89 Harley Sportster 883?

Ok, where to begin? So I've been into riding for the past 5 years or so and I absolutely love it. There's nothing quite like running down a mountain at 70 mph, leaning around curves, and tearing up the straights. My first bike was an '04 Kawasaki Ninja 650, and I quickly got over the crotch rocket phase and into cruisers. Right now, I'm on an '03 Suzuki Intruder (Boulevard) 805 and I love it.

Anyway, today I picked up an '89 Harley 883 for $1000 from the original owner. He wasn't sure how many miles were on it, but he said it was VERY low. It's been sitting in a shed out by his garage for 11 years. I figured I couldn't go wrong for $1000 so in a few days I'm driving down to New Jersey to pick it up.

I have big plans for this bike, but not only is this my first Harley, this is my first build bike. I don't know a whole awful lot about working on these bikes (but I'm very adept in car repair, so I figure it can't be THAT much different right?) but the first thing I'm going to do is pull the engine and replace all the gaskets and the carb. I'm also planning on doing a port and polish while I have the engine torn down and I'd like to put a much bigger carb than stock on there. So my first question is, do they sell different sized carbs for bikes, like they do for cars? i.e. can I put a 4 barrel carb on my bike?

I'm also planning on (eventually) boring the bike out to a 1200, but I thought it might be easier just to buy a brand new 1200 crate engine and drop in there. Would I have room on the 883's frame for that? And I assume I would have to fabricate some new motor mounts to be able to do this?

Another thing I'm really wanting to do is push the rake of the forks out just a little bit. I don't like the real long rakes of the choppers, but the rake on this bike is entirely too short. Am I going to need new forks to do this? I don't really know how to go about this part of the build lol.

And the last but not least, what are my options on changing the gauges on the bike? I hate the way the little single gauge looks, and want to do something with it. I like how on my intruder, it's mounted on the gas tank. I'm not sold on that, but I would still like to know what my options are with changing the gauges on this one.

Like I said, this is my first project bike and I'm sure you'll see many more questions from me on here, but I'm determined to do this myself, and I want to do it right. If anyone would want to get involved on this build with me, either by email or even if you lived close enough to come and help in the shop sometime shoot me an email at fsatatkid@hotmail.com. Thanks for reading this, I know it's been kind of a pain >_>.

12 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Sounds like you got a good deal. Not much changed from the 1989 model all the way up to the 2003 version. The main changes where updates to the electrical system, different primary cover on the left side of the engine, a change from chain drive to belt, and somewhere along the line Harley switched to the user friendly Keihin CV carb. Needless to say a lot of parts from up to 2003 will fit your bike.

    It's getting late in my neck of the woods so I will touch real quickly on a couple items. If this question is still open in the morning I will add some more to it.

    1.) 1200 conversion - it's so easy it's almsot funny. The quickest way to do it is remove cylinder heads, machine the 883 juggs to fit 1200 pistons (there is more then enough metal in the juggs to handle this), put 1200 pistons on along with the bored out cylinders, and replace heads. This can all be done with the engine in the frame too. No need to remove engine.

    2.) If you really want power they sell a stroker kit that will bump a Sportster engine up to 88 cubic inches (1450 cc's).

    3.) If you want a little more kick out of the front forks they make aftermarket chopper frames that have the proper engine mounts to work with Sportster engines. The one I like the most is a Softail frame for use with the Sportster engine.

    4.) As far as gauges go Harley used to sell a tach upgrade kit that used the stock speedo in a side by side setup that mounted above the handlebar clamps. Don't know if they still sell it or not. There are also many aftermarket gauges made for bikes out there too.

    5.) Check out http://www.sportster.org/ as you will find all the info you ever dreamed of there.

    Source(s): Ex Harley and custom chopper mechanic that used to own a 2002 883 Sportster that I converted to 1200.
  • 1 decade ago

    You got a great deal on the bike for $1000. As long as it runs that is.

    From reading your post you failed to mention what kind of budget your working with, which is the most important thing to consider when answering your questions.

    Plan on spending about another $1000 to convert it to a 1200, which I recommend doing while you have the engine apart.

    The bike your getting is a 4 speed model with a chain drive, not 100% about a chain or belt on a 89,

    I have a 86 which is basically the same thing your getting, its been a great bike and loads of fun and it runs great.

