oF THe FOUr
updated Softails we rode, it was the Street Bob — the least expensive and in many ways the entry model to the family — that was arguably the most impressive. It looks very much like a traditional Harley cruiser, backing up that big, pushrod V-twin engine with apehanger bars, a low single saddle and kicked-out front forks holding a narrow, large-diameter laced wheel.
It looks undeniably cool but not exactly like a bike that you’d expect to shine when being ridden hard on a twisty mountain road. Yet here I was, cranking the Street Rod up a steep, hairpin-strewn climb north of Barcelona in the wake of a rapid lead rider, and being almost shocked by how quick, sweet-handling and enjoyable it was.
On the straight sections the Harley
was respectably rapid and effortlessly controllable, its solidly-mounted V-twin impressing whether it was pulling crisply from very low revs or staying pretty smooth when spinning harder. And in the turns it was every bit as good, steering with admirable ease and neutrality, and even cornering respectably hard before its mid-mounted footrests touched down.
The Street Rod was the only one of the four Softails we rode with the smaller MilwaukeeEight 107 engine, which is standard across the family. Partly because it’s also the lightest of the bunch at 286 kg dry, it barely seemed slower than the others despite producing 145 Nm of torque to the bigger unit’s 155 Nm, at an unchanged 3,000 rpm. It always felt that it had sufficient grunt, even when accelerating with barely 1,500 rpm showing on the small digital display set into the handlebar clamp.
I’d have preferred a sharper front brake, because slowing hard required a firm squeeze of the lever and, better still, some help from the rear pedal to generate strong bite from the single front disc. But the Street Rod steered with admirable ease for a large-front-wheeled cruiser with 30 degrees of rake and had no trouble keeping up with the other bikes, especially after I’d unbolted its seat to increase shock preload towards its maximum.
This is a bike that at first glance looks like something straight out of a 1970s film, but which goes, handles and looks after its rider as a modern motorbike should. I even found the wind-blown riding position reasonably comfortable, helped by the compliant suspension. If you’ve ever fancied a Harley-Davidson cruiser but thought it would be too different from a “normal” bike, a ride on the 2018 Street Rod might well prove a revelation.
Simplistic looks over new technology is a good way to go
107-inch (1,745 cc) V-twin pumps out 145 Nm of peak torque; output is a big step-up from its predecessor
Minimal info on a small digital dash looks neat