Harley-Davidson Street Rod review

First came the V-Rod cruiser, now we have the Street Rod roadster - the first sporty bike Harley has built for decades. And it goes as good as it looks

Ben Cope's picture
By Visordown on Sat, 1 Jan 2005 - 12:01

Details
Manufacturer:
Harley-Davidson
Category:
Custom
Price:
£ 10995
Overall
3
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Great motor, chunky looks and the Harley badge.
Some will argue it isn't a 'proper' Harley.

Meet Street Rod, psycho son of V-Rod. Well, it is amazing how something as simple as footpegs and bars can transform a laid-back cruiser into a street-brawling bruiser. But then if Street Rod is psycho, V-Rod was always schizo.

The V-Rod is the bike Harley launched in 2001 - a radical and brave departure for the company. It was the first time in 98 years that they had built a V-twin configured other than at 45° It was a 60° fuel-injected
high-revving sports motor - not unlike an Aprilia - designed with some technical pointers from Porsche. All very un-Harley. And they styled it as a cruiser, giving it an avant garde look bearing no resemblance
to anything they had ever built before and a bit of a contradiction in itself. Storming motor, laid-back ride.

For a company whose clientele are happy to tattoo the brand name onto their bodies to show their loyalty, you have to ask why? Why take a risk, deviate from what works, risk offending such a dedicated following? Well, I had to ask anyway. At the launch of the Street Rod in San Diego, California recently, I found myself propping the bar up next to Bill Davidson. As in Bill (Harley-) Davidson. He's the great grand nephew of co-founder Arthur and Director of Motorcycle Product Development at H-D. How great and grand is that? The most famous motorcycle marque in the world is still a family business - and the main man bought me a beer!
Bill explained the V-Rod came out of Harley's shelved superbike race project VR1000 of 10 years ago and of the need to broaden their market base. "Harley-Davidson's racing genes are in the new Street Rod," said Bill. Racing? Yes, last year a V-Rod-based bike won the American NHRA Pro Stock Championship. It did.
Harley has exploited its own unique corner of the market for the last 20 years. But increasingly it's found itself painted into that corner while the Japanese nibble away at its market share with their Harley clones aimed at less discerning laid-back dudes.

Time to fight back. So the Street Rod is a broadside shot at the XJR13, MT01, GSX1400, Honda CB1300 and the like. And significantly for Harley, it's the first bike they've built for decades that's designed to get the adrenalin going.

So we know about the motor - a full-on
8-valve, DOHC, 120bhp (claimed) revvy twin. The chassis is still long and low, but much less so than the V-Rod. Ground clearance is enough to have the bravest road rider swallowing hard; brakes are Brembo squeezing 300mm twin discs; forks are upside-down Showa and tyres are 120/70-19 front, 180/55-18 rear. All you need to go fast: power, brakes, suspension, rubber.
So, 5483 miles from my desk I stepped out into the cold drizzle and thought about that neat little oversuit-in-a-bumbag I'd left underneath it. Of course I wouldn't need it in sunny California. Buh-guh.

Walking around the bike (avoiding the wet seat for now) you're struck by the finish and detail. Chrome is deep, welds are neat. I loved the triple clamps and the view over the clocks, down the headlamp to the front tyre. That said, the clocks could do with being six inches further forward. But then it'd ruin that look and that view. It's comfortable and natural to sit on, and the grips and controls unusually light for a Harley.
First riding impressions arrived amid a rush-hour on shiny wet streets surrounded by honking Peterbilt monster trucks and impatient commuters. For me, this was the bike I wanted the V-Rod to be. Perfect, aggressive riding position for a motor willing you on to rev it higher. But in less-than ideal conditions. The feedback became more subliminal as I struggled through my first two hours in the wet on the Street Rod. It said a lot for the bike that I didn't have to think to ride it. Much too busy staying alive. But the weather cleared and I enjoyed another day-and-a-half ripping the pavement and canyons of California.

