October 26, 2020 By Maynard Marcelo Photos by Randy Silva-Netto

Bike Review: Harley-Davidson Sportster XL 883 SuperLow

Low and Bold

If sport riders aspire for a Ducati, then cruiser riders aspire for a Harley-Davidson. There’s simply no other way around it. These brands are highly coveted by motorcycle enthusiasts because of their pedigree and prestige. For cruiser riders a Harley-Davidson, regardless of model, is the pinnacle of motorcycle ownership. Thanks to Harley-Davidson’s new factory in Thailand and more importantly, the AFTA, or the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, lower import tariffs to member countries like the Philippines made owning a Harley-Davidson motorcycle more accessible to the average Filipino buyer. 

With the inexplicable absence of the entry-level Street 500, Street 750, and Street Rod, the most affordable Harley-Davidson motorcycle you can currently buy in the Philippines is the Sportster 883 SuperLow at PhP650,000 SRP. That’s a whopping PhP140,000 less than pre-AFTA prices. So for just a little over half a million pesos you can now own a genuine Harley-Davidson without feeling too guilty about spending too much on a motorcycle. We borrowed one from our good friends at Harley-Davidson of Cavite (Wheeltek) to find out what it’s like to live with Harley’s entry-level cruiser for a full week. 

Substance

It may be the cheapest in the Harley-Davidson lineup but there’s nothing visibly cheap about the Sportster 883 SuperLow. Everything on the bike, from the overall build quality to the switches, are what you’d expect an American made motorcycle to be, only it’s not made in America. Quite honestly this Thai built, or assembled, Harley-Davidson is as good as its American counterparts while costing a bit less. In fact, nobody can tell where it’s made unless you look at the VIN. Otherwise it rides, looks, feels, and sounds like a proper Harley-Davidson should. And it can’t get any more Harley-er than that 883cc air-cooled Evolution engine with its trademark, albeit very subtle in this case, potato-potato sound. 

With the key transponder in your pocket and the transmission in neutral, simply push the starter button and the V-twin motor roars to life. The engine vibrates softly but they are mostly subdued by the engine rubber mounts so very little make their way to the chassis. Pull the heavy clutch lever, a bit of effort is needed, which is the same with every Harley I must say, then engage first gear on the five-speed tranny, and you’re good to go. Engine vibration cancels itself once on the move and only reemerges at higher rpm. But honestly there’s really no need to rev the engine to its redline because there’s plenty of low down torque just above tickover. Smooth and steady progress can be achieved by short shifting through the gears. Don’t expect stellar acceleration speeds here. The 883 Superlow works best at steady cruising speeds where it’s happiest the most. But given a long enough road then a top speed of 170 Km/h can be reached.     

The 883 SuperLow also has the same features that other higher priced Harley-Davidson bikes get, such as the aforementioned key transponder, self-cancelling turn signals, and two-channel abs. Build quality is superb with high quality finish on the paint and chrome parts. Speaking of which, the 883 SuperLow has plenty of chrome parts and aluminum bits that need extra care to maintain their lustre. Be sure to stock on aluminum cleaner, some metal polish, and lots of elbow grease. For its 650K asking price you certainly get a lot of value for your money. We just wish it came with a louder exhaust system because the stock mufflers sound boring.   

Performance

As a member of the Sportster family the 883 Superlow has one of the narrowest frames on a Harley. But unlike its other Sportsters siblings the 883 SuperLow distinguishes itself with a slammed-to-the-ground profile, characterized by its low seat height, low ground clearance, low fuel tank, and low slung rear suspension. Its styling is very similar to the now discontinued Dyna Super Glide, which is slightly bigger than the Sportster. 

What everybody will appreciate, however, is the SuperLow’s 706.12 mm seat height. Even the most vertically challenged riders will be able to ride it comfortably and still reach the ground with both feet firmly planted. Its mid-mount foot controls are not only more comfortable, it’s also Filipino friendly than the forward-foot controls on most Harleys. There’s a downside to this low-rider look, unfortunately. While it looks cool, the SuperLow has a very low ground clearance of just 99.06 mm, or less than 4 inches, before anything solid touches the road. So extra care should be taken when crossing speed bumps or rocky roads. Cornering clearance is also limited before the foot pegs scratches the ground. Take any corner at moderate speeds and witness the hero blobs (peg feelers) create sparkly grooves on the asphalt without you even trying. So aggressive cornering is highly discouraged.

