If we told you that you could purchase a brand-new urban performance bobber with a blacked out V-Twin engine and components, a stripped neo-industrial appearance and a low seat height that’s ideal for new-ish, female or those “short of leg,” all for under eight grand, would you bite? There are two motorcycle manufacturers producing such a bike. Your choice is between the proven machine with a few well-documented idiosyncrasies, or the upstart contender that’s eager to take on the champ.

Most things being equal – both are stylish, quality-built and cool as all get-out – the obvious deciding factor would be price, right? Sorry, misers, their cost is pretty much equal, too. So how does one decide between the established American legend and the imported arriviste? If you’re on the staff of Motorcycle.com, you ride the hell out of them, and whichever impresses the most, wins.

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That’s precisely the thankless task we undertook, when we ran the Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 XL883N and the new Star Bolt up the proverbial flagpole. While the Iron stood its ground, proud and perhaps slightly complacent, the Bolt, which impressed so much on our initial review back in April, worked smarter (not harder), and proved a worthy contender. After a week of boulevard cruises, freeway slogs, dyno runs and twisty tests, the winner is… Well, it depends on whom you ask.

Right off the bat, let’s get this out in the open, because there’s just no sugarcoating it: The 2014 Star Bolt is a shameless rip-off of the Harley Iron 883. Harsh? Hey, the truth stings. From its stripped-down styling to its darkened color scheme, from its muscular profile to its glowering countenance, the Bolt does little to conceal its affinity for the Iron. Heck, it even sports a mono-syllabic, industrial-esque noun for a name. It’s like the Single White Female of bobbers.

The new Bolt is more than just a flattering imitation of the Iron. It’s the latest (and perhaps most brazen) in a decades-long line of bald-faced Asian knockoffs.

VIEW: Read our review of the 2014 Star Bolt

Harley-Davidson 883 Iron and Star Bolt Action

Content Editor Tom Roderick agrees. ““From the same blacked-out elements to tire sizes, belt drive and overall styling the Bolt is a blatant rip-off of the Sporty,” he says. “For this reason alone many consumers will choose the original over the replicant.”

That said, Star’s Bolt is more than just the Iron’s creepy stalker. Light, compact and powerful, it’s truly a kick-ass little motorcycle. Better, it benefits from having learned from Harley’s mistakes. From this vantage point, Star has taken the production Urban Bobber concept and produced a more refined package than Harley’s, with more on-road stability and far superior suspension – the Iron’s two infamous liabilities.

As posed in front of the USS Iowa, the Bolt looks right at home.

As posed in front of the USS Iowa, the Bolt looks right at home.

The Iron 883 counters simply on the virtue of its badging. It looks, feels, sounds and rides like a Harley, which for many riders is all a bike needs to be judged a superior machine. The Iron and its big brother, the Nightster 1200, were pioneers of the stripped down café/bobber craze so prevalent in the industry these days, so it’s no wonder Star would want a slice of that popular pie; pilfering demographics has been the modus operandi of Japanese OEMs since the ’70s.

VIEW: Read our review of the 2009 Harley-Davidson 883 Iron

2013 Harley-Davidson 883 Iron Profile

The Iron 883 was – and is — at the vanguard of the bobber craze.

One look at the photos demonstrates how similar these bikes are in style, size and purpose. Both are lightweight bobbers, small enough to accommodate most any rider. Both feature sub-1000cc V-Twin engines: the Sportster rocks Harley’s signature 883cc Evo, while the Star uses the identical powerplant found in its V Star 950 cruiser, a 942cc 60-degree V-Twin. The Bolt is a slightly larger bike (and rides like it), with a wider fuel tank and an overall length of 90.2 inches versus the Iron’s 85.8, but the Bolt has a 2-inch shorter wheelbase.

2014 Star Bolt Exhaust

Some of the Iron’s extra weight comes from its precariously low-hanging 2-into-2 chrome exhaust, while the Star features a blacked-out 2-into-1 job with a howitzer-like canister and a throatier growl than the Iron’s staggered pipes.

