HD Street 750 - A runt with grunt (long read)
Much has been said about what an authentic Harley should and shouldn't be.
So I won't really add fuel to that fire.
Like any other product, the Street 750 is a motorcycle first, and a brand next.
While most of us buy into brand names, what we finally use every day is a product.
And I feel that that's the way this motorcycle should be evaluated.
I decided to book this bike without having ridden it, heard it, or seen it - even though I was at the Auto Expo in Noida for three days.
I decided purely on the merits of the spec sheet, and what I've picked up over 25 years of owning, riding and maintaining motorcycles.
While I used to be a Harley fan back in the day when few people in this country even knew what one was, I quickly lost interest when HD actually reached our shores.
Stories about overheating, impractical ground clearance in the city, high cost of running and maintenance, and all this with outdated (albeit reliable) technology, made the high sticker price completely unjustifiable to someone who works for a monthly salary.
And then this runt comes along.
Liquid cooled 750cc V-twin, made-in-India consumable parts (read: replaceable for money instead of an arm and a leg), good ground clearance, reasonable kerb weight, NOT made in Korea or China, sensible price point, and enough torque to make for an entertaining ride, every time.
The only thing I was concerned about was whether the bike would fit me.
And I've decided now that though the bike LOOKS small under me (6ft 2in, 90kgs), it doesn't FEEL small, and that's all that matters.
I took the bike out for a 15 minute ride - a whole month after I'd booked it - and I wasn't disappointed.
This is one motorcycle that feels as good as it looks on paper.
I found that the bike blends into the situation in which its being ridden. In traffic, its happy to change direction like a housefly, and if a section of road were to open up, it picks up its skirts and charges for the next traffic snarl with a muffled snort, like a little girl-rhinoceros.
Its an instantly endearing motorcycle, doesn't attract hateful stares from people on lesser machines at traffic lights, doesn't intimidate you with its own bling, power and noise, and yet assures you in a very personal way that it is by no means a 'commuter' or a compromise.
I turn 40 this year, and being of a fairly self-assured disposition (not in need of any props), I find this combination of virtues delightful.
There are a few things I thought could be better - and a lot of reviewers have covered these points already - but I'll list them out anyway.
1) The rearview mirrors. They're befuddling. What exactly do they do? Because they sure-as-**** don't allow you to keep an eye on anything more than your own shoulders. Shoulder-view mirrors then?
2) The brakes. They work, though not as dramatically as they would on lets say a KTM 390, but they do their work in a different country where you can't hear, feel or get any feedback from them. Brake Process Outsourcing?
3) The front wheel. I really think HD should have gone with an 18-incher. That front wheel is JUST too small for a bike of this length, and this is NOT an advantage on bad roads. Personally, I'm already exploring options for an 18 inch wheel from HD (maybe from the Iron 883) which I can swap for the stock one.
4) The pillion eighth. Thats pretty much what the pillion seat is. So if your 'better half' is actually nothing more than your 'better eighth', perfect. Otherwise, no.
5) Neutral. In fifteen minutes I had to come to a stop five times on account of traffic, and not once could I find neutral without considerable trouble.
6) Tyres. I've grown up on MRF, and I'm fiercely proud of what they do. But that tread pattern just looks so wrong on this bike. Especially when there are pictures of these motorcycles wearing Michelins winking at you from the internet. Purely from an aesthetic perspective, HD could have got MRF to do better.
On the other hand, there are some things I rather like about the bike, which some people seem to hate.
I like that one can see all the wires. Thats strangely reassuring when you've ridden Enfields all your life.
I like that the bike doesn't have much (any?) chrome. Chrome is hard to maintain when one lives near the sea.
I like that its not loud.
And most of all, I like that it's already giving me ideas on how I can make it more suited to me. And I DON'T mean the HD accessories catalogue.
This is a bike I will use regularly, on rotation with my RE 500 and RD 350. It is a bike that will do 94kms a day on weekdays, and 750kms on weekends.
It will stand outside my house, ready to be ridden, not in the garage under a cover and four coats of polish.
Yes, it wears a Harley badge.
And no, it will NOT be the ticket to a warm welcome into the Harley Owners Group. (I've already got hate mails from my friends who ride 'real' Harleys)
Because this is a bike you buy for very personal reasons, not 'community' reasons.
The Street 750 is sensible, practical, personal choice.
And for having finally made something worthy of those words, something thats stands on its own merits without the crutch of the HD name, congratulations, Harley Davidson!