HARLEY-DAVIDSON has its target firmly set on young riders. Within 10 years, the manufacturer wants to get two million new American bums on its seats. It hasn’t set such an aim for elsewhere, instead expressing a desire to raise European sales to 50% of its global market.
Easy, right? Potentially, if the hundred new bike models it will churn out over the next decade are as downright fun as the 2018 Street Bob 107.
We rode the 84.8hp Street Bob at the launch in Catalonia. It’s the entry-level big-engined Harley, stripped back and unintimidating.
All eight of the new Softail models come with Harley-Davidson’s 107 Milwaukee-Eight engine as standard, four of which can be upgraded to the 114 unit.
The Street Bob is not one of them, but that’s okay, because the 1745cc 107 engine is more than ample in this apish little bike, offering progressive and unintimidating power.
The big twin makes 107lbft of torque at 3,000 revs, providing great mid-range tug. Peak power is at 5,020, just before the 5,500rpm red line.
It’s a fun engine, and performs well in a variety of situations.
On twisty mountain roads, wide open straights and everything in between, the Street Bob is the one model of the four tested that seemed unanimously loved on the launch.
Harley-Davidson’s new chassis is a claimed 34% stiffer and 7kg lighter than the previous Street Bob's, and that translates to a significant difference when it comes to handling. The bike feels light and agile – it’s easy to forget you’re riding a near-300kg ‘cruiser’.
The maximum lean angle isn't too great - at 28.5° we were grinding pegs on almost every bend. But higher pegs would be uncomfortably cramped for all but the shortest of riders.
At 5'8", I found the Street Bob’s ergonomics perfect, but taller riders reported cramp after as little as 20 miles. But if you’re into the upright, right-angled knee position the ‘bob is known for, you won’t have a problem.
The mini ape bars are controversial, both in styling and positioning. But they give excellent leverage and complete the Street Bob’s fun-to-ride appeal, also marking it out as a bike that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Up-front, a new Showa dual bending valve features, while at the rear there’s a hidden monoshock. The front set-up absorbs most bumps, leaving you to feel only the largest of jolts and significantly improving handling on the previous generation. The rear is bouncy but riders wanting a firmer ride can adjust the preload. The Street Bob lacks the handy external adjuster of the Fat Bob and Breakout, so you have to remove the seat.
The Street Bob’s single front disc wears a four-piston fixed caliper and the rear has a two-piston floating one. While not new, this set-up is both progressive and instantly powerful when the need arises.
The Street Bob features similar specifications to the rest of the 2018 Softail range – dark styling effects, ABS as standard, a signature LED headlight.
But it stands out from the crowd thanks to its stripped back looks. The black-spokes wheels have chopped fenders, the 13.2-litre tank is the smallest of the range to show off that big-V, and a single seat is fitted as standard.
Perhaps the neatest example of this minimalization is the LCD instrument screen incorporated in the bar clamp. All the required information can be found here, and adjusted with a subtle bar-mounted switch.
Holes on the air filter and exhaust pipes add to the badass aesthetics.
The ride, the styling and the value for money.
We don't like:
The riding position is quite cramped, and not ideal for taller riders.
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