2009 Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 Preview

Dark Custom adds a new rebel


Harley-Davidson recently unveiled the Iron 883 as the latest addition to its phantom Dark Custom line. The Darks aren’t a separate model line, but more like a sinister club or collection of single models culled from Harley’s prolific arsenal of existing V-Twins: the Dynas, Sportsters and Softails.

The underpinning theme with a Dark is pared-down, no-nonsense styling, eschewing chrome and brightness in favor of muted, basic color schemes – namely black. And for a few of them there’s a decidedly deliberate chopped and bobbed influence.

As a theme, Dark Custom didn’t make an official appearance until the January 2008 introduction of a Softail Springer that received the chopped/bobbed/black-out treatment and the name Cross Bones. It was at this Hollywood premiere-style unveiling of the ‘Bones that Willie G. Davidson and son Bill told the moto-world about the birth of this new shadow series of motorcycles.

Harley’s latest in its line of Dark Customs, the Iron 883.

Long before its official coming out party, the development of the Dark line started taking shape when the Softail Night Train showed up, and then a VRSC model, the Night Rod Special, went bad-ass in black. Soon thereafter the 1200cc Sportster-based Nightster appeared in the first half of 2007. The Iron 883 marks the second Sportster model to join the Dark Customs and follows closely to the Nightster’s motif.

H-D had its public unveiling of the Iron 883 at an art gallery in Southern California.

To help jump start the introduction of the Iron 883 into the Dark Custom line, Harley-Davidson showcased the bike as part of an art gallery opening this past Saturday at the Robert Berman Gallery in Santa Monica, CA. The media got an early look on Friday, February 6th.

The theme of the gallery opening was “The Art of Rebellion,” and included 10 contemporary fringe artists, each creating a custom-painted Harley gas tank in conjunction with the gallery theme. Among invited creative types was street artist Shepard Fairey, most notable for his “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” sticker that later evolved into the “OBEY Giant” collection. Fairey recently resurged in notoriety by creating the now-iconic Barack Obama HOPE posters used extensively in the former presidential candidate’s successful campaign for the Oval Office.

Shepard Fairey was unable to be at the event, but he was represented by his Johnny Ramone artwork. In the spirit of the show’s theme, “Art of the Rebellion,” comes this anarchy-driven design from artist Frank Kozik.

The gallery of tanks as well as a piece from the artists own collections will be on display and available for purchase. Proceeds from the sale will benefit Art Matters, a charity that supports and encourages the exploration of new ideas and art. One hundred copies of a signed, limited-edition Shepard Fairey poster were given away at the event.

Keeping It Lo-Brow

By Fonzie

While many would argue that the established identity of Harley-Davidson motorcycles seems forever supplanted in the ideals and design regime of the 1950s, they occasionally take strides in more unique directions.

Friday's private art opening is just one such occasion, which publicly raised the collective consciousness of the underground and subculture known as the lo-brow art scene.

Finding a new motorcycle parked inside the stark-white gallery walls is nothing when compared to the juxtaposition of suit-clad connoisseurs and tattoo-sleeved artists, both sipping on another decidedly lo-brow adult beverage, tall-boys if you will, 24-oz PBRs flowed like the wine you might have expected in such a place. Instead, artists and their families, entourages and some lurking media folk milled about the charity event. All seeking a higher state of mind in the name of art and motorcycling.

Not dampened by the unusual week-long rains of Los Angeles, the party went on well into the night. Sighting such sub-famous artists as the Clayton brothers, SoCal's own Bob Dob and the Austin-dipped Spaniard Frank Kozik kept the otherwise subdued art opening spicy and full of life.

Proceeds from the custom-painted tanks and wall art went to artist-supporting foundation Art Matters. Kozik's piece sold almost immediately. Shepard Fairey unfortunately wasn't in attendance due to a retrospective show opening on the East Coast.


Harley chose the gallery theme to mirror what it calls the “modern rebel culture” that was emerging around the time of the original introduction of the Sportster line in 1957. Indeed, H-D was clearly drawn to the original bobber style when it first penned the Iron 883. Though the bike is essentially a Sportster 883 Low, Harley was able to shorten overall length by three inches and shave 18 pounds off the Low’s claimed running order weight of 583 pounds.

Black, black and more black – Johnny Cash would’ve liked the Iron 883.

The Iron forges its own style yet takes numerous cues from the Nightster with short fenders, fork gaiters, side-mounted license plate holder, staggered straight exhaust, and of course, black pieces galore. Following in the Nightster’s footsteps, the Iron furthers its minimalist appearance by incorporating the functions of top/turn/taillight in a pair of red LED lights on the rear fender. This is a very cool thing on a cruiser, Dark Custom or not.

A nice accent would’ve been black exhaust pipes instead of chrome; still, the matte black paint and oodles of other basic black finishes give potential owners a good canvas to continue their own dark customizing. If you’re a purist, you can keep the bike as is – simple – just as true bobbers were meant to be.

Like its larger-displaced brother the Nightster, the Iron makes rebellion and outlaw style accessible to a wider audience by way of its very low 26.3-inch solo seat height, and an equally low starting MSRP of $7,899. The Iron 883 is available in Black Denim and Brilliant Silver Denim colors.

For 2009 the Dark Custom line consists of the Iron 883, Nightster, Cross Bones, Street Bob, Fat Bob and Night Train.

The worlds of art and motorcycles come together.

The Iron 883 not only advances the Dark Custom line, it also reflects a trend toward bobbing in the bike culture that’s now moving into the mainstream. Makes us wonder if at that point it’s still rebellious?

Here’s a quick rundown of goods on the Iron 883:
• Rubber-mounted Evolution 883 cc V-Twin black powder-coated engine
• Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
• Black fuel tank with unique graphics
• Black front forks with gaiters
• Black belt guard and front fender supports
• Black, 13-spoke cast aluminum wheels, 19-inch front/16-inch rear
• Black low-rise drag-style handlebar
• Black mid-mount foot controls
• Black low profile front fender
• Black chopped rear fender with combination rear stop/tail/turn lights
• Chrome staggered shorty exhaust with dual mufflers
• Side-mounted license plate holder
• One-piece, solo Sportster classic seat
• 26.3-inch seat height
• Optional Harley-Davidson Smart Security System
• Classic 3.3-gallon fuel tank

Make sure you take a look through our gallery for more exclusive photos from the event.

Related Reading
2008 Harley-Davidson FLSTSB Cross Bones Review
2007 Harley-Davidson Nightster Review
2008 Harley Davidson FXSTB Night Train Review
2007 Harley-Davidson Night Rod Special Review

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