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  #1  
Old 7th August 2008
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Default Ironhead vs Evo - Owners views??

Hi all,
I see there are a few people on here who own both an old Ironhead and a relatively new Evo Sportster.

I am wondering if some of you who have ridden their Ironhead a good bit, and their Evo, can tell me how the Evo compares performance-wise with the Ironhead, especially the 70s 1000cc models?

Obviously the Evo is going to be a newer, more reliable bike. But from the point of view of those who have actually ridden both extensively, how does acceleration, top speed, cruising, braking and handling compare between the two?

The reason I ask is that having owned an Ironhead for years and recently gotten back into riding it, I have test ridden a couple of new Evo Sportys and they dont feel as fast/quick as the old one and the brakes don't really seem much better, neither does the suspension. But it is hard to tell from a quick ride around the block on a new bike with standard pipes etc.

I tried looking up stock Evo Sporty horsepower and performance on the net, but there is not much I could find, and a lot is contradictory.
Apparently, the 90s Evo Sportsters made 50hp. That is 10hp less than my old Ironhead's claimed output. Can that be right?

Also, some posted figures show 110 mph as the Evo top speed, compared with at least 115 (more if you read some posts in the IH section!!) for the Ironhead. Not sure about 1/4 mile comparative figures.

I am genuinely curious to see what those who regularly ride both models and really know them have to say about how they compare.
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Old 8th August 2008
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I've only ridden a few of Ironheads in my life, over 20 years ago at that, so some of what I beleive is based on road tests and stories from buddies who owned Sporties back in the 70's. If you look at acceleration times in road tests, the ironheads, particularly the XLCH's are somewhat faster than a stock Evo. They didn't have as strict emissions and noise laws in those days, so a lot of "paying the tax" is just getting the bike back to flowing more fuel/air mixture. The road tests of the first 883 Evo's showed they were slightly slower than the 1000cc Ironhead they replaced. I would imagine that acceleration times of a stage 1 Evo and an Ironhead to be pretty close. Something like a rubber mount 1200R should outrun any iron head that is fairly stock.

As for the suspension and brakes, those parts on the Evo's are similar to what one would find on the later day ironheads, so you probably wouldn't notice much. But compared to something like a "69" XLCH, the new bike would have an advantage as far as brakes and suspension. The 58 I rode had awful brakes, but I only rode it around the block (try riding a bike with an ignition advance on the right grip), and I wasn't going to ride it hard.

In addition to the 58, I've also ridden a 1972, (a buddy owned it, and I got to ride it a lot more than the other two) and an early 80's bike at a dealership when they had a promotion that you could buy a Sporty for $3995 and get that much back if you traded it in on a big twin. (I didn't buy the bike, with hindsight, I should have.) The later bike, If I remember correctly, seemed to have a little more grunt compared to my 2003 83 Stage one. But we're not talking night and day differences. The shifter took more effort and one had to be a lot more deliberate than the modern bike.

I can tell you that it was a little more raw and mechanical. It made a lot more noise and seemed much more like a performance machine than my current bike. It had a mechanical charm to it that the new bikes have had refined out of them.

But the reality is that the bikes are more alike than different. In day to day riding they both have the same wide and flat torque curve, and make similar noises. The Iron head seemed to have a more explosive nature to the power curve, with the Evo being a little more even, but that might just be a subjective impression.

And that's really the point. Does it realy matter that one bike is .5 seconds faster to 100mph than another? You can't really feel this small a difference. But, if given two bikes that can accelerate at the same rate, one feels faster and is more fun to ride, I'd take that one.

As far as horsepower goes, I think that the Ironheads probably did make more power than the first 883's. Ten more seems a bit far fetched, as it was only marginally faster than the 883 that replaced it. Manufacturers were known to fudge horsepower in those days, as well as furnish "ringers" (with ported heads, etc) to the bike mags for testing.

The newer bikes are smoother, more reliable, and more mechanically refined overall. The old ones have a more raw feel. Myself, I'd go with the one you find more fun to ride, unless the newer bikes refinement is what you're looking for.
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Old 8th August 2008
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Hey thanks for that.
Kind of hit the Ironhead nail right on the head with QUOTE: you can tell you that it was a little more raw and mechanical. It made a lot more noise and seemed much more like a performance machine than my current bike. It had a mechanical charm to it that the new bikes have had refined out of them.UNQUOTE
That is it for sure. I love my Ironhead but that is it to a tee.