Adding to the SuperLow’s cool factor are a pair of cast-aluminum rims with polished lips wrapped in grippy 120/70-ZR18 Michelin Scorcher tires in front and 150/60-ZR17 at the back. These tires are made to Harley-Davidson specifications and even have the Harley bar and shield logo on them, which looks cool. Suspension setup is typical of cost conscious bikes like the SuperLow and they are composed of 39 mm cartridge-type forks with no adjustments up front and a pair of emulsion shocks in the rear with only spring preload adjusters. Watch out for really deep potholes because there’s only 4.11 inches of suspension travel up front and only 2.13 inches in the rear. 

Braking duties are handled by a 300 mm single disc up front with a two-pot caliper and a 260 mm disc and a similar two-pot setup in the rear. Both ends are governed by standard ABS that provide adequate, if not overly powerful, braking performance that should be enough for everyday riding. 

Comfort

Cruisers like the 883 SuperLow are designed for cruising the boulevards and look extremely good while doing it. In this regard the SuperLow is in its element. With its deeply sculpted (solo) seat, pullback handlebars, and that highly desirable Harley-Davidson logo on the fuel tank, you will certainly look like a million bucks to everyone who sees you. The riding position is comfortably upright with a natural reach to the pullback and tall handlebars. Switches are also where you expect them to be, except for the turn indicators which have their own dedicated buttons on the left and right side switch gears, like all Harleys do. This needs some getting used to, though, especially if it’s your first time on a Harley, but you’d get used to it after a few days. Don’t worry about leaving them on while riding because they’re self-cancelling, a feature we wish all motorcycles should have. The instrument cluster is composed of a basic analogue speedometer with a small LCD screen where you can scroll to show the odometer and trip meter. Below that are a row of idiot lights that includes a low fuel warning because yes, there’s no fuel gauge here. 

With no wind protection whatsoever cruising above 140 km/h on the SuperLow can be a bit tiring. But if you stay between its sweet spot of 80 to 120 km/h then you can comfortably tour long distances on the Superlow. A bit of creativity is needed where you put your luggage, though, because there’s no provision whatsoever on the Superlow. And forget about sharing the ride with your wife or girlfriend because there’s no standard pillion seat. Of course you can always equip your SuperLow with genuine Harley-Davidson luggage racks and pillion seats as add on accessories.   

Our Verdict 

If you want the Harley-Davidson experience without getting into an argument with your wife about spending way too much on a motorcycle then the SuperLow is the Harley bike for you. We say it’s way better than getting a new or used Street 750 because the SupeLow offers a more genuine Harley experience with its Evolution air-cooled and push-rod equipped 883 cc V-twin motor than the newer liquid-cooled Revolution X motor on the Street Rod which many Harley purists say, feels almost Japanese smooth. No offense to Japanese V-twin aficionados, of course. Traditional Harley V-twins like the Evolution simply has more character. Also, if you’re into bike customization then chopping a SuperLow will be less painful than, say, than a 1.1 million pesos Street Bob. If that doesn’t convince your wife, then point out that there’s no pillion seat so there’s no chance of you picking up girls on your rides.        


Specifications:

Engine: Air-cooled, 45 degree V-twin, EFI,  4-stroke

Displacement: 883cc

Max Power: 46.7bhp @ 5,680 rpm

Torque: 54lb.ft. @ 3,6750 rpm

Transmission: 5-speed

Seat Height: 706.12 mm

Fuel Capacity: 12.5liters

Curb Weight: 258 Kg.

Tire, Front: 120/70-18

Tire, Rear: 150/60-17

Brakes, Front/ Rear: Single Disc/Single Disc ABS

Top Speed: 170 Km/h

Price: PhP 650,000 (Vivid black)

C! Editor’s Rating: 9/10

+: Characterful motor, value for money

-: Low ground clearance, no pillion seat

 

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