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10 Things I Miss About My Harley-Davidson Sportster

It’s been ten years since I sold my Harley-Davidson Sportster, so rather than write a review of a motorcycle that I haven’t ridden in years, I thought I would be better off sharing with you 10 things I miss about my Sportster. The Sportster isn’t a perfect motorcycle, but it’s good enough that almost a decade later I still find myself missing parts of the experience of owning one.

Most of this article was written almost nine years ago to the day, so please forgive me if the tone seems a little different from what you’re used to from YouMotorcycle today… Let’s begin.

Being 22 years old is an exciting time in a man’s life. He is full of vigor, prowess, and insatiable appetites. He’s young enough to remember every punch line to every joke, and just old enough to be able to deliver them tactfully. He’s old enough that he ought to know better, but young enough not to care. The 22 year old male feels on top of the world.

That’s exactly the position I was in, a decade ago, when I bought my first Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a Sportster 883. For a moment as brief as twilight, I was on top of the world. I miss that bike.

watch this video


Watch this video!

This isn’t a Sportster review, but if you’re thinking about buying a Sportster, here are the ten things I still miss about it a decade later.

  • An engine that shook in it’s frame
  • An accessories catalog the size of a phone book
  • The rumble of the exhaust
  • Electric fuel-injection
  • Disk brakes front and back
  • The Sportster’s own character
  • Passenger-friendliness
  • Disregard from BMW owners
  • Deliberately waking up the girls upstairs
  • Belt drive
  • Uniqueness of each Sportster

1) An engine that shook in it’s frame

From 2004 and up, the Sportster’s motor was rubber mounted. The rubber mounts isolated the rider from the engine’s vibration.

Sportsters made from 1957 to 2003 would have a motor that shook the entire frame and the rider as well). Sportsters made 2004 and after would have rubber isolation mounts which would make the motor shake like crazy within the frame, but save the rider from the motor’s vibration.

2) An accessories catalog the size of a phone book

The Sportster has a huge accessories catalogue, with a ton of options available not just from Harley-Davidson, but from one of the biggest aftermarket accessories following in all of motorcycling. You can blow all of your money customizing this motorcycle.

When comparing the Sportster to the Honda Fury, or the other cruisers I’ve owned, including a Suzuki Boulevard M50, and a Harley-Davidson V-Rod, none of these motorcycles had anywhere near the amount of accessories possibilities in any catalog as the Sportster does.

3) The rumble of the exhaust

The Sportster’s rumble is one of the best sounding middleweight motors in all of motorcycling, especially on a pre-2007 carbureted 1,200cc model.

My current bike is a Harley-Davidson V-Rod, and although it’s bigger than my Sportster was, it doesn’t use an EVO motor like the Sporty does, so it doesn’t sound anywhere near as sweet.

Sportster Profile

4) Electric fuel injection

If you’re buying a 2007 and up Sportster it might not sound as good, because that’s when they became fuel injected. With fuel injection the Sportster’s idle speed went from about 800 rpm to about 1,100 rpm and sounds a lot less rough and raw.

The advantages of fuel injection are crisp predictable throttle response at any altitude no matter the weather. Personally, I’ll take fuel injection over carburetors any day.

5) Disk brakes front and back

You’ll be hard pressed to find a Sportster that doesn’t come with disk brakes front and rear, and that’s a good thing. Check out this article to learn why disk brakes are better than drum brakes and you’ll understand.

In 2021, we shouldn’t even need to talking about drum brakes, but unfortunately, for many middleweight cruisers, like the Suzuki Boulevard M50, manufacturers are still being cheap and making them with drum brakes.

6) Has it’s own character

The thing people hold against a lot of Japanese motorcycles, and cruisers in particular, is that they can be very linear and bland. I’m looking at you, Honda Shadow.

With the Sportster, I never felt the need to try to dress it up as a way of having my motorcycle try to match my personality. My Sportster made it very clear that she had her own unique personality, and plenty of it. And I loved her for that.

7) Passenger-friendliness

When I had my Sportster I was a university student. The timing was perfect, as most university aged women had never been a motorcycle, let alone a Harley-Davidson.

The Sportster’s low seat height, and plenty of back rest options, made it very easy for first time female motorcycles to swing a leg over and take a ride with me, which always led to more fun shenanigans. Oh to be in my early 20s again.

2007 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL-883

8) Complete disregard from BMW owners

I’ll never understand this, because I currently own both a Harley-Davidson V-Rod, and a BMW 650GS, but when I was riding my Sportster it became very apparent to me that BMW owners completely ignored me.

BMW owners never seemed to return my waves or acknowledgements when they saw me on my Sportster. It got to be a running joke. If you have any idea why BMW riders hate Sportster owners please leave a comment and let me know.

9) Deliberately waking up the girls upstairs

I was living in a basement apartment when I owned my Harley-Davidson Sportster. Two girls rented the unit upstairs, and they had a pattern of having guests over for very late, very loud visits. FUN!

One nice thing about having a Harley with some loud pipes, is 3 hours later when I was leaving the house for work, I could leave the motorcycle out front idling, or even rev it up, to make sure I woke them up. I was young and spiteful back then, please don’t hold it against me now.

