Let’s start with a confession. It might seem that I would always choose an adventure bike as my daily ride, but if it were purely about the looks, I’d surely pick something else. What, you ask? Since I visited the Matchlight Motorcycle Show my soft spot for cool custom choppers only got bigger.
Harley-Davidson quickly comes to mind if you look at that type of bikes, but my previous Harley tests never really convinced me. Too little power, footpegs dragging on the asphalt … In short: too little riding pleasure if you don’t just want to stick to leisurely cruising.
Enter the new Street Bob. The model year 2022 received the new Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine and it’s the most powerful Softail currently on the market: 1,868 cc, 155 Nm at 3250 rpm and 94 hp at 5020 rpm.
Before we let Bob demonstrate that power, let’s do a visual inspection first. And it passes that inspection with flying colors. There’s a lot of cool black: from the rims, frame and engine, all the way to the exhaust. The finish is completely on point, the minimal but easy to read display fits perfectly into the picture and the mini-apehanger handlebars give the coolness factor an extra boost.
I’m not the only one who’s convinced, as demonstrated by the unknown guy at the gas station who came to inspect the Street Bob with an approving grunt, or my thirteen-year-old daughter who, upon discovering the bike in our garage, immediately jumped on the seat and said “Oh cool, I want one like that when I grow up!”.
X-factor in abundance, but can we say the same about the riding pleasure? What’s immediately noticeable is how comfortable the Street Bob is. At first glance, the handlebars may seem on the high side, but the mini-apehanger’s position feels very naturally. The seat is comfortable despite its lack of adjustment options, and the seating position is relaxed. Typical for Harley are of course the wide placed footpegs, which again took me a few days to get used to (and my Ténéré seemed absurdly narrow when jumping back on it after the Harley test week).
When I press the start button there is a nice deep rumble. The engine almost knocks me out of the seat. Time to twist that throttle! It’s a chilly morning after a wet night and in the second corner I already try my luck: the rear wheel breaks out when I accelerate a little too quickly. Whoopsie!
During my test week, the rear will take a sidestep several times when the road surface is not optimal, even when the tires are warmed up. The cause of this is the potent V-twin that gives you a big push towards its torque peak, and as mentioned earlier, the twin peaks early: it already has 155 Nm at 3250 rpm. Several times I thought that traction control would be a good idea on this bike.
It may accelerate briskly, but shifting gears in time remains essential. Once past its maximum power of 94 hp at 5020 rpm, the fun is over. But if you shift in time and make sure you stay in the fun zone, I would even dare to describe this Harley as sporty.
Steering with the mini-apehanger goes more smoothly if you hang with your whole body in the corner. How about counter steering with the Street Bob? Forget about that, hanging works better to enter a turn. And the apehanger is perfect for steering like this, it’s the way to make bendy roads smooth and light. A riding style that really feels nice.
The suspension does a decent job for its limited size and the engineers found a good balance between comfort level and stiffness. The brakes, on the other hand, don’t quite match the violence you can extract from the Street Bob’s engine. Both front and rear lack bite. The front brake doesn’t exactly feel light either, and neither does the clutch lever. Doing 1000 corners in a day requires a trained left hand.
Smooth turns are the Street Bob’s favorite playground and if you do have to get onto the motorway, you might want to do it as short as possible. You catch all of the wind and you need to grip onto the handlebars firmly to avoid being blown off your Bob. There is no wind protection, which you’ll notice in the rain too: you’re completely soaked in no time. But this is mainly a sunny-weather cruiser and not an all-weather tour bike.
Tough appearance, vigorous engine: on paper, the Harley-Davidson Street Bob scores easily. Moreover, it knows how to translate that into practice. Apart from the Pan America (which you can’t compare it to of course) this is the best Harley I’ve ever ridden. That’s mainly because of the riding experience that the Street Bob offers. It likes a sporty riding style and the mini-apehanger is ideal for hanging around the bend. If you’re too enthusiastic however, you‘ll hit its limits. The weak brakes and the absent traction control should also be kept in mind. But don’t let that spoil the fun.
Photography: Michele Micoli
+ Cool looks
+ The V-twin packs a lot of punch
+ Convincing cruiser experience
– Braking power is below par
– Wouldn’t traction control be a good idea, Harley?
– Too heavy brake and clutch levers
Length: 91.3 in.
Seat hight, laden: 25.8 in.
Ground clearance: 4.9 in.
Trail: 6.2 in.
Wheelbase: 64.2 in.
Tires, front / back: 100/90B19,57H,BW / 150/80B16,77H,BW
Tire type: Dunlop® Harley-Davidson Series, bias blackwall front and rear
Fuel capacity: 3.5 gal.
Oil capacity (with filter): 5 qt.
Weight, as shipped: 631 lb.
Weight, in running order: 655 lb
Engine: Milwaukee-Eight® 114
Bore x stroke: 4.016 in. X 4.5 in.
Displacement: 114 cu in
Compression ratio: 10.5:1
Fuel system: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Exhaust: 2-into-2 offset shotgun; catalyst in muffler
Torque: 119 ft-lb at 3000 rpm
Power: 94 hp / 70 kW at 5020 rpm
Lean angle right/left (deg.): 28.5 / 28.5
Front fork: Dual-bending valve 49 mm telescopic with aluminum fork triple clamps; dual rate spring; gaiter covers
Rear shocks: Hidden, free piston, coil-over monoshock; 43mm stroke; cam-style preload adjustment
Wheels: Black, Annihilator cast aluminum
Brakes: Solid, uniform expansion rotors
Brakes, caliper type: 4-piston fixed front and 2-piston floating rear
Lights: All LED, Low Beam, High Beam & Signature Position Lamp, Bullet-style, dual-element incandescent stop/tail/turn signals, Incandescent Bullets, Bullet-style, dual-element incandescent stop/tail/turn signals
Gauges: 2.14 inch viewable area LCD display with speedometer, gear, odometer, fuel level, clock, trip, range and tachometer indication