The journey of Harley-Davidson in India has been an exceptional one, so far. Not too long ago the American bike maker entered our two-wheeler market (2009 to be precise) and now the iconic US brand has become an integral part of our country’s rapidly evolving biking landscape. Considering its premium price tag it demands, having sold close to 5,000 units in less than five years is quite a feat.
It seems that Harley was quick in spotting the potential of the Indian market and started assembling its CKD bikes, which in turn helped them achieve a more competitive pricing. Taking the Indian operations to the next level and in a bid to enter the volume, it has now forayed into local production which in turn has given birth to the Street 750.
With the focus on producing a large number locally, the market was expecting the makers to keep the pricing reasonable. And it did comes as a pleasant surprise when Anoop Prakash (MD, Harley-Davidson India) announced during the 2014 Auto Expo, that it would be sold from just Rs 4.1 lakh ex-showroom Delhi. Its cut-throat pricing meant that Harley-Davidson aficionados could now own the cult badge. The question is, at this affordable pricing, is the Street 750 a true blue Harley-Davidson or has the American bike maker cut too many corners to build a bike for a price? There has been a lot of curiosity around the motorcycle, so we decided to spend a sunny day in Delhi with the Street 750 to find the answer.
Design and features:
The first impression of the Street 750 is that it’s a compact motorcycle, unlike other Harleys. No, it doesn’t lack attitude or sporty stance, thanks to it’s raked out telescopic forks it is low, long and mean. The Street 750 was developed with feedback of over 3,000 individuals (mostly youth, which essentially is the target audience) and their influence is easily visible. They’ve taken the best from across the H-D range --- the Night Rod inspired round headlight with a cafe style speed screen, stubby mudguard and the fork gaiters. Apart from adding to the bike’s appeal, the fork gaiters also help in increasing the life and performance of the telescopic forks in our dusty environment. Behind the headlamp, sits a basic and easy to read single-pod analogue instrument cluster. It houses the speedometer, reserve fuel indicator, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics and various tell-tale lights. The highlight of the bike in terms of design has to be the tear-dropped fuel tank.
The profile of the tank gels with the silhouette of the Street 750 and has subtle creases on the sides and centre section of the tank, which is a nice touch. The fuel filler-lid is set on an offset, on the right hand side of the tank, but a flush-type filler cap would have been more welcome. Thankfully the fuel-lid comes with a lock, which isn’t found on most other Harleys. Below the tank, sits the V-twin motor finished in Stealth-like matte black shade, with brushed aluminium finish on the fins. The radiator grill has honeycomb mesh on it and announces its liquid-cooled heart. The rear of the Street is understated in comparison to the front; but the contoured seat, LED taillight and fat rear-tyre keep the proportion right. The grip on the bike is of good quality but falters in terms of visual appeal. We are sure many Harley owners will replace them with the Edge Cut Collection from the Street 750’s accessories range. Switch gear quality is decent and we do like the turn indicator knobs, but the same can’t be said of the engine kill switch and one sorely misses the pass light. It’s the same story when it comes to fit and finish as there are lot of loose wires that are visible and Harley needs to sort them out.
Having said that, the over-all build quality and paint finish are of typical Harley-Davidson standard and we hope the American bike-maker sorts out these minor issues. Overall in terms of design, the Street 750 is a proper attention grabber. The dark custom styling theme seems to have worked for the Street 750 as most of the youngsters love the all-black theme of the bike, especially, the matte black shade that we got to ride on. The Street 750 design can be summoned up as a combination of old school detailing, along with a modern design touch and one has to commend Frank Savage and his design team to pull off this feat. There are also a plethora of customisation options you can spec the Street 750 with and like Savage said, “The Street 750 is a blank canvas which I am providing to my customers and I want them to run wild with their imagination”. We couldn’t agree more.
Engine and Performance:
When Harley-Davidson was taking consumer feedback, before developing the Street 750, one point that stood out was the need for a liquid-cooled engine. Instead of fiddling with a motor from its vast parts bin, the American two-wheeler manufacturer took the difficult path and decided to develop an all-new powerplant and thus the new liquid-cooled RevolutionX engine came into existence. What makes it so special is the fact that it is the first new Harley-Davidson engine in the last 13 years.
