Like any successful and enduring business, Harley-Davidson constantly faces the challenge of changing demographics and the task of expanding their customer base. And in the case of The Motor Company, this can be a particularly tricky process, recruiting the latest generation of consumers by offering a new product without simultaneously alienating those already fiercely loyal to the Bar & Shield. The latest strategy in that undertaking brings to market the Street XG750. Designed as an entry-level Harley, the Street is aimed at the young urban rider and was a customer-led effort, developed with input obtained from thousands of young adults from around the world guiding the styling and final execution of the model. The result is a blacked-out Dark Custom with hints of café racer inspiration. So if you don’t like it, blame it on the kids.
The Street XG750 (there is also a 500cc version due out later this year) is the first all-new platform from Harley-Davidson in 12 years, the last one being the V-Rod. And it bears more than just a casual resemblance to its older sibling. Like the V-Rod, the Street’s all-new V-Twin powerplant, the Revolution X, is a water-cooled 60-degree motor, with a single overhead cam unit (chain-driven) and four valves per cylinder. The engine is fed by a single 38mm Mikuni fuel-injected throttle body and has an 11:1 compression ratio, with combined city/highway gas mileage of 41 mpg. The transmission is a six-speed constant-mesh spur gear component that uses a reinforced belt for final drive. The motor, primary and transmission are unit-construction, with a common oil circulating among all three. A radiator is tucked in between the frame’s front downtubes with an electric fan that engages as required for additional cooling.
That all-new engine is cradled in a proprietary frame that provides a whopping 5.7″ of curb-jumping ground clearance (dang reckless kids!). The bike rolls on seven-spoke cast wheels mounted with a 17″ Scorcher 11F by Michelin spinning between the forks, while a 15″ Scorcher performs the duty in the back. Tire dimensions are modest, but substantial enough for a bike of this size and weight with the front measuring 100/80 and the rear 140/75. The forks are a 37mm non-adjustable telescopic unit with 5.5″ of travel, while the rear shocks are coil-over (preload adjustment only) and supply 3.5″ of bounce. Single two-piston floating calipers handle the braking chores, working in tandem with uniform expansion rotors (ABS is not offered at this time).
Although the XG750’s torque rating is only 44.5 ft/lbs at 4000 rpm, when combined with the bike’s light weight (489 pounds with fluids) it furnished plenty of punch and copious temptation for wheel stands. Performance in a city street environment is excellent — nimble with generous amounts of low-end torque for tight maneuvering through congested traffic and around obstacles. Shifting is smooth and quick, and for highway speeds the Street 750 is most comfortable in sixth gear and can live there all day. But the bike’s design as an urban prowler is evident with longer distances at high speed not its forte. Vibration through the handlebars and footpegs begins in earnest above 65 and becomes annoying by the time you hit 80 mph.
Plus there is the crunch factor, as in a 6-foot tall rider feeling crunched. Though the cramped riding position is not that noticeable while tackling city streets, a change in the seat would be needed soon after purchase by most taller riders—a matter addressed by Harley, who already offers an entire catalog of aftermarket accessories specifically designed for the Street including a Tallboy Seat, a Café Solo Seat, and, for riders of a shorter stature, a Reduced Reach Seat. The Tallboy Seat is designed to relocate a rider 1.25″ higher in the saddle and 2.5″ further back. Hopefully this change would be enough to alleviate footpegs positioning that could stand to be shoved forward a few inches for us tallboys, something not offered in the Street wishbook as of yet.
While the braking system performed admirably (probably due in part to the bike’s light weight), the rear pedal is positioned too low. It works well enough, but there is simply too much pedal travel before engagement. A superior chassis and suspension combination was more than ample to handle a rider almost half the bike’s weight over some quite rough patches of tarmac. The Revolution X engine performed without excess noise while offering a decent exhaust note through its 2-into-1 headers. And about the only way you will even know the cooling fan is engaged is while sitting still in traffic and a wave of heat flows over the front of the gas tank and into your face—not perfect, but bearable.
Touted as being a “blank canvas” to which an owner can apply their personal touch, the Street comes with minimalist styling and little bling. In places the wiring is atrocious; a mix of friction tape, exposed harnesses and electrical connections that are not even remotely hidden or disguised. The only Harley to use a single left-hand turn indicator switch, the Street’s turn signals are not self cancelling, leaving those riders accustomed to other models riding around with an errant blinker flashing and looking like a novice. (Wait; that is the potential consumer.) The injection-molded plastic nacelle that surrounds the headlight lends a sporty touch, but supplies little in the way of protection. The fenders and gas tank blend well with the overall cafe theme as do the rubber fork gaiters although they did have a tendency to slide down the tubes. The mirror stems were too short for this rider and left me staring at my own shoulders instead of the traffic behind me. Going for a minimalist essence is one thing, but to leave so many unfinished bits and pieces unattended runs counter to The Motor Company’s normal policy of quality fit and form. Even the location of the horn seems an afterthought, like someone handed a shop worker a hacksaw and piece of flat bar and told him to stick it anywhere he could. But maybe this level of gritty unadornment is what those kids want.
The direction Harley is pursuing with the Street 750 became obvious during the X Games Austin the first weekend of June at the Circuit of the Americas. Harley-Davidson had a display of bikes at the venue including several high-end Street models that had received the full customization treatment in various styles. They also took the XG750 onto the flat track for an exhibition race in front of thousands of potential customers. (They had earlier presented ice racing during ESPN’s X Games Aspen.). During this time H-D was actively petitioning the X Games committee to introduce flat track racing into the program by allowing fans to vote using #XGamesFlatTrack. And before the weekend was over, it was officially decided to allow flat track racing to become a future medal sport at X Games Austin due to the fans’ response. And the Bar & Shield team will all be aboard the XG750 Street—an excellent promotion strategy by Harley-Davidson.
The Street XG750 comes in Vivid Black that sells for $7,499 and Black Denim or Mysterious Red Sunglo for $7,794. Warranty is 24 months with unlimited mileage. A refreshing change, the Street and the Revolution X engine have great potential and one that may truly fill the niche for entry-level Harley owners. It was designed by them for them—now let’s see if the kids like what they built.