Motorman’s Road Test: 2011 Sportster 883 Super Low

2011 Sportster 883 Super Low

Harley-Davidson is known for making incremental updates to their most popular models.  At times, the incremental changes can be quite long.  For instance, from its inception until 2004, the Sportster models had a solid mount motor which made the vibration quotient just about unbearable at highway speeds.  That all changed in 2004 with the all new chassis and rubber mounts; finally, the Sportster was an all around motorcycle capable of being more than just a bar hopper.

Minor changes have taken place since 2004 and a wide variation of Sportster models makes the entire line appeal to several segments of riders.  For 2011, Harley-Davidson decided to lengthen the rake and trail of the Sportster from 29.6 degrees to 31 degrees and from 4.6” of trail to 5.7”.  What these stats mean is the Sportster is now an easier bike to handle.  Previously, many riders, mostly of the female persuasion, complained that the Sportster felt top heavy.  While the bike was never really top heavy, it’s previously very quick steering may have contributed to some slight instability at low speeds.

The small changes Harley has made to the suspension make the new Super Low super easy to handle at parking lot speeds.  In addition, the steering head angle has been increased so that the bars turn further from lock to lock.  This change makes the Sportster much easier to back into a parking space or out of the garage.  Another half inch of suspension travel in the rear has been added which helps to soak up the bumps a bit more than past models.  Clearly the Sportster does not offer a plush ride, but a little more suspension travel certainly helps.

New low profile tires keep the Sportster’s seat height just about the same as it had been despite the slightly longer shocks.  The seat now offers more padding as well which comes in handy on longer rides.  I’d be willing to bet that all these changes will also be offered throughout the Sportster line including the very popular Iron and Nightster models in the very near future.

The new Super Low, like all Sportsters, still oozes character.  The main difference being, it’s now a civilized modern motorcycle.  The 883 motor sounds just like all the rest of the Harley-Davidson line regardless of its size.  It’s a sound and feel you can’t get from any other manufacturer’s mid-size V-twin motorcycle.  The 883 offers surprisingly good performance, especially in around town speeds.

There’s plenty of torque to take off from a stop light and leave traffic way behind.  The wide gear ratios help keeps vibrations to a minimum.  You actually have a fairly clear view of traffic behind you in your rear view mirrors until speeds exceed about 70 mph.  Above 70 mph, the vibrations start to creep in especially near the foot pegs and the seat.  They are however, low frequency vibrations which don’t tend to put your limbs to sleep.  To make a quick pass on the freeway you may have to downshift a gear or two, but the power is there to make that pass.

Fit and finish of the Super Low equal that of any top of the line Harley models.  Unlike many of its metric mid-size competition, just about everything you touch on the Super Low is real metal; yet, it’s no heavier than the competition from over seas.  The Sportster styling has changed very little through the years, just like the rest of the Harley-Davidson line and most people agree that’s a good thing.  It’s classic American beauty and obviously, the customers like it that way.  While the Sportster Low is not meant for long distance riding, the HD catalog is filled with everything you could possibly need for that purpose from saddlebags to backrests to windshields.  You name it, they’ve got it.

Equipped with the proper touring accessories, one could conceivably take a 300 mile ride without any real discomfort.  A good assortment of colors is available to suit just about anyone’s taste and as always, the Sportster is priced right.  MSRP starts at $7,999.99, for a closer look stop by Harley-Davidson of Crystal River for a test ride.  You won’t be disappointed.

Copyright ⓒ 2011 Jerry “Motorman” Palladino

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