Harley-Davidson Street Rod
Harley-Davidson seem to have granted the enthusiasts’ wish with the launch of the Street Rod. We went to Singapore for a first ride. Here’s what went down
H-D’s highly potent Street 750 gets even better than before
IHAVE A VIVID RECOLLECTION OF the occasion when Anoop Prakash, MD, Harley-Davidson, launched the Street 750 at the Auto Expo. I was at an H-D competitor’s stand with the managing director of that company. When Anoop announced the price of the Street 750 — Rs 4,10,000 (ex-showroom) — the reaction from the MD standing next to me was, ‘Oh, my god!’ The Street 750 makes for a perfect platform to create different bikes such as the race replica that I built here at Bike India. Following considerable customer feedback and demand now Harley-Davidson have made a Street Rod and raised the game. We were invited to Singapore to ride the Street Rod.
At least, it certainly seems that way as I’m powering the new Street Rod out of yet another bend on the twisty roads around Singapore Island. I had just braked hard and flicked the Harley into the turn with a screech of the right foot-peg. Now it was feeling taut and stable as its liquid-cooled V-twin engine revved harder to fire the bike out of the turn with a respectably strong surge of acceleration.
This is the sort of spirited performance that many of the Harley enthusiasts had in mind a couple of years ago when the Street 750 was launched to mark the beginning of the Milwaukee firm’s entry-level family of liquid-cooled V-twins. The Street, which itself was partly the outcome of focus groups, was received well in most countries. It garnered more than 35,000 by way of global
sales and has been the best-selling bike in its segment in several key markets. However, a number of Street buyers and others wanted more. Many were impressed by a trio of concept bikes that Harley displayed at the new model’s launch, notably a hotted-up derivative, called the RDX800. Created by a team from Harley’s Product Development Centre, led by Indian-born Chetan Shedjale, this featured a bikini fairing, drag bars, humped seat, uprated suspension, and a racy air-filter jutting out on the right of its V-twin engine.
Two years and plenty of enthusiastic feedback later, here is the production Street Rod having those features — and a few more besides, including a tuned 749-cc powerplant and twin-disc front brake set-up. In Harley speak it’s “badass” and “hooligan”. It’s also very much designed to remain part of the Street’s entry-level family so as to remain rider-friendly and relatively inexpensive. Despite that the Street Rod is more than just a warmed-up Street. The liquid-cooled, SOHC eight-valve Revolution X engine is tuned with new cylinder-heads, higher-lift cams and increased compression, up from 11:1 to 12:1. Dual 42-mm throttle bodies replace the single 38-mm units, the air-box is enlarged and the new exhaust system is more free-flowing despite Euro4 requirements.
Harley don’t officially reveal power outputs but say the Rod revs to 9,000 rpm instead of 8,000 rpm and produces 20 per cent more peak power and 10 per cent more torque. Given that the Street made close to 60 PS, it takes the new bike to about 70 PS at 8,750 rpm and 65 Nm at an unchanged 4,000 rpm.
The chassis has also been substantially uprated, combining a revised tubular steel frame and longer swingarm with new suspension. Forks are 43-mm upside-down (USD) units, replacing the Street’s gaitered 37-mm legs. New shocks feature a remote damping reservoir, although their preload collar is still the only adjustment option at either end.
Rotating bits are also uprated, with 17-inch wheels at both ends instead of the Street’s 17/15-inch combination, and wider Michelin Scorcher tyres in 120/70 and 160/60 sizes. The wheel change contributes to steeper steering geometry: rake and trail are 27 degrees and 99 mm, from 32 degrees and 115 mm. And front brake spec is literally doubled, thanks to a second 300-mm disc and twin-piston caliper, complete with ABS as standard.
Things look good from the rider’s view, although basic switchgear and non-adjustable brake and clutch levers echo the slightly downmarket feel. At least, the near-flat, black-finished drag bar gives a suitably aggressive look. The Rod’s single, chrome-rimmed analogue speedometer is attractive.
The riding position is distinctly strange, the low seat combining with quite high foot-rests to give a vague feeling of knees being in your armpits. A more serious flaw for some was that the right foot-rest is immediately above the exhaust pipe, putting the rider’s foot in a slightly unnatural position, resting on a heel-pad that Harley have bolted to the pipe. This is not exactly elegant design, but I didn’t find it as annoying as some riders seemed to.
By then the chassis had done a pretty good job, too, after we’d headed northwards into the hills on the flowing and increasingly twisty A-355. At 238 kg in “running order” the Rod is five kilos heavier than the Street, and far from being lightweight. But its steeper geometry helped make it feel lighter, despite that and the fatter tyres. It could be tipped into curves with a gentle nudge of that wide handlebar and steered with a pleasantly neutral feel.
Its suspension also seemed better balanced than that of the basic Street, as well as firmer and better controlled. This bike has 132 mm of travel up front and 117 mm at the rear, compared to the Street’s 140 mm and 89.5 mm. The more even front/rear movement presumably helped it stay relatively stable, even when being cranked through smooth turns with its foot-rest tips scraping, and the whole bike feeling positively sporty and un-Harley-like.
Maybe, the next model based on the Street 750 platform would be a café racer.
Gearcheck Rider: Aspi Bhathena Helmet: Uvex Jacket: Spidi Gloves: Dainese Boots: Dainese