Bringing you the world's best cafe racers, trackers, scramblers, bobbers & custom motorcycles.

2012 Harley Davidson 883 Iron – Review

Posted on January 6, 2012 by Scott in Review. 121 comments

We recently tried to get our greasy little hands on a Harley-Davidson 883 to review. Unfortunately due to a long list of rules (who would have thought Harley was into rules?) we didn’t meet their criteria – and no it wasn’t because of our lack of pony tails. It was mainly due to the fact we hadn’t had years of experience on heavy bikes. Anyway, as luck would have it, one of our good mates Laurence Cronin recently purchased his very first Harley. He is no newcomer to riding, just hung up his riding boots for a few years while he raised a couple of kids. Now they are all grown up, he decided to fulfill one of his lifelong dreams – own a Harley. And like many, he fell for the ‘man magnet’ they call the 883. This is Laurie’s review after riding the Sportster for a few months….

Having only ever ridden Japanese bikes before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect picking up my first ever Harley. Could Harley’s entry level sportster, really be all that different from any of the Jap cruisers? The thing that initially attracted me to the 883 was the look. It appears tough, sleek, stripped down and old school. It’s about heavy metal, not lightweight plastic. In fact everything about the 883 snarls through gritted teeth: “Milwaukee Iron”… Except perhaps for the shipping container delivery note the dealer gives you as a memento which tells you it’s now made in California, not one of the famed Milwaukee plants. It’s only then you start to notice the 883 has a few odd Hollywood touches.

My first such lesson being when I arrived home with my new 883 and went inside. My wife asked “what colour did you get?”. Still grinning from the ride like a school boy who’s just been laid, I replied “Black Denim”. She paused for a second confused by my reply before saying – “What kind of gay colour is that, I thought you were getting a Harley?”. Bloody-hell, she was right. Such a slip of the tongue in front of my mates would have ended in a series of merciless taunts all questioning my sexual preferences, penis size or a combination of both. It seems like blasphemy even mentioning The Harley name in the same breath as colours with names like Blue Pearl, or Red Sunglo! Thankfully the colours look a hell of a lot better than they sound and remain true to the Milwaulkee icon.

“What kind of gay colour is that,

I thought you were getting a Harley?” 


As does the famed Harley 45 degree V-twin engine, affectionately known as “The Blockhead”. Hopping on and firing it up for the first time, the thing literally rumbles between your legs. You can feel it reverberate through your whole being like sitting on one big-arsed base amp. And the trade-marked throaty Harley engine roaring to life never fails to turn a head or two. Even two grizzly, bearded older Harley riders near by can’t help but stop their conversation to turn to look. On the road, the 883 feels raw and powerful. It’s got grunt to burn. But this is Sydney and I soon find myself striking traffic.

Just like myself, the bike doesn’t like it. It doesn’t like being on a leash. Even in first gear it doesn’t crawl easily below 20km/h. You need to ride the clutch which is a bit heavy and the work out soon has me thinking my left forearm may end up looking like Popeye’s. What’s worse is in crawling traffic, every suit wearing scooter riding wanker with tan leather slip-ons and matching satchel wants to pull up along side you like they are some kinda long lost relative. Thankfully a bust of throttle from the V2 air cooled  “Blockhead” speaks volumes and quickly conveys to them exactly what you are thinking – F#@k Off!

But as soon as traffic thins, the 883 Iron comes into its own and scooter riders and their designer Italian loafers are soon left floundering in your wake. Now you truly get to appreciate the difference between the 883 and Jap cruisers. It’s like the difference between a V8 and a Toyota Camry. You don’t buy the 883 for subtle refinements. You buy it for the exhilaration that comes with sitting on top of a smoking bike that’s dripping with raw grumbling power.

The stripped back look of the 883 does come at a price though. There’s no fuel gauge for instance. And the tail brake lights are incorporated into the signal indicators. A kind of half moon shape that feels like another one of those odd Californian inputs.

The classic tapered “Peanut fuel tank” is hand finished on each bike and looks brilliant. Harley says the tank holds 12.5L, but with the fuel cap slightly lower than the highest part of the tank, I have never been able to get the last half a litre in.

Although, for an old school looking bike, without a taillight or fuel gauge, it does actually have some pretty smart technology stashed inside. A ‘walk Away’ electronic key fob automatically engages the engine kill switch once you move 8 feet away from the bike. And in case you lose the fob, you can input a secret code that will let you start the bike with only the key.

The fob also arms the bike’s inbuilt alarm system the moment you move out of range. Anyone who tries to move it without the key fob on them is in for a nasty ear-piercing shock. Although, as they cup their ears to stem the bleeding, at least they’ll be able to enjoy the distinctly Californian choreographed light show as the two half-mooned indicator lights flash in time to the alarm.

However, while the 883 is now made in California, there is still one unwanted link to Harley’s recent past they haven’t been able to shake – build quality. Having a dubious reputation for not being the most reliable bike on the road, my 883 soon lived up to this unwanted rep.

Within 3 months and with less than 2000Ks on the OD, I had to have the bike towed and both the rear wheel bearings and starter motor replaced. While the towing, the parts and labour were all covered under warranty, it was still a major pain in the arse to be left without the bike for days. A month after those repairs, and I now find my rear brakes are rubbing badly and creating a high pitched whining sound at any speed over 40kms. Harley service have tried to tell me it’s normal road noise. However, if I wanted a bike with a constant high pitched annoying whine, I would have bought a Moped instead of a Harley.

In the end, I guess owning an 883 is a bit like dating a hot chick. They might be high maintenance at times, but that’s not going to stop you wanting to ride them every chance you get.

