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2016 Harley-Davidson Dark Custom review, test ride

2nd Nov 2015 10:05 am

We spend an afternoon with three members of the 2016 Harley-Davidson Dark Custom family.

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Harley-Davidson recently launched its bikes for 2016, upgrading existing models. Of these, we just got our hands on the made-in-India Street 750, Iron 883, and the Sportster Forty-Eight. Riding to Aamby Valley is always interesting, which is where we took these bikes. Here are our first impressions.

The Indian-manufactured Street 750 is the singularly important motorcycle Harley-Davidson has in India. Since production started just a few years ago, customers have reported lacklustre overall quality, apart from suggesting that the brakes for this respectfully quick bike should be improved. Responding swiftly, Harley-Davidson has upgraded the bike, claiming all-round improvements. And this is what we are here to test. The Street 750 has identical 300mm disc brakes front and rear, with mechanical upgrades to the system. Our ride proved these do now work better, never giving us any reason to complain.

Not only are the brakes better, but Harley-Davidson has also made the effort to improve fit-and-finish on the Street 750. As earlier, the Street 750 delights in terms of its perfectly thought-out riding position, good comfort, excellent performance from the powerful, capable and smooth liquid-cooled motor, along with its good handling. The brake and clutch levers have also been replaced with new ones, that look and feel way better too. However, we did find that several parts of the bike still present an eyesore. Apart from other things, you still see exposed wiring on the right side of the engine section, which really should have been inconspicuous. Being red and white against black, your eye keeps going back to it and you wish it would go away. Harley-Davidson really should have addressed these issues by now.


In the Sportster line-up, the Iron 883 has received some upgrades for 2016. The motorcycle now has clipped fenders, a blacked-out powertrain and exhaust, drag-style handlebars and a solo tuck-and-roll seat cover.

The new Forty-Eight motorcycle has a burly 130mm front tire suspended by 49mm forks. The suspension mount has also been revised by Harley-Davidson, and the overall set-up actually works well, in comparison to the previous one. Damping is good, but this is based on the few minutes I got with the motorcycle on some smooth roads. The handlebars have also been revised to improve the manoeuvrability  of the Forty-Eight, but to be honest, the riding position still leaves a lot to desire and this Harley is not as easy to manoeuvre as an Iron 883, which actually felt much more comfortable, and went around bends with far better poise.

The Forty-Eight has chopped fenders to expose the tyres, and new cast wheels, in place of the spoke ones in the previous models. These are not just visually better, they also helped the motorcycle lose three-odd kilograms, further helping the improvement in manoeuvrability. It also has a classic 7.9-litre peanut fuel tank.

Upgrades are always a welcome thing, and the brakes on the Street 750, and the suspension on the Sportster line were much needed. The Street 750 even needed the nip and tuck treatment, but still has a long way to go before we give it the thumbs up as a premium motorcycle. The other two new Harleys are beautiful and safer options to consider in the 2016 line-up.

Arpit Phillips

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