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Harley Magazine Test Sportster Review Iron 883

Harley Reviews Harley-Davidson Sportsters

Harley Magazine Test Sportster Review Iron 883


Harley Sportster Iron 883 Motorcycle

Participating in test rides on the new Harley lineup is, understandably, a major benefit of being an employee here at American Iron Magazine. The day the new steeds arrive at our office, you notice grown men morphing into kids at a candy store: “Who’s taking what model?” “Where are we going for lunch?” and “What ride are you going to tackle this weekend?” become part of the daily conversations. Harleys have a way of bringing people together and giving everyone involved an excuse to make a simple routine an adventure. The morning commute becomes part of your nightly dreams. All day and all night, your mind becomes infatuated with the reality that a brand-new Harley is waiting for you to come check on it every free minute you get, even just for a quick peek.

Love at first sight is going to play a big part in the huge success of the Iron 883, along with a price tag that can fit just about any working man’s budget. This machine is a refined piece of artwork, but still in line with the original “against the grain” styling of the 883 family. Harley has created a bada$$ machine without the shine, without the chrome, but with a blacked-out profile. Mastery of the old bobber style is apparent, plus Harley has incorporated a lower, meaner stance; combo signals/stop lights; and a foldaway, side-mounted license plate holder are  just a few of the many details that make the complete package a marvel to the eye. Harley keeps it simple with matte finish paint in black or Silver Denim. The engine is black powdercoated, and features electronic sequential port fuel injection tuning for a steady idle, and rubber mounting for a smoother ride. It’s not a speed demon, but the Iron runs true and delivers power to please the experienced rider, as well as the entry-level cyclist (something the Sportster line has always done). The shorty dual exhaust delivers the trademark Harley sound at decibels that are obviously within city noise pollution limits. A black powdercoat finish on the exhaust would be a sweet idea once the bike is yours. The 150mm rear tire and spoke-case aluminum rear wheel sit at 16″, and the front wheel at 19″. Both have a black finish and give the appearance of forward motion, even when standing still.

Now for the ride: perched on a solo saddle, you get the feeling of complete control. A passenger seat can be added as an accessory if you feel the need to add some insanity to your ride. As to that sense of complete control, you will immediately notice that the lower stance provides even the vertically challenged with a confident, comfortable, flat-footed stopping position. I stand roughly 5’8″, and this bike felt like it was designed perfectly for a man of my staggering stature. Some larger or heavier individuals may feel a bit cramped and should check out the Iron’s soul mates (the Nightster, Cross Bones, Night Train, Street Bob, and Fat Bob), which all offer a bit more wiggle room, but keep the same H-D theme and style.

The slammed stance does come at a price, however, with very limited travel when hitting speed bumps or the occasional pothole. Keep your eyes on the road and do your best to avoid these hazards, or your body will pay for it. The foot controls are mid-mounted, the solo seat is 23-1/2″, and the handlebars are low-rise drag a combination  promoting the proper stance, which keeps you wanting to ride on and on. As you continue your journey, you may realize the limitations of the 3-gallon tank and having to hit up a gas station roughly every 130 miles.

Overall, Harley hit the nail on the head with this model, and should reap the rewards. The lower end price tag of around $7,900 MSRP keeps this machine an achievable conquest, attainable by the average working man. The solid, well-built feel gives you a sense of value when many companies are using cheap plastic parts to save costs. The old-school style is in and never really dies, which tells me the resale value should remain strong. The ride is that of a true Harley, and is a crowd pleaser as well as a head turner. Most of my peers were interested in this bike, more than the many other Harleys I have taken home. I believe the Iron 883 will cultivate a younger audience for the Harley family and keep the tradition alive. AIM
–Joe Russo as published in American Iron Magazine, the world’s best selling Harley magazine.

Riding Impressions
Jonny Langston
Age: 43
Height: 5’11”
Years Riding: 20-ish

Harley’s Iron 883 Sportster is one fine lookin’ bike. It garnered several longing stares from East Village hipsters, and one lilting “Nice bike” comment from a young lovely at a gas station. Too bad it’s all flash, no dash. Not that I was expecting much grunt, mind you. It’s just a shame the Iron 883 doesn’t bring anything more to the table than its good looks. It’s kinda quick, but not fast. And while the short wheelbase keeps it nimble, the handling didn’t blow me away. And the suspension? Shoot, the Iron is so jarring (even after adjusting the preload) it should come with a matching, blacked-out kidney belt. Forget potholes; pavement seams knocked the wind out of me. Gorgeous motorcycle, though.



