EASY RIDER HARLEY IS A BLAST…
Getting my leg over a Harley Davidson has been an itch I’ve been aching to scratch for some time.
I ride (Vespa aside) a Triumph Street Triple, which is arguably the best all round naked bike money can buy. I love my Street so much that I’ve fantasised of squeezing her into my bed, so I could spoon her all night long.
But when I think of my dream motorcycle line-up I’d want to accompany her in my garage with a café racer and a cruiser. Enter Sycamore Harley-Davidson in Uppingham.
The guys at our local Harley dealership got word of my dream machine wish list and suggested I took their ‘baby’ Harley out for a weekend blast.
Admittedly, I’d had my eye on trying out the Iron 883 for more than a year and when the opportunity all of a sudden presented itself I tried to be cool and dismiss the offer as ‘just another bike’.
I’ve always interpreted Harley riders as being mature but with an inner rebellious streak if provoked. Therefore my reaction had to be a placid one when really inside I was ecstatic, especially when my preferred matt black colour was presented before me.
Style ***** (Star ratings out of five)
The first thing you notice when laying eyes on the Iron is just how sexy this bike is. It’s not sexy in a Kylie Minogue way but more Beyonce if you like. The bike oozes style, confidence and curves. Her DNA is all cruiser but as I found out on the open road, she’s nimble enough to be a back alley bruiser.
It’s designed to appeal to minimalist fans who are looking for a raw, stripped down machine that’s as dark as they come and with attitude. She’s definitely a looker and when you’re riding it she gives you an air of the ‘big I am’. This is because you know people are staring and you know they’re thinking ‘what a cool Harley’, which by default makes you cool too.
This is the area I had to adapt to the most, which isn’t surprising after having just jumped off my Street. They’re obviously two totally different bikes and whereas mine brings out the hooligan in you the Harley makes you sit up and savour the moment. If you were describing the Iron’s mannerisms it’d be the calming nature of Godfather Vito Corleone while my Street is more like his bad tempered son, Sonny Corleone.
The bars on the Iron are what Harley call ‘slammed drag-style’. At first glance I was worried my stubby arms would be at full stretch but they’re actually quite a comfortable bend and place your arms at a fairly natural stance.
There’s no place for a pillion on this bike, so leave the missus at home. This Harley is pure selfishness. It’s for those who want to tear up asphalt and backroads instead of stopping off after five miles for a prosecco and pizza picnic. The seat was low for shorties like me and very comfortable and the overall riding position was a doddle.
My only issue was with the unusual placement of mid-mounted foot-pegs. My feet didn’t fall naturally onto them and I found myself on occasion searching for the gear leaver and rear brake. Then again it’s an unfair comparison to make with my Street whose pegs are positioned in more of a sports bike way, which is what I’m used to.
You don’t need a key to start the engine, it comes with a fob that you can keep in your pocket. The Iron fires up at the start of a button and it’s at this point when you notice the mirrors are placed beneath the bars. I didn’t think I’d like it at first but after a couple of miles of adapting this quirky feature became second nature.
The instrumentation does what it says on the tin. The trip meters, clock, gear selection and revs are all shown on an LCD strip and are easy to read thanks to the high positioning of the speedometer.
On pulling away you immediately appreciate the long, low gearing and how surprisingly light and manoeuvrable the Iron is. She weighs around 75 kilos more than my Street but you wouldn’t know it. Even at low speeds I never got the feeling that she had a mind of her own and at junctions you’re always in control because the low seat height means your feet are planted firmly on the floor.
Another welcome surprise was just how much ground clearance she has, giving you confidence when tipping her into bends. The seat and peanut-style tank do a good job of keeping you in one place and you don’t find yourself fidgeting around.
I’ve given this a generous four star rating because the Iron isn’t about performance although she’ll happy sit at 100mph (so the spec sheet says). Acceleration is swift and there’s plenty of low down grunt thanks to an 833cc engine that churns out bags of torque.
Unlike Harley’s of old this one’s lump is rubber mounted, which reduces vibration and makes it more civilised. There are only five gears to play with but in truth that’s all you need and the light clutch lever action is a delight for a bike of this size.
Much like the mid-mounted pegs I found the brakes took a while to get used to. This again is because I’m used to the tank slapping brakes on my Street that are designed to be responsive given the 140mph + top speed. The Iron’s brakes were progressive and it meant planning my stopping a little earlier than I’m accustomed to.
Verdict **** (4 and 1/2 stars)
A smidgen over four stars only because I think I’d have preferred a bigger engine (next time I’ll opt for a 1,200cc) and a bit more noise from those gorgeous sweeping exhaust pipes. That said, the Iron is the perfect choice for an entry level cruiser. She’s by no means intimidating and all in all a very easy rider.
If you want an old school, aggressive bike that gives you an authentic, no nonsense throwback riding experience then look no further than this great value machine made by one of the world’s most iconic motorcycle manufacturers.
My thanks to Sycamore Harley-Davidson in Uppingham.
Tel: 01572 823296
Photos: Emma Bothamley for ESP Magazine