2015 Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 Test
If you’re looking for some attitude while cruising through the edge of town, the 2015 Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 has it in spades, plain and simple. Authentic, cool, and bad ass all rolled up into one, there’s no denying the dark charisma of this old-school Sportster.
Aesthetically, there’s not much shiny chrome to get your attention. From the black powder-coated fins, black engine cover, handlebars and mirrors, to the fork guards, wheels and frame, the Iron 883 strikes a defiant stance with its monochrome palette—and it works. You see it, and you want to throw a leg over that compact package and take a spin right now. Work can wait.
Interestingly, when I sat on the low seat and picked the Iron 883 off the kickstand, the riding triangle felt odd. The footpegs are a bit higher than expected resulting in an almost 90-degree bent knee position – and I’m just 5’ 6” – and the reach to the drag style bars seemed like a stretch.
It didn’t take too long to figure out how to sit this iron horse, though, as the Iron 883’s personality seeped into me quickly when I shifted through the gears. I hunkered down and forward into a more aggressive stance and suddenly it all made sense and felt good — really good.
Powered by the three-decades strong Evolution motor, the 883cc air-cooled twin has plenty of low-end torque – 54 ft/lbs at 3750 rpm – so getting underway is effortless with the late engaging clutch. Mid-mount controls make it easy to operate the bike without repositioning your feet, but be sure to follow through with a solid and deliberate click up from first gear as casual shifting will put the five-speed gearbox into neutral instead of second.
The Iron 883 is a physically small bike, from its low-enough 29-inch seat height to its narrow midsection and bars, so it’s not intimidating to operate despite its bruiser appearance. At stops you’ll easily have both feet flat on the ground, and though it dips the scales at more than a quarter ton, its 562 pounds (curb weight) are carried low so it feels lighter and is manageable in low speed situations like gas stations and parking lots. When traffic slows down, you won’t have to hang with the crowd, as the Iron 883 does a fine job of threading through lanes.
Once you’re moving down the boulevard, images of iconic motorcycle movies start playing through your head. Even at a casual cruise, your body position exudes purpose and you feel cool. Twist the throttle and the Harley-Davidson Iron 883 responds, ready for a rousing ride through the back streets.
The suspension is basic; that low seat height comes at the cost of less than two inches rear suspension travel. You’ll be earning your tough guy rep as you soak up the hard knocks of well-worn urban pavement, rather than the shocks doing the job. Harley-Davidson makes a variety of solo spring saddles for the Iron 883, any of which I would install if I owned the bike.
At higher speeds, the Iron 883 feels solid in straight lines, and holds its composure in turns as long as the road is smooth. Ripples, bumps and cracks help keep your speed down as the bike feels less secure when the Michelin Scorcher 31 tires momentarily lose full grip on the tarmac.
There’s just one 300mm disc up front, but I found it adequate for the speeds the bike inspired. Engagement is smooth and without bite. ABS is an optional add-on for the 2015 Harley-Davidson Iron 883; if you only ride in the dry, you likely won’t need it.
It’s doubtful you’ll find yourself running through the 3.3-gallon tank without taking a break as the Iron 883 is not about comfort, but that’s a fine excuse for stopping and letting admiring eyes get a closer look. The bobbed fenders and dual shocks underscore the authentic old-school look, and the side-mounted license plate and retro taillights (which handle brake and turn signal duties) contribute to a spare look out back. My vintage-racing inspired Harley-Davidson Rallyrunner 3-in-1 Leather jacket goes with it perfectly.
When it’s time to move on, keep your swagger going with the optional H-D Smart Security System. There’s no fumbling for a key to get your motor running. Throw a leg over the solo saddle, thumb the starter, and off you go. Smooth.
The no-frills, uncluttered analog dash includes a small LCD strip where you can swap between trip mileage, and gear indicator and tach—an unexpected but appreciated touch.
Devoid of flashy ornamentation while sticking to the basics, Harley-Davidson uses the venerable Sportster platform to good effect, creating the 2015 Harley-Davidson Iron 883, an inspiring bike that makes you want to get out and ride.
Photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: HJC RPHA-Max Align
- Jacket: Harley-Davidson Rallyrunner 3-in-1
- Gloves: Harley-Davidson Women’s Mystic Dual Chamber Full-Finger
- Jeans: Icon Hella Heartbreaker
- Boots: River Road Women’s Traditional Square-Toe Harness
2015 Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 Specs:
- Engine: Air-cooled, Evolution
- Valves: Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; two-valves per cylinder
- Bore x stroke: 3 x 3.811 inches
- Displacement: 53.9 cubic inches (883 cc)
- Compression ratio: 9: 1
- Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
- Air Cleaner: Paper cartridge type
- Lubrication System: Dry-sump
- Battery: Sealed lead acid, maintenance-free, 12V, 12 amp/hour, 200 cca
- Starting: 1.2 kW electric with solenoid shift starter motor engagement
- Primary Drive: Chain
- Final Drive: Belt
- Clutch: Multi-plate, wet
- Transmission: 5-speed
- Torque: 53.8 ft. lbs. @ 3750 RPM
- Lean angle Right: 29°
- Lean angle Left: 30°
- Fuel economy (EPA urban/highway test): 51 mpg
- Frame: Mild steel, tubular frame; circular sections; cast junctions
- Swingarm: Mild steel, rectangular tube section, stamped junctions; MIG welded
- Forks: 39 mm, 3.6 inches of travel
- Shocks: Coil-over, preload dual-adjustable; 1.6 inches of travel
- Brake Calipers: Dual-piston front, dual-piston rear;
- Brake Rotor Type: Solid, uniform expansion rotors with optional ABS
- Front brake: 11.8 inches x .2 inches
- Rear brake: 10.24 inches x .28 inches (260.1 mm x 7.1 mm)
- Wheels Type: Black, 13-Spoke Cast Aluminum
- Front wheel: 19 inches x 2.15 inches (483 mm x 55 mm)
- Rear wheel: 16 inches x 3 inches (406 mm x 76 mm)
- Front tire: Michelin Scorcher 31, 100/90B19 57H
- Rear tire: Michelin Scorcher 31, 150/80B16 77H
- Length: 88.8 inches
- Overall Width: 33.7 inches
- Overall Height: 44.1 inches
- Seat Height: 28.9 inches
- Ground Clearance: 4.7 inches
- Rake (steering head): 30.5°
- Fork Angle: 30.5°
- Trail: 4.6 inches
- Wheelbase: 59.5 inches
- Fuel capacity: 3.3 gallons (warning light at approximately 0.8 gal.)
- Oil capacity (w/filter): 2.8 quarts
- Transmission Capacity: 1 quart
- Dry: 540 pounds
- Curb: 562 lbs. pounds
2015 Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 Photo Gallery