Ride impression: 2017 Harley-Davidson Street Rod 750

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    As the American motorcycle, Harley-Davidson (H-D), like most other manufacturers with strong legacies – think Porsche with the iconic 911 – sometimes has to fight against public perception that its product has to be “just so”. This may or may not include things like engine configuration, general styling and performance.

    When H-D launched the Street 750 back in 2015, many Harley purists made disparaging remarks about the assembled-in-India machine not being a “true” Harley. While this article is not the place to discuss this issue – full disclosure, the author has a 1997 FLSTF in the stable – it cannot be denied there is a certain limit to market purchasing power when it comes to chrome-laden, big, American iron.

    To address this, H-D’s “Street” series of V-twin 750 cc machines are designed to attract a younger set of riders, or older riders who want to ride a street machine without it being a hard-edged sports bike or laid-back cruiser. Sans the chrome and boat anchor weight of true cruisers, H-D’s 2017 Street Rod 750 takes aim at a young rider who wants the brand association of a true Harley, but without the penalty of being asked if that’s your dad’s (or mum’s) bike you’re riding.

    Now, for the 2017 Street Rod 750, H-D has made more than a few changes to the machine, over and above the current Street 750. As the name implies, the Street Rod is designed with an eye on performance, and to appeal to a different rider set than the traditional H-D customer.

    We were invited by Harley-Davidson Asia to Singapore for a media ride of the Street Rod 750, and to find out for ourselves what is different about this machine targeted towards the urban rider. Our ride impression follows after the jump.



    As stated above, and officially announced by H-D, the demographic for motorcycle riders is changing, and the Milwaukee firm is, indeed, chasing a younger type of rider. Following on from the Street 750, the 2017 Street Rod 750 takes the basic cruiser formula, but makes it sportier.

    On the first approach, the Street Rod, while still keeping to the cruiser styling, has taken on a more dragster-like stance. Two things strike the observer immediately, one, for a H-D bike, this thing is tall, and two, there is a lot of daylight – some 205 mm worth – under the engine.

    Getting into the 765 mm tall seat, the rider is struck by the impression just how, well, not small, but reasonably sized the Street Rod is. A slight lean forward into the handlebars, and pulling the legs up for the mid-mounted foot controls, and the Street Rod seems about right.

    A word about those foot pegs though. If you’re used to a “standard” sports bike, these pegs are going to seem a little high, and too close to the seat. However, the seat itself allows for a fair amount of wriggle room, and most riders will be able to find a seating position to suit.

    If you’re a six-foot-four gorilla like the author’s riding buddy, though, you might want to look elsewhere in H-D’s range. Truth be told, after about a half-hour of riding around the streets of Singapore, we didn’t notice the foot position, and it felt right. What it needs is a bit of getting used to.

    That H-D’s touts of the Street rod as a city bike is borne out by that long-ish 13.1-litre fuel tank. Broad and long, it is certainly one of the eye-catching features of the Street Rod, and just begs for some airbrush artwork.

    Another point of interest on the Street Rod, and this might offend those purists who don’t consider the Street-series machines to be true Harleys, is the rear seat cowl. The lines of the cowl are taken from the H-D XLCR flat-track racer of the seventies, and certainly fits into the Street Rod’s “dragster” look.

    Starting up the the 749 cc High Output Revolution X V-twin, fed by twin 42 mm Mikuni throttle bodies and EFI, is keyless, with the transponder fob staying in the rider’s pocket. Thumbing the starter brought the Street Rod to life with that familiar V-twin rumble.

    No “po-tay-to” sound here though, the stock pipes are designed to comply with noise and emissions regulations, plus, in Singapore, a bunch of Harleys riding down the road drew more than a bit of attention. So, buy the Street Rod, or any Harley, and have a look through the catalogue, or aftermarket, like 99% of H-D riders. You know what I mean, wink, wink.

    Shooting off on the Street Rod showed that clutch effort was light, and well within the hand strength of any rider. H-D certainly gave the clutch basket assembly some thought, as we’ve previously ridden Harleys that needed bear paws to operate.

