Cheap & nasty
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The all-new Street Rod is loosely based on Harley’s popular ‘entry level’ £5995 Street 750 – which has been a serious success story for Harley, selling over 35,000 units worldwide – but it represents a huge step forward for the budget Hog.
The new model has been designed for people who live in the city, commute regularly, but want something that can take them away from the congestion of the city at weekends. It also needed to be different enough to the 750, and its competitors, to have kerb appeal and stand out from the crowd. But have they done enough?
The Street Rod may be loosely based on the Fiddy, but don’t think of this as a Street with some accessory parts bolted on, because it isn’t. The frame is all-new with a shaper steering head angle, plus the rear has been modified to accommodate the new twin shocks. The swingarm is new, the wheels are now 17in and wrapped in Michelin Scorcher rubber specifically designed for Harley, even incorporating the firm’s logo on the edge of the tread. The front end is fresh, too – with an inverted 43mm non-adjustable fork, and twin 300mm discs (as opposed to a single disc on the Street). The chassis changes have resulted in improved ground clearance over the Street 750, too – giving 40.2 degrees on lefts, and 37.3 degrees on rights.
The engine is similar in architecture, but gets a decent kick in the pants. The 749cc liquid-cooled V-twin now produces 20% more peak power and 10% more torque, and revs to a dizzy 9000rpm. Yes, this is a Harley. They have achieved this by improving the air intake, and adding a new exhaust, and a new cylinder head with increased cam lift and duration. Peak power is now 69bhp at 8795rpm and peak torque of 47.9ftlb arrives at as useful 4000rpm. This new ‘High Output Revolution X’ engine can still be restricted to make it A2 compatible.
Harley’s programme of revisions continues with a café racer seat unit, ‘Hot Rod’ style air-filter cover, and cool looking black 7-spoke 17in wheels front and rear. It really doesn’t look like a sub-£7000 bike.
Chuck a leg over the 765mm seat, and you can immediately feel the aggressiveness of the new Street Rod. The wide bars give a purposeful, dare I say, sporty riding position. The levers aren’t adjustable, but otherwise the stance feels good with a big analogue central mounted speedo that even has an optional gear position readout and digital tacho readout.
The mid-position pegs are unusual, but not too uncomfortable, and after a full day in the saddle I didn’t have to be peeled off the bike. Touring at 75mph isn’t a problem, in fact the peaky motor is capable of more – only reading 4500rpm at 75mph, and 5500rpm at 85mph. But above 85mph it does start to get a bit vibey, and you really start to notice the wind-blast.
The extra power ensures overtakes are safer, and there’s even enough power to send the rear Michelin searching for grip from the lights on well-polished Spanish roads.
Harley have tightened up the steering, made the head angle steeper, which means the new Street Rod turns with
‘It’s a good looking, distinctive, urban commuter, which has a sporty side’
ease, the wide bars encouraging you to throw the new Street around. It’s much sportier than you’d expect. On the mountain roads in southern Spain it handled well above expectation, and I’d say it’s the best handling Harley in the range. The twin disc brakes are also a significant improvement, while the ABS isn’t too intrusive.
Obviously, it’s no sportsbike though. The fork is non-adjustable, the rear shocks only preload adjustable, and both ends are set up on the soft side. But it copes well with imperfections, and the ride quality is impressive. It is relatively easy to reach the limitations of the handling, and eventually the lack of ground clearance will call time on aggressive cornering – but let’s not forget this is an urban roadster, not a supersport rival.
So what are the gripes? Well, that slightly unnatural peg position is compounded by the righthand peg sticking out further than the left, which makes you feel like you’re riding slightly crossed-up. The pegs and exhaust are certainly style over function, and there’s no room for your heel, which often touched the small heatshield over the exhaust. I can see Harley’s problem, as lowering the exhaust would have made the peg position more comfortable, but would have further reduced the ground clearance. Those lovely wide bars look and feel great – but they’re too wide for commuting duties. The levers also aren’t adjustable for those with small hands, the clutch is a little heavy, and it was sometimes hard to find neutral. The standard Michelin tyres also don’t inspire much confidence on slippery Spanish roads, maybe they’ll fare better in Blighty.
But, for under £7000 there really aren’t too many gripes. Harley will shortly be launching a huge accessory catalogue for the Street Rod, and with most Hog owners liking to customise, you could consider the standard bike as simply the starting point. I like its look and stance, it feels solid and you would never guess that it’s built in India. And at only £89 a month on PCP, that’s an impressive trick. I even prefer it over the pricier air-cooled 883 Iron.