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Is 883 cc economic for a motorcycle?

In my last post I asked what a “CC” is for a motorcycle. Someone responded with, “…any bike above 500 CC is going to be pretty darn fast compared to most cars.”

My question is, i’m in the market for a new Harley Davidson. Their lowest CC is the 883 Sportster and they also have a 1200 cc. Are those economical AND good bikes? Thanks. I guess im trying to 1, be economical and 2, not drive around on a wussy bike. HA!

When I was growing up, 500cc was a good size bike. With the speed limits we have in the US any bike over 500cc will give you more performance than you really need. However, since motorbikes don’t weigh much, and have limited frontal area, only 2 wheels,moderate driving on any bike will give good gas mileage compared to a car. The captial cost and in surance will be your biggest expenses.

Reliability-wise, Harley Davidson has turned the corner from its dismal past. Its reliability is much better now. Japanese bikes still have the edge at this time, unless you want to blow the budget and buy a BMW. I would ask police departments, who have to control costs, what they think are the best buy for the money.

I’m not a Harley rider, but I doubt you’d have any problem keeping up with traffic on the 883 Sportster. I have no idea how economical it will be. It’s got to be better than the 1200 on fuel mileage. Fuel economy does not seem to be Harley’s top priority.

For whatever reason, motorcycles seem to get 40-50 mpg regardless of engine size…With bikes, I suspect air friction, mechanical friction and VERY inefficient engines are the reasons. Scooters designed for high fuel mileage can approach 100 mpg…

The Sportster is a ‘stepchild’ of H-D. Hog owners look down their noses at anything less than the ‘real deal.’ But the 54 inch Sportster will be a lot more than a new cyclist might imagine. Long ago these bikes got just over 50 mpg and top speed was near, if not over 100mph. And heaven help you if you fall or as someone above mentioned, a car turns in front of you. Owning and operating a Harley of any kind is not economical, though.

A Harley 883 (about 54 cubic inches) is an excellent choice for economy and is a very tractable bike with a calm demeanor, both positive attributes for a first or even a long term bike. Harley says on their web site that the 883 models are good for 60 mpg highway. In addition, the resale value of a Harley is excellent; making ownership of a Harley much less expensive than others. Only BMW can approach but not equal a Harley’s resale value.

On the other hand, an 883 is viewed by some in Harley circles as a lady’s or beginner’s bike. If you are confident of your manhood assuming that you are a man, and comfortable in your own skin, so to speak, you can ignore this foolishness and enjoy your 883 for what it is, a very good motorcycle.

Current 883 Harleys have rubber mounted engines, making vibration no longer a problem.

I recently saw an interesting post on a motorcycle site. It was said that you must get very close to read the brand name on some of the Harley clones from Japan. Perhaps they don’t want you to know too easily that they are not a Harley, the genuine article!

Reliability of Harleys is excellent these days. It can’t be any other way; too much to lose.

Having been a long-time owner of many bikes, including two Harleys, I can attest that Harleys are high quality reliable machines, but they are not necessarily representative of the latest in motorcycle technology, and they are definately not the fastest bikes in their class. Neither are they the most comfortable modes of transportation to ride for extended periods of time without the addition of expensive after-market accessories. And, because they are made with more metal parts instead of the high percentage of plastic used by other manufacturers, most Harleys are heavier than their equivalent Japanese models. A heavy bike is going be slower and will get less mileage, but it will also be more stable on the highway. Both of my bikes had the 1340cc evolution engine and the best mileage I got was around 50, but 42 to 45mpg was more typical.

I cannot comment on the current engines, but the 1340 evolution engine ignition system was archaic and fired both spark plugs at the same time. I read somewhere that this was calculated to contribute to the characteristic Harley engine sound and feel, but I believe it also decreases the efficiency of the engine and reduces gas mileage. It is also a much simpler (and cheaper) ignition system.

Wind resistance will be a large factor in variations to the actual mileage you get over the long-haul and will be affected by such things as the existance of a curved windshield, ferrings, your weight and size and whether you have a passenger or not.

If you’re buying the bike solely for daily transportation: Don’t. If you choose to ignore that advice, I would avoid the 883 and even the 1200 version of the Sportster as a good bike for daily transportation unless your commute is short, or you just want an expensive toy to buzz around town on. People don’t buy Harleys for the technology or for their economy. People buy Harleys because they are Harleys. No other reason justifies the outlay of so much cash when there are more technologically advanced (and safer) bikes available at lower cost.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved riding my Harleys and put thousands of miles on each of them going all over the country, but it was strictly a recreational thing. If I ever decide to get another bike, it will be a Harley, but it won’t be because they are economical or justifiable as cheap transportation; it will be because they are Harleys and a hell of a lot of fun to ride.

Riding a motorcycle is more dangerous than being in a car, but the danger can be mitigated by practicing defensive driving and wearing the proper headgear and clothing. In some 50,000+ miles of riding my Harleys I never had an accident or even a close call; and I rode on all kinds of roadways in all kinds of weather, (except snow), and over long distances. Most accidents occur when the rider does something stupid or quits paying attention to his or her environment. Ride conservatively, keep your head up, your eyes open and don’t try to impress anyone.

