Motorbike

Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 review

Harley’s best-selling entry-level bikes have been improved all round, gaining stronger engines, some performance and user/dealer-friendliness without losing their Harley-ness
Details
Manufacturer:
Harley-Davidson
Category:
Custom
Price:
£ 5195
Overall
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)
you can swing it round bends with confidence, though don’t lean it over too far – ground clearance is limited
Affordable entry point to the Harley-Davidson dream t. Unintimidating.
Pathetic performance means you should jump straight onto a 1200

The Sportster 883 is the ‘My First Harley’ of the range. It’s cheap – about £5,250 (2004 prices are to be confirmed). The rest of the range isn’t, by any stretch of the wallet (£10k-£17k). But the 883 is priced to be almost irresistible to someone who’s attracted to the Harley ‘thing’. The new 2004 Sportster 883, a complete revision of the previous model and only £50-£100 more expensive than the 2003 model.

From an 883 starter I’d still leapfrog it onto the big-bore brothers, however. So how have they managed to completely revise this model and retain the looks of its predecessor? Well in short, they’ve done lots of little things and nothing radical.

It’s more service engineer-friendly, it’s more owner-friendly and it’s had its obligatory digital-age makeover of the ignition laying the foundations for fuel injection, when the law finally squeezes it into going that way. Other big-bore Harleys in the range are all fuel-injected.

Harley tells us there are four areas addressed in the Sportster makeover: vibration, performance, ergonomics and styling. Certainly vibration has been dealt with by isolating the engine from the chassis by means of rubber mounts. Let the engine drop to its lumpy tickover and watch it rock back and forth, independently of the chassis; it’s a weird sight. And indeed the tingly vibes from the 45° V-twin fail to reach your parts. Instead there’s a nice pulsing thrum still coming through the seat, bars and pegs. Full marks.

Performance is more tricky. Engine behaviour (performance is too strong a word) is dictated very much by modern emissions laws, which you must flout at the first service if you want any fun on your Hog. A couple of open cans and a jet kit transform any Harley from delivering a silent fart of power to something much more satisfying.

In stock form, the 883 is pathetic; but the 1200 is much more rideable. Handling has been considered too. The chassis no longer uses the engine as a stressed member and has been stiffened. Brakes are the excellent Japanese Nissin, with no apology given nor sought and the rear end has been rearranged to accommodate a 150 section rear tyre; no mean feat we are told.

Ladies have been given serious consideration in comfort and ergonomics revamps. It has a one-inch lower seat height, the hand-grips are slimmer and the bars narrower; the better brakes need less of a tug. Very female friendly, and so it should be with 40% of Rider’s Edge (Harley’s UK novice school) pupils being women.

Finally a restyling. There were seven Sportster models in ’03, for ’04 there are four: two 883s – the 883 and the 883 Custom – and the 1200 Roadster and 1200 Custom. There are, however, a million different things you can do to customise your bike, all with Harley accessories, a £40m business in Europe alone.

There are 33 different colour choices thanks to Harley Europe’s clever central stocking system. The new tanks/fenders can’t be retro-fitted to ’03 models however. Personally, I thought the Roadster looked utterly stunning in orange and white. One great improvement in my eyes is the loss of the connecting exhaust pipe, which used to cross the V of the motor, ruining its look.

The Custom versions differ from the Roadster and stock 883 in their 21-inch spoked front wheel, high bars, chromed engine cases, single front disc, 4-litre larger tank and no tacho. The stock 883 is a basic bike, built down to its single seat.

If you try to ride it hard, it gives nothing back. I can only say it needs tuning. The best I can say is that it’s unintimidating to a new rider, which is hardly a compliment. But it handles well and you can swing it round bends with confidence, though don’t lean it over too far – ground clearance is limited. The brakes are acceptable, though I always used the rear with the front as a necessity.

The Sportster 883 is the ‘My First Harley’ of the range. It’s cheap – about £5,250 (2004 prices are to be confirmed). The rest of the range isn’t, by any stretch of the wallet (£10k-£17k). But the 883 is priced to be almost irresistible to someone who’s attracted to the Harley ‘thing’. The new 2004 Sportster 883, a complete revision of the previous model and only £50-£100 more expensive than the 2003 model.