    One of the main features that H-D is pushing forward on the Street Rod is its handling. For urban riding, and during the photo shoot at the Upper Pierce reservoir, we found that the Street Rod does, indeed, handle.

    With a wet weight of 238 kg, the Street Rod is no lightweight, but, with some clever tweaking of the steering geometry and carefully selected centre of gravity, it goes around corners well. No point-and-shoot heroics here, though, despite the 1,510 mm wheelbase.

    Corner entries have to be carefully selected, and the Street Rod given a steady line through the corners. However, once into the corner, the bike is stable, and tracked true, with no hint of nervousness at being heeled over.

    From the Street Rod spec-sheet, it has 37-degrees of lean on the right, and 40-degrees on the left. These numbers are more than enough for the bike to be leaned over into any corner at street riding speeds with no fear of anything touching the ground.

    Rowing through the six-speed box, we found the Street rod felt happiest in fifth gear, with a drop down to fourth for quick over-taking, and sixth behaving like an overdrive. No close-ratio, short-shifting here. The gearbox, while being very precise and smooth, with each gear clicking firmly into place and no false neutrals, did not like being rushed.

    Making each gear change, smooth, slick and deliberate yielded the best results from the engine, with speed building quickly. How quickly? Well, we were warned that wheelies would not be tolerated, and stoppies even less so, though we did manage to grind down on one side during a sharp corner, but, suffice it to say, there is enough speed for the Street Rod to be “entertaining”.

    This is helped by the 65 Nm of torque from the engine, but we were not given any horsepower numbers. It is, definitely, more than adequate for the Street Rod, with the bike responding eagerly to every twist of the throttle.

    Braking on the Street Rod’s twin disc front brakes and single disc rear, with ABS as standard, is suited for the city cruising nature of the bike. While we did not get the chance to do any proper braking tests, for really hard braking, the rear brake will have to come into play.

    Probably the nearest comparison we could get to the Street Rod in terms of bikes we have ridden and owned is a 1974 Honda CB750 we had. Stable, smooth, adequate power, comfortable seating, good handling, all these adjectives apply to the Street Rod.

    On the styling front, the Street Rod 750 attracted a lot of comments. Some of these were directed at the air filter housing on the right side, which resembles a supercharger.

    One Harley purist didn’t like it, while another said it looked “cool”, so, opinion is somewhat divided on the issue. We did not mind it, and thought it added something to the looks. Coming back to the exhaust pipes though, we found that the location of the pipes on the right was a little wide, and if you are somewhat short in the inseam, your right leg is going to touch the pipe at standstill.

    Thus, no riding the Street Rod in shorts and flip-flops (which we don’t recommend anyway). Which leads us to the biggest issue we had with the Street Rod – engine heat.

    In designing the Street Rod, H-D brought the engine upwards, and pushed the rider forwards, bringing the rear cylinder right between the rider’s thighs. While on the move, there was no issue, at standstill, engine heat built up quickly enough for it to be very noticeable.
    This is despite the proper Gore-Tex riding pants we were wearing, and riding boots. Splaying the legs out wide while at a stop alleviated the problem somewhat, but be careful paddling the Street Rod around in a parking lot after a long ride.

    There are three colour options for the 2017 Harley-Davidson Street Rod – Vivid Black, Charcoal Denim and Olive Gold. There is no Malaysian pricing available as yet for the Street Rod, as H-D Malaysia has been mum about if and when the machine will make it to Malaysian shores.

    So, who needs a Street Rod 750? If you’re an urban rider and the typical Japanese sports bike leaves you cold, the Street Rod could fit the bill, with its torquey V-twin and dragster styling.

    Certainly for most riders and the type of rides they do, there is enough performance and handling in the Street Rod 750 to leave a smile on the face. Overall, the 2017 Harley-Davidson Street Rod 750 is a competent machine, and will suit most riders who want that H-D cachet but are not concerned about “purity”, though that warm feeling between the legs might not be intentional on the bike’s part.
     
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