The Iron is 25 pounds heavier, with a curb weight of 565 pounds as opposed to the Bolt’s 540, and it carries its weight lower, with a seat height of 26.9 inches and a ground clearance of 3.9 inches. Meanwhile the Bolt carries its rider at 27.2 inches and sits 5.1 inches off the pavement. Both bikes sport black spoke wheels, the Harley using 13-spoke jobs while the Star makes do with 12. And both motorcycles feature 100/90-19 tires in the front and 150/80-16 hoops in the back.

Around town, both bikes handle nimbly, their light weights and short wheelbases contributing to their fine agility. Both feel quick and speedy, in the same way my ’67 VW Bug seemed quick and speedy. That is to say, they’re not quote-unquote fast motorcycles – but the low seat height, strong low-end torque, easy maneuverability and pronounced rider feedback provide the zipping sensation fans of bobbers crave.

Harley-Davidson Iron 883 Star Bolt Dyno

The Bolt’s extra displacement gives it a horsepower and torque advantage over the Iron 883 almost all the way through the powerband.

The most glaring difference between these bobbers, though, lies in what Star tried so hard to improve upon – suspension. Oh, it also looks the same on both. The Star has 41mm fork tubes; the Harley’s measure 39mm. And both bikes feature twin coil-over shocks in the rear. (Note: Bolt’s R-Spec, tested here, takes advantage of piggyback gas canisters on its rear shocks – their difference is negligible for small- and average-sized riders, more noticeable for big guys.)

But here’s the thing: The Bolt boasts front suspension travel of 4.7 inches, while the Iron allows just 3.6 inches of bounce. Further, the Iron manages barely an inch and a half (1.6 inches) of rear travel, while Star’s rear shocks up the ante to 2.8 inches. The Iron’s suspension simply can’t hold a candle to the Bolt’s KYB components. Score one for Star.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2012 V Star 950

2013 Harley-Davidson 883 Iron Action Left

Slightly smaller and far, far buzzier, the Sportster gives the false impression it might be quicker than the Star.

Now, the Iron’s seat posits the rider nearly half an inch lower than the Bolt, but considering the Iron’s notorious gut-punching suspension (upon the bike’s introduction, some joked that it ought to come with a bar-and-shield branded kidney belt), the trade-off is one that some average and large riders will accept.

Roderick points out another advantage of the Star’s higher seat. “The rider triangle on the Bolt is slightly roomier,” he notes, “making it feel like a normal-size bike compared to the Iron’s lower seat height and more restrictive cockpit.”

2014 Star Bolt Action Front Right

The Bolt’s extra suspension travel and roomier riding position translate into a nicer ride for larger riders.

Star scores another hit with its controls. While neither bike offers adjustable hand levers, the Bolt’s are freer and take less effort to operate, traits that carry over to the foot levers. While Harley may relish the mechanical sounds and sensations that riding its bikes offers, the long run favors quieter, more efficient actuation.

Even better, the Bolt utilizes 1.5-inch handgrips, while the buzzy Iron makes do with 1.25-inch grips. It’s only a slight difference, but the Star’s thicker grips more fully fill the rider’s palm. Combine that firmer hold with less rattle and hum, as it were, and the Bolt rider is provided more substantial control. This is a key riding component in a bike of smallish stature – particularly on the highway.

And that is where the separation between the quirky established bike and the plucky upstart really becomes apparent. At 65 mph, the Iron feels lithe and buzzy, with a willowy footprint that is too often blown off-line, requiring constant rider input. Moreover, all of these traits provide its rider with a teeth-rattling vibration in the butt, feet and hands – an unnerving sensation that’s exacerbated by the wavering mirrors and hard, unforgiving suspension.

The Star, meanwhile, runs smoother and is more poised. Its thicker grips, better suspension, steadier rear-view mirrors and surer stance all pitch in to provide superior stability and rider confidence over the Iron, especially when surrounded by speeding semis and texting cagers. Freeway commuters in the market for a bobber such as these would definitely be wise to opt for the Star.

2013 Harley-Davidson 883 Iron Mirrors

The Iron 883’s mirrors vibrate like crazy above 4K rpm, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s impossible to see what’s directly behind you without tucking your elbows, anyway. They would benefit from longer stems.