10) Belt drive

One of the things I love most about the Sportster is that it has belt drive as it’s final drive system. Shaft drive motorcycles are fairly low-maintenance, but so are belt drives. On chain drive motorcycles you can change the sprockets to adjust gear ratios, acceleration, and top speed, but you can do this on belt drive motorcycles as well by changing the pulleys.

Belt drive motorcycles provide the advantages of chain and final drive, with minimal disadvantages. To find out more I suggested reading Motorcycle Chain Drive vs. Belt Drive vs. Shaft Drive.

2007 Harley-Davidson Sportster XL-883

Conclusions

If you found this interesting, let me know what you think/thought of your Harley, or of Sportsters in general, in the comments section down below.

Remember, the Sportster has been in production since 1957, and they have been continually improving it since 1957, but that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect motorcycle! The Sportster is far from perfect, so go ahead and take a look back at 10 Things I DON’T Miss About My Sportster – after all, there’s a reason I sold it after only having it for a year.

About YouMotorcycle

YouMotorcycle is a lifestyle motorcycle blog to be appreciated by those who see motorcycling as a lifestyle and not simply a hobby, sport, or method of transportation. Most of the posts on the site are written by past and present motorcycle industry staff. We remain fiercely independent, innovative, and unconventional. Our goal is to encourage more people to enjoy the world's greatest outdoor sport by helping new riders get started and inspiring current riders to get out more. We motorcycle, do You?

21 comments

  1. At least BMW riders can spell subconscious.
    Guess that happens when you make it through high school.

  2. model of the foto?

  3. I miss my 2015 xl883n due to the pandemic. It’s a 1000 miles away and it’s another 2 months before I get back and ride after a whole 5 months.

    What a ride that will be.

  4. scooters in nepal

    It is the tallest among the sportster. Great post. I enjoyed it.

  5. About 85% of any bikes stopping power is in the front brake. Given that the other fifteen percent falls on the back brake drum brakes should suffice. My hypothesis is that manufacturers put disc brakes on the back for the overwhelming number of riders who believe that if you squeeze the front brake the bike will flip over on your head. They of course will sue the manufacturer when the drum in back doesn’t stop them in time and they crash. Putting a disc on the back is probably a litigation preventer.

    • Hey Jim, good to see you here again man! I went from a 2005 Suzuki Boulevard M50 to a 2007 Sportster 883, and then back to a 2011 Suzuki Boulevard M50, and while I liked the M50 better than the Sportster overall, I think the feeling from rear disk brake, especially on emergency stops and at highway speeds, felt much better on the disk brake. Then again, “feeling” is highly subjective.

      • I purchased my 2006 plate, 883L about 8years ago, my first Harley Davidson. Its fitted with a Sidecar due to being paraplegic, The perfect bike for the job. I still have my Sporty ( hand controls fitted )and wouldn’t swap it in for any other bike. I’ve gone up to stage 3, and its runs perfect on this Carb model. I,ve been riding over 40 years, and this is my most exiting ride ever, always handle’s how I know its goin. Man and Machine in perfect sync. Its not slow or lumpy, quicker off the mark than most of the Jap 4’s I,ve owned. Their not called Sportster’s for nothing !

        • That’s awesome Richie. Glad to hear you’re not letting anything stop you from enjoying riding. I didn’t mention it in the article, but I did say it in the video: I think if you have a carbureted Sporty it’s not a big deal, provided you put at least a Stage 1 kit on it. Way too lean from factory without it. At a Stage 3, your baby must really rip. Rock on!

      • Yep. And given the “newbie” fear of doing an inadvertent stoppie (as Jim mentioned) I’m sure a lot of lives probably ARE saved by the additional (albeit marginal) stopping efficiency of a rear disk as opposed to a drum.
        Manufacturers likely figure they’re killing two birds (if you’ll pardon the expression): covering their own asses in potential court cases AND giving beginner, brake pedal stabbers a fighting chance in a short-stopping scenario.

  6. Man, this is a great post on a great subject. Thanks Adrian! So, my first Sporty was an ’02 XL 1200S, so it had a carburettor. Mine was stage 1’d and fitted with Screamin’ Eagle exhausts. I loved it to bits but it was just a little too short in the chassis for me, so after five years of ownership, I traded it for what I had always wanted, a 1450 Dyna SuperGlide Sport. This bike is essentially my 1200S on steroids! The SuperGlide also has a Stage 1 kit and retains its carburettor but it has V&H pipes, twin Billet 6 brakes up front with aeroquip hoses behind them and Progressive rear shocks. My Sporty did not have the rubber mounted engine so yeah, the whole bike shook! The Dyna DOES have the rubber mounts and you are quite right, the motor looks awesome shakin’ away in the frame! I too love “waking up the neighbours” when I go out and the V&H pipes do have a beautiful tone to them! So no, I don’t miss the Sporty’s lack of rubber mounts, I don’t miss the smaller dimensions and having also had a 2020 883 at my disposal for three months whilst the Dyna was in for repairs, I can honestly that the Dyna is still, most definitely, my favourite Harley! Can’t wait to find out what you don’t miss about your Sporty!

  7. I just inherited a 1974 Sportster AMF all original with 8000 miles. Cannot wait to ride once the weather breaks in CT. Thanks for posting this.

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