    I just converted mine from a 883 to a 1200 and I hot rodded the engine beyond stock, bigger cams, adjustable stainless steel pushrods, Jims Hydro solid tappets (lifters in car talk) new gasket set, new big valve heads, it wasn't cheap but it sure runs great now.

    You are best off not putting a giant carb on the engine, even converted to a 1200 the biggest you need is a S&S Shortie E or a 42 Mikuni Carb, depending on your cams, heads and exhaust will dictate your jetting requirements.

    DO NOT RUN DRAG PIPES, they are for the drag strip and only make good power in the very upper rpm range and are useless for the street for making power.

    Get a Factory header pipe with a crossover and install a set of Slip on mufflers, Cycle Shack is the best bang for the buck on that.

    You can buy a different triple tree with more rake already built in and just reuse your forks, just don't get too crazy or the bike will handle like crap.

    Remember the Sportster is a Bare Bones, Spartian Harley Davidson version of a Sport Bike.

    It can be made into a Cruiser or a Cafe Racer, depending on what type of look and riding your planning on doing.

    As far as gauges go the sky and your wallet is the limit, anything from triple tree mounted mini gauges to a new fat bob tank with the speedo or tach mounted on the tank is possible.

    If your going to spend money on something like this I would suggest upgrading the suspension first thing, do a Progressive front fork spring upgrade and then buy the best progressive shocks you can afford for the rear.

    It's common knowledge among Sportster owners that almost all the Sportsters fork springs and rear shocks are cheap junk and should be replaced right away, you'll notice this too since you have some Sport bike riding under your belt already.

    I'm not trying to discourage you from getting this bike and doing tons of mods, but in this market you'd be better off just riding this bike as is and then reselling it after you've had some fun on it and buying a newer 1200 model with a 5-speed trans. 91 up is a 5 speed gearbox.

    If you do much to the bike your going to spend as much, if not more than you would buying a 91 up model 1200 5-speed model, ask me how I know...lol.

  • Mark B
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    I'll hit your points as they were presented.

    1. For $1,000, you're right. It will be tough to go wrong. Just make sure that he has the title in order.

    2. The stock carb will handle anything that a sportster engine can do short of a monster build. You'll just be wasting your $$.

    3. If you have the top end apart, go ahead and do the 1200 upgrade. the 883 and 1200 motors are identical except for the cylinder bore. You can get the stock cylinders bored and pretty much get by for the cost of new pistons and gaskets.

    4. The only safe way to rake the front end is to cut and rake the frame. Raked forks are not safe as the mess w/ the trail. There is one lit out there that modifies the tree pivot point with a bolt on kit but the URL escapes me at the moment. Can't say I'm a fan of the look of it anyhow.

    5. There are a bunch of gauge options. You can get a new tank that has the gauge mounted there or there are many different handlebar mounts. Try www.denniskirk.com for some ideas.

    If you're planning on doing a lot of the work yourself, drop the $50 or so and get a factory service manual. It will pay for itself.

  • 1 decade ago

    you can increase the cc of the 883 simply by changing the barrells and pistons to those of the 1200. the modified engine will fit straight into the frame. You might consider the injected engine from a BUELL 1200 as they are fuel injected and twice the horse power. As to carbs exhausts and other ancillaries there are so many out there. It isn't really worth fitting a four barrell holley carb to a twin cylinder engine , though the venerable twin choke webber sidedraughts a good choice. jetting is going to be a serious problem , but i'm sure you can work that out. Another mod is to fit two front cylinders and heads, replacing the rear cylinder etc with another front. This changes the position of the exhaust port of the rear cylinder to the centre of the engine and makes matching the exhaust lengths so much easiser but means two seperate single side draught carbs or single point injection.

    Leave the gearbox well alone if it works don't touch it. and there are no real mods. consider changing the belt drive to a chain but otherwise leave well alone again it works.

    To adjust the rake you have four possibilities:-

    1 cut the frame ( chop). If you've never done this DON'T! you'll wreck the bike at the least and could kill yourself if you are not a competant welder.

