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XLH 883 to 1200 Upgrade
by Rick 'Rickko' Eliopoulos

The Ongoing Road Test and Dyno Results

Finally! At 5 PM on April 12th 1998 the little red once upon a time 883 XLH is ready to crank over. All parts installed. No skinned knuckles. No parts left over either!

First I decided since everything is REAL TIGHT inside that I'd pull the plugs and crank it a few times without any compression to hold back the battery. It work! It cranked. Since I was standing on the left side of the scoot and reaching over to hit the start button, I can't tell you what it was like to feel the air being pumped out of the spark plug holes right up into my face.

OK, now it 5:05 PM. The plugs are in. The choke is full out (I'd filled the float bowl with gas before I mounted the carburetor so it wouldn't have to draw the gas into it during the initial start up. Here goes. I hit the start button and held it for the same amount of time which I've become accustom to when this puppy was an 883. It cranked a couple of revs, then when I released the starter, it sounded like it actually kicked backward for a second with kind of a metallic sound. I thought, hmmmm, turn the throttle once to give it a squirt of gas and hold the starter switch in longer.

Contact! It started. The first revolutions of a new engine. Unbelievable. I did it! It runs.

I kept the Enrichener out probably longer than I should have, about 30 seconds. As I pushed it in I gave it a little more throttle. Damn, you could just tell how tight this engine is. I turned the star-wheel throttle lock to hold the idle at about 1500 RPM and stood back admiring my accomplishment. Then it hit me! I better check the gasket seals for leaks.

With my drop light I carefully examined the perimeter of every gasket. No leaks, yet.

After letting it idle for about 20 minutes, I sat on it to take it for a spin. My first impression was that there seemed to be a slight stronger feel with each compression stroke explosion. It just felt bigger, or heavier.

As far as sound goes, it probably sounded just a tad lower. Its got the SE tapered slip-ons. The tappet noise cleared up in about 5 minutes. At that point I could hear better if there were any unusual sounds. None. Even the Andrews N2 cam sounded no different than the stock cam sounded. The expectation is that it would be louder. If it whined to much it would have meant that there is no gear lash and possibly that one or two cam gears were a bit too tight.

I carefully rode it out to a lightly traveled boulevard near my home. I kept it under 2500 RPM in each gear. I could feel there was a real difference on any incline I encountered.

Since I drained about a gallon of the two gallons (87 octane) I had in the peanut tank before I started the conversion, I thought I put a gallon of the mid-range gas (89 octane) in it to mix my load and get the average octane up a bit. Just in case I started to hear it ping.

When I pulled into the station, I was so excited the scoot was running I chose to just leave it that way. Let it run while I fill it up. This is easy to do 'because I always straddle it holding it upright when I fill it anyway. Boy it sounds good I thought.

Filled. Shift into first, take off! After the fill up I rode it for another hour. Since the boulevard was pretty much deserted I constantly cycled the scoot through the gears never going above 2500 in any gear. When I hit 50 MPH in 5th, I'd let it decelerate down to each shift point, then I shift down, decelerate, shift down etc. till 1st gear, then I'd accelerate back up to 50 going through the gears again.

By the time I got back to my home and shut it off I'd had it running constantly for 1 1/2 hours. During that time, occasionally I'd pull over letting it idle while I checked all the seals and gaskets for leaks. Still no signs of oil anywhere. Whew! Its still holding together. By the time I hit the kill switch I'd put a total of 30 miles on it. I couldn't seem to stop grinning inside me. I was excited.

When I first started riding it, I took a screwdriver with me in case I needed to adjust the idle. I did. It seemed as the idle was set for a broken in 883, that I had to turn the screw in 1 complete revolution to keep it idling at around 1000 RPM. But, by the time I finished my 1 1/2 hours of riding I'd readjusted it back 3/4 of a turn. I'm sure for the next few hundred miles I'll be fiddling with that but no biggie. Its so accessible.


Monday. Have to work day. I pushed the scoot out of the garage. Set the Enrichener and petcock and hit the START button. What's wrong! It sounds like it only turned a 1/2 a rev. Hit it again, another 1/2 rev. Oh no! It won't start. After many, many attempts, I decided to put it in 5th. I figured if I pushed it and got it to just crank over once or twice the starter would/could start it. I pushed, I popped the clutch; the engine spun once or twice.

Good, put it back in neutral. Hit the START button, crank, crank, it starts! Wow, what a relief. I was thinking' what if a piston seized or something.

After it ran for awhile I killed it and tried to restart it again. I couldn't. I pushed it and it started. I concluded that because the battery was 4 years old that with all this new compression and tight fitting parts etc. It just couldn't handle the new load. To confirm my thoughts I decided to hook up the charger for the morning, go to work, then come home at lunch and try the starter/battery again. If it starts, I know the battery is weak and I'll order a new on. If it doesn't, then I'd have to expect something else is wrong.

I got home at lunch as planned. I thought, I'll eat a sandwich or two and give the charger a few more minutes to charge. I did, then went to the garage, unhooked the charger and hit the start button. Wallah! It started! Good... now I've got to order a new battery.


I still haven't got my new battery. Ordered a WestCo ($88) sealed battery that should be here today 4/17/98. It is advertised to have 275 cold cranking amps. That should help a lot. Problem is, now that I've got a 120 miles on the new engine, its starting to crank over a little better. Oh well! Anyone want a good used battery?

The scoot has been running well. I put a temperature gauge into the oil filler spout and find I'm not heating up at all! The most I've seen so far is 170 degrees. This surprises me. My engine shop tells me I'm breaking it in too mildly. Has recommended I get into the 3000 and 3500 RPM ranges. They say only the first few miles, 20 to 30, you need to really baby the engine. Now is the time to start wearing down the potential high spots on the cylinder walls and get a good ring seat.