Star also bests the Iron in the brake department. The Harley features a single 292mm disc up front and a 260mm disc in the rear, while the Bolt uses larger 298mm wave-type rotors on both wheels. Both bikes utilize two-piston calipers up front, one out back – neither offers ABS – but whether you chalk it up to the larger rotors or perhaps to the more surefooted feel of the Bolt, Star’s brakes vastly outperformed the Iron’s. Grip came quicker, and held more firmly. Star scores again.

Another difference of note is instrumentation. Both bikes feature a round solo gauge that lets you scroll through clock and odo/tripmeter functions, but the Harley’s analog speedo sits up straight between the grips. The Star, on the other hand, makes use of a digital LCD speedo with a smoked lens that sits down low on the tank. It looks cool, especially considering the matching LED taillight – yet is annoyingly hard to read in direct sunlight.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2007 Harley-Davidson XL1200N Nightster

2013 Harley-Davidson 883 Iron Cornering

Cornering clearance is an issue with both bikes, as their pegs scraped eagerly. However, the Iron invites disaster on its pipe side.

“Harley claims only one degree less lean angle on the right side of the Iron (29° vs 30°),” Tom points out, “but it feels like a half-dozen degrees when the lower muffler begins dragging through a moderate turn. Add in the limited amount of rear shock travel and you’ve a mechanism for destroying exhaust pipe chrome.”

Things are rosier for the Iron 883 in several other key aspects of motorcycles such as these. It lives up to Harley’s reputation in sound, feel and performance, and the bike stands apart from the Star in its attention to detail and its fit and finish.

“The H-D has a flangeless fuel tank and its overall packaging is tight,” Tom says. “The Star has an unsightly gap between the tank and the seat, among other styling foibles such as the plastic rear fender extender. Why didn’t Star simply make a long enough metal fender? And the clearances between the downtubes and engine appear as if it’s an engine and frame sourced from two other models then bolted together.” Tom’s got a point; perhaps that’s where Star got the name.

Harley-Davidson 883 Iron and Star Bolt Highway

What’s true about these bobbers has been true with OEM competitors for decades: despite producing what is possibly a superior product, the Japanese knockoff just can’t match the panache of the American original.

Still, Tom and I agree that despite being a blatant knockoff, Star has produced a damned respectable “urban performance bobber” that not only stands up to its role model but bests it on many levels.

“A bigger engine with more power, better brakes and much better suspension make the Bolt a better performing motorcycle than the Harley,” Roderick concludes.

Harley-Davidson 883 Iron and Star Bolt

Both bikes look great from a distance,” Roderick says, “but up-close the Harley’s attention to detail trumps the Star’s more obvious production-line quality.” For a visual key, he points to the Iron’s standard fork gaiters; for a practical one, he notes Harley-Davidson’s 24-month warranty as opposed to Star’s 12-month guarantee.

So does Harley have reason to worry? Doubtful. The pretenders know it’s going to take more than a marginally better machine to dethrone the MoCo in any segment, so they have traditionally come in at a lower price point than Harley-Davidson. Curiously, Star chose to price its 2014 Bolt at $7990 – nine measly dollars less than the Iron. Moreover, the R-Spec version we tested, with its color/graphics options, contrasting saddle stitching, and alloy piggyback shock canisters, runs $8,290.

For those without allegiances, the Star Bolt is a worthy adversary to the Iron 883 – it’s a better bike overall, and Yamaha reports that its early sales have exceeded expectations. But in the end, the allure of the illustrious H-D brand is a powerful tonic, so it’s easy to see why many shopping trips begin and end at the Harley dealership.

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  • psychobueller

    OK, I’ll post the first comment. As someone who has owned Japanese, German, and American motorcycles I like to think I don’t have blind allegiance to any one persuasion. The Bolt looks like a fun bike to ride and I love that the engine is air-cooled for simplicity and clean style. But there are so many awkward details, like the ugly tank seam and weird bend to the frame down tubes, and the cheap plastic fender. And honestly it’s trying to be something it’s not.