From an 883 starter I’d still leapfrog it onto the big-bore brothers, however. So how have they managed to completely revise this model and retain the looks of its predecessor? Well in short, they’ve done lots of little things and nothing radical.

It’s more service engineer-friendly, it’s more owner-friendly and it’s had its obligatory digital-age makeover of the ignition laying the foundations for fuel injection, when the law finally squeezes it into going that way. Other big-bore Harleys in the range are all fuel-injected.

Harley tells us there are four areas addressed in the Sportster makeover: vibration, performance, ergonomics and styling. Certainly vibration has been dealt with by isolating the engine from the chassis by means of rubber mounts. Let the engine drop to its lumpy tickover and watch it rock back and forth, independently of the chassis; it’s a weird sight. And indeed the tingly vibes from the 45° V-twin fail to reach your parts. Instead there’s a nice pulsing thrum still coming through the seat, bars and pegs. Full marks.

Performance is more tricky. Engine behaviour (performance is too strong a word) is dictated very much by modern emissions laws, which you must flout at the first service if you want any fun on your Hog. A couple of open cans and a jet kit transform any Harley from delivering a silent fart of power to something much more satisfying.

In stock form, the 883 is pathetic; but the 1200 is much more rideable. Handling has been considered too. The chassis no longer uses the engine as a stressed member and has been stiffened. Brakes are the excellent Japanese Nissin, with no apology given nor sought and the rear end has been rearranged to accommodate a 150 section rear tyre; no mean feat we are told.

Ladies have been given serious consideration in comfort and ergonomics revamps. It has a one-inch lower seat height, the hand-grips are slimmer and the bars narrower; the better brakes need less of a tug. Very female friendly, and so it should be with 40% of Rider’s Edge (Harley’s UK novice school) pupils being women.

Finally a restyling. There were seven Sportster models in ’03, for ’04 there are four: two 883s – the 883 and the 883 Custom – and the 1200 Roadster and 1200 Custom. There are, however, a million different things you can do to customise your bike, all with Harley accessories, a £40m business in Europe alone.

There are 33 different colour choices thanks to Harley Europe’s clever central stocking system. The new tanks/fenders can’t be retro-fitted to ’03 models however. Personally, I thought the Roadster looked utterly stunning in orange and white. One great improvement in my eyes is the loss of the connecting exhaust pipe, which used to cross the V of the motor, ruining its look.

The Custom versions differ from the Roadster and stock 883 in their 21-inch spoked front wheel, high bars, chromed engine cases, single front disc, 4-litre larger tank and no tacho. The stock 883 is a basic bike, built down to its single seat.

If you try to ride it hard, it gives nothing back. I can only say it needs tuning. The best I can say is that it’s unintimidating to a new rider, which is hardly a compliment. But it handles well and you can swing it round bends with confidence, though don’t lean it over too far – ground clearance is limited. The brakes are acceptable, though I always used the rear with the front as a necessity.

The Sportster 883 is the ‘My First Harley’ of the range. It’s cheap – about £5,250 (2004 prices are to be confirmed). The rest of the range isn’t, by any stretch of the wallet (£10k-£17k). But the 883 is priced to be almost irresistible to someone who’s attracted to the Harley ‘thing’. The new 2004 Sportster 883, a complete revision of the previous model and only £50-£100 more expensive than the 2003 model.

From an 883 starter I’d still leapfrog it onto the big-bore brothers, however. So how have they managed to completely revise this model and retain the looks of its predecessor? Well in short, they’ve done lots of little things and nothing radical.

It’s more service engineer-friendly, it’s more owner-friendly and it’s had its obligatory digital-age makeover of the ignition laying the foundations for fuel injection, when the law finally squeezes it into going that way. Other big-bore Harleys in the range are all fuel-injected.

Harley tells us there are four areas addressed in the Sportster makeover: vibration, performance, ergonomics and styling. Certainly vibration has been dealt with by isolating the engine from the chassis by means of rubber mounts. Let the engine drop to its lumpy tickover and watch it rock back and forth, independently of the chassis; it’s a weird sight. And indeed the tingly vibes from the 45° V-twin fail to reach your parts. Instead there’s a nice pulsing thrum still coming through the seat, bars and pegs. Full marks.

