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18 May 2009

Test ride of a Sportster 883R

Funny how I think of starting every post with an "I'm not dead" (like the old lady in the Quest for the Holy Grail...). But it's true, I'm not dead - I'm just not a good blogger, that's all.

Sure there are other news about me but the recent and cool one was that I test rode a Harley-Davidson Sportster 883R.

I took the oportunity of HD's marketing campaign "Judgement days" and signed up for a test ride of a Sportster 883 Iron. What I really wanted was to see how well I could handle its weight (the XL883 weights 251Kg whereas my XV535 weights 182Kg), how good was the riding position (me being 1.6m tall or 5"3'), and how strong was the Evolution 883cc engine.

So I got there, the guy literally asked: "so, which one do you want to try?" (which, I think, is something you don't get asked often...) and I signed the form that essentially said: "if you screw up, you're on your own. if you die, it's not our fault".

Then I was given the quick walkthrough over the controls etc and finally I was given the key: "get back within 45min. good luck and enjoy!". What a mixed feeling of "Ohhh boy!!" with "God, what am I doing?". I geared up, whilst mentally planning my route and pushed the starter. That was loud!

The throttle was soft and smooth and very progressive, but with a much greater gap than mine, so it felt a tiny bit strange. The handlebars were WIDE and my standing position wasn't as good as on the XV535. Clutch and front brake levers are small but very smooth, so good stuff. The gear lever is well placed and very precise.

I set off and did two laps of the route below, which accounts for about 14 miles (~23Km) total. The route starts at the HD dealer from which I headed SE towards Abingdon, then left through Abingdon's "ring road", left again towards Oxford and left once more towards Wootton / Boars Hill through Fox lane and back to the HD dealer.

Main impressions were:

  • My 535 engine must be incredibly ashmatic, bearing in mind the sportster's 883cc engine is notorious for its lack of power. What?? It felt like a brute!
  • The brakes were really nice and returned a good progressive feeling of stopping power;
  • The suspension is hard. There is no way around it. And that seat it must be great for vintage stuff, but not for me;
  • I couldn't flat-foot as I do so easily on my 535. The 883R is notably taller. On the other hand, while riding, I felt my knees even more bent than on mine, so the seat is higher, but the pegs are even higher;
  • The handle bars were WIIIDE, which felt good - mine are too bent inwards. But they I had to bend a little to be confortable with them, so I reckon they should be pulled back a bit for a guy of my height;
After the test ride, I was a bit deaf but very happy with the bike and the ride itself. It had been very good fun and I am enjoying the Sportster even more. I would gladly ride it for a whole day or weekend (which I eventually will). Now the real question is:
\begin{Jeremy Clarkson impersonation}

- Would I buy it?
- Nnno.

It is too loud, the handlebars are too far, the tank is too small and that seat is rubbish.

\end{Jeremy Clarkson impersonation}

I would happily buy a Sportster, though. And if the 883R was the only model, then yea, I would buy it. But it's not. First there's the Evolution 1200cc engine which is better at everything with the same weight (for some extra petrol, of course).

This 1200 Low, I reckon, would solve my problems with ride height and handle bar location. Also, it has the bigger tank (four thumbs up!). On the low side, I'm not such a fan of all that chrome... I would very much prefer the look of the Nightster. I guess I'll have to settle for the cheaper then :)

Before you flame me out of the Internet, I know that, in general, the biker community has some strong feelings about Harleys. Harley riders love them to bits even though they can't always explain why with technical facts (which tend to be the kind that you don't argue with). Non Harley riders tend to generate a bit of a hatred towards "the others" and happily (and quickly) bash harley technology. The fact is that such exercises (whichever brand or style you take sides on) are futile. In the end, everyone rides what suits their style best, what they think looks better, what they can afford, etc.

I am not saying that your bike doesn't tell about your personality, of course it does. But what it doesn't tell is about your respect and attitude towards others.

All for now.
Cheers, PJ.