You can count the number of bumps on Highway 74 with one hand. And Sean’s found one. I know that because I’m behind him when our FZ-07 meets the leading edge of that ball-size blemish in the road then tries valiantly to buck him from the saddle. Confidence peaks from behind the bars of the noticeably more composed Street Rod; I tuck in, roll the throttle back, and set after him. He regroups and wins the race to the top. But I’m close enough to feel good about it. Really close, really good.
If you’re wondering what brought us here, to a beautifully twisting section of asphalt on what appears to be two distinctly different motorcycles, you’re not alone. I, and almost anyone we’d run into on our ride out of town, asked the same question. Reality is: The Street Rod exists almost solely because of widely successful bikes like the FZ-07, which have made inroads on potential Harley sales. The FZ’s success, in particular, proves that a younger riding demographic is keen on a bike that’s sporty but fun. Stylish but capable. And not decidedly cruiser. The Street Rod is Harley’s answer, with added benefit of some American flavoring.
Part Street 750, part more, the Street Rod gets its sportier tones through a larger rear wheel (17-inch versus 15-inch), a steeper rake (27 degrees versus 32), and a stiffer, 43mm fork paired to reservoir shocks with 31 percent more travel. There’s an added 11.7 degrees cornering clearance on the left side and 8.8 degrees on the right, the front brake is updated with dual 300mm discs, and the wheelbase is down from 60.4 inches to 59.4 inches. All this to match the new High Output Revolution X 750 engine, which breathes through a larger-volume airbox and swaps the Street 750’s single, 38mm throttle body for a 42mm, dual-throat throttle body. Intake ports are updated, the camshafts have higher lift, and the compression ratio is up, from 11.0:1 to 12.0:1.
The engine makes 64.2 hp at 8,740 rpm and 45.1 pound-feet of torque at 4,230 rpm, while Yamaha’s parallel twin produces 66.3 hp at 8,920 rpm and 45.7 pound-feet of torque at 6,450 rpm. There’s a larger disparity in weight, the Street Rod 750 tipping the scales at an uninspiring 509 pounds dry, and the 2017 FZ-07 (updated with optional ABS, tested here) just 387 pounds.
You’ll notice those extra pounds the second a road begins to cut back on itself, as Highway 74 does before dropping you over a hill and onto longer straights tearing through ranch country. The Harley requires more upper-body strength in transitions and as you pick the bike up at the exit of a corner. In the same sections, the FZ-07 feels like an extension of your body, making mincemeat of each apex with the lightest of inputs.
The Street Rod is surprisingly composed, however, its fork and shock walking a nice line between compliant and supportive. So, whereas the FZ-07 dances around with added input placed on its chassis, the Harley feels planted and stable, even as the pace picks up. Sporty. Heavy, but still sporty.
The Revolution X engine’s added lungs are felt (and appreciated) as a road opens up. The midrange punch doesn’t feel quite as strong as the Yamaha (the extra weight probably doesn’t help), but the noticeable step in performance and the engine’s higher, 9,000-rpm rev limiter help minimize the gap. You still have to anticipate corner exits and crack the throttle open moments before your FZ-riding buddy if you want to keep up. Throttle response is abrupt on the Street Rod too, though more noticeable in around-town riding than it is in the canyons.
We dragged H-D hard parts once or twice but never touched metal to pavement on the FZ. Similarly, we were more comfortable on the Yamaha, the Harley’s footpeg-to-seat gap locking our hips in a position that would only be okay if we practiced yoga on a daily basis. Neither seat feels like it’s your friend after 70-plus miles.
In a lot of ways, it’s the little things that set the bikes apart. We were impressed by the bigger picture (suspension, styling, and engine), but little details had us losing track of the times where we stood there with the Street Rod and cried, “Why, Harley, why!?” From the less-than-inspiring clutch feel to the exhaust that runs right beneath your foot (don’t worry, there’s a pad atop the muffler so that you can rest your foot on it…) to the gas cap that made each fuel stop that little bit more difficult, it was the smaller things that almost always had us gravitating to the FZ, which gives better fit, finish, and convenience at a lower price.
If you can overlook the finer points, and want your motorcycle to have an American flavor, chances are you’ll get along well with the Street Rod. It’s an impressive step over the Street 750 and transforms the overall feel from cruiser to sporty, without losing that special feeling you get rolling through town. No, it is not perfect and, yes, the FZ-07 is still the better option in price and performance. It’s closer to the benchmark than you might realize though.
Close enough that Harley should feel good about it.
|Price||$9744 (as tested)|
|Dry weight||509 lb.|
|Seat height||30.4 in.|
|Fuel capacity||3.5 gal.|
|Fuel mileage||47 mpg|
|1/4 mile||13.46 sec. @ 96.39 mph|
|0–60 mph||4.5 sec.|
|Top gear 40–60 mph||5.1 sec.|
|Top gear 60–80 mph||5.9 sec.|
|Horsepower||64.2 @ 8740 rpm|
|Torque||45.1 lb.-ft. @ 4230 rpm|
|Braking 30–0 mph||32 ft.|
|Braking 60–0 mph||127 ft.|
|Price||$7499 (as tested)|
|Dry weight||387 lb.|
|Seat height||31.5 in.|
|Fuel capacity||3.7 gal.|
|Fuel mileage||48 mpg|
|1/4 mile||12.30 sec. @ 106.37 mph|
|0–60 mph||3.5 sec.|
|Top gear 40–60 mph||3.5 sec.|
|Top gear 60–80 mph||4.2 sec.|
|Horsepower||66.3 @ 8920 rpm|
|Torque||45.7 lb.-ft. @ 6450 rpm|
|Braking 30–0 mph||33 ft.|
|Braking 60–0 mph||131 ft.|
THE NUMBERS COMPARED
|Harley-Davidson Street Rod||Yamaha FZ-07|
|Price||$9744 (as tested)||$7499 (as tested)|
|Dry weight||509 lb.||387 lb.|
|Wheelbase||59.4 in.||55.4 in.|
|Seat height||30.4 in.||31.5 in.|
|Fuel capacity||3.5 gal.||3.7 gal.|
|Fuel mileage||47 mpg||48 mpg|
|1/4 mile||13.46 sec. @ 96.39 mph||12.30 sec. @ 106.37 mph|
|0–60 mph||4.5 sec.||3.5 sec.|
|Top gear 40–60 mph||5.1 sec.||3.5 sec.|
|Top gear 60–80 mph||5.9 sec.||4.2 sec.|
|Horsepower||64.2 @ 8740 rpm||66.3 @ 8920 rpm|
|Torque||45.1 lb.-ft. @ 4230 rpm||45.7 lb.-ft. @ 6450 rpm|
|Braking 30–0 mph||32 ft.||33 ft.|
|Braking 60–0 mph||127 ft.||131 ft.|