I did find the scoot running onto my reserve tank at 59 miles! That netted me 33.3 MPG over the first fill-up mileage. Boy I hope that changes. When I first bought it, I'd get about 90 miles to reserve, then I installed the basic Harley-Tax stuff and it dropped to 72 miles to reserve. I really hope I'll still be able to maintain that at a minimum. We'll see!

At idle I'm noticing an occasional random dull knock once every five to ten seconds. Hope that isn't a serious problem. Maybe my idle is too low.

As far as sound goes; now that I've been on it for over 100 miles, I believe it sounds no different than before.

On April 20th I picked up the WestCo and installed it. Its ever so slightly larger than the stock battery so it fit well, but tighter. Big question, will it make a difference? Yep, it kicks it over better now. I also picked up a Battery Tender since I have two scoots. Since obviously I can ride only one at a time, I'll be using it on idle one.

By April 21st I've run the mileage up to about 180. Leaving work I filled the peanut tank with gas. Again. my mileage is 32! I've got to hope this is because I'll I've been doing since the rebuild is varying the speed. I don't think I've held the scoot a constant RPM for more than 5 seconds. Yes, this gets a little tiring. After the fill-up I decide to put this puppy out onto the freeway for its first extending ride. I have this 50+ mile loop I can easily ride that take you around the city so I did it.

Being I'm only getting 30+ mpg I pulled into a station at the end of the loop. I had mistakenly forgot to move my petcock lever back to normal when I last filled up. I hate that when I forget. Especially if I run totally out of gas! Fortunately I didn't this time. After the refill I calculated my highway mileage.  It's now up to 42! I still varied my speed a lot but it sure makes a difference being in 5th rather than 1st, 2nd, and 3rd all the time.

My opinions to this point: Can't wait to get another 250 miles on it so I can really open it up more. Right now I'm foregoing my original break-in plan and am regularly running the RPMs up to 3,000 and 3,500. That pretty much means I'm within my normal 'sane' commuting RPM ranges of riding now.

Taking' it to the Drags

Don't know if you've ever been to the Bridgeport Jamboree in Bridgeport California or not but this year I was looking forward to it more than ever because I planned to tow my new monster there and enter it in their 1/8th mile drag race competition.

Let me clear up a couple of things. Yes I towed it because, a) Its a 460 mile 1 way ride through the Mojave Desert which reaches temperatures well above 100 this time of the year and b) my monster only goes 60 miles before hitting reserve. That would mean I'd have to make SEVEN gas stops just to get to Bridgeport!

OK, After a one year hiatus, the Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce decided to incorporate run what ya' brung Drag Races in the weekend schedule again.

Besides getting' high on the view of the beautiful snow-capped Sierra's, getting a chance to run my monster at the drags was the other reason I went this year.

OK, down to the details. I'm not a professional drag racer but if you are, you'll probably get a lot more out of this than I do. I must say, I was REAL impressed with the performance I bolted together.

Here are the numbers. These runs were done over two days. The second day the temperature was about 10 degrees or more hotter than the first, thus the slower ET's and MPH figures. RT Stands for reaction time. Mine were about average for a newcomer although I did red-light once and another time I must of anticipated because I had an unbelievable .261!

One more point that is important for the serious drag racer to note; these drags where being held at an elevation of just over 7,000 feet.

FRIDAY, 26 JUNE 1998

Time of Day RT MPH ET
13:31:05 .934 80.63 8.783
13:35:52 .99780 .65 8.737
13:39:08 .904 82.17 8.651
13:41:49 .790 83.31 8.512
13:48:15 .900 82.79 8.532
13.53:49 .742 83.79 8.511
13:59:20 .735 82.46 8.732
14:04:23 .858 82.40 8.605
14:13:27 .855 75.60 * 9.539 *

* On the last run I started to run out of gas about 1/2 down the strip. That's why the MPH and ET are so poor.

FRIDAY, 26 JUNE 1998

Time of Day RT MPH ET
11:31:11 .707 80.48 8.811
11:36:35 .490 79.70 8.984
11:41:13 .713 80.70 8.712
11:51:42 .798 81.31 8.576
11:54:57 .695 80.63 8.793
12:33:16 .757 75.93** 8.710**
13:26:00 .700 82.46 8.8.455
13:59:11 .261 RL 82.38 8.983
14:16:45 .774 81.80** 8.526**


** These two runs were made during Bracket competition. I dialed in 8.800 and 8.650 respectively and 'broke out' both times unfortunately. I've got a lot more to learn about bracket racing.

To summarize the good numbers: My best reaction time was .261although it was a ‘red light’. My best ET- 8.455. And my best MPH- 83.79.

It's interesting to notice that at the end of the second day my MPH numbers started to fall into line with the numbers from the previous day. That might be because the time of day was approximately the same and thus the OAT was probably about the same on both days at that time.

The Dyno Results...

On Monday, August 23rd with 8,300 total miles on the scoot and about 2,000 miles on it since the rebuild I had the opportunity to have it dyno’d at San Diego Harley-Davidson. Here are the results:

HP: 73.4 @5,900 RPM
TORQUE: 77.0 @3,800 RPM

Ask me if these numbers make me happy?

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How to get Professional Tuning Results at home
Testing the Innovate Motorsport LM-1 portable air fuel meter

Profession Tuning on a Shade Tree Budget

Veypor VR2 Data Logger and Instrument Panel
Video Installation and Demo
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Engine Performance
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883 to 1200 Upgrade
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Where is Sifton Cams?

Autocom Active-7 tested

Harley-Davidson EFI
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183 HP, 2 carbs, 2680cc

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