HARLEY-DAVIDSON IRON 883 (2015-on)

Highlights

  • Good entry-level cruiser
  • Genuine air-cooled Harley twin
  • Hold their value well

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Annual servicing cost: £230
Power: 51 bhp
Seat height: Low (29.9 in / 760 mm)
Weight: High (564 lbs / 256 kg)

Prices

New £8,895
Used £6,000 - £8,900

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Sorry haters but the Iron 883 is a good bike for an entry level cruiser. Those last five words are key. Compared to another entry level middleweight, say a Yamaha MT-07, the Iron 833 looks all kinds of bad (especially if you only refer to the spec sheet).

But compared to other entry level cruisers, it’s a no-nonsense, no gimmicks fun machine. It’s also not trying to be a Harley-Davidson, like the Honda CMX500 Rebel for instance, which counts for a lot.

It’s a hard thing to explain but the Iron 883, like many other Harleys to be honest, has a certain something that makes it more than the sum of its parts. They are without doubt expensive, underpowered and overweight but they’re also really brilliant hunks of metal too.

Harley-Davidson Iron 883 left side

It has a heavy clutch, its brakes are relatively poor, it’s slow steering, the engine is comparatively clunky (as is the gearbox) and the rear cylinder gets uncomfortably hot in traffic – but it does look and feel like a genuine Harley and that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Compared to the Street 750 (Harley's entry-level hog), the 883 has cleaner lines with its purer, simpler design and the lack of a radiator. Then there’s the iconic 'peanut' tank, twin, side-mounted exhausts, classic cut-down rear 'fender' and 'drag' style bars. If you removed the H-D badge from the Iron you’d still be in no doubt who made it.

Riding the 883 feels good – and that's what matters most. It doesn't feel like riding an imitation of a Harley – it feels like the real deal.

Harley-Davidson Iron 883 v Honda VT750C video review

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
3 out of 5 (3/5)

For 2015, Harley-Davidson put the entire Sportster platform through 'Project Rushmore'. There were a few outcomes but the biggest for the Iron 883 was brand new suspension and much better brakes.

They’re not labelled up but they’re from proper named brands: the suspension comes from Showa and the brakes are from Brembo. The result is a much-improved ride all round. The forks are now much more progressive and no longer crash over bumps, although they’re fairly short travel (92mm), so braking into a pothole still sucks.

At the back the preload is now adjustable through a 50mm range, instead of the three options previously, but again the travel is short (just 41mm) so rough roads are kidney bashing experiences. Rivals, like the Indian Scout, handle this much better.

The new dual piston calipers front and rear give a lot more bite, and feel better at the lever, but still require a bit of effort to pull up in a hurry. ABS was an option until 2017 and works just like it should.

Out on the road though you don’t really notice as you’ll rarely get yourself up to the speed where you’re going to trouble the brakes.

Cornering on the Harley-Davidson Iron 883

Engine

Next up: Reliability
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The engine in the Iron 883 is both its biggest asset and its biggest weakness. It’s a proper Harley motor, so it’s a 45-degree air-cooled, pushrod operated, V-twin - just like most other Harleys have been since 1912. That means it sounds nice and rumbles around just like it should, unlike the water cooled Street 750 and Street Rod.

However it means it doesn’t create a great deal of power or torque (just 51.2bhp and 50.2ftlb respectively). To give it a decent bit of go it’s got a fairly low first few gears, however it’s also only got a five speed gearbox and a clunky one at that.

That also means it can feel a little revvy and breathless on the motorway. And while the air-cooling looks good, you do sit remarkably close to that rear cylinder, so it slow traffic and on hot days things can get a little warm in your trousers. There’s no two ways about it but the competition have the Iron licked here.

Harley-Davidson Iron 883 front

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The Evolution motor in the Sportster range has been around so long now that all the major kinks have been ironed out. The only potential nasty that remains is the spring plate in the clutch, which is known to fail and can be an expensive fix.

It’s must cheaper (and easier) to just swap in a couple of extra clutch plates beforehand to stop it going wrong. Oil weeps from the rockerboxes aren't unheard of, but it’s a cheap and easy fix. Apart from that it’s just a case of swapping the oil every 5000 miles.

The oil in the Harley Iron 883 engine needs swapping every 5000 miles

Also like most Harley’s since the mid-80s, the engine has hydraulic valve lifters, so they never need a valve adjustment, while the final drive runs on a belt. Keep it adjusted properly and you can do over 60,000 miles without replacement.

On the whole build quality is good however there are a few issues that crop up regularly. The back of the front and rear mudguards are prone to rust, while the area below the fork seals are known to corrode. A liberal coating of XCP or ACF-50 should keep the worst of the problems away but, like all bikes, if you ride them in crap weather and don’t take care of them, they won’t respond well.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The purchase price of an Iron 883 is similar to the big rivals, namely the Indian Scout Bobber and the Triumph Bonneville T100, although they do come with more 'stuff' as standard.

Where the Iron 883 really comes into its own is five years down the line. This model came out in 2015 and you’d struggle to find a nice one for much less than £5500. Older models hit a price floor of £4000 as long as they’re in good nick. If you buy a cared for used model and take care of it yourself, it’s easy to sell it for exactly what you paid.

