Street XG750 - The newest Harley

Street XG750

I was lucky enough to be invited to Nottingham last Sunday to attend the preview of the new Dark Customs being launched for the 2016 model year. The day was reserved for H.O.G. Chapter Directors and Editors and the usual Harley-Davidson hospitality was on offer, the whole day being ably co-ordinated by Marjorie Rae. There was a technical session and an opportunity for a short ride on each of the three featured models, the Iron 883, 48 and Street 750. The weather was perfect for an autumn ride.

The principal improvements to the two established Sportster models involved seats and suspension, neither of which are headline grabbers but important nevertheless. Both seats have new covering material, but both have benefited from an upgrade in the foam material of the seat base. On the 883 the suspension offers longer and more compliant movement, whilst on the 48 new cartridge style front forks are coupled with better rear units to transform the ride from harsh to (almost!) supple. The new alloy wheels now permit tubeless tyres and save about 6 kg over the spoked predecessors (as well as looking smart and being easy to clean).

Street XG750

But to the Street... only being imported into the UK as a 750, this is a 750cc 60° water-cooled V-Twin producing around 60bhp at the crank. There is a 6 speed gearbox, cast alloy wheels and Harley’s signature belt drive. Primary drive is by gear rather than chain and coupled with the water-cooling and other improvements within the engine, the Street meets all current noise and emissions regulations whilst still producing a good amount of power and torque. Despite having only about 80 miles on the clock, the bike was rapid off the line and will be well able to compete in the traffic light grand prix. The gearing is quite low, with 6th being a standard rather than an overdrive top, so the ratios are quite closely spaced. The fuel tank is in the conventional location, rather than being the air box as on the V-Rod. Fuel capacity is 13.1 litres (2.9 gallons) and all-up weight is 229 kg, 27kg lighter than the Iron 883.

Street XG750

Switchgear is simple and uncluttered. There is a single speedometer mounted centrally with the usual selection of warning lights and useful twin trip meters. There are no other trip functions such as a clock or gear position indicator etc.

First impressions on riding the bike were a very light clutch and a compact riding position. Feet up U turns were a doddle. With the stock mid-mounted footrests, the Street will not suit a tall rider. Due to the radiator positioning on the down tubes I suspect that forward controls may be awkward to engineer, however highway pegs are already available and will allow for a choice of leg position on longer rides. The wider angle V engine is shorter vertically so the upper frame rails can be lower - and due to the rigid mounts and balance shaft the engine does not need space to move around in the frame - so the frame is also lower. Couple this with small wheels (17" front, 15" rear) and the result is a manoeuvrable and flickable bike with light steering, a small turning circle and a low centre of gravity. In short, this is an ideal town bike. If your commute involves filtering but you prefer a proper motorcycle to a scooter and you are attracted both by motorcycling’s best brand name and a very keen asking price (5,795 for vivid black, 5,995 for red or blue) then this may be the bike for you.

Street XG750

Styling cues are taken from the V-Rod and the 1977 Café Racer; the addition of the factory fitted nose fairing tightens up the front of the bike, and the extensive use of matt black accords to the Dark Custom theme. The cylinder head ‘fins’ are dummies, the visible alloy plus the machined line on the rims being the only visual clues that this is a 750 rather than a 500. There have already been extensive customising activities involving the Street in markets where it has already been on sale; the UK gets the second generation model with many improvements already included resulting from feedback from the first owner/drivers, which include some wiring and brake updates. Brembo calipers are now fitted front and rear. Some P&A bits are already available, with a choice of seat and handlebar options, luggage racks, sissy bars, engine bars etc.

I found two things I didn’t like, and another issue that may affect city dwelling owners. There are no self-cancelling indicators, but a left-right and push to cancel arrangement on the left bar. Numerous beeps were heard on the ride-out as people tried to indicate left with the horn button. I did not like the rear tyre profile; it was square like an old Avon SM, and felt odd. I suspect that the profile has been chosen because the bike in commuting mode is expected to spend most of its time fairly upright and this will lengthen tread life. I would have to budget for changing the tyres on purchase, if anything is actually yet available in 140/75 R15. Finally, there is no alarm or immobiliser fitted, and the ignition key is a plain piece of metal; an urbanite would have to provide some effective additional security from the get-go. With the exception of the rear tyre, the other matters are clearly more concerned with bringing the vehicle in at a certain price point; its obvious competitors are the Moto Guzzi V7II at 7,134, the basic Triumph Bonneville at 6,999 or the Yamaha MT-07 at 5,200.

Street XG750

So what is a ‘proper Harley’? Not everyone wants or can afford a traditional big twin or tourer, others have only ever ridden and will only ride Sportsters. I expect that there were owners looking at the first V twins in 1909 saying “proper Harleys are singles”. It is no secret that eventually air-cooled motorcycles will be outlawed by emissions and noise regulations; already there are significant capacity increases required to maintain effective performance. Yet with Harley-Davidson we have a manufacturer that is prepared to push its boundaries to make sure that there will remain available motorcycles in the future bearing the bar and shield - they are currently leading the way with electric motorcycle development, and now have produced what will be a class leader for the urban and commuting user.

Michael Howers - C&F Road Captain