The 883 proves that ‘entry level’ bikes can be brilliant

Published: 22 December 2017

Bikes For Sale

There’s a bit of a stigma about entry-level bikes. Frequently down- specced and built to a price, they’re what you buy if you can’t afford the 1000cc machine you really wanted, or that your licence category limited.

Sometimes manufacturers strike gold, though – Suzuki did it with the original Bandit and the SV650, and Harley-Davidson have managed it for decades with the 883. I damn nearly bought a new one 30 years ago, but an unexpected bill from the taxman knocked it on the head and somehow I’ve never got around to owning a Harley since.

H-D still offers an 883 in its range, and this is an entry-level bike with residuals as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. One reason is that it’s the epitome of what many people think a bike – especially a Harley – should be. It’s stripped to the bone, with everything visible, and it acts as a blank canvas on which you can sketch your individuality.

Harley will be happy to help you do this, too, because the list of bits to make it go faster, look (even) cooler, stop better, handle more precisely, go further (the stock tank is as much use as a teacup), be more comfortable or sound sportier, is immense.

This is all at a price, of course, and you don’t so much buy a Harley-Davidson as start collecting one, like those De Agostini magazines with kits that they punt out at Christmas.

“Week by week, it builds up into a miniature replica of HMS Victory!” After three years of spending, you’ve got your man of war – or a modded 883.

I’m looking at an advert for a 1998 883 at the moment, which is up for £2600. In 1998 it would have cost about £5400, and in 2005 a dealer would have asked £3750 for it. You can’t call a drop of just over a grand in a dozen years depreciation, can you? I just might have it.

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