A No-Nonsense Approach To A Bar-Hopping Café Racer

If you remember back in the 1990s, Harley-Davidson offered the "49-95" Sportster. It was a no-frills entry-level bike priced affordably at $4,995 — hence the clever in-house nickname — and it let a lot of folks stick a toe in the water, as it were, into the motorcycle scene. The Street 500 and Street 750 are the new generation of that concept. The cost is little more than $4,995, though in today’s market, $6,899 is still considered affordably priced. The Streets have that same no-frills, no-nonsense approach to an entry-level bar-hopping café racer. Powered by a Revolution V-twin engine, the bikes are premium Harley. Just because the price is low doesn’t mean they skimped on quality. The Street siblings come with a steel teardrop tank and fenders covered in the deep, rich color and flawless finish that long ago made Harley-Davidson the benchmark for premium paint on a motorcycle. The cherry on top is the chrome tank badge — not a decal, as you might expect in a budget-minded bike, but a three-dimensional tank medallion — as Harley’s pledge to you that you are riding a premium quality machine.

Continue reading for my review of the Harley-Davidson Street 500 and Street 750.

  • 2016 - 2018 Harley-Davidson Street 500 / Street 750
  • Year:
    2016- 2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V-Twin
  • Displacement:
    30 cubic inches
  • Price:
    6899
  • Price:

Design

2016 - 2018 Harley-Davidson Street 500 / Street 750
- image 642789
The Street 500 and Street 750 are the stripped-down models in Harley's Dark Custom line, so the word of the day is 'black'.

Let’s start our look at the Street duo by identifying their roots. The front fairing and the way the seat and rear fender meld together emulates the look of the fairings and fenders of the original Café Racer that evolved out of the outlaw street custom culture way back in the 1970s. (I remember those days. Do you?) What I might call a bullet fairing, Harley is calling a café-inspired speed screen — that sleek yet minimal fairing to provide fair entry into the wind for reduced drag.

The Street 500 and Street 750 are the stripped-down models in Harley’s Dark Custom line, so the word of the day is black. The blacked-out front end includes black fork gators and lowers as well as the pullback handlebars. In the mid-section and rear, the blacked-out engine, air cleaner and exhaust continue the Dark Custom theme, which runs uninterrupted from the minimalist front fender to the LED tail light and mini-bullet turn signals in the rear. In fact, the factory says this is the first all-black exhaust on a Harley since the since the 1970’s, when the blacked-out pipes debuted on the original Café Racer.

Instrumentation is basic. Harley mounted a 3.5-inch electronic speedometer on the handlebars that gives you an odometer, trip meter and LED indicators. They also added a coolant temp warning light. That’s it: no-frills basic instrumentation.

Light with a low center of gravity, the Streets don’t require much upper body strength to lift off the jiffy stand. Add to that a seat height of 28 inches and you have a bike very suitable for folks who may be a bit height-challenged as well as folks who don’t want to wrestle with a bigger, heavier bike. The frame and seat are slim, so it’s easy to find the ground and still have a little bend at the knee. Slightly forward mid-mount controls give you a relaxed posture and keep your feet at the ready to deploy when stopped — something you do a lot of when riding around town.

Passenger-friendly, the Streets come with a two-up seat and passenger footpegs. It’s not the seat I’d want to sit on cruising up the highway, but for the intended purpose, it’s fine.

There are three features of the bikes that might normally be buried in all the blah-blah promotional material, but I find noteworthy. First is the sure-fire Neutral switch. When you kick it into neutral, you want to be in neutral and not have a surprise lurch when you hit the starter. The Streets have an improved Neutral switch to save you that fiasco.

Second noteworthy feature is the ergonomic brake and clutch lever designed to save your hands. Remember these are around-town bikes — a bar hopper or café racer — so at every stop sign and red light, you’re squeezing those levers. Your hands don’t get a break as they would when you’re steady cruising up the highway. The ergonomic levers save your palms.