  1. Bran November 3, 2013

    My husband surprised me with a 2010 883 Iron almost 2 yrs ago..my first bike. I’ve been riding all over Texas and Louisiana ever since. I love it. The only complaint I’ve had is the uncomfortable stock seat (which I promptly replaced) and the fact that it literally sounded like a sewing machine with the stock pipes (replaced that too). As for hitting bumps, I haven’t had all the discomfort others have mentioned but I’m 5’4″ 125lb, maybe that helps. Anyway, love my bike.

  2. Tim May 23, 2013

    I love this bike! This is my fourth bike, I have had two sports bikes and one other cruiser. All yamaha and kawasaki. This bike is so much fun to ride has decent power and sounds great. I have always like harleys for the way they sound and look, but never was my style. When i saw the Iron i fell in love with it. They really did design a harley that appeals more to a younger generation. It is a rough ride when hitting large bumps, but its supposed to be a bad ass bike, so take the bumps like a badass and cry later. 🙂 I would not reccommend super long rides, I travel a few hours with it and it feels pretty good, but much more then that and i might change my tune. I am 5’11 180 lbs and it fits me pretty well. I have no complaints at all. I love the fuel injection, no adjusting a choke, just start it and ride off. Thanks Harley!

  3. sash April 26, 2013

    Well, I’ve just put down a deposit on my first bike… an 883 iron. Cant wait, they are building it in the factory right now. Thanks for the input. It’s gonna be a fun summer.

  4. Chris H March 28, 2013

    Harley is SLOW!

    I can’t tell you how bad I always feel seeing Honda’s blast by me on my 1200 Sportster like I’m walking in reverse.

    I wish Harley had the power of a Honda.
    And reliability.

    I know… It’s definitely reliable the first 5k miles till something breaks.
    But Honda’s never seem to break.

    I have a 260 Rebel that just won’t die.

    What is it about a Harley, that makes it so big, heavy, & slow?

  5. Dave miles March 4, 2013

    After years of jap sports bikes thought I would try harley very nice looking bike performance ok will cruise happily all day at 80 have done 300miles in a day tired but ok. I average high 50s to an English gallon there is a washer in the back of the muffler which I removed. Sounds nicer now. Am going to get air filter and refuel soon. Only done 2500miles as I have other bikes but generally pleased with it just wish my local dealer was better. All the best from the UK

  6. Liu September 15, 2012

    Iam one of those guys that Harley was aiming for lol. I use to ride crotch rockets. Picked up a iron had the usual problems of suspension. Replaced the shocks with progressive 430 in 12.5 and folk springs with 7w bel ray oil and added fork braces. Soon to add xr1200 brakes.
    And of course the “Harley tax” (Ac,pipes and tuner) and 38 primary engine sprocket.
    So far the bike handles began to feel a lot more familiar to me coming from metric sport bikes.
    Living in a city where vehicle+motorcycle happens offen the brakes and acceleration is enough to get me out of trouble. By no means am I implying there is a lot of power. But enough for commuting and highway.
    I have riding in down pour rain on the highway @75-80mph no issues.
    I took it on some longer rides and in town traffic.
    Sure I like a fatboy or a superglide but this bike does everything every other Harley does.

  7. Larry May 26, 2012

    I bought the 2011 883N and added 12″progressive shocks, changed the primary gears to match the 1200 sportster and a Mustang seat, plus vance & hines twin slash slip-ons. It constantly gets 58 mpg, doesn’t feel like it’s reving like stock, and rides so much better. This is my 5th Harley. I’ve had a super glide, Heritage soft tail classic, Electic glide classic, and a ultra classic. I’m 60 and didn’t want to give up riding because I couldn’t hold up the big bikes anymore. This is a fantastic smaller bike that I have 1200 miles on it and enjoy every minute of it.

  8. james February 5, 2012

    I have always loved Harley Davidson as one of the original bad a$$ iconic motorcycles. But that was it.
    I never expected to own one, just expected to admire them from the seat of my foriegn job which I could afford.