    2 Buy or machine raked triple tree's this rakes the forks without changing the frame or modifying the forks you already have, it is the cheapest method, though the effect on handling is marginal it does effect the bikes slow speed handling.so feet down in car parks OK!

    3 Springer or leading link forks. This rakes the wheel without modifying the frame or changing the triple tree's. This gives an overall cosmetic result too and nothing beats the look of an open spring or leading link front fork set up.

    4 Buy a frame already raked and stretched, or get a pro builder to do yours. if you do, get them to reccomend the fork length you are to use or your front wheel wont touch the ground and your engine will be scraping the tarmac.

    with regards to the gauge there are a number of electronic set ups out there that are multi functional and combine more features that you need.

    Remember with a self build LESS is MORE the less you add the more hard core the bike looks the more presence the bike has the more detail you need to make it look good.

    Start with frame forks wheels brakes engine bars and oil bag; add a tank and try to stop at that: add lights to get it legal and grind off every unused bracket or mount or spare bit of metal that isn't needed polish the alloy and avoid chrome!!!!

    Good luck.

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  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    This Site Might Help You.


    89 Harley Sportster 883?

    Ok, where to begin? So I've been into riding for the past 5 years or so and I absolutely love it. There's nothing quite like running down a mountain at 70 mph, leaning around curves, and tearing up the straights. My first bike was an '04 Kawasaki Ninja 650, and I quickly got over the...

    Source(s): 89 harley sportster 883: https://shortly.im/aVhvJ
  • 1 decade ago

    I've wrenched on just about any kind of mechanical instrument you can think of and I've found there's truth to the adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." In your case, that applies to the part about tearing things down and replacing gaskets. If they aren't leaking, then leave them alone unless a mating part is being removed. Rubber seals like those around the shifter shaft may leak but then again may not.

    I suggest you first get it going and run it. You may find it does everything you expect of it and there's little need to sock a lot of work and money into it. If it doesn't, then you can go to making changes. First off, the most sure fire way to gain friendly, usable horsepower is with extra displacement. By friendly I mean low and midrange power and not something that doesn't arrive until the redline or leaves your engine weak as a kitten at low rpms. That's what radical grind cams and exhausts give you. Port and polish jobs are beautiful to look at and great to brag about, but any extra power will be minimal and at higher rpms.

    Too big of a carb will only run decently at large throttle openings and high rpms. In town driving will be unpleasant at best.

    It sounds like you got a great deal and there's a lot of personal satisfaction gained in bringing a bike or car back to life, especially when you do the work yourself. Good luck and enjoy the process.

  • 1 decade ago

    You probably know this, but it's worth mentioning:

    Since it's been sitting for 11 years, don't turn the engine over until you change the oil. Also drain the fuel tank and check for rust. Install an in-line fuel filter. Replace wheel bearings and stem bearings.

  • 1 decade ago

    I agree with bikinkawboy on the get it running first point of view.

    Upgrade to 1200cc is a bolt-on proposition.

    Get it running and take it for a spin before you get dead set on changing the rake. It has a short rake on puropse, and change will affect handling - you may not care for it, especially after your sport bike experience. For a tweak to the rake, there are "raked fork cups" available. Basically, they shift the bearings to increase the rake a few degrees.

    I think this is the kit that Mark refers to: http://www.chopper-kit-usa.com/

    For more ideas - both on parts available and what you could do, these are handy:http://www.jpcycles.com/


    I'm a firm believer in manuals. I would suggest one as the first thing to buy.

  • 1 decade ago

    32 years ago I was into wrenching and creating a custom bike. Now I'm in my crotch rocket stage.

    Upon leaving my wrenching stage I had learned that there is something really special about a totally stock bike. And I noticed that the vast majority of customized bikes were nothing but rat bikes. That wrenching was too much like work, and a more expensive hobby than riding.

    To each his own, some guys are more into wrenching, nothing wrong with that, but know what you are getting into. A bike that needs fixing can be a real tar baby and money pit, and a nice bike after thousands of dollars of customization can really look like crap. And a sportster with tons of customization is still just a generic sportster and one of the slowest bikes on the road.

  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    For the best answers, search on this site https://shorturl.im/avoWt

    What work on it did you do? Was there power before you worked on it? Is the new battery charged? With more information someone may be able to help. When all else fails take it to a shop.

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