First of all Mushki doesn't seem to know much at all about what he is talking about...There is not a reputable shop in this country that will hire you with no experience to just change oil and learn from them. There are some bikes out there that if you don't know the procedure to bleed the oil system, you can fry the engine within a few minutes....YES THERE IS ACTUALLY AN ENGINE MADE MADE BY AN AMERICAN MANUFACTURER THAT REQUIRES YOU TO BLEED THE OIL SYSTEM, SIMILAR TO BLEEDING BRAKES!!! And, there is no way in hell you can learn on your own, the technical procedures for all the different makes and models of motorcycles...it REQUIRES EDUACATION AND TRAINING. I have been working on bikes since the late 80's, started with my Shovelhead and my friends all had Shovels, Pans and IronHead Sportsters, then I bought an '86 Softail with an Evo that had some extensive engine work done to it that needed some repair, although the bottom ends were almost the same, the top ends were a little different. It was at that point, I realized I could make a decent living do this, so I enrolled at MMI and graduated from HD's program in 1991, spent 5 years at 2 different dealerships, and then went into the custom field, I have built a couple BEST OF SHOW bikes, but super high-end bikes ($50k and above) are a royal pain the *ss to work on, ever been afraid to work on a bike with a $6,000 paint job or a $12,000 billet engine, due to fear of scratching it???...shit DOES happen, and eventually will!!! If anyone has ever dealt with a Big Dog or American Ironhorse bike, they know the electrics are not wired like old-school HD's...if you haven't been trained by them, you do not know what you are doing......Big Dog manuals are almost impossible to get by the public, if you aren't one of their dealers or svc centers...good luck...American Ironhorse doesn't (didn't) even make a service manual.
The new Harleys are all but impossible to work on now if you are not a delaer, their electrics and computer system can only be access by HD's Digital Technician....a DEALER ONLY computer that is linked directly to the factory...and guess what, there is no way to learn how to use it unless you go to school for it. I spent 12 years working on the manufactured "customs", I was an R&D builder for Titan and Stroker Cycles, I have been trained by Big Dog, American Ironhorse, Indian, S&S Cyle and have been to DynoJet's facility for Dyno Operation and Tuning certification. With the economy the way it is right now, the custom market has fallen off, so I decided to return to MMI last year to get certified on HD's late model bikes, I graduated in May....and guess what, I have to return AGAIN next winter, my dealership is sending me back for updating on production changes that took place with last years Dresser models and for the changes in the 2010 models.....education never ends. My specialty is Performance Engine Building and Dyno Tuning...I make over $65K a year, which isn't bad, but you asked what would be more beneficial....cars or bikes? The answer to that is definitely CARS.....a good car tech can make $100-150K a year.....unless you own the delaership or are the world's best flat-rate tech with absolutely no comebacks what-so-ever, you will never make that much working on bikes.
As far as what Choppy said about the Sportster, I have to disagree, although Choppy DOES GIVE SOME VERY GOOD ANSWERS that I almost always agree with. The 883 is an excellent starter bike. It's low-cost, light-weight, handles well, and has enough power for the beginner rider without being under-powered. Add a Hi-Flo Air Cleaner and a good set of pipes or mufflers and have the fuel injection ECM remapped, with Dyno Tuning, you can get 60 HP from an 883. You will, after you are comfortable on it, want more power, it's just a fact of life. The 883 can easily be converted to 1200. Even with the milder cams in the 883, a 1200 conversion produces more power than a factory 1200, the valves and ports are smaller, which with the increase in bore size, produces higher intake velocity resulting in more horsepower and torque. Also, the 883 has a 2 teeth smaller front sprocket then the 1200 which increase torque even more. From there, how much power and how fast you want to go is up to how much you want to spend, cams, head work, injection and ignition mapping, even bigger bore, stroker crank, etc. Dollar-for Dollar, you can make more power from a Sportster than you can from a HD Big Twin, to a degree, once the Big Twins get into the Big Inch engines, that's where they take over from the Sporty's, but it costs more.
The 883 is not "De-Tuned" it just simply has a very small bore/piston diameter and milder cams than a 1200. The highly restrictive air cleaner and exhaust that HD is forced to run due to EPA standards don't help either. The 883 and 1200 are exactly the same engine with the exception of bore size, cams, and valve & port size.
I just dyno tuned a new 2009 XR1200 Sportster, 1200=74cid. I had the heads ported with oversize valves, hi-flo guides, radius valve job, 10.5:1 compression, cnc ported throttle body, Screamin Eagle Air Cleaner, RedShift Cams, and modified STOCK exhaust, all with a Screamin Eagle Super Tuner modified ECM. This was actually one of the easiest bikes I ever tuned....it put out 112hp @ 6700rpm and 108 ft/lbs of torque @ 5900rpm.
Answered By: vtwin_doc - 7/28/2009