Out on the Streets: Costa rides Harley-Davidson’s new Street 750

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Photos by Riles and Nelson unless otherwise specified

The last time Harley introduced a new platform was in 2002, when the company launched the V-Rod. The Motor Company obviously takes its time with new product development which is why the latest addition to the line up — the Street (available in 500 and 750 cc variations) — is such a big deal.

Produced primarily for the expanding Asian market as well as Europe, the Street will be built at a plant in Bawal, India. This may seem like sacrilege to dyed-in-the-wool H-D riders, but rest easy, Canada and the rest of the Americas will be getting bikes assembled at Harley’s Kansas City plant … although mostly from parts manufactured overseas.

Harley touts the Street as a beginner bike, and it’s certainly on the entry-level side of the spectrum, both in physical size and in pricing, at least in the U.S., where it starts at $6,799 for the 500 and $7,499 for the 750. Canadian pricing will be announced sometime in August, around the same time that the bikes will be arriving at Canadian dealers.

Those who know me, also know I like Harleys. I’ve owned several in the past, and will likely buy another sometime in the future. After riding the Street 750 in Austin, Texas last weekend, however, I was left with the impression that the company’s engineers have forgotten a few important things about building Harleys. But more on that later.

Costa breaks from cover on the new Street 750.
Costa breaks from cover on the new Street 750.

WHAT’S NEW

Aside from the bar and shield on the gas tank, the Street 750 shares nothing with any other Harley model (except the Street 500 of course, which is identical except for the smaller bore size), and is a completely new design from the contact patches up.

There are styling cues however, that I recognised from a previous Harley model that has gone on to achieve cult status: the XLCR Café Racer. These include the seven-spoke wheels, fork gaiters, mini café racer fairing, fuel-tank emblems, and even the header pipes have familiar bends.

The 60-degree ‘Revolution X’ V-twin is liquid cooled and fuel injected, but is otherwise a relatively simple design. The unit-construction engine (the transmission is inside the engine cases) has one cam per head and four valves per cylinder, which are operated via forked roller rockers (no pushrods here). Valves are adjustable, but maintenance costs should be low because it uses simple screw and locknut adjusters with 24,000 km adjustment intervals.

The MoCo had some modified Streets at the X Games to show what they were capable of. No, that isn't Costa on board.
The MoCo had some modified Streets at the X Games to show what they were capable of. No, that isn’t Costa on board.

Torque output is very reasonable at 44.5 lb-ft and it peaks at just 4,000 rpm, about halfway to the 8,500 rpm redline (the 500 peaks 500 rpm sooner at 29.5 lb-ft). Mikuni provides the single-port fuel injection, which breathes through a 38 mm throttle body (35 mm for the 500).

The chassis is comprised of a single-backbone, double downtube steel frame with twin shocks and a conventional 37 mm fork. Suspension adjustment is limited to rear preload. Chassis geometry is closer to a cruiser than a standard bike, with a 32-degree rake, 115 mm of trail and a wheelbase of 1,534 mm (60.4 in.). Wheel sizes are 17 inches up front and 15 inches in the rear, the latter contributing to a low seat height. Wet weight is 222 kg (489 lb), and to keep costs low, there’s no ABS, not even as an option.

THE RIDE

Harley surveyed thousands of riders worldwide for input when designing the Street. Everything from riding position to suspension to chassis geometry to engine characteristics were determined by these riders.

That's Harley-Davidson's first all-new motor since the V-Rod came out years ago.
That’s Harley-Davidson’s first all-new motor since the V-Rod came out years ago.

As many new riders will tell you, seat height is a very important factor that greatly affects rider confidence, and as such the Street has a low, 710 mm (27.9 in) seat height, nearly matching the Sportster Superlow’s 696 mm.

However, this low seat combines with the mid-mounted footpegs to make quarters cramped for a six-footer like me. Harley does offer an accessory Tall Boy seat that raises your butt 40 mm and moves it rearward 65 mm. I rode with the standard seat that does allow for a very easy reach to the ground, but is only comfy for about an hour. By the end of the day I was doing the one-cheek-sneak, lifting one buttock off the seat at a time for relief.

There are a few odd things you’ll notice about the Street when seated, the first being that the switch assemblies are mounted up at an awkward angle. I instinctively tried to twist them straight only to discover they have locating dowels that lock them in that position. Fortunately it looks weirder than it feels, as access to the minimal buttons is easy.

The mid-mounted pegs offer superior comfort and handling to forward controls.
The mid-mounted pegs offer superior comfort and handling to forward controls. Too bad they’re so far apart.

I prefer the Street’s mid-mounted footpegs to cruiser-like forward pegs, but they’re placed unusually wide apart, which feels awkward, if not uncomfortable. The rear brake pedal is well placed, just high enough to allow you to place your foot squarely on the footrest, but then when you press down on it, the whole assembly flexes, and the pedal goes way down to boot, forcing an unnatural angle at your foot before it actually engages.

