Last summer I got the opportunity to ride a 2012 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL883L SuperLow. I definitely wouldn’t normally ride or purchase this size motorcycle. Not that it’s a bad motorcycle, it just seems beneath me. Wow, that makes me sound pretty damn arrogant. I want to make this perfectly clear I’m not dissing this product. It’s just that I prefer bigger and more powerful motorcycles. Well, maybe I’m dissing it just a little, sorry.
So there I was waiting in the demo line to pick out a motorcycle to ride. I’m going to have to get on my little soapbox here for a few seconds. I am somewhat confused why we can’t sign up for these demo rides online before we get to the event. Let’s face reality. Not only is Harley-Davidson letting you ride their motorcycles they’re also farming for information for their database.
Think how fast the flow would go if you actually had the ability to sign up online. I mean, seriously, all the information would be absorbed into Harley-Davidson’s database directly from the web without having to reenter it by hand or whatever other system they use during the demo rides. Hello, Harley-Davidson, anybody out there?
Okay, back on track. So finally it’s my turn as I progressed through the line to sign up for the demo rides I am at position one, staring at the sign-up sheet. Looking at the sign-up sheet, I realize my ability to procrastinate has once again impacted my life choices. Scanning the sheet I notice there’s only one available slot. The lady at the table tells me the only thing that is left is the “Sporty 883.”
So as I bounce “Sporty 883” around in my brain, I came to the realization that that was the only motorcycle left. So now my choice turns into a no-brainer. I watched as she wrote my name down on the sheet and looked up at me with a big smile and said “You’re going to enjoy riding that motorcycle.” I thought to myself “Okay, if you say so.”
Doesn’t that lady know that I am coolcycledude, master of the two wheel transportation systems? The same coolcycledude with 400,000 views on his YouTube channel and over 2 million hits on his blog. I got a feeling she probably doesn’t give a “shit” that I’m coolcycledude master of the two wheel transportation systems. I guess when it’s all said and done coolcycledude is just another lemming waiting in a demo line to ride a motorcycle. Reality is such a cruel realm.
I checked my pride and walked over to the motorcycle. I made a couple laps around the motorcycle looking it over and few things really stood out from the get go. Wow, this baby’s got a lot of chrome on it for the entry level motorcycle. It also appeared that the gas tank seemed extremely large for a sportster gas tank. I came to find out that the gas tank held 4.5 gallons of fuel. I’m not sure but that’s got to be the largest gas tank ever placed on a Harley-Davidson Sportster.
Threw my leg over the motorcycle and plopped my butt down on the seat. The seat felt comfortable right off the bat. Nice reach from the seat to the bars puts me in a neutral position not leaning forward or backwards. The handlebars seem a little high above the tank, but it all works out. The controls on the handgrips are standard Harley-Davidson issue, nothing new here. The speedometer was installed in the center of the handlebars with a few “idiot” lights for good luck.
The ride coordinator signaled that they were going to be starting soon. So I turn the ignition key to the on position and hit the start button. Yep, I’m on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The engine produced a familiar rumble that I have come to love. Okay, she was right, I’m going to like riding this motorcycle. This motorcycle immediately fell into the “not too shabby” classification.
The ride coordinator signaled me to move into the line. Pulled in the clutch and popped this baby into gear and headed out of my parking spot to get in line. The clutch had a really light pull from the lever handle and that familiar “clunk” bellowed from the transmission when I put this baby and gear. Let the clutch out turn the throttle little bit to propel my “Sporty 883” to my designated spot in the demo line. Put this baby back into neutral and cranked the throttle a few times. Nice!
Looking down at the fuel tank with the brilliant red paint job, I realized how cool it looked on this motorcycle. I mean really, the tank provided a really nice design flow for the motorcycle. Again, I started surveying all the chrome bits and pieces on this motorcycle and again I was amazed at the level of detail for what I consider to be an entry-level motorcycle.
The demo ride guide started waving his arm signaling it’s time to go. Pulled clutch and dropped my foot on the gear lever that for that familiar clunk and slowly let the clutch lever out and turned the throttle. Right off the bat, I realized this motorcycle was really easy to handle. I’m going to guess this thing weighs in somewhere around 500 pounds. The seat position and the handle bar configuration should provide a new rider with exceptional feel and feedback when maneuvering this motorcycle.
Okay I’ve got a complaint. In my opinion the foot pegs are too high and maybe too far back. This foot peg configuration is probably designed to help increase ground clearance. But, this really isn’t a big deal because if I owned this motorcycle, I definitely would put forward foot controls on it. I’ve never been a big fan of the foot pegs right below the seat. Well that’s just me and you might see it a different way.
I don’t think I can say this enough, but the motorcycle had a very intuitive and natural feel during my demo ride. No surprises with how it cornered, stopped or throttle response of the engine. I did have a sparring match with the gearbox during my downshifting events. The lever would sometimes bounce back and provided weird feedback to my current gear position. I’m going to attribute this to my lack of feel because it’s a new motorcycle that I’ve never ridden before and the placement of the foot pegs which was relatively uncomfortable for me.
During the demo ride we took a detour to a partial expressway and I ran this baby up to 65 miles an hour to see how it would handle. Sometimes motorcycles with short wheelbase can feel unpredictable at high speeds. The “Sporty 883” was solid as a rock at 65 mph. Also, it had considerably more roll-on power than I thought it would. But I guess you can attribute that to the engine’s V-twin configuration and a relatively flat torque curve.
Speaking of the engine, it is an air cooled V-twin with fuel injection. This is pretty much standard protocol for Harley-Davison engine. As I mentioned earlier, it’s got a five speed gearbox. The final drive is a belt. Belt drive is a wonderful thing that keeps you from cleaning a chain. Trust me you don’t want to clean a chain. The engine also has considerable amount of chrome bits with a very nice chromed exhaust system.
I’m going to guess this motorcycle was designed for one up riding and the ability to carry some gear. I definitely feel this motorcycle wouldn’t be compatible for two up riding for any length of time. But I’m sure there’s somebody out there who can prove me wrong by sending me pictures of a “Sporty 883” carrying a whole family plus their farm animals in some third world country.
Who is this motorcycle for in my opinion? I think Harley-Davidson put a lot of effort in the design of this motorcycle to benefit new or minimal experienced riders. So if this is your MO, this definitely would be a motorcycle that you would demo ride and give it some serious consideration. I also believe that this motorcycle is competitively priced to give someone with a limited budget access to the Harley-Davidson motorcycle riding experience.