The third feature I want to point out is the easy lock-to-lock sweep of the handlebars. The bikes are light and the balanced weight means quick, responsive turning so you don’t have to wrestle with the handlebars, especially when traveling in low-speed traffic or cruising the parking lot looking for a space.

Chassis

2016 - 2018 Harley-Davidson Street 500 / Street 750
- image 731666
The short wheelbase, ample ground clearance, and steering geometry skewed toward 'nimble' allows for crisp handling, and quick reversals in S-turns.

The Street family of bikes is a little bit different animal from the typical, run-of-the-mill offerings from Harley. Small, quick and agile, the Streets represent an attempt by the factory to resurrect the original failed Cafe’ Racer line started back in ’77 – this time with a frame, suspension and steering geometry appropriate for a bike with “racer” in its name. The original Cafe’ Racer, built on the XLCH chassis, was widely regarded as wooden in the corners and a dog on the straightaways.

Enter the Street 500 and Street 750. The short, 60.4-inch wheelbase, 5.7-inch ground clearance and 32-degree steering head angle leaves the front wheel with 4.5 inches of trail, which allows for crisp handling, and quick reversals in S-turns. Part of the light, nimble handling in the front end comes from the skinny 17-inch tire. Both the front and the 15-incher in the rear come mounted on black cast aluminum wheels.

At 28-inches high (unladen), the seat is plenty low for shorter riders, and the overall center-of-gravity keeps “rider horsepower” requirements low. The down side here is taller riders may feel a bit crowded in the leg area, and will find themselves perched on the bike, instead of in it.

The Streets come with 37 mm, Showa forks specially made for this line. Traditional, coil-over rear shocks support the rear, and come with the typical spanner-adjustable preload feature. For around town, the 5.5-inch front suspension travel and 3.5 inches in the rear is more than adequate.

At around 500 pounds, the bikes don’t need much in the way of brakes, and Harley went with the bare minimum. The single 300 mm front and rear discs with floating, 34 mm dual-piston calipers provide just enough bindage to control the bike. This can be a problem on a bike marketed to the entry-level sector, and riders should be sure to give themselves plenty of stopping room until they get used to this attribute.

Drivetrain

2016 - 2018 Harley-Davidson Street 500 / Street 750
- image 642788
The liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-twin on the Street 500 displaces a mere 30 cubic-inches, making it the smallest production engine from Harley to this point.

Much like the chassis, the mill is a departure from the norm. The liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-twin on the Street 500 displaces a mere 30 cubic-inches (491.6 cc), making it the smallest production engine from Harley to this point. Still, it cranks out 29.5 pound-feet at 3,750 rpm, which is a tad low for a Harley but sufficient for an entry-level or commuter bike.

The engine aspirates through a 35 mm Mikuni single-port, fuel-injected, throttle body that contributes to emissions control, and helps provide an average of 64 mpg in combined city and highway driving. The Street 750 shares the Revolution X™ V-twin engine with a slightly larger bore making it 46 cubic inches (749 cc) with a 38 mm throttle body and cranking out 44.5 pound-feet at 4,000 rpm.

A six-speed transmission carries the power to the rubber, and comes geared for strong hole shots while maintaining a comfortable rpm at speed. The fiber-reinforced drive belt completes the drivetrain, and provides quiet, low-maintenance service.

Model:Street 500Street 750
Engine: Liquid-cooled, Revolution X™ V-Twin Liquid-cooled, Revolution X™ V-Twin
Displacement: 30 cubic inches (494 cc) 46 cubic inches (749 cc)
Engine Torque: 29.5 Pound-feet at 3,750 rpm 44.5 Pound-feet at 4,000 rpm
Fuel System: Mikuni Single Port Fuel Injection, 35 mm bore Mikuni Single Port Fuel Injection, 38 mm bore
Transmission: Six-speed Six-speed

Pricing

2016 - 2018 Harley-Davidson Street 500 / Street 750
- image 662431
Prices remain just about the same as last year, but for 2018, there are some new color choices.=center

Prices remain just about the same as last year. MSRP on the 2018 Street 500 is $6,899 for Vivid Black or $7,194 for your choice of colors. MSRP on the Street 750 is $700 more on the base color and the custom colorways. Two-tone colors add another couple of bills to the price over the solids.

