The Iron 883 fits in line with HD’s Dark Custom family since you won’t find HD’s customary chrome anywhere but the straight-cut shorty exhaust with dual mufflers. The rest of the Iron 883 is blacked out – the handlebars, hand controls, foot pegs, headlamp body/visor, front fork gaiters, rear fender supports and side-mounted license plate bracket. Combine that with the black denim color option (as opposed to brilliant silver) and you’ll have yourself one stealthy machine.
The minimalist theme is carried over to the dash where only the necessities are included and displayed: Handlebar-mounted electronic speedometer with odometer, time-of-day clock on odometer, dual tripmeters, low fuel warning light, low oil pressure light, engine diagnostics readout and LED indicator lights. The self cancelling turn signals which the 883 has should be a feature every motorcycle leaves the factory with. While I understand that the designers were trying to keep the dash to the bare essentials I would’ve liked a dual set of gauges so that a tachometer could’ve been added.
Kenn: I’d like to add one thing about the tachometer or the lack thereof. In all my time selling Harley’s I can’t recall one person who was buying a model that didn’t have a tachometer, which a large number of Harley’s don’t have, lamenting the fact that there wasn’t one. Would I like a tach? Sure, but the truth is that most people shopping for a bike in this category don’t care about having a tach. Now this of course could be a “which came first” scenario but that’s an argument for another time.
Mirage: OK fine but I’d still like a tachometer. Moving on. The black, drag-style handlebars and black finish hand controls contribute to the low-profile look as well as the chopped rear fender. This look isn’t just because of the black paint and powder coating but more importantly due to the 883’s low front and rear suspension. The 883 has a seating position of just 25.3 in. from the ground which should provide the smallest of riders the ability to flat foot at a stop. With just 3.9 in. of ground clearance the 883 looks low, mean and hardcore. I myself being a 6 plus footer felt cramped and with the mid mounted foot pegs found my knees level with my hips so after riding for a few hours, a leg stretch was long overdue.
Another contributing factor to my fatigue was that the footpegs aren’t long enough to accommodate riders who wear large shoe sizes. I wear a size 14 and with the short pegs I had to bring my left foot out an inch or so and then lift it over and under the shifter. I had the same issue with my right foot concerning the rear brake lever so if you have big feet you’ve been warned.
Kenn: OK I can’t argue too much with anything Mirage said as the Iron 883, like the rest of the Sportster line-up, isn’t built for giants. They are built to be an entry level Harley for those of normal to smaller stature and appendage size and length. I’m an even 6ft tall and I fit on an 883 just fine…..alright I’m lying; they’re a tight fit for me too. But if you’re, say, 5-5 to 5-9/10 you should be fine.
Truth be told I’m surprised that Mirage, with his freakishly large size (I’m just kidding here), can fit on his R1. I’m shorter than he is and I feel like I’m being folded in half on any sportbike.
Mirage: I’ll grant you that the seating position on “The One” is not for everyone but for me the rider triangle fits my height perfectly and I\'ve rode hundreds of miles without a backache. Alas, as I grow older and begin to shrink I to may have to find a new steed to ride. Damn old age! But I digress…
Since the Iron 883 is so low to the ground it’s very easy to bottom out the suspension as well as touch the feelers of the foot pegs to the asphalt while going around a corner. Unfortunately with only the ability to adjust the rear preload this is an occurrence that is more than likely to occur than not. (Kenn: Yeah if you weigh more than the bike does) (Ignoring Kenn) Obviously there’s a balance between HD offering a fully adjustable suspension package at a price that won’t shock us as riders as well as staying competitive alongside their competition but sadly, this balance is unequal in this case.
Kenn: I’m not sure that it is a cost issue at all, really. Once again it goes back to building a motorcycle for your customers and meeting their needs. Most Sportster buyers (cruiser buyers in general, actually) don’t want or care about fully adjustable suspension. They want a bike that looks a certain way and that’s about it. In this case the look is “low”. As an example I give you the Sportster 1200 Sport. Hotter cams, different heads with dual plugs, dual front disc brakes, tachometer, a fully adjustable suspension, and, outside of a few riders that wanted a Harley and cared more for performance than image, a sales flop. I’m not saying that the Iron 883 couldn’t use help in the suspension department, I’m just saying that a fully adjustable suspension probably isn’t the answer.
Mirage: I’ll concede to the fact that perhaps a fully adjustable suspension package for the 883 might be overkill but the base setup could be better.
The Iron 883 comes standard with a solo seat so if you’re looking to take your significant other for a ride that’s just not going to happen without some modifications being performed, either to you, your significant other, or the bike. Two-up rides are best left for HD’s Electra Glide, Fat Boy/Bob or any of their other large models.
