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Harley Davidson Street 750 vs Kawasaki Ninja 650: Cruiser or Sport Tourer?


What started as a healthy discussion about cruisers versus sport tourers, ended up as a 1,500km ride on the Harley Davidson Street 750 and the Kawasaki Ninja 650

 

Harley Davidson Street 750 and Kawasaki Ninja 650

 

 

Middle weight motorcycles are the ideal machines for Indian conditions. They have the right amount of power to take on the highway and are equally comfortable and easy to live with on a day-to-day basis. Moreover, they are priced competitively too. Well, these were in fact the only points that the ZigWheels team mutually agreed upon during the discussion. 

 

But things got a little more intense when the Harley Davidson Street 750 and the Kawasaki Ninja 650 became part of the debate. Despite being the cheapest motorcycle to come off the Harley stables, it stays true to its DNA. It delivers adequate performance as well as good handling dynamics making a strong case for cruisers. The Kawasaki Ninja 650 on the other hand has been the object of desire for a lot of motorcycle enthusiasts. Its comfortable riding posture and a well sorted heart makes for the ingredients of a well rounded sport tourer. 

 

 

Harley Davidson Street 750 in action

 

 

While Arun was absolutely convinced about the Harley Davidson Street 750’s capabilities, I on the other hand was all for the Kawasaki Ninja 650’s prowess. A long weekend offered just enough time to ride to Goa and bring an end to the debate. 

 

Though the first thing that comes to anyone’s head when thinking about Goa is cheap alcohol, it wasn’t the reason we chose to ride there. The road to Goa, National Highway #17, has just the right combination of twisties and fast sections to get a feel of motorcycles of such calibre. So, with our bellies and tanks full, we rode into the horizon. 

 

 

Kawasaki Ninja 650

 

 

Although both these machines are poles apart with regards to body style, much like burgers and sushi, they are both equally tasteful. And it didn’t take long for us to realise that each one is a head turner in its own regard. That said, the Kawasaki Ninja 650’s toxic green shade created a lot of curiosity among the common junta as opposed to the Harley Davidson Street 750’s matte black. 

 

We set off towards Goa with our first stop planned at Mahad nearly 150km off Mumbai. All the way till Mahad and especially on the rough roads in Pen and Vadhkal, Arun was absolutely happy on the Street 750. The Harley rides a lot better on bad roads than the Ninja 650 thanks to its relatively softer suspension setup. The higher ground clearance of the Street 750 further helped the cause.

 

 

Kawasaki Ninja 650 in action

 

 

Ironically though, despite being a sport tourer, the elevated seat height and the tall handle bars made it a lot more comfortable to cover long distances on the Ninja. 

 

The road that was to come was a real tester for both these machines. The beautiful Kashedi ghats between Poladpur and Khed. Pushing it to the limit on the twisties, both the motorcycles highlighted its strengths. The Harley Davidson Street 750’s low centre of gravity made it a lot easier to lean into a corner and follow a smooth line out of it. The handling was further aided by constant communication from the chassis. Even though the Ninja 650 is 11kg lighter, I had to work a little harder to find the right rhythm thanks to its high centre of gravity. Having said that, the cushion that the Harley managed to build entering a corner was covered up by the Ninja with faster exits thanks to its more responsive and powerful heart. 

 

 

Kawasaki Ninja 650 and Harley Davidson Street 750

 

 

Funnily, even after riding for more than 250km, both bikes had equal number of positives and negatives, so we let them continue the battle on the road. The Kashedi ghats were followed by a long straight road that merged with the horizon. And it was on these sections that the Ninja 650 felt a lot more positive. It not only felt planted going fast, the ABS assisted brakes helped boost confidence. Although the Street 750 too could cruise at three-digit speeds with ease, it was the woody brake feel that puts the rider in doubt. 

 

We stopped for a lunch break and switched the bikes as the small size of the Street 750 cramped Arun for room. This also gave us an opportunity to better assess both the motorcycles after spending enough time on the respective motorcycles. 

 

 

Kawasaki Ninja 650 and H-D Street 750 in action

 

 

Arun’s POV

The shift from the Harley to the Ninja 650 was a drastic one in terms of overall riding dynamics. The first thing I noticed on the Ninja 650 was the comfortable and upright riding posture which was just spot on for touring but the padding for the seat could have been better. The parallel-twin motor offered adequate punch and overtaking meant just a twist of the wrist. Gear shifts were better than the Harley too. On the Ghats, I felt the Ninja’s handling was decent but it wasn’t as communicative as the Street 750. ABS brakes were a boon though. All in all, the Ninja 650 did impress me a lot with it comfortable dynamics and sufficient power on tap.

 

 

Street 750 and Ninja 650

 

 

Ravi’s POV

It took me some time to get used to the riding position of the Harley-Davidson Street 750 as I found it to be uncomfortable in the initial few kilometres. The powerplant also didn’t feel as refined when compared to the Ninja 650. The acceleration was brisk but felt the gearbox to be a bit notchy. In terms of handling the Street 750 felt better as it tipped from one corner to another with relative ease but the fact that the footpegs scraped very easily when the bike was leaned into a corner was a bit irritating. The ride quality of both the bikes almost similar but on broken roads I felt the Street 750 performed marginally better. As a cruiser the Street 750 ticks all the right boxes.

 

With more than 80 per cent of the distance covered, the Ninja 650 was starting to get a little hard on the butt. The seat is quite hard and while I didn’t quite feel it for the major part of the journey towards the end I had to make a few extra butt breaks. Thankfully though, the smaller 13.1-litre fuel tank capacity of the Street 750 meant a few more fuel stops over the Ninja. The fact that the Street 750 doesn't have a fuel gauge didn’t make things any easier either. 

 

 

HD Street 750 and Kawasaki Ninja 650

 

 

Our debate continued each time we made a halt and it followed through as we made our way back the next day. At the end of the 1,500km ride, both motorcycles made a pretty strong case for themselves. The Harley Davidson Street 750 has a well sorted chassis, good handling and great ride quality in its favour. The Kawasaki Ninja 650 made a thorough case in point with the help of an extremely responsive engine, comfortable riding posture and sharp braking abilities. And while both motorcycles lead their respective classes from the front, the Kawasaki Ninja 650 makes a stronger case with regards to touring as its refined engine is a lot easier to live and the windscreen ensures that it doesn't get too tiring too soon and most importantly it also makes a lot more space for luggage solutions. In terms of sheer touring abilities then, the Kawasaki Ninja 650 gets our vote.