Un­der £6k and tar­get­ing the youths

Motorcycle Monthly - - Front Page - Words by: John Mil­bank Pic­tures by: Har­ley-David­son

The Dark Cus­tom range was launched in the US back in 2008, but it’s the key to what Har­ley-David­son is call­ing its re­birth dur­ing a two-day launch in Barcelona. “Don’t think black,” we were told in the pre­sen­ta­tion, “think blank”. Dark Cus­tom is a can­vas for own­ers to cre­ate some­thing that’s truly theirs. Cus­tom builders around the world have huge ex­pe­ri­ence with the plat­form, though it’s also pos­si­ble for a cus­tomer to take their idea to their Har­ley-David­son deal­er­ship and ask them to build – or as­sist with – their dream bike.

Har­ley-David­son is of course still very much grow­ing – 83% of Sport­ster pur­chasers are new to the brand – but like the rest of the in­dus­try, the com­pany un­der­stands that a younger au­di­ence is vi­tal. In Europe, the Mid­dle East and Asia (EMEA), 21% of all Iron 883 sales are al­ready to the 18-30 age group. The Street 750 has the po­ten­tial to grow that sig­nif­i­cantly; it’s a bud­get-priced ma­chine that re­tains much of the Har­ley look and feel, but is cry­ing out to be per­son­alised. Whether it’s as sim­ple as ‘sticker-bomb­ing’ the tank, or mod­i­fy­ing and re­plac­ing, re­paint­ing and re­fin­ing, it seems un­likely that many will be rolling through cities with the same look as when they left the fac­tory.

Tell me about the en­gine

The 749cc Revo­lu­tion X mo­tor is en­tirely new. It’s also the only one in the H-D range – be­sides the V-Rod – to be fully wa­ter-cooled (the Pro­ject Rush­more en­gines found in bikes like the Road Glide Ul­tra are wa­ter­cooled at the head only). It doesn’t have the lazy throb that is Har­ley’s sig­na­ture, but it’s still dis­tinc­tive and char­ac­ter­ful, with enough of that Amer­i­can pulse from the 60° Vee to not feel out of place within the com­pany’s line-up.

It also doesn’t shake at a stand­still, and of course it doesn’t throw out all the heat of an air-cooled mo­tor – great in town. What’s most no­tice­able is how ea­ger it is to spin up, and that’s re­ally clear on the road. De­spite – on pa­per at least – be­ing down on the Iron and Forty-Eight’s peak torque, it feels by far the most snappy and us­able mo­tor, both in the city and on twist­ing coun­try roads. On the mo­tor­way at around 60mph in top, it out-dragged the Iron, and the larger ca­pac­ity of the Forty-Eight took a few sec­onds to catch up with the ea­ger lit­tle 750. The six-speed gear­box is much qui­eter and smoother than on other Har­leys – it’s still pretty pos­i­tive (more so on the up-changes), though some of us no­ticed the oc­ca­sional slight dif­fi­culty find­ing neu­tral.

What’s the chas­sis like?

The 37mm non-ad­justable forks and preload-ad­justable twin rear shocks are ‘tuned for the rough pave­ment’. Two-pot float­ing calipers front and rear bite 300mm sin­gle disks, but there’s no ABS – not even as an op­tion. This seems likely to be a way of keep­ing the cost com­pet­i­tive, and it’s cer­tainly not an op­tion that felt like it was needed dur­ing the test ride. By 2017 it will be there, but it’s no real rea­son to wait.

Har­ley says the Street is de­signed for use in traf­fic, with a ‘tight wheel­base’ of 1535mm. This is ac­tu­ally a frac­tion longer than H-D’s Iron, at 1515mm, but it is shorter than Kawasaki Vul­can S, at 1575mm.

Should I buy one?

This is a bud­get ma­chine, but it’s been de­signed to be easy to ride, ac­ces­si­ble, and fun. The tar­get au­di­ence is ‘young ur­ban adults’, and the com­pany is keen to stress that the Street has all the H-D styling, but is in­tended to be more af­ford­able. The 750 still has belt drive, a Mil­wau­kee steel tank, and a 3D chrome badge (though it’s not as solid feel­ing as the on the Forty-Eight).

Liq­uid cool­ing makes for an en­gine that feels more like other bikes, and keeps it cooler in con­gested traf­fic. I don’t like to pi­geon-hole a mo­tor­cy­cle, but this re­ally is a great ma­chine for new riders. It’s very un­likely that it’ll be bought by cur­rent own­ers of Har­leys, but those new to the brand could also be tempted.