Yes I would be looking for a bit more refinement in a new bike so just would love to have a new, more useable Sporty, but would really expect way more performance, better brakes and better handling than a 30-year-old vintage.
Although, I think the fifth gear would make the Evo a very different machine. The Ironhead just feels so busy and close to self destruction at 3000rpm at 60mph, whereas the Evos seem to chug along more like a big twin at road speed.

Hmm, but then there are the Buells and XR1200s. Ooh, this could turn out to be an expensive little line of thought...
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Old 8th August 2008
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Hopper, I don't have enough IH time to give you a comparison - I helped rebuild one with a friend and took some spins around the block on it a good decade ago, so that doesn't count.

However, I can comment on a couple of EVO points...


Quote:
Originally Posted by Fauxsuper View Post

As for the suspension and brakes, those parts on the Evo's are similar to what one would find on the later day ironheads, so you probably wouldn't notice much.
I'm really surprised that you say that - considering you have one of the late EVOs with the 4-pot front brakes. I would have thought the brakes were MUCH different (i.e. better) than what you'd find on an 86-99 EVO or an IH.

The brakes on the rubbermounts are actually decent - just not at the level of the Brembos I have on my Euro bikes.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Hopper View Post
Although, I think the fifth gear would make the Evo a very different machine. The Ironhead just feels so busy and close to self destruction at 3000rpm at 60mph, whereas the Evos seem to chug along more like a big twin at road speed.
BINGO - I personally find that the EVO seems to allow more comfort/rpm? If that makes any sense?

I tend to keep my EVO's in the 3-4k range - on the highway 3500 rpm is just chugging along, and with the gearing on the rubber 12's that puts you in the 70+ mph range... I don't shift into 5th until 65 at the EARLIEST - and 70-80 mph all day long is nothing...

Kev
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Old 8th August 2008
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Quote:
I am wondering if some of you who have ridden their Ironhead a good bit, and their Evo, can tell me how the Evo compares performance-wise with the Ironhead, especially the 70s 1000cc models?
I've had a 1972 and 1973 Sporty. Now I own a 2007 1200. The improvements in the last 35 years make it a much better scoot. Way more power and better brakes.
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Old 8th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kev M View Post


I'm really surprised that you say that - considering you have one of the late EVOs with the 4-pot front brakes. I would have thought the brakes were MUCH different (i.e. better) than what you'd find on an 86-99 EVO or an IH.

The brakes on the rubbermounts are actually decent - just not at the level of the Brembos I have on my Euro bikes.

Kev
I guess it's a matter of degree. My perspective goes back to the days of drum brakes. I probably should have qualified my statements about brakes. I never have ridden a Sportster other than the one I own in a "sporting" manner or had a situation where I had to do a panic stop. The brakes on my Sportster are OK, but that's about it. In day to day operation, I don't think about their limitations much. (The one rubber mount I've ridden made me think I should give some thought to improving the brakes, but like punching the bike out to a 1200, is something I'm not motivated enough to change,just yet.) When I'm riding in the twisties, I'm not really stressing the brakes a lot most of the time. For someone who's riding style pushes the bike's limits and often brakes hard the differences between various eras would be more apparent.

I do think back to back evaluations would uncover more differences between the eras, particularly if one were to push the edges of performance or distance.
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Old 8th August 2008
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I've owned an Ironhead for the last 18 years, an '83 XLX. It's one of the more modern Ironheads, same chassis the early EVO used. Admittedly, mine has what could be called stage1+ mods, but compared to the stock solid-mount 883's I've ridden, it's much more powerful. I've also ridden a stock solid mount 1200, and even it felt a little less powerful than mine. I've not ridden any rubbermounts, so no comparo there. The character of my XLX and the solid mount EVOs I've ridden is very similar, though. The main difference is, mine sounds like it's coming apart , and the EVOs sound a lot less "busy".
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Old 8th August 2008
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One thing I do find odd about the rubbermount brakes is that they have lousy feedback.

I THINK they FEEL like they are weaker than they are.

