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Old 6th May 2016, 17:09   #1
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Default Harley-Davidson Iron 883: Crossing over to the dark side

'Four wheels move the body, but two wheels move the soul'.

Words that I have always read and heard from various quarters, but, little did I know that I was going to experience that very 'feeling', for myself!.

I had come back to India at the end of 2013 after having spent over a decade in the United Kingdom, where it was all about getting around in cars. For some reason never got around to taking the biking test and getting a bike. Finally, when it was a few months before I going to relocate back to India, I took some proper lessons. Unfortunately, flunked the first biking riding test!

Now, don't get me wrong, I was not a novice biker. I used to commute on the good ol' HH splendor when in medical school and was more than capable of handling a bike. But years of sitting comfy in a car had rusted my biking abilities and after having passed other parts of the biking test, I failed in the crucial manoeuvre of going through a speed trap at minimum 50 kmph speed and then swerving suddenly to avoid two traffic cones. Yes, me amigos, thats how strict the biking tests are in the UK. My only saving grace and excuse however, was that I took the test, on a windy and wet conditions on a Suzuki GSXr.

Fast forward to early 2015 and I got the itch again to own and ride a bike in hamara desh and I thought the best thing would be to get a RE thunderbird 500 and so I did. Although the bike was good and I did do the customary exhaust modification to a Goldstar silencer and such like, the bike did not ring with me at a deeper level. Round this time, I used to see the HOGs in all their glory riding in formation, and boy oh boy, it was truly an amazing sight to behold. I made up my mind to get something biggah. I did test ride the Triumph Bonneville, which I thought was superbly handling bike and very easy to ride, felt right at home, but it lacked a certain zing, a certain cutzpah, a certain character. The only brand at the time in India, which offered that lineage and the character was the HD brand.

Before I knew it, i was on the phone to the local Spice coast HD Cochin dealership and a great salesperson brought a black Iron 883, with all its bells and whistles, i.e SE exhaust, heavy breather filter, Phat cables and sparks, for a test ride.

The bike was not easy to ride, after having test ridden the Bonnie, but it had a certain inexplicable charm and character. It brought a smile to my face and gawky looks from on lookers, which was an added bonus. I was baited- hook, line and sinker. So, "mate, how do I book the bike?", I asked the salesperson as soon as the test ride was over.

Now that I had made up my mind, I did not have the patience to wait for months, I asked if they had any Irons available in stock and he said , yes, a denim black and a silver. I had seen the black and it was fairly common with the Irons, but a silver one had a nostalgic look. It just so happens that my other two vehicles are also silver. I said , the silver it will be and I paid the 50K deposit to secure the booking. Then it was a waiting game to get the superbike loan sanctioned and paid to the dealership. It did not take long and within 10 days the bike was ready for me to ride out. Did the much needed PDI and then the temporary registration was done.
Now begins the fun and first installment of the Harley tax.

I asked so what accessories come with the bike? , and all I got was a sheepish grin from the salesperson. I got the message, promptly paid the first part of the Harley tax and got the moustache engine guard and the handle bar charger fitted. The stock handle bar was not to my liking and hence, having done my research beforehand, I asked them to change it to the Nightster handle bar. This handlebar is a bit wider and more curved, that means less of leaning forward.
Total damages 33000!.

The dealership experience was very good. On collecting the bike, they arranged a small cake-cutting ceremony and also gave me a good send off. The first ride home was in evening peak hours traffic, it was literally hell with the mad Cochin traffic, metro road works and the unbearable heat. I was fully kitted out and that made it worse. Anyways, both the bike and I reached home in one piece.

These are the good things about the bike, in my opinion:-
1. Rugged dark good looks- turns heads wherever I take it.
2. Powerful torquey 883 cc engine.
3. Harley character- brings a smile to my face everytime I ride it (most important point according to me!).
4. Great HOG network and camaraderie.
5. Able cruiser for longer distances.
6. Loads of aftermarket accessories to customise and make it 'my' ride.

The negatives
1. Stock exhaust is like a whimpering mutt and quite sad.
2. Poor Stock suspension- both front and back- bottoms out easily even on smaller bumps and bad roads.
3. Rear brakes lacks any feel or feed back, quite spongy.
4. No ABS! even as an option.
5. Overpriced,considering the technology.
6. Vibrations galore- but then one expected this when buying a Harley.

