2010 Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 Low Review

As low as Harley can go


If you’re “inseam-challenged,” have a limited new-bike budget and always wanted a Harley-Davidson, you’re in luck. The Sportster 883 Low might just be your two-wheeled ticket to Harley-riding bliss.

The Sporty series is elemental Harley-Davidson.

And the 2010 883 Low, along with its nearly identical dark twin, the Iron 883, boil down the H-D experience to its simplest form with the brand’s most basic mill: an 883cc, 45-degree, air-cooled V-Twin.

Both 883 models boast seat heights (26.3 inches) among the lowest in the Milwaukee-based bike maker’s 2010 lineup.

Riders looking for the least expensive tracks to Harley-Davidson ownership can jump on a Sportster 883L for just $6,999.

However, the Low further broadens access to Harley Land with the absolute lowest MSRP from Harley in 2010. At $6,999 in color Vivid Black, no other Harley model can go lower than the 883L.

The extra $290 it’ll cost you to get one of the three available color schemes – Scarlet Red, Brilliant Silver Pearl or the Flame Blue Pearl of our tester – still keep the 883L’s price below the 2010 Honda Shadow RS’s $7,799 tag. If that doesn’t make you do a double take, you’re not paying attention. Our tester wore the standard aluminum wheels; spoke/laced wheels are a $460 option.

Giddy up and go from Evolution Vee is sufficient for what could easily be considered a beginning rider’s bike. But even for all my riding experience it took me a few miles to get used to the way the 883 develops low-end power.

Harley ownership doesn’t get any easier or cheaper than the 883 Sportster. The MSRP of our tester – complete with optional Flame Blue Pearl color selection and $305 freight charge – is $7,594.

At roughly 2200 rpm, the spunky 883 cranks out 46 ft-lbs. That’s 95% of peak torque (48.5 ft-lbs @ 3700 rpm) arriving just about the time you’ve fully released the clutch lever!

The 883 Low delivers time-tested Harley style in a small and accessible package.

This healthy smack of torque right off the bottom shouldn’t be inferred as some type of drawback, but it’s conceivable a new rider might need a short period of acclimatization in order to gel with the Harley’s engine character. Especially when, say, rolling away from a stop.

Otherwise, power and throttle response are smooth and linear. Furthermore, the Twin feels like it has enough power in reserve to pull a taller top gear than what feels like a short-ish fifth gear in the five-speed box.

Nevertheless, the Little Sportster That Can still has enough steam on tap that overtaking at freeway speeds isn’t a matter of taking your life in your hands. The 883L feels at ease in the 80-mph range.

"The 883L feels at ease in the 80-mph range."

The dual-piston single-caliper brake does an admirable job of hauling down from speed the 883L’s claimed running-order weight of 583 pounds.
 
As the bike’s name implies, this is one low ridin’ H-D, and saddling up to the Low will ultimately determine if it’s the one for you.

Riders small of stature fit the 883 Low better than the 6-foot Jeff Cobb.

The 26-inch seat height will make planting two boots easy for even the shortest riders, but its overall ergo package had my 5-foot 8-inch frame and 30-inch inseam feeling cramped. And with only 3.9 inches of ground clearance, dragging hard parts early is a peg-grinding reality for the 883 Low.

A byproduct of the 883L’s low seat height is extremely limited ground clearance.  Pipes drag early and often, crying for relief long before the chassis does.

Entering intersections with even a moderately aggressive lean angle will result in the left-side footpeg feeler, or the underside of the lower exhaust pipe, auguring into the pavement sooner than you might expect.

The limited suspension travel that lends to quickly wearing peg feelers also means some harsh jolts over rough pavement, sharp-angled cracks and bumps in the road. Ride quality is pleasant over road surfaces that are in reasonably good condition, but choppy tarmac will have you thinking aftermarket suspension or gel seat quicker than you can say “Corbin!”

Clearly there are a couple negatives in having a bike with such limiting dimensions, but the 883 Low’s saddle height and compact rider triangle package might also make it the ideal ride for lots of folks out there. I’m willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that a good share of the fairer sex interested in two wheels will find this Harley-Davidson’s overall package very appealing.

It may be low, even tiny to some, but the 2010 Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 Low offers decent performance and big-bike styling that belie its small-bike features and even smaller price tag.

Stay tuned to see how the 883L stacks up against Honda’s new Shadow RS in an upcoming shootout.

The Sportster 883 Low impressed us by providing an elemental Harley experience at a reasonable price. A lack of cornering clearance is our major gripe.

Related Reading
2009 Harley-Davidson Iron 883 Review
2010 Honda Shadow RS Review
2010 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight Review
2010 Honda Shadow Phantom Review
Harley Sportster 1200R vs Triumph Scrambler: Knievel vs McQueen
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