Dark Custom 883

This page is dedicated to my ride; a 2011 Harely-Davidson “Dark Custom” Iron-883 Sportster.

Drove it off the lot on May 5th, 2011, with dealer installed custom pipes and intake.  Also had them order the down-facing mirrors from the Fourty-Eight, but opted to do the labor on that myself when I got home.  Pictured below is the bike, only hours old from the Central Texas Harley dealership:

2011 Dark Iron 883

The Iron Ronin


Vance & Hines "Short Shot" Custom Pipes

V&H Shortshots

The pipes are the Vance & Hines “Shortshots” staggered exhaust system. 1-3/4″ pipes all the way through with blacked out heat shields to match the bike styling. The sound is everything I imagined they would be.  When they cranked it at the dealership, some people nearby actually flinched. I had a grin from ear to ear.

This was the major upgrade I didn’t really want to deal with down the road. I took the advice of many a person who said to get the pipes negotiated and installed at the point of sale to save a ton of money, so I went for it.


Screamin' Eagle Stage 1

Stage 1

To balance out the exhaust, I also went ahead and opened up the nostrils by having the Screamin’ Eagle Stage 1 kit put on as well, which then let them do the mapping  with everything in place.

The final mod, I did myself.  The first picture above shows the stock mirrors. Changing them out to the flipped versions was a snap; although at first I was worried because I thought I was going to have to move and remount the front blinkers. If you look closely in the picture above, you can see the nut that secures the stock mirrors right above the damn blinker.

Thankfully, the blinkers are held in place by a swivel assembly at the base, so making room just meant having to camber the lights in a bit, still allowing them to be forward-facing. I love them. I don’t know why more bikes don’t have ’em. Maybe it’s just my frame, but sitting on a bike my shoulder span literally occludes 50-75% of the standard upper mirrors.  Now, with them mounted under the bar, the field of vision is lowered to armpit-waist level, with almost zero obstruction and a perfect field of view.

For now, the rest of my “round 1” mods will consist of nickel-dime extras I can do myself – I’ll likely upgrade the seat so that my fiancée can ride with me, I definitely need a saddle bag as the backpack thing is already getting old, and there’s still a few cosmetic black-out features I’d like to add (fuel cap, timing cover, derby cover).

Round two will likely consist of some potential upgrades to the headlight (stock one isn’t as beefy as I’d like it to be), maybe some custom artwork on the tank.

Long term, I’m excited to know that this bike can be bored out to 1200cc; although for now this bike is plenty of power for me at still a novice rider.  The thing I can say is that this bike weighs almost nothing, so I can’t quite fathom what going from 883 to 1200 is going to feel like on this frame.


Dark Custom #1 Derby Cover

#1 Derby Cover

The folks at the dealership had given me a $150 gift card for a delay in getting my bike ready, so today I went ahead and picked up a shirt and my first cosmetic upgrade, a Dark Custom #1 Derby Cover (pictured left).

I’m a little upset at the H-D parts guy, I asked him if it was a purely cosmetic badge that I could switch out myself, he said “yeah sure”.   When I got around to doing the work tonight, I learned a few things…

First lesson I learned is that I had to get a larger alen wrench set because the foot peg assembly blocks access to the last cover screw, and it’s secured in place by allen bolts the size of my face.

Second lesson I learned from the cover instructions that indicated I was supposed to have gotten some locktite for putting it on, which seemed kinda odd to me until…

Third lesson I learned is that the cover is not just cosmetic and is how you access the freaking transmission – and I had the bike leaned on the stand so as soon as I got the last screw loose it started drippin’ transmission fluid.  Gawdamnit.

That prompted me to go back to my owners manual (that I guess I should have read through in the first place, so I’ll take the heat on that) where I found out that I should have had the bike upright when dicking with the cover to prevent it from leaking.

So, lessons learned – pretend as though nothing is cosmetic and research first.


Pony Express Saddle Bags

The saddle bags are in and on the horse! Pete Jackson over at  XL1200.com makes custom fitted “Pony Express” bags for the Harley Sportster.  Check out how low profile they look in the pictures! One of the things I was dreading about putting bags on the bike was the “big ass” the traditional rear setups make, but these are designed to utilize the otherwise empty mid-frame.  I think they look perfect on the bike, especially with the already blacked-out motif.

The mounting is secure and there’s plenty of room for my optional riding gear, and while it’s not quite tall enough to house my laptop, there’s plenty of room to fit an iPad or other tablets/netbooks.  Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the craftsmanship and styling, and would absolutely recommend a set to anyone in the market for ’em!

Thanks Pete!


The Dark Custom is retired. I committed what some might call blaspheme and traded it in for a new Kawasaki ZX-6R. Several factors went into this decision, but the top reason was the sheer preference for the technology and the feel of riding a sport bike.  I’m still young (enough) to enjoy the sportier ride and realized I have plenty of time later to grow into appreciating a cruiser like this.  
One thing I explain to people is how little exposure one gets to sport bikes during the natural process of getting into motorcycles in general.  The bike classes you take only sit you on cruisers.  Almost no dealerships will let you demo ride sport bikes – and unless you just happen to have a friend who owns one AND is willing to risk let you on it with no experience, you simply just don’t know.
I had a couple of friends with them, and I’m sure they would have been cool enough to let me ride it, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask for risk of damaging their property.  So for me, this change came when we upgraded my fiancee’s bike to a Ninja 250.  And while the bike was hers, title and all, I was willing to take the risk seeing as how it was our insurance policy covering it.  After just a week of borrowing it here and there to zip around town – I was hooked – even with the smaller engine I couldn’t shake the burning desire to own a machine like it.
Still, it’s with fond feelings that I bid adieu to the Dark Iron. It’s a different feeling being on a machine like that with so much heritage – a completely different demeanor that I will look back on fondly.