What is it?
Harley seems to be hard at work, trying to break its typical, conventional cruiser image. With the Roadster having been launched earlier this year, we now get two motorcycles from Harley-Davidson in 2017 that set out to be sportier than their stablemates. This newest little tyke from Harley is the Street Rod, a sportier derivative of the brilliant Street 750. While Harley-Davidson does have a history of motorcycle racing, those days are long gone, so it's honestly a refreshing move by the bike maker to revisit its sporting heritage. We put the Street Rod to test on our Indian road conditions, to see if this indeed is the Harley that's versatile enough to be a fun everyday ride.
This new Street Rod takes inspiration from the company’s drag-style bikes such as the V-Rod and the Night Rod and packs in aggressive styling that spells speed from every angle. Apart from a healthy dose of matte black paint for the engine and exhaust, the Street Rod gets split seats with a new saddle that helps riders cope with hard acceleration. The rear fender too has been shortened to give it a sportier makeover. The drag bike motif continues to the front that has a tall cowl around the round headlight along with flat ‘drag-style’ handlebars and bar-end mirrors. But it’s not just about looking fast. Harley-Davidson has really put in a lot of effort to ensure that the Street Rod has the performance to match its menacing appearance.
How is it to ride?
What you get here is the same 749cc, eight-valve, liquid-cooled, V-Twin, Revolution X engine that powers the Street 750, with identical bore and stroke figures, but with a new fueling system. In this ‘high power’ guise, it features twin-port injection (as opposed to the single-port on the Street 750) and it gets a larger throttle body as well. Along with a bump in compression, which now stands at 12.0:1, this motor makes 62Nm of torque (an increase of 3Nm) at 4,000rpm. While the exact power figures for either the Street 750 or the Street Rod aren't specified, the latter is said to see an 11 percent increase in horsepower coming in at 8,250rpm; the rev-limiter now kicks in at 9,000rpm instead of the Street 750's 8,000rpm.
With an increase of only 5.0kg in kerb weight, this increased power and torque figures translate to sharper acceleration on the Street Rod as compared to its cruiser sibling. The bike also gets shorter and wider exhausts that add a slightly more aggressive soundtrack to the motor. On the other hand, the six-speed gearbox is carried over exactly as from the Street 750, with matching gear as well as final drive ratios; this gearbox has proven to be among the slicker shifting units in Harley’s line-up.
While the main frame of the bike has been maintained, it gets a shorter sub-frame, and this is where the Street Rod really differentiates itself from the Street 750. It now gets beefy 43mm inverted forks at the front while the twin rear shocks now get piggyback reservoirs for improved damping. With the new forks, the front geometry of the bike has also been altered and now has a tighter 27-degree rake angle which also results in a reduced trail of 99mm. This has led to a drop of 10mm from the overall wheelbase which now stands at 1,510mm.
And in order to maximise cornering performance, Harley-Davidson has also upgraded the tyres to radials, which are now sized at 120/70 R17 (front) and 160/60 R17 (rear). The improved rubber from MRF really ensures that this Street Rod is not just about straight roads. A change in foot peg position to make them more rear-set has allowed for much higher cornering clearances on either side, an area where the Street 750 falls behind.
Even the brakes have seen an immense improvement thanks to the dual 300mm rotors up front with two-piston calipers, as opposed to the single disc on the Street 750. The rear brake stays the same, with a single 300mm disc with twin pot calipers. However, Harley is offering ABS as standard on the Street Rod which should really help increase safety to offset the boost in performance. Although the brakes do feel a bit vague and lack feel, the stopping power is strong and confidence inspiring.
We certainly were impressed with the Street Rod's handling. The aggressive seating position means you're already quite leaned into the handlebars. So dipping deep into corners feels quite natural; the higher cornering clearance makes for much sharper handling, especially when you factor in the increased seat height of 765mm that makes for a higher centre of gravity. Once you're into the corner, the Street Rod has a rather composed feel that really encourages you to push it harder. And the engine here is definitely punchier than the Street 750's; once you wring that throttle, the bike surges forward with a sense of purpose. The Street Rod comes together just brilliantly and really is a hoot to ride. Although it would definitely be more than happy to obliterate a set of twisty mountain roads, the seating position may make things a bit uncomfortable on longer hauls. It’s also not as nimble as you expect a modern sport standard to be.
Let's talk about ride quality. The Street Rod manages to handle bad roads brilliantly. While the suspension is soft, it doesn't get the bike wallowy around turns or hamper precision. The only issue we'd have to point out is the heating problem. Although the 749cc mill is liquid-cooled, it does get quite hot in slow-moving traffic or when at a standstill. And thanks to the seating position and position of the cylinder heads, your left thigh might touch the cylinder head when you put your feet down; and the cylinder head does get quite hot. That said, the side stand is easily accessible and is conveniently placed than you'd expect on regular cruisers.
Should I buy one?
We can confidently say that this is one of the best Harleys we've ridden. Unlike some of Harley’s past efforts in this space, the Street Rod is a value-heavy proposition. At Rs 5.86 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), it does command a slight premium over the Street 750 (priced between Rs 4.91 lakh and Rs 5.18 lakh), although it undercuts the Bonneville family and has better components. And even though many may find it uncomfortable, or heavy, the Street Rod will appeal to customers who wouldn’t have considered a Harley as their next motorcycle. From our first ride, I can safely say that Harley has finally brought back a sport-oriented motorcycle.