    The Sportster, for all it’s faults, is the real deal. Real steel, and beautiful details. I own one but I am not blind to it’s faults. But there’s no denying that the Sporty is what the Bolt wants to be when it grows up. I’d much rather Yamaha had taken a page from their own history and tried to do something unique.

    • Pretty Hips McGee

      Them one of each for a ride and see if “the real deal” is worth spending your money on. I’ve ridden both and can’t see putting up with the Harley’s shortcomings for the privilege of the badging.

      • Guest

        oops, add take one of …….in front of previous post.

      • Pretty Hips McGee

        oops, make that “take one of each for a ride”

      • LogicDude

        It’s more than badging. The HD’s power on that dyno run is actually higher and more linear, and the hydraulic valves and no cam chain and tensioner to worry about are pluses, as is factory and aftermarket support. Fit and finish is pretty awesome on a HD too. But really, you have to decide which bike pushes your buttons most. I bought my 2006 XL883 two years ago, as my ninth motorized two-wheeler, and I have to say it pushes my buttons better than all the others, which were Asian. Probably my best bikes by almost any performance and reliability standpoint were my CB50 Nighthawk (sold), and my DL650 V-Strom (for sale), if we want to be objective. But like an old tube audio amplifier is a great listen, there’s something about a Sporty that makes me want to ride it. The motor makes the senses come alive, even on a long trip where the scenery starts to bore. You hear and feel everything, including the feedback from throttle changes, and see a lot too. It’s all laid out for you to see. But you (McGee) may have different buttons. After all, motorcycles are rarely used as non-luxury items, at least in the U.S.A., so go with what works best for you. Both are very good motorcycles, which should be satisfying to one inclined to choose one over the other.

        By the way, I ride my Sportster with a full-face helmet, Olympia hi-viz yellow textile jacket and black pants, and motorcycle boots. I don’t really fit the stereotype HD rider. But I love the Sportsters, which is why I’m trying to sell my V-Strom to someone who will make it their #1 bike, which it deserves to be.

        • Pretty Hips McGee

          I was wrong. I bought a Sportster. I get it now.

          • LogicDude

            Really? Which one? Cool.

          • Pretty Hips McGee

            I purchased a bone stock 2004 XL883 with 6,000 miles. I love the powerband. It pulls off the line nicely, and at higher rpms it makes all the right noises.

          • LogicDude

            Mine is a 2006 XL883, so it might be the same bike. It’s the “Standard,” and not the “Low” or “Custom.” I like the standard because it has more suspension travel. I bought it in 2011 for $4700 and have over $2000 in modifications, but left the exhaust alone. It took a while for it to grow on me, but grow on me it did! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4bed2a2a5912c0805f26525ebedf819b7f2ee2d32bfe8b0e18bb9a8409bf66c6.jpg

      • Justo Cruz

        Amen Brutha. I’ve ridden both. My brother owns a Harley and I own a Yamaha. I like my Raider much better than any Harley. And it smokes just about every Harley out there with the exception of the V-Rod. But I reckon that doesn’t count because Harley guys don’t recognize the V-Rod as a Harley LOL. Funny people.

    • Auphliam

      I agree. The Sportster is a Sportster. The Bolt is trying to be a Sportster…In my opinion, it falls short of that goal.

      • Jon Langston

        Auphliam: We requested a standard Bolt; the R-Spec is what showed up. Sometimes, ya gotta stick w the girl that brung ya …

  • dasquid

    IF Yamaha wants to do something retro (the Sportster is a retro bike that never went out of production) they should quit ripping off the MoCo and instead do a 21st century version of their beloved XS650 twin. Never mind that it took form factor from Brits, the XS650 had a genuine character all its own which made it successful. OTOH, the Dolt has none and just looks cheap parked next to the real thing. It’ll go nowhere.

    • Pretty Hips McGee

      Let’s see. It’s lighter, has more power, a better suspension, vibrates less but it isn’t a Harley. Yep, nothing to work with there.