Performance is more tricky. Engine behaviour (performance is too strong a word) is dictated very much by modern emissions laws, which you must flout at the first service if you want any fun on your Hog. A couple of open cans and a jet kit transform any Harley from delivering a silent fart of power to something much more satisfying.

In stock form, the 883 is pathetic; but the 1200 is much more rideable. Handling has been considered too. The chassis no longer uses the engine as a stressed member and has been stiffened. Brakes are the excellent Japanese Nissin, with no apology given nor sought and the rear end has been rearranged to accommodate a 150 section rear tyre; no mean feat we are told.

Ladies have been given serious consideration in comfort and ergonomics revamps. It has a one-inch lower seat height, the hand-grips are slimmer and the bars narrower; the better brakes need less of a tug. Very female friendly, and so it should be with 40% of Rider’s Edge (Harley’s UK novice school) pupils being women.

Finally a restyling. There were seven Sportster models in ’03, for ’04 there are four: two 883s – the 883 and the 883 Custom – and the 1200 Roadster and 1200 Custom. There are, however, a million different things you can do to customise your bike, all with Harley accessories, a £40m business in Europe alone.

There are 33 different colour choices thanks to Harley Europe’s clever central stocking system. The new tanks/fenders can’t be retro-fitted to ’03 models however. Personally, I thought the Roadster looked utterly stunning in orange and white. One great improvement in my eyes is the loss of the connecting exhaust pipe, which used to cross the V of the motor, ruining its look.

The Custom versions differ from the Roadster and stock 883 in their 21-inch spoked front wheel, high bars, chromed engine cases, single front disc, 4-litre larger tank and no tacho. The stock 883 is a basic bike, built down to its single seat.

If you try to ride it hard, it gives nothing back. I can only say it needs tuning. The best I can say is that it’s unintimidating to a new rider, which is hardly a compliment. But it handles well and you can swing it round bends with confidence, though don’t lean it over too far – ground clearance is limited. The brakes are acceptable, though I always used the rear with the front as a necessity.

Length (mm)2289
Dryweight (kg)252
Seats1
Seat Height (mm)744
Suspension Front39mm fork
Suspension RearMild steel, rectangular tube sections, stamped junctions, MIG welded swinging arm
Wheels Front19 inch 13-spoke silver cast
Wheels Rear16 inch 13-spoke silver cast
Brakes FrontDual piston caliper 292.1mm disc
Brakes RearSingle piston caliper 292.1mm disc
Tank Capacity (litres)13
Wheelbase (mm)1524
Ground Clearance (mm)141
Trail (mm)117
ChassisMild steel, tubular frame, circular sections, cast junctions
Length (mm)2289
Dryweight (kg)252
Seats1
Seat Height (mm)744
Suspension Front39mm fork
Suspension RearMild steel, rectangular tube sections, stamped junctions, MIG welded swinging arm
Wheels Front19 inch 13-spoke silver cast
Wheels Rear16 inch 13-spoke silver cast
Brakes FrontDual piston caliper 292.1mm disc
Brakes RearSingle piston caliper 292.1mm disc
Tank Capacity (litres)13
Wheelbase (mm)1524
Ground Clearance (mm)141
Trail (mm)117
ChassisMild steel, tubular frame, circular sections, cast junctions
Cubic Capacity (cc)883
Max Power (bhp)50
Bore (mm)76.20
Stroke (mm)96.82
Valve GearDOHC
Compression Ratio8.9
CoolingAir cooled
Fuel DeliveryCarburetion
Stroke TypeFour Stroke
DriveBelt
Cubic Capacity (cc)883
Max Power (bhp)50
Bore (mm)76.20
Stroke (mm)96.82
Valve GearDOHC
Compression Ratio8.9
CoolingAir cooled
Fuel DeliveryCarburetion
Stroke TypeFour Stroke
DriveBelt
Top Speed
Top Speed
Affordable entry point to the Harley-Davidson dream t. Unintimidating.
Pathetic performance means you should jump straight onto a 1200

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