Riding experience

Couple of things that I immediately noticed were that, the stock pipes made a sound which can be compared to a whimpering mutt and it lacked the typical Harley note. The other thing was that the stock suspension was made for smooth roads and not for Indian conditions. I could feel every single gravel and grain of sand up my spine. The suspension lacked much travel and it was bottoming out quite easily and frequently. Made up my mind to sort these issues out during the first service.

The bike is heavy to push out of a parking space, but once on the move, it feels easily controlled. The large 19 inch front wheels do not help the handling cause and couple of times (in the begining), I almost went off the road, having understeered on a curve. The bike does not hug curves even if you lean into it and counter-steer. Not very confidence inspiring I must say!.

On the open highways though, it feels planted and fun to ride.

The gears shift with a loud clunk and it takes time getting used to this. But there are no false changes and everything falls in place well. The clutch is perfect- not too light and not too heavy.

On thing to come to terms with is the engine heat. This was quite bad initially, especially in city traffic. But with the Fuelpak tuning, this has gotten better.

The torque curve is linear and the engine pulls like a locomotive. This along with the growl the engine makes while pulling away, does bring a leap of joy to the heart. In fact I suspect, the initial acceleration might even out do some of the sports bikes. I have left lot many four wheelers lagging behind, when accelerating from Traffic lights.

Upgrades done

I placed an order for the Progressive suspensions from Amazon.com, the US site. The great thing is that for some items , they calculate the customs duty and take care of the customs clearance themselves. This avoids the headache and hassle of doing the customs clearance once the item reaches our shores. The items ordered were, Progressive front 18.5 inch springs 11-1157 and also the Progressive 412-4065B standard 13 inch rear springs. These arrived within 10 days.

First service came up at 800 kms which I did in 25 days. This was combined with the suspensions- front and rear upgrade and the exhaust upgrade. I had a chance to hear both the Screamin Eagles and the VnH slip ons. My heart said VnH and I chose the 3 inch Twin-slash slip ons. Now, the labour charges at the Harley 'stealership' is very high. I could have done the exhaust change myself, it is only a half and hour job. But being a new bike, less than a month old, I bit the bullet and got it done at the dealers.

The bike was a totally different beast once these upgrades were done. I took the bike on a 70 kms spin. The suspensions made the ride much smoother, they are truly worth it. The exhaust note was now loud and Harley like. The exhaust was however a bit on the shriller side, with some unwanted high notes. I yearned for some dumbing down and lower notes. Next step, quiet baffles planned.

I promptly ordered the quiet baffles for the slip ons. This time order from JP cycles, the transaction went smoothly and i had the baffles in hand in 3 weeks time. I installed it myself this time around. Now, the bike sounded perfect. There was a deep throaty growl on acceleration and it was the sweet note that I was looking for.

Having taken many a rides on the bike, the itch for another upgrade was playing on my mind. I wanted to improve on its performance. The next thing to do on my list was the air filter upgrade. The factory stock filter is a puny little thing and unless one changes the filter to the high flow one, it does not do full justice to the free flow exhaust mod. Again took the bike to the stealership, the choice was between the Screamin eagle Heavy breather conical filter and the round one. I did not particularly like the appendage like conical filter sticking out and hence went with the choice of the understated round high flow air filter. Got this fitted along with the pillion foot peg unit installation and the chrome horn. The labour charges made my eyes water and heart, ache, but then it is Harley, what do you expect!. It is the same world over.

The workshop person suggested getting the tuning done, but by this time I had decided that I will do the tuning myself for a lesser amount, with more flexibility thrown in. I rode a couple of hundred kms with the new high flow air filter. The pick up was better and felt a surge in the torque and power delivery. However, the bike was still running lean, with a tendency to heat up quickly. I could feel the heat on my thighs, inspite of the kevlar lined jeans.

I decided to order the Vance and Hines Fuelpak FP3. Again, did this from JP cycles. It was posted through UPS and arrived in 10 days time.

Now, this little device is a brilliant piece of kit. It is plugged into the canbus port of the bike, which reads off the ECU. There is a downloadable app, for the iphone, which then marries up to the device via bluetooth. There are loads of pre-loaded maps with options for exhausts, airfilters, baffles etc. I selected the pre-loaded map for my type of exhaust with quiet baffle and high flow filter and flashed the map. The map upload took about 3 minutes overall and it was done!.

