The gaping hole in the traditional Harley-Davidson model line-up had just been filled with the release of an Australian LAMS-approved model: the Street 500.
For the first time since learner motorcycle capacity restrictions were introduced, learners will be able to legally access a Harley-Davidson and the new model is set to turn the learners’ market on its head.
Frustratingly, the Street 500 won’t be available to Australian and New Zealand markets until the early months of 2015.
It will be released earlier in the US and India, both of which countries having full production facilities for the model.
The Street 500 (and a 750cc version which won’t be coming to Australia) will be produced from factories in both Kansas in the US and a facility in India located approximately an hour south from Delhi. Americans are likely to have their bikes sourced from Kansas but 13.4 million motorcycles are sold each year in India alone so the Indian plant will service that market and the emerging Asia market generally.
Expected to be priced at the lower end of the $10,000-12,000 range, the Street 500 is designed to appeal to young, urban buyers but H-D hopes it will also awaken what it describes as the ‘sleeper’ market: the 750,000 Australians who have a motorcycle licence but don’t own a bike.
Technology for the masses
Powering the new bike is an all-new, ‘Revolution X’ engine with the H-D classic V-twin configuration. The 60-degree engine features liquid cooling, four valves per cylinder, a single overhead camshaft and a six-speed gearbox.
Typically, H-D is reticent about output figures but the few details available suggest it will be a lively performer.
The exhaust system is a two-into-one unit exiting the right-hand side of the bike.
The 750cc version is an identical engine with a larger bore, suggesting an upgrade in a post-LAMS environment may be as simple as new pistons and barrels. According to H-D, the engine is capable of being expanded to 900cc.
The all-new chassis features long-travel, conventional suspension with a 17-inch front wheel and a 15-inch rear. Drive is supplied by H-D’s well-proven belt system. Stopping is via a single disc on the front and a similar disc on the back. The launch bikes will not be fitted with anti-lock brakes but, like the Royal Enfield Continental GT featured in this issue, H-D’s marketing will make a virtue of its stripped down, authentic appeal.
The Street 500 gets lots of styling cues from the rest of the ‘Dark Custom’ range but has its own, distinctive look. From the side it has lines reminiscent of a flat-tracker and its narrow chassis and small overall dimensions should make it well-suited for the urban jungle.
Despite having a metal tank and guards, it weighs a modest 217kg wet and has a very low seat height of 645mm. The footpegs and controls are mid-mounted and the rider looks over a shapely tank to a single instrument display behind a small headlight fairing.
A little surprisingly for H-D, the radiator for the liquid cooling is a fairly dominant feature of the space behind the front wheel. Given the effort it made to hide the liquid cooling hardware on the 2014 touring range, this seems out-of-character. As it’s the first all-new platform for H-D in 14 years, though, perhaps it’s simply an honest concession to modernity.
Pleasingly, provision is made for a pillion with a long seat and pillion ’pegs mounted on the frame to add to the model’s urban versatility.
Harley-Davidson expects the Street 500 to become the basis of much customising and will be providing much of the hardware to do this. Prior to its launch, Advance Design Ideas (ADI) created a number of custom builds based on the new model including a chopper, a bobber, a sportsbike and a stripped streeter. H-D describes the 500 as a ‘blank canvas’ on which owners will be able to create their own, individual look. By the time you read this, the internet will be full of images of both the base bike and its ADI interpretations. In fact, it’s possible the ADI concepts will make it to Australia before the Street 500 is actually released.
The long delay between the announcement of the model and its Australian launch is due to the expected demand in America and India. Australia will be the last market to get the bikes but you can expect to see examples of them in H-D stores from about September of 2014.
MT will ride the Street 500 in either America or India before its official release here so keep your eyes out for a ride impression as soon as we can get our hands on a bike.
The learner-approved market suddenly just got a whole lot more interesting…