Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 – Nightster 1200 in the test

Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 - Nightster 1200 in the test
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Family duel: Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 / Nightster 1200

Harley-Davidson cruiser in comparison test

What is Harley driving? Is displacement everything in a cruiser and are horsepower insignificant? Two almost identical US bikes provide answers.

D.a they stand now. If they could smoke, they would.

Filterless beyond any doubt. You have to look carefully to see differences. The most striking feature: the 1200 Nightster rolls on spoke wheels, the 883 cubic iron on cast wheels. And the air-cooled, natural 45-degree V2 is presented in different garments: gray with polished valve covers for the Nightster, black for the Iron. The belt cover of the 1200s is also perforated and the paintwork is different, with the Nightster even two-tone. Otherwise, if a pragmatic person sneaks around the two test machines, he may ask himself the following: What justifies the price difference of at least 1875 euros with two technically almost identical bikes? Are the spoke wheels of the 1200s that much more expensive than the cast counterparts of the 883? Polished valve covers hardly explain the surcharge. A research reveals something astonishing: the cast wheels are almost twice as expensive at 1187 euros compared to 637 euros for the spoked wheels of the Nightster. The probability that the Americans deliberately set the prices of their 883 entry-level models low in order to bring customers into the Harley world in the long term or to fish away from buying a Japanese mid-range cruiser is high.

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Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 - Nightster 1200 in the test

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Harley-Davidson Nightster 1200.

Regardless, the two lean against the street with their side stands as casually as James Dean against the wall. Let’s just step up. You sit differently. The Nightster has wider handlebars and the seat is more uncomfortable as it has a little less padding than the Iron counterpart. This difference is also reflected in the height: At 740 millimeters, the Iron driver sits 20 millimeters higher than the Nightster driver. No matter, both are deep and therefore cool enough. Turning maneuvers are a little easier for people with short arms thanks to the more delicate handlebars, they don’t need to reach as far. The 1200s wins the sound rating, but only by a small margin. Wonder who More burnt air, even a little more compressed, squeezes through pipes with identical diameters. The coupling is equally difficult on both models, petite people with spaghetti forearms will despair. But here is the first advantage of the 1200: When cruising in a goal-free city center, the Nightster driver needs less clutch than the Iron pilot. Why? In order to cruise 50 km / h at a comfortably relaxed 2500 rpm, second gear is sufficient on the 1200, while third must be engaged on the 883. This means that one more gearshift and clutch operation is necessary. The reason for this lies in the shorter gear ratio of the small Sportster model – 170 km / h is the end, while the big sister is geared up to 210.

But something else becomes clear: The difference of 53 HP (Iron) to the 67 horses of the Nightster is not that huge, because the shorter gear ratio hides it when cruising on country roads. Anyone who is out and about in the comfortable 70 to 100 km / h range will not miss anything with the Iron. The much higher torque, however, is noticeable at low speeds, especially when starting off. But let’s not start, let’s visit a friend 150 kilometers away, to whom the route leads over a section of the motorway. 120 km / h cruise speed is ideal for the two Sportsters. One could now assume that the smaller engine would run smoother. Think! The 1200 V2 is subjectively a bit cooler and more relaxed at a constant 120 km / h, because it only rotates 3500 rpm due to the gear ratio, while the crankshaft of the 883 unit has to rotate 800 times more at the same speed. The 1200 engine felt the slightly larger flywheel mass, which certainly benefits cruising. At 96.8 millimeters, both twins have an identical stroke, while the Americans gain the increased displacement of the 1200s with a 12.7 millimeter larger bore. But that doesn’t make the actually long-stroke engine – the fuselage construction is identical – a short-stroke.


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Harley Davidson Sportster Iron 883.

