Harley-Davidson Street Rod: A sports cruiser on steroids

The V-twin engine produces an insane 64 Nm of torque at just 4,000 RPM and it just goes like a bat out of hell.

Riding shot of Harley Davidson Street Rod 750

As I was riding Harley-Davidson’s Street Rod on the streets of Kathmandu, Twisted Sisters was blaring through the Bluetooth speakers in my helmet.

You’ve got to ride to live
live to ride
feel the flames burn inside

Hailing from the land of the bald eagle, the venerable motorcycle brand has been making motorcycles since 1903. Over the last several decades, Harley-Davidson has graced the silver screen, and owning a Harley meant you were a rebel.

Fast forward to the 21st century, the brand has grown as a way of life for many and is the symbol of American freedom. Harley Davidson has a huge following but with an ageing customer base (the average Harley rider’s age is about 50), sales have been falling with younger riders flocking to other brands as the appeal of owning an American classic motorcycle is waning. The company understands this and have taken steps to address this issue. The brand is looking to tap into a new generation of riders and launched an initiative ‘More Roads to Harley Davidson’. The company is also redesigning its product portfolio to appeal to international riders by introducing multiple middleweight (750-1250cc) motorcycles and developing small-displacement motorcycles (250-500cc) for Asian markets. They also unveiled their first electric motorcycle, LiveWire, a sign of where the industry is headed as a whole.

Harley Davidson at Boudha

Leading the change is the Street Rod which is priced at just under Rs2.8 million. It is a fresh spin on the Harley’s of yesteryear with a modern cruiser design that is sporty yet accommodating for new riders. It is based on the 750 Street model which was first introduced in 2017. So what is it like to ride one?

Design and features

When you swing your leg over the saddle, you will immediately notice the humongous V-Twin engine. With a blacked-out finish, the high output Revolution X engine looks striking and you know it means business before you even thumb the starter. You also get features that you expect on any modern motorcycle such as ABS, fuel injection and dual disc brakes on the front, a disc at the rear as well as upside-down forks. It also gets an impressive 205mm of ground clearance, not typical in most cruisers. Compared to the 750 Street, the new Street Rod features a dual throttle body, revised cylinder heads, enhanced intake ports and higher compression ratio to deliver even more oomph.

Engine and performance

And you feel the extra power the moment you twist the throttle. When I first rode the Street Rod, I felt like my arms were going to rip out of my body as I was not prepared for the brutal low-end grunt. The engine produces an insane 64 Nm of torque at just 4,000 RPM and it just goes like a bat out of hell. I was hitting triple-digit speeds in just the second gear!

Riding shot

After seeing my life flash by, I dialled back the throttle input, shifted up and cruised at road-legal speeds. The six-speed transmission is slick and I encountered no false neutrals.

Handling and comfort

The riding posture is on the sportier side thanks to the drag-style handlebar. With a wet weight of 238kg, one would think that the Street Rod would be an unwieldy motorcycle. But that’s not the case here. It is as graceful as a swan and I had no difficulty navigating the winding and narrow alleyways of Boudha. Filtering through traffic is easy and a matter of life and death. Ok, not literally but if you do get stuck in traffic, you will be in for a world of pain.

The 749cc high output Revolution X engine produces enough heat to keep you warm in winter and I found the liquid cooling system working overtime when plodding along in slow-moving traffic.

Riding shot

Mind you, it is winter at the moment and with the temperature well below twenty degrees celsius, you will still feel the heat on your thighs and bum. I can only imagine that it will be a chastening experience once summer arrives. The back cylinder is located so close to your crotch that when you put your right foot down, your thigh touches the cylinder head. I was planning to test the Street Rod on the highway but got stuck in traffic for nearly an hour during the recent South Asian Games instead where the roads were blocked off for some event (should have paid heed to the warnings) and it got so hot that I wanted to just leave the motorcycle by the roadside while I searched for aloe vera. Luckily, I managed to reach a side road and parked the motorcycle beside a cargo truck for half an hour to cool down while I contemplated my decision.

So do wear thick pants at all times if you are planning on riding the Street Rod. It is simply the price that one pays for having a powerful engine, especially a V-twin which is notorious for generating copious amounts of heat. You could try switching out for a different synthetic motorcycle oil to keep the heat in check.

Harley Davidson at Boudha

But you will quickly forget about the heat once you do hit the open road. I’m talking about the eargasmic exhaust note from the Screaming Eagle Supertrap slip-on muffler which is included in the sticker price and costs Rs66,000 if you buy it separately. The muffler looks amazing with its jet black heat resistant coating and combines the header pipes into a single channel where the pressure passes through the holes in the Buckshot shields to produce a note that can be heard from a few blocks away. It is the good kind of loud where people will turn to look instead of just rolling their eyes at the cheap and deafening kind of loud that seems to be more prevalent on the roads nowadays.

I have to make a special note of the stock MRF tyres. On any other motorcycle, I would be fine with the choice but on a hefty beast like the Street Rod, it is underwhelming. It struggles in muddy conditions and when you slip, your heart will skip a beat.

Verdict

Overall, Harley Davidson’s Street Rod is a motorcycle that delivers a constant adrenaline rush to the mind, body and soul. The juiced-up cruiser is a thrill to ride in the city aside from the engine heat and promises to entertain both new and experienced riders alike.

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