Harley-Davidson Iron 883 Review



For me, one of the absolute wonders of riding a motorcycle has always been that minute you crest a hill and start to let gravity influence your ride. Where it’s less of you piloting the bike and more of you just riding it. While I love uphill cornering and sections of twisties — with all the physics they represent as I roll off, brake, lean and accelerate in that sublime danceable rhythm — it’s that moment, when you’re no longer pushing it that grabs me and lets me fly.

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson

As a kid I used to trek up to the higher points of the South Bay area of Los Angeles on my Strand cruiser and then make that bomb run downhill. Free flying. Wind swooping. Sensory overload. The pull of flat land bringing you down to its level. It’s the pure sensation of motion, where movement and rolling forward is the only thing.

While riding pretty much anything with two wheels and a motor is a good time, some motorcycles are just more fun, the kind of fun that hints back tothose coasting runs on 26-inch balloon-tired wheels. I found this sensation recently on Harley-Davidson’s latest introduction to the Dark Custom line, the Iron 883.

Much like its older brother, the Nightster, the Iron 883 is simply a motorcycle in its most basic form. There’s no bells and whistles and with the Motor Co.’s Dark Customs, that seems to be the point. It’s a blacked-out version of the Sportster 883 Low that’s lighter by about 20 pounds and a lot more sparse and gritty given the flat paint scheme, some sweet rubber fork gaiters and the taillight/brakelight/turn signal combo and fold-away license plate that first appeared on the Nightster.

Unlike the Nightster’s spoked wheels, the Iron 883 comes with black 13-spoke cast aluminum wheels — not much of a difference in my book, though I’m partial to the traditional chrome iron2spokes. Also unlike the bigger blacked-out bike, the Iron comes with narrower, tucked-in handlebars that give the already compact package a slightly tighter feel. (It’s also three inches shorter in total length than the 883 Low.)

The styling is immaculate and lives up to Harley’s reputation for a beautiful fit and finish — right down to the black plastic cover that covers the standard rear brake fluid reservoir. Chrome staggered dual pipes help offset the whole black-out theme. It’s a nice contrast.

How does all this translate into on-the-road riding? It’s simple, not only is this a great entry-level iron3bike as it’s very, very easy to ride, it’s also a great little get-around-town ass-kicker of a hot rod for those looking for a bit more oomph. The Nightster’s 1200cc motor offered that much more power, but even the pared down V-twin in the Iron gives enough go-go grunt to smear a smile across your face.

For those requiring rocket-style speed, the Iron probably isn’t for you. But those looking for a broad torque band can find it here. I should note that the bike pulls strong while clicking through each gear, but almost as a matter of course I was hitting the rev limiter through every speed. It was an odd sensation and I couldn’t see where my RPMs were as the Iron is tach-less.

But getting to the earlier point, this is simply a fun bike to ride. It’s in the class of motorcycles where it’s less about operating the bike  and more about riding it. It’s almost an intangible feeling that’s not as if you’re zoning out or losing 100 percent focus, but more simply enjoying the sensation of movement. Back to those downhill bomb-runs on the cruiser.

Out on the roads around Long Beach, Calif., and on my freeway or surface-street commute to work, the Iron willingly blasted me to and fro. It’s not much for storage, but with a small tank bag to hold miscellaneous goodies too bulky for pockets, it makes a great commuter. And those tucked-in bars, combined with a 26.3-inch seat height and mid-mount pegs make for a very nimble ride through Southern California traffic (Hooray for lane-splitting!).

Given my short stature, I’m partial to bikes that allow me to settle in immediately and start riding. The Iron’s slammed geometry allows for that. It also allows you to scrape something through anything that so much as resembles a lean angle. There’s a reason those peg feelers are so long.

And if you’re into this sort of thing, it’s also a real head-turner. Honestly. Even my tattooed, rockabilly barber praised its sweetness.

