Iron 883 Sportster Harley Owner Review RoadCarver

Iron 883 Sportster Harley Owner Review

This review is still relevant, while the Iron 883 came out in 2010 - the Sportster hasn't changed much until they finally killed it off in 2022. Significant changes were 2004: Rubber-mounted engine, 2007 all Sportster Harley models went to electronic fuel injection. Unless you like vibration or mucking about with carbies - you want both of these upgrades.Impact-Site-Verification: f873a524-110f-48da-a58f-5c9a004604dc

The day had come where looking at the pictures of the Sportster Harley Iron 883 were traded for the real thing. 

How did I come across the Iron 883? I have liked the Sportster for many years now, and not because it is the cheapest Harley - I think it's the most fun. Me and my mates have tried the entire HD lineup, and while they are all excellent bikes, there was something about the Sportster that made us want to get back on it. Maybe it was the primitive simplicity, perhaps the size and shape. Whatever it was, the Sportster bug never left.

Looks-wise, the Sportster has received plenty of variations, but it wasn't until I saw the Nightster (not a fan of the name), that I really wanted to buy one. They just looked cool. Simple as that. I went and tried one but almost spat out half my front teeth as the shocks were terrible. The thought of buying one left me that day, along with my teeth. Perhaps it was just that particular example, but I've heard from a few Nightster owners that the suspension is almost non-existent.

About 2 years later, I see this matt (Denim) black beat in the magazine with a familiar shape - yet somehow cooler. Not long after I was at Fraser Motorcycles getting parts for my Ducati monster and I walked out with an order for the Iron 883. I was taken upstairs to check it out, and after I worked out the repayments, I was sold. Spontaneous maybe but certainly not the dumbest thing (by far) that I've done this year. Fast forward to now - the time of the pics below.

As expected, there was quite a wait for the Black Denim Harley Iron 883. Possibly just bullshit sales talk, but it was said to me that it was the fastest-selling bike in the country at the time. There were plenty of the Silver Denim, but no one seems to want them. Let's face it, black looks cooler. Actually the day I made the order I was offered the silver version, but no cigar.

Picking up the bike was quite a ceremony - as it should be! Credit to the guys at Fraser's for making it feel special even though they do it every day. I recall my experience at Northside motorcycles years ago buying a Ducati. Let's just say I receive better service when purchasing socks at K-mart.

Picking up the Harley was fun, then was promptly shown to the garage where the 883 was prepped and ready to go. A brief rundown on the new bits and pieces was covered by a Harley technician. Hard to concentrate on what he's saying when all you want to do is get on and ride the thing. Good things I did as there are a few new things, like the immobiliser and auto-arming alarm. Hazard lights, manually disarming the alarm via cod was also a useful tip.

With all the formalities out of the way, time to throw a leg over and take my baby home. It's always an odd thing when you get a new bike or borrow one - you get off then just look at it and realise the best thing to do with it is to ride it. Start it, ride it, park, then do it all over.

How does it ride? 

Following on from the first post - while I've ridden plenty of Sportsters before, this was the first ride on the Iron. I didn't even try it before I bought it. I figured it wouldn't be worse than it's predecessors and all those improvements must make it worth it.

Riding a brand new 2003 X 883R years ago made me appreciate the 2004+ rubber-mounted Sportster. I'm sure there are plenty of pre-2004 riders out there who love them, but I just couldn't live with the vibration. Actually, I'm sure we can get used to just about anything, but should we really need to?

Starting a brand new Iron 883 is not what you expect. Everyone expects every Harley to break windows and scare little children. Legal requirements and state laws required new bikes (Harley's included) to run pretty quiet and consequently has your new Iron sounding like a sewing machine. Ok, fair enough - it's not so bad... but it leaves you instantly wanting a louder exhaust for a few reasons. Firstly, a Harley needs to sound like one so you can impress your mates, then there's the safety factor of keeping cars from accidentally running you over. Last but not least - you need to piss the neighbours off when you start your bike in the morning to get them back for all the years of their kids screaming at 6 am. So overall the stock Iron 883 has a nice idle and roll on sound but needs beefing up.

Sound covered. Get on the Iron, and unless you're long in the leg, the seating position is upright and comfortable. I'll get into aesthetic details later. Pulling off the lot was smooth, and generally, everyone says the 883 is really easy to ride. I've heard that comment from mates who ride nothing but Japanese sport-bikes. Being a Ducati Monster owner, this seating position was about as close as I could find on a Harley.

The engine is really smooth and tractable. As expected, not much in the revs, but shift up quickly and there's plenty of meat in the torque. Harley has done a good job with keeping the "heart" of the Sportster while smoothing out rough edges. For example, on idle at the lights, the bike has a fair bit of shake which gives you that raw chopper feel but then smoothes out in the revs which works great for me.

Despite being the 'smaller' Harley, this is by no means a small bike and weighs over 250kg. At 100kg more than my Ducati, it wasn't something that went noticed. Not that it worried me. It gives the Iron a solid, stable feel on straights and isn't twitchy with a passenger.

Sportsters have been around since 1957 and produced continuously in a wide variety of flavours from Sporty sport through laid-back custom. Without going into a history lesson here, there are a few things which make the Iron 883 (XL883n 2010) an exciting bike.

