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Difference Between 883 and 1200 Sportster

The Harley Davidson Sportster is a popular choice among Harley Davidson fans. You can get an 883 Sportster or a 1200 Sportster. The only difference between the 883 and 1200 Sportster is their emblems that indicate which model they are. The 883 and 1200 Sportster are actually built with the same exact parts and there is no way you can tell just by looking if a model is an 883 or a 1200 aside from the emblem.

The only difference between the 883 and 1200 Sportster is the displacement of the engine. As we all know, a higher displacement engine produces more power as it imparts larger amounts of torque to the crankshaft via the pistons with each combustion cycle. The engines of the 883 and 1200 Sportster are no different in size if you looked at it outside. It simply has larger bores; approximately 3.5 inches to the approximate 3 inch bore of the 883. Simply put, the 1200 Sportster engine has a bit more material and weighs slightly more than the 883 engine; the difference in weight is too small though to make a significant effect on performance.

If you have an 883 Sportster and you want to turn it into a 1200 Sportster, some shops are able to do it for a price. The process is quite intensive and requires the disassembly of the engine. It is then re-bored to increase the displacement and the pistons are then replaced to match the new bores. Other aspects and parts of the engine are then tuned to match the modifications of to the bore, and the end result is an engine that is very similar to a 1200 Sportster with a matching performance increase.

Although you can upgrade an 883 to match the 1200 Sportster, it involves a lot of work and the end result greatly depends on the work quality of the one who did the work. Needless to say, it also voids any warranty you have with your Sportster.


The emblems are the only telling difference between the 883  Sportster and the 1200 Sportster

The 1200 Sportster has greater displacement than the 883 Sportster

The 1200 Sportster has a greater bore than the 883 Sportster

The 1200 Sportster engine is slightly lighter than the 883 Sportster engine

The 883 Sportster can be upgraded to equal a 1200 Sportster

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  1. No discernible difference. They’re both shiny tractors. Pieces of polished poo.

    • Tim, maybe you can tell me why some put down the sportster? Is it just the size of the bike that makes some harley owners speak poorly of them, or is there a real issue with sportsters and how they’re made?

      • I used to wonder why people put down sportsters,, call the 883 a girls bike….. Before I got my Iron Head I had a Suzuki ,, 750.. Nice quiet ,, 6 gears ,, light,, all I heard about Harleys is that they sucked….. For starters my Iron Head was a 1000, the guy I got it from put in a 1989 evo, 4 gears,, and had the step one conversion done… I litterly fell off the back of my Harley,,, I did knot expect the raw power….The only people who diss Harleys are the ones that don’t have one…. Honda, Duc, Triumph, you name it, maybe the exception of Victory…. Every one of my friends who have a non Harley, are always looking to get the newest of the current model they have…. A Harley , you never ride it factory, you personalize your Harley… Its a relationship… and for all of those who say they are slow, a tricked to the max 883,, pref 86 to 89, all aluminum ,,, 4 gears,, will take almost anything in a quarter mile. I live in nyc, Some dude on his jigzer ,, a bike that can hit 170. Revd me into going light to light… I thought he was playing around ,, waiting for the launch… it never happened.. I took him by 2 to 3 car lenths about 5 blocks in a row….now on the open road sure ,, im done… At the same time when on the open road , I have my legs stretched out,, and do what my bike was made to do cruze,, enjoy the ride…. long story longer , if I wanted to beast her out,, stage 2 and 3,, your looking at a bike with 160 hp.. Also the evo, now being put back on Harleys replacing the twin… and I hear they are going back to chain driven… I admit after 40,000 miles or so I have been told by many old school riders the pan head,, iron head,,and so on,, you would have to do some engine work…. People love to diss the evo,,,,, it may be the best engine design not just by Harley but all around….. Dependable ,, they love the long trip,,, and they can be turned into a contender to any bike,,, yet will own forever light to light,,, and at the same time looking good doing it…..James

        • Amen brother. A fellow Sporty rider myself.

          • I ride an 883 myself, and I can tell you right now that’s too much power for most women, lol. Not sure why its deemed a “womans bike” when there are much smaller bikes out there that men are riding. I love my 883, of course I’ll upgrade eventually but as for now, it definitely serves its purpose; cruising.

          • I have a 883 with the 1200 upgrade. That bike will jump out from under you. The HP is about 20 with the upgrade, downside it uses more gas. Enjoy your ride my friend.

          • Jeff, too much power? I think you underestimate the women of today. I’ve ridden an 883, 1200, a 1340 Dyna and a fat boy. Not too much power or weight.

          • Hey I have a 21 883sportster and is the back wheel shaft that holds the wheel on to the frame supposed to be hollow

        • Totally agree.
          I own a Suzuki vs 800 l 2004 model and got a HD 883 xl in 2011 .
          Both these bikes are real fun
          I then got a triumph 900 boniville and will sell that. Good bike but not the cruisers. The gv 650 I’m also selling even it’s a fast bike.
          Choosing to sell the vs 800 or hd 883 xl.
          I can not desiderate as I find both bikes great fun to own.
          Harley Davidson 883 xl conversion to 1200 is my next task.
          After doing that I’ll compare . And now both bikes is great fun. Vs 800 very very fast. Yes faster then 883 xl HD.

