Cape Town – For most people the term ‘entry-level Harley Davidson’ is as much an oxymoron as ‘military intelligence’.
Not for nothing did a 1980s Harley-Davidson advertisement proudly proclaim “Our sizes start at XL”. Then, and until Friday, the smallest Harley you could get was the XL883, an underpowered quarter-ton cruiser that was designed in the 1950s, with a bucket-of-bolts-noisy air-cooled push-rod V-twin and an intimidatingly clonky gearbox.
But this is the new Harley-Davidson XG750 Street - an entirely different bucket of bolts.
Released in South Africa at the weekend, it’s aimed at a generation of young urban affluentials whose idea of a cool ride is a scruffy backyard-build bobber (invariably finished in matt black) and for whom the world-class paint finishes and abundance of flawless chrome that have made Milwaukee iron the choice of weekend warriors the world over are actually minus points.
The Street is built in Bawal, about 100km south-west of Delhi in northern India, around a scaled-down version of the 60-degree, liquid-cooled Revolution V-twin that powers the V-Rod, with chain-driven single overhead camshafts directing four valves per cylinder, Mikuni single-port fuel-injection through a 38mm throttle body and a six-speed gearbox driving via Harley-Davidson’s signature toothed-belt final drive.
The XG engine is rated for 42kW at 8000 revs and 59Nm at 4000rpm; given that the Street weighs in at 222kg ready to go, it should solidly outperform its older sister, against which it is now apparently in direct competition. The maker’s own figures bear this out, claiming 0-100km/h in 4.6 seconds for the Street, against 6.4 for the Sportster.
But it doesn’t (compete, that is). Riders who buy the Sportster as much for its beautifully finished sparkle as its old-school long-stroke vibration won’t look at the understated, no-chrome Street with its all-black finish, no-nonsense stamped sheet-metal bracketry and occasionally untidy wiring (the hooter, clumsily bolted on to the left side of the engine as an obvious afterthought, is a case in point).
As an anti-establishment middle-finger salute to the poseur lifestyle, however, it’s right on point; it’s also a superlative blank canvas for a minimalist ‘bobber’ custom.
Outside the engine casings, it wears its engineering on the outside, making it easy to change the bike’s cosmetics without major surgery; the resultant ‘unfinished’ look is a major constituent of the bobber culture.
Perhaps the clearest indicator of this bike’s target market is that, at the launch price of R82 999, you can have it in any colour you like as long as it’s black. If you want the tank, mudguard and tailpiece in any of the other colours on offer (black denim or red), you’ll have to ante up another three grand.
Harley-Davidson XG750 Street
Engine: 749cc liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin.
Bore x stroke: 85 x 66mm.
Compression ratio: 11.0:1.
Valvegear: SOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 42kW at 8000rpm.
Torque: 59Nm at 4000rpm.
Induction: Mikuni single-port electronic fuel-injection with 38mm throttle body.
Ignition: Digital electronic.
Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by toothed belt.
Front Suspension: 37mm conventional cartridge forks.
Rear Suspension: Dual hydraulic shock absorbers adjustable for preload.
Front brakes: 292mm disc with dual-piston floating calliper.
Rear brake: 260mm disc with dual-piston floating calliper.
Front tyre: 100/80 - 17 tubeless.
Rear tyre: 140/75 - 15 tubeless.
Seat height: 709mm.
Kerb weight: 222kg.
Fuel tank: 13.1 litres.
Price: R89 999.