Striking a balance between tradition and innovation can be difficult and expensive for a motorcycle manufacturer, and given the recent strides in technology coupled with increasingly stringent EPA regulations, this has never been truer than it is today. Harley-Davidson proves, once again, that it is possible with the release of its Street 500, which borrows from the XL (Sportster) and earlier K-Model, with strong echoes of the Cafe Racer.

The Street 500 provides an entry-level bike for performance-minded and budget-conscious riders looking to break into the brand that has defined American-made motorcycles for generations, without breaking the bank as well. While it lacks the longer legs, comfort and cargo capacity of the cruisers and touring-bikes on the highway, it is perfectly suited as an around-town bike (read: barhopper), and the rider never has to feel like he is wrestling a WWE star when maneuvering at low speeds, looking for that elusive ’safe’ parking spot.

Click "Continue Reading" to read my full review.

  • 2015 Harley-Davidson Street 500
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Energy:
    Fuel Injected
  • Displacement:
    30 cubic inches
  • Price:
    6799

Design

2015 Harley-Davidson Street 500 High Resolution Exterior
- image 615642

Frequently, bikes with a low seat height and short wheelbase can appear chunky and awkward at best, but the narrow frame and front-end seems to find some semblance of grace. The lines along the top of the bike flow nicely along the teardrop tank, across the narrow two-up seat and down the rear fender, making it seem less like a collection of parts and more like a well-planned custom project. The headlight can is cleaned up nicely by the Cafe Racer-style bullet fairing, giving the bike an unmistakeable outlaw flavor and neatly hiding the collection of wires and connectors that are frequently stuffed into the can itself. I like the fact that H-D uses sheet-metal for the fuel tank and fenders, because let’s face it, dents and dings happen and it is easier (read: cheaper) to pull a dent and repaint than to replace a broken plastic component in most cases. Plus, plastic has no charm whatsoever! Harley’s Dark Custom philosophy is in full effect, evidenced by the dearth of chrome on the bike, which is fine because chrome won’t get you home, and the blacked-out look of the bike will make any chrome accents that you do add stand out like a beacon. The available colors are somewhat limited, with H-D offering only their Vivid Black as the base color, with Mysterious Red Sunglo and Black Denim available for "a few dollars more" ($295 to be exact), so unless you get a custom paint job the bike will likely look very ’cookie-cutter’ in a crowd.

Chassis

2015 Harley-Davidson Street 500 Exterior
- image 615638

Steering stability at speed is nice, but having to make 27-point K-turns in the parking lot is not. With a wheelbase of a mere 60.4 inches and an overall length of 87.6 inches, the Street 500 will nearly turn on a dime. This is great for low-speed maneuvers, and allows for quick handling at moderate speeds, but the price you pay is that it will likely feel a bit oversensitive and squirrely at highway speeds. The brakes are unremarkable, and of the simple twin-piston and anvil within a floating caliper style, but given the light weight of the bike at just under 500 pounds plus rider, they are sufficient, and the lack of ABS or combined brakes give you full individual control over the front and rear, and will allow you to be a serious contender at the next burnout contest!

The low weight and seat height (27.9 inches, unladen) of the Street 500 gives it a very low center of gravity. This makes the bike very responsive in the curves, and will be a boon to newer riders wrestling with the forces acting on the bike at low speed. Eventually, every rider is going to drop his bike, and as bad as that is, the embarrassment can be compounded by needing help to stand the bike back up. The low center of gravity will help to prevent rubbing salt in that particular wound as even riders with less-than-stellar upper body strength should be able to right the bike without help, hopefully avoiding the merciless teasing that usually accompanies asking your riding buddies for help.

The mid-mount foot controls will be very comfortable for riders of average, and even less-than-average, height. It almost forces the rider to sit with good posture, which reduces fatigue over long rides and allows for stronger, more immediate footwork when you need to ’Fred Flintstone’ the bike in the parking lot. However, taller riders may suffer from the ’monkey riding a football’ syndrome that leaves them looking like they are perched on top of the bike, rather than wrapped around it, and this is definitely a concern for the big-and-tall crowd.

