HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 1200 iron review (from 2018)

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Next step: Driving and brakes

4 out of 5 (4/5)

Compared to the 883, the 1200 seems such a godsend that one wonders why anyone would buy the 883 again.

In fact, you can’t help but wonder if Harley is going to continue with the 883, especially with the Street 750 which is now the first step towards Harley ownership. The extra engine power makes it slightly more unruly when it comes to handling, but only when you really push it.

In town, from the traffic light around the corner, where this bike will spend most of its life, it really excels. If you’ve always loved the iron but wanted something a little more flair, this is the one you’ve been waiting for.

Ride quality and brakes

Next step: engine

4 out of 5 (4/5)

The old tale “Harley doesn’t go around corners” is a thing of the past and has been for some time. You can ride the new bikes pretty quickly, as long as you don’t mind dragging a peg or two.

Unfortunately, when Harley stuck the big engine in the iron, they didn’t update the rest of the chassis, suspension, or brakes. As a result, there’s a lot more speed to be gained between turns, without any additional help cleaning or managing it when it’s loaned out.

Without traction control, the extra torque also makes it easier to turn when exiting a corner. You really have to break it to make it squirm, so it would take a shank jumper to do it by accident, but there’s no doubt that it’s easier to get into a pickle on the 1200 than it is on the 883.

Motor

Next step: reliability

3 out of 5 (3/5)

Harley took the Forty-Eight’s 1202cc muscle mass and stuffed it under the Iron’s bulging shirt. Boosting capacity by 30% had an obvious effect on horsepower, so it now develops 66 hp and 73 lb-ft of torque – a significant jump from the 883 while still being compatible with the A2.

This gives it a lot more handling around the corners and when you go for a fun ride you can just leave it in third gear and roll around on a wave of torque. Unfortunately, it’s now showing its age – the five-speed gearbox is clunky and the air-cooled cylinders roast you in traffic.

Reliability and build quality

Next step: value

5 out of 5 (5/5)

The quality of the parts fitted to Harleys is top notch these days and the engines have been around for so long that any issues have long been solved. The engines are oil tight and don’t really use much anymore, and the belt drive means they’re easy to get along with. Services are every 5,000 miles and because they use hydraulic valve lifters, valve clearances never need to be adjusted.

Value vs rivals

Next step: equipment

5 out of 5 (5/5)

The Iron 1200 costs just £ 500 more than the 883 model, which is about 1/3 the price of a 1200cc conversion, so the obvious question is why wouldn’t you buy the 1200? It’s also almost £ 2,000 cheaper than the Indian Scout and £ 1,300 cheaper than Triumph’s Bonneville Bobber, making it great value for money.

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

As standard, all Sportsters come with a keyless ignition, alarm and immobilizer, which is a nice touch on an entry-level bike. The clocks are simple but there is a speed / tacho indicator hidden inside the small LCD screen. Like all big bikes now, ABS comes standard, but there’s no traction control or power modes.

The Iron 1200 is already pre-accessorized with a cafe racer seat, mini monkeys and a small front hood but if you want to change it up there is still the huge catalog of Harley parts.


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