  • Awesome review, been thinking about getting one of these once i get off LAMS

  • Lancelot0009

    my GOd…i wish to get one as soon as i got blessed with better paying jobs…amen

  • JeCo

    I will save my money in hopes EBR is able to produce a sub 20k bike. While the new sportster is a decent platform from a looks perspctive, it’s over priced and shit quality. For the money I a mid 70/80s bike with a little would be a better buy and more rewarding.

    • pipeburn

      Over priced? It depends where you live. In the states the 883 is only $8k, in Australia it’s almost twice that. At $8k I think it’s great value. At $15k not so much. Although a SR400 in Australia costs $8k.

    • Over priced? It depends where you live. In the states the 883 is only $8k, in Australia it’s almost twice that. At $8k I think it’s great value. At $15k not so much. Although a SR400 in Australia costs $8k.

  • Mjsenz

    Great review. I only like this bike, but loved reading about it. Very well articulated, especially that last line.

  • marck


  • Glenn

    I purchased a (matte) Black 2011 883 new from Harley in Florida. A head-turning bike, that was a blast to ride around town. Not a bike for long rides — small tank — and the factory mid-controls and drag bars, can get unconfortable after 100+ miles. My first impression was a good one. For what they cost here in the states, they are well worth the cost. Maintenance is expensive, and pretty frequent. Aftermarket parts are expensive as well. I clocked in only 1000 miles before selling it because I purchased a Thruxton, which I ride all the time. My main complaint with the Iron was some of the parts started to discolor right away (It was garage kept) and the 883 motor is a little under powered for the bikes weight, there are flat spots in the power band.

    • mike

      how do you like the Thruxton? ride, quality, maintenance etc?

    • Pnc088

      I did exactly the same, sold my Nightster for a Thruxton and couldn’t be happier. Now I can corner

  • Car2nst

    I’ve ridden two of them and walked away thinking I was glad my money wasn’t wasted on such a slow, sluggish bike. Here in the states we’re over-run with RUBs ( rich urban bikers ) that drop wads of dough on HD’s and aftermarket bling while the rest of us chuckle and ride off in our late 80’s Jap bike that doesn’t break down every fortnight and costs 75 percent less-good, honest review however

    • You said it, brotha. I live in California and have seen from one end of the state to the other the middle age guys who can either afford a Harley (“cause I’ve always wanted one”(said with eyes crossed and tongue hanging out)) or they buy a Jap wannabe and try to make it look like a Harley.

  • AndrewF

    I find it funny how this Australian review seems to be all about the macho qualities of this bike, while on American forums 1200cc Sportsters have to fight the stigma of a ‘girls bike’ or ‘beginners bike’. As for the 883, they look at them as we look at 50cc scooters.

    • that’s true. We tend to ride smaller bikes here unless you are a hells angel or you need to compensate for something. Thanks to rising fuel prices there are also a lot more mopeds on the roads now.

      • I wouldn’t call a 700-900cc engine a small one…its rather medium size, and as everybody know, a medium steak is the best one!

        • Apparently, you’ve never had an American steak. lol

    • James McBride

      I think it’s better to judge bikes on horsepower and power to weight ratio that raw cylinder size. It’s misleading. A Japanese 250cc sport bike will utterly destroy a 1600cc Harley without breaking a sweat. Better not bigger.

      • Ugh

        Depends on your criteria for ‘utter destruction’.
        There’s no way I’d ride my 250 Japanese sports bike Sydney-Melbourne – I actually can’t think of a less exciting time – but I’d do it on a Harley no worries.

    • theCanada

      I ride with a friend who is an MSF instructor (in Texas).  He always says that people buy the 883 as a beginner bike.  It is a TERRIBLE beginner bike!  Like the reviewer says, “Even in first gear it doesn’t crawl easily below 20km/h. You need to
      ride the clutch which is a bit heavy and the work out soon has me
      thinking my left forearm may end up looking like Popeye’s.”  A friend of mine has one, and I used to occasionally take it out.  It is an enjoyable bike to ride, but not for me.

  • Maczee

    depends on your needs.if its your main/sole means of transport,buy jap.if you want an occasion bike,+ intangibles prioritise your “needs” buy harley or italian

  • Jesús Learte

    I don’t like Harleys. Here (Spain) they are (very) expensive, and most of its runners are not hell angels, but people who have money enough and want to be other, during a few hours a month. I can only agree anyone buying a Sportster, which seems to be less expensive and somehow rideable. 

  • Cliff Overton

    Can’t say a HD is on my want list right now, but I fully enjoyed the review – well written piece of work there – thanks.

  • Portnoy

    “Raw power” ?… I think not. Sure it`s stylish. I had an old “Iron Head” myself, 3 decades ago. Problem is they`ve hardly improved since then.

  • I used to ride an ’87 FXR. Good bike, but had some issues. Harley is just a different riding style. But this review reminds me of the old saying, “You always buy two Harleys; one to ride and one for spare parts.”

  • Menormeh

    I have had 5 Harleys in the past. They were all about the same. Poor antiquated engineering, poor quality, slow with no stopping power, and noisy. Today, I have a Goldwing. It does what it’s supposed to. As for Harley, yes I would own another under 2 conditions. First, I would have to have the price in cash and be able to throw it away if necessary. Second, I would never take it more than 50 miles from home because that’s as far as I would want to go with a pickup truck to bring it back. Nuff said. 

  • Mark Hawwa

    883’s man…. as cool as they look they need the extra 317cc’s. The torque feels awesome… but a 500cc SR shouldn’t be able to beat them.

  • Still bummed I didn’t get to ride one for myself. HD Australia – if you’re reading this…

    • AndrewF

      Some Australian HD dealers organise ride days that are open to anyone (with a full licence, of course) every now and then, don’t they?

      • It’s hard to review a bike properly in a few hours. We usually ask for them over at least 4 days to get a decent feel for them. Otherwise you tend to get stuck on the little differences between the review bike and yr current bike rather than “getting the hang” of them.

