Harley-Davidson used the youthful stage of the Summer X Games in the great American city of Austin, Texas, to debut the Street 750, its first clean-sheet motorcycle in 13 years. Purists may fear it’s the beginning of the end, but the Motor Company is filling a need with this inexpensive liquid-cooled motorcycle, which has more in common with a typical metric cruiser or standard than it does a Sportster. The Street is lightweight and agile, quiet and smooth, discreet and efficient. From its appearance to its performance, from its sound to its price, the Street is brazenly unlike any Harley ever made. This is not your father’s Harley-Davidson—and the Motor Company is betting that an entire generation of motorcyclists won’t give a flip.
With approximately 40 percent of the U.S. population under the age of 30, and more than 70 percent living and/or working in an urban setting, Harley set out to create a bike that would appeal to that demographic’s sensibilities—and budgets. From $7,499 in gloss black, the Street 750 hit showrooms last June at nearly a thousand dollars less than the cheapest Sportster. The 500, which we did not get to ride, starts at $6,799, and the bikes are identical except for displacement and price—Harley says they even weigh the same. The price point alone should be enough to garner attention from young and beginning riders seeking sensible two-wheeled transportation. But is it enough to draw a generation of customers not beholden to brand identity into Harley-Davidson dealerships? It should be, as long as that target customer isn’t dead-set on owning a traditional Harley.
The XG750 is powered by the new Revolution X engine, a liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-twin that foregoes grunt and rumble for smooth and efficient power. It utilizes a chain-driven, single overhead cam as well as mechanical lifters and rocker arms to operate its four valves per cylinder. A 38mm Mikuni throttle body delivers the juice on the 750; on the 500 it’s a 35mm. Redlining near 8,000 rpm, about 2,000 rpm higher than a Sportster 883, the Street 750 makes more peak horsepower but not quite as much torque at a claimed 44.5 lb-ft (29.5 on the 500). While there’s still plenty of low-end grunt for riding around town, like the Sportster, power tops out quickly at highway speeds. But the Street’s constant mesh 6-speed transmission changes gears without a hitch, doesn’t announce its shifts with clunks and never fails to find neutral when asked. The single-sided pipe is politely hushed, and the motor remained relatively cool on a sweltering Texas summer day.
Contributing to the Street’s modest and amenable personality, the bike zips with remarkable agility thanks in no small part to its narrow chassis, slim footprint and 27.9-inch seat height. The 140-series rear tire and 17-inch front wheel augment the bike’s agility, and it leans eagerly and steers effortlessly, with only slight pressure on the wide handlebar. Despite the bike’s 5.7 inches of ground clearance and generous lean angle, I managed to grind the rubber footpegs a few times, and one hard scrape bit directly into the lower exhaust heat shield. Still, it’s the first Harley I’d describe as “flickable.” Preload adjustment on the 37mm fork would be appreciated by experienced riders who like to even up their suspension load in turns, but overall the stock setup, particularly the dual shocks out back, is vastly better than any Sportster’s. As surprising as the suspension is, though, the brakes are a disappointment—the squishy front lever requires plenty of assist from the rear pedal even under normal riding conditions.
Harley designed the bike to slant forward aggressively; note the sloping rear fender and the super-low fuel tank. From the saddle the bike feels even smaller than it is, and I never got used to seeing my knees above the gas cap. The flat stock seat allowed for plenty of movement fore and aft, but the soft, pliable perch I enjoyed in the morning felt spongy in the afternoon heat. Combine these factors with the bike’s mid-placed foot controls and the rider triangle on the Street 750 was cramped for my 5-foot, 11-inch frame, but should be just right for smaller riders and newbies. Among the more than 100 items already available from the accessories catalog is a Tallboy seat that positions the rider 1.5 inches up and 2.5 inches back from the stock position—an option taller owners will likely crave.
Clearly the Street 750 is a departure in many ways for Harley-Davidson. But in pursuit of the bike’s low price point, the Street’s designers curiously chose to do without a few key Harley traits that may not directly affect the ride quality, but nonetheless contribute to the brand’s iconic character. Beyond its docile purr and liquid-cooled engine, don’t look for a turn-signal switch by each grip—the Street features a non-self-cancelling, single thumb switch near the left grip like most motorcycles to make it globally compliant. I also noticed some inexpensive-looking components and an assembly line approach to fit and finish: galvanized steel bolts and connectors, zip ties on the handlebar, hurried frame welds and a few cosmetic flaws.
Fortunately, not all tradition has been cast aside. The cool headlight cowl and fork gaiters certainly lend custom cred, both fenders are steel and the bike’s cast wheels look as if they could have been lifted straight from Willie G.’s ’77 XLCR café racer.
Harley effectively invented the cruiser genre, but the Street 750 is just as comparable to a standard such as a Triumph Bonneville as it is to a Honda Shadow. It simply doesn’t look, feel, sound or ride like a typical Harley-Davidson.
Considering this extreme departure, the Street 750 is, for the most part, a pleasant surprise: fun, light and easy to ride. Whether young, urban America embraces the new Harley-Davidson remains to be seen—but the Street has undeniable potential in the worldwide market. Give Harley credit for offering something completely new and different.
Harley-Davidson Street XG500/XG750
Base Price: $6,799/7,499
Price as Tested: NA/$7,794
(Mysterious Red Sunglo paint)
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse 60-degree V-twin, SOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 2.7 x 2.6/3.6 x 2.6 in.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Belt
Wheelbase: 60.4 in.
Rake/Trail: 32 degrees/4.5 in.