New-in-2017 options on the Street siblings include ABS for $750 and the Smart Security System for $395. Add $50 for California emissions for folks in The Golden State.

Colors:
2017 Street 500: Vivid Black, Black Denim, Superior Blue, Velocity Red Sunglo
2018 Street 500: Vivid Black, Olive Gold, Electric Blue, Bonneville Salt Pearl, Vivid Black Deluxe, Wicked Red Deluxe, Bonneville Salt Pearl Deluxe
2017 Street 750: Vivid Black; Vivid Black Deluxe, Black Denim; Superior Blue; Velocity Red Sunglo, Velocity Red Sunglo Deluxe
2018 Street 750: Vivid Black, Black Denim, Wicked Red, Bonneville Salt Pearl, Vivid Black Deluxe, Wicked Red Deluxe, Bonneville Salt Pearl Deluxe
Price:
2017 Street 500: Vivid Black $6,849, Color $7,144
2018 Street 500: Vivid Black $6,899, Color $7,194, Two-Tone $7,349
2017 Street 750: Vivid Black $7,549, Color $7,844, Two-Tone $7,999
2018 Street 750: Vivid Black $7,599, Color $7,894, Two-Tone $8,049

Competitors

2016 - 2018 Harley-Davidson Street 500 / Street 750
- image 644707
2016 - 2018 Yamaha SR400
- image 653102
The two contenders have mid-mount controls -- a feature I like for entry-level folks to keep their feet ready to go to the ground.

Finding a head-to-head competitor in the current lineups turns into a bit of a challenge. I like to keep engine size as close as I can when making a comparison, but sometimes that just isn’t possible. Of the café racer styles that come to mind, I picked the SR400 from Yamaha to go up against the Street 500. Though it lacks some of the typical café racer features — that little bullet fairing, for example — it is easily customizable to drop it right into the style.

Coming in a little less expensive than the Street 500, which isn’t surprising when it has a 399 cc engine compared to the Street’s 494 cc engine, the two have mid-mount controls — a feature I like for entry-level folks to keep their feet ready to go to the ground. The controls on the Street 500 are slightly forward from mid-mount in the strictest sense, so instead of having your heels under your butt as on the SR400, your heels are down in a more natural position. That’s a personal point, I know, but I find that more comfortable when wearing heavy riding boots.

The SR400 is 100 pounds lighter — again, smaller engine so that isn’t surprising — so its smaller brakes (and good grief, is that a drum brake in the rear?) should be considered adequate. The Street 500 is the larger of the two as far as length and wheelbase and it has a lower seat height — 28 inches compared to the SR400’s almost 31 inches — so I have to stick with the Street 500.

He Said

My husband and fellow motorcycle writer, TJ Hinton, says, "I was dubious of Harley’s claim of the Street 500 having the first all-black exhaust since the 1970s. I had a 1985 XLX with a black exhaust, but the key phrase here is all black. The XLX had chrome header-pipe clamp, so it wasn’t all black. While it’s way too small for me, I can appreciate what Harley is doing here. This ride makes an excellent beginners bike, and since nothing in the motorcycle world depreciates as slowly as a Harley, buyers can look forward to a decent resale value when they are ready to move up to a bigger sled. For our friends across the pond, the 500 marks the only learner-permit legal model offered by Harley, so it fills a market niche that has been neglected by the factory for many years."

