04 November 2019

My Iron: Harley's entry-level XL883 Sportster

“You can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family”

So said the famous US author, Harper Lee, in her modern classic novel, “To Kill a Mocking Bird”. But clearly, Miss Lee had never owned a Harley-Davidson, because if she had, she would know that you can actually choose a family.

The Harley-Davidson family is a welcoming and inclusive social group where all members can feel at home no matter their status or standing.

Entry to the family is as simple as owning and riding one of The Motor Company’s many iconic motorcycles regardless of age or model and one of the easiest entry points is with a Sportster.

The venerable Sportster is one of the longest-running, continuously produced motorcycles and can be traced back to the Model K from the early 1950s, a bike made famous by none other than Elvis Presley when he featured on the cover of the May 1956 issue of the Harley-Davidson publication, Enthusiast.

Today, the Sportster range begins with the stylish Iron 883, a bike that retains all the look and feel of a classic Harley-Davidson at a price point that won’t have you blowing the kids’ inheritance. And when you’re riding a Sportster, you know you are riding a Harley.

When I was a youngster scooting around on cranky kick-start singles, the scary blokes on the big Harleys seemed like they came from another world altogether. Many years later, when I rode my first Harley (a borrowed 1200 Sportster) I was pleasantly surprised to find the machine much easier and less daunting than the beast of my imagination.

The ample power was there on tap any time I asked for it and it handled confidently through the twisty curves and long sweepers. What was inescapable was the feeling I experienced just from riding that Harley. It was so far removed from the bikes of my youth that, despite a long riding sabbatical, I felt like I belonged on that bike and it was part of me.

What this tells you is that there is no reason to delay owning the bike of your dreams and it doesn't have to be the V-Twin monster you might have seen in ‘Sons of Anarchy’.

A lineup of Sportsters. The Iron 883 is behind the Roadster 1200 (front) 

The beauty of the Sportster, besides the price, is that it is a real Harley-Davidson with a proper pedigree that is very approachable for new or returning riders. It’s also a genuine unisex bike with a seat height of just 760mm. I’m the average height for my age (mid-50s) and that height is just perfect. If you are under, say 170cm, then Sportster comes in chrome-laden SuperLow (706mm) for the same friendly price.

Features of the current bike Elvis wouldn’t have enjoyed include 5-speed transmission, blacked nine-spoke allow wheels to match the ‘night rider’ look, security lock and standard ABS if you need them.

2020 Iron 883 in Scorched Orange (supplied)

Other things I have learned in my couple years of satisfying ownership, is that the 12.5-litre fuel tank is good for a full day’s ride of 200km or so and that it will ride perfectly fine without lots of optional trickery. That said, I did add a Stage 1 kit and slip-on pipes 12 months ago and, heck, they’re cool.

Even in standard trim, the Iron is a compact, chunky nugget of a bike that has everything you need and nothing you don’t.

Reviewer: Rod ‘Rowdy’ Eime (www.motorweb.ws) who bought his Iron 883 from Harley-Heaven Adelaide.

28 October 2019

Ford versus Ferrari - a legend of motorsport now on the big screen

#FordvFerrari | This story is one of the true legends of motorsport, portrayed by two of Hollywood's most accomplished actors. Anyone with even a passing interest in motorsport will want to see this movie.


Director: James Mangold
Produced by: Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, James Mangold
Cast: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas

Official Synopsis: Academy Award®-winners Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in FORD v FERRARI, the remarkable true story of the visionary American car designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) and the fearless British driver Ken Miles (Bale), who together battled corporate interference, the laws of physics, and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford Motor Company and take on the dominating race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.

Australian Release Date: November 14, 2019

24 October 2019

First Ride: Harley-Davidson Low Rider S

Web Spin: Harley-Davidson MY20 Low Rider S

Low Rider S in Barracuda Silver (Nigel Paterson)

It’s big news every time Harley-Davidson rolls out a new model and there was certainly plenty of anticipation surrounding the release of the Low Rider S Softail.

To quickly recap the evolution of this model, the Low Rider first appeared in 1977 as a factory experimental (FXS) derived from the 1974 FX Super Glide. It was something of a hybrid, using Sportster forks on a big V-Twin chassis and it was an instant hit.

Following the ‘factory custom’ theme championed by Willie G Davidson himself, the Low Rider progressed to the FXRS in the early ‘80s and then to the FXDL Dyna Low Rider when the then-new chassis was introduced.

You can see there is a lineage that needs to be respected with this bike, so when the name was revived for 2020 in the new Softail 'S' incarnation, there had to be some continuity in design. To this end, The Motor Company has been successful, neatly capturing the original ‘70s feel in the latest chassis.

Let’s remember too, that Low Rider has been here since the full Softail range arrived in early 2018, although only in 107ci. This one is the ‘S’ which denotes the big 114ci Milwaukee-Eight engine and cool, blacked-out paint schemes. The solo seat is standard and only two colour options are available: Vivid Black and Barracuda Silver.

Low Rider S in Vivid Black (R Eime)

“The look of the new Low Rider S is really rooted in the legacy of the Low Rider models of the 1980s, that has a devoted following which has spread worldwide from origins in Southern California, and in the recent Dyna-based Low Rider S model,” said Brad Richards, Harley-Davidson Vice President of Styling & Design, in the upbeat press release. “We’ve applied that coastal style and performance-first attitude to the Softail chassis to create a Low Rider S that’s more powerful and agile than ever, with a heavy dose of tough-as-nails attitude.”

Soon after the bike’s launch in October, I ventured out with Australian Road Rider editor, Nigel Paterson, to see what all the fuss was about. Over the course of an afternoon, we both rode a Barracuda Silver example up and down the twisty Great Northern Road in the hinterland behind the NSW Central Coast, a road very familiar to Sydney weekend riders.

With way more road miles than me on a wider variety of bikes, Nigel approaches all new releases with a healthy cynicism, but Low Rider S seems to have hit a spot with him.

“This has to be the best handling Harley I’ve ever ridden - and the most fun,” he says, and I believe him.

“It has more clearance and is very comfortable. The mid-set (foot) controls are a bit unusual at first, but you quickly get accustomed.”

Nigel is 6-foot in the old scale and I’m shorter at 5’8”, so even though the seat height of 690mm is not particularly low for Harley Softails, it didn’t bother either of us one way or another. Compare 605mm for Softail Slim, 627mm for Breakout through to 755mm for the Street Rod.

The feature that took a bit of getting used to is the twin tank mounted analogue dials, which are an authentic throwback to the Dyna models. I might also ask my Harley-Heaven dealer to rotate the handlebar in its clamps toward me for slightly less stretch to the grips.

For the technically minded, you might appreciate that more ‘sport’ has been applied at the Low Rider S’s front end in the form of a second disc brake on the new 43mm Showa inverted fork. ABS is standard. And there’s greater agility thanks to the steeper rake angle by two degrees (to 28 degrees), which slightly reduces the wheelbase from 163cm to 161.5cm. For comparison, the old Dyna Low Rider used a lazy 32-degree rake on a 164cm wheelbase.

But, as they say in the classics, “the proof is in the pudding” so get yourself into your nearest Harley-Heaven dealer for a test ride.