For me, this motor was always for sports. The rush kicks in at 5000rpm when the motor really begins to hammer, right round to the 9000rpm redline. Below this it's sedate, but torquey as you'd expect from such a big twin. And happily, it handles. The Street Rod works brilliantly on fast, sweeping roads. I'd almost say you can flick it; the weight's low and it's well balanced. But it's still a long bike, with 30¡ of rake
(a sportsbike might typically have 24¡ of rake). And it's heavy too - 100kg more than a Yamaha R1. But what it lacks in sportsbike flickability it makes up in steering accuracy and stability. It makes you try, all the same. I came well unstuck chasing a GSX-R750 and a ZX-6R over Mount Palomar (a dream biker road) running wide on a couple of tightening bends. Until that point, I'd been right on them, the booming twin and speed of the bike belying the image in their mirrors. Yes the object was indeed closer than it seemed. I think I gave us all a bit of a shock one way or the other. But it proved a point.

Flat out the bike is as fast as the V-Rod, topping out at 135mph and bouncing the limiter in top. But to do that on a V-Rod is akin to crucifixion; on the Street Rod it's a hoot. So Harley-Davidson is in new territory and it has a very interesting and valid proposition for those who like the idea of the Harley badge, but don't want the cruiser thing. It comes at a price though - about four grand more than the aforementioned competition. But it's a quality bike and the more you stand and stare at it, the wider your wallet opens.

VERDICT

Verdict: Harley-Davidson is no longer a cruiser-only manufacturer. The Street Rod is a serious entrant into a new market and the Japanese and Italians had better watch their backs
Meet Street Rod, psycho son of V-Rod. Well, it is amazing how something as simple as footpegs and bars can transform a laid-back cruiser into a street-brawling bruiser. But then if Street Rod is psycho, V-Rod was always schizo.

The V-Rod is the bike Harley launched in 2001 - a radical and brave departure for the company. It was the first time in 98 years that they had built a V-twin configured other than at 45° It was a 60° fuel-injected
high-revving sports motor - not unlike an Aprilia - designed with some technical pointers from Porsche. All very un-Harley. And they styled it as a cruiser, giving it an avant garde look bearing no resemblance
to anything they had ever built before and a bit of a contradiction in itself. Storming motor, laid-back ride.

For a company whose clientele are happy to tattoo the brand name onto their bodies to show their loyalty, you have to ask why? Why take a risk, deviate from what works, risk offending such a dedicated following? Well, I had to ask anyway. At the launch of the Street Rod in San Diego, California recently, I found myself propping the bar up next to Bill Davidson. As in Bill (Harley-) Davidson. He's the great grand nephew of co-founder Arthur and Director of Motorcycle Product Development at H-D. How great and grand is that? The most famous motorcycle marque in the world is still a family business - and the main man bought me a beer!
Bill explained the V-Rod came out of Harley's shelved superbike race project VR1000 of 10 years ago and of the need to broaden their market base. "Harley-Davidson's racing genes are in the new Street Rod," said Bill. Racing? Yes, last year a V-Rod-based bike won the American NHRA Pro Stock Championship. It did.
Harley has exploited its own unique corner of the market for the last 20 years. But increasingly it's found itself painted into that corner while the Japanese nibble away at its market share with their Harley clones aimed at less discerning laid-back dudes.

Time to fight back. So the Street Rod is a broadside shot at the XJR13, MT01, GSX1400, Honda CB1300 and the like. And significantly for Harley, it's the first bike they've built for decades that's designed to get the adrenalin going.

So we know about the motor - a full-on
8-valve, DOHC, 120bhp (claimed) revvy twin. The chassis is still long and low, but much less so than the V-Rod. Ground clearance is enough to have the bravest road rider swallowing hard; brakes are Brembo squeezing 300mm twin discs; forks are upside-down Showa and tyres are 120/70-19 front, 180/55-18 rear. All you need to go fast: power, brakes, suspension, rubber.
So, 5483 miles from my desk I stepped out into the cold drizzle and thought about that neat little oversuit-in-a-bumbag I'd left underneath it. Of course I wouldn't need it in sunny California. Buh-guh.

