When I decided to send the Goldwing to a new home, I was supposed to get a Triumph Speed Triple, a Buell Ulysses, or a Royal Enfield. Sadly, all those deals fell through super hard. Interestingly, I did get an offer for the Goldwing that was more than I paid for it and a decent bit more than similar GL1100s with lower miles in better condition. I won’t say no to an offer like that!
In its place *for now* is a 2002 Harley-Davidson Sportster 883. It was a deceptively low price, like a double your money on resale price.
It seemingly just needs a bunch of bolts tightened, a new fuel filler cap (the current one is a cheap aftermarket unit that’s SO LOUD), a couple dents pulled, and touch up paint. I’ve already tightened the bolts, next is removing the dents.
While I’ve long wanted to ride a Sportster, I wouldn’t call it a bucket list bike. So it’ll be around just long enough for me to find a good deal on one of the aforementioned rides.
This one has a “Stage 1" kit with Screamin Eagle parts. It also came with a windscreen, sissy bar, and bags. I like my bikes more naked, so off they went. I kept the sissy bar because my girlfriend super wants to be a passenger, so why not.
How does it ride? Slowly. Despite the same base engine as my Buell, it’s pretty gutless. I had a shootout against my own bikes and the bikes of my neighbours and the end result was a little amusing. The only bikes that couldn’t beat the Sportster were a Grom and an old Honda Rebel 450. In fact, the Rebel 450 was more or less a perfect match to the Sportster in terms of performance despite having half the engine displacement.
This bike made 48 horsepower stock. That is half the power my Buell Lightning makes and only a few ponies more than a Buell Blast, which uses *half* of a Sportster motor.
So it’s almost mind boggling slow this thing is. And handling isn’t much better. On the stock tires it gets wobbly in turns. The grip is there but you get the sense that the bike prefers if you didn’t try leaning it over.
But thus far, I don’t hate it, nor does it excite me. It’s actually just a *little* enjoyable riding this thing balls out. Whereas you’ll be on your way to a reckless driving charge in only second gear on the Buell, you can basically redline a Sportster and still be in the speed limit. But it doesn’t quite feel “slow bike fast” like a low displacement Japanese bike does. Perhaps it’s the weight and its handling behind that.
What it does seem to do well is cruise down country roads. Keep it locked around 60 mph, stretch out onto the highway pegs, and relax. I imagine this is what HD intends for a lot of their bikes. Just hop on and eat up some miles.
Problem is, there are a lot of bikes out there that can effortlessly eat up miles. The two decade older Goldwing was happy to cruise at 75 all day long and it wasn’t afraid of curves.
So I feel it kinda goes back to the image Harley pushes for. You’re not just a motorcyclist enjoying a ride. No, you’re a biker, a rebel out on the open road. The bike is slow, uncompetitive, and expensive...so sell an experience?
A Sporty of this age is worth about $3k in good condition in my area. Would I pay $3k for this Harley? Not at all. The “Harley Tax” puts these bikes in the crosshairs of many far better machines.
In the end, I got to try my third Harley and one I’ve been curious about for a while. I can see why people love the Freewheeler and even why the Sportster even has a following, but I wish HD made their machines perform better for the price you’d be paying for them.
Other news: I finally got all of the Autobots stickers and decals off the Buell and cleaned off the left behind residue. It’s almost perfect now.