I took the bike for a long spin and my oh my!, what a difference, this tuning did. The bike now runs perfect, less vibrations, better idling sound, better throttle response, more linear power delivery and runs much cooler.

The best bit about the Fuelpak FP3 is that i can revert back to the stock map anytime and can also monitor using the auto tune function and do custom tunings later on. The device is married to one VIN only and cannot be used for multiple bikes. I am a very happy man having done this. Cannot recommend the Fuelpak FP3 enough!.

I am writing this ownership review after 2500 kms on the bike.

Additions done so far:
Nightster handlebar.
Moustache engine guard.
Pillion seat and foot pegs.
Chrome cow-bell horn.
Handle bar mounted charging socket.
VnH Twin slash 3" slip ons.
Screamin Eagle High flow round air filter kit.
Detachable Slipstreamer spitfire wind screen.
VnH Fuelpak FP3 mapping.

On order : Kuryakin ISO grips and grip end weights.

Overall summarising: I feel that if you are looking for a bike purely for performance or for latest technology, there are many options out there in the current market. The Harleys are overpriced for the technology on offer. The bikes can be customized to ones liking and there are a myriad of after market accessories available to make the bike that bit special. For our roads, especially the narrow ones in Kerala with heavy traffic density, I think the sportsters are the best bet. The larger ones are cumbersome and I don't think I look or feel old enough to be riding one of the larger cruiser cousins of the Iron.. For some reason I feel the big ones are 'older' persons bike. No offence to those who own the bigger ones, its just a purely personal feeling that I have.

HD really needs to listen to their Indian customers and start offering ABS atleast as an option. The suspensions need sorting out (which I believe they have partly achieved with their 2016 offering). It is a shame to be paying around 9 and odd lacs for a bike and they not having even something which is as basic as this. But hey!, one cannot put a price on the legacy and feeling that the Harleys offer. I intend to keep my bike for a few years and enjoy the feeling. I am sure further customization and additions will happen.

I have named her Alpha Silverfor now.
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Last edited by GTO : 18th May 2016 at 10:03. Reason: Taking live
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Old 18th May 2016, 10:05   #2
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson Iron 883: Crossing over to the dark side

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Motorcycle Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 18th May 2016, 11:06   #3
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson Iron 883: Crossing over to the dark side

Congratulations and Welcome to the club of silver Iron . Can you share the cost of progressive suspension upgrade for both rear and front and the HD dealer charges for fitting?.

Cheers,
BJ

Last edited by bj96 : 18th May 2016 at 11:08. Reason: Chars display??
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Old 18th May 2016, 12:19   #4
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson Iron 883: Crossing over to the dark side

Nice and crisp write-up. The Iron is a beauty of a bike. I wish you many years and many miles of happy ownership.

Amit
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Old 18th May 2016, 16:30   #5
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson Iron 883: Crossing over to the dark side

Quote:
Originally Posted by bj96 View Post
Congratulations and Welcome to the club of silver Iron . Can you share the cost of progressive suspension upgrade for both rear and front and the HD dealer charges for fitting?.

Cheers,
BJ
Hi, thank you for the message. Will be good to hear about your ride as well.
The total cost of the front and rear suspensions came up to INR 33000, including import duties. The Harley 'stealership' charged me almost 4000 as labour charges (service tax included). This included installation of the upgraded 'cow-bell' chrome horn as well.
I would have done it myself, if I had a stand/jack to lift the bike.
Cheerio!
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Old 18th May 2016, 16:37   #6
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson Iron 883: Crossing over to the dark side

Hey guys

I am a believer in being completely geared up when riding. I am an Orthopaedic surgeon and have seen far too many injuries which could have been avoided / impact lessened, if proper riding gear was used.

I thought I will take the liberty of posting pictures of my gear as well.