        For example, if I was to go from a sports bike to a HD just for a few hours, my impression of the gearbox might be that it’s heavy and slow, when in reality it might be perfectly suited to the bike once you get used to it. In those situations, you aren’t reviewing the bike, but rather reviewing THE DIFFERENCES between your daily ride and the new bike…

        • Maybe it’s different in Australia, but in the states (California), one can rent a HD.

          • AndrewF

            It is different. Maybe not impossible, but a lot less common. I’m in NSW and I just tried to locate a rental through HD website. I got two hits… in Queensland. And you can bet they would cost an arm and a leg as well. I looked at some other rentals once – for what they charged for a couple of days you could just as well buy a bike and be done with it.

          • I gotcha, Andrew. Here you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a Harley shop. A dude here could rent one for a week, get it out of his system, and move on. And considering they cost about half as much here as they do there, it won’t break the bank to rent one.

  • ben

    yesterday’s technology at today’s prices. 

    • Nothing wrong with that. Fender have been doing that for the past 30 years.

      • Ugh

        Or in the case of the P-Bass, fifty years.

        • I took off twenty years because I guess that before then it wasn’t “yesterday’s technology”

    • Enzo

      At $7,999 base price that is the cheapest of the comparable cruisers on the market. Hondas, Suzukis, Triumphs, Yamahas & Kawasaki cruisers all cost more than the Iron 883.

  • Ugh

    “base amp”

  • Seprtic the Sceptic

    In reality the “blockhead” moniker never took off and no one calls them that. It’s always “evo” or in this case “evo sporty”.

    • True, but I’ve always thought ‘Blockhead’ suited it much better than ‘Evo’. Evolution reminds me of some hi-tech japanese drifter car. Plus Blockhead goes perfectly with Pan Head, Iron Head and Flat Head.

      • Davidabl2

        In USA, have heard all the Evos called “beercan Harleys””  and Twin-cams “Twinkies,”
        which is also the term for a certain kind of homosexual.

  • Dale Mcvey

    Junk…always has been, and always will be.

    • I wouldn’t call them junk. They’re just best left to the guy who likes to tinker as much as ride.

      • oldasrocks

        I’ve owned six new Harleys in the last 20 years. None required tinkering. One had a few problems dealth with by a dealer, but never was there a need for tinkering, constant adjusting or fixing. They are what they are, but they are not junk. They’re not sports bikes either.Not meant to be. You want to yank and bank, don’t get a Harley.

  • Jay Everyday

    There a little too “Base Mold” for me personally and looks like the under tank area could do with a little more time in the design area though i can sertonally see the appeal. Though if i was going to spend $15,000 (Ha), if), id spend another $500 and buy an aftermarket 1200cc kit.

  • Nate Weaver

    I love the “heavy bike” pre-requisite for review loaner. Of course this is an out for PR Dept to research the potential reviewer to see if they’re going to play ball with review kind to old tech.

  • I recently treated myself to a XL1200N or ‘Nighster’ as Harley has dubbed this sporty. Having ridden BMWs and but one “Jap” bike as they’ve been referred to above I can wholeheartedly say that the only time I’ve had a big sh*t eating grin on my face was when I was rumbling around on my comparatively sluggish Harley. 

    My local HD dealership didn’t recommend the 883, and only recommend them for lady drivers – or at least light-ladies. Some of the Harley driving ladies appear to be heavier and possess a wider girth than the fatbobs. Apparently it’s under powered and is really just a great looking bike, ideal for cruising – not racing – to a caffe and back. 

    My XL1200N hasn’t the torque or the BHP of an entry level Triumph, but, my trip to work, to our restaurant districts here in Johannesburg, and back home is the highlight of my day. There’s nothing like coming to a stop at a red light alongside a plastic looking superbike – having the rider look at me, look away (I presume in disgust) and then roar off the line to show me how it’s done, only to see me smiling cruising off the line and trailing away. 

    Suffice is to say, I love my bike. Never liked Harley’s more crass and popular Fat Bob, so this modern-classic is just right and thus far damned reliable. 

  • Patrick_Hogan

     Living in California, I was surprised at the comment in the review that the 883 was made here.  I did a quick search of HD factories, there were none listed in California.  Businesses are leaving this state do to goverment regulations and high taxes.

    • oldasrocks

      Yeah, you’re right, there is no Harley plant in California, nor is there a design studio for them in CA. Assmebly is now being done in India, so maybe that’s what the guy got.

      • As it turns out the receipt from the ‘Californian plant’ is actually their shipping warehouse. The writer was told by the Harley Dealership here in Sydney that it must have been made in California. We apologise for the incorrect info.

  • Cobrar00

    Oh, the same 883 sportster they’ve been making for years… how exciting.

    If you can’t buy one used and turn it ‘black denim’ yourself, then I guess this is THE bike for you!

  • Couple of thoughts. First, the idea that this is a heavy bike compared to Jap bikes is true and false. Note that they are referred to as “hogs” because they are made from pig iron. One could say good ol’ American steel. Those lighter Jap bikes are often stripped of their extraneous parts to make them lighter and faster (similar to Brit bikes aka cafe racer.) Second, the bike has always been designed for wide open cruising. I do recall that HD did try to make a cafe style bike back in the 70’s (?) Anyway, having ridden both HD and Jap (Honda and Yamaha), it is not a far stretch to just say they are different. Not junk (like when AMC owned HD), just different. As an aside, it might be interesting reading a review on a Buell, maybe?

  • No, they are way different now. They used to cost 2 grand, now they’re close to 10!

