Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Thoughts on the New Harley Davidson Street 500 and 750

This year, two interesting new bikes were introduced. Polaris brought us the new Indian(TM) to compete with Harley Davidson.  And Harley Davidson brought us a new Indian(the country) motorcycle to compete with Polaris and everybody else.  Actually the Indian Harley will be manufactured in India and the USA (Kansas City), and it will be in two versions, a 500cc and a 750cc.  The 500 will just be a smaller piston version of the 750.

Like most Harley Davidsons, the new Harleys look good to me, with retro styling instead of futuristic Autobot/Decepticon cartoon styling popular in Japan.  And they still have a back fender to catch the road spray.

Recently, I have been avoiding Harley Davidsons, especially the smaller models because of high price, small fuel tank, little rear suspension travel and non-water cooled engines.  These new "Street" models answer three of these concerns, and they are also lighter than the previous Harley "entry level bikes".

The most significant specification to me for the new Indian Harley (I should start calling by the official name, the Street models) is the gas tank size, which at 12.5 litres is much more practical than the Honda Shadow 750RS tank at only 9.84 litres. But the 2014 Harley Sportster "Low" is bigger at 17 litres. However, it could be worse, the current H-D "48" has only 7.9 litres.  If that's a joke, it's not funny.

Almost as important as gas capacity to me to me is the rear suspension travel, a number that Harley Davidson is as reluctant to publicize as their horsepower. Apparently the Street model's travel is a full 2 inches more than the Harley Davidson Sportster Iron. I had to dig a little to find out the 2010 H-D SPORTSTER 883 IRON has only 1.63 inches.  In the road test of the Sportster Iron, Billy Bartels said "it didn't bottom out nearly as much as the Low we recently tested, despite identical suspension numbers and similar preload settings".  Maybe he lost weight, or was riding on a smooth road.

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The current Harley "Low" has more suspension travel, bringing it up to 2.5 inches (as they say, for "added comfort". In my mind, 2.5 inches is more like "still hurts real bad").  I assume the Street 500 and 750 will have a suspension with about 3.5 inches, similar to the Honda Shadow 750RS at 90mm or 3.54 inches.  My Vulcan 900 has 4 inches, which I think is just adequate.

I am not the young guy/girl that Harley is marketing to, as I am now a senior citizen.  But if I was in the market for a bike right now, I would look at their new Street models instead of the more expensive Honda Shadow 750RS with the teeny gas tank.  I'm even less interested in the cheaper but uglier Honda CB500. Although the CB500 is available with ABS, the retro style version is not available in Canada.

But then what about my supposed aversion for Harley Davidson in general?  Well, I don't really have an aversion to Harley Davidson on any absolute level.  I just didn't like the price/performance/reliability compared to many Japanese models.  I also didn't care for the superior attitudes of some ultra patriotic Harley Davidson owners about "made in USA" machines, but that's not really a deal breaker for me, as I know that many Harley Davidson owners don't have those attitudes.

I see the comments are already flying about the Street models being a reasonable starter bike.....for a girl.  If I was riding one of those, and anybody actually told me it was a beginner bike for a girl, I would just tell them it was my daughters bike.  According to Mary Ann, I am a pretty good liar.  I don't even have a daughter.  I could chuckle about that all night long.  But hey, I do have a grand daughter.  Wonder if her mom would like her to have a new Harley Davidson?  I'm just kidding,  I doubt if anybody would actually say that to me in real life, of course the Internet is another matter.


  1. Well, 750 ccs (45 cubic inches) is kind of a Harley tradition, harking back to the W-series (including WLAs) and Servicars, the Model Ks (the precursor to the Sportsters) and even for Evel Kneivel's XR750 stunt bike.

    Although, with overhead cams, four valve cylinders, liquid cooling, fuel injection, higher compression and a more usable red line than those old W-series machines, the new Street series bikes no doubt get a lot more out of those 45 cubic inches ... LOL!

    I can't say I'm impressed with the styling, though. Looks like they couldn't make up their minds as to whether this was to be yet another Harley cruiser or some kind of modernized cafe racer ...

    But judging from the suspension travel, more like a boulevard cruiser ;-)

    1. I think I need to see this bike in real life. What puzzles me is that the seat height is apparently 25", and it does not look like the seat is very low in the pictures. So maybe the whole bike is really small?

      In my opinion, the styling is kind of like the new Yamaha Bolt, the Honda Shadow 750RS, the Harley Sportster (and even the V-Rod), maybe the Triumph Bonneville too. I might call it retro standard cruiser, or maybe what you call a boulevard cruiser.

    2. Yes, I agree. So I was surprised to find some writers describing these as 'café racers'. For example, 'the Street series is a cafe racer from a company known for cruisers and choppers.' ...

      For me, a café racer is the sports equivalent of a chopper ... a machine stripped to the essentials - which these new Harelys are definitely not. For a true racer, compromises get made in comfort for the sake of speed. And the rake on those Street 750s looks a lot more like 'cruiser' than 'racer' ... LOL!

  2. I really like the look. Reminds me of the styling of the Honda Nighthawk or Yamaha Seca/Radian. Look, I'm not a Harley fan at all (as mentioned above, price and attitude. Really? All those manufacturers out there and Harley is THE only bike worth riding? Still smokin' that dub' from '72, eh?) BUT if the price is right, (CDN funds) then this will be the only Harley I want to test drive and maybe, just maybe, drop a wad on. Now that's a BIG step for me.