Harley Davidson’s V-Rod cruiser has helped bring new customers to the American brand, who might previously have regarded the bikes as being too slow. But will the Street Rod version convert UK bikers to sampling some Milwaukee magic?
Insidebikes.com Editor Alastair Walker took a Street Rod for a long weekend of high speed, sweet-handling fun.
Like many motorcycle riders, I’m hooked on taking corners.
To me, there’s nothing finer than slinging a two-wheeled machine through a sequence of bends, almost skiing along the tarmac, feeling the suspension working well and the bike respond to every little twist of the throttle, dab on the brakes, or extra degree of body lean.
That’s also why I’ve never bought a Harley-Davidson and never considered them my type of bike. They look fabulous, sound cool – once you’ve bought the noisy pipes – and the bigger 1450cc powered models tour very well. But they always felt just a little slow steering, a bit ponderous in the twisty sections for me.
But this Street Rod is an entirely different animal. It has real power; a smooth, fluid rush of torque that catapults you to the next corner, or past most modern cars, with deceptive ease. It also handles respectably, with a chassis that feels firm, responsive, alive.
In short, this is one Harley you don’t have to apologise for at a typical biker hang out. It delivers a genuinely useful combination of speed, compliant handling and exceptional braking power. So long as you’ve got some skill, you can give the average sports bike rider a very hard time as they struggle to stay with you on the backroads of Northumbria, Wales or Scotland.
I picked this Street Rod up from HarleyWorld in Chesterfield, and then rode across Derbyshire, overtaking anything and everything on two wheels. It has so much instant lunge, even in top gear, you simply gun it past traffic and – praise the Lord – the Brembo brakes work superbly, so the Street Rod can be hustled into bumpy hairpins with the best of them. Was I impressed? Most definitely, especially when I learned that Harley have chopped three grand off the list price, compared to the V-Rod.
This is the first Harley-Davidson I could live with, ride every day, or even consider owning. Like the BMW R1200GS, an Aprilia Tuono, or a Ducati 749S, this motorcycle changes your perceptions of what makes motorcycling so good, so addictive, an integral part of your life.
THE ENGINEERING EQUATION
In truth, the Street Rod isn’t that different a motorcycle from the V-Rod, as the changes are minimal, yet they transform the bike into a credible performance bike. The 1700cc motor stays the same, but new, higher mounted exhaust pipes give another 5bhp over the V-Rod, with 120bhp now on tap.
Meanwhile, the chassis has stiffer fork springs, a sharper steering head angle to quicken the steering and firmer settings on the rear shocks. The front brakes are four piston calliper Brembos, on 300mm discs, slightly bigger than the V-Rod’s 292mm discs. The rider’s footrests are also moved slightly back, so the bike no longer feels like a cruiser when you first sit on it. The handlebars are lower and flatter too.
This almost convinced me, but the seat – although raised a little bit – is still very low compared to a sports bike and you feel like this is more cruiser than trackday refugee, despite the pleasantly humungous rush of power once you open the throttle.
Naturally, the motor is fuel injected and it never surged or misbehaved in any way, which is much better than some rival brands can manage. It also ticked over perfectly. I got around 40mpg from the Street Rod, which is OK considering how fast it is, and the underseat gas tank was big enough to give a range of about 150 miles before you started searching for petrol stations.
Fit a decent screen and hard panniers and you could tour easily – just solo – on the Street Rod, but there are undeniably better touring bikes on the market for around eleven grand.
Given the wind-blown riding position you wouldn´t want to cruise at more than 80mph for long, anyway, and Adrian reports that he´s sat at that figure for many a long motorway mile with no problems (except maybe sore shoulders) or engine reliability niggles.
The Street Rod is still quite a long machine and you feel that long-ish wheelbase when performing a U-turn on the bike, or leaving a tight car park space. It has still got a slightly raked out front end and it is heavy too which you feel when the front discs are jammed on hard going into a sharp downhill corner on the Cat & Fiddle. But on faster corners, the Street Rod really impressed me with the feedback from the front end and the way it steered. It has a security in its overall machine balance which soon has you going the naughty side of the speed limit.
I found myself getting used to it very quickly and made just as rapid progress as I would have done on say a Suzuki SV1000, or perhaps a Triumph Tiger. But it felt different, it needed more planning, more body movement, to really nail the Street Rod into a 50mph bend, then gas it through to the next one.
The bottom line is that an experienced rider will love the way the Street Rod can outperform its semi-cruiser design DNA. The bike has loads of ability, but you have to work a little to unlock its potential, and the feeling you get when you do carve a sweet line through three or four corners in succession, the Street Rod firing itself like a missile along the straights, is phenomenal. Harley have built a hot-rod, a heavyweight that can dance as well it punches…
CASH FOR QUESTIONS
The Street Rod retails in the UK for just £11000, which is some £3000 less than the V-Rod. A bargain for sure, but I would say there’s still room for Harley-Davidson to bring their prices nearer the amount they’re charging in the USA.
If the American company really wants to double its sales in the EU, then it must start being fair on pricing – bikes, spares and accessories. It also needs to figure out a way of putting an engine as meaty as the Street Rod inside the Buell chassis.
The Street Rod is still something of a dream bike, a lifestyle statement, rather than a no holds barred sports machine, which would have some credibility at a Streetfighters rally. Yet this is no wallowing, vague-steering, posers bike – the Street Rod has real ability as a medium sporty all-rounder, a beautiful looking motorbike you can ride damn fast when the mood takes you, on any type of road.
I never thought I’d live to write that sentence. All credit to Harley for proving me – and plenty of others – totally wrong.
Get Harley Davidson motorbike insurance for the harley davidson street rod 2005.
|ENGINE||Liquid-cooled, 1130cc DOHC, 8v, 600 V-twin.|
|CARBS||None, Fuel injection|
|CHASSIS||Tubular steel frame.|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||43mm USD Showa forks|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Twin rear shocks|
|WHEELS/TYRES||Dunlop D207s; 120/70 x 19 F, 180/55 x 18|
|BRAKES||2 x 300mm front discs with Brembo 4 piston calipers, 300mm rear disc with four-piston Brembo caliper|
|WEIGHT||power-to-weight ratio 293kg|
|ESTIMATED TOP SPEED||140mph|
|CURRENT PRICE||£10,995 June 2005.|
Test bike supplied by; Harley-Davidson UK, 0870-904-1540