  • Levi in Seattle

    I’ve enjoyed Pipeburn for quite a while now: good writing about great bikes. But today I’m disappointed:

    “What kind of gay colour is that, I thought you were getting a
    Harley?”. Bloody-hell, she was right. Such a slip of the tongue in front
    of my mates would have ended in a series of merciless taunts all
    questioning my sexual preferences, penis size or a combination of both.

    Really? You feel the need to defend your swagger, sexuality, and penis size by resorting to slurs? Really?

    Consider this reader unsubscribed.

    • The writer was just telling a story (which actually happened) and was not meant to offend anyone. Just a bit of a laugh. We did run it past a group of homosexual gentleman and they thought it was funny, so we let it run. 
      But we are sorry to have offended you.

    • Get over yourself, Levi in Seattle. Levi? Would that happen to be the black denim kind?

      • The_gray_man

        the fact he’s from seattle explains it

    • Wobblerfist

      Levi – pull your head in mate.  Here in Australia we can have a laugh without having a cry everytime someone says something we don’t agree with.  Really

  • Daz

    I have had the odd “hmm a Harley might be nice” thought pass through my head in the last year or so, even came close to trading in my TLR for a XR. I am glad I didn’t now as I still love my TLR, but I guess one day when I can afford two or more bikes I will entertain the thought of a harley, but not a new one.

  • No H-D plants in Cali.  That Sportster most certainly came from the Kansas City assembly plant.  The powertrain was built in Milwaukee.  Could the slip have referred to the California emissions compliance?

  • bruza

    you people who think the 883 looks good but has antiquated engineering should try the kawasaki W800.They got the styling perfect and with a set of staintune pipes they sound great.On the engineering front you wont think youre on an R1 but you know it will get you home.You yanks should contact Kawasaki and demand they bring them to the U.S.

  • Mike

    Its a good honest review – I have the 883R here in the UK and its goes round corners and nothing has dropped off yet, yes they are heavy and perhaps low powered but good off the line and up to 95mph if your arms can stand the strain
    Big bore for next year on the cards …

  • GuitarSlinger

    Too funny ! H-D Australia treating a legitimate online M/C magazine as badly as  H-D USA treats its customers ! ( buying a Harley from most dealers is an exercise in aggravation here  ) 

    As to H-D’s dubious reliability , here’s a quote from a friend who’s family has owned one of the oldest continuous  Harley dealers in the US ;

    ” You don’t buy a Harley because its the best bike , most reliable or the best built because it isn’t . You buy a Harley because you HAVE to have a Harley .. period ! Because the simple fact is there is not a single H-D on the road of any year or model with more than 5,000 miles on it that has two straight or round cylinders and isn’t a disaster waiting to happen ” 

    Having said that though they are a bit of a gas to ride …. assuming your mechanical skills are up to snuff 


  • Bob

    $8 Grand for a 40 hp bike……
    Silly, silly harley riders..

  • I loved my Superglide, and would actually like another Harley someday ( I’m thinking V-Rod ). There is something cool about the sound, the shake, etc, but I have a 91 HP Buell on the same engine block for 1/3 the price of what used bikes are going for, so I don’t feel a need to give that up for a bike engineered to under-perform. H-D can’t fix it or else their $11k bikes would outrun the $20k bikes! 😉

    • You have to wonder how much cheaper each bike would be if they didn’t have to build in the price of towing and thousands of dollars worth of warranty repairs and replacements…

      • oldasrocks

        Hate to repeat myself, but I will. After owning 6 new Harleys in the last 20 years I never once had to be towed. Or, even broke down on the road. One had some problems that were finally traced to improper dealer installation and adjusting methods. This “junk” and “thousands of dollars worth of warranty repairs and replacements” myth is from the ’70’s and before. It is usually caused by envy.

        • You’re totally right. HD have no quality issues what-so-ever. Also, the earth is apparently flat…

          • oldasrocks

            I only speak from 150,000+ miles of riding and owning Harley Davidson motorcycles. You obviously have much more experience with them than I.

          • Old

            No – I’ve never owned one. Congrats on such a good run with yours. All I know is what I read, and what I read is pretty horrible. Just Google “Harley Quality” and look through the results. Now try the same for Honda.

            See what I mean?

          • It’s true that when AMF owned the company, the quality dropped below bad. I don’t think they have ever completely recovered from that “stigma.”

          • Madfingers

            Maybe I need more Harleys (I know I want more…) but this is my experience:

            I started with a Honda Shadow almost 10 years ago.  I thought, “Wow!  It looks as good or better than a Harley, and is waaay cheaper, smoother, and better mechanically.  Why buy anything else?  Who needs a Harley.”

            After a few years on that bike I was ready to take the plunge on a badass new Dyna so I bought an FXDSE2, which was the most expensive one I could get my hands on.  Crazy, right?

            The thing is a HORSE.  I have had zero mechanical problems (just hit the 10,000 mile mark).  It corners and handles substantially better than the Honda.  And it carries with it such an incredible feel, sound, and mystique… The experience of riding it is incredible.  Fnally I understand where all the lore and reverance comes from.   I would NEVER again consider any other brand of cruiser motorcycle. 

            Riding my friend’s Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 feels like sitting on a toilet by comparison.  I would encourage anyone on the fence because of all the Harley Bashing to take heart and do what you want.

            That said, I’m considering a Sporty 1200 as a second bike and I have some concerns because of what the naysayers have been saying about its cornering clearance.

      • enzomedici

        If other manufacturers are so much more reliable than Harley, why don’t they have longer factory warranties? Harley has 2 year unlimited warranty, Honda has 3 year, Suzuki has 1 year, Yamaha has 1 year limited warranty, Kawasaki has 1 year unlimited, Triumph has a 2 year unlimited warranty. If these bikes were that much better, the manufacturers would offer 5 year unlimited warranties. But, they can’t.