Nitro Flip front helmet . ECE 22.05 compliant.
Zeus mesh jacket and leather gloves.
Cramster shin guards.
A random motorcycling leather jacket with CE protectors from the UK.
Attached Thumbnails
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Harley-Davidson Iron 883: Crossing over to the dark side-img_8089.jpg  

Harley-Davidson Iron 883: Crossing over to the dark side-img_8087.jpg  

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Old 18th May 2016, 18:13   #7
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson Iron 883: Crossing over to the dark side

Great write up, empathize on the return leg from the showroom with a brand new bike in full traffic experience. I too had to take it in peak traffic hours from Gurgaon to Delhi and it was HELL! congratulations on such a fine purchase though! the VnH sound beastly, have installed them on my Iron too and they seriously do wake up the neighbours!
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Old 20th May 2016, 09:43   #8
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson Iron 883: Crossing over to the dark side

Really enjoyed reading through!! Wish you many miles of happy riding!!
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Old 20th May 2016, 14:50   #9
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson Iron 883: Crossing over to the dark side

Quote:
Originally Posted by alphadog View Post
I used to see the HOGs in all their glory riding in formation, and boy oh boy, it was truly an amazing sight to behold.
Congrats on your bike. I completely echo your description of the HOG groups. It was one of tipping factors in making me pick up the Fatboy.

Also love some of the accessories on your bike. Could you also make an update on the accessories thread (The Superbike Accessories Thread)?
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Old 20th May 2016, 16:12   #10
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson Iron 883: Crossing over to the dark side

Quote:
Originally Posted by zee_bat View Post
Great write up, empathize on the return leg from the showroom with a brand new bike in full traffic experience. I too had to take it in peak traffic hours from Gurgaon to Delhi and it was HELL! congratulations on such a fine purchase though! the VnH sound beastly, have installed them on my Iron too and they seriously do wake up the neighbours!
Thank you very much!. It was indeed hell that day, but the excitement of riding a new bike just won out. Nowadays, I do not take the bike out at peak times unless I have to, like, if I have to take it to the dealership or such like.

Quote:
Originally Posted by microaubin View Post
Really enjoyed reading through!! Wish you many miles of happy riding!!
Thank you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by VellVector View Post
Congrats on your bike. I completely echo your description of the HOG groups. It was one of tipping factors in making me pick up the Fatboy.

Also love some of the accessories on your bike. Could you also make an update on the accessories thread (The Superbike Accessories Thread)?
Thank you and nice to hear from a fellow Harley owner. The fatboy is truly the iconic harley and I hear it is a great bike, whose handling belies its size.
I will post on the superbike-accessories thread as soon as I get the time.
Cheerio.
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Old 20th May 2016, 16:55   #11
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson Iron 883: Crossing over to the dark side

Hey many congratulations alphadog. Wish you miles of happy rides with the bike.

I recently had a chance to briefly lay my hands at an Iron in black and I was really amazed to see the quality & the fit and finish on it. Really liked it a lot.

Happy riding!
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Old 21st May 2016, 06:30   #12
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson Iron 883: Crossing over to the dark side

Quote:
Originally Posted by forester View Post
Hey many congratulations alphadog. Wish you miles of happy rides with the bike.

I recently had a chance to briefly lay my hands at an Iron in black and I was really amazed to see the quality & the fit and finish on it. Really liked it a lot.

Happy riding!
Thank you very much Forester,

The finish is impeccable indeed. The quality and robustness of the materials used is high quality, and the bike is well put together.

Other than the engine, nothing vibrates or rattles.

But then thats expected of a Harley.

Cheerio.
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Old 23rd May 2016, 15:35   #13
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson Iron 883: Crossing over to the dark side

Congratulations and a wonderful write up!!
Can you please provide few details on the windshield you have installed? how is the performance and how did you source it? Thanks.
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Old 29th July 2016, 22:29   #14
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson Iron 883: Crossing over to the dark side

Congrats on this beauty. I went to the Harley dealership yesterday and checked out the 2016 Iron 883 in Olive Gold. It is amazingly beautiful, and for me, the stock exhausts sound good enough. Am really interested in the progressive suspension. If I go ahead with the purchase in the next few months, I will find out more about the suspensions from you, although the 2016 Dark Custom ones are supposed to come with better suspension.

Please put up more pics on the road (with the windscreen). Give us something more to drool about.
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Old 1st August 2016, 18:14   #15
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Default Re: Harley-Davidson Iron 883: Crossing over to the dark side

Congratulations Alpha.

I'm also an Iron owner and have a question. It is not clear to me how changing the shocks will eliminate the suspension problem you described - the bike bottoming out on Indian roads? The shocks will raise or lower the ride, i.e. your position wrt the ground level but will they raise or lower the bike itself?

From my experience it is not the travel in the suspension which is the issue but the ground clearance and the twin cradle frame is what scrapes the bumps and pot holes very easily?

Last edited by BowMan : 1st August 2016 at 18:16.
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