      • LogicDude

        If you want something lighter there are lots of options, though they tend to be covered in plastic. If you want something that doesn’t vibrate you can get an electric motorcycle. (The dyno chart doesn’t show the Bolt has more power.) The Sportster riding experience is not the sum of its parts, and like they point out, the Yamaha is only marginally better where it is better. But I do agree that HD’s lack of attention to suspension, and suspension travel/lean angle is appalling. My 2006 XL883 does not suffer from this. Wake up Harley, and stop trying to send business to chiropracters.

        In fact some of their bigger cruisers also have lousy lean angles and suspension travels. They can do great things with short travel, but throwing sparks through Deal’s Gap is downright dangerous.

        Oh, and with the Sportster there is lots to work with, in the sense of customizing. I’ve never owned a motorcycle for long that didn’t have Something that was annoying enough I wanted to change it. With a Harley, that’s usually easy, with bolt-on stuff.

        • dasquid

          Yeah if you want lighter/faster/more powerful with better entire chassis etc etc, what you do is you forget retro bobbers entirely and buy a SFV650 or something for same $. Sportsters and their ilk are not about specs. They are about creating a time machine experience delivered with some concessions to modern safety/reliability, but most of the old school character left intact. Nobody does it like HD. Japanese bikes have been known to do retro right, such as the Kaw W650 and Honda GB500. This Yammy is “nice try but no cigar” IMO.

          • Justo Cruz

            If you want lighter/faster/more powerful with better chassis etc etc, you buy anything other than a Harley LOL. That’s been proven over and over again.

        • Justo Cruz

          The dyno doesn’t show the bolt generates more power but there is a video youtube, actually a couple videos of the bolt beating the shit outta the good ol 883. How does that ol saying go for you Harley people? NUFF SAID LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • psychobueller

      Much agreed! What about a Super Tenere-powered street fighter. Now that would be interesting.

  • LogicDude

    I hope this prods Harley-Davidson to quit with this “lower is better” that’s gotten ridiculous. If they made an XL883 like my 2006, I’d trade for the newer one immediately, for fuel injection (50+mpg more consistently), better breathers (I’m told), and just plain newness (no used bike problems):

    Suspension Travel (2006 XL883 Standard):

    Front Wheel 5.6 in. (141.0 mm)

    Rear Wheel 4.1 in. (104.1 mm)

    Since removing the lowering kit some PO put on there, and upping the preload I have had no problem with cornering clearance. Lean angle is listed as 39 degrees on the stock ’06, which is plenty for me.

    In fact I almost bought a SuperLow (meant to read Super AND Low) for the larger 4.5 gallon tank (Iron’s is 3.3) and just put on longer travel suspension, (for the rear their Parts & Accessories catalog carries some but aftermarket is better).

    Harley is clearly doing some things right that they are always immitated. Yamaha is a righteous brand too. Nobody should be embarrassed to buy a Bolt. But I’m thinking the HD has a few other advantages.

    Greater maintenance simplicity: hydraulically adjusted valves are a big labor savor; no cam chain to worry about (pushrods). And yet their dyno shows the HD making more power, and the Bolt losing it as it spins faster so why bother? Rear-wheel torque is a matter of gearing as much as anything.

    Customizability: Nothing touches a Harley for that. The aftermarket is incredible. Heck you can make it a 1250cc bike with near bolt-on stuff for a bit over $1k, not to mention dozens of seats and just about any part of the bike other than the bottom end of the motor and transmission. HD’s famous “Parts & Accessories” catalog, and “Screamin’ Eagle” catalog make for some fun possibilites too.

    But a brand-new SuperLow (or even Iron), some work on the seat, grips and suspension and you can have a pretty nice bike. It will be interesting to see what Yamaha offers for the Bolt. Rumor has it they do have some P&A coming for customizing.

    On the vibrations: Sporties can be quite smooth if you find the sweet spots. My ’06 has a thicker seat and larger grips (big nostalgic rubber HD things), and only the pegs get vibration, where the game is to find how to set your feet and they mostly go away nicely. Some also mess with the sprockets (a.k.a. belt pulleys) to find sweet spots at their most common speed, though that can require electronic gizmos to compensate the speedometer.

    So you can make it the perfect bike, and do so by amortizing your work over time. My ’06 is about there now. If HD had one with its dimensions in 2013 I would be customizing that one instead, but I’m about done making my ’06 “mine.” Too bad.