I don’t know much about bikes, but my recent forays into bike shops in search of a trike have led me to be advised that many bikes are still using carburators. I have nothing against carbs, but if economy is a goal fuel injection might be a good thing to look for. It should be more efficent.

Perahaps the bikers here can respond with some wisdom in this arena…are FI engines generally more frugal than modern carburated ones?

Bikes are all going FI here in the US little by little strictly for EPA/CARB emissions related reasons, not for fuel efficiency reasons.

There are several big differences between motorcycle FI systems and car FI systems.

First, most motorcycles have 1 throttle body per cylinder for performance reasons, while cars tend to have only one throttle body that is common to all cylinders for a smoother idle and better torque characteristics in the lower rpm range.

Second, car FI systems all are closed loop systems. After the engine reaches a certain temperature, the O2 sensor controls the fuel mixture. Most motorcycle systems don’t even have an O2 sensor, and rely on a predefined FI map to make the bike run across a wide range of conditions.

Also, motorcycle FI systems tend not to have the sophisticated diagnostics system that OBD equipped cars do today.

Now, there are lots of bikes still out there using carbs. Mostly cruisers.
That’s because the cruiser types tend to like things to stay the same, and are fairly resistant to change.
20 years ago, everyone was fighting to keep carbs in cars, but now you can’t find a single model of car in the us that uses a carb. Cars are still running fine today.

So, give it some time before FI is on every model of motorcycle.
Or, change the type of bike you want to buy.
Every model of touring bike and super sport bike is fuel injected.
Most cruisers wear carbs.
Entry level bikes are carbed because of cost.


If economy is what you are looking for I would suggest a late model 500CC to 1000CC bike. I have a 1972 Honda CB500Four, I bought it in good condition for $225, spent 4 hours tuning up the engine, cleaning out the carbs and what not. I now have a 50+ mpg transport for the last 2 years. and the bike is a blast to ride!

“…fired both spark plugs at the same time. I read somewhere that this was calculated to contribute to the characteristic Harley engine sound and feel, but I believe it also decreases the efficiency of the engine and reduces gas mileage. It is also a much simpler (and cheaper) ignition system.”

Are you saying that both CYLINDERS fired at the same time or both SPARK PLUGS fired at the same time? It does not seem like they would fire both cylinders at the same time. If the latter, it is a waste spark ignition system which also sees common use in relatively modern motor cars. The waste spark system cuts the complexity of the ignition system in terms of the number of parts it needs. It could not possibly affect fuel efficiency in any significant way.

It’s a waste spark system, the cylinders don’t fire together.

A large man just doesnt “look” right on a Sportster.Not a good fit. Like wearing a piece of clothing that doesnt fit.

So… Do harley’s have carburetors or FI?

Have you ever seen the connecting rod assembley on the big V-Twins from Harley? Its a one piece design,looks odd.

Suzuki 650 Burgman scooter

An 883 is a popular harley. ive been selling harleys for about 15 years, if your a male over 6ft. this is not your bike, if your female under 5’5" its great. they get great miles and hold there value well. most harleys get good mileage and there fun to ride.

The sparkplugs fire together. I didn’t mean to suggest that the fuel efficiency was affected. I said the efficiency of the engine is affected. I remember reading about this system when I owned my last bike and I think I read something to the effect that when the plug fires in the cylinder not in the power stroke any remaining unburned gases will burn (explode) and the resultant explosive force, small as it may be, will be contrary to the power developed by the cylinder on the power stroke. The result is a slight loss in horsepower. You could buy an aftermarket ignition kit that fired each plug in turn that resulted in a small increase in horsepower.

The latest ones all have F.I. Actually, Harley has been one of the first adapters of F.I. amongst motorcycle companies. Even thoough it is a big engine, it is remarkably fuel efficient thanks mostly to the fact that the long stroke design minimizes combustion chamber surface area. Every BTU of heat that transfers from the hot gasses to the cylinder head and piston crown is a BTU of heat that the engine will never be able to convert into 778 ft-lb of energy. A long stroke, minimizes surface area and also the heat that escapes from the combustion chamber during expansion.
The 883 twin has a 3 inch bore and a 3.81 inch stroke, it is not a high revving engine so even though it has 883 cc of displacement, it’s not crazy powerfull like a typical four cylinder engine that size is.

It’s not just the engine that determines fuel economy; weight is important, too. HDs get poor gas mileage compared to many bikes with similar power because they are much heavier. If you plan to commute you should look at road bikes. I’d buy a used bike if this is your first motorcycle. See if you like it, and consider a new bike after a year or two if you still like it. I’d look at used Hondas, Suzukis, Yamahas, and BWMs as well as the HD. All make fine motorcycles that will serve you well. BTW, just how much weight do you thing you can lift up if the bike falls over? HDs will by far be the hardest to stand upright if you drop it or it falls over on a hot asphault parking lot.