The only quantifying data I have seems to show that the cheap bastards at the factory cost us something when they went to the new Nissin 2-pots (for a $10/unit savings over the 4-pots that you have on your bike). But I'm a little suspect of the data (I'm talking about MCN's test summaries - I just surveyed a hundred or so bikes and their 05 883L put worse than average numbers down in the 60-0 braking test, the worst of all Harleys tested - comparing it to other sportys/Harleys showed:

96 1200S (before the 4-pots, dual disc) 110 ft.
03 1200C (4-pots, single disc) 123.7 ft.
05 883L (2-pot nissin, single disc) 134 ft.

also

98 FXDX (duals) 118 ft.
99 FLHR (duals) 122 ft.
01 Vrod (4-pot brembos) 109 ft.

But then there is data that makes me suspicious

05 StreetRod (6-pot brembos) 127.9 <--- no way - not if they got 109 out of an 01 Vrod

05 Thruxton 134 <---- no way if they got 115 out of an 01 Bonnie

Still of all the bikes on the MCN list I'm checking - MOST are in the 110's or 120's with a few from each manufacturer in the 130s... actually there are two big BMWs in the 140s (yikes).

So I think we can't just go by data, but it suggests the Sporty's brakes did indeed loose some bite between 03 and 04 as we've been told and I've suspected.

Anyway, back to the rubbermount Sporty.

What I personally find is that it stops pretty well when you hammer on it, but it takes more lever effort than it should AND you're worried the whole time because you just can't tell if it's approaching lockup or not, it feels like a brick. I can still 2-finger it pretty much, but not as well or as easily as I can with my Guzzis (FYI, they didn't have MCN numbers for either of my current Guzzis, but a related 97 California put down only a 124 - I would have expected better).

Kev
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Old 8th August 2008
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I've read lots of articals about my 90 Evo, and claimed HP at the rear wheel was about 55, and 65 at the motor. I've read the 04 and up have about 62 wheel and about 72 motor. Now according to Buzz Buzelli in his book the IH 1000 put about 45 HP to wheel.

My question is were there any IHs that ran in the 12s from the factory. I remember back in the late 90s Motorcyclist used to post the Qtr mile times in the back of the mag and I remember seeing the Sportster running low 12s, course this is with them running it???

BTW my buddy Phil still has his 75 IH with the stock exhaust and it sounds alot louder and less restrictive them my old stock exhaust sounded. So they were drfinitly less restrictive.
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Old 8th August 2008
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Here are some interesting numbers:

October 1962 Cycle World 1963 XLCH Sportster:


1/4 mi. 14.3 @ 92 MPH

Top speed 122 MPH

0-60 MPH 6.0 sec.

January 1968 Cycle XLH Sportster 883

1/4 mi. 14.3 @ 91 MPH

Top speed 112 MPH

0-60 MPH 6.2 sec.

December 1968 Cycle 1969 XLCH Sportster

1/4 mi. 13.65 @ 97.29 MPH

Top speed 116 MPH

0-60 mph 5.9 SEC.

May 1977 Cycle World XLCR 1000

1/4 mi. 13.08 @ 99.66 MPH

Top speed 106 MPH

April 1983 Motorcyclist 1983 XR 1000

1/4 mi. 12.77 @ 102 MPH

August 1988 Cycle World XL Sportster 883

1/4 mi. 14.40 @ 92.49 MPH

Top speed 109 MPH

January 1996 Motorcyclist Sportster XL1200S

1/4 mi. 14.14 @ 92.7 MPH

Corrected best 1/4 mi. acceleration

1/4 mi. 13.80 @ 94.7 MPH

Top speed 119 MPH

October 2003 Cycle World 2004 Sportster XLR 1200

1/4 mi. 13.25 @ 99.36 MPH

Top speed 117 MPH

0-60 MPH 4.5 sec.

I think the new XR1200 is in the mid 12's and around 105 in the 1/4 mile.

Somewhere, five years or so ago, I read that a Stage 1 883 would turn high 13's at around 95 or so.

Individual bikes will vary somewhat, and none of this is what you'd call scientific, different riders different strips, temperatures, etc. I think the speed figures are more telling than ET as for what the bike will actually feel like, as rider technique and available traction can have more effect on ET than trap speed.

Subjectively, who knows? I'll bet the old bikes feel faster. My 2006 Ford F-150 will probably outperform my old 65 289-4-speed Mustang in any measurable way, but it doesn't encourage me to drive it fast, it's just not any fun to do so. A new Toyota Corolla will run away and hide from something like a 70's Triumph TR-6 (A car, not a bike), but I'll bet the TR feels like it's going faster.
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