The Harley-Davidson Street Rod had come straight out of the crate when I picked it up. Rarely do motorcycle journalists need to run in a new bike. They are usually provided having been run in several hundred kilometres and often with the first service under their belt.
This allows journalists to ride the bike the way most customers will ride them, pushing them towards their limits in a thorough test over a week or two.
However, Harley-Davidson Australia wanted Motorbike Writer to get the full Harley experience with their 750cc Street Rod.
So they have provided the bike straight out of the crate and they want me to ride it around for three months.
Green tyres, tight engine
That means running it in with green tyres, a tight engine and brakes that have never been used.
It means we have to be careful in running in the bike the way Harley intended.
So the first thing I did was read the owner’s manual as every rider should.
Now there have only been two other times when I have ridden a bike straight out of the crate and neither of those times was I warned it was brand new, so I assumed it had been ridden-in.
Green tyres are incredibly slippery and both times I took a spill.
Both times were low-speed get-offs, so the only thing damaged was my ego and a few scratches to mirrors, pipes etc. Ever since check the odd and tyres carefully when picking up a test bike.
While every mechanic and each brand has their own theories on running in a bike, the Harley owners manual says this about running in the bike:
To allow your engine to break-in in its critical parts, we recommend that you observe the riding rules provided below for the first 800 km (500 mi). Adhering to these rules will promote future durability and performance of the motorcycle.
- During the first 80km (50 miles) of riding, keep the engine speed below 5000 rpm in any gear. Do not labor the engine by running or accelerating at very low RPM, or by running at high rpm longer than needed for shifting or passing.
- Up to 800km (500 miles), vary the engine speed and avoid operating at any steady engine speed for long periods. Engine speed up to 7000rpm in any gear is permissible.
- Drive slowly and avoid fast starts at wide open throttle until the engine has warmed up.
- Avoid hard braking. New brakes need to be worn in by moderate use for the first 160km (100 miles).
So, after reading the manual, my first ride was a careful cruise around town with a couple of coffee stops to give the bike a mix of moderate revs and some cooling-off periods.
Admiring looks and riding impressions
This was punctuated by several other riders – young and old – stopping me to admire the bike.
They wanted to chat about the new 750cc water-cooled engine, wax lyrical about the styling and even wanted to sit on it!
The bike also attracted a lot of glances and thumbs-up from passing motorists. It really does have striking non-Harley looks.
Then it was out on to the highway to warm up the tyres before I could start leaning it over on to the green edges of the Dunlop Scorcher tyres.
Even in the short time I’ve had the bike, I have formed a slightly different opinion to that which I had after the short media launch ride around Singapore last year.
I still think the riding position is strange. The footpegs are too high and my knees sit above the tank. But I’m already getting used to it.
I might try an Airhawk seat to lift me up a little and see if that makes a difference.
After a short ride in the country I can see that the suspension is actually up for a bit of rough road action. I even took it across some dirt roads for a short sprint and loved it.
The front forks feel planted and sorted. The rear shock is a little harsh.
I complained about the engine heat in Singapore’s sweltering conditions, but in this autumn chill it feels just fine.
The wide bars and even wider bar-end mirrors still cause me concern when filtering through traffic and I’ve already hit one car’s mirrors.
Let’s see how it goes on an overnight tour next week with my PJs packed into a magnetic tank bag!
Harley-Davidson Street Rod tech specs
- Price: $12,995 rideaway ($13,995 New Zealand)
- Available: from May
- Engine: 749cc, liquid-cooled, Revolution X V-twin
- Transmission 6-speed constant mesh spur gear
- Torque: 65Nm @ 40000rpm
- Length: 2130mm
- Width: 870mm
- Seat: 765mm
- Clearance: 205mm
- Lean angle: 37.3 degrees (rght), 40.2 (left)
- Wheelbase: 1510mm
- Wheels: 17-inch
- Fuel: 13.1 litres
- Wet weight: 238kg
- Colours: vivid black, charcoal denim, olive gold