From its first release in 1957 until today, everyone would agree that the Sportster is undoubtedly the best touring bike ever created. Not to be very flaunting about it, whether you are a Harley fanatic or not, you, in one way or another, you would want to have a Sportster in your garage.
Versatile - Imagine a bike that could be added with sport windshield, Harley's flush mount leather saddlebags, overnight rack bag, sport rack, a tank bag, and low sissy bar with passenger back rest, and will have a unique and sport-looking touring Harley-Davidson Sportster. Worried about the effect? No problem at all. The Harley-Davidson Sportster will definitely look great with all these accessories.
Ride - Sportster is at its best when moving, while you are on it of course. With a low center of gravity, suspension geometry, and excellent basic frame, coupled with the infamous V-twin engine, the Harley-Davidson Sportster will bring you wherever you want to go with great comfort and stability. Steering is superb on a Sportster without requiring you to lean from side to side like you normally do on a sports bike. What about the sound? Distinct to every Harley is the sound the engine produces. While riding a Sportster, each mile is a proud ride.
The final touches - There are several thousand Harley-Davidson Sportsters and other Harley models out there. You may see several of them but you will never see 2 Harleys that look exactly alike. Why? It is because each owner adds a little something out of his personal taste to dress up his Harley. And with all the accessories ranging from appearance accessories, comfort and convenience accessories, general performance and safety accessories, to engine performance modifications, each Sportster will remain unique for as long as it can hit the road.
It's a Harley - Well, there is no question about it; a Sportster is a true-blooded Harley-Davidson with unique qualities and special features, no other motorcycle can imitate. Each Sportster is unique of its own. Each Sportster is crafted by history and heritage of a company.
At the first part of this series I wrote about LDR (Long Distance Riding) in general. The point being that the stock Sportster can do it easily if the rider has good attitude and doesn't want a luxury couch experience. Opinions about what is LDR do vary, for some 1000 miles in 24 hours is LDR, for others it may be a month-long journey.
But what could be done to make the journey a little more convenient? A few small and cheap adaptations might be in place. They're not going to take the wind away, they just make your life a little bit easier. These days everyone has some kind of electrical gadget. They're good but they need recharging. When camping, no electricity is available. These electrical marvels are handy on the road: GPS, radio, camera, MP3 player, internet and blog software can even reside inside one frame. But even with just one divide, you eventually need to recharge it.
I think a 12V cigarette lighter adapter is the best-value-for-money modification that anybody could possibly do. With 10-20$, you'll have never-ending supply of electricity for your gadgets, air pumps etc. Even if you know nothing about electricity, this modification is very easy to made. Auto stores also have dozens of luxury items that run on 12V, like coffee makers and such (they'll work slower than household ones).
One important, maybe too obvious, addon is the sissy bar. A huge amount of baggage can be attached at the back side of it, leaving other places at the bike free. This, of course, requires the license plate to be moved out of the way. (At least in those countries that have ridiculously big plates, Finland included)
Another adaptation that I like very much is to have the license plate moved to the left side of bike, from its original position. That way, a big amount of luggage can be attached to the back side of the sissy bar, leaving passenger seat free for some other uses. Technically it may be against the law because the plate should be visible in every direction, but I haven't heard of a case (where I live) that somebody would have gotten a ticket because of it. I guess it depends about the policy of the local law enforcement. Remember to use a licence plate light to make a good impression.
A tool roll or two might also be in order, to free your pockets from carrying the little stuff. That way, those items also are permanently with the bike and are not forgotten. They can be placed as in the link, down low, to help keep the center of gravity good.
There are more tricks, like attaching a couple of tie-down lashing straps under your seat in a way that you can attach things to the passenger seat area without needing to go look for the straps. Or just stuff them into the tool roll or into your riding jacket.
My to-do list includes at least auxiliary lightning, the standard one lamp just isn't enough. A highway bar would also be handy, never mind the aesthetics of it. It would allow some nice further modifications.
One of the most frequently heard statements, or comments, from those riding big touring Harleys or other brands altogether, is that sportsters (and especially the 883 series) are only sound for short downtown spinning. While it is true that they are small, light and may not carry two heavy-weight persons comfortably, I have to disagree with the claim. My bike is a XL883C, with forward controls and 883 cubic centimeters engine displacement.
What I do agree with, is that extreme distances with a long-legged or well-eaten passenger may feel a bit cumbersome when riding a sportster. That is because the wheelbase and back seat passenger area are a bit shorter than on Big Twins. Not because the 883 CC engine would be underpowered, which it is not. And, lets face it, stock suspension in sportsters seldom is enough for comfortable two-up riding.
