Honda Shadow Spirit 750 vs. H-D 883R Sportster
Even two's a crowd.
In contrast to the lackluster freeway comfort levels, cruising the mountain roads north of Los Angeles proved to be an enjoyable endeavor. Smooth power delivery and crisp shifts from the Honda helped us forget about our aching backs, as we'd give it a fistful of power exiting the many corners we met. The same disconnected feeling from the front-end continued to permeate through the lefts and rights but at least the Spirit tracked well enough to generate footpeg-grinding confidence.
The Harley, however, seemed to come alive in the twisties. This is all relative of course. But the 883R had that elusive character that the Honda didn't possess. We can conjecture that with enough miles the Spirit would have it too, but for the most part, it left a mild impression. Sort of like eating a tuna fish sandwich versus 24 ounces of juicy prime rib.
Surprisingly enough, the more modern Spirit 750 proved to be the lesser of the two machines in the power department. Maybe it's the fact that the air-cooled, two-valve designed Sportster has a 133cc-displacement advantage. Who knows? Either way, even though the Sportster seemed to have less power, it was decidedly more fun in the curvy roads. With a fatter range of torque and a healthy throaty sound, the Harley was certainly the more favored sporting mount.
As for braking and handling, well, let's just put it this way; look elsewhere. The twin front disks on the Harley were better than the Honda's single binder. But the mushy (even after JohnnyB bled them) binders on the Sportster didn't convey the feel that the Spirit's brakes did.
"Where the Harley wins out though, is in ground clearance. Granted, it's easy to grind peg on either machine, but it was much more difficult to do so on the Harley."
To add insult to injury, the Harley felt as if it had the softest suspension bits during braking and cornering. Don't for a second take that statement to mean the Honda was well sprung, it too had serious damping issues. With a passenger on board we would bottom the rear shock, and yes, we were still under the max load limit.
Even with these extreme shortcomings, these machines are still good to ride. You just have to have a different mindset in order to do so. Ditch the "hurry-up" attitude, and make sure the roads don't have any harsh expansion joints and you'll be set. There's nothing better than a quiet putt-putt through a shady lane borough and nothing brings that out the best than these two iron-horses.
If it were our money, it would be the Harley. Not only is it cheap enough for regular people, the aftermarket allows super upgradeability. And plus, its a Harley, so there's always that added resale value. Heck, even on the Honda we could add some cheap-ass glass-pack, slash cut slip-ons and combined with the slick paint job, people wouldn't know what the hell just whizzed by them.
Differences between Sportster XLH and Sportster R XL:
|__||H-D Sportster 883 R||Honda Shadow Spirit 750|
|Engine||883cc air-cooled, 4-valve, 45° OHV v-twin||745cc liquid-cooled, 6-valve, 52° SOHC v-twin|
|Bore x Stroke (mm)||76.2x96.8||79.0x76.0|
|Fuel Delivery||Carbureted||2x 34mm Diaphragm-type CV Carbs|
|Service Interval||1,000 miles for first time, then every 5,000 miles||N/A|
|Suspension, Front||39mm, N/A||41mm, 5.1"|
|Suspension, Rear||Dual Shock, N/A (P-ramp)||Dual shock, 3.2" (P-ramp)|
|Brakes, Front||2x 292mm, 2 piston||1x 296mm, 2 piston|
|Brakes, Rear||292mm, 2 piston||Drum|
|Listed Weight (dry)||503lbs/228kg||496lbs/225kg|
|Available Colors||Racing Orange||Black*, Candy Dark Red Flame, Pearl Purple Frame|
|(P,C,R) denotes adjustable Preload, Compression damping and Rebound dampening.|
threaded and ramp denotes method of rear shock preload adjustment. Threaded collar, or ramped collar.
El Flaco's take on the Cruiser Comparo- Harley 883R vs. Honda Shadow 750
The Honda is smooooth and, if I really use my imagination, it kind of sounds like a RC-51 at idle. It has that classic cruiser leaned-back posture that kills even my young and resilient back after motoring 2 miles down a bumpy stretch of South Bay arterial road. The engine feels strong and responsive, but nothing inspiring. There's nothing wrong with the bike, but I wish that there was so I could think of something distinguishing or characteristic about this bike!
I didn't use to hold any animosity in my warm and fuzzy heart towards Harleys until I had a spate of bad luck with them. But, even after a rocky start in my relationship with this 883R (something about an incident involving running out of gas on the 110 after picking it up from the Harley distribution center) I began to like it for what it is. It vibrates like it's about to blow itself into nanoscopic pieces every time it accelerates, but I have to admit that it's kinda cool.
Taking these cruisers up into the Angeles National Forest really gave me a chance to bond with them. Riding, or attempting to ride, the Shadow at a semi-sporting pace was not a rewarding experience. And even from a cruising perspective it wasn't spectacular either. It feels so bland that it is difficult to have any sort of remarkable experiences or impressions on it. But I'm sure it's dead reliable and it would provide thousands of years of trouble-free and completely boring years of ownership.
On the other hand, when I was blasting the Harley up a canyon road I could pretend for a brief moment that I was Steve McQueen riding in California 35 years ago, for no other real reason than the 883R feels like a bike of that vintage. And Steve McQueen's the King of Cool in my book, and I felt pretty cool on this bike. I was actually impressed with the level of handling that it displayed around the twists and turns, and the dual front disc brakes were a lot better after JohnnyB bled them a bit- the lever no longer traveled all the way back to the grip under heavy braking.
The true test would come when it came time for me to choose which one I would take home for the night; Mr. Harley won out. It feels good around town and freeway runs aren't too terrible. I was having delusions of grandeur about sneaking a few of the Buell racing parts down in the MO shop into its engine, but barring that, I would love to see how it would run and sound with some curvaceous pipes, a filter and a jet kit. I never thought I would hear myself say this but, "In my opinion, the Harley's the winner."