    OK, they had the XR1200 for a couple years, but it rode like my V-Strom instead of a Sportster, so it didn’t quite push my buttons. Wicked ground clearance and great overall performance though. Why did the pendulum have to swing so far the other way? Sigh.

    Oh, and I’ll second the gripe about the Japanese not hiding the tank seam that runs along the bottom. The Honda Shadows are bad about that too. Is it rocket science? (Sorry, that’s probably a Triumph term.)

    • Pretty Hips McGee

      I sure don’t mean to cast any negatives on the 883. I’d buy one in a heartbeat if the price was right but Yamaha is offering test rides on the Bolt and you owe it to yourself to take one for a ride. I think it would surprise you.

      • LogicDude

        Fair enough. You came across as a little dismissive (easy enough to do on these forums) and I probably came across as a bit too protective. No harm done I hope.

        I may go for a test ride if given a chance. You might be surprised what one of the older-spec Sportsters is like too. If Yamaha had raised theirs up a bit (easy enough to do) like many Harleys used to be, you would have a real canyon carver. Mine is up higher, and the peace of mind in knowing I’m not likely to scrape in a fast corner is quite valuable to me.

        For what it’s worth, I bought my 2006 Sportster because a shop where I bought my Suzuki V-Strom (new) had it in their used bikes and let me take it for a ride. It was certainly different and had its own quirks, but I could have it if I sold a couple in my stable. At first they were head-scratching quirks. But it really grew on me to where that’s what I want to ride. However, to each his own. A few (as in three) acquaintances of mine were really grabbed by their CB250 Nighthawks, which is a lousy motorcycle in so many ways, but it’s engaging in its own way and it’s what they kept grabbing to ride. Grin factor they called it. Each of them had ridden more powerful, capable bikes (CB750s and others, one a TL1000, one forty other bikes) but except for really long trips, those bikes were parked or sold.

        Years ago I had my V-Strom and a 250 Ninja, and seven times out of ten the Ninja got ridden, though I’m 6’2″ and the V-Strom certainly fit me better. Part of it is that old saying about how it’s more fun to ride a slow(er) bike fast than a fast bike (at normal speeds, i.e., slow for that bike). A bike that is not a little bit of a challenge is not that fun, and if it’s too capable then riding it in a challenging way can be downright dangerous.

        If I do a Bolt test ride, it will likely be a joyride, which I don’t like to do unless it’s a demo day. It feels like bad faith to me. I say joyride because the Sportster project is ongoing and (as you might have guessed) I’m rather dedicated to it.

        Victory makes very good motorcycles, with more modern engines than Harley and with fantastic handling for cruisers. The Vision’s handling is unreal, like a bike that weighs 1/3 as much, but it’s way out of my price range. MAYBE one of their $13k bikes could be had if some professional developments happen, but while they are very well engineered and all, they seemed to engineer out all of the “soul.” Some people find all that “soul” in a Harley to be annoying and just want the good engineering–which Harleys have too but they feel so old-fashioned it’s sometimes hard to tell–but like I said, those are different buttons people have. I’ve demoed Victory bikes twice, really wanting to like them, but I can’t see myself owning one. Too bad, as they are sharp. Some Victory exhaust notes sound like a kid in a pickup trying to gun it to show how loud it can be, even when the bikes’ throttles aren’t that far open. I’m not talking volume, but sound. I know that’s got little to do with performance, but the riding experience is affected.

        I don’t doubt the Bolt is a very well made bike. Yamaha makes good stuff. Someday I may buy one of their trumpets, though more likely I’ll keep my American-made Bach I got new as a teenager, though it’s coming up on thirty years old. The Yamaha I’d buy was a clear knock-off of the Bach, but like the Bolt, a really good one. If you’re going to imitate something, I guess the key is to make it just a little better, at least in some ways. You see it in academic publishing too: someone comes out with an 800 page economics book, so yours has 880 and covers a little more. It’s a bit rude, but the consumer is better off for it. But if you have the original, and 90% of what you want, maybe even plus 10% more of some of the things the knock-off gets you (perhaps the 800 page book is more coherent because you farmed out less to unnamed coauthors), it’s reasonable to stay with the original too.

