Harley-Davidson was the last company anyone expected a surprise from at the traditionally Euro-centric EICMA Expo in Milan, but a surprise was exactly what we got when the American manufacturer revealed its plainly named Street 500 and Street 750, the first models from an all-new, entry-level motorcycle family. For that matter, Harley-Davidson was the last company anyone expected to introduce a new line of beginner-ready, midsized motorcycles, but that’s exactly what these two new bikes, designed especially to target young, urban riders, are designed to be. With minimalist styling that encourages customization and reasonable retail prices ($6,700 for the 500; $7,500 for the 750), the made-in-Kansas-City—not India, as earlier rumors suggested—Streets are the best bargains in Harley-Davidson’s lineup, too. Think of these as Sportsters built for the next generation of the Bar-and-Shield brigade.
First, this is not a recycled Buell Blast! The Street is Harley-Davidson’s first all-new platform in 13 years (since the V-Rod was released in 2001), and these bikes have little if anything in common with any existing Harley-Davidson product, aside from some superficial engine architecture shared with the V-Rod. The Street’s liquid-cooled, 60-degree Revolution X V-twin powertrain is all new, with single overhead cams and four valves per cylinder for efficient performance and a six-speed transmission tied to the rear wheel with a maintenance-free belt final drive. H-D even says it sounds right, though we’re betting this potato-potato exhaust note will be more Baby Red than Yukon Gold.
The tubular-steel cradle frame is lean and low to the ground for a non-threatening stance and a low, 26.3-inch seat height, while reasonably located mid-mount controls and a wide, high-leverage handlebar should provide confidence-inspiring steering and maneuverability to defy the 59.5-inch wheelbase. Full-sized, 15-inch rear/17-inch front wheels suggest straight-line stability and look great too, while dual-shock rear suspension and large-diameter disc brakes front and rear should bring the 480-pound (claimed, wet) Street to a safe, quick stop. That’s around 100 pounds lighter than the Iron 883, by the way, and the 750 provides a better power-to-weight ratio than the Iron 883 also, Harley-Davidson says. It’s got two inches more suspension rear suspension travel than the Iron-butted Sporty, too.
The Motor Company has graced these new models with the “Dark Custom” tag to underscored their intended appeal to young, urban inhabitants, but the styling tends almost toward conservative. A traditional round headlight with a clean bikini fairing, a smooth—and steel—tank with a vintage bar-and-shield logo reminiscent of the XLCR café racer, and a tidy tailsection, also made from steel and hung with an LED taillight, are non-divisive and should be equally appealing to eyeballs in India or Indiana.
Much like with the consumer-led Project Rushmore revision to The Motor Company’s heavyweight touring-bike lineup, Harley-Davidson President and Chief Operating Officer Matt Levatich says that thousands of hours of input from young adults in cities around the world have informed the design and development of both the Street 500 and the Street 750. “These are proof that being customer-led continues to be a core driver of our product development process,” he says.
Harley-Davidson recognizes more than anyone the importance of getting more and younger buyers on two wheels. Kudos to The Motor Company, then, for stepping outside its traditional heavyweight cruiser niche and bringing to market a modern, versatile, economical, and American-made motorcycle to make it easier to accomplish this goal. This is a bold, brave move on Harley-Davidson’s part, and one roll of the dice we hope pay off in the form of many more motorcyclists. The Harley-Davidson Street 750 and Street 500 will be rolling into U.S. dealerships sometime in spring 2014 (only the Street 750 will be sold in Europe). More information is available at www.h-d.com/street microsite.