Our calendar wouldn’t allow us the pleasure of trip to the Sierra Nevada to test Harley-Davidson’s new Street Rod. Thankfully experienced journo and road tester Jon Urry was in Spain to scrape pegs and share his experience of Harley’s entry level offering.
For a premium brand such as Harley-Davidson, building a price-sensitive bike to appeal to younger riders was always going to be challenging. But that’s exactly what they did a few years ago with the Street 750. And they broke from tradition while doing so, not only was it water-cooled, it was also – utter this in hushed tones – built in India. Well it was if you lived in Europe, American models were built in America… And you know what? It worked. Harley have sold over 35,000 Street 750s in three years and it is going down a treat in lots of countries. Which is a bit of a surprise to me as to be honest, I don’t like it.
I’m sorry if you own one, and I am expecting a bit of flack for this from some of the afore mentioned 35,000 owners, but in my opinion the Street 750 isn’t a very good bike. I don’t care about the fact it is water-cooled, I don’t care where it is built, it is the fact that when I ride the Street it doesn’t feel like a Harley, it feels like a cheap imitation. The forks are spindly, the brakes poor, the finish leaves a lot to be desired and overall it lacks the ability to do justice to the famous Harley name. Sorry, but I’d buy an 883 over the Street every single day of the week as it sounds, looks, feels and delivers what I consider the authentic Harley experience. So when I was invited to ride the new Street Rod, to be honest my expectations were low. I am genuinely delighted to have been proven wrong.
The Street Rod is best viewed as a whole new generation of machine that in my book is a massive step on from the Street 750. While it has the same basic Revolution X 750 motor as the Street, the Rod part means the engine has been breathed upon and gets new cams with increased lift and duration, high flow heads and dual throttle bodies, all of which boost the power by 20% to 69bhp and the torque by 10% to 47.9ftlb. The chassis is also new with sharper geometry, twin piggyback shocks (that are only preload adjustable), inverted forks (non-adjustable), 17-inch wheels and twin discs at the front. As a Harley man said ‘it’s now bad ass’ – quite. And the look is also altered with a more muscle bike attitude thanks to drag bars, a new seat unit and a screen. And it works, not only looking so much more substantial than the Street 750 but also appearing a far higher quality machine with lovely finish and neat details. Where on the Street I feel the firm skimped to meet a financial target point, on the Street Rod they certainly haven’t. And the price – you get all this for £6745 for a black bike (or £6995 if you want a grey or olive one), which is just £750 more than the Street 750. In my book, that’s very good value as the Street Rod not only looks like a proper Harley, it rides like one. However there is one major irritation…
I need to get this out of the way to start with as if you test ride a Street Rod, you will instantly be annoyed by the right-hand footpeg’s position. It’s terrible. Located mid instead of forward on the bike, you can’t actually put your foot on it without resting your heel on the exhaust. Harley know this, they have added a neat little pad for your heel, but it’s so annoying and you end up riding with your foot half off the peg to compensate. It’s an exhaust issue, to save costs the downpipes are the same as the Street’s but it has forward pegs so it’s not an issue.
Harley say most owners will swap the Rod’s pipes anyway, but on a stock bike it really is annoying. Ok, gripe over, down to the good parts.
The Street Rod is a really fun bike to ride and a million times better than the Street 750. The new wheels and chassis geometry make it surprisingly agile and sold in bends and the suspension is set more on the firm side to give it a sporty attitude, which I like – you can actually hurl this Harley around and not feel like you are riding a pogo stick. True the shocks feel a little budget when pushed hard, but for the majority of the time they are fine. And you can push the Street Rod surprisingly hard.
With 40-degrees of ground clearance (the most on any Harley model) the pegs aren’t always scraping the floor and the twin disc set-up, although a bit on/off in their feel due to the braided lines, works well and has ABS as standard. It’s a decent handling bike that can be enjoyed in the bends while remaining a good city slicker thanks to a low centre of gravity giving it a nice balanced feel at slow speed, a decent turning circle and a seat height of just 765mm. Having spent a day riding the Street Rod at quite an enthusiastic pace, I thoroughly enjoyed it and left impressed rather than frustrated and disappointed as I did when I rode the Street 750. The two bikes are, quite simply, chalk and cheese in every single aspect – ride quality, looks and handling. Not to mention doing the Harley name proud…
Previously, if someone had told me they were looking at a Street 750 I’d probably have suggested they took an 883 for a test ride instead as the Iron is a great entry into the Harley world. But the Street Rod changes this. The Street Rod is a genuine alternative to the 883 rather than a poor imitation like the Street 750. Its water-cooled engine offers a different experience that is a touch more refined and less agricultural than the air-cooled lump, which some riders will appreciate, especially in an urban environment. The Street Rod’s aggressive styling is more modern than the classical Iron and it is an easier bike to ride and I’d also say better handling. The large ‘made in India’ sticker on the frame is a touch off-putting, but unlike the Street 750, the Street Rod doesn’t feel, look or ride like a cheap product despite its budget price tag and that in my book makes it a winner. And worthy of carrying the famous Harley-Davidson logo.
Thanks Jon, seems like we missed a good trip and a surprisingly good ride. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to swing a leg over one in a few weeks time. For now we’ll stare at this stunning XG750R and look forward to seeing how Kenny Coolbeth and the guys get on at the Springfield TT next month.