    I was born for two wheels and have enjoyed various dirt bikes and street bikes since the age of three (now 28) so I know what it is all about and when I saw the price tag on the Iron 883 I had to get a closer look at it.

    The closest bike to new i’ve owned was a 2001 honda shadow sabre which was a cool smooth bike, most of what I could afford were older bikes (1970’s 80’s) which many of you know dont have the best of rides.

    On my new Iron 883 I close my eyes for a second and am back in a place when it wasn’t all about $ but just getting enjoyment out of the road, now a little older I have a little more disposable income and am able to enjoy bikes that cost more than the Iron, but man! This bike keeps it real for me so one test drive and I had to have it!

    If you are looking for a REAL experience that you can share with the road then look at this bike! And if it isn’t comfortable for you then remember the original bad a$$’s and what they rode…….

  9. chad September 22, 2011

    Im thinking about buying the iron good or bad idea? does it have enough power? will i be able to go on long trips like centerl CA to say sturgus? thanks for the help

  10. Mike December 18, 2010

    I had the black denim iron and loved it, but did trade up after a year. The main reason were electronic kinks that never resolved themselves and were not able to be correcte . That being said, it was a tight ride. As it was my
    first bike, it will always have a special place in my heart and memories.
    If we buy my wife a bike we will either get her an iron or a super low

  11. Hmmm September 10, 2010

    I have this bike, and it seems everyone else around town does too. It may be a unique look for harley, but its low price and riding accessibility make the novelty wear off quick!

  12. Sue August 24, 2010

    I have an ’09 NIghtster, same frame, shocks, but bigger engine.
    The ride can only be described as the closest thing to a hard tail with shocks!
    SO… I put on top-of-the-line Progressive 440s. BOY WHAT A DIFFERENCE!
    I no longer have to stare constantly at the ground looking for the smallest bump to kick my guts out. Now I can ride around normally with my friends, hardly ever tops or bottoms out.
    Stock shocks are 11″, but I put 11 1/2″ on, could have easily gone with 12″. Now I REALLY Love my Nightster!!
    If anyone is thinking of buying this nifty Iron 883, be sure and set aside money for new shocks, you’ll be really glad you did!

  13. cliff July 7, 2010

    3 pics in this article and 2 of them are reversed. the first is correct. the 2nd and 3rd are reversed.

    the 883 is not a power plant and never really has been. it’s just a have fun, throw the bike thru the corners, let’s go to bike night kind of ride.

    it does have great looks…the wheels are much better than those on the nightster.

  14. Jonny Langston June 28, 2010

    “Crazy”?!? Wow. Eric, can you honestly say that you don’t feel every single bump in the road up to your teeth?? If not, then SURELY you softened it up – I softened this bike two clicks just to make it bearable. But still, every time I hit a bump I hear in my head that old boxing video game where the guy would yell “body blow!” “body blow!” “body blow!”
    This story is not an exaggeration: I hit a bump on the freeway at 50 mph that I go over several x’s a week – thousands of drivers & riders do, it’s just a normal bump on the road. The Iron 883 hit that bump, and its rear end threw my ass so high into the air that I was balanced on the handlebars, which began to wobble from my weight being on them for so long. Seriously, the rear tire actually had time to fall, bounce, and hit me in the ass AGAIN before my feet ever landed on the pegs. I thought for sure i was dead. So did the guy in the car next to me – he gave me a thumbs-up after the bike settled back down.
    It’s a cute little bike, perfect for city rambling; needs different rear shocks.

  15. Matt May 30, 2010

    I just bought the 2010 Iron and Love it more then my 97 1200 Custom, the looks of this bike just never get old…! sure its an 883 and its Slow, but who really needs speed any more? it does its job for getting me to and from work, how much more could you ask for.. for a bike that’s only 8k…. as stated above, i Just want to thank Harley for making a perfect bike…

  16. Eric May 2, 2010

    I bought an Iron for my first bike last year. I’m 26 years old, 6 foot 220 lbs, and I love everything about it. For the writer to say pavement seams hurt him is crazy! Yeah, it isn’t the most comfortable ride when going a long way, but it hasn’t been designed for that. Its just a nitty gritty bike that lets you customize it with-out all the flashy chrome. This thing has been such a blast to ride and I get compliments on it all the time. I just have to thank Harley for making my perfect bike.