Yesterday I was able to ride the new Street 500 bike which will be replacing the Buell Blast bikes in the Harley Riding Academy course.
The bike really looks nice. The V-Twin engine looks like a small version of the V-Rod and is liquid cooled, with the radiator sitting behind the front tire . The rear fender looks just like the V-Rod.
Seating position is a mid-control setup, with the feet sitting a bit forward like you are sitting in a chair. The Blast had the pegs more under the rider, for comparison. When stopped, the pegs end up just ahead of your legs so it is a bit fiddly to pick up you feet and get on the pegs. Duck walking the bike is much easier than the Blast, as the pegs are not interfering. I find the peg position OK, but prefer the pegs under me a bit more. Controls are pretty much standard position, and easily accessed. The bike carries a speedometer, and no tach or gear indicator.
Startup is easy as it is a fuel injection bike. The Buell's used a carb system with an automatic choke system that mostly worked, but the bikes were very hard to get running on cold days sometime.
On startup, the engine sounds great. Nobody will object to the engine note of the V-Twin. I actually rode two setups of the 500. We have several of them with the training kit mounted, which consists of a different engine control unit, and bolt-on crash bar kits to keep the bike from damaging stuff like the big muffler out the right side. More on this setup later...
The second bike did not have the training kit mounted, so I got to ride a full-up street bike.
When I rolled on the power out on the roadway, I got a huge smile on my face. The 500 has a very nice power band and lots of torque for quick acceleration. Out on the interstate, is easily cruises at the speed limit, although there is a noticeable buzz above 60 MPH. Cornering at speed is nice, however an aggressive rider will easily touch down parts and scrape. We have a nice sweeper curve at one of the interstate cloverleaf interchanges which is a good for a 45-50 mph curve test. The right peg touched several times at 35-40 mph.
The Training Kit:
As noted above, the class bikes will have a bolt-on crash bar setup along with some extended handle bar ends to protect the bars. There is also a different ECU electronics package that has an interesting feature. The "Power Limit Calibration" modifies the fuel injection system and de-powers the bike if you exceed training speeds for the MSF BRC range activities. Essentially it is a rev limiter for first and second gear that de-powers the bike. This will avoid a problem we have with students grabbing a handful of throttle and taking off in warp drive with the inevitable crash at the end. The training kit also includes a tilt switch to disable the ignition in a tip-over. Reset is by turning off the key for about 10 seconds or so. For instructors, the kit adds a nameplate under the headlight on the forks for use of a dry-erase marker to put student names on the bike. No more masking tape name strips !
Riding the range exercises on the bike is interesting. The bike has adequate brakes. The Blast had really strong front and rear brakes, and it was quite easy to lock the front wheel. This caused alot of crashes. The new bike will take quite a bit more effort to lock the front brake, so that is good. I did a couple of quick stops, and the bike easily makes quick stops under control with no excitement.
Riding the curves on the course caused the crash bars to touch down with not a lot of speed on in the turning exercises. The Exercise 13, 135 degree curve taken at 15mph caused a bar scrape. Exercise 12 close gate can get the bars to touch down if taken just a bit fast. The Exercise 10 "box" is easy to do, but I was very aware of the crash bars being very, very close to touchdown while counterweighting.
Clutch: The new clutch is really light compared to the Blast. This is good for ladies with no grip strength. That is the good part. The bad part is that the clutch lever, at this point, is not adjustable, and the reach is way out for someone with small hands. I have large hands, and I had finger tips on the lever. The friction zone is very narrow on the two bikes I rode, and it took some time to get a feel for where it is. The combination of the long reach and narrow friction zone caused me to stall the bike in a counter-weighted turn in the box and almost drop the bike.
Altogether I would rate the Street 500 as a very nice package from Harley, and I really appreciate the effort put into developing a replacement for the Blast, which was getting very long in the tooth for training sites.
When these bikes become available for purchase by the general public, I can easily recommend them as an entry level bike. I can foresee a lot of Harley accessories being made available, as well as aftermarket products. Adding a windscreen and some luggage, this will be a nice touring package at not a lot of money. The 750 version should be outstanding. Harley will sell a lot of these bikes.
im sure the riding schools will be happy that they are getting new models