  • Caferacer

    I own a mid to 70’s to early 90’s ironhead sporty (read:custom) it is a dinosaur, looks rough and still with the high modification of the cobbled together engine hit 120 mph with ease 141 is the high mark to date. The point? Owning a harley is not nor should be construed as rational thought. My engine has more in common with a Sopwith Camel  bi plane engine, literally, than any modern bike, it is just a primitive airpump made to pursue Volumetric Efficiency more than the engineering specs or factory practices would ever of allowed for. It pains me to not support the factory workers of harley my good fellow americans as they are, but corporate just does not deserve my money – If I bought a new sporty (never will) it would be stripped of a large amount of crap right away (that couch like seat is a prime example). Also screw the warranty because as we read he still has issues and will “till he gets greasy and fixes it himself. Also install a clutch ramp mod available in all the big pats dealers stores to ease the forearm burn. For the money spent the good man could of purchased and modified a number of sporties bought on the cheap these days.

    • Mrlowlight

      Well said……and it’s interesting and disappointing to read such opinionated crap from bike riders. What’s also interesting, a lot of guys who ride Harleys don’t care what other people ride, because it’s about being on two wheels. I ride an old custom rigid Shovelhead because it’s the style and feel that I like, a bare bones bike. The modern Harleys don’t appeal to me much at all and as for the review, the writer comes across as having some masculinity issues and has bought into the Company bullshit. A friend has a Black Denim Street Bob (he’s secure in his masculinity and not afraid to talk amongst his mates) that has been piped, chipped and tuned, it goes like a scalded cat and handles well, with sensible suspension upgrades, it gives a few sport riders the hurry up on the Old Road. Certainly it’s not sport bike, but he has a lot of fun and most sport riders I know of do similar mods to their bikes, to get that little bit more. Get over your attitudes people and just ride FFS. 

  • Ccccc

    Actually, new Harley’s are “assembled” in the US. The majority of what makes up the bikes (around 70% or so) are made in Asian countries. The powerplants (engines) are made (or possibly also, just assembled) in York, PA. No offense to those that dig them, but I wouldn’t even look twice at one if you gave it to me for free…just my 3 cents (inflation, ya know).

    Now, on the other hand, I do very much like the vintage, 100%made-in-America HD’s

  • leavesandbranches

    What an incredibly insufferable ‘review’.  As a fellow 883 rider in Sydney I am quite embarrassed for this guy’s pretensions and insecurities… and what kind of tool doesn’t test ride a bike before buying it?!

    I got my 2007 Sportster because I think it looks great, I wanted something more interesting than a generic mid sized Jap to commute with, and I don’t do track days.  All this macho BS just makes the guy sound like he’s bought into Harley’s marketing like any other wanker who wants to desperately prove he’s a “tough guy”, whatever that means, instead of just another white collar suburbanite.

    Then again I don’t get the people who bash HDs either.  Like Mrlowlight said “Get over your attitudes people and just ride FFS.”

  • Richsteixner

    25K MILES on my 2009 Iron 883. Front wheel bearings went at 20K.

    That’s about it.

    Really enjoy mine. I also have a 1980 Honda CB with blown piston rings at 16,000 miles, for whatever that’s worth.

    • Magic Rat

      2004 Sportster 1200C, 3rd owner, 10,500 miles…. no non-scheduled maintenance whatsoever.

      I’ve put 8,000 on in the last year and a half, most of it commuting or short rides.

      Awesome bike Looks great (lots of chrome) sounds great, rides great. Been on a few 300 mile + rides without fail. All I’ve ever done is change the oil and clean the K&N air filter — one time!

      Those that bash the post-AMF HD — don’t know what they’re talking about.

  • not to get off on a rant here, but…

    harley minimizes costs to maximize profits, but only in the most short-sighted ways. they market the appeal of a by-gone era to an aging market segment who will soon have gone by, themselves. sure, the over-40 (more like over-50, now) crowd doesn’t mind bike technology easily as old as them and may still have the perception of the “outlaw” biker image harley has been banking on to the exclusion of all others for so many years, but that can’t last. for the following generations who don’t have the mystique of harley built into their opinions and views of modern motorcycles, milwaukee has a serious bust on the horizon.

    like a lot of other brands getting by on their name, the value of the harley davidson product by itself obviously isn’t enough to make sales, so the vicious cycle to propping up the name and then capitalizing on secondary demand based on the “intangibles”. it has worked to varying degrees for a while, now, (any other companies in this decade making money on blaze orange do-rags?) but instead of quality, reliability, innovation, and value for the money harley is a brand offering a lifestyle that just doesn’t have a consumer, any more.

    sure other bikes sell lifestyle, but they deliver more for the money, and, honestly, those lifestyles just aren’t as silly and anachronous. badass biker? you’re a fucking dentist. loner 1%-er? your lipitor prescription is showing in your $500 leather tasseled saddle bags. buying american, by hell? most of harley’s shit is made in the same pacific rim manufacturing crescent as every other heavy industrial item and harley davidson is laughing all the way to the bank.

    the iron 883 at least looks a little different at first glance from the rest of their stable, but it still has all the same old problems harley products have had for a long, long time. and it’s just offensive at this point that harley keeps insulting the world’s intelligence by making such an UNNECESSARILY heavy, unwieldy, overpriced motorcycle. yes, even ~$8k is too much for this bike. that it costs twice as much overseas is insane.

    and to put the cherry on top of all their incessant failures, they shat on erik buell, apparently the only guy associated with them who understood that plenty of americans would be buying motorcycles designed and sold by american companies if some were worth the money being charged for them. buell, of course, is better off without them, but what a shame harley couldn’t see the golden opportunity they had with that partnership.