Walking around the bike (avoiding the wet seat for now) you're struck by the finish and detail. Chrome is deep, welds are neat. I loved the triple clamps and the view over the clocks, down the headlamp to the front tyre. That said, the clocks could do with being six inches further forward. But then it'd ruin that look and that view. It's comfortable and natural to sit on, and the grips and controls unusually light for a Harley.
First riding impressions arrived amid a rush-hour on shiny wet streets surrounded by honking Peterbilt monster trucks and impatient commuters. For me, this was the bike I wanted the V-Rod to be. Perfect, aggressive riding position for a motor willing you on to rev it higher. But in less-than ideal conditions. The feedback became more subliminal as I struggled through my first two hours in the wet on the Street Rod. It said a lot for the bike that I didn't have to think to ride it. Much too busy staying alive. But the weather cleared and I enjoyed another day-and-a-half ripping the pavement and canyons of California.

For me, this motor was always for sports. The rush kicks in at 5000rpm when the motor really begins to hammer, right round to the 9000rpm redline. Below this it's sedate, but torquey as you'd expect from such a big twin. And happily, it handles. The Street Rod works brilliantly on fast, sweeping roads. I'd almost say you can flick it; the weight's low and it's well balanced. But it's still a long bike, with 30¡ of rake
(a sportsbike might typically have 24¡ of rake). And it's heavy too - 100kg more than a Yamaha R1. But what it lacks in sportsbike flickability it makes up in steering accuracy and stability. It makes you try, all the same. I came well unstuck chasing a GSX-R750 and a ZX-6R over Mount Palomar (a dream biker road) running wide on a couple of tightening bends. Until that point, I'd been right on them, the booming twin and speed of the bike belying the image in their mirrors. Yes the object was indeed closer than it seemed. I think I gave us all a bit of a shock one way or the other. But it proved a point.

Flat out the bike is as fast as the V-Rod, topping out at 135mph and bouncing the limiter in top. But to do that on a V-Rod is akin to crucifixion; on the Street Rod it's a hoot. So Harley-Davidson is in new territory and it has a very interesting and valid proposition for those who like the idea of the Harley badge, but don't want the cruiser thing. It comes at a price though - about four grand more than the aforementioned competition. But it's a quality bike and the more you stand and stare at it, the wider your wallet opens.

VERDICT

Verdict: Harley-Davidson is no longer a cruiser-only manufacturer. The Street Rod is a serious entrant into a new market and the Japanese and Italians had better watch their backs
Meet Street Rod, psycho son of V-Rod. Well, it is amazing how something as simple as footpegs and bars can transform a laid-back cruiser into a street-brawling bruiser. But then if Street Rod is psycho, V-Rod was always schizo.

The V-Rod is the bike Harley launched in 2001 - a radical and brave departure for the company. It was the first time in 98 years that they had built a V-twin configured other than at 45¡. It was a 60¡, fuel-injected
high-revving sports motor - not unlike an Aprilia - designed with some technical pointers from Porsche. All very un-Harley. And they styled it as a cruiser, giving it an avant garde look bearing no resemblance
to anything they had ever built before and a bit of a contradiction in itself. Storming motor, laid-back ride.

