BEFORE RIDING the new Harley-Davidson Street Rod, I mentioned to a friend that I was going to Spain to ride a Harley for the first time. His response was, ‘That’s not a real Harley – it’s only 750cc, is liquid-cooled and the ride position doesn’t require your arms to be all up in the air. It looks like it might even go round corners.’
And it does go round corners but being the newest member of Harley’s Street platform, I’d expect that manageable, accessible, competent, comfortable character to carry over, so even though it’s a more badass hooligan (more hooliganized – is that what the Americans would say?) version of the Street 750, it’s still user friendly and designed to draw people in to the brand.
At £6,745 in black and £6,995 in colour, the Street Rod is the only Harley more expensive than the £5,995 Street 750 – I’ve done the math and that makes it Harley’s second cheapest bike. Accessibility is a core part of what defines the Street range – while developing it, Harley did a lot of research, visiting 10 countries to speak to a range of riders to find out what people wanted from the Street. The result was the Street 750 – designed as the ideal entry-point to the brand and now followed by the the Street Rod – a meaner looking, more powerful iteration of the Street 750, and a bike that’s intended to give riders a little bit more performance, attitude and a more dynamic experience.
Looks-wise, the Street Rod is taller (ground clearance up to 193mm from 145mm) and more aggressively styled thanks to it passing through the hands of Harley’s Dark Custom styling studio. Some of its added visual bite comes from a new stubbier tail unit, liberal use of black paint, new split seven-spoke 17 inch wheels and an intake scoop that draws inspiration from forced induction hot rods from 30 years ago. The tank is also in a new position and the swingarm mounting point is new – shortening the wheelbase by 10mm to 1510mm over the Street 750.
But the Street Rod hasn’t just passed though the art department at H-D HQ, those pesky spanner twirlers wouldn’t allow it, and additional performance comes primarily from the engine and suspension. In the Street Rod, the single overhead cam four-valve 750cc ‘Revolution X’ V-twin engine has received some attention from Harley, and now produces 20% more power and 10% additional torque. It’s all down to the new 42mm throttle body, new high-flow cylinder heads containing new high-lift cams with longer duration, plus shorter two-into-one exhaust. However, at 238kg ‘in running order’, it does weigh more than the 233kg Street 750.
The result is plenty of punchy, torquey power from the moment the throttle is opened to about 5,000rpm, with peak torque of 47.9lb/ft hitting at 4,000rpm and motor is happy to keep pulling while it lazily revs higher. Peak power of 69hp arrives at 8,750rpm, but by the time it’s spinning that fast, it’s time for another sturdy feeling change from the six-speed gearbox.
Even though it pulls nicely as the revs climb, the engine’s torquey character meant I was rarely inclined to go much beyond 7,000rpm; riding the wave of torque is where it’s at, dude. With the revs around 4-5,000rpm, making progress on a twisty bit of road is a pleasurable experience because there’s always plenty of shove at hand to punt you out of a corner. It’s up to you whether you shout ‘Ye har-ley’ inside your helmet.
But the Street Rod’s frequent inability at finding neutral is less of a reason to cheer. This ’Rod needed to be hot to be in with a chance of getting the green ‘N’ to light up, but problems hooking neutral were compounded by the fact that the Neutral light wasn’t always playing ball. I rode a couple of different bikes – an ‘Olive Gold’ one (a foul colour, or is it just me?) and a much cooler looking ‘murdered out’ black one. On both bikes the neutral light soon started working intermittently and by the end of the day, it had packed up on the ‘Olive Gold’ ’Rod.
Still, that didn’t eclipse the fact that the engine is friendly and accessible, with good fuelling and a throttle that’s just-so. It would be nice if the new exhaust (which on my bike had some pretty messy welding) made a less underwhelming sound on the power, but if I owned one of these, its gentle burbling on the overrun would be alluring enough to have me hunting for an aftermarket exhaust so it was as loud as a redneck at a Trump rally.