The handlebar is tall and wide and an easy reach, but mirror stalks are short and offer more of a side view rather than a rear view. I had to contort out of the way anytime I wanted to see if the bikes behind me were still following.

After all of these quirks I was beginning to wonder if Harley made a mistake asking riders what they actually wanted, or whether they were riders at all.

The ergonomics didn't work that well for Costa, but he liked the motor's usability.
The ergonomics didn’t work that well for Costa, but he liked the motor’s usability.

Then there’s the wiring. Engineers seem to have placed wiring connectors in the most inopportune places. To the left of the speedometer you’ll find the left turn-signal connector, coloured bright yellow. Then there are bundles of wires and connectors on the right side of the bike (just ahead of the gas tank and below the side cover), inconsistent from bike to bike, varying from relatively orderly to a jumbled, tangled mess, like on my test bike.

Add to that numerous fasteners that had too many threads visible when assembled, and paint finish on the engine that looked like it was sprayed on with a can.

If I seem a tad critical, remember, I like Harleys, but all of these things are entirely unbecoming of a manufacturer who’s been building motorcycles for more than 110 years. And I know Harley engineers know better, the fit and finish of their existing models are proof of that.

The hodge-podge of wiring detracted from Harley-Davidson's reputation for fit and finish. Photo: Costa Mouzouris
The hodge-podge of wiring detracted from Harley-Davidson’s reputation for fit and finish. Photo: Costa Mouzouris

Well, fortunately all of this unkemptness in design was partly righted after the engine fired and I let the clutch out for the first time. Clutch pull is beginner-friendly light and the six-speed gearbox is among the best-shifting I’ve sampled in a while. In fact, the engine, despite its modest specs, is surprisingly torquey at low revs, and it is among the smoothest V-twins on the market.

The fuel injection is very well sorted and throttle response is seamless. The bike rolls away from a stop effortlessly and feels quite strong going through the gears. Power flattens out in the higher rev range, and the vibes pick up, but not uncomfortably so. The bike is actually quite smooth at cruising speeds, so the view of your arms in the mirrors is at least clear.

Handling is fine, with nothing remarkable to report, except perhaps soft-ish damping, and despite the low seat, there’s ample cornering clearance, way more than on any of the lowered Sportsters. It’s stable, confidence-inspiring, and easily manageable around town, all of which are in line with Harley’s spiel about the bike being built for beginners.

There's no ABS available, but the brakes should be hard for a beginner to lock up inadvertently.
There’s no ABS available, but the brakes should be hard for a beginner to lock up inadvertently.

The brakes, well, they’re adequate, with more than usual travel at the lever, but mostly at the pedal, though at least the lever is easy to modulate and locking the front wheel inadvertently is not very likely, which again is a good thing for novice riders.

CONCLUSION

To put it simply, this is Harley-Davidson’s first kick at the can with this design, and at least the company got the engine right. It’s the feature I like the most about the Street, and I think it will make a great basis for other models –  I’d like to see it in an adventure bike.

It’s a compact power plant with plenty of potential, as hinted by the handful of custom-made dirt trackers Harley built with the help of Vance & Hines. The engines in those bikes reportedly produce 75 horsepower at the rear wheel, an increase of about 20 over the stock engine, with very little internal work.

The flat trackers being thrashed around in the dirt supposedly made 75 hp after mild tuning.
The flat trackers being thrashed around in the dirt supposedly made 75 hp after mild tuning.

But a great engine doesn’t make up for lapses in quality control, and it’s here that the Street needs work. Some of the items can be easily rectified on the assembly line, like the wonky wiring, though some will need a redesign, like the rear brake control.

Harley also expressed that this bike will be conducive to modification for up-and-coming custom-bike builders, so it’s likely that a bunch of them will get altered, chopped and maybe stretched, and there were a couple of really cool-looking Streets on display at the X Games, which were also taking place during the weekend, and where tattooed and pierced future bikers were aplenty.

Sure, the Street is meant to meet a price point, another factor that appealed to riders when surveyed, but inexpensive should not translate to cheap, especially when Harley is concerned.

Will the Street 500 and 750 capture the youth market? We'll see, when they hit Canadian dealerships later this year.
Will the Street 500 and 750 capture the youth market? We’ll see, when they hit Canadian dealerships later this year.

None of the issues mentioned above hinder the bike’s performance, but they will leave a lasting impression on impressionable young riders, and if brand loyalty is part of the Street’s mantra, Harley’s got some homework to do.


GALLERY

Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.


