As a kid, perhaps one of the first motorcycles I came to recognize by brand was a Harley-Davidson. To a kid, all motorcycles are “just motorcycles” and then there's the Harley-Davidson. It was during a time when there were few motorcycles around, and only one had a thundering V-twin.
Though it was actually a Honda owned by our then neighbor, everyone called it a "Harley" anyway, much like how everyone calls toothpaste Colgate, or film as Kodak. Back then, long before teleseryes dominated local TV channels, we were bombarded by American TV series and movies that featured Harley-Davidson motorcycles, especially the series “ChiPs” (California Highway Patrol). Even though the motorcycles used in that series were, in fact, Kawasakis, we Pinoys still refer to them as “Harleys”.
My encounters with Harleys were purely for photo-ops prior to when our friends from Wheeltek Harley-Davidson of Cavite handed us the key (or rather the remote key) to this 2019 Sportster Iron 883 with only a few thousand kilometers on it. The first order of business was of course to put on my “bad boy” persona and act just like those tough guys in the series, Sons of Anarchy. At least that's how the bike made me feel.
The distinct 45-degree, air-cooled V-twin Evolution engine in the Sportster Iron 883 has remained mostly unchanged since its inception in Harley-Davidson Sportsters in 1986. Also, since 2004, these Evolution engines have been pinned to the Sportster's chassis using rubber isolation mounts, no longer making the Iron 883 a rolling vibrator. It churns out 68 Nm of torque @ 4,750 rpm, mated to a 5-speed transmission with a belt as final drive. These belt drives, according to Harley-Davidson owners, can last up to 100,000 miles or 160,000 kilometers in ideal conditions.
What's obvious is the Iron 883's all-black persona — making it somewhat of a blank canvas for full customization, which is exacltly what the Iron 883's designers wanted. It has drag-style handlebars, which of course, can be swapped with Z-bars or hangers that would make the Iron 883 look even better (depending on your preference). I personally like it that way, as it is with the single analog/ digital dial that stays true to Harley-Davidson's tradition. To keep things as minimalist as possible the designers of the Iron 883 also did a pretty good job of integrating the rear signal lights and the tail light, which I liked. As for the wheels, I would prefer them to be spoked wheels rather than alloy, but that's just me. It must have been an attempt by the guys at Milwaukee to appeal more to the new generation of Harley-Davidson riders. Then there's the peanut tank, which doesn't do much in terms of fuel range but makes up for it with pogi points (good looks).
The Harley-Davidson Sportster line of motorcycles is known throughout as Harley's performance-oriented motorcycles. Though they are not as fast as today's other motorcycle models in the same displacement category, they don't need to be. After all, if one wants a fast motorcycle, the right bike would be a sportbike like a BMW S 1000RR or an Aprilia RSV4. Nevertheless, the Iron 883 can still jolt you back pretty fast and can maintain cruising speeds of 140 kilometers per hour. Even though the front only has one rotor, the 2-piston caliper biting a 300 mm disc for the front and 2-piston, 260 mm disc for the rear still get the job done, and stops the bike where you expected it to. I also liked the crisp steering response, allowing the Iron 883 to handle corners pretty well when I took it for a spin along the Nasugbu-Kaybiang Tunnel-Naic route.
Some little things can add a lot of joy to a rider, and for me, the self-canceling turn signals hit me in the heart. Using the lean sensors, the bike senses when it's upright again and the handlebar is straight and automatically turns off the signal light. I also loved the relaxed riding position that the Iron 883 offers, especially its butt-kissing seat that embraces the contours of your posterior. Guaranteed no butt sore brought about by a whole day of touring.
The engine heat is a given. Still, it would really take a prolonged traffic standstill before this Evolution engine overheats; like more than 400 degrees Fahrenheit or about 203 degrees Celcius (a typical roast beef would cook in the oven on 160 to 170 degrees Celcius).
As for the exhaust, well, most if not all Harley-Davidson owners do not consider the sound of today's HDs as having that distinct "potato" sound. But that's ok and it can't be helped due to the ever-tightening emissions standards imposed by the authorities. A quick trip to the muffler shop or aftermarket parts catalog should solve that or at least make the sound as close as possible to the original potato sound of carbureted Harleys of old.
There's just something magical about riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. It's not the fastest, but it's a "Harley". It's also not the best bike for mountain twisties, but it's a "Harley". It's not one of the most technologically-advanced motorcycles available today, but it's a "Harley". The sound these bikes make turns people's heads from every street, even making some look out their windows just to appreciate the bike because it's a "Harley". Also, the very low seat height of the Iron 883, only at 775 mm, is definitely appealing to a wide range of riders, including us with a short inseam. If you're a biker, this is a bike that you'll be considering to spend your PhP700,000 (or Christmas bonus) to.