The Street Rod Breaks New Ground
When you walk up to a new Harley-Davidson you expect to see some classic cues from the marque’s long and storied history. When you turn the ignition on and start it up you’d probably anticipate hearing and feeling a loud rumbling engine. When you click into gear and let out the clutch you’d expect the thud of a gear change and a relaxed ride as you pull away from a stop.
Well, that might all be true if you were talking about any new Harley-Davidson model other than the 2017 Street Rod. This bike doesn’t rely on history to deliver its riding experience. It doesn’t comply with the rule book that The Motor Company has adhered to for so many decades. This might be the bike for people who want a Harley but don’t want grandpa’s Harley.
The new Street Rod is a variation on a theme. It’s a cross between the popularity of modern cafe racer culture and the affordability and size of the standard Street 500 and 750 offerings. Don’t be mistaken – this is not a Street 750 with a few accessories bolted on. There are probably as many different things on this bike as ones that are the same on a Street 750. The list of upgrades, changes, and improvements over the standard model is long. This new Street Rod doesn’t replace the Street 750, but it does offer a ready-made higher performance version of it. If the Street 750 is an affordable entry-level cruiser for the masses, then the Street Rod is the black sheep of the family that just can’t conform. Having never ridden the stock Street 750, I had no preconceived notions of what to expect and went into this test with an open mind. What I came away with was a fun, nearly exhilarating ride on a compact naked standard. Not all was perfect, as I did have a couple of qualms, but overall the Street Rod is a cool ride.
As stated, the Street Rod may be in the Street line of bikes, but differences are large. Starting with the frame, the Street Rod’s is different to accommodate changes to the induction system of the High Output Revolution X V-twin engine. And the 3.5-gallon teardrop fuel tank has been moved forward, too. This 749cc water-cooled engine redlines at 9000 rpm, has 8 percent more torque output, and 18-20 percent more peak power than a standard version thanks to a higher 12.0:1 compression ratio, dual throat throttle body, and larger air box volume. The engine has revised intake tracts, an aluminum intake, scoop-like air cleaner, and a different camshaft profile. Overall torque output is advertised to be 47.2 ft-lbs. at 4000 rpm, which might not impress the Big Twin fans, but remember, this engine is less than half the size of a Twin Cam, and the bike is a heck of a lot lighter.
The engine sound is not distinctively Harley-sounding; no lopey cadence here, as it’s almost a sewing-machine-smooth mill. It provides snappy performance and a mild sound from the shorter and wider exhaust. Best of all, the estimated fuel economy of this package is a whopping 54 mpg. I’m not against mid-sized engines at all. Some of my favorite bikes fall in the mid-sized category. And the Street Rod provided plenty of grins when the throttle was rolled on.
Holding up that steel frame is a new suspension and swingarm package that provides a whopping 30 percent more suspension travel than the run-of-the-mill Street. Up front are 43mm nonadjustable inverted forks and out back are twin piggyback reservoir rear shocks with preload adjustment only. The sides of the steel swingarm have scalloped indentations that emulate the opening you’d see on the swingarm of a XR1200 Sportster. It’s a neat styling cue. The huge rear axle diameter and flange nut undoubtedly add strength to the rear end. Those suspension components offer increased travel, raise the bike up, and are tuned for a firm and sporty ride and greater lean angle. All this is connected to a pair of 17″ open-spoke cast aluminum wheels carrying factory-equipped Michelin Scorchers. This is great news, as there’s a multitude of sporty aftermarket rubber available for this diameter wheel. Turning the throttle and throwing the Street Rod into a corner, I was rewarded with more than enough power, firmness, and clearance to pull me through the twisties. Stopping the rolling package are dual 300mm front disc brakes with two-piston calipers and a single 300mm disc out back, with ABS available as an option.
The Street Rod has a two-piece, two-up seat with a perforated finish sitting at a 29.8″ seat height versus the 25.7″ of the Street 750. FYI, the rear seat is not quick release, and there’s no storage under the seat. I like the taller bike height, and, actually, I would have appreciated maybe a little bit of a taller seat to put my body in the right position on the bike. Unfortunately, with my 34″ inseam and the slightly-back-from-midset footpeg location, I found the seating position to be slightly cramped, especially on the right side. I found myself riding with the ball of my foot on the footpeg, and my right heel resting on the factory-placed exhaust heel guard. Then when rear braking application was needed, I had to reposition my foot to get my toe on the brake pedal. Unfortunately footpeg position is not adjustable, and the massive right-side exhaust made packaging the pegs this way mandatory. Also, when coming to a stop, I had a tendency to skewer my right calf. So I’m looking forward to seeing what the aftermarket can develop in the way of a smaller exhaust, and hopefully some relocated pegs follow suit.
