2017 Harley-Davidson Iron 883 vs. Yamaha Star Bolt | Cruise for two
Comparing the 2017 Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 and the Yamaha Star Bolt is more of an exercise in philosophy than an examination of a motorcycle.
The approaches of Milwaukee and Hamamatsu are unambiguously different and cannot be reconciled enough. We’re fans of both the Iron 883 and the Bolt, and that’s a good reason to release and match them.
Both bikes arrive with air-cooled V-twins, but that’s where the similarity ends. The Iron 883’s two valves in each cylinder are actuated by push rods, while the Bolt has four-valve heads and an overhead cam at the top of each jug. Yamaha goes for a nearly square bore-to-stroke ratio, while the HD engine is predictably sub-square.
Experience suggests the Iron 883’s setup is more torquey, but an additional 59 cubic centimeters and four-valve heads outperform the long-stroke design. The Bolt produces more torque than the Iron 883 over the entire rev range, while still having the expected over-rev benefit.
From a practical standpoint, that means a bit more thrust from the Star Bolt when the brake light turns green, if desired, as well as stronger cornering traction than the Iron 883. When driving non-aggressive, you don’t notice it much, although it is certainly there. Either way, both engines have fairly flat torque curves with no surprises – twist and off you go.
What this ignores, of course, is the unmistakable rumble and feel of the Sportster’s Evolution engine. While the Yamaha powertrain purrs perfectly, the Evolution engine feels like a living organism. Even the start of the Iron 883 is exciting; it defies the ability of its battery to wake it from sleep before it comes to life. There is no drama on the part of the Bolt – push the button and it starts to work quietly.
The Harley-Davidson Iron 883 and Yamaha Star Bolt have similar ergonomics. The seats are low (although the Star is an inch lower), the pegs are mounted in the middle, and the narrow bars are only briefly swept back.
It is easy to fit comfortably into both bikes, although the Iron 883 is significantly more compact than the relatively spacious Bolt. Compared to the seat, the Iron 883 pegs are higher and the handles lower than on the Bolt. The Bolt’s pentagonal stainless steel air filter holder is more intrusive to the right knee than the classic round design of the Iron 883.
Speaking of seat, the Bolt has the top seat. While the Iron 883 saddle has nice tuck-and-roll padding, it’s actually a pretty tough place to sit. Shorter runs are fine with the Iron 883, but if you try to empty the 3.3 gallon tank, your shorts will notice its shortcomings. With nearly identical tank capacity and reach, the Star Bolt is better for longer nonstop excursions with the extra space and a nicer perch.
Suspension also comes into play for a comfortable ride, and the Star Bolt has a clear advantage over the Iron 883.
When Harley-Davidson upgraded the Iron 883’s rear shocks with the emulsion design, it was definitely an improvement. However, rear wheel travel remains a meager 1.6 inches. The 39mm forks are thin, don’t inspire much confidence on rough roads, and the 3.6 inches of travel is stingy.
With over an inch of additional wheel travel at each end, Yamaha had more to work on and the Star Bolt does a superior job of absorbing irregularities in the road. The Bolt’s 41mm forks convey much less nastiness to the rider’s arms, while still giving good feedback on the road. Less than three inches of rear wheel travel is still a limiting factor for the Star Bolt, but the shocks usually take the lead. For an additional $ 400, you can get the Bolt R-Spec, which has increasingly improved piggyback tank shocks.
The premium tires on each bike help the suspension a bit. Harley-Davidson and Yamaha use the same tire size combinations – 100 / 90-19 and 150 / 80-16 – with the Iron 883 receiving Michelin Scorcher 31 rubber and the working Bolt Bridgestone Exedra tires. While world champions Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi can discuss the merits of Bridgestone against Michelin, both sets of tires far exceed any requirements placed by the chassis or engine in this application.
Whether in town or in canyons, the Iron 883 is more agile than the Star Bolt. Although the Iron 883 weighs 20 pounds more than the Bolt, its wheelbase is more than two inches shorter, as well as its compact ergonomics. Countering that slightly is an extra degree of rake on the Iron 883, but it’s easier to throw than the relatively majestic Bolt.
The roles are expected to be reversed on urban highways. The Bolt feels more planted at high speeds, due to the longer wheelbase and smoother suspension. You bounce less on the Bolt, especially on older freeways with nasty expansion joints and deteriorating concrete.