And the cubic capacity increase politicized at the regulars’ tables? Of course, the 1200 pulls through better than the 883. And it also accelerates a little better, no question about it. But that alone does not matter. When stopping at traffic lights, both drives bounce inimitably and wonderfully asynchronously in their frame brackets, both transport “Good vibrations and the small difference in sound is also negligible, because here many people upgrade with accessory silencers anyway. Even with almost identical weight – the Iron is four kilograms heavier: no noticeable difference. Brakes – identical. Chassis – identical. Spring travel and their coordination – identical. So back to the core question: Is 883 cubic enough? Answer: yes! Because the casual, inimitable driving experience that only the air-cooled Milwaukee Twins give away, transports even the smallest baby of the US company. Therefore, the advice follows: If you have to laboriously collect the money in 100 euro sums every month to fulfill your dream, you don’t necessarily need to save another two years in this case – Iron does too. However, if you already have the 9995 euros for the monochrome 1200, and do not necessarily value the prestige of cubic capacity, you should also choose the Iron and have it individually customized or painted with the 1875 euros saved.

Conclusion
The question of performance hardly arises. If you value a good price-performance ratio, you can’t ignore the Iron: For little money it offers a real and big Harley feeling. The motorcycle experience is almost identical on both bikes due to the limited driving dynamics, which also speaks in favor of the 883. Of course, the 1200 series offers the slightly higher engine experience value. Displacement fetishists should therefore grab the chunk with the thicker pistons.

Technical specifications


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Harely Davidson Sportster Nightster 1200.

Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 engine
design type Two cylinder four stroke 45 degree V engine
injection Ø 45 mm
coupling Multi-disc oil bath clutch
Bore x stroke 76.2 x 96.8 mm
Displacement 883 cm3
compression 09:01
power 39.0 kW (53 PS) at 5900 rpm
Torque 70 Nm at 3750 rpm
landing gear
frame Double loop frame made of steel
fork Telescopic fork, Ø 39 mm
Brakes v / h Ø 292/292 mm
Assistance systems
bikes 2.50 x 19; 3.00 x 16
tires 100/90 19; 150/80 16
Tires Michelin Scorcher 31 mass and weight
wheelbase 1510 mm 
Steering head angle 60.0 degrees
trailing 117 mm
Suspension travel v / h 145/54 mm
Seat height ** 740 mm
Weight with full tank ** 261 kg
Payload ** 193 kg
Tank capacity / reserve 12.5 / 3.8 liters
Service intervals  8000 km
price 8120 euros
Additional costs around 350 euros
MOTORCYCLE readings
Top speed * 170 km / h
Acceleration 0-100 km / h 6.4 sec
0-140 km / h 12.8 sec
Pulling speed 60–100 km / h 7.2 sec
100-140 km / h 8.8 sec
consumption
Country road 4.1 liters / super
Reach country road 305 km

Harley-Davidson Sportster Nightster 1200 engine
design type Two cylinder four stroke 45 degree V engine
injection Ø 45 mm
coupling Multi-disc oil bath clutch
Bore x stroke 88.9 x 96.8 mm
Displacement 1202 cm3
compression 9.7: 1
power 49.0 kW (67 hp) at 5700 rpm
Torque 98 Nm at 3200 rpm
landing gear
frame Double loop frame made of steel
fork Telescopic fork, Ø 39 mm
Brakes v / h Ø 292/292 mm
Assistance systems
bikes 2.50 x 19; 3.00 x 16
tires 100/90 19; 150/80 16
Tires Michelin Scorcher 31 mass and weight
wheelbase 1510 mm 
Steering head angle 60.0 degrees
trailing 117 mm
Suspension travel v / h 92/41 mm
Seat height ** 720 mm
Weight with full tank ** 257 kg
Payload ** 197 kg
Tank capacity / reserve 12.5 / 3.8 liters
Service intervals  8000 km
price from 9995 euros ***
Additional costs around 350 euros
MOTORCYCLE readings
Top speed * 190 km / h
Acceleration 0-100 km / h 5.3 sec
0-140 km / h 10.1 sec
Pulling speed 60–100 km / h 6.1 sec
100-140 km / h 8.0 sec
consumption
Country road 5.0 liters / super
Reach country road 250 km

* Manufacturer information; ** MOTORCYCLE measurements; 1 two-color version 10,465 euros

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