For many motorcycle buyers, the Harley-Davidson brand is not exactly top of mind. With their lineup consisting mostly of cruisers and a price tag relatively out of reach for many, it’s not hard to see why.
Yet in recent years, Harley has made an effort to reach out to riders who aren’t fans of cruisers, nor with big budgets. One such example is the Street Rod.
The Street Rod is the latest member of Harley-Davidson’s Street line. As the name suggests, it’s designed for urban areas and is meant to appeal to younger riders looking for a smaller, lighter runabout bike. The first Street, the Street 750 and its 500cc variant, were designed to serve as accessible gateways to the Harley brand and lifestyle. They’re affordable, light, and very easy to ride, especially for Filipinos. After all, they were designed with the Asian market in mind. Unfortunately, the Streets didn’t quite click.
The Street Rod was launched just a few years after, based on the same platform as the Street 750, as well as using the Revolution X 750cc engine.
You can tell just by the look and the name that it’s meant to be something completely different. It’s more of a hot rod with a steeper rake angle, more aggressive styling, and more performance orientation. Now, performance and Harley-Davidson aren’t two things that typically go together well, yet in this bike, the two seemingly anachronistic qualities come together.
As the name implies, the Street Rod was designed to look far more aggressive. It changes the Street 750’s traditional fork to an inverted one with a steeper rake angle; in the rear is a longer swingarm.
Around the headlight is a cowl. Mirrors are mounted on the bar ends. It features a teardrop-shaped tank crowning the water-cooled 750cc V-Twin engine. In between the two heads is a very distinct air intake box. The pipes swing out on the right side and combine into a long and low exhaust pipe. The rear has a very retro 80s look to it with a tail tidy hanging just off of it.
It rides on an inverted fork in front while on an extended swing arm with twin shocks in the rear. The wheels are 17 inches and roll on standard 120 mm and 160 mm width tires, just like most sport bikes.
Powering this bike is a High Output Revolution X 750cc engine, similar to that of the Street 750, but tuned to produce higher output. It now makes 68.4 horsepower at 8,750 rpm and 65 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. It’s paired with a 6-speed transmission, driving the rear wheels with a belt.
Like the Street 750, it uses a similar, single multi-function dial with speed and odometer display below. Unfortunately, there’s no fuel gauge. Just a low fuel light. Nonetheless, for riders that like a more minimalist bike, this may be a plus.
The Street Rod is meant to be ridden with a more sporty stance. The rider is supposed to lean a bit more forward. Naturally, the footpegs are set further back. It’s still relatively upright and is not that uncomfortable on long rides.
It’s also quite accessible for most pinoy riders with a seat height at just 765 mm. It’s a bit on the heavy side with a wet weight of 238 kg.
In creating the Street Rod, Harley’s engineers took a long hard look at the Street 750 and decided to address many of the customer complaints. For one, they’ve added a second disc brake in front and changed their brake supplier to change the Street’s horrible spongy brake feel. The large exhaust pipe on the right side made placing the farther set foot pegs difficult, so they added a rubber step on top of it to serve as a guide. Finally, the Street’s useless handlebar-mounted mirrors were reposition to the bar ends to give it a café racer look. These may seem like trivialities, but if you’ve ridden the Street 750 beforehand and hopped on to the Street Rod after, they make a world of difference.
The Street Rod feels sporty from the get-go. Despite the weight, once you get rolling, it’s quite nimble and responsive.
It may have cruiser origins but it certainly doesn’t feel that way. Those coming from other brands may groan over the Rod’s use of a belt drive, yet helps smoothen out the power delivery, making it easier to pull away quickly and smoothly, unlike the jerky chain-driven bikes it goes against. The power band is much higher in the rev-range, unlike cruisers that give a lot of power early on. As such, you’ll have to rev considerably higher to get useable. Yet, those coming from sport bikes will have little to no time adjusting.
Just like sport bikes, it loves curves. In most Harleys, you’ll find yourself grinding the foot pegs when leaning into a corner. Yet with the Rod and its steep leaning angle, that’s not going to happen. It likes to be laid down and will surprise you with its great handling.
The ride is naturally stiffer — at par with its sport bike peers — but certainly not unbearable. It’s just right considering its sportier nature.
Bringing it to a stop is very confidence inspiring. There’s no trace of the spongy, ambiguous feel of the Street 750s brakes. In this bike, you’ll know when it bites and how much harder you can squeeze.
Finally, V-twins get particularly hot in traffic. Yet because this is a water-cooled engine, it’s actually not the case. The heat from the engine bay is relatively bearable and quickly dissipates once you get moving.
Perhaps the only downside to this surprising delight from H-D is the speedometer. It’s a little too minimalist, offering nothing but the speedo and odometer. There is a function that displays the tachometer and gear indicator, though it's just a couple of bars and a number. If you want to maximize the powerband, you’ll have to do it by hearing and ‘guesstimation’. You can thumb through a few other displays with the function button, but that’s a little dangerous if you’ve got some speed going.
All told, the Street Rod is a very underrated model. It addresses many of the problems of the Street 750 and is a great ambassador for the brand, especially those unfamiliar with Harleys. It’s a great stepping stone before getting into Harley’s larger Sportsters and Rods. It’s a shame it isn’t promoted as much as the Street 750 as it really will make you think twice about Harleys.
Now is certainly the time to schedule a test drive and maybe even buy as it’s currently on sale.