    • To be fair, Buell had a whole bunch of problems with quality himself. I read a review once where every single bike of the dozen or so they had on hand for the press broke down. The real killer was that it wasn’t the same problem on all the bikes. Some had stuck gearboxes. Others warped brake discs. Yet others broke teeth off of their drive gears. Not exactly confidence inspiring…

      • hadn’t heard that. is that from the old harley-distributed buell line or the more recent ebr bikes?

        • From recollection it was a piece in UKs BIKE magazine from about 4 years ago.

    • Magic Rat

      Quite the rant and prognostication! Damn, if you hate HD that much, why would you ever read anything at all related to them? Just a masochist at heart, or ….?

      And no, I don’t think I’m an outlaw… nor do most (the 99%) of us. I just think I have a cool looking, sweet riding bike that’ll take me anywhere I want to go… comfortably. Will it beat a Ninja crotch rocket in a 1/4 mile sprint — hell no! But, I don’t care. If I wanted one of those bikes — I’d buy it. I can afford it and (I’m not even a dentist). I choose to ride a Harley because i like the way it looks, sounds, feels and makes me feel. And, if you’re now done analyzing the Harley riders…. you might want to check on those guys on the crotch rockets to see what their self-esteem issues are…. I mean really…? Who needs to go 140 mph? Zipping in and out of moving traffic? Pulling wheelies on the freeway? Me? I’m happy cruising at 85-90 on the open road knowing that I can take it to 110 if for some unconscious reason if I think I need to (smack me upside the head if I do go that fast).

      BUS101 = Minimize costs to maximize profits! ALL companies do it. You just don’t agree with how HD does it, and it sure seems like it bothers you that they still sell an awful lot of bikes. Yes, bikes! Parts, apparel and accessories only account for about 20% of their sales. So, they’re not selling $5B worth of doo rags, but the Pittsburgh Steelers sell a bright yellow do-rag…. you might want to analyze their business model too.

      fyi… I’ll be riding my heavy, over-priced bike 1750 miles one-way (8-hour riding days) to Sturgis this year. Try riding your rice-rocket or Brit bike that far, that long… Good luck! LMAO!

    • enzomedici

      At $,7999 the Iron 883 is cheaper than the Japanese bikes that are comparable. The Evolution engine is bulletproof and has been rated one of the top 10 engines of all time. Heave? 540 lbs. That is light for a mid weight cruiser…lighter than comparable metrics. I think you are just pissed at Harley in general.

  • the classic love it or leave it mentality. applied to both motorcycles and nations, it’s not great for the longevity of the very thing you’re defending.

    i don’t hate harley, i hate what they’re doing. i love harley davidson. i love american motorcycles and want desperately to be able to justify buying one — but in my opinion harley isn’t running america’s motorcycle company in a way i can conscionably support and they definitely aren’t motorcycles that hold up well when compared with their competition.

    the post was vitriolic, but only because it was an impassioned argument. i certainly didn’t intend to offend harley owners. probably should have been more diplomatic and i can understand your umbrance. as far as descending into a comparison of cultures, i find “stunting” sport bike riders every bit as annoying as mean-mugging, screaming eagle pipe sporting cruiser riders.

    my father raced flat track in flat track’s heyday. 250 sprints up through 750 xr’s. harley was at the top of their game and they made perfect motorcycles for the sport at that time. and, by and large, motorcycles perfect for nothing besides looking like harley davidsons since.

    i want harley to make motorcycles viable for a market that has long since changed so america still has a world class motorcycle company selling products in every market segment worldwide. be that making their motorcycles more accessible or making their products more competitive with similarly priced brands, i think it’s necessary and i think it needs to be said often and loud until harley listens.

  • H f-s

    couple of things
    rear bearrings are a real issue with these, i’ve had mine replaced twice now under warranty.

    don’t buy the xl1200s if you are in NSW CTP greenslips will kill you, the money saved on an 883 can be spent on an engine kit from harley or a third party, and it’ll still be registered as a lower capacity.

    They’re definitely an emotional and overpriced buy, with many short comings when stacked up against say a triumph or some older japanese bikes. The character of the sportsters makes up for this in spades along with the massive aftermarket parts for custom work.

    A great urban cruiser/commuter which is small and reasonably nimble.

  • AMF that is…

  • ScramblinMan

    Nice honest review that addresses the emotional benefits and
    the practical failings of Harley ownership. It’s just a shame that the author
    keeps the stigma of Harley riders alive with his prejudice comments towards
    other 2-wheeled motorists. I ride a farkled Scrambler with pipes that set off car
    alarms, but have also commuted for years on a classic Vespa. Regardless of what
    I am riding each day I’m more than happy to share a lane or give a nod to any fellow rider, after all when t-boned by an SUV we’re just as f@#ked as each other. You’d be surprised how many scooter riders also have a larger
    motorbike in the garage, follow the Moto GP, read Pipeburn and get a hard-on at
    I’m a big fan of what HD have done with the 883, but aside of the fact that
    modern classic Triumphs are more reliable, corner, brake and accelerate better
    than Harleys, the main reason I wouldn’t buy the 883 is fear of being associated
    with redneck f@#kwits like you.

    • Totally agree. I had a vespa for a little while and enjoyed it. I don’t think the writer was meaning to be a scooter hater, just trying to dramatize the 883 features in a humorous way. 

  • Drunkandgreasy

    Fellas, one year and 8 months ago i bought a ’10 iron. I have 21,000 miles on it. My first HD, it looks nothing like stock anymore, and have squeezed 72 HP out of it. Its the 17 th moto i have owned in my 43 years on this Planet…its in my top three favorites. Not a problem yet, aside from oil sweating on the motor after and since its very third mile…. So no complaints…

    Cheers and beers

  • Harley Davidson believes every motorcycle it sells can be a custom of one

  • Frank Radaj

    I bought a yellow one last year.  It might not be the fastest or best handling motorcycle but it may be the funnest.  Have had no problems with it.  I was suprised by how much grunt it has.  Sounds like a demon.