        • You deff nailed that. Thanks for putting that in paper. I have two Harley’s. 07 softail deuce. Totally made it to be a part of me. And I just picked up a Ultima 113 Softail. It’s going to be sick. Been building it for. While now and let me tell u the raw power this thing has. It rumbles when idoling. No better sound then a bored out Harley motor w a cam

        • And I disagree with no difference, I have Dyno’s that prove there is a difference. Almost 20hp, so you are going to the wrong shop!

        • Couldn’t have said it better myself. I’ll admit my 1994 sportster tops out at about 115 but it to get you there right now so I’ll put mine up against whatever on a short run

        • Well said I got a 2005 XL883C 4.5 GALLON tank for them long trips enjoying the REAL FREEDOM of life HARLEY has to offer

        • Well put brother….My Bessie is a ’05 1200 roadster, and I ride comfortably the same speed as my neighbors street glide

    • I have a sporty that will make your eyeballs bleed. Don’t knock em if you can’t ride em. Oh by the Way, what do you ride, if you do ?

      • Triumph rocket 3 raw power,, got a 96 1200 sportster good to go get the beers on that’s bout it,, stop bulls hitting yourself,, pull your head out your arse,, obviously had a head wound in your childhood

        • My brother has a triumph rocket 2500
          I have a sportster 1200
          He says he cant keep up with me on rides. I found his Triumph impossible to get speed up on except on motorways, wherreas the torque and acceleration in shorter windy roads on my sportster left me waiting at the bar for him to catch up to me. The Rocket is a bike for people with small members, like an extension of your member… but it can’t beat a sportster unless on the highway straight road and no speed limits. On any normal rtoad with corners and bends, i leave you standing.

      • A 883 with 1200 kit, Dyno at 70 HP. A girl’s bike you say! It’s a 1996 not a jap part on it!

        • People who say its a girls bike should try riding a V1200 sportster and race with me one each. When their pants need changing, i will call them a girl.

    • Tim you are obviously someone who cannot afford a Harley. If not you would not speak such rubbish. I have a 1200 Sportster and it is a piece of platinum, not poo, and it would give your ass a ride for the money anytime, and your pants would need changing after, You obviously know more about tractors than Harleys, and dont have the money to afford one yourself.

  2. I have an 89 four Speed.. was a 883, but bored out to 1200 has cams high flow air filter torque cones you know chain drive and it flat-out screams if I want it to I’ve rode with a bunch of people and every time I always hear the same thing” holy s*** that bike is super fast!!?”…granted from light to light yeah there is no nothing going to keep up, it’s super fast, with a ton of tourqe . I changed out the sprockets to 23 teeth so I get a little bit more top-end out of it ….great bike, super dependable, love that motorcycle never getting rid of it. I’m the second owner. 28000 miles, new everything top end to rear axle it’s a brand new motorcycle, that bike will get another 40,000 miles easy! I’ve owned several bikes, this is my fav, no doubt.. anybody that talks shit about sportys prolly has never been on one that would smoke what they ride, o and hold it’s value, o still be way cool, and super dependable you know why they haven’t changed that design in almost 30 years is because there is nothing wrong with it lol ..HD had crap back in AMF days it’s crazy how those shit years still affect their name today wow …I’m always gonna ride a Harley because it suits me not because you think I’m trying to look cool, I know a shit bike when I see one I still don’t dawg it, to what make someone feel like shit about one of the best feeling activities that we as humans can enjoy. That’s not a biker that’s a jag off and everyone that hears him run his ignorant mouth about “Harley sux” all know it too… Later

    • Couldn’t have said it myself. Is it better, cheaper and easier to do an engine swap vs a pop up from 883 to a 1200? I’m planning on one or the other this winter. I ride a 97 Hugger. It’s not in no way stock as is. It’s got mini apes, cut off and wrapped exhaust pipes, hand forged sissy bar and I’m about to get spoke front wheels. This is the first bike I’ve had since I’ve been an adult and I’m 42. Hahaha. I fuckin love this bike man.

    • I would rather have my wife push me around on an old broke down sporty then ride any other bike out there I own 3 sportsters 1987 xlh 1100 I did the 1250 upgrade myself a 1991 883 that’s a work in progress and my latest a 1998 anniversary edition I ride her every day in the rain in the cold just wanted to say LOVE MY SPORTYS. Rickybobby

  3. I hate to disappoint all the macho-men who think they can classify a Sportster or any other motorcycle as being a, “girl’s bike.” Frankly if your Harley is equipped with an electric start it’s a girl’s bike. Real men kick start Harleys. Furthermore there are real “girls” who can run circles around such macho-men who think they know how to ride. Unless you can outrun a woman on a motorcycle at a drag strip whose ET is below 7 seconds @ 199 MPH you better think twice about what’s a girls’s bike. Capice?