Drivetrain

2015 Harley-Davidson Street 500 Exterior
- image 615637

Nestled within the compact frame is the new liquid-cooled, Revolution X 500 powerplant (494 cc actually, but who’s counting) that produces 29.5 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm, which is ample for pulling some wicked holeshots given the light weight of the bike. This 60-degree V-twin engine is a somewhat radical departure from the traditional 45-degree engines commonly associated with H-D, and though it will appeal to progressive-minded riders because of the smooth power-pulses, Harley purists may find it a bit unappealing. The 60-degree engine makes it look more like a ’Charlie-Davidson’ prevalent in the import-bike sector, and despite what the factory says, it does NOT sound like a true Harley. No matter how loud you make the pipes, there is no escaping the fact that the 60-degree engine will not have the ’lope’ of the asymmetrical firing order commonly associated with 45-degree engines. So, if you are like me and would rather hear an old Harley lope than a pretty girl sing, you will definitely notice this inescapable mathematical fact.

The heads contain four titanium valves per cylinder, which promotes exhaust-gas scavenging and helps to reduce emissions. Waste gasses are carried off by a 2-into-1 exhaust that incorporates the forward-sweeping, rear-cylinder pipe that accentuates the Street’s Cafe Racer roots, and comes blacked out, like the original Cafe Racer and later XLX models. I always did like the look of the forward-sweeping rear pipe, and keeping the pipe away from your right inseam and your passenger’s right foot will help to prevent costly damage to your riding gear, and painful damage to your person.

Power flows through the six-speed transmission and belt final-drive to make the 15-inch rear wheel go roundy-round, and the sixth gear at the top will definitely help to mitigate the frantic rpm normally associated with trying to keep up with a pack of Big-Twins on the interstate. You may still suffer from fatigue over a long trip, given the light weight and nimble steering, but at least you won’t have the mill wound up like a sewing machine. Sportster riders, you KNOW what I’m talking about!

Specifications

Dimensions

Length 87.6 inches
Wheelbase 60.4 inches
Seat height 25.7 inches (laden) and 27.9 inches (unladen)
Ground clearance 5.7 inches
Rake 32 degrees
Trail 4.5 inches
Front tire 100/80 R17
Rear tire 140/75 R15
Fuel capacity 3.5 gallons
Oil capacity 3.3 quarts
Curb weight 489 pounds

Engine

Engine Liquid-cooled, Revolution X V-twin
Bore 2.72 inches
Stroke 2.6 inches
Displacement 30 cubic inches (494cc)
Compression ratio 11:1
Fuel delivery 35mm Mikuni Single Port Fuel Injection

Drivetrain Ratios

Primary drive 36/68 ratio, gear driven
1st gear 14.25
2nd gear 10.07
3rd gear 7.45
4th gear 5.99
5th gear 5.04
6th gear 4.53

*All gear ratios reflect the overall ratio with the final-drive pulleys factored in.

Chassis

Exhaust Black, 2-into-1
Front wheel Black, 7-spoke cast aluminum
Rear wheel Black, 7-spoke cast aluminum
Brakes Twin piston-and-anvil with floating caliper, front and rear

Performance

Engine torque testing method J1349
Torque 29.5 pound-feet @3500 rpm
Lean angle, right 28.5 degrees
Lean angle, left 28.5 degrees
Fuel Economy, Combined 64 mpg

Electrical and Instrumentation

Lights High beam, neutral indicator, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics and low-fuel warning
Gauges 3.5 inch electronic speedometer with high beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, low fuel warning, blade key ignition and fork lock, and locking gas cap

Pricing

Vivid Black paint $6,799
Color option $7,094
California emissions package $50
Freight $330

He Said

"Generally, I like this bike. You can see its heritage and roots in spite of its innovations. Though it can be said that you can never make a radiator look sexy, the factory does a good job making the radiator inconspicuous in that it looks incorporated with the design instead of an afterthought. There is no way around the sound and look of the 60-degree engine, but an entry-level rider should probably be less concerned with that than the ’old guard’ would be. The look and sound are a vanity, and if I am honest, motorcycles are by their very nature a vanity, so one must choose a point to stop nit-picking, and get out on the road!"

She Said

My wife and fellow writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "As a shorter rider, I appreciate the low seat height and low center of gravity because nobody wants to be ’that chick’ that dropped her bike because she couldn’t handle it, plus these factors make it easier to use the foot-powered reverse. I think it has rather sexy lines, for a small bike, and at the end of the day it is still an H-D!"

What do you think?
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