New entry-level bike is beginner-friendly and smooth on the road
AUSTIN, TEX. The last time Harley-Davidson introduced a new platform was in 2002, when the company launched the V-Rod. The latest branch in the lineup is the Street, in 500 and 750 cc variations.
It is a global bike, produced primarily for the expanding Asian market and Europe, at a plant in Bawal, India. Canada will get bikes assembled at Harley?s Kansas City plant mostly from parts manufactured overseas.
However, after riding the Street 750, I was left with the impression that the engineers may have forgotten a few things about building Harleys.
Harley touts the Street as a beginner bike, and it?s on the entry-level side of the spectrum in physical size and in pricing ? at least in the U.S., where it starts at $6,799 for the 500 and $7,499 for the 750.
Canadian pricing will be announced sometime in August, at about the time it arrives at Canadian dealers.
The Street shares nothing with any other Harley model and is a completely new design, from the contact patches up. It uses a liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-twin that is fuel-injected, but is otherwise a relatively simple design.
Harley surveyed thousands of riders worldwide for input when designing the Street. Everything from riding position to engine characteristics was influenced by these riders.
There are some styling cues borrowed from a previous Harley model that has gone on to achieve cult status: the 1977 XLCR Caf? Racer. These include the seven-spoke wheels, rubber fork gaiters, mini caf? racer fairing and fuel tank emblems.
A low seat height is a very important factor that greatly affects rider confidence, and the Street has a low, 710-mm seat height, nearly matching the Sportster Superlow?s 696 mm, but without sacrificing suspension travel or cornering clearance.
However, this low seat combines with the mid-mounted footpegs to make quarters cramped for a six-footer like me. Harley offers an accessory Tall Boy seat that is 40-mm taller and plants you rearward 65 mm.
I prefer the Street?s mid-mounted footpegs to cruiser-like forward pegs, but they?re placed unusually wide apart, which feels awkward if not uncomfortable.
The rear brake pedal is placed just high enough to allow you to place your foot squarely on the footrest, but excessive travel forces an unnatural angle for your foot before it actually works.
Unfortunately, fit and finish are not up to Harley standards.
Engineers seem to have placed wiring connectors in the most inconvenient places. To the left of the speedometer, you?ll find the left turn-signal connector, coloured bright yellow.
And there are bundles of wires and connectors on the right side of the bike, just ahead of the gas tank and below the side cover, that are inconsistent from bike to bike, varying from relatively orderly to a jumbled, tangled mess like on my test bike.
There are also several fasteners with too many threads visible when assembled, and the paint finish on the engine and other components looks rough.
These inconsistencies in quality control are entirely unbecoming of a manufacturer who?s been building motorcycles for more than 110 years. And I know Harley engineers know better; the fit and finish of their existing models is proof of that.
Fortunately all of this unkemptness in design was partly righted after the engine fired and I let the clutch out for the first time.
Clutch pull is beginner-friendly light and the six-speed gearbox is among the best shifting I?ve sampled in awhile.
Despite its modest specs, the engine is surprisingly torquey at low revs, and it is among the smoothest V-twins on the market. The fuel injection is very well sorted and throttle response is seamless.
The bike rolls away from a stop effortlessly and feels quite strong going through the gears.
Handling is fine, with nothing remarkable to report, except perhaps soft-ish damping, and there?s ample cornering clearance, way more than on any of Harley?s lowered Sportsters. It?s stable, confidence-inspiring, and easily manageable around town, all of which are in line with Harley’s spiel about the bike being built for beginners.
This is Harley-Davidson?s first kick at the can with this design, and at least the company got the engine right.
It?s a compact design, and I think it?s a great foundation for other models ? I?d like to see it in a sportier model or even an adventure bike.
But a great engine doesn?t make up for lapses in quality control, and this is where the Street needs some work.
Sure, the Street is meant to meet a price point, another factor that appealed to riders when surveyed, but inexpensive should not translate to cheap, especially when Harley is concerned.
None of the issues mentioned hinder the bike?s performance, but they will leave a lasting impression on impressionable young riders, and if brand loyalty is part of the Street?s mantra, Harley?s got some homework to do.
Transportation for freelance writer Costa Mouzouris was provided by the manufacturer. Email: email@example.com.
2015 Harley-Davidson Street 750
Price: TBA in Canada; $6,799 to $7,499 in U.S.
Engine: 749 cc, 60-degree V-twin, liquid cooled
Power/Torque: na/44.5 lb.-ft.
Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 5.7
Competition: Honda CTX700N, Suzuki Boulevard M50, Yamaha Bolt
What?s Best: Vibration-free, smooth-shifting V-twin engine.
What?s Worst: Shoddy assembly.
What?s Interesting: Harley is developing the Street 750 engine for dirt-track racing, possibly to replace the storied XR750 engine.