If the Street Rod looks like a Harley, sounds like a Harley, it should ride like a Harley too – right? Wrong. And here’s why…
You, I, and everyone else who’s remotely aware of motorcycles know for a fact that Harley-Davidson enjoys a cult following all around the world. There’s no other brand that represents cruiser and custom motorcycles like Harley-Davidson does. You may even say that the Milwaukee-based manufacturer doesn’t sell motorcycles anymore – they sell a lifestyle. People buy Harleys because they want a Harley-Davidson. Period.
In price-sensitive markets, such as India, there is, however, a big catch. Say, if you’re financially well off – like, really well-off – buying the Harley of your dreams shouldn’t be much of a problem. However, if you happen to be a young aspirational buyer who’s on his own, you don’t have many options. In fact, thus far, there was only one – the Street 750.
The Harley Davidson Street 750 is the entry ticket to the Harley-Davidson family in India. Now, while the motorcycle did well in terms of volumes – and continues to do so to date across the globe – it isn’t a Harley for the “street” per se. Three years down the line, Harley-Davidson realised that most of its new generation buyers – the young lot – want a motorcycle that’s sportier to look at and ride, but, at the same time, should also have that quintessential cult factor of a Harley-Davidson.
Enter the new Street Rod 750. It’s based on the Street 750, but it’s virtually an all-new motorcycle. Every component has been honed to give it more street cred. The looks, the engine, wheels, brakes, suspension setup, ergonomics, and pretty much everything has been tweaked to make it more aggressive in every imaginable way. And from what I can tell from a full day of riding the Street Rod around the streets, highways and some nice back roads of Singapore, there’s a lot of promise in it. And a few niggles too.
Beefier is better
Truth be told, when I first checked out the Street Rod in pictures, I thought it had some odd angles and didn’t look as sleek or cohesive as the 750. In the flesh, though, it makes a totally different impression. The first thing that you notice are its petite dimensions. And that’s because the chassis geometry has been completely revised – at 27-degrees, the rake is steeper by 5-degrees over the 750. Trail is down to 99mm from 115mm, and its overall length has been reduced to 2,130mm from 2,215mm.
Numbers aside, it’s the design and attention to detail that gives the Street Rod the extra oomph. First up is the stance of the thing – it looks beefier and there’s a lot more aggression to it. The flat-drag handlebars with bar-end mirrors, small flyscreen above the headlamp, supercharger-type airbox, stubby exhaust and the shorter tail-section with LED lamp impart an increased level of masculinity, which the Street 750 lacks. The quality has definitely been taken up a notch, and that’s clearly evident.
High Output Revolution
On duty here is the same 60° 749cc V-Twin engine, but it comes with a heck of a lot of modifications. Harley likes to call this engine “High Output Revolution X,” and that’s somewhat justified because power output is bumped by 11% while torque goes up from 59Nm to 62Nm as compared to the Street 750. Harley claims that peak torque kicks in at just 4,000rpm and the motor is tuned for more midrange punch. In case you’re wondering how that’s done, here’s a quick look at the tweaks in the powertrain – the Street Rod has a larger airbox, new Mikuni dual-port injection with bigger 42mm throttle bodies (versus a 38mm single-port for the 750), a new cylinder-head with high-lift cams and a higher-volume exhaust muffler to enhance the airflow. Compression ratio is also up from 11.0:1 to 12.0:1, while the redline goes up from 8,000 to 9,000rpm.
Considering the Street Rod tips the scales at 238kgs, the engine has a lot of weight to lug around. That said, out on the streets of Singapore, where there are traffic lights aplenty, the bike felt quite quick. It doesn’t feel outright explosive, but there’s enough grunt to keep you entertained and to pull out from behind traffic. On the highway, the Street Rod couldn’t stretch its legs fully because we were strictly sticking to the island’s 90km/h speed limit. However, cruising at 110-120km/h shouldn’t be a problem, since the engine definitely felt like it had lots more power in reserve towards the top-end.
The 6-speed gearbox here is the same as the Street 750, and has the exact same ratios too. It’s not the slickest ‘box’ in the business, but, surprisingly, the light clutch makes start-stop riding a fairly easy-going affair. Also, the pops and crackles blurting out of the exhaust on the overrun are subdued – but still quite gratifying.
