Review: Harley-Davidson Street Rod

Choppers and bulky bikes with a chrome overdose. If those are the first associations people make when they hear your brand name, it might be time to take action. Especially if you want to target a larger, younger audience.

That’s why Harley-Davidson introduced the Street 750 in 2015. Less heavy, less expensive and less of a Harley cliché. This new approach apparently gained traction, because in 2017 Harley presented the Street Rod. Based on the Street 750, but with a more lively, sportier attitude. I rode the Street Rod for a week.

Baby Harley?

The Harley-Davidson Street Rod has the smallest lung capacity of the entire Harley stable. After the Street 750, it’s also the cheapest Harley out there (starting at $8,699 in the US and € 8.225 in Germany).

Nevertheless, you can’t say the Street Rod is a Baby Harley. Absolutely not. This is a genuine Harley which can pull up next to its bigger brothers without a blush. The built quality leaves little to be desired (the tie-wraps look a bit cheap, and the cabling could be done a bit more decent here and there), there are plenty of Harley logos (up to the Michelin Scorcher tires), and I can’t imagine non-Harley fans loathing things like the beautiful, wide tank and red rear shock absorbers.

So it’s an all-classic Harley? Well no, not entirely. The Street Rod wants to be sportier than the average Milwaukee creation. So the Street 750 got some seriously slogging. Starting with the V-Twin. The 749 cc engine got pumped up considerably, making it climb from 59 Nm and 57 hp to 65 Nm and 68 hp. Harley even dares to put a High Output label on it.

Compared to the 750, the Rod also gets more ground clearance (from 145 mm / 5.7 in. to 205 mm / 8.1 in.), a higher saddle (from 720 mm / 28.3 in. to 765 mm / 30.1 in.), a bigger lean angle (from 28.5 to 37.3 degrees before the left footpeg touches the asphalt) and a sharper rake (from 32 to 27 degrees). Sounds promising? Start your engines!

And then you find yourself not being thrown back to your childhood, when you loudly raced your bike through the streets, a bunch of playing cards in the spokes. Nope, in contrast to earlier Harleys that I tested, the Street Rod sounds rather tame. So be it. Open the throttle and … try to find a good spot to put your feet.

Ergonomics

As Harley tradition dictates, it’s almost impossible to ride the Street Rod with your feet tucked up against the engine and with the tank clamped between your knees. You have to ride with your legs wide open. Ball of the feet on the pegs? Good luck with that. After a week of driving and searching for the ideal position, I know better: put the middle of your feet on the footpegs. That way, your right heel can rest on the extra support on the exhaust, while at the same time the toes can reach the brake pedal.

Different story for the left foot. No extra support here, so your heel drops deeper than it does on the right side. Unfortunately, a perfectly symmetrical riding position is impossible, which will take a few days of getting used to. Also keep in mind that – with your feet centered on the pegs – your boots will touch the asphalt before the pegs will. If you’re planning to drive very curvy roads, prepare for active footwork. Or for damaged boots.

So, the footsteps are set high (according to Harley standards, that is), but the saddle isn’t. This has ergonomic consequences. You don’t even need very long legs to ride with your knees higher than your hips. In addition, the handlebars require a slightly forward leaning posture. In short, doing long distances isn’t very pleasant on the Street Rod.

On the other hand, the higher footpegs allow more fun. You’ll already notice that in the first corners. No scraping pegs on the asphalt. A more sportly style to ride through the corners then? Sure, the Street Rod likes it a lot. The V-Twin picks up smoothly from 3,500 rpm and surprisingly doesn’t sink in when you pull through till the limiter halts you just before 9,000 rpm. Wide, fast turns are big fun, and the Street Rod manages to keep the intended line without much struggle. So does the Street Rod ditch all footpeg scraping? Absolutely not, but you have to go a lot deeper than you’d expect from a Harley.

Other fine news: the engine encourages high-revving and handles it perfectly. It doesn’t even make the exhaust sound like a cat with a squeezed throat. Even better: the sound becomes a lot less boring, especially when you turn the throttle hard.

The display of the Street Rod hardly changed since I tested the Iron 883 in 2014. I quote: “The speedometer is round and analogue, with a digital window that shows two trip meters, odometer, time, tachometer and gear indicator.” I would’ve expected a bit more progress here, Harley. Minimalist and classic are okay, but does time really have to stand still?

Zigzagging through the urban jungle

With its young target group, the Harley-Davidson Street Rod aims for city traffic rather than long journeys on wide open roads. But its suspension is quite hard, torturing your body on speed bumps and cobbled streets. In addition, the engine gives off a lot of heat. A stop at the traffic lights on a nice summer day? Better pray that you’re not melted away before the light turns green. Zigzagging through the urban jungle is easy, with its small turning circle and light handling. Unfortunately, the wide handlebars with the bar-end mirrors are less convenient in city traffic.

Speaking of those bar-end mirrors: I’m not a fan. The blind spot is biiiiiig. This can be done a lot better. Just take a look at the bar-end mirrors on the Triumph Street Cup that I tested recently.

The brakes on the other hand perform well. Initially they seem soft, but once you pull harder, they have enough braking power to bring the 238 kg to a halt, pronto.

Conclusion

The Harley-Davidson Street Rod might look like a typical Harley, but in many ways it’s atypical. For example, you’ll have to bend a lot deeper to scrape the footpegs, which means you can attack corners much more aggressively. The engine encourages such behaviour: the 749 cc V-Twin is remarkably lively, and continues to perform well even when the digital tachometer climbs to the limiter.

Sadly, Harley didn’t dare to develop a sporty riding position for the Street Rod. It’s a classic Harley posture, but with higher pegs. Ergonomically not that great. If the Street Rod would have been consistently sportive, friend and foe would’ve been surprised. Now it surprises too, but besides the positive points there’s that unpleasant side. Better next time, Harley. Yes, you can!

Photography: Foto PK

Pros

+ Surprisingly lively engine
+ Harley style at an attractive price
+ Good roadabilty

Cons

– Ergonomics aren’t terrific
– Awful mirrors
– Sound lacks character

Tech specs

Engine

Engine: High Output Revolution X™ V-Twin
Bore: 3.4 in.
Stroke: 2.6 in.
Displacement: 749 cc (46 cu in)
Compression ratio: 12.0:1
Fuel system: Mikuni Twin Port fuel injection, 42 mm bore
Exhaust: black two-into-one exhaust

Dimensions

Length: 83.9 in.
Seat height, laden: 729.8 in.
Seat height, unladen: 30.1 in.
Ground clearance: 8.1 in.
Rake (steering head) (deg): 27
Trail: 3.9 in.
Wheelbase: 59.4 in.
Tires, front specification: 120/70 r17 v
Tires, rear specification: 160/60 r17 v
Fuel capacity: 3.5 gal.
Oil capacity (w/filter): 3.3 qt.
Weight, as shipped: 505 lb.
Weight, in running order: 525 lb.

Performance

Torque: 65 Nm at 4,000 rpm
Power: 68 hp at 8,750 rpm
Lean angle, right (deg.): 37.3
Lean angle, left (deg.): 40.2

Chassis

Wheels, front type: black, 7-split open spoke cast aluminum
Wheels, rear type: black, 7-split open spoke cast aluminum
Brakes, caliper type: 2-piston floated front and rear

Electric

Lights (as per country regulation), indicator lamps: high beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, low fuel warning
Gauges: 3.5 inch electronic speedometer with high beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, low fuel warning, blade key ignition and fork lock, and locking gas cap

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