Good not better than Yamaha.
With motorcycles, it’s all about the motor, right? Bikes have two hoops, a seat and an engine. That was what Bill Harley was banking on in 1901, when he drew a picture of an engine affixed to a bicycle. It was brilliant. All the fun without the distracting effort.
The motor-as-dominant principle has been the modus operandi at Harley-Davidson for over a century, and nowhere can that intention be seen more clearly than in the Sportster lineup. Chick bikes? Yeah, right. For chicks with three balls. From their start in 1957, the Sportster models have been hardcore, and today’s bobber-style Iron 883, though as entry-level a motorcycle as The Motor Company can muster, is no exception.
That’s not to say the 883 isn’t easy to ride—it is. But it’s the only bike we can think of that’s equal parts badass and beginner bike. At least until now, with the release of the Star Bolt.
This new player is a no-bones knock-off of the Sportster Iron 883: same low-slung, aggressive shape, bobbed rear fender, hulking engine, belt drive, solo seat, mid-mount controls, drag bars and nearly total absence of shiny geegaws. Promotional materials tap an identical buyer: hip, young, minimalistic, value-minded, lots of flannel in the closet. And lastly, the Bolt and Iron prices also match: $7999 for the Harley; $7990 for the basic Bolt (or $8290 for the up-spec “R” version tested here).
Let’s get this out of the way right now: If you’re looking at the Bolt, the R-Spec is it. The anodized remote-reservoir shocks alone are worth the $300 increase in price, and on top of that you get cooler paint choices—Camo Green or Matte Gray—with enhanced graphics, blackened turnsignals and a very attractive suede-like, tractor-style saddle.
Star has positioned the Bolt as an “Urban Performance Bobber,” a cruiser intended for styling around town, and we agree. Both of these bikes garner loads of attention, with the Harley being most admired. The Sportster’s Candy Orange paint is a real standout against its blacked-out landscape, and the quality of the paint itself is an obvious win. Plus, the Iron’s peanut tank isn’t burdened by the godawful lip that rings the Bolt’s. Both tanks are tiny, holding just over 3 gallons, and you’ll see the reserve light on both pop on at right around the 100-mile mark.
Overall, fit and finish is better on the Harley, where the few degrading items (cheap footpegs and kickstand, clumped-together cables) are forgiven by some super-cool details like the pop-up oil-filler cap. The Star also has some unique details, along with a few eyesores, like the plastic extension on the rear fender. Both bikes are ripe for customization, and well-supported by their manufacturers’ accessory divisions, although for sheer volume of aftermarket support, the Harley can’t be beat
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