How to Make the XL 883 Harley-Davidson Faster

Written by tracy underwood
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How to Make the XL 883 Harley-Davidson Faster
(Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

The Harley-Davidson XL 883 Sportster is a fun, easy bike to ride, as well as a good commuter with high gas mileage. But sooner or later, the owner gets that itch for more speed. After all, the Sportster was Harley's original hot rod bike; even now, the fastest bike H-D makes is a Sportster. The XL 883 is no Hayabusa and never will be, but both Harley and the aftermarket produce products that can really wake up the Sportster.

Skill level:
Challenging

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Things you need

  • Low-restriction air cleaner
  • Low-restriction exhaust system
  • Carburettor re-jet kit
  • High-performance ignition module
  • High-performance cam kit
  • 1200 cylinders, pistons and rings

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Instructions

    Basic Performance Upgrade

  1. 1

    Install a low-restriction air cleaner. The original air cleaner doesn't breathe as well as it could, but Harley-Davidson sells a Screamin' Eagle filter kit that flows quite well, and aftermarket manufacturers also produce good filters.

  2. 2

    Install a low-restriction exhaust system. You will probably want to do this anyway, because the factory system just doesn't let much of that classic Harley sound through. The low-budget option here is a set of Screamin' Eagle slip-in mufflers. They are engineered to lower exhaust backpressure when used with the original pipes.

  3. 3

    Re-jet the carburettor. This is a must when you install air cleaners and exhaust systems; otherwise, the increased flow will result in a lean burn condition, which is bad for engine longevity. Harley sells a re-jet kit that includes all the parts and instructions for doing this.

    Intermediate Upgrade

  1. 1

    Install a high-performance ignition module. The factory module works fine for general riding, but high-performance modules have adjustable advance curves that allow you to maximise the power of your particular set-up. Here again, Harley-Davidson sells a Screamin' Eagle module. Crane also sells a Hi-4 ignition module for the Sportster.

  2. 2

    Replace the stock ignition coils with high-performance coils for greater spark energy. This ensures a more complete burn of the intake charge.

  3. 3

    Replace the stock cams with a high-performance set. Andrews is the top name here, with N-2 or N-3 cams for increased torque at all engine speeds, or N-4 cams for higher-speed performance.

    Upgrade to 1200

  1. 1

    Remove the heads, pistons and cylinders.

  2. 2

    Install 1200 pistons, cylinders and rings. These are available from Harley-Davidson, as well as aftermarket suppliers. This installation converts your 883 into a 1200.

  3. 3

    Replace the heads. You can either reuse the 883 heads on your new 1200 cylinders, or upgrade to large-valve Sportster 1200, Buell or aftermarket heads.

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