The only issue I had was that at high revs the engine tends to buzz a lot – sending vibrations all the way up into the handlebars. And most of my fellow riders also experienced heating issues. But, to be honest, I didn’t observe that to be a nuisance. As far as I could tell, it was quite manageable.
A Harley that handles
The design of the Street Rod is greatly inspired by the RDX 800 concept from 2013. That was also precisely the time when the firm started toying with the idea of developing a custom street-fighter. Following market research, surveys and feedback from prospective buyers worldwide, Harley-Davidson came to the conclusion that new riders want a sporty machine – but one that still looks like a Harley. Thus, the Street Rod was born. As a consequence, the ergonomics and chassis have been heavily redone compared to the Street 750.
Now, the first thing that will take you a little by surprise is its riding position. The foot-pegs are mounted high while the handlebar is farther forward. So, you essentially end up sitting wide with your knees high up and arms stretched fully. Harley-Davidson lead designer Chetan Shedjale says that this has been done deliberately so as to give an aggressive “urban bulldog” stance to the rider. The riding posture doesn’t feel natural or comfortable in the beginning, but once you spend some time on the saddle, it’s not odd anymore. That said, for long distance riding, it’ll take a toll on your back. But, then, it’s not really meant for long distances.
The Street Rod is a street-fighter in a cruiser’s overalls, and that’s clear in the way it rides. The suspension setup is stiffer, which now comprises of thicker 43mm inverted front forks and piggyback reservoir rear shocks. It rolls on fatter tyres shod on 17-inch wheels at both ends, as opposed to the Street 750’s R17 (front) and R15 (rear). The ground clearance, as a result, is 205mm from 145mm. All this collectively makes the Street Rod a remarkably nice handling motorcycle. Filtering through traffic was a breeze astride the Street Rod – although the credit for that mostly goes to the well-behaved motorists of Singapore. However, even back on the clogged roads of our country, it shouldn’t prove to be a liability.
During our ride, we encountered a nice patch of flowing corners – which was apparently part of the old Grand Prix circuit – where the Street Rod really proved that it can actually take on corners. While going around a curve on a Harley usually means scraping the pegs or the exhaust, with the Street Rod that’s not the case anymore – it can take lean angles of almost 40 degrees on either side without rubbing its extremities. It also turns in quicker, stays planted and holds its line cleanly through the corner. The bikes we were riding were fitted with sticky Michelin Scorcher tyres – optional for our market. MRFs come as standard fitment in India.
There’s no getting away from the fact that it’s still a heavy bike, so don’t expect quick directional changes. However, its handling is definitely a pleasant surprise for a Harley. As for the ride quality, it felt markedly stiffer even on the silky smooth Singaporean roads. Brake force comes courtesy of a 300mm dual disc setup at front while the rear wheel gets a 300mm single disc. ABS is standard. As for how the brakes perform, they don’t have that instant bite or sharpness, but they work really well when it counts. I would have liked some more feedback from the front brake lever though since it feels a little vague at times.
Perfect First Harley?
With the Street Rod added to the range, Harley-Davidson has jumped into uncharted waters. For the most part, the Street Rod will keep this iconic American bike maker’s flag flying in this segment since it feels, unlike any other Harley-Davidson.
Now onto the bigger question – what about the Street 750? Well, while the Street Rod is not a replacement or alternative to the Street 750, drawing parallels between the two will be inevitable – especially for buyers stepping into Harley-Davidson outlets for their first Harley. Taking into account the fact that the Street Rod looks more hardcore, handles better, has better build quality, and, most importantly, addresses all the shortcomings of the Street 750 for a price difference of just Rs 88,000, I see a major chunk of those entry-level segment Harley sales going into the Street Rod’s kitty – and rightly so!
- Harley-Davidson Street Rod 750
Engine: 749cc V-Twin / 8 Valves / Liquid-Cooled
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual / Belt Drive
Torque: 62Nm @ 4,000rpm
Price: : Rs 5.86 lakhs (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-Factor: Finally a Harley that’s as sporty to look at as it is to ride. Great pricing, too.