From the seat the reach to the factory 7/8″-diameter drag bar handlebar puts the rider in a slightly leaned-forward aggressive riding position. During my ride I was actually wondering if my cramped leg condition would be alleviated with the addition of a Superbike-bend handlebar to straighten me up a little in the seat. Kudos to Harley for building what might be the best set of bar-end mirrors to ever grace the tips of a handlebar. I was impressed with the adjustability, stability, and rear view ability from these simple little mirrors. When I asked if I could acquire some for my own bike, I was pleased to hear that Harley-Davidson already offers these through its Parts & Accessories catalog, in both 7/8″-diameter and 1″-diameter bar sizes. Just ahead of the drag bar is a 3.5″ electronic speedometer equipped with odometer, trip meter, LED indicator lights, low fuel warning indicator, and a small LCD panel with the usual Harley functions.
Just ahead of the gauge is a color-matched speed screen over the headlight. By the way, the three factory colors available are Vivid Black, Charcoal Denim, and Olive Gold. The body’s tail section looks a little like the XR1200 unit, albeit a bit shorter. The taillight and signals are all LED, and I like the styling of the lights and body. The LED taillight is plenty visible from behind, and there’s a sporty triple-slotted rear fender just below. The feds mandate that bikes have to have those plastic atrocities, but at least this one looks cool. Some of the quirky little things I noticed might take just a short time for the average Harley rider to get used to. For example, the blade-style ignition key sticks straight forward under the handlebar clamp (not downward as you’d expect). The locking gas cap is Japanese-bike-esque, and so is the signal light switch (all functions on the left switchpod). But in the same breathe I can say I appreciate the locking front forks with the lock cylinder built into the frame neck.
Harley-Davidson is gearing this bike towards the new urban rider, a younger and hipper crowd that wants to zip around the city. While not a full-on cafe racer, it’s more of a modern sprinter with plenty of curvy backroad capabilities. Barring my couple of call-outs on peg position and small insignificant hardware placement it’s an overall winner in my book. It’s got the improvements I would have made on the standard Street right off the bat. AIM
2017 HARLEY STREET ROD SPECS:
Engine – High Output Revolution X V-Twin
Bore – 3.4 in.
Stroke – 2.6 in.
Displacement – 46 cu. In.
Compression Ratio – 12.0:1
Fuel System – Mikuni Twin Port Fuel Injection, 42 mm bore
Primary Drive Gear, 36/68 ratio
Gear Ratios (overall) 1st 14.272
Gear Ratios (overall) 2nd 10.074
Gear Ratios (overall) 3rd 7.446
Gear Ratios (overall) 4th 6.006
Gear Ratios (overall) 5th 5.037
Gear Ratios (overall) 6th 4.533
Exhaust Black two-into-one exhaust
Wheels, Front – Black, 7-Split Open Spoke Cast Aluminum
Wheels, Rear – Black, 7-Split Open Spoke Cast Aluminum
Brakes, Caliper – 2-piston floated front and rear
Engine Torque 47.2 ft-lb
Engine Torque (rpm) 4,000
Lean Angle, Right (deg.) 37.3
Lean Angle, Left (deg.) 40.2
Fuel Economy – 54 mpg
Length – 83.9”
Seat Height, Laden – 29.4”
Seat Height, Unladen – 30.1”
Ground Clearance – 8.1”
Rake (steering head) (deg) 27
Trail – 3.9”
Wheelbase – 59.4”
Tires, Front Specification – 120/70 R17 V
Tires, Rear Specification – 160/60 R17 V
Fuel Capacity – 3.5 gal.
Oil Capacity (w/filter) – 3.3 qt.
Weight, As Shipped – 497 lb.
Weight, In Running Order – 516 lb.
Vivid Black – $ 8,699
Color – $ 8,994
Security Option – $ 395
ABS Option – $ 750
California Emissions – $ 50
Freight – $ 330
This story first ran in American Iron Magazine issue 350 a wonderful issue that also featured Jeremy Cupp’s award-winning Sportster, the first installment of Buzz’s Sons of Speed experience, the install of a BAKER sprocket and chain tensioner and plenty more good stuff. You can find all of our back issues at GreaseRag.com
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