    • Agree. Once they lowered Harleys and eliminated the old school vibration, I lost interest. A buddy of mine owns a dealership in Alberta and says the bulk of his sales are by far to women now a days. Kicker.

    • If you are looking for a drag bike build one or buy one for that purpose. Even if a sporty is fast it ain’t made for that. Mine is the ultimate commuter bike. If you want to go fast light to light just build a kawasaki triple h1 or h2. Had many nothing quicker on the street. Eat Hayabusa for breakfast just don’t try to stop or turn. Be nice to your sporty it will last forever.

  4. Will a sportster 1200 muffler fit on the 883

  5. I dissed sportsters for years and then I owned one (stage one screaming eagle kit) and have to say I loved it. I only sold it due to an accident (not a motorcycle accident) and am thinking about a new bike again. I have looked at Honda’s, Suzuki’s, Triumphs and even bigger Harleys such as the softail but a sportster keeps coming back to the top of the list… Basically ride one and then you can comment!

  6. What y’all think about a 89 sportster all original with only 2400 minutes on it

  7. I’ve got a 2012 883 iron that was bored out to 1200, short pipes, intake, custom tune… And this bike is a fucking BEAST. I’ve ridden 1000cc Kawisaki Concours, Katana 750, Versys 650, and my wife’s stock 883 iron. I’ve ridden my father’s ’82 CB750f SS, my uncles Vulcan 1600, and my buddy’s Vulcan 650.

    The iron 1200 is the meanest sounding and most powerful bike I’ve ridden. Only problem is I can’t lean it enough for fun twisties, and the bike shakes like a leaf at 80-85mph.

    But, I will shake your windows, make your baby cry, and make your head turn … and beat you in a race. All the haters just have TDC. hahha

  8. Hi sportster guy Ive had 33 m-c since 1969 and what I can say is the harley makes alot of noise but is really slow. Run a jap bike with someone that knows how to ride and you WIL BE WOKEN UP over and out BOB

  9. Will a 2001 1200 sportster engine bolt into a 1995 sportster frame ?

  10. My 1999 883 hugger board to 1200 walks away from my 2018 triumph t100 on the highway

  11. Went to the wall in Arlington I rode the triumph t100 2018 he rode the1999 hugger 883 bored to a1200 if you give the Harley any chance you’ll never catch up

  12. You can also tell the difference by the “883” or “1200” stamped on the bottom corner of the jug, and under the exhaust port of the head. 1200 weighs less than 883.

  13. Is the fuel tank on a 1996 XL1200 identical to a 1996 883 model? I have a read that it is in one article and it is not in another article ( lesser capacity )?


  14. I have a 2004 Roadster 1200.
    My first bike. I’m a big boy, 300#.
    This bike has had plenty of power for me to learn on and the Roadsters have dual disc front brakes which helps stopping greatly. People ask why I don’t have a bigger bike. I will but I really like this one.

  15. I have a 1987 883 (10000 miles) with 1200 big bore kit (1000 miles)on kit thinking about putting on a supercharger any suggestions

  16. P.o. told me bike was bored to 1200, it says 883 on bottom of heads, vin check says 883 but does dealer have more info than online Vin search?

    • @Darrell. If your bike was a stock 883 then any and all corresponding info that shipped with the bike will reflect that… it wasn’t a 1200 when it went out the door!

  17. Tim I have a 95 1200 hugger custom that will turn ur poo into a boo whoo because you’ll be beat!..by a girl lol

  18. Have a 883 no it’s not a race bike but every time Gas goes up, I can’t put it down. One more thing it keeps me from many tickets I would have had 2 just today I’m in my 70s and happy just to go through gears and not be over 80 without knowing it when I passed 2 cops today was doing 60 in a 45. A month ago a cop raced me from a stoplight saw him in my mirror almost side by side then I stopped at 60, didn’t know he was there till he was beside me he was cool. it was another 45 posted speed. Most fl cops are cool. On anything bigger I’d have tickets up the Ying yang. Times like this makes life great.

  19. What are the emblems they talk about? Sorry non rider asking for a friend. Bought a bike described as 1200 but turned out was 883.where can they find out if the engine is 1200 or 883? Its registered as 883

  20. I’m a girl riding since 1991. I have a beautiful 1992 883 Sporty. It’s had work done to light it up on the take off and keep up (or outrun) my guy friend riders on the open road. She’s fully chromed with a gorgeous, light ghost flame in cherry red (flames are red on red and truly ghost). I get compliments on this bike everywhere I go and plenty of attention. I’ve ridden with other Sportster lovers as well as bigger bikes and different models. I wouldn’t trade this Sporty for any other bike. There is nothing like riding your own bike, looking fabulous and waving to the people who love
    what you’re doing. Here’s to all the beautiful ladies who ride their own and love to ride!

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