HARLEY-DAVIDSON HAS GIVEN NEW RIDERS AN AFFORDABLE WAY TO DISPLAY THE BADGE
Weighing a featherweight 222kg, the Harley-Davidson Street 500 is the learner-approved bike many prospective riders have been waiting for. But does it live up to the heritage behind the bar and shield logo?
Don’t let the exhaust fool you — the Street 500 is too quiet for a Harley.
Looks-wise, it is an unmistakable Harley with classic lines, big exhaust and a V-twin engine nestled between the frame. Up front there is a small headlight fairing reminiscent of Sons of Anarchy, topping off the look by blending the light into the rest of the bike’s blacked-out accents.
The stylish headlight cowling and decent-sized fuel tank give the Street 500 a great silhouette
Ergonomically the Street 500 is sound, with a comfortable saddle for the rider, easy reach to the bars and mid-mounted footpegs. While some might desire the feet-forward pegs Harley is renowned for, the mid-mounted position is much better for learners to get to grips with, as a respected colleague pointed out to me during the Project Livewire ride in Malaysia. (Read that review online at driven.co.nz).
The rider’s seat is quite comfy while the peg position does not create any discomfort, even after long periods in the saddle.
The rest of the cockpit is spartan, with a basic single gauge up front, with two tripmeters, odometer and speedo being the only technology in the package.
While the Street 500 comes with pillion pegs, backseat accommodation is minimal. Riders wanting to share the experience will need an accessory seat from the Harley catalogue.
This is the only Harley-Davidson you can jump on with any licence, making it the marque’s most accessible bike. But this comes at a cost. Unlike its big air-cooled brothers, the Street 500 is powered by the all-new liquid cooled Revolution X 494cc V-Twin engine.
Being comparatively small in capacity and heavily restricted at the exhaust, thanks to increasingly tougher European regulations, the Street 500 lacks the same road presence and character of the bigger bikes in the range.
The mid-mounted footpegs are ideal for learner riders.
While the Revolution X may look like a shrunken V-Rod engine, with only 40Nm of torque on offer it struggles with overtaking duties on state highways. Couple this with vague gear selection on the test bike and the Street 500 loses out on the fun factor on the open road. This will probably frustrate more adventurous riders to the point that they will be more than keen to upgrade to a bigger bike in the Harley family when they gain their full licence.
Bring the Street 500 into town, however, and it feels more at home. With the widest part of the bike being the handlebars, the Street 500 is one of the easiest bikes to nip through tight spaces to the front of the lights, and that 40Nm of torque is fully available from only 3500rpm. That gives the bike more than enough to get you ahead of traffic.
Pulling you to a stop are two piston floating calipers front and rear which do their job pretty well. The modulation of the rear was a little tricky to get used to but once it was fully bedded in it worked admirably. Harley needs to look at equipping the Street 500 with ABS as an extra safety net for novice riders, and to bring the bike in line with other learner-approved bikes at the same price point.
That said, the Street 500 has some excellent selling points.
Being under 600cc, rego is dramatically cheaper than any other Harley, at an annual cost of $477.53, as opposed to $591.69 for bikes over 601cc. With fuel economy quoted by the factory as a frugal 3.7 litres per 100km there is no need for a frequent stop at the local servo, unlike the peanut-tank Sportster range. Add that to the reduced insurance premiums of a bigger learner-approved bike and the Street 500 is easily the most affordable Harley to keep in the garage.
The Street handles corners well — so well that the most fun I had was on a ride around the Hunua Ranges, leaning into corners and testing the limits of grip from the Harley-Davidson branded Michelin tyres.
Harley-Davidson encourages owners to customise their Street to their liking.
Harley-Davidson, like most manufacturers these days, strongly encourages owners to customise their bike to their liking and has supported multiple custom shops to showcase the versatility of the Street range. With everything from custom bobbers to cafe racers seemingly a couple of bolt-on parts away, the Street 500 appears to be one of the more modification-friendly bikes on the market.
Despite my few misgivings it shows promise, and is by far the cheapest way into the best-known motorcycle brand in the world.
HARLEY-DAVIDSON STREET 500
ENGINE: 494cc Revolution X V-Twin
PROS: Blacked-out looks, Harley-Davidson badge, corners well, highly customisable.
CONS: Lacking in the fun department, no ABS, low engine power/torque, vague gearbox, probably not a bike you would keep once you are off your 6R licence.