When the folks at Harley-Davidson introduced the K-model (direct ancestor of the XL, or Sportster line) back in 1952, I doubt they could have known they were birthing a genre that would still be thriving over half a century later. Yet, here we are with a 2017 Sporty that pays tribute not so much to the factory, but to the custom touches added by owners over the ages.
The factory stayed faithful to at least one important aspect – performance. While XL models have never been known as fast bikes, they certainly have a well-deserved reputation as quick bikes. Nothing in the Harley world comes out of the hole like a Sporty, or handles the corners like one, and the Iron 883 maintains that tradition with aplomb. Bikes like this show how the XL line has not only survived, but also thrived in the entry-level and sport-minded American markets.
Overall, the Iron 883 has a drag-centric vibe that is hard to ignore. The drag bars and mid-mount controls form an aggressive rider triangle that puts the rider into a slightly forward-leaning stance – a perfect cornering position if you like — to take your curves with a little mustard on them.
Typical of the Sportster family, the lines are rather bunched up to fit within the 85.8-inch total length. The fuel tank manages to emulate the classic look of the Sporty peanut-tank while squeezing another gallon or so in there for a total of 3.3 gallons. Let’s face it; peanut tanks are cool to look at, but they just don’t carry enough fuel.
The upper lines manage a little flow down the tank and across the rolled-leather that sort of pimps out the otherwise-mundane stock Sportster seat — more comfortable than the smooth Sporty seat. The chopped rear fender adds to the dragster vibe while leaving a good view of the rear tire.
Turn signals — front and rear — use LEDs to keep the units as small and unobtrusive as possible. The taillight is so low-profile it looks more like a strut reflector — or it does when it isn’t lit, anyway. A sideways license-plate holder mounted on the left side keeps the fender clean and the top line unobstructed at the rear end – plus it makes the Iron 883 look like a worked-over custom bike right off the showroom floor.
Harley took the blacked-out look to the Nth degree. Even the shock springs and turn-signal housings got the treatment, leaving only the pushrod tubes, fork tubes (but not lowers), wheel-spoke tips and engine-cover fasteners as the only bright spots on the bike. This also plays into the custom look, and ironically, this seeming lack of frills is actually a frill all its own.
If you’re one of those unfortunate folks that have to put your bike into storage for a few months of the year, you’ll appreciate the addition of the battery tender harness as standard equipment in 2017.
As I mentioned before, the Iron 883 is a short bike no matter how you measure it. The wheelbase is a mere 59.6 inches, even with the relatively long, 30 degree rake. Steering geometry winds up giving you 4.6 inches of trail for crisp response to steering pressure, and even though the maximum lean angle is only 27 degrees to the right and 28 degrees to the left, you will be able to quickly traverse the bike from one max to the other.
Harley keeps the Iron 883 low with a slammed rear suspension, 16-inch tire in back and 19-inch hoop up front. Sportsters traditionally have tall seats, but this one comes with a saddle height just a hair under 29 inches high, unladen, in a move sure to appeal to the vertically challenged crowd. Ground clearance is a bit low at 4.3 inches, but you aren’t going off-road with this bike and the low center-of-gravity is a nice bonus.
The Iron 883 weighs in at 562 pounds soaking wet, so the lack of dual front brakes isn’t that big a deal. Both ends of the bike get strong, honest braking from the dual-cylinder calipers, and you have the option of going “old-school” with non-augmented brakes or going for the safety net offered by the optional ABS package.
When the first Evo Sporty came out, I really didn’t like the engine. Personally, I didn’t see anything wrong with my old Ironhead. But history is a great teacher, and the Evo has had plenty of time to prove its toughness and longevity. I would go so far as to say it’s one of the best engines Harley ever made, and they’ve had 30 years to perfect it.
In keeping with Harley tradition, the mill is an air-cooled, 45-degree V-twin. The 3-inch bore and 3.811-inch stroke give the engine a total displacement of 53.9 cubic-inches (883 cc — hence the clever name), and a throttle body with electronic fuel injection helps it crank out 53.8 pound-feet of torque at 3,750 rpm. This is plenty of power for zipping around town, and it comes cheaply at 51 mpg.
A five-speed transmission and reinforced-belt final drive connect the engine to the wheel, and while it doesn’t have the sixth gear of its Big-Twin cousins, you really won’t miss it much. Unlike Sporties from the past, this engine has rubber mounts that isolate the frame and rider from engine vibration. So take that, Harley haters! Sportsters no longer come with a leather-bound bottle of Loctite!
