HARLEY DAVIDSON STREET 750

Like any self-respecting manufacturer of the modern age, Harley-Davidson is gunning 4 da kidz. A quick squiz on Wikipedia shows that half of the world’s population is under 30, emerging markets are booming and that urbanisation is going bananas. So with that in mind, are four billion people about to rush out and buy Harley’s new entry level machine, the Street 750? On the evidence presented by a day on the bike around the pork pie capital of the UK, Melton Mowbray, the answer is probably not.

But Harley isn’t after four billion sales – hitting four figures in the UK would be nice, and that seems perfectly achievable given that a) this is a Harley-Davidson, like from America and everything, and b) it costs just £5,795. Harley-Davidson likes to put that price another way, namely £79 a month (after you’ve stuck down a £999 deposit) on its PCP scheme, and even we’d admit that given the strong residuals Harleys always achieve, that sounds like proper good value to us.

HARLEY DAVIDSON STREET 750

But that don’t mean a thing if the Street 750 can’t sing, and this is where even we start raising an eyebrow. Thanks to ditching the air-cooled 883 motor as the initial point for reconnaissance into all things Harley, the new 749cc liquid cooled v-twin is somewhat of a revelation. The old motor used to rattle in its frame more than produce genuine forward momentum, but the same can’t be said of this lump. It’s smooth (the balancer shaft doing sterling work here), the fuelling is half-decent and it’s capable of producing respectable speeds. Add to that a gearbox that doesn’t require a rat-catcher’s stamp to get it into gear, over 8,000 revs to play with and a light and easy to operate clutch, and you’ve got yourself a propulsion unit to be proud of.

The rest of the bike, however, doesn’t quite live up to the standard that the engine has set, and it’s easy to see where the American accountants have cut corners. As ever, don’t expect much from the braking and suspension department. Although the suzzies are an improvement on the bone-shaking units of old (read last year), we’re not talking about gas-charged forks or titanium nitriding here. They’re merely units that connect the chassis to the wheels, though better equipped for taking on potholes than before. Similarly, the single front caliper, though developed with Brembo, has the bite of an anorexic – although it can be argued that in this regard it suits the package almost perfectly.

HARLEY DAVIDSON STREET 750

Elsewhere, the bike uses nuts, bolts and screws of almost agricultural standards, the finish of the basic swingarm and top yolk are one up from a rattle can and newspaper and the Michelin Screamer II tyres offer about as much traction as Bronco paper in an dodgy Indian restaurant’s khazi. But much of this may be deliberate. Harley- Davidson’s research shows that nearly 90 per cent of owners customise their bikes, and what better incentive to buy one of the near 10,000 accessories in the catalogue than by supplying something a bit shoddy in the first place. The bike has some attractive angles, of that there’s no doubt, but the arse end looks old and ready for an instant transformation while some of the plastic parts will be whipped off and replaced by something far more suitable by any owner worth his salt.

Riding-wise, it’s not bad. The funny-sized front wheel means you need to steer – not counter-steer – into some slow corners, and it’s hardly an RSV4 RF, but a day out on it is not without its enjoyment. The riding position is very easy, the seat all-day comfortable and it feels relatively balanced. Take into account its limitations – grip, ground clearance, stability – and you’ll go nowhere fast, but at least you’ll be doing it with a smile on your face.

Sure, lots of short cuts have been taken – there’s no clock for Gawd’s sake – but Harley see this as a starting point – both in the riding and the customisation stakes. Some sensational tricked up specials have emerged with the Street 750 as its base, and the looks and diversity of them are stunning. That’s nothing you could accuse the standard bike of, but all Harley is doing here is supplying the blue-print – it’s up to you to do the rest.