The Entry-Level Harley

The 2017 Harley-Davidson Street Rod leaves its predecessor in the dust. Harley-Davidson

With dark styling, aggressive ergonomics, and a more powerful engine, the new Harley-Davidson Street Rod is trying to do what its predecessor could not: draw entry-level North American riders to the iconic brand.

Upon release a couple of years ago, Harley’s Street 750 was a capable, solidly built midsize motorcycle. Problem was, it didn’t look, ride, or even sound much like a Harley-Davidson. Gone was that signature Harley rumble, replaced by a disappointingly polite exhaust note. Ditched were Harley’s classic single-sided turn signals, replaced by a standard left grip toggle switch. Exposed wiring and plastic components were among the other cost-saving touches that made it look and feel like every other midsize cruiser on the road. The ergonomics were pedestrian. And what is that, a radiator? The Street 750 just didn’t stand out from the crowd; it didn’t ooze personality, it exuded no danger. It was every Harley enthusiast’s worst nightmare — it was boring.

The new Street Rod is out to change that perception. A blacked-out, stripped-down urban-ready version of the Street 750 that’s more directly aimed at the U.S. market, it has far more curb appeal than its predecessor: blacked-out components; a new cowl; a clipped tail section; inverted forks; and a supercharger-inspired intake. It has more road appeal, too, with a deeper exhaust note and a high-output Revolution X 750 engine that produces 18 percent more horsepower over stock. A beefier chassis and upgraded suspension, along with higher ground clearance, tightened rake, and increased lean angle, make it ideal for attacking traffic. And the Street Rod’s got more seat appeal than the 750; the flat, drag-style handlebar puts the rider in an aggressive, fist-forward posture, and it features a higher seat and more comfortable seating position to make it easy to get your feet down at stops. 

Overall, the new Street Rod is designed to be nimble and lightweight for the commute, with enough power for a highway getaway. And it’s clearly got plenty of cool factor to cruise the strip.

Our take: If you think you might want to own a Harley-Davidson but are leery of spending upwards of $20K or more to find out, this is a great starter option at $8,700. If you prefer classic Harley-Davidson styling, though — with a more palpable rumble — spend a few hundred more and opt for the Iron 883.