Harley hasn’t divulged details on the power figure but we speculate it to be around 55 to 60PS, while torque rating is 65Nm at 4,000rpm. Power is transmitted to the rear wheel via belt-drive. Press the starter and the Street 750 comes to life with a mild whir from the two-in-one exhaust pipes. The underwhelming sound may not appeal to many, as it isn’t much of a soundtrack. But when one factors in the benefits of liquid-cooling, this seems like a small compromise. If you still feel that you need a louder bike, then the official Screaming Eagle muffler could save your day.
The RevolutionX powerplant is among the highlights of the Street 750. The motor is eager to throttle responses and acceleration is brisk. We feel that the new bike can clock a ton in less than six second but we will have to wait for our performance test to verify this. But this peppy nature was really helpful while riding in city traffic, as the Street 750 darts off between gaps. The gear ratios are suitably distributed and the shifts offered by the gearbox is precise, barring a few instances where it was difficult to engage neutral after coming to a halt. A quick fix is to engage neutral before rolling to a stop. Highway dynamics of the Street 750 is very impressive as we clocked 170kmph on the dial on the freeway and it felt planted at such high speeds.
The sweet spot of the motor is cruising between 120 to 130kmph in sixth gear, as the bike just laps up the miles with no vibrations. Only when you push the motor to its limit does it start to strain, and a few minor vibes start to kick in from the handlebars and footpegs; but this is negligible as we hardly have the roads to sustain speeds above 150kmph in our country. Since peak torque is available at just 4,000rpm, overtaking is a joy on the highways even in top gear. Another highlight is the performance of the liquid-cooling system. One can feel a gust of hot air near the left thigh as you sit very close to the fins. But on the whole, with respect to traditional Harley engines, the RevolutionX is a huge improvement in terms of refinement and heat dissipation, and will make life easy while riding the Street 750 on congested city roads.
Ride and Handling:
As we had mentioned earlier, the Street 750 is a compact bike in comparison to other offering from the stables of Harley. The riding position was a bit odd for my height (180cm) due to the footpeg position and low saddle height. They aren’t completely forward-set like traditional Harley-Davidson bikes but feel more like an extended centre-set footpegs. But after spending a few kilometres riding it all that apprehensions had disappeared, as the swept back handlebar and aptly cushioned saddle, the Street makes for a relaxed riding posture and benefits long distance touring. One sore point is the mirrors, which we found to be a tad small in size and not positioned properly as the rider needs to lean back to check them. The Street 750 has the lowest saddle height (709mm) and is the lightest (206kg) Harley-Davidson in production, and this means an average built Indian would feel comfortable on the motorcycle.
Apart from a new powerplant, the boffins at Harley-Davidson have worked a lot on the Street’s underpinnings. This can be immediately felt the moment you ride the Street 750 on sweeping curves as the bike takes on the corners with enthusiasm. While it’s a corner-craver, that doesn’t mean it’s a slouch in city traffic, as the Street 750 was developed for urban environment, nimbleness was of top priority during development. One doesn’t feel the weight of the bike while negotiating your way past traffic, as the chassis is very communicative.
The MRF tyres provide satisfactory grip on dry surfaces and helps in exploring the potential of the chassis. Once you get a hang of its handling dynamics, you can relish the peppy motor and the swift handling, while riding in city traffic. Another surprise the Street 750 had up its sleeve was its ride quality. This excellent ride quality along with a 145mm ground clearance (highest for a Harley-Davidson), means one can ride on bad patches of road without hurting your back or scraping the bike. Braking responsibilities are taken care of by disc brakes at front and rear. The bite from the front brake is decent whereas the rear brakes feel woody. This is one area we feel that the Street 750 needs to improve on.
A lot was riding on Harley-Davidson’s back with the Street 750 and they seem to have delivered on most fronts. Of course, the visibly messy wires and the woody brakes are a bit of a let-down, but when you look at the bigger picture one tends to overlook these mistakes. At the price of Rs 4.1 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), most Indians are closer to their aspiration of owning a Harley-Davidson. Also, the Street 750 isn’t a half-hearted job from Harley just to make it the most affordable Harley-Davidson. While the American manufacturer has made some drastic changes with the Street 750, the Street according to me remains a true blue Harley, albeit a modern one. The Street 750 will be pitched against the likes of the Hyosung GV650, ST 7. Although the Hyosungs are priced at higher, we are sure the Street 750 will far precede the Korean bikes, not because it’s a Harley-Davidson, but because it is a well-rounded motorcycle.