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The Harley-Davidson Iron 883

We try out the Harley-Davidson's "throwback" motorcycle, the Iron 883.

Harley-Davidson Iron 883

If you could review the 2012 Harley-Davidson Dark Custom Iron 883 in one word, I’d challenge you to conjure up a better quick hit term than “throwback.”

Everything about the stripped-down, low-riding bike harkens back to the roots of the American motorcycle – from the rounded angles of 1940s utilitarian motorcycles to the sleeker, more aggressive lines of the 1950s as bikes came into their own as a cultural icon.

The Iron 883 parks at the base of Harley-Davidson’s Dark Custom Line – that subdivision of motorcycles stylized and priced to encourage younger riders to embrace the great American motorcycle. It is the simplest and most-stripped down bike in the line, but it’s one of the lightest Harley-Davidson rides I’ve ever enjoyed – and, therefore, one of the most enjoyable.

On the down side, the Iron 883’s intentional retro simplicity limits your features. You end up with a simple speedometer and gas gage for your readouts. Simple signal indicators. Small side view mirrors and a headlight. But, obviously, no radio. No windscreen. No chrome. No fairing. It’s simply stripped down, fast (but not foreign, metric fast), two-wheeled transportation.

But, the potential sting of what you don’t get with this Sportster is quickly swept away by its stunningly inviting price tag. At only $7,999 off the assembly line (with custom options extra), the Iron 883 is one of Harley-Davidson’s most affordable motorcycles. You get a hell of a lot of bike for that money – making the whole package a considerable bargain if you can live without the bangs and whistles other bigger, more expensive cruising cycles might offer.

For just north of eight grand after taxes, you get a fuel-injected, air-cooled Evolution engine that puts out 55 ft. lbs. of torque, while offering fuel economy of about 51 mpg.

At only just short of 86 inches in length, the Iron 883 is one of Harley-Davidson’s smallest motorcycles – alongside the Nightster (the Iron 883‘s cousin in visual design) and the racing pedigree XR1200X. For me, that reduced size is part of this Sportster’s charm.

With many of Harley-Davidson street cruisers, I enjoy the ride – but come away with a common complaint. While smooth and comfortable to ride, and secure at speed, you come away from a ride on a big softtail feeling as though you’ve ridden a two-wheeled car. You lose many of the little perks riding a motorcycle can provide. For example, you can’t slip between lanes of cars at a stop light to get out ahead on a green light when your motorcycle is wider than some European hatchbacks.

The Iron 883 lets you ride with the comfort of a cruiser on a bike small enough to weave in and out of tough spots.

It’s also light enough to allow for more maneuverability than you can get out of a Fat Bob with saddle bags. I speak from almost painful experience as the Iron 883’s reduced weight and inherent balance kept me out of the kind of ugly crack-up that explains why EMTs refer to motorcycle riders as “donors.”

I was returning home off of the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles, bound for Ventura Blvd. It was a little bit after 3 p.m., and Suzie Homemaker was on her way to pick up little Billy from some local school. She never saw me, and – had I been on a bigger cruiser – she’d have clipped me. But, the quickness and reduced space signature on the Iron 883 rolled me away in life-saving style.

That kind of rescue made a fan out of this reviewer. Period.