Seat Height: 27.9 in.
Claimed Wet Weight: 489 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 3.5 gals., last 0.8 gal. warning light on
Claimed MPG: 41
(This article Street Sense was published in the September 2014 issue of Rider magazine.)
Test ride the Street 500/750, then an 883, then decide: do you want a lighter bike with a smooth running engine, slick shifting transmission, or an 80 or so pound heavier bike with a clunky shifting transmission, and the feel of every combustion event through the seat? I did (for my wife, who is in the process of getting her motorcycle endorsement); we’ll be getting the next 750 that comes into the dealer.
I’m sorry to hear that. Now that it’s September 2015, I’m wondering how you’ve fared with the 750 recall for the fuel pump issue. Also, how’s that “smooth” transmission for you? I don’t know about you, but the quality, or lack there of, on the 750 is mind blowing. Have you sold it yet?
I’ve just traded in my 883 Sportster (2009 xl883l) for a Street 750 (2017) for all of the reasons that David mentioned above, loving it, and yeah I am a woman so the weight reduction is a real bonus.
It’s pretty much a given that the factory seat and suspension (and sometimes brakes) on built-to-a-price motorcycle models are crap.
Even on many more expensive motorcycles, the stock seat is crap.
Also a given on almost every model of motorcycle is that you have to find one that you fit on, because unlike cars, with very few exceptions motorcycles are not easily adjustable to fit the rider.
Both long legs and short legs are frowned upon by motorcycle designers.
I would bet that the brakes could be improved by installing higher quality brake pads (not a difficult job).
This bike concept was tried once before. it was called “V-Rod” and it was a very cool bike. At $14,999 it was aimed at bringing in new customers who were considering Yamaha’s Warrior, Honda’s VTX, Suzuki’s M109, and such.
But dealer greed and price gouging, quickly stung potential customers as they were not familiar with the concept of being deliberately over-charged $6000 to $8000 above MSRP for a motorcycle. The following year, unsold V-Rods were stacked to the rafters everywhere. The bike lacked the traditional appeal to long-time Harley riders, and the dealer’s priced it right out of the market segment it was supposed to compete in. This would actually make an interesting case study.
Let’s hope the Harley dealers get this one right as corporate is making all the right moves to ensure the longevity of the company. Don’t screw this up guys! This what the company and market needs. Now!
I fail to see how the VRod, with a dry(!) weight of almost 600 pounds and over 100 hp compares to the sub 500 pound wet and less than 60 hp of the Street 750.
He’s not comparing the bikes themselves; he’s worried that the marketing strategy and release will follow a similar path.
V-Rods have sold surprisingly well in Europe, I’m told. But then you’re still trying to sell bikes to older, more affluent clients. Perhaps a more accurate analogy is when AMF-Harley bought Aermacchi in 1974 and for 4 years tried to sell re-badged small Italian bikes to attract young riders away from Honda.
You’re distorting the nature, timing and duration of Harley’s relationship with Aermacchi:
“Now in 1960 Harley Davidson bought 50% of the Aermacchi motorcycle division. The rest of the motorcycle holdings were eventually sold in 1974 to AMF-Harley Davidson before the business was sold off to Cagiva in 1978.”
The Aermacchi Harley Davidson Relationshi
The price the motorcycles sell at is controlled by the mother company. The only way they are sold above MSRP is if there are added accessories. The V-Rod was designed to meet a portion of the market that was not covered by other models. It is a successful design that is still selling well to the intended market. The engine was designed jointly by Harley Davidson and Porsche, there is nothing that matches it in it’s intended function.
I’ve recently bought an XG750, I had it fitted with a Vance&Hines pipe and K&N for airflow, luggage rack and sissy bar before it even rolled off the showroom floor, I’ve done around 1000km on it so far mostly with the wife on the passenger seat. We both love it. I was tempted to go for a sportster but having ridden both kinds I’m not regretting my descision it handles really well 6 speed gearbox is slick, it’s well behaved around town and with the v&h pipe it’s the loudest bike in our club by far it sounds like it’s been possessed by satan. Its due to go in to Harley shortly for the fuel pump recall, I haven’t had any issues but the guys at the dealership in Limoges are top men they really make you feel like they’ve got your back. It’s not the bike for everyone but I really like it, top marks from me.
Wolfie Cole in mistaken, Dealers can mark up all they want. I know this to be true. WIZARD
I don’t see any reason this bike will be a sales success. Bland styling. Mediocre brakes, and handling. Too many better things out there in this price range. I think H-D is doing all it can to survive, but this thing is not going to make it. H-D wants you to compare it to thier own 883cc bike, but they fail to realize there is a whole big world out there that is not Harley.
Ugly design, high price compare to Honda or Yamaha. Do we have extra pay for HD sticker?
I’m not surprised, HD is loosing customers.
Looked at a brand new Milwaukee 8 in the showroom the other day. Huge puddle of oil underneath it. Have a friend who bought one, then traded it for a Honda because it used over a quart of oil in 1000 miles. I love the looks and the idea of these little Harleys, but the quality is still as shoddy as it ever was.; you can’t believe the work people have to do to Evos and Fathead engines. I]ll stick with my Japanese bikes after owning one too many Harley Davidsons, thanks; I like to get home on my own when I go for a ride.
I have owned and love my 2015 XG-750. Mine was made in Milwaukee and has not had any problems of any kind!!
“Made in Milwaukee”? Are you sure about that? Try India.
All street models sold in North America are built in Kansas City all have the union proud label on them