But mostly it’s a quick little runabout that reaffirms what a growing generation of motorcyclists already knows: the Sportster motor is a great powerplant. Seems that the days of V-twin riders measuring their masculinity by the numbers of CCs between their legs is coming to a close. Old Ironhead Sportsters and even newer Evos are growing in popularity as motors around which to build custom bikes. Big Twin mania will likely never die, but it’s nice to see the Sporty get its due.

Length                                          85.3 in.
Seat Height                                  26.3 in.
Ground Clearance                       3.9 in.
Rake Steering Head/Trail         29.6° / 4.60 in.
Wheelbase                                    60 in.
Track Width                                 N/A
Fuel Capacity                               3.3 gal.
Oil Capacity                                  2.8 qts.
Weight                                           548 lbs.
Dry Weight                                   565 lbs.

Engine                                           Air-cooled, Evolution
Displacement                               53.89 cu. in.
Bore x Stroke                                3 in. x 3.812 in.
Engine Torque                             55 ft lbs @ 3500 rpm
Fuel System                                  Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Compression Ratio                      8.9:1
MPG                                                60 hwy / 45 city
Primary Drive                               Chain, 57/34 ratio
Gear Ratio (overall)
1st                        10.782
2nd                        7.702
3rd                        5.728
4th                        4.748
5th                        4.071
6th                        N/A

Front                                          Black, 13-Spoke Cast Aluminum
Rear                                            Black, 13-Spoke Cast Aluminum
Wheel Option                            N/A
Tire Size Front                          100/90-19 57H
Tire Size Rear                            150/80B16 71H

Instruments                               Handlebar-mounted electronic speedometer with odometer, time-of-day clock on odometer, dual tripmeter, low fuel warning light, low oil pressure light, engine diagnostics readout, LED indicator lights, hazard warning integrated into self-canceling turn signal controls

Indicator Lamps                        High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, low fuel warning, low battery, security system (optional)

Brakes                                           Dual-piston front, single-piston rear
Parking Brake                              N/A
Lean Angle (per SAEJ1168)      30° / 29°
Exhaust System                           Straight cut, shorty exhaust with dual mufflers

Black Denim; Brilliant Silver Denim

MSRP Black                           $ 7,899
MSRP Color                           $ 7,899
Security                                   $ 345
California Emissions            $ 100
Freight                                     $ 300

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8 Responses to “Harley-Davidson Iron 883 Review”

  1. Daily News About Harley Davidson : A few links about Harley Davidson - Friday, 29 May 2009 16:36 Says:

    […] Harley-Davidson Iron 883 Review « Dealernews Blog […]

  2. Joe Says:

    Really awesome review, love it.

  3. Yousef Says:

    Amazing review and i know what your talking about since i recently purchased the Iron 883 and loving every second of it.

  4. Dealernewsblog Top 20 Viewed Stories of 2009 « Dealernews Blog Says:

    […] Harley-Davidson Iron 883 Review […]

  5. Mobit Says:

    Love the bike, especially with a Vance and Hines shorty exhaust, together with a Kuryakyn hypercharger. My only gripe is the miserly fuel capacity, I would like to see an extra gallon in there.

  6. Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight, Coming Right Up « Dealernews Blog Says:

    […] Sportster-based bike in the Dark Customs lineup, will be coming my way next month. If you read this here, it’s pretty obvious that I’m a fan of this growing class of bikes. Low, light and […]

  7. grindcore Says:

    The look and feel of what an entry-level Harley should be – raw, black and shakes like an MF’ing jackhammer. The rubber-mounted engine takes away some of the vibration, but twisting the throttle through a turn or hitting 45-50 mph awakens the beast and she shakes like an overstuffed washing machine. All jokes aside, the ride is exhilarating and anyone who wants a Harley should definitely get one. The new Iron 883 is beautiful and insanely fun to ride. I would recommend it above any other mid-size cruiser if you are the type of rider who can enjoy the torque and vibration of muscle car in a motorcycle. If that’s not your cup o’ tea and you want something that rides smooth and glides through the gears, by all means get yourself a Honda.

  8. dan Says:

    I have had many Harley in my life. I recently bought an iron 883 and I will say it is the best bike I have ever owned.

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