You can get your 2017 Iron 883 in a choice of colors for $8,949, or go for the sharp-looking, Hard Candy Hot Rod Red Flake for $9,399 — just $100 over the MSRP for 2016. The ABS will set you back $795, and the security option adds another $395 to the ticket. Sorry California residents, your emissions package will cost another bill.
So far, the closest bike to the Iron 883 would have to be the Bolt from the Star cruiser lineup at Yamaha . Both bikes follow a similar low-and-compact design, with minimal sheet metal and plenty of entry-level appeal.
The Bolt comes out on top of the displacement category with 58 cubic-inches (942 cc) versus 53.9 cubic-inches from the Harley. Both engines are air-cooled V-twins, and really, the biggest difference in the engines is the angle of the dangle – Harley runs its customary 45-degree engine while Star uses a 60-degree mill.
At $7,990, the Bolt comes in a tad under the Sporty’s $8,949 price tag, and the difference is even bigger if you start looking at the custom colors available from Harley. While the price difference is not that big, I would point out that every dollar counts in an entry-level budget, and the Bolt looks to give the Iron 883 some serious competition in the domestic market.
“I have always been a Sporty fan, and the Iron 883 is no exception. Barring long trips on the highway, I have more fun with my 883C than I ever did on the 80 cubic-inch FXRP, especially when coming out of the hole at every stop sign and traffic light. This sled will make an ideal bar-hopper and around-town bike.”
My wife and fellow writer, Allyn Hinton, says “My husband’s Sportster 883 has been so good to us. It’s not the bike I want to ride pillion on, but for a little around-town ride, it’s pretty awesome. New for 2016, Harley added the bobber-style tuck-n-roll seat. Originally called “Blacksmith” during the concept and design phase, Harley Senior Designer, Dais Nagao, wanted the Iron 883 to be a factory bobber and incorporate elements that he would put on his own bike, such as raised-fin air cleaner cover, the eagle tank emblem, bullet-hole design features and machine-cut-edge spokes for a new identity and to reduce weight. How can you not love a bike that was designed by a man who eats, sleeps, lives and dreams bikes, and has since he was a little kid?”
|Engine :||Air-cooled, Evolution®|
|Displacement:||53.9 cubic inches|
|Fuel System:||Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)|
|Primary Drive Chain:||34/57 ratio|
|Gear Ratios (overall) 1st:||10.41|
|Gear Ratios (overall) 2nd:||7.436|
|Gear Ratios (overall) 3rd:||5.531|
|Gear Ratios (overall) 4th:||4.584|
|Gear Ratios (overall) 5th:||3.931|
|Exhaust:||Chrome, staggered shorty exhaust with dual mufflers|
|Wheels, Front Type:||Black Nine-Spoke with Machined Highlights|
|Wheels, Rear Type:||Black Nine-Spoke with Machined Highlights|
|Brakes, Caliper Type:||Dual-piston front, Dual-piston rear|
|Engine Torque Testing Method:||J1349|
|Engine Torque:||53.8 pound-feet at 3,750 rpm|
|Lean Angle, Right:||27 degrees|
|Lean Angle, Left :||28 degrees|
|Fuel Economy: Combined City/Hwy:||51 mpg|
|Lights (as per country regulation), Indicator Lamps:||High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, low fuel warning, low battery, security system (optional)|
|Gauges:||Handlebar-mounted electronic speedometer with odometer, time-of-day clock, dual tripmeter, low fuel warning light, low oil pressure light, engine diagnostics readout, LED indicator lights|
|Dimensions & Capacities:|
|Seat Height, Laden:||725.7 inches|
|Seat Height, Unladen:||728.9 inches|
|Ground Clearance:||4.3 inches|
|Rake (steering head):||30 degrees|
|Tires, Front Specification:||100/90B19 57H|
|Tires, Rear Specification:||150/80B16 77H|
|Fuel Capacity:||3.3 gallons|
|Oil Capacity (w/filter) :||2.8 Quarts|
|Weight, As Shipped:||540 Pounds|
|Weight, In Running Order:||562 Pounds|
|Model ID:||XL 883N|
|2016:||Olive Gold, Charcoal Denim, Black Denim, Hard Candy Gold Flake|
|2017:||Black Denim, Charcoal Denim, Olive Gold, Red Iron Denim, Hard Candy Hot Rod Red Flake|
|2016:||Color Option $8,849, Hard Candy Color Option $9,299|
|2017:||Color Option $8,949, Hard Candy Color Option $9,399|