  • SlowandOld

    Thirty years ago I worked in the service department of a major Harley dealer.  We had huge problems with valve guides, electronic ignition modules, and voltage regulators – plus a plethora of random quality control problems.  At that time a Harley cost about five times as much as a big Japanese bike.  Back then I hated sportsters because of their vicious vibration, their hard and uncomfortable rider accommodations, and the unrelenting blat of their shorty exhaust pipes.  The big twins, while still brutal, were far more endurable for extended rides.   But early one morning I was riding a sportster down some deserted streets.  I was late and in a hurry, and riding just a bit over the speed limit, and I realized that if you could overlook the more-or-less obvious shortcomings, the sportster with its light weight, rigid chassis, and low center of gravity,  was actually an excellent handling little bike and very fun to ride aggressively.  If you could fix the vibration issue,  and the quality control issue, put a better exhaust system on it, improve the cornering clearance, and make it a bit more comfortable, you’d might have something, especially if you could sell it at a competitive price.  Now that the 883 is priced as an entry level bike, the motor is rubber mounted to take the edge of the vibration, and Harley’s had thirty years to work on the quality issues, it might be worth a look.   Harley still needs to give us a proper exhaust system though.  Tell you the truth, I think the Harley market (much like hockey fans) likes the brutal nature of their sport too much, and that will never change.

  • zack

    Hey moron, it’s Japanese, not Jap.

  • Alej

    Holy shit dude could you possibly write an article without being racist and fucking homophobic? “Jap”? “Gay” as a negative thing? I stopped reading. Maybe you have something to say about the bike, but it really isn’t worth finding out if I have to slog through your prejudices.

    • LS650

      Don’t get your panties in a knot.

  • Steve Jenkins

    What the f**k is wrong with you all? Can’t you just buy a bike, ride it, and if you don’t like it then sell it? Why does everything have to be a political or personal statement? It’s a motorcycle! Two wheels, a brilliant engine, a fuel tank, some (average) brakes and some other bits ‘n’ bobs that make it all go. That’s it, that’s all! It’s not a comment on your lifestyle or personality, unless you choose it to be. I’ve bought my second Harley, this time I bought the 883 Iron, because I really like the way it looks. It looks like a bike should. In my opinion. Obviously there are billions of people who disagree with me, and buy Ducatis, (had one of those, didn’t like spending time in the back of a tow truck!), or buy Guzzis, (had one of those, loved it), BMW’s (got one of those as well as the Harley, still love it) or Japanese bikes, (had loads of those, and they were all pretty good). That’s great though isn’t it? Life would be very boring if every time I pulled up at a bike meet there were only Harley Irons there. Yes we could all be smug and agree that we’ve bought a good bike, but how dull. Me, I prefer to wander round and look at other types of bikes. Yes, my BMW will do everything better than the Harley. Much much better. Yes your Japanese sports bike will definitely out-perform it on a track. Who cares? Good luck to you, you’ve bought the bike that you want! Excellent, I’m happy for you. But I’ve also bought the bike I want, (at the moment!). No doubt I may change it in the future. That’s my choice, and you have your choices too. For f**ks sake people, we all ride bikes, just be happy we have a society that allows us to have such a vast choice. Chill out and enjoy your ride.

  • andy

    I’m not supprised harley did’nt let you use their bike, what gay people don’nt want harleys, japanese people don’t want harleys, scooter riders don’t one day want to own a harley, way to alienate potential customers!

  • rh

    guys wat about Hyosung ST7 ???????

  • Paulie

    I tossed and turned about buying a Harley for years , then they brought ou the iron 883 and the forty eight , now while I was tossing between the to my mate brought one , which he was happy to lend me on my days off , I loved the low end grunt and acceleration , ok it wasn’t like a up but that not I was looking for , I did find the sudden jolt that I got from every little bump in the road a bi of a concern , so I decided against getting one , months went by and I started dreaming of a Harley agin , and again my eyes were on a forty eight , so here I am again looking, then last month I’m sitting in th bike shop and the owner tells m he’s got a trade comin in that he didnt want to hold onto for to long , it was a black iron 883 , but this one had had also of work done on it , blacked out progressive shocks front and rear , vance and Hines short shots , screaming eagle air intake , so what’s man to do ……………. A few days later and a few $$$$ and now I own a Harley 🙂 ,sorry but I love it , I love the looks it gets , I love talking to people about an yes I love ridding around Sydney on it , i think if you’re thinking about buying a iron or forty eight 1. Decide what you want it for , these bikes are not touring bikes , they are town bikes and the quick spin down the coast 2.Are you going to be carrying a passenger , again they are not designed for two up nd your passenger will suffer 3. Find a friend with one that will let you ride theirs (atleast for a day ) , you’ll soon find out how punishing the shocks are , look if you’re buying one new , they are a cheap entry into the Harley family but if you start to dress them up (and you will ), you are looking at lot of $$$$ , hunt around for one that someon has already spent the so called Harley tax on and you’ll save $$$$$ but in the end it’s your choice andim happy I’ve got one 🙂

  • <3leys

    I love this bike! Enough said

  • Santa

    I had a Sportster. Looked cool, but it was a POS. Unreliable, uncomfortable, top-heavy, and made enough torque to make it seem almost unmanageably abrupt as you maneuvered it in and out of a parking spot or through heavy traffic, but not enough power to stay with a guy on a 500cc Suzuki. The little tank was forever running low on gas, which you hadn’t much clue about beforehand, as there was no gas gauge. Sounds like ever so much more is going on with the engine than actually is. For that much rumble and roar, one might expect at least 150 hp, not less than 50. Oddly, or foolishly, enough, when I eventually wrecked it, I replaced it with another Harley. This time, a Big Twin. Much easier and more comfortable to ride, and actually had a gas gauge and decent range. It even came with a tach. Still not particularly fast, but fewer things broke. Admittedly, it still wasn’t as reliable as most Hondas. My brother took my bike for a spin and came back with a big grin, even though he’s been one of those people who’d always sneered at H-Ds. The Harley Big Twins are about 30% better bikes. Only downside is, they take a 100% bigger bite out of your wallet when you sign on the dotted line.