But, when doing LDR solo, things are very different from two-up. The 883 CC engine is very well able to make quick and safe passes from cages, and while its acceleration may not be the eighth wonder of the World, it has plenty of low-RPM torque. It can haul your bottom and your belongings with comfortably low RPMs, up until to the 120-130 kilometer per hour range. It will go faster, sure, if the rider is able to bear the increased wind resistance on his/her body for extended periods.
My longest 24h rides have been around 1500-1600 kilometers, or 900-1000 miles, with stock seat and stock suspension, and D&D exhaust (not the quietest around). Now while I could feel the ride on my back and on my bottom, there wasn't anything that couldn't really be done. I think attitude has a big role to play when doing LDR, if you prefer comfort you need to buy a really expensive luxury cruiser. Take a short break every 80-100 miles and you´ll be fine with a sportster.
One thing that could be better, other than stock suspension, is the standard lightning. Even if new models have very bright headlights, it is still just one light. Every time when riding at night and it is raining, I swear to buy a set of auxiliary lightning. Riding with just the standard lights at night can slow the riders average speed, which can be a problem during Iron Butt rides.
Many people have had to change the stock seat to something else, like to the Sundowner seat etc. Apparently I am lucky because I can sit at the stock seat all day. I guess they have made the stock seat a kind of a compromise, one size fits all, which of course it doesn't do.
Big cruisers have lots of space on hard saddle bags to stuff up all your favourite camping equipment. Sportsters have none in the stock configuration. There are lots of cheap saddle bags under $100 or EUR100, and you dont absolutely need then, just take the biggest rucksag you can find, fill it up and tie it to the back seat against the sissy bar. There, you also have a nice backrest.
Custom models, XL883C and XL1200C have 4 gallons or 17 litres gas tank, which is good for touring purposes. You can get over 300 kilometers or 200 miles from it. Those models with the 3.3 gallon peanut tank may be a little limited as far as operating range is considered. If you have the 3.3 gallon tank, you may be well advised to buy a small 1 gallon gas can and tie it up somewhere on your ride. I personally keep 5 litres gas can with me if I ride somewhere far, just for the added peace of mind.
People have been doing long rides, Iron Butt etc, with much smaller and slower bikes, two-up included. if it can be done with 125 CC and 10 horsepowers, surely it can be done with 883 CC and 49 horsepowers. Maybe those commenting (jokes aside) just are too comfortably oriented, wanting their nice Big Twins with windshields, heated everything and a coffee maker. A coffee maker... Truth be told, a saddlebag-integrated 12V coffee maker _would_ be cool. Well, I DO use a navigator, and I DO have a 12V accessory outlet.
Trends can be interesting things to watch especially in the world of motorcycling. With the explosion of everything "custom chopper" in the middle and late 2000's and the proliferation of high end custom bike builders it looked as though the main stream media driven segment of the biker world was leaning towards "flash and show" over "guts and go." Throw in the whirlwind of bike building based television shows such as Jesse James, Billy Lane, the guys at Orange County Choppers and more, and many riders began to worry that the world of motorcycling was being flipped on its' ear. Even with the immense popularity of the Harley Davidson Motor Company over the years they, of course, have their detractors. Those riders who feel that their bike is unique because of the work they have done to it got a bit irked with Harley. With the introduction of such bikes as the Crossbones, the V-Rod, the Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) division and others many felt that the Motor Company was caving to the current trends and not sticking with it roots. "Just give me a solid well running bike and leave the rest to me!" was a common sentiment. Love it or hate it the Sportster line up of Harley bikes has been wildly popular and long lived.
First introduced in 1957 this model line has enjoyed over 50 years of continuous production and many, many revisions and upgrades. Interestingly as the trend for bigger, faster, flashier chopper style machines seemed to be hitting its peak Harley introduced the most basic looking version of the Sportster - the Iron 883. The look of this bike screams "back to basics" and in a good way. It's simple, understated and ready for anything a rider may want to do to it. With a price tag of under $8000 it's cheap and comes with everything you need right off the showroom floor. The 3.3 gallon tank, drag bars and mid-mounted foot pegs come standard. The true stand apart feature on this model is that pretty much everything on this machine is blacked out. About the only chrome you'll find on this are the pipes and the forks. When choosing the Black Denim paint option (the other is "Brilliant Sliver") you've got a blacked out machine with great looks. If you're looking for an affordable ride without all the chrome and flash of the current trend take a look at the Iron 883. You might just find something you like, a lot.