Harley-Davidson Street Rod: To V-twin or not to V-twin?
We've spent the day riding Harley's 2017 Street Rod around the roads of southern Spain and the new bike, which is based on the Street 750 has surprised us a little.
The Street Rod is much more like a naked roadster than any other Harley currently out there, so it performs well in the twisties. It's also got 20% more power than the Street, with Harley claiming 69bhp which gives the bike plenty of punch.
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The Street Rod will be available for £6745 in black, and £6995 in Charcoal Denim and Olive Gold.
Five things we like
The new High Output Revolution engine
The 749cc liquid-cooled V-twin at the heart of the Street Rod is a peach of an engine. It's based on the engine from the Street 750, but produces 20% more power and 10% more torque, which results in 69bhp and 48ftlb of torque. But these figures alone don't tell the whole story - the engine redlines at 9000rpm - incredibly high for a Harley-Davidson engine. This results in an engine that's engaging to ride and flexible. It'll easy pull from as low as 2000rpm, and keep pulling all the way to that 9000rpm redline, with peak power at 8750rpm. The real sweet spot for the motor is between 4000 and 5000rpm, where the motor produces its most torque and fires out of corners smoothly. It bangs and pops on the over run too, which is a nice bonus.
This is something I never expected to write about a Harley, but the Street Rod handles really well. That's not to say all other Harleys handle poorly, they're just not built for enthusiastic cornering. The Street Rod on the other hand handles much more like a naked roadster. The 765mm seat height and wide bars give the rider quite a commanding position, enabling you to be quite aggressive with your inputs, but the bike works best when you settle into a smooth rhythm. It's an incredibly easy bike to ride at a brisk pace, and it excels at quick direction changes, with the wide bars helping you lever the bike from one corner to the next. Ground clearance isn't much of an issue either thanks to the higher stance of the bike - there's 37.3° of lean angle on the right and 40.2° on the left.
Harley's lighter, slightly sportier models, such as the Street 750 and 883 have never had the stopping power you'd expect, thanks to the use of a single disc up front, but the new Street Rod gets two 300mm discs gripped by dual-piston calipers, and they're excellent. They offer plenty of stopping power while remaining progressive - perfect for newer riders - and there's plenty of feel through the lever, too. I don't think I've ever been able to consistently use just one or two fingers on a Harley before without having a couple of scary moments. The rear brake is also a 300mm disc, so there's plenty of stopping power there. ABS is standard, but at no point during the 100 mile test ride did it activate.
The Street Rod has one of those odd looking seating positions that seems to have cropped up over the last couple of years with the huge surge in popularity of the custom scene. The footpegs aren't all the way out in front of you like on the Street 750, but they're not quite underneath you either, like on an XSR700, they're in between the two and somehow it works. It means your knees are rather high - especially if you're taller than six foot, like myself - but it doesn't feel cramped or unnatural. The bars are a good distance from the rider, so you never feel like you're stretching to reach them. The seats pretty comfortable, too. We spent all day in the saddle, save for a lunch break, and I didn't start to feel uncomfortable until the last hour.
As with most models in the Dark Custom range, Harley have got it spot on with the styling. The styling is simple but purposeful, and the lack of chrome and dark moody colour schemes work well. The chunky tailpiece could perhaps be described as old fashioned, but it really makes the Rod look like a muscular roaster. The engine and all the electronics look as though they're ready to burst out of the tubular steel frame which also adds to the muscle bike look.
And two we don't
The right footpeg
The exhaust on the Street Rod runs down low on the right hand side of the bike, right where you'd expect the footpeg to be, so Harley have had to move the right footpeg slightly further out than the left. It's not uncomfortable, but it feels slightly odd having your right foot further out than your left and you never feel like you're sat completely straight. Because of the footpeg position directly above the exhaust, Harley have added a small heel plate on the top of the exhaust. It's in a good position and stops the exhaust being scuffed, but it transmits quite a few vibrations from the exhaust, as you'd expect. If you're cruising at low rpm it's not too much of a problem, but keep the motor spinning above 4000rpm where the meat of the power is, and toes quickly start to feel tingly.
While the wide bars help lever the Street Rod through corners, they're a hindrance in city traffic, which is a little odd since Harley say the Street Rod is aimed at those who do most of their riding in the city. The bars are wide enough to be a problem on their own, but the bar end mirrors add even more width making filtering slow going if traffic is heavy. It's not the worst problem in the world, but a little strange for a bike marketed as the perfect urban bike.