SPECIFICATIONS

Bike  Harley-Davidson Street XG750
MSRP  N/A
Displacement  749 cc
Engine type  Liquid-cooled V-twin, SOHC, four valves per cylinder
Power (crank)*  N/A
Torque*  44.5 ft-lbs @ 4,000 rpm
Tank Capacity  13.1 litres
Carburetion  EFI
Final drive  Belt
Tires, front  100/80 R17 Michelin Scorchers
Tires, rear  140/75 R15 Michelin Scorcher
Brakes, front  Single 292 mm disc, two-piston floating caliper,
Brakes, rear  Single 260 mm disc, two-piston floating caliper
Seat height  709 mm
Wheelbase  1534 mm
Wet weight*  222 kg
Colours  Red, gloss black, matte black
Warranty  24 months, unlimited mileage
* claimed

15 thoughts on “Out on the Streets: Costa rides Harley-Davidson’s new Street 750”

  1. Nice review Costa. I thought the exact same thing about the action shot of the black bike… “There are styling cues however, that I recognised from a previous Harley model that has gone on to achieve cult status: the XLCR Café Racer” I’m very interested to see where this bike will lead H-D.

    If H-D got anything else right on this bike – its the tank. A nice smooth underside, without the stupid welding lip that the Japanese seem committed to, makes all the difference.
    I’d chalk up the other wiring details to pre-production models. But no one stepping up from a Bajaj or Mahindra will care about details like wiring anyway.

    It has just enough Harley-ness to emulate the bigger bikes. But they can’t let this punk newcomer upstage the big brother. The next step up must feel familiar, but still an improvement. How will ‘upgrading’ from a smooth liquid cooled V-Twin to a paint-shaker air cooled lump go over?

  2. I’ve had high hopes for the Street 750 ever since it was announced, but the more I read from those who’ve been around the pre-production models, the more I am becoming inclined to believe that this new Harley-Davidson line-up will not be the success they planned on … and sadly, I have from a reliable source that the Mo Co’s plan is to eventually phase out the XL883, leaving only the 1200 in the Sportster line …

    The Yamaha Bolt, 883 Sporty and Honda’s VT750 Phantom & RS cousins are likely better choices to the 750 Street … while the 500 will probably be best served as a Trainer for Noob Riders.

  3. “If Hardley-Ableson is to survive, they need to start building modern motorcycles. ”
    Actually they’re doing quite well. They are penetrating a younger demographic (women too) with the sportsters and their branded merchandise sales keep chugging along (no pun intended). I did some research about the company last fall while completing a course in marketing in my MBA and the position/condition of the company was surprisingly good.

    I doubt they would touch a remade Easy Rider. They want the implied association with freedom/rebel/free spirit. Not the sanctioned depiction of criminal.

    They know their existing customer, their desired/potential customer and how to create future customers. Fact is most of their customers (present and future) wouldn’t consider buying any other brand of MC. Without a Harley, they’re without a motorcycle.

  4. Interesting. If Hardley-Ableson is to survive, they need to start building modern motorcycles. This “Curry Hog” is their only chance: If they fail with this they are going to spiral into oblivion while Indian takes over the premium cruiser space and the asians and europeans take over everything else..

    I don’t know what will happen to the Sportster, though. This “Curry Hog” is a better motorcycle in almost every way, and it’s less expensive. If they can get the details right and improve the quality and the details, the Sportster may just fade away.

    I still think that HD should pay to remake “Easy Rider” to showcase their wares: It’s probably one of their only chances to make hogs cool to the next generation.

  5. I think the style of the bike is exceptional. A number of design cues from past and current models without the tonnes of chrome. Up the detail build quality and stick another disc on it and it would be a winner…in my opinion.

  6. Almost looks like the guys and gals at Harley moved over to the “dark side” and have now started designing metric bikes. What’s next?

  7. Inadvertently or intentionally makes no difference, an excuse for poor performance is what you’ve provided. What is it about the “MoCo” that keeps them producing low-performance motorcycles? And just for the record, I was really hoping this new bike was going to break the mold.

  8. Blackie, if you read it correctly, it says locking the front wheel inadvertently is not very likely, quite different from what you are implying. Ride the bike and write your own review if you don’t like what I have to say. Cheers.

  9. ” ,,,locking the front wheel is not very likely, which is a good thing for beginners.”
    Translation: The brakes are crap. Opinion: Fitting sub-standard brakes to a motorcycle and then relying on biased journalism to make excuses and try to spin it into a good thing is unacceptable. You might want to try for a position in the insurance industry.
    Costa, your impression of the bike is exactly what I saw at the winter bike shows. Disappointing that the “MoCo” doesn’t draw on its 100+ years of building bikes to learn to finish this one properly.

  10. Costa, thank you for your thoughts on these bikes. You’re one of a few reviewers that I respect when accessing a new Harley. The photos do seem to back up your opinion of the messy wiring gaffs. The motor is a nice looking piece of work. I hope that articles like yours will help motivate Harley to develop & refine these bikes.

  11. ‘Seems to me that most of the intended demographic, looking for a first “real” bike, would be better served by the much higher quality Triumph Bonneville. At its most-basic, it’s not that much more expensive, and the seat, not much higher.

  12. Great review – too bad they cheaped out on the details.

    Now, if they were to build a street-tracker like the V&H bikes we would talk…

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