  • Hi, there, loved the review…. but gotta say, i use the iron everyday, wether it´s raining, red hot, or whatever… litery everyday since 2009… and never had any problems with the bike, non what so ever… just gotta do the basic maintenance, got 20000 km´s.

  • Ragnar H

    I’ve been riding since the mid-1970s my dad was riding Harleys and Indians in the 1940s and right up thru the 1960s. I’ve owned some Jap bikes as well as a triumph but mostly Harleys. The Japanese bikes were good bikes but for the most part they were uninspiring and just good transportation. never let me down but never lit my fuse either. While I agree that there are way too many so-called corporate riders (middle aged men new to riding a bike) buying HDs, I still can’t get over the pettiness exhibited by non-Harley fans. You guys have been crying and whining about how bad Harleys are and how miraculous you’re Hondas and Kaws are for half a century and the tune never changes, it just gets tiresome. I got news for all you Jap aficionados, bitching about build quality, ride quality, noise, comfort, reliability etc., all your noise isn’t imparting any wisdom because it’s all been said before and probably by better and more experienced riders than the average poster seen here. But what none of you get and you have never gotten is, it’s not about all the quality or mechanical issues, the obnoxious vibration and noise, it’s about history and the enjoyment of being on a bike knowing that you are on a machine that will be remembered for centuries as the two wheeled icon that set the bar for coolness for almost 100 years so far. All I can say is let’s just see if history is as kind to your Goldwing; I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. LOL.

  • KenC

    Just bought a 2013. LOVE IT!

  • Haskins

    Best review i have ever read…!!! bloody fantastic, do you have a blog where you frequently write about Harley’s or bikes alike??

  • Bloodybarron

    Faggot, they are looking at you because when harley riding asshole’s drive by someone having a nice conversation enjoying the fucking day they are thinking wow this guy really needs some attention or I wonder how tiny his pecker is.

  • dave

    good review. i’m on my second sporty 101,000miles including 2 cross country trips) on a 2003 883r and now 8400 on a 2012 883 iron. my sporties have never let me down. regular upkeep is all tires and a battery. i’ll buy another

  • Robin H

    Brilliant: “I guess owning an 883 is a bit like dating a hot chick. They might be high maintenance at times, but that’s not going to stop you wanting to ride them every chance you get. “

  • ciro

    250 kg for 50 hp on the 883, watch out at the red light, some of those wankers on scooters could make eat you some dirt, i guess you experience on jap bikes was limited to 125 cc

  • Tyree Elchuchosilvestres Thoma

    Hopefully I get mine today I’m so excited

  • grumpy_old_ben

    I owned an ironhead Sportster in the early 1980s. It was a slow old thing, even compared to the British bikes that were quite numerous at the time. Gave a great impression of hairy chested power but didn’t deliver. Handling was dreadful.

    Quite a few experienced riders are turning to the 74″ (1200cc) Sportster these days. The Big Twins seem to have “lost the plot” rather, in recent years; all sorts of fancy technology to mitigate the issues of rear-cylinder heat build-up and some rather unattractive stories about cam chain tensioners and oil changes.

    I looked at a Sportster a while ago but bought a Honda VT750SA. For some fashion-driven reason this particular variant never really caught on, but as “Honda makes a Sportster” it’s spot-on. Starts, goes, vibrates a bit but nothing serious, not very fast but very well-mannered; some people are critical of the various chromed plastic bits and pieces but I take the view that any engine which can use plastic cylinder head covers, has its temperature management well under control.

    Exhaust is intrusive and the Japanese have never quite grasped that area of aesthetics. Handling could be better, the fat 16″ rear tyre doesn’t do anything for any bike of that sort if size. Honda VT series engines have been around a long time in various sizes and shapes, no worries there.

    I do have a Harley, a much-rebuilt WL 45″ flathead, state of the art technology in its day and real old-school craftsmanship (at least the remaining OEM parts; aftermarket and modern repop components, not so much)

  • Mabel Margaret

    Very good review.

    harley starters

  • grumpy_old_ben

    I have to agree. I bought a bike last year. I could have had a Sportster for my budget, but bought a 2011 Honda VT750RS – the chain drive, “Honda does a Sportster” model.

    It just goes, and goes, and goes. Build quality is very high. Colour matching between the plastic and metal parts is still excellent, three years on. Riding position is comfy, the seat could be better but there you go. The styling is slightly “off”, as Japanese retro bikes often are, but that’s a matter of personal taste and I can live with it.

  • AQ

    For a brand new 2014 Sportser 883 costs 3500 Dinar in Kuwait. Thats $ 11850 USD. I got a used one for 6750 USD. Loving it but my license plate fell off. Running the marathon to get a new one. Great Review. Who doesn’t like to ride a hot chick 🙂

  • Mabel Margaret

    I like this article.

    harley starter drives

  • Mabel Margaret
  • JorisJ

    He’s on about the build quality. My cx500 ’81 was in better shape after 60 000 miles than my Harley ’08 with 10 000 miles. The fenders had to be sandblasted an repainted..

  • AAlicea

    I’m planning to buy this bike on Sunday, I’m going to pay $5,500 for a 2012 Iron 883 with 980 miles. It looks brand new, I really like it. What you guys think about it?

  • Oz Nguyen

    Love the article … Absolutely love the bike … Any chance anyone know what is the N in XLn stands for ? Thanks.