Power-wise, the Iron 883 and Star Bolt have the means to engage on the freeway and hold onto traffic. Both motorcycles have five-speed transmissions, with the fifth gear acting as an effective overdrive to control revs at highway speeds.
Braking is roughly equal on both bikes, with engine compression doing the donkey work. If you’re riding hard enough that the front 300mm rotor (to within a millimeter) isn’t adequate, it’s time for you to switch to another bike. The rear disc of both bikes can also be used in any non-emergency situation. ABS is a $ 795 option on the Iron 883 and totally unavailable for the Bolt, which is a bit of a surprise.
When you encounter traffic, both bikes are ready to be split into lanes, where legal. The narrow bars and overall slim chassis make it easy. Keeping an eye on what’s behind you is tricky, as the mirrors on both bikes are jiggled and are stylishly small.
The speedometer of each motorcycle reinforces the overall stylistic choices of the manufacturers. The Yamaha Star Bolt features an ultra-clean and modern digital LCD display, while the Harley davidson The Iron 883’s speedometer is old school analog, with a small switchable LCD panel at the bottom. The Bolt gets attractive round fixtures that mimic the headlight, while the big styling element on the Iron 883 is the cool side mount for the license plate.
Against the grain, the Bolt has traditional wire wheels, while the Iron 883 uses black nine-spoke cast aluminum wheels with machined highlights. If it were up to us, we would trade them.
Editor-in-chief Don Williams had no problem with the foot and hand controls, but he didn’t like the Iron 883’s small footrests. He noticed his boots vibrate from the stakes and had to be. constantly repositioned.
Associate editor Kelly Callan, who has smaller (but not small) hands and feet, was not as happy with the orders. She noted that the Yamaha’s clutch lever is further from the grip than she would like and is not adjustable. On the Iron 883, she complained that she unexpectedly reached neutral when upshifting 1st gear, and that the foot brake arm interfered with her boot to reach the skate.
Extensive testing of the 2017 Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 and the Yamaha Star Bolt tells us that the Bolt performs best as a motorcycle, from a purely objective standpoint.
At the same time, riding motorcycles for recreational purposes is very personal and the experience is visceral. From this point of view, the Iron 883 has an advantage. It has a rugged look and feel that stands in stark contrast to the Bolt’s cleaner, more modern styling. Riding more difficult is also an experience that many prefer, as evidenced by the customs of the RIBs. Both bikes have plenty of customization options, if that’s on your to-do list.
We can fine-tune it a bit, if we want to. Taller riders will feel more comfortable on the Bolt, and smaller riders will be less intimidated by the Iron 883. If agility is more important to you, the Iron 883 is your bike; highway drivers will appreciate the stability of the Bolt. Those interested in brute force will take the lighter, more powerful Bolt.
Going strictly by price is easy. The Bolt costs $ 950 less on the wallet than the Iron 883. For many it’s a quick break, but not for us.
Whenever we make comparisons, we are always discussing among ourselves which bike we would prefer to own. Even for our staff members, with our variety of preferences, choosing one over the other is a matter of deciding exactly where our priorities lie – it’s not an easy choice.
Run our data through your personal database, and that should bring you closer. Fortunately, whether you choose the Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883 or the Yamaha Bolt, you will get a motorcycle that is very fun to ride.
|A dozen essential specifications||2017 Harley-Davidson
Sportster 883 iron
|Type of engine||Air cooled push rod,
45 degree V-twin 2vpc
60 degree v-twin 4vpc
|Bore x stroke||76.2 x 96.8 mm||85.0 x 83.0 mm|
|Front suspension||Fork not adjustable;
3.6 inches of travel
|Fork not adjustable;
4.7 inches of travel
|Rear suspension||Spring preload adjustable shock absorbers; 1.6 inches of travel||Spring preload adjustable shock absorbers; 2.8 inches of travel|
|Front tire||100 / 90-19;
Michelin Scorcher 31
|100 / 90-19;
Bridgestone Exedra G721
|Rear wheel||150 / 80-16
Michelin Scorcher 31
|150 / 80-16;
Bridgestone Exedra G722
|Wheelbase||59.6 inch||61.8 inch|
|Rake||30 degrees||29 degrees|
|Seat height||28.9 inch||27.2 inch|
|Unloaded weight||562 pounds||542 pounds|
|Price||$ 8,949||$ 7,999|
2017 Harley-Davidson Iron 883 vs. Yamaha Star Bolt: Photo Gallery