For a company whose clientele are happy to tattoo the brand name onto their bodies to show their loyalty, you have to ask why? Why take a risk, deviate from what works, risk offending such a dedicated following? Well, I had to ask anyway. At the launch of the Street Rod in San Diego, California recently, I found myself propping the bar up next to Bill Davidson. As in Bill (Harley-) Davidson. He's the great grand nephew of co-founder Arthur and Director of Motorcycle Product Development at H-D. How great and grand is that? The most famous motorcycle marque in the world is still a family business - and the main man bought me a beer!
Bill explained the V-Rod came out of Harley's shelved superbike race project VR1000 of 10 years ago and of the need to broaden their market base. "Harley-Davidson's racing genes are in the new Street Rod," said Bill. Racing? Yes, last year a V-Rod-based bike won the American NHRA Pro Stock Championship. It did.
Harley has exploited its own unique corner of the market for the last 20 years. But increasingly it's found itself painted into that corner while the Japanese nibble away at its market share with their Harley clones aimed at less discerning laid-back dudes.

Time to fight back. So the Street Rod is a broadside shot at the XJR13, MT01, GSX1400, Honda CB1300 and the like. And significantly for Harley, it's the first bike they've built for decades that's designed to get the adrenalin going.

So we know about the motor - a full-on
8-valve, DOHC, 120bhp (claimed) revvy twin. The chassis is still long and low, but much less so than the V-Rod. Ground clearance is enough to have the bravest road rider swallowing hard; brakes are Brembo squeezing 300mm twin discs; forks are upside-down Showa and tyres are 120/70-19 front, 180/55-18 rear. All you need to go fast: power, brakes, suspension, rubber.
So, 5483 miles from my desk I stepped out into the cold drizzle and thought about that neat little oversuit-in-a-bumbag I'd left underneath it. Of course I wouldn't need it in sunny California. Buh-guh.

Walking around the bike (avoiding the wet seat for now) you're struck by the finish and detail. Chrome is deep, welds are neat. I loved the triple clamps and the view over the clocks, down the headlamp to the front tyre. That said, the clocks could do with being six inches further forward. But then it'd ruin that look and that view. It's comfortable and natural to sit on, and the grips and controls unusually light for a Harley.
First riding impressions arrived amid a rush-hour on shiny wet streets surrounded by honking Peterbilt monster trucks and impatient commuters. For me, this was the bike I wanted the V-Rod to be. Perfect, aggressive riding position for a motor willing you on to rev it higher. But in less-than ideal conditions. The feedback became more subliminal as I struggled through my first two hours in the wet on the Street Rod. It said a lot for the bike that I didn't have to think to ride it. Much too busy staying alive. But the weather cleared and I enjoyed another day-and-a-half ripping the pavement and canyons of California.

For me, this motor was always for sports. The rush kicks in at 5000rpm when the motor really begins to hammer, right round to the 9000rpm redline. Below this it's sedate, but torquey as you'd expect from such a big twin. And happily, it handles. The Street Rod works brilliantly on fast, sweeping roads. I'd almost say you can flick it; the weight's low and it's well balanced. But it's still a long bike, with 30¡ of rake
(a sportsbike might typically have 24¡ of rake). And it's heavy too - 100kg more than a Yamaha R1. But what it lacks in sportsbike flickability it makes up in steering accuracy and stability. It makes you try, all the same. I came well unstuck chasing a GSX-R750 and a ZX-6R over Mount Palomar (a dream biker road) running wide on a couple of tightening bends. Until that point, I'd been right on them, the booming twin and speed of the bike belying the image in their mirrors. Yes the object was indeed closer than it seemed. I think I gave us all a bit of a shock one way or the other. But it proved a point.

Flat out the bike is as fast as the V-Rod, topping out at 135mph and bouncing the limiter in top. But to do that on a V-Rod is akin to crucifixion; on the Street Rod it's a hoot. So Harley-Davidson is in new territory and it has a very interesting and valid proposition for those who like the idea of the Harley badge, but don't want the cruiser thing. It comes at a price though - about four grand more than the aforementioned competition. But it's a quality bike and the more you stand and stare at it, the wider your wallet opens.

VERDICT

Verdict: Harley-Davidson is no longer a cruiser-only manufacturer. The Street Rod is a serious entrant into a new market and the Japanese and Italians had better watch their backs

Score Breakdown
Overall
3
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