She Said

"You know, some manufacturers are known for their look and some by their performance. Those manufacturers take very seriously — and go to great lengths to maintain — what they’re known for. I’m not sure how many folks know that Harley-Davidson goes to great lengths to tune the sound of the engine note just so. With a state-of-the-art sound facility in Wisconsin, Harley tunes the sound of their engines to perfection. That deep, sexy lope that you can feel in your chest as much as hear it isn’t a happy accident. That trademark sound doesn’t demand attention, but gets it anyway. The Street 500 has that sound. Okay it’s coming out of a little engine so it isn’t as deep as the big twins, but I heard someone describe the sound as that of a sewing machine. That’s not what I hear coming out of the pipes. Some folks just want to be haters."

Specifications

Drivetrain:
Engine: Liquid-cooled, Revolution X™ V-Twin
Displacement:
Street 500: 30 cubic inches (494 cc)
Street 750: 46 cubic inches (749 cc)
Bore:
Street 500: 2.72 inches
Street 750: 3.35 inches
Stroke: 2.6 inches
Compression Ratio: 11 to 1
Engine Torque Testing Method: J1349
Engine Torque:
Street 500: 29.5 Pound-feet at 3,750 rpm
Street 750: 44.5 Pound-feet at 4,000 rpm
Fuel System:
Street 500: Mikuni Single Port Fuel Injection, 35 mm bore
Street 750: Mikuni Single Port Fuel Injection, 38 mm bore
Exhaust: Black Two-into-one exhaust
Primary Drive Gear: 36/68 ratio
Transmission: Six-speed
Gear Ratios: 1st: 14.25. 2nd: 10.07, 3rd: 7.45, 4th: 5.99, 5th: 5.04, 6th: 4.53
Chassis:
Brakes: 300 mm, two-piston floated front and rear
Front Suspension: Showa, 37 mm forks
Tires, Front: Michelin® Scorcher® “11F” Bias 100/80 R17
Tires, Rear: Michelin® Scorcher® “11” Radial 140/75 R15
Wheels, Front: Black, Seven-spoke Cast Aluminum
Wheels, Rear: Black, Seven-spoke Cast Aluminum
Lean Angle, Right: 28.5 degrees
Lean Angle, Left: 28.5 degrees
Rake (steering head): 32 degrees
Trail: 4.5 inches
Dimensions:
Length: 87.6 inches
Seat Height, Laden: 25.7 inches
Seat Height, Unladen: 28 inches
Ground Clearance: 5.7 inches
Wheelbase: 60.4 inches
Details:
Model ID:
Street 500: XG500
Street 750: XG750
Fuel Economy:
Street 500: 64.4 mpg
Street 750: 54.5 mpg
Fuel Capacity: 3.5 gallons
Recommended Fuel: Premium Unleaded
Oil Capacity (w/filter): 3.3 quarts
Dry Weight:
Street 500: 492 Pounds
Street 750: 455 Pounds
Wet Weight:
Street 500: 514 Pounds
Street 750: 489 Pounds
Lights (as per country regulation), Indicator Lamps: High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, 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
Colors:
2017 Street 500: Vivid Black, Black Denim, Superior Blue, Velocity Red Sunglo
2018 Street 500: Vivid Black, Olive Gold, Electric Blue, Bonneville Salt Pearl, Vivid Black Deluxe, Wicked Red Deluxe, Bonneville Salt Pearl Deluxe
2017 Street 750: Vivid Black; Vivid Black Deluxe, Black Denim; Superior Blue; Velocity Red Sunglo, Velocity Red Sunglo Deluxe
2018 Street 750: Vivid Black, Black Denim, Wicked Red, Bonneville Salt Pearl, Vivid Black Deluxe, Wicked Red Deluxe, Bonneville Salt Pearl Deluxe
Price:
2017 Street 500: Vivid Black $6,849, Color $7,144
2018 Street 500: Vivid Black $6,899, Color $7,194, Two-Tone $7,349
2017 Street 750: Vivid Black $7,549, Color $7,844, Two-Tone $7,999
2018 Street 750: Vivid Black $7,599, Color $7,894, Two-Tone $8,049

References

2016 - 2018 Yamaha SR400
- image 723760

<See our review of the Yamaha SR400.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: harley-davidson.com, yamaha-motor.com

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