For more than a decade, the iconic US motorcycle maker did not have a new product. So when early last year Harley Davidson unveiled two new motorcycles, it injected a high dose of expectation in the market. For one, they were SMALL bikes — by Harley standards — a 750 cc and a 500 cc. The next shocker was the statement they would be priced CHEAP (also by Harley standards), targeting developing countries. The market was thrilled.
Note the prominent radiator grille
Well, the elder sibling, the Street 750, was duly launched at the India Bike Week in Goa, and bookings opened on April 1. Does it live up to the expectations?
First things first, the price: The Sreet 750 will set you back by Rs. 4.52 lakh (on-road in Delhi). In one fell stroke, Harley has expanded the scope of the big bike market. More people will buy big bikes, and in a few years, upgrade to even bigger bikes (the company hopes) also from Harley.
The US bikemaker has achieved this pricing through a major shift: The Street 750 is being assembled at its plant in Gurgaon. Many parts are sourced locally — the tyres, for instance, are made by MRF. Dare we call it a made-in-India Harley? And India will be the export hub.
The all-new 750cc Revolution X engine is nothing like the other Harleys. From the Sportster to the massive cruisers, the one thing that stands out is the strident exhaust note (barring the Porsche-designed V-Rod). But what the Street emits is a nice purr, akin to a parallel twin, not a show-off. Is that good or bad? Your call. We loved it, but can already see customisation options and Screaming Eagle hovering.
The rest of the bike too is rather different. Diminutive, if you will, though the well-muscled fuel-tank can take over 13 litres, giving it a decent range. Colour choices are a brilliant red, and glossy and matt variants of black. The engine seems massive compared to the 210-kg body, which gives it a handy power-to-weight ratio. While Harley does not give out figures, the bike seems to have power in excess of 50 BHP, and revs of above 7,500 rpm. Industry sources say peak rev is 11,000 rpm, though that seems unlikely (and no, there is no rev meter).
The Street is also extremely manoeuvreable, something which HD is not famous for. This bike is not just a cruiser, it is an urban sports cruiser.
Despite a very low seating, this bike has the greatest ground clearance among Harley cruisers. The engine is liquid cooled, and power delivery is oriented towards getting off the mark in a hurry. The topline is in the region of 170 kph, though at about 140 one would call it a day. For speed fiends, a wind shield would be a must.
The Street 750 delivers all that it promises. It has a 6-gear transmission via belt drive, and it is extremely smooth to ride. One hits 100 kph in about 6 seconds in the third gear. Rev it down and take the rest of the gears quietly, and one is cruising at 100-110 kph, with nary a whisper from the well-muted engine. The only slack one felt was in the tall 6th gear, mainly for cruising on the highway though the bike’s great torque helps it pull from even 40 kph.
Handling is excellent, with the low seat giving one the option of crouching between the handles and blustering into corners. The bike goes with you all the way, but somewhere, the footpeg scrapes the road and one is brought back to reality: this is a cruiser, not a sportster. More scope for customisation: move the footpeg.
Some other things bear remembering: the rear seat is minimalist, and there is no grab handle. Better get a bigger seat with a backrest. The switches, key slot etc are completely different from existing Harleys. There is no sensor to cancel the indicator, for instance, though the new switch itself is quite handy. The rear brake is rather spongy, which Harley says is a conscious decision (maybe to discourage the Tasmanian Devils that dog Indian roads). The front shockers have rubber covers, which rather take away from the overall appearance — as does the little black thingy around the headlight that they call bikini fairing. The exhaust pipe is disconcertingly close: new riders face baptism by fire while wading through traffic.
To summarise: performance, well-balanced and nippy, with a good top-end speed; looks, excellent, barring one or two spots; price, spot on.
It would be safe to say that Harley has set the cat among the pigeons. There is no true competition in this segment barring the Hyosung, and Harley has priced the Street miles below the latter’s Aquila 650. Capital Harley has logged close to 200 bookings, with deliveries to start in June.
So will it be worth waiting for the Street 500, to be launched next year? Well, rumour is that it may not come to India at all. Evidently, Europe is its destination.