Mirage: The 883 is powered by an air-cooled, Evolution v-twin engine displacing 883cc (53.9 cu. in.) that produces 37 HP, has 55 ft. lbs. of torque at 3500 rpm and a compression ratio of 8.9:1. The blacked out engine covers and black 883 lettering on the air cleaner give the Iron a sinister look. While the 883 has some pep (second gear is best for passing maneuver’s around town) I found the power somewhat lacking but the beginner rider will take comfort in a bike that doesn’t overpower them and will instill confidence when on/off throttle requests are given.
Speaking of throttle response the electronic sequential port fuel injection (ESPFI) worked fine although with the limited horsepower on tap you really need to twist the throttle to get the most out of what the 883 offers.
Kenn: 883’s, like all small displacement cruisers (really almost any cruiser no matter what the displacement is) aren’t exactly going to set your hair on fire with their acceleration. Just as an aside though; unlike their foreign-built cousins, aftermarket performance parts are plentiful and moderately inexpensive and it doesn’t take much to get an 883 to perform better. My best friend used to have an 883 Custom that had a bigger carb and cam installed (with a free-breathing set of pipes) and that little thing would boogie quite nicely. Not that any of this has anything to do with the Iron 883 of course; I’m just using it as example of the potential within the bike and motor in case you buy one and suddenly want more power.
Mirage: I think any 883 buyer should definitely visit their favorite aftermarket performance parts catalog and throw a set of pipes on, new filter and fuel mapping. Better yet, raid the NHRS catalog and for less than $500 convert the 883 to a 1212 sleeper. (Kenn: Cheap big-bore kits scare me…I’ve seen what a motor looks like when they fail <shudder>)
A 5 speed gearbox puts the power to the ground via a carbon reinforced drive belt and while the shifting was smooth and precise a 6th gear is definitely warranted. At 70 mph the rpm’s feel extremely high and as such the bike vibrates like a jackhammer. Combine that with long straight distances or planned rides that are for a few hundred miles or more and you have the elements for one uncomfortable ride.
If however, you decide to go on such an excursion or do some exploring of your own don’t be fooled by the small 3.3 gal. fuel tank as the 883 gets fantastic gas mileage. I consistently got 45 mpg around town and in the high 50’s on the highway. Using 45 mpg as the base gives you a range of 148.5 miles. I started looking for gas around the 120 mile mark just to be on the safe side but in case you forget the low fuel light will remind you. If that comes on I’d look quickly for gas as there’s less than a gallon on tap as a reserve.
Kenn: I’ve really got nothing to add here as the bike does get good mileage and a 6 speed transmission should be standard on every bike.
Mirage: Wait, “You’ve got nothing to add?” Oh I’m marking this day down as this happens less frequently then the viewing of Haley’s Comet. We’d better get back to the bike before he thinks of something!
With trail set at 4.6 in. and a rake of 29.6° the 883 is quite a stable motorcycle. It can be coerced into weaving in and out of rush hour traffic but the ideal setting for it would be a nice leisurely jaunt to the local meeting spot or a nice relaxed Sunday ride on your favorite back roads.
The front (100/90-19 57H) and rear (150/80B16 71H) wheels are black, 13-spoke cast aluminum rims mounted with Dunlop’s. You can tell by the measurements that this is not one of those bikes that have a big fat rear tire and nor should it as the OEM tire/wheel mixture compliment this bike’s style perfectly.
Attached to those rims up front is a dual-piston caliper grabbing hold of a single disc and in the rear is a single-piston caliper squeezing another single disc. I’ll admit that I’m used to two finger braking so it took an adjustment period to understand fully how the 883’s system worked. While the initial bite could be better (I did have to squeeze the front brake lever quite hard) these brakes did indeed do their job and slowed the 883 down when needed.
Even though the 883 doesn’t have the dress up treatment that other HD’s get it could stand to go on a diet. At 565 lbs. (with fluids) it’s not the lightest bike out there and without a big motor on tap to move that weight around it’s best for easygoing riding. If the 883 shed 20 lbs. or so (without gaining any HP) it would most definitely be that much more on the radar for women or newly endorsed motorcycle riders looking for an entry level HD.
The 883 has extraordinary value for $7,999 and would be a welcomed addition to the garage of any new rider. Without a doubt there is room for improvement for this motorcycle and if HD tweaks a little here and tucks a little there the 883 could definitely be a contender in the “newbie” category.
Kenn: So Mirage, I take it that you aren’t ready to run out and trade in your R1 for an 883? Well that’s good as I think everyone would be a little shocked if you were. The 883 family is a great place for someone to start who is either new to riding and wants a Harley, or is a retread rider, or maybe even someone looking for that second (or third) bike just to zip around the city on.
Are they perfect? Absolutely not. One of the biggest issues that most people find with any of the Sportster models is the bike feeling top-heavy. There are quite a few small displacement cruisers out there that are actually easier to ride than a Sportster but all of them lack one thing; the Bar and Shield logo. For some people, that is the most important thing in the world and something they’ve dreamed of owning their whole life. For them the Iron 883 will be perfect just the way it is……well just the way it is after they get done spending their child’s college fund on Harley Davidson accessories of course.