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Harley-Davidson Street 500 | BIKE TESTS

The Street 500 is one of the smoothest rides on the road

Harley-Davidson Street 500- Balls out, Harleys aren’t my bag. Okay, so offer me a spin on a factory XR750 flat tracker and I’ll snap your arm off, but those Harley Fat Kings and Road Boys or whatever, just not my can of bourbon and coke, mate. But I also pride myself on having a wide open mind, a healthy sense of the absurd, and inquisitive weakness for two-wheeled vehicles of all kinds. 


First impression when the Street 500 rolled out of the delivery van was, ‘Hey, that actually looks pretty sweet’. The long, low Street looks like it’s been squeezed from a tube of whup’ass then dipped in molten midnight. Its presence is every bit the full-sized motorcycle, so much more than you’d expect from a mere half-litre lump of LAMS sled.

After admiring the paint job, the next thing I noticed about the Street 500 was the rear tyre. In fact, I did a double take when I first spied it from the back end. It’s got to be the flattest profile tyre I have ever seen on a solo motorcycle, period. I know they do things differently in Milwaukee, but what I was looking at defied everything I’ve ever learned about motorcycle chassis dynamics. I instantly took on board that this bike wasn’t designed to be leant over very far, by the fact that the rear tyre is at the limit of its tread with the bike sitting on the side stand.


Being lower than a snake’s belly makes the Street 500 a very accommodating and unintimidating machine from the first leg-over. If you can’t get two feet to terra firma on this rig, you’re either too young to have a licence or have been amputated at the knees. The riding position is like nothing else I know. It’s not bad – apart from being badass – but neither does it feel particularly natural. Low seat, forward-mounted pegs, and a quite forward-mounted straight wide handlebar equate to a riding position akin to the stance of a mantis. This was so unfamiliar to me that I kept forgetting where the footpegs are when I pulled away, but I’m sure it would become second nature in time. The ’pegs are spread wider than Cool Hand Luke’s gait and aren’t spring-loaded, so it’s easy to inadvertently fold them up when you stop at the lights, only to find they’re not where you thought they’d be when you ride off. Tapping them back into place just becomes part of the routine.

For me, riding a motorcycle with handling characteristics that are a product of its style, rather than vice versa, is a weird concept. Generally, I’m more used to bikes that are designed to handle as good as they can on their intended road or trail surface. The Street 500’s ride is as eccentric as the bike’s geometry and tyre choices. Again, there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just a different type of two-wheeled experience. And once you’ve settled into it, the Street 500 is a whole boot-load of fun.


The slick and smooth Revolution X engine powering the Street is a balance-shaft equipped 60° V-twin which shares more in common with the modern era VRSC motors than the old-school 45° Harley lumps. Anyone hoping to feel a massive throb riding this iron pony may be in for a slight disappointment, because although there is an authentic and aurally pleasing off-beat pulse at idle, there’s just not enough rock ’n’ roll in that pair of 247cc pots and crank to get any truly booming lumpiness happening when you crack the throttle. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The Street 500 is one of the smoothest rides on the road, verging on electric in its application of power. And the amount of power on tap is entirely what I’d expect by reading the spec sheet. Not fast, but fast enough. The Street’s strength is gliding along in top gear in a dead straight line, looking like an extra from Sons Of Anarchy. All cool with me, because that’s exactly what a lot of folk want, especially when their only wish once free of L plates is to trade up to a bigger Harley. In this case it makes total sense to learn on a LAMS bike with Harley habits. One thing I will say though – because it is so unique in the LAMS market, the Street doesn’t prepare you quite so well for what it’s like to ride a motorcycle with a more conventional riding position and chassis geometry. But the basic skills are the same, so please don’t let that put you off your dream ride.

There was no ABS on the Street we tested, and you soon become aware of this. The rear brake is one whopper of a stopper, and locks up pretty easily. I’m going to say this is a positive, because the brake actually has a lot of feel to go with its awesome power, and I’m all for learning how to use brakes properly. But safety nerds may think ABS is a good idea. In fact, we’ve learned ABS and Smart security will be fitted to the Street 500 from 2017.


I have my own safety nerd badge, but it only comes out on rare occasions, like this one. The Street 500 was delivered to us with the side stand spring set in the position which prevents it from flipping up automatically, not in its ADR approved position. Technically this makes the bike un-roadworthy, but more importantly it makes it possible to ride away with the side stand down, which I’m tellin’ you kids is scary dangerous. I understand why you would do this mod, because it’s a bit of a pain in the arse to have a stand which flips up as soon as you take the bike’s weight off it. But I wish Harley would just fit a damn cut out switch to the sidestand. It would be so easy, and owners wouldn’t be tempted to do the simple conversion to a suicide stand set-up. Leave…the…spring…a…lone.


Harleys are great at what they do. Primarily that is just being Harleys, and offering that trademark charisma in a motorcycle made to be a simple individualistic independent travel device. The Street 500 delivers this increasingly popular dream in a package that’s fitting for Hog neophytes, even if the charisma does lack some of the thump of its more senior stablemates.

Once again, Harleys aren’t entirely my bag, but I have to admit I’ve thoroughly enjoyed expanding my bag collection – as I always do – to include this bike which although leftfield in design, hits the bullseye in terms of sales and mass appeal. As this LAMS feature so joyfully illustrates, variety is the zest of motorcycling, and despite my largely sportsbike backstory, I’d be happy to hit the Street 500 for a sunny Saturday beach cruise anytime. I’ll leave the scratchin’ till Sunday.


  • Ballsy looks
  • Buttery smooth engine, gearbox and final drive
  • Good introduction for riders intending to go on to bigger cruisers and other similarly quirky handling motorcycles

Didn’t Like

  • Minimal cornering clearance
  • Rear cylinder head can singe your inner left leg- Sidestand should have an ignition cut-out switch