2017 Harley-Davidson Street 500 – Street Smart

This is not your father’s Harley-Davidson

What would you call a cruiser that looks, feels and rides like a Harley-Davidson Street 750? Well, in this case you could call it the Street 500, the little brother of the Street 750. For 60K less than the Street 750, the Street 500 may be mistaken for its more powerful brother unless you check the bike up close where you will likely see 500 on the air-cleaner cover. Remove that and nobody in the world would ever know. Well, unless that person works for Harley-Davidson. Because in all honesty there’s very little to distinguish the 500 from the 750 aside from the aforementioned air-cleaner cover, the blackout treatment on the 500 and the different Harley-Davidson badges on the fuel tank. But from the handlebars down to the mufflers, everything is identical.

The biggest difference between the two is hidden deep inside the Revolution X V-twin motor, where the Street 750 packs 46 cubic inches of displacement (749cc) while the Street 500 has 30 cubic inches (491.6cc). This makes you wonder why Harley-Davidson would even bother creating two different models of what is basically the same bike. The answer to that may, or may not, surprise you. Like the Scrambler to Ducati, the Street 750 and Street 500 are marketed to introduce the Harley-Davidson brand to younger riders. A segment long ignored by the Milwaukee motor company. In fact, the Street 500 is the only learner-legal bike in the entire Harley-Davidson lineup in the UK. To lower the cost of entry for the intended target market, Harley-Davidson created a new production plant in India. But there’s no need to worry about quality because the only thing cheap on the Street 500 is the labor used to create it. Everything is premium Harley-Davidson quality.

We got first dibs on the first Street 500 test unit from Harley-Davidson of Manila and we spent the better part of two days riding it around the city where Harley-Davidson intended it to be used. And honestly, the only time you feel you’re riding the 500 is when you’re way past 100 km/h in 6th gear because the 750 pulls stronger beyond that. But in the city where you rarely go beyond 100 km/h, if at all, the 500 works just as good. A good thing about the Street 500, and the Street 750 for that matter, is that it hides its weight pretty well. At 222kgs fully fueled, the Street 500 is not actually lightweight. But it carries its weight down low so balancing it at low speeds is very easy. The tall and wide handlebars provide plenty of leverage for maneuvering in parking lots and filtering through traffic. And unlike your typical air-cooled Harley-Davidson bikes, the Street 500 doesn’t mind getting stuck in traffic from time to time because the Revolution X motor is liquid-cooled. The exhaust plumbing even has black painted heat shields to protect your legs from touching hot pipes. Very thoughtful.

Riding the Street 500 can best be described as pleasant, with a soft and compliant suspension setup that swallows all but the nastiest potholes so endemic around Metro Manila. The Street 500 is a long and low motorcycle so you sit on it rather than in it unlike traditional cruisers. Tall riders, however, would probably find the Street 500 a little bit cramped because it’s obviously designed with Asian riders in mind. But if you’re no taller than 5 foot 7 like me, then it should fit you just fine. Its ultra-low 711mm seat height would suit most Filipino riders. Braking duties are handled by front and rear disc brakes that offer adequate stopping power for daily riding, however, ABS is not standard on the local Street 500, nor the 750, which I think it should if new riders will be riding them. Both Street models wear 17-inch front and 15-inch rear wheels shod with Michelin Scorcher tires that provide decent enough grip to easily ground the rubber covered footpegs while cornering.

For PhP 438,000 the Street 500 is a relatively cheap price of admission to the premium world of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. If you’re a new rider looking for an entry-level cruiser, the Street 500 offers a modicum of exclusivity in a market crowded with Japanese alternatives. If you’re a returning rider; meaning you’ve taken a long break from riding motorcycles, the Street 500 offers plenty of accessible performance for casual riding and even for touring. But if you’re an experienced rider looking for that unmistakable Harley character and sound, you’d probably be disappointed and would be better off looking at other Harley-Davidson offerings like the Sportster 883. The only reason an experienced Harley rider would buy a Street 500, I surmise, is when he or she is buying it for his son (or daughter) to start riding on. Or, if you’re going to treat it as a blank canvas for your wildest custom-motorcycle dreams, like what some Japanese custom builders did. If so, then that’s enough reason to buy a Street 500.

Specifications

Engine: Liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-twin, EFI, 8-valves, 4-stroke

Displacement: 491.6 cc

Max power: 33.5 hp @ 7,750 rpm

Torque: 29.5 lb-ft @ 3,760 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed

Seat height: 711 mm

Fuel capacity: 13.1 liters

Wet weight: 222 kg

Top speed: 121 km/h

Price: PhP 438,000

Plus: Superb build quality

Minus: Non-ABS

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Motorcycle Editor