Tell A 2000 Sportster 883 From A 1200

Both the 1200 and the 883 engines in Sportsters are V-twins.

The Harley-Davidson Sportster came in two engine sizes for the 2000 model year. These engines were also fitted to a few different trims for that year, such as the XL 1200 C Custom, the XL 1200 S Sport and the XLH Standard 883. The bikes have different appearances and specifications even within the two engine groupings and telling them apart is difficult unless you look at the engine. However, if you don’t have another Sportster of the same trim and of the same year with a different engine size to compare against, a straightforward way of telling which bike you have is to look at the Vehicle Identification Number.


1. Find the VIN on the motorcycle. On Harley-Davidsons, this will be on the steering head or on the down tube of the frame. The 2000 model year VIN code has 17 characters, so if the code you’re looking at has less than 17 characters, it must be another manufacturing identification code.

2. Clean off the VIN to ensure the characters are readable. If they are not readable, try making a rubbing with pencil and paper to bring out the characters. Alternatively, look at the bike documents, which will have the VIN detailed on them. However, it is always more accurate to get the VIN directly off the frame in case the documents were fraudulently altered in the past.

3. Look at the third character of the code. For Harley-Davidson motorcycles, this character stands for the weight class of the bike. The heavyweight class covers bikes of 901cc engine displacement or above and is designated by the number “1”. The lightweight class refers to bikes with engines of less than 901cc displacement and is designated by the number “4”. If your bike has a “1” in the third position of the code then it was produced with a 1200cc engine. If the number is a “4”, the Sportster was manufactured with a 883cc engine.

4. Ask the owner if the bike has been upgraded, as it is possible to bore out an 883cc engine to a 1200 engine, and the VIN on the Sportster will continue to indicate it was originally built as an 883. Unless you are an engine whiz, you’ll have to take their word for it.