Alongside the Scout and the Bonnie mentioned above, other rivals to the Iron 883 include the Honda CMX500 Rebel, Ducati's Scrambler 800 range, Moto Guzzi's V7 and V9, plus the Kawasaki W800. You could also consider the Kawasaki Vulcan S, Yamaha XV950 range and Harley's own Street Bob.

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

In terms of rider aids, an Iron 883 is basic – you get twin channel ABS and that’s it. However there’s a lot more going on underneath.

For a start the ABS runs off the wheel bearings, so there’s no ugly sensor ring bolted to the wheels. Then there’s a fully-keyless ignition with a fob, that requires one button to turn it on and go. The keyless ignition also includes a movement alarm (with a bloody loud siren) and immobiliser.

The clocks have speed, digital RPM, gear indicator, two trips plus an odometer and that’s all controlled from a rocker switch on the bars. The only thing its missing is a fuel gauge, which is available as an extra but it’s a stingy omission given the small tank (fuel light comes on around 110 miles). The Iron also has self-cancelling indicators, which are some of the few self-cancellers that actually work as you’d imagine.

Specs

Engine size 883cc
Engine type Air-cooled Evolution V-twin
Frame type Tubular steel cradle
Fuel capacity 12.5 litres
Seat height 760mm
Bike weight 256kg
Front suspension Telescopic fork
Rear suspension Twin shock, non adjustable
Front brake Dual-piston single disc
Rear brake Dual-piston single disc
Front tyre size 100/90 19
Rear tyre size 150/80 16

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 49 mpg
Annual road tax £93
Annual service cost £230
New price £8,895
Used price £6,000 - £8,900
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term -

Top speed & performance

Max power 51 bhp
Max torque 50.2 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 135 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

The Iron 883 was first introduced in 2009 as a dark and brooding antidote to the colourful and brash middleweight Harleys that came before it. It was updated in 2015.

Other versions

The term 'Sportster' isn't actually a model name but defines a whole family of Harley-Davidson models. These include:

Owners' reviews for the HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 883 (2015 - on)

1 owner has reviewed their HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 883 (2015 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 883 (2015 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Engine: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Reliability & build quality: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Value vs rivals: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Equipment: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Annual servicing cost: £230
5 out of 5 Don't knock them 'til you try them
23 December 2019 by Nick

Version: Iron 883

Year: 2017

Annual servicing cost: £230

Under rated. Very satisfying to ride.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

OK so everyones concern with a Harley is vibrations, but it's not as bad as you think. It's more of a rumble than a buzzy vibration. Some inline 4's have annoying buzzy vibrations at certain revs which makes them uncomfy to ride, the sportster is more of a thumping rumble. Makes you feel like you are handling a beast and not a buzzy rampant rabbit. The vibrations on the sportster are comparable to an ER6. The brakes are adequate, you can stop wherever you like and as quick as you want, but they will never be like a sportsbikes, but that's just stupid to compare them to that. Comfort wise, it's a very relaxed riding position, you are sat upright on a well padded seat. If you don't like the seat there is a mind boggling selection of aftermarket seats. Anyone can get comfy on a Harley!

Engine 5 out of 5

Probably one of the most satisfying parts of the bike. It sounds amazing, you quite literally never get bored of riding it. The pushrod v twin makes that unique Harley sound. It is very torquey and pulls well from down low, doesn't run out of steam even all the way to the end of 5th. Fuel consumption is good, it just has a small tank. No, it's not the most powerful, but it's powerful enough. When's the last time you used all your GSXR's power on the road? Exactly! It's still a big bike and it will shame and out accelerate Corsa VXR'S and Fiesta ST's etc. Nothing to be sniffed at!

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Not a single problem in 8k miles, always started, never broken down. Think about it, the engine design has been around since the 50's, that's 60 years of refinement, all the gremlins have been worked out. Less moving parts and less electronics than modern engines so less to go wrong. Finish needs looking after like any other bike, if you are good with your maintenance and wash, dry and lube stuff after a ride, you won't have any problems. The paint is the deepest of any bike I've had, way better than the japs. Less time in the garage, more time riding, makes a change!

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Not any more expensive than any other make, if anything it's a bit cheaper. No labour costs to remove fairings and dig deep into the middle of the bike to access plugs or filters. On the sportsters, you can remove the air and oil filters and change the plugs without removing a single piece of the bike. Long service intervals too, first service is at 1k miles, then every 12 months or 10k miles, whichever comes first.

Equipment 5 out of 5

MCN got this completely wrong, saying you only get a speedo and that's it. As standard you get a tacho, gear indicator and a clock! How many jap bikes come with a gear indicator or a clock? You also get self cancelling indicators, the bike senses you've made a turn, and if you don't cancel your indicator after 15 seconds, it does it for you. The stock tyres are Michelin Scorchers and they a brilliant, very sticky, haven't felt the need to go to a different type of tyre. Harleys are probably the most customisable bikes out there, whatever you want to replace or add, you will definately find it.

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