Some of the parts do look cheaper than other ma­chines in the Har­ley

range – the shocks cer­tainly don’t look as great as those on the 2016 Iron and Forty-Eight, and the top yoke and switchgear doesn’t have that high-qual­ity look. There are only two trips and an odome­ter on the dash – a rev counter would have been nice, par­tic­u­larly with this more ea­ger en­gine. The swingarm is a sim­ple box-sec­tion de­sign, but this is a bike that costs lit­tle more than a non-ABS MT-07 – one of this year’s bar­gain bench­marks. It’s even avail­able on PCP for a £999 de­posit, then just £79 per month.

That switchgear is a stan­dard lay­out, which is more likely to ap­peal to riders new to the brand, as well as those who may have just taken their lessons on another bike. It’s not got the key­less ig­ni­tion of the rest of the com­pany’s range, though you do get a lock­ing fuel cap, which is of­ten an op­tional ex­tra. There is also a fair bit of plas­tic on the bike, but it’d be easy to re­move, and again – this is all about the po­ten­tial of cus­tomi­sa­tion.

Still not sure? It’s easy to get a test ride on a Har­ley, and dur­ing Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber, any­one book­ing a test will get the chance to win a trip to the US to build their own cus­tom bike, work­ing with Dais Na­gao – H-D’s se­nior in­dus­trial de­signer.

So what’s it like to ride?

We were all sur­prised by the Street 750; it’s an ea­ger bike, in­cred­i­bly easy to ride in the city, and fun out on the twisty roads. It is a cruiser, so the rub­ber-cov­ered pegs do touch down if you start try­ing to hus­tle things – a cou­ple of journos also scraped the side-stand bracket on the left, and the

ex­haust heat shield on the right. There are no hero blobs, so it’s not as ob­vi­ous when you touch the rub­ber sleeve down – I’d have pre­ferred to have the me­tal pegs that give you that ex­tra warn­ing (and are easy to re­place).

The bud­get sus­pen­sion works fine, and ap­pears to have been well con­sid­ered. You don’t need to ad­just it as it’s not go­ing to be pushed be­yond its lim­its on a track day, or raced across the moun­tain at the Isle of Man. The brakes are equally prac­ti­cal for most rid­ing, though of course if you com­pare them to the latest ra­dial monoblocs of many bikes, then you’ll be find­ing you need to use four, in­stead of two fin­gers to stop in a hurry.

But to rush things on a Har­ley-David­son is to miss the point, and while this new en­gine is a tri­umph of US style, com­bined with a very easy na­ture, the at­ti­tude is still the same – re­lax, and en­joy the ride. The turn­ing cir­cle is great, the steer­ing quick and easy, and of course that very low seat inspires con­fi­dence. The pegs are set in such a way that they make pad­dling the bike more awk­ward, and I wish Har­ley would add springs to their foot­pegs, but it feels a fairly nat­u­ral rid­ing po­si­tion. I’d want to push the pegs for­ward, but there’s lit­tle doubt that it’ll be an ac­ces­sory op­tion, par­tic­u­larly if more vari­ants of this plat­form emerge.

The Street 750 is fast. For a Har­ley. It’s light. For a Har­ley. And it’s cheap. For a Har­ley. In fact, it’s cheap by any­one’s stan­dards. It’s not got the go of an MT-07 of course, but it’s fun, it’s re­lax­ing, and it’s got a whole lot of char­ac­ter. It’s an in­tro­duc­tion to bik­ing for some, a welcome to the Har­ley brand for oth­ers. Or it’s a reaf­fir­ma­tion of mo­tor­cy­cling’s most es­tab­lished cus­tom brand. One hun­dred and thir­teen years of her­itage in a bar­gain-priced bike that any­one can ride. Sounds like a great deal to me.

All black and look­ing very H-D, the Street 750 is much more than en­try-level.

The ra­di­a­tor shroud is a nice touch.

Rear shocks give a sweet ride.

The Street 750 is very nim­ble and easy to ride, right from the off.

Sin­gle-in­stru­ment dial dash looks classy and el­e­gant.

The Street 750 wear­ing Scram­bler clothes.

In army dress the Street looks very of-the-time.

A more tra­di­tional Har­ley take on cus­tomis­ing the Street...

De­tails like cov­ers and pegs add to the bike’s pres­ence.

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