2002 Harley Davidson Sportster 883

My Review: 5

You know what’s difficult as a man in the Harley Davidson community? Being told that you ride a girl’s bike.

A close friend passed away a little more than three years ago. He was a motorcycle enthusiast and had always wanted a Harley. Around the age of 60 he decided to purchase one, but he was the type of man who only paid for things up front and in cash. As such, the only bike he could afford at the time was an 883 Sportster, the smallest bike Harley made (and still makes.) Given how much he would actually ride the thing it really made sense, but it was not a big “Harley.” He had a stroke about a year or so after he got the bike, and after that his riding really trickled down to almost nothing. He recovered pretty well, but his balance and equilibrium never really recovered enough for him to spend much time on the bike. In 2004 he died, a moment that affected me and many others very deeply. None of us wanted to see the bike leave the “family” and despite not having a license or really knowing how to ride, I decided to buy his bike.

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Fast forward three years. I have a license. I love to ride. I rode the bike from Malibu up here to San Francisco pretty much in one day. My poor “boys” have never been so rattled and shook up.

The Sportster is not a bad bike. Its actually quite reliable and runs smoothly even after weeks or months of near neglect. It’s fun to zip around on locally, even if it is a but small for my frame. But the thing is a rattle trap and vibrates like a cheap motel bed high on quarters. I can’t stand going over 55 mph.


When we got into Santa Cruz we stopped at SC Harley Davidson I spoke with a salesman there who agreed that the 02’s are pretty bumpy – his girlfriend has one and complains all the time. His girlfriend. Grrr.

It’s tough to be a Harley Man with a girls bike.
Regarding the bike itself though, as I said it is reliable and runs smoothly. Acceleration and shifting are both excellent. There’s plenty of muscle in the 883 engine, even if it is the smallest Harley offers, there’s still plenty of power. That might even be part of the problem – too much muscle on a very small frame. More recent models (2004 and up) have a rubber mounted engine that dampens the vibration considerably.


It’s carburated so there there is a fuel switch and a choke, and I kind of like fiddling with that stuff. Fuel injected engines are less work but I think they’re lazier too. The air cooled engine works fine, and the bike never really seems to ride too hot. Though of course, I’ve never ridden it in Arizona in August, so what do I know. Also, the gas tank only holds a little under three gallons, and I can usually get about 100 miles before I need to re-fuel. That’s pretty short range in my book, and the options on upgrading to a bigger gas tank are almost non-existent. The ones that will fit cost a bundle and only net you an extra half-gallon or so.


I miss my friend terribly, and I love that his bike sits in my garage and I get to keep a piece of him with me all the time. But I can’t help wishing that he had bought himself a Fat Boy or a Road King. 🙂 Oh well – the 2002 883 Sportster from Harley Davidson gets a 5. Long on reliability and sentimentality, but short on comfort and range.


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