Cheap & nasty

Benelli falls flat while new CRF250 is fly­ing high

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - ADAM CHILD SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER adam.child@mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com

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.

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