Motorcycle: Sportsters - XLH883, 1986 - Present
Date: Sunday, October 31 @ 22:53:34 UTC
Topic: Motorcycle, Motorcycles, Motor Cycle
XLH883, 1986 - Present
With a price tag of just under $4,000 when introduced as the XLX61 in 1983, the basic Sportster was precisely the type of entry-level machine so conspicuously absent from the Harley-Davidson stables in the past. This was a piece of genuine Milwaukee hardware at a price almost anyone could afford. In 1986, the deal was made even better with the appearance of Evolution engines across the Sportster range and the arrival of the XLH883. Then, just 12 months after that, would-be 883 owners got an even more irresistible package with the announcement of Harley's innovative buy-back scheme: "Trade in your XLH against an FX or FL within two years and we'll guarantee $3,995 on your old machine." How could anyone lose?
The smallest Sportster was the last model to benefit from the wave of refinements sweeping through the Milwaukee range. But in two short years from 1992, Harley-Davidson's bargain-basement superbike progressed from being the runt of the Harley-Davidson litter to become a thoroughly competent machine. There were dozens of detail changes over those two seasons, but two stand out. First came five-speed transmission for 1992, followed 12 months later by belt final drive.
The extra gear transformed the smallest Harley from a relatively buzzy, busy machine into a far more laid-back device, with the bonus of a better gear-shift. The tooth-belt drive made it smoother still, with the added benefits of low maintenance and cleanliness.
The first belts - pioneered by Harley-Davidson and the Gates company that manufactures them - aroused a degree of suspicion. However, thanks to space-age Aramid fibre reinforcement (similar to Kevlar - they last at least four times as long as a chain, cost about the same and are practically unknown to fail. This was to make the XLH slightly more of what it was always good at — being a lean, spare and handsome means of filling practically all the space between headstock and rear spindle. There are no tassels, no gratuitously shiny but ultimately useless bits — just plain, single-seated function.
Of course, like all Harleys, the function in question has relatively little to do with sheer speed, handling or stopping. The 883 is essentially a cut-down cruiser, its low-profile Hugger stablemates all the more so. It looks cool while allowing its rider to appreciate, with as little intervening sanitation as possible, the most intimate doings of the internal-combustion engine.
Peak power from the
883cc engine is around 52 bhp at a distinctly unruffled 5,500rpm - 1,000 rpm after the arrival of maximum torque of 521b/ft (70.5Nm). Acceleration is brisk rather than vivid, although the ample torque means there's always power on hand.
This motorcycle might be smaller than any other that Harley has produced, but crank open the throttle at almost any revs and the Sportster lunges forward on the same irrepressible wave of power. Without the rubber-mounting available on some larger models, engine vibration can la-be intense at high revs. There is no question that the 883 series represents good quality and value.
As well as the basic -Mf 883, there's also the Hugger - a variant dating back to 1979 and so called because it squats even lower to the ground.
They hardly depreciate and, with a bit of care, they can all last practically forever. Best of all, however, more than 40 years after the introduction of the original XL, the 883s continue to embody the same frill-free virtues.
For a chunk of a legend, the 883 really is a steal.
Engine: ohv V-twin
Weight: 4891b (222kg)
Wheelbase: 60.2in (1,530mm)
Top Speed: 103mph (166kph)
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