Now that The Motor Co. has apparently satisfied the global demand for an urban-oriented line of inexpensive entry-level Harleys with the cruiserish Street 500 and 750, it has begun targeting specific competitors. The new Street Rod gets a High Output version of the liquid-cooled, 754cc “Revolution X” SOHC 4-valve V-twin, with improved airflow, a new dual-throat throttle body, valve changes and a bump in compression and redline that give it 8-percent more torque and 18-percent more peak horsepower, the better to have it nipping at the heels of bikes like the Suzuki SV650, Triumph Street Twin and Yamaha FZ-07. Muscular Dark Custom styling includes a supercharger-styled air cleaner, speed screen and streetfighter-inspired tailsection.
For more nimble handling the Street Rod rolls on 17-inch wheels wearing Michelin Scorcher 21 tires, and Harley steepened the rake from 32 to 27 degrees, increased the rear suspension travel with new reservoir shocks by 31 percent to 4.6 inches, and gave it a stiffer 43mm inverted fork. Lean angles are way up over the Street 750, and the rider sits 4.1 inches higher (at 30.1 inches) on a scooped seat, reaching forward to a drag-style handlebar with bar-end mirrors.
I had the opportunity to flex the Street Rod’s muscles on a short ride during Bike Week in Daytona Beach, Florida, where curves are in short supply but I could wring its improved engine out on the straight stretches. Harley says the bike is focused on city and urban riding, but power is definitely up to an exciting level for such a small motorcycle, and with its strongest punch down low in the 3,000 to 5,000 rpm range, vibration is not an issue. On one twisty stretch near Tomoka Marsh the bike felt very nimble and light, its triple disc brakes with ABS are strong and the suspension is firm but compliant front and rear. The bike’s only real limitation, even for some entry-level riders, will be its footpeg location, which was moved back for a sportier feel but is way too high for inseams of more than 27-28 inches. My knees were well above the gas cap, and my legs so cramped that I had trouble shifting and using the rear brake pedal.
Shorter riders may not suffer this restriction and should still be able to plant their feet at stops because of the scooped seat. Anyone who fits the Street Rod well, in fact, will enjoy its urban bulldog style, competent performance and low price of $8,699.