No half measures

by Andy Bryenton

Summer stokes up the desire to hit the open road on two wheels, making many a would-be motorcyclist dust off their plans to sit that learner’s test and experience the freedom of life on a bike.

The new LAMS learner approved motorcycle regime puts a wider range than ever before in front of first time riders, and recently that selection has been joined by the biggest name of them all.

For 2018, Harley Davidson roll out both a 500cc street-dominating urban bike, and a little step up for the experienced user on the same platform. The first is the now well established Street 500, with the mission to beat commuter traffic with style and attitude.

For the world’s most well-known brand of two-wheelers, it’s been a surprisingly hard niche to crack.

The Street 500 has had to satisfy both the aesthetic and auditory cues of a ‘real Harley’, while taking on the dominant mid-sized Japanese bikes which vie for the crown of commuter king.

Stack this classic-looking bike up against the likes of Suzuki’s Gladius or Yamaha’s MT-07 and you’ll see a very different beast.

Low and menacing with blacked out components, the Street 500 boasts a super low centre of gravity and plenty of torque to make city riding effortless, even on those tricky uphill breaks away from the lights. ABS brakes inspire confidence, as does the water-cooled engine — radiators are not usually a Harley Davidson standard, but here the addition of liquid cooling means that getting stuck in gridlock won’t blow your top.

There are certain crusty old bikers who will moan that a 500cc machine is ‘not a real Harley’ — like those snobbish Porsche owners in the 1980s who dismissed the 928 for not having a rear engine.

But with the looks and the attitude of its bigger stablemates, this small Harley Davidson is the perfect stepping stone to the world of classic cruising.

Conveniently placed just above LAMS level is the Street Rod 750, with a bigger, more powerful engine, drag bars and bar end mirrors for a cafe-racer retro style.