Ok the obvious part, this bike looks the business. It turns heads everywhere with it's Low-tech, dark and dirty looks. The minimal chopped-down trend they started with the Nightster seemed to catch the imagination of Harley and non-Harley owners alike making this one of the best-selling Harleys in history. Some of the finer details include the Denim paint, which is a sort of matt/satin finish that is a big step up from the typical flat paint job. Other minimal styling cues include the chopped rear fender, blacked our engine components, rubber gators, single speedo unit and solo seat.

The rear brake light/indicator combo adds to the minimal theme keeping the arse-end very tidy indeed. Sadly here in Australia, the side-mounted number plates are illegal, so this bike doesn't look as fresh as the Harley designers intended. The bike yellow plate pretty much wrecks this idea, but I'll do something about that very soon.

One thing to consider is that this bike looks sweet right out of the crate, and depending on your tastes, could be regarded as custom. But, as with most bikes, most people still want to make it their own, and I'm no exception with my 'extras' already into three figures.

I've owned a few bikes, and regardless of cost, the Iron 883 turns more heads than any other I've owned.

Technical upgrades:

Unless you've been following Sportsters for a while, you will miss some big improvements on this series. Like I've mentioned in a previous post, I just couldn't own a pre-2004 Sportster because of all the rough edges. But this is an entirely different beast altogether. Kept all the good, improved or replaced the bad.

A bit of evolution here:

  • 2004 All-new frame including a rubber-mounted engine for decreased vibration. Elimination of the transmission trap door.
  • 2005 Enlarged rear axle to 1" for increased stability.
  • 2006 Helical cut transmission gears in all models reduces gear whine.
  • The XR1200 is the first Harley-Davidson to utilise Down Draft DDFI II fuel injection. To be released as a late 2008 model.
  • 2007 Introduction of EFI across the HD range

2007 Fuel injection replaces carburetion on all models.

The 2010 Sportsters all get an immobiliser and auto-arming alarm, fatter rear tire, tear shape oil tank, cast wheels, integrated brake light /indicators in one unit, a rubber-mounted engine, fuel injection.

Of all of these innovations (aside from styling), the rubber-mounted power-plants and electronic fuel injection have to be the biggest.

Oh, one more big thing I forgot to mention - the Price! To ride away on a brand new Harley Davidson for 13k AUD was unthinkable a few years back. Paying 30k+ for a Motorcycle just isn't in the league many people would consider spending on a Hobby.

Rolling away from the dealer was a bit of a mixed experience. Super happy to have this new beast I'd been waiting months for but felt a little hungry on the power end. For a moment, I thought there was something not quite right on it and was considering turning back. I stuck with it and got used to the way this thing made power and knew it would only be a day or two before I take a spanner to it.

The suspension is so much improved over any other Sportster I've ridden previously. Not to say it can't be improved but has come a long way. Unless pushed hard, it won't wallow in the corner and isn't harsh over regular bumps. The stock setup is made for a single rider, so if you're looking to ride two-up frequently, you'll do well to consider upgrading front and rear shocks.

Overall though, even out of the crate, the 2010 Iron 883 is a fine motorcycle, and boy does it turn heads. Attracts young girls and bald old men alike! Though like most owners of anything HD, you'll most likely do a fair bit of modification.

Speaking of modification, I'll talk a bit about what I ended up doing to this bike. As I mentioned earlier in the article, straight out fo the showroom the Iron 883 looks great but sounds like a dull sewing machine and doesn't exactly haul ass. It's torquey but not top-end at all. As soon as I got home, I thought I have to open this baby up to make a fire-breathing sporty Iron 883. The Evo engine has a lot of potential but bog-standard it really is a bit choked up. First thing off the bat, the standard air cleaner and induction system - gone. Make way for the HD heavy breather kit.

Heavy breather air filter for Iron 883

I've changed the air filter on many bikes before, but none made as much difference as this once. Firstly the Iron 883 looks damn cool, and the difference it made to the performance was staggering. This bike was a lot more fun to ride and far more free-revving. Winding it on hard brought on a solid induction roar that was distinctly missing on the stock model. The local HD dealers will bend you over the table for one, but imported will cost you a lot less.

Bang-for-buck this upgrade was well worth it. Aesthetics, sounds and performance boost. Next up a set of decent pipes. I wanted something as close to the original as possible, so I found a set of screaming eagle II pipes to replace the stocks. 

About an hour in the garage with my brother-in-law had us starting up the Iron 883 with the famed HD rumble. The pipes obviously gave a whole new appeal and sensation. Performance-wise, it felt more lively, but maybe it just sounded like it. Either way, also a great upgrade - almost a given for any new Harley.

Screaming eagle II pipes fitted to the Sportster Iron 883 

All up the Iron is a great bike, but very specific in its ability. For a city runabout, cafe to cafe and generally cruising short distances, there is probably nothing better. It looks the part, sounds like a spitfire WWI plane (if modified) and goes ok. But let's not kid ourselves, this is an old school bike with an old-school engine. Average brakes and handling so if you are after straight-up performance or comfort. This isn't it. It's the baby Harley with plenty of style and heart.

Love it for what it is, and you'll always have a soft spot for the Iron 883. I would have kept it if I had space in the garage, but in the end, I wanted something faster - but I do miss the baby iron, sort of like fond memories of an ex that you're not really sure about why you split up.

So that is the story of the Iron from Purchase to Sale.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.