I've always owned motorcycles. Back in early 2016 I bought yet another Harley-Davidson Sportster (my third). This last one is a 1996 model which unfortunately had been sitting around unused for a long time. Outside. It looked great in the pictures, but the pictures were not current. Still, it was ride-able (at least to get it home), but...ugh...it was more of a challenge to get up and running than I'd hoped. I spent more than a year sourcing just the right parts to make it “mine.” Word of advice: Never buy a bike that's been sitting around for more than, oh, six months. I thought I'd gotten a good deal on this thing. I was wrong.
In the meantime while I was fussing and fighting with my Sportster, my friend Terry also bought a Sportster. He'd previously had one of those “dual-sport” bikes, one that you could ride on a dirt road as well as paved streets. Great bike! The trouble was that it was, well, tall. You just about needed a ladder to get on the thing. Younger riders are more limber and have the agility to swing their leg way up and over the saddle just to mount up; but 60-something year-old guys like Terry and I do not. End result: Terry did not ride the bike much.
Since he's heard me prattle on and on (and on), extolling the virtues of the Harley Sportster, he kind of casually started looking at them. And sure enough, he found one that was a really good deal over in Tallahassee, a three-hour drive to our east.
Sportster come in two different engine sizes: 883cc and 1200cc. There is no denying that the 883 has plenty of power. Back when the bike/engine combination was introduced in 1957! the Sportster was the original “super-bike.” That was then. Performance standards have changed a little with the advent of much more powerful machines. However the 883 Sportster has not changed much since its heyday. It is now considered weak and slow. Kind of like me.
However, the bigger, 1200cc engine makes the bike into something of a hotrod, and that's what most guys go for. Among the Harley cognoscenti, the smaller engine is the subject of almost universal disdain for its comparative lack of power and “oomph.” Even the stupid salesmen at the Harley dealer insinuate that the 883 is a great “starter bike,” or worse, a “girl's bike.” (Of course, they'd rather sell you a $20,000+ Super Glide than a $9,000 Sportster.) When I tell them that I'm on my third Sportster they look at me funny.
I ride alone, and I'm not inclined (anymore) to drag-racing other riders from stoplight to stoplight. So the 883 is perfectly fine for me. Would I like the extra power of the 1200? Sure, but the 883 has a significant gas mileage advantage over its bigger brother, which should be no surprise. And when your gas tank only holds 2.2 gallons, as mine does, gas mileage becomes uber-important.
The bike Terry and I went to look at in Tallahassee was a 1200, all done up in black and chrome. In pictures it looked great. In person, it really is beautiful, even I have to admit. The bike needed a little work, but it was well worth the agreed-upon price. We loaded it into the back of Terry's pickup truck and beat feet for Pensacola.
So now Terry and I both had Sportsters, and we wanted to do some riding! The one little problem was that mine wasn't exactly running. It took a while – longer than I'd anticipated. I wanted this Sportster to be “just so.” This meant undoing some of the work that the previous owner had done. People always think that the personal customizations/modifications they perform on their motorcycles add value. They do not. Often the next owner (ergo, me) has to come along and spend money replacing those parts. Which is why I got this bike so cheaply. (Not cheaply enough, it turned out.)
Anyway, my bike is finally done. It runs fine and drives great. It's ready for some nice road trips, for which Terry has been patiently waiting. Thankfully, there is plenty of riding season left – one of the advantages of living down south.
Here's Terry with his 2009 Sportster. Not sure why the picture came out so lousy, but it's a gorgeous bike in person!
And here's my latest acquisition. I know, it looks a lot like my last Sportster. But no, this one is completely different - it's got spoke wheels!