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2005 Harley-Davidson Street Rod Comparo

Monday, June 27, 2005
The Harley-Davidson Street Rod is an amazing piece of work. From its hydroformed chassis to the liquid-cooled Revolution motor  everything about this bike is cool.
The Harley-Davidson Street Rod is an amazing piece of work. From its hydroformed chassis to the liquid-cooled Revolution motor, everything about this bike is cool.
Harley-Davidson Street Rod

Back in 2002, Duke Danger and Kenny set about to compare the newly released Harley-Davidson V-Rod and the Yamaha Warrior in our first performance cruiser test. What they found was that the boys up in Milwaukee put together one of the most asphalt-shredding cruisers ever assembled. It didn't, however, offer up the same kind of agility as the Warrior when it came to navigating Ortega Canyon and other popular SoCal riding spots, and its high-performance engine felt juxtaposed in a raked-out chopper chassis. Ultimately, the Warrior came out on top simply because it offers up more than just straight-line speed, which is really what the V-Rod is all about.

After initial high demand, the V-Rod didn't have the kind of success Harley-Davidson was likely expecting when they unleashed its unconventional liquid-cooled cruiser. Those in the market for raw power loved it, but it didn't quite handle well enough to really put that power to good use. The traditionalists just thought it reeked of change, which is bad - to some, very bad.

Earlier this year H-D took the V-Rod platform and reworked it, introducing the Street Rod, hoping to make better use of the impressive Revolution engine. It worked. During the 2005 Street Rod press introduction, I was shocked when I mounted a machine that was capable of blasting through curvy roads and had the official H-D badge attached.

The Street Rod is definitely a bad mamma jamma, and if you want to get from point A to point B, the Street Rod will absolutely decimate any other bike in this shootout. It easily offers up the most horsepower and will out-corner any other machine as if its heritage is on the line.

The liquid-cooled, 1130cc Revolution engine delivers an impressive amount of performance, boasting a high 11.3:1 compression ratio, four valves per cylinder actuated by dual overhead cams, and electronic sequential port fuel-injection. Duke noted that he was sure this was the first test of his career in which a Harley was the most technologically advanced bike of the bunch.

The performance of the Revolution is head and shoulders above the rest of the field. Whether ripping toward an 11.52-second quarter-mile time at 121.7 mph or pumping out 110.9 horsepower at 9000 rpm, the Street Rod is king, and its mill is unquestionably the highlight of this nasty bike.

The new Harley's styling, whether you love it or hate it, catches the eye and demands attention. H-D put together a good looking bike, but to enhance the overall performance of the VCSCR, The Motor Company reconfigured the V-Rod's riding position, moving the forward-mounted pegs all the way back behind the transmission. Yes, the Street-Rod is the only machine in our test with rear-sets, which is certainly not a characteristic of most cruisers. Shorter riders are forced to stand tippy-toe due in large part to the 31-inch seat height, the tallest of our quintet. Moreover the position of the exhaust threatened to turn Duke Danger's little legs into fried chicken.

After the introduction of the V-Rod  everyone was hoping to see H-D put the Revolution motor in a capable chassis. Well  here it is: The 2005 Street Rod.
In any contest of performance, the Street Rod easily leaves behind the traditional cruisers in this test.
"I hate the bulging pipes on the right side that force my short legs to reach around and down to the pavement," comments our resident hooligan. "My calf rests warmly next to the exhaust's heat shield. It didn't burn me, but it was unsettling."

The riding position becomes even more un-cruiser like as a rider's torso leans forward and arms are splayed out to the short, narrow bars. It's actually rather comfortable, and a rider will often find himself throwing a knee out and using sportbike riding techniques to negotiate the really twisty sections. The Street Rod's excellent ground clearance might even enable a rider to do a number on a set of knee sliders.

The suspension is not quite as good as one would expect from a sportbike, but it's certainly good enough to run with any performance cruiser. The 43mm Showa inverted cartridge fork soaks up bumps fairly well, but is a little soft when it comes to pushing it hard. Out back, a set of twin Showa shocks take on suspension duties. As good as the suspension is, and it was really pretty solid, the Street Rod's suspenders didn't satisfy us all.

"The suspension was way too soft and undersprung when pushing through the twisties," said D.B. "I'm not sure if it's fair to judge this bike as a sportbike, but the motor and riding position certainly encourage you to push the suspension past its capabilities."

H-D fits the Street Rod with a decent set of Brembo binders. Bringing the bike to a stop is a set of 300mm discs up front, actuated by four-pot Brembo-sourced calipers, while a single 300mm disc with a twin-piston caliper takes care of duties out back. The brakes were neither phenomenal nor terrible, but they are a vast improvement over the binders fitted to the rest of H-D's machines.

Harley-Davidson seemed to break out of their traditional mold in a variety of ways on the Street Rod. The hefty clutch pull found on most of their models has been replaced with a sweet and easy pull. Likewise, the super clunky tranny that is a hallmark of Harley's design is gone, and in its place is a much smoother unit, although the majority of testers still labeled it as notchy.

In any contest of performance  the Street Rod easily leaves behind the traditional cruisers in this test.
In any contest of performance, the Street Rod easily leaves behind the traditional cruisers in this test.
The Street Rod's controls are excellent and well within reach, and the system Harley uses for its self-canceling turnsignals continues to be the industry standard (we only wish we didn't have to use our right thumb to actuate the right-side turnsignal, a la BMW). The Street Rod is fitted with a nicely designed instrument cluster, although its low mounting position forces a rider's eyes away from the road. Some of our testers felt it was time H-D updated its cheap-looking plastic switch-gear housings, especially on a bike that retails for $16,495, about tied with the Hammer for loftiest price.

There is no question H-D has built an impressive performance motorcycle. However, we're not so sure we can call it a cruiser. A rider doesn't sit on it like a cruiser, as the forward lean and rear-set pegs offer a traditional, if not sporting, riding position. In fact, there's just three characteristics that would allow it to enter the cruiser category: It's a Twin, it's much heavier than most sport or standard motorcycles, and it is fitted with The Motor Company badge.

Kudos to Harley-Davidson for building this motorcycle, but a cruiser it is not.

From our tester's notepads:
- For a Harley, the Street Rod's plastic rear fender is unacceptable, especially when considering there are no other nods to serious weight reduction.
- Is it just me or does anybody else notice that all these other manufacturers are copying Harley and then Harley goes and builds a standard/sport/hooligan bike.
- The exhaust note is cool and different than a traditional big-inch Twin. It doesn't have that deep rumble; it's more like a revving V-4.
- How many cruisers can wheelie?

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2005 Harley-Davidson Street Rod
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