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.

 

Jo Borrás

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.