTW, If you DO ditch the belt drive, I could be interested as I have a 86 and in theory maybe I can make it work. A rigid frame belt drive would be sweet if the spacing-length can be done. The belt would last forever on a rigid.
    If your '86 is a swingarm bike, you will need the belt swingarm as well.

    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by JBinNC View Post
    If your '86 is a swingarm bike, you will need the belt swingarm as well.

    Jim
    well it WAS a swingarm! I have not ordered a hardtail rear section yet, but the trick would be getting the length right, But if it would fit an 86 I would be stoked as I LIKE Belt drives... Heres the 86 after a Girl on a drinking team with a softball problem made me a hood ornament.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I always thought anything with a belt drive was a 5 speed. I bought it back from the Insurance company for $600 so, it still runs. (That will polish out!)

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    Jeeeezzzz that musta hurt fella !!!.... hope ya didn't get badly damaged there!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by tzienlee View Post
    Jeeeezzzz that musta hurt fella !!!.... hope ya didn't get badly damaged there!!!
    yeah it hurt a lot, messed me up pretty bad, the scabs and rash healed but a lot of other crap, But my whining and sniveling does not matter here, Dont want to side track this guys thread. The point is, Im hard tailing it and If I can do the center to center right for distance, A rear belt drive conversion would be sweet. I know its not cool in some peoples eyes, but man, I get tired of cleaning the back end and chain maintenance. Plus, with no swing arm, the belt should last a long time, Set it & forget it.

    But I was not aware of rear belt drives for the 4 speeds, Good to know. * There ARE belts in different lengths-tooth counts, so in a pinch might be able to use a different belt if need be...

    ** Belt drive tangent: I know this crazy guy from Florida, Built all kinds of crazy stuff. I have some early BSAs and he had some NOS British Army BSA stuff from WW2-50s. BSA M20 military bikes. He got a shipping container full of them and parts somewhere. He restored a few and grew bored. So he built a custom.. Something you could ride the piss out of daily and reliable. Got a wrecked Suzuki 600 Single cyl, The "Savage" and those are a fun thumper. They have a Belt drive for the rear wheel, So he stuffed it in one of his BSA M20 rollers,, looked stock BSA but had this electric start Suzuki 600cc Thumper in it with a Belt drive final.

    It confused the hell out of people. I have pictures of it somewhere, But after years of riding it, no dirty rear wheel, no chain oil slopped everywhere. Just ride it.

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