        I think in this comparison, “it’s all good.” I’m repeating stuff from an earlier post, but as I see it, we have…..

        Harley pluses: fit, finish, lower maintenance for the hard stuff (e.g. no valve adjustment, no cam chain), customizability (and I would probably add character but I’m not sure before a test ride on the Bolt)

        Harley minuses: lousy suspension (on the Iron), ground clearance, lean angle, seat

        Yamaha pluses: Japanese engineering/reliability, suspension (see Harley minuses), smoothness, lighter a bit

        Yamaha minuses: Expect less dealer, factory and aftermarket support, 25,000km valve adjustments (four per cylinder), cam chain to worry about (I’ve heard of too many bikes killed because of cam chain tensioners, then cam chains failing).

        It’s always good when the consumers have more choices, and competition usually makes everyone better.

      • LogicDude

        By the way, I did now ride one. It’s a good bike. It didn’t surprise me, as Yamaha is a very good brand. I still want to keep my 2006 XL883, which is a better bike except for lack of fuel injection than the Iron, and fits me better, or should I say pushes my buttons better, than the Bolt, but no embarrassment needed from anyone who buys the Yamaha. Now the Bolt may have some heat issues. For me, it’s that my left leg wants to sit on the rear head, perhaps fixable with a different seat. For another reviewer (in Forbes I think) it was heat from the exhaust. Here’s my little write-up of what I found:


        But to each his own. I’m glad Yamaha’s making it. The more the merrier. Competition is always good.

      • CDub

        OK, so you work for Yamaha, we get it, now shut-up…please!

  • Piglet2010

    For the money, I would take a Triumph America or Speedmaster over either of these bikes – less weight, more power, and better looking than either.

    (But would take my Bonnie over any of them for the comfort and handling advantages of a standard.)

    • kpaul

      Good point I love the Triumph bikes.

  • madskills

    I guess it comes down to why you ride. Yeah, my current bike is a 2007 Street Bob, but I have had numerous BMWs and Jap bikes. The problem, I like them all. But, I ride for myself. I like riding, but it needs to work. Harleys are fun and the girls like them also(worry about the single seat?!?!?). If your bike is for trips to the tiki bar(I live in Florida) or down to Starbucks, any bike will do and maybe the Harley works. If your using it to commute to work or any distance, I would certainly get the bike that protects you better, the Star.

  • Craig Hoffman

    The exhaust on the Bolt is not a pretty sight. Funny Star did not rip off the HD’s signature and far better looking staggered dual pipes too. Speaking of exhaust, once uncorked, the Bolt will likely not sound appealing at all, while the Harley will sound, well, like a Harley.

    The Bolt is a good bike though, and it will depreciate heavily, unlike the HD, making it a poor new bike purchase, but a great used bike buy.

    All this is academic, as I would never buy this kind of bike. Rough American roads need real suspension. These things are a both a herniated lumbar disc waiting to happen. That and 48 some odd HP in a mid 500 pound bike is not exactly thrilling. My 450cc dirt bike makes more power than that. The same 8K will buy a new Yamaha FZ9 triple. Now there is an interesting new bike from Yamaha.

    • Piglet2010

      So of us actually dislike the H-D uneven firing sound and hate loud pipes.

      I would rather listen to a scooter WFO – seriously (I hit 50 mph on my daily commute on an Elite 110).

    • Rick Vera

      I agree with this weird looking character here. Not only do I not subscribe to the whole “loud pipes save lives” ideology, I actually find Harley’s exhaust ugly. I like dual exhaust, but skinny little pipes with that much stagger — no thanks. I personally think other visual disappointments with the Harley include its pencil-skinny swingarm and a tank that’s too high up on the frame. Nonetheless, overall I do feel Harley’s overall styling (I love the evo engine with chrome pushrod covers and that front wheel!) and fit & finish is superior.

  • G D

    A synopsis of the review: They’re both crummy bikes, but one’s slightly less crummy than the other. One reviewer would buy the slightly less crummy bike with his own money and the other would buy the crummier bike because he wants to able to say that the crummy bike he owns is a Harley.

