2018 Harley-Davidson Iron 1200 review, test ride

Harley-Davidson has launched two new motorcycles in its Sportster line-up for 2018 and we’ve just ridden both of them. You can read all about the new Forty-Eight Special here or you can keep reading to find out more about the Iron 1200.

What is it?

The Iron 883 is one of Harley’s most popular bikes in its Sportster line-up, the world over. However, Harley says it gets one consistent request from its customers – to offer a 1200cc version of the same bike. So that’s essentially what it did. The bike you’re looking at here is essentially an Iron 883, but fitted with the larger 1,202cc v-twin engine.

The Iron 1200 uses the same chassis and suspension set-up as the smaller Iron 883. Given that the jump from 883cc to 1,202cc comes through a change in bore, the weight increase is negligible; in fact Harley quotes the same kerb weight for both bikes.

Identification marks

Harley has given the Iron 1200 slightly different clothes to help it stand out. The big visual change is the new cowl around the headlight that the company says is inspired by the West Coast style of custom bike building. The Iron also gets a tall handlebar that Harley calls the mini-ape bar. This bar brings the hands up to a similar height as on the Forty-Eight but it tapers back towards the rider, meaning you don’t have to lean so far forward. This results in a more comfortable position – and one that shorter riders will probably prefer. The 1200 gets a differently styled solo seat and the engine receives a blacked-out treatment. Finally, the fuel tank gets its own style of those charming 70s-inspired graphics that are also seen on the Forty-Eight Special.

Ride vibes

If you know the Iron 883, two things will stand out on the Iron 1200. First is the obvious surge of torque. Harley claims an additional 36 percent of torque over the smaller bike and its peak torque figure of 97Nm is the same as the Forty-Eight Special. Secondly, the new handlebar puts the rider in a more laid back, cruiser-style riding position but the foot pegs remain in the same mid-position setting as the Forty-Eight. Given the new handlebar attitude, I’d have preferred the forward-set pegs instead and I suspect this is a mod that many customers will make.

Beyond this, the riding experience on the Iron 1200 is typically Sportster. The frame and its slim fuel tank feel incredibly skinny between the legs; and your right knee will sit squarely on the air filter. The big air-cooled twin is a torque fest, but it all comes with plenty of chugging and low frequency vibrations. I can’t think of a more analogue-feeling motorcycle and you can clearly hear and feel the engine chugging and clattering away beneath you. Everything about the Iron screams old school, including the heavy clutch pull. While this will certainly appeal to Harley purists, the Sportster range could do with a sweeping update similar to what the Softails recently benefited from.

The cruising sweet spot on this bike is between 80-100kph, but if you whack the throttle open the bike will surge convincingly to 160kph and beyond. Handling manners are well-judged with a stable and planted feel but the Iron 1200’s suspension does feel a little basic, when compared with the Forty-Eight. It runs out of cornering clearance very quickly, too – you could even scrape the pegs when going around a roundabout at speed. Meanwhile, the braking performance is adequate and ABS keeps things safe.

India intentions

Harley-Davidson suggests that one of these new Sportsters will make it to our market by the festive season and it will reveal which one, closer to its release date. If it’s the Iron 1200, this bike will become the most affordable entry point in the 1,200cc Sportster range. You could expect a price tag that is under Rs 10 lakh.