I Can't Decide How I Feel About the New Harley Street Bikes


New Harley Made in India

The new Harleys are global products with cleaner emissions, better gas mileage, more recycled materials, and a lower price than the current ‘Hogs, but I still can’t get behind them. From the cheap, aftermarket-looking air cleaner to the rubber sleeves on the front forks to the JC Whitney-spec heat shield on the exhaust, the newest bikes from Harley-Davidson seem to scream “budget bike”.

Mind that that, in itself, is not a bad thing – in fact, I happily owned one of Harley’s last budget bike offerings, a Buell Blast with a 500-ish cc air-cooled single that was more than a match for Florida’s A1A and occasional trips up to Orlando. Despite the plastic body panels and suspicious-looking welds, though, I never felt like the Blast was cheaply made.

These new Harley Street 500 and 750 models, though? Take a look at those wires behind the headlight for yourself and tell me what you see. I’ll wait …

Harley Davidson Street 750

… to me, that looks like a big ‘ol rat’s nest of wires. Granted, these are pre-production bikes that the Motor Company trotted out for photos, and aren’t necessarily what we should expect once the bikes hit dealers early in 2014, but if you were introducing a whole new line-up of bikes that utterly up-ended your target demographic and seemingly spun your corporate design philosophy 180 degrees the other way, wouldn’t you want to put your best foot forward? Even worse: what if this is as good as it gets?

Getting back to that design philosophy thing, you might have noticed something in that photo up there that you don’t regularly see on Harley street bikes. I’m talking, of course, about the Street 750’s radiator, which seems hastily bolted in front of the frame tubes and not at all “integrated” into the upward bend/slope of the tubes. The fact that it’s there at all, after more than a century of predominantly air-cooled Harley-Davidson motorcycles, is a big deal that would probably turn off Harley’s traditional clientele. The fact that it looks like an afterthought, though?

Not good.

Harley Street 500/750 is Made in India

Another thing that bugs me about these bikes is the fact that they’re made in India. I know, I know- I can already hear you crowing on about “they’re assembled in ‘Murica!”, but what does that mean? Only some of Harley-Davidson’s manufacturing jobs were outsourced to India? Is that something to celebrate these days?

I can’t bring myself to get excited about the new Asian Harley-Davidsons. Fords built in Turkey, Chevys made in Korea, and Chryslers made in Italy I can somewhat get behind, if only because those are global brands that don’t trade on an all-American image. Harley, though? Where would Harley-Davidson be today without the Hell’s Angels and the myth of the American motorcycle outlaw?

In the dustbin of history as just another company that got out-Darwined by Honda, Yamaha, et al., that’s where.

As for these new Harley-Davidson Street 500 and 750 models, I’ll reserve my final judgement until I’ve ridden one. Still, the reports coming in from those few who have ridden the new Harleys are far from positive. What do you think, dear readers? Are these new Harleys going to be the brand’s saviors, or the straw that finally breaks this Baby-boomer-driven camel’s back? Let us know what you think in the comments, below.


Sources | Photos: Harley-Davidson, RideApart.

About the Author

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.
  • UncleB

    Day of great sorrows for lovers of the mythology.

  • Bob

    I just bought my second bike and I thought I was an “all Harley” kind of guy, but after doing my research (and a lot of it) I couldn’t help but to think I was just another brainwashed kid who grow up looking some cool movies and long haired dudes…
    Sorry to see the “legend” sinking in its backwardness as confirmed with these new models.
    As for me nothing better than a ST3R, it comes ready for some awesome riding and you don’t have to spend another fortune trying to make it look good.

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  • FLHRyan

    Kind of digging on the Water Cooled thing. As an owner of a bored out shovelhead, city riding in Chicago summers left me with nasty pinging and constant fears of overheating. Air cooled does not like traffic – at all. These street bikes look like they’re made for squeezing in and out of the city.

    • I’m all for water-cooled, and have been seriously close to buying a VRod more than once. That said, 500 cc made-in-India Harley twin doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

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  • ejpaimei

    All the 750’s and 500’s sold in Canada and the USA are made in the USA!


    Bought the wife a 750 Street from HD. She liked the lighter weight ( 100 lbs lighter than Sportster), but after riding for 500 miles, the following problems cropped up. The rear tail light is extremely small & dim….Safety issue. The front light is dim….safety issue. Bike is black & hard to see at night. Should have running lights….safety issue. But the main problem is the intense heat generated by the cylinder heads and fins which almost touch a rider’s thighs. Called HD corporate in Milwaukee. Basically was told ,” too bad, its passed safety test”. I told him the Honda car passed safety tests too, but air bag problems are still killing people. Point I’m making is that HD is telling consumer to go pound sand and it there is any fix to be found, the consumer has to find it. Appears Willie G and the company philosophy is telling good old Americans to get out our tool kits again, just like in the 60’s.

    • And the 70s. And the 80s.

      • Phoghat

        and 90s and 2000s

        • They sold pretty well in the 90s and 2000s, if I recall. That “100 year anniversary” bump in ’03 was huge, too.

          • Phoghat

            “Harley-Davidson Inc. of Milwaukee made the unusual move Thursday of disclosing in a regulatory filing that worldwide retail sales of Harley motorcycles fell 13 percent during the first two months of the year, results that one analyst said topped prior expectations.

            U.S. retail sales of Harley-Davidson motorcycles were down 9.4 percent compared with the same period in 2008. U.S. sales represented nearly 73 percent of total worldwide retail sales during the two-month period.

            International retail sales of Harley-Davidson motorcycles declined 21.5 percent for the period.
            Sauce: http://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/stories/2009/03/02/daily71.html