    I could have done a better review with all my synapses ties behind my back.

    Gawd, I miss Kevin Ash!

  • ms

    I’ve got a 2010 883 Iron, a 2005 VStar and a couple a Ducatis. Have had Kawis and other bikes in the past. There is just something extra satisfying in the feel of the Harley. Yeah the Iron’s suspension is crap (add a spring seat and a fork brace) and the fork is temperamental at speeds over 65– the Yamaha has dreamy suspension, although it wobbles in the corners– and they make about the same amount of noise, but the Iron feels more real somehow. More fun. I refer to the Yamaha as my ‘car’. And as others have mentioned, the HDs are far easier to customize.

    • Pretty Hips McGee

      Have you ridden a Bolt?

      • ms

        As I said I’ve ridden other Yamahas, though not specifically a bolt. I’ve also owned Kawasakis, Suzukis, and Hondas– the feel of a Japanese bike is kind of lacking in personality imho. HD, Ducati, and KTM all the way! I would feel the same regardless of “brand” or “status”. Whatever is most fun to you personally is most fun to you personally. I’ve put 20,000+ miles on my Iron in the past 2 years, and barely 3000 miles on my VStar.

        • ‘Mike Smith

          You’ve been riding the wrong Jap bikes. My 2009 R1 is full of personality.

  • schizuki

    As an Iron owner, I’d have to agree with the review with one exception – fit and finish. It fairly sucks. Paint is peeling off of the lower triple clamp, there’s about twenty fasteners and spacers that immediately rusted, and lines and tubes are routed as if a convenient handful were grabbed and slapped against the nearest frame section to be zip-tied. That said, it’s the most satisfying bike I’ve ever owned. Riding position is perfect, sounds great, feels great. Can’t quantify it, it just works for me. It makes me feel content when I ride. Hard to explain. I changed the seat to a solo Sargent because I have this weird desire for padding, and swapped out the useless stock shocks for 13″ (2″ over stock) Progressive 440s after one too many spinal shocks and nearly levering myself off the road in a turn on the muffler side.

  • kpaul

    Nice video and pictures. The Harley just looks cooler. I would love to have one as was said in the video just because it’s a Harley. Nothing sexier than a woman dressed in black leather on Sportster. Did I just call Iron 883 a chick bike? Not intentionally just that I would love to get my wife on one of these. I think it’s a little small for me and my big behind. But I love the Harley.

    • Pretty Hips McGee

      I have to chuckle at the “chick bike” meme often used for the Sporty. In the 1970s I worked in a gas station near the Florida Outlaw’s club house. The vast majority of those guys rode Sportsters.

  • Rick Vera

    I’ve had the pleasure of riding them both. My quick two cents: if it’s your only bike, go with Star; if it’s your second, third, etc. bike, go with the Harley. Harley’s fit & finish, rubber-mounted engine rumble at idle, chrome:black ratio (I love the blackened out evo engine with chrome pushrod covers), and all the other things make it a great choice if performance and livability aren’t high on your list for a bike, such as if it’s not your only bike. However, if it is your only bike or if you’re looking to commute with it in town, Star’s better suspension travel, upgraded suspension on R-Spec, better brakes, more engine bite and, especially if it sits unattended in a urban environment, NOT a Harley, makes it the superior bike to live with.

  • Stephen Douglas

    It doesn’t take long to design a bike to top a Sporty. While the HD will make you feel like you belong to something special, the performance just sucks. Why can’t HD make a decent performer out of their llittle v twins? It is possible. By the way, all the stereo type, Harley studs, will tell you a Sportster is a a girls bike. So if you bought it for the social experience, sorry. Get the bigger Harley for about 13k. It’s a lot nicer and the price isn’t bad. That blur that just passed you, like your going backwards, is me on my old Vmax.

    • Bmwclay

      “Why can’t HD make a decent performer out of their little v twins? It is possible.”

      They did, it was called the XR1200. No one bought one.

      • LogicDude

        And now you can get great deals on used ones.

  • streetglider

    one made in Japan and the other made in India, both have good and bad points overall both fine looking rides