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Review: Harley-Davidson Street Rod, ‘An ideal but different sort of Harley’




This is the future of Harley-Davidson, but not necessarily in the way that you might think.

Set against a background of Harley-Davidson continuing to restructure their business in the US, the advent of a new model that is a long way from the machines that we’ve come to expect from Milwaukee will be greeted with all sorts of wild speculation, but don’t get too carried away.

This isn’t a sign that Harley is reinventing itself so much as creating a broader and more diverse product range.

This is “a good thing”, because while nobody doubts that they could continue making Sportsters and Big Twins indefinitely, why should they limit themselves to that?

Indeed, to shift the context of that question, why shouldn’t they use their manufacturing experience, knowledge of the motorcycle market and one of the most famous brands in motorcycling to create new generations of bikes?

The XG750 Street was the first bike in this range and we can all see how much damage that has done to the Sportster range – none – and despite all of the protestations it is a toss-up, month-on-month, whether the Street or the Breakout is Harley’s third best seller in the UK behind the Iron and the Forty Eight.


Partly because it is the most affordable Harley-Davidson V-twin of all time, aided by the badge on the side of the tank, and the most accessible. It might not be a ‘real’ Harley to someone with a Pan or Shovel in their garage, but it will be the perfect Harley to a rider who finds a Sportster too intimidating – or too expensive.

An ideal first Harley, but also a very different sort of Harley.

The Street Rod builds on that to create a quick and agile sportster – with a small ‘s’ – that was designed for the urban environment, with enough in reserve to make it entertaining on open roads.

Tall in the saddle to give it the cornering clearance that customers told Harley they wanted from a street bike, it has got at least that in common with the original VRSCR Street Rod. And while it is significantly down in power compared to the 1130cc model, the Rod version of the XG Street is about half the price of the Street version of VR Rod, which should prove to be both a more accessible as well as a more usable package.

Why shouldn’t they use their manufacturing experience, knowledge of the motorcycle market and one of the most famous brands in motorcycling to create new generations of bikes?

The chassis is stiff enough, the suspension – 43mm USD forks backed up by twin shocks at the back with piggyback reservoirs – compliant enough and the twin front disc with floating 2-pot calipers have plenty of bite to make it an exciting ride.

It’s not going to set the world on fire in terms of absolute performance but there’s plenty on tap for real world use, providing you keep the motor spinning – it certainly rewards the rider who discovers the digital tacho and gear indicator in the speedo’s LCD readout – and while peak power at 8,800 sounds busy to someone brought up on big twins, you’re only going to bury the digital equivalent of the tacho’s needle that deep it when your blood’s up, and when your sub-conscious self comes are on-cam it just adds to the sensory experience.

But no, it isn’t a Sportster – with a big ‘S’ – or a Big Twin, but so what?

It is a Harley-Davidson that was designed by Harley-Davidson’s development team and is built in a Harley-Davidson factory. And as a further diversification to their main product lines it should be welcomed because it will put more backsides in Harley-Davidson saddles, and the evidence from nearly two years of the Street 750 is that it is a gateway model.



  • Length: 2,130 mm
  • Seat Height, Unladen: 765 mm
  • Ground Clearance: 205 mm
  • Rake (steering head) (deg): 27
  • Trail: 99 mm
  • Wheelbase: 1,510 mm
  • Tyres, Front Specification: 120/70 R17 V
  • Tyres, Rear Specification: 160/60 R17 V
  • Fuel Capacity: 13.1 l
  • Oil Capacity (w/filter): 3.1 l
  • Weight, As Shipped: 229 kg
  • Weight, In Running Order: 238 kg


  • Engine: High Output Revolution X V-Twin
  • Bore: 85 mm
  • Stroke: 66 mm
  • Displacement: 749 cc
  • Compression Ratio: 12.0:1
  • Fuel System: Mikuni Twin Port Fuel Injection, 42 mm bore


  • Primary Drive: Gear, 36/68 ratio
  • Gear Ratios (overall) 1st: 14.272
  • Gear Ratios (overall) 2nd: 10.074
  • Gear Ratios (overall) 3rd: 7.446
  • Gear Ratios (overall) 4th: 6.006
  • Gear Ratios (overall) 5th: 5.037
  • Gear Ratios (overall) 6th: 4.533


  • Exhaust: Black two- into-one exhaust
  • Wheels, Front Type: Black, 7-Split Open Spoke Cast Aluminum
  • Wheels, Rear Type: Black, 7-Split Open Spoke Cast Aluminum
  • Brakes, Caliper Type: 2-piston floated front and rear


  • Engine Torque Testing Method: EC 134/2014
  • Engine Torque: 65 Nm
  • Engine Torque (rpm): 4,000
  • Lean Angle, Right (deg.): 37.3
  • Lean Angle, Left (deg.): 40.2
  • Fuel Economy: Testing Method: EC 134/2014
  • Fuel Economy: 4.3 l/100 km
  • CO2 Emissions: Testing Method: EC 134/2014
  • CO2 Emissions: 103 g/km


This review first appeared in American V Magazine. It’s republished here with permission.

For the full review and for more excellent coverage, check out Issue 86 of American V.

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Celebrating the American motorcycle in its broadening range of guises, viewed from a riders' standpoint.

A couple of Harley-riding fools, who had the strange idea that just because major UK publishing houses considered Harley-oriented magazines to be the poison chalice of motorcycle publications, didn't mean it couldn't be done: just needed doing properly and for the right reasons.


Ride Review: The Kawasaki Ninja H2SX SE will have you planning an Autobahn or Nürburgring trip immediately!




What do a Suzuki Hayabusa, Yamaha VMax, Honda Fireblade and a Screamin’ Eagle Stage 3 tuned Harley-Davidson all have in common? They’re all now humbled at the lights by the touring Kawasaki H2SX!

SUPERCHARGER! It’s a word that belongs in the Fast & Furious movies, next to Turbo Boost, NOS Injection and Intercooler. But since the introduction of the bonkers Kawasaki H2R three years ago it’s a word that motorcyclists can no longer ignore. Now, in 2018 you can add a whole dollop of Supercharge juice to your vocabulary because the more ‘ordinary’ H2SX is here.

Let’s get real for a second, a supercharged engine sounds cool and impressive in promotional material, but at €25,000 the shine could quickly be lost towards what is essentially a motor that’s built to just go in a straight line.

Take the block out of the H2, bring in the knowledge gained from the competent and much praised ZZR1400 and the Z1000SX, throw in a couple of panniers and you’re onto a winner. Right?

Now that the hype has died down a little bit though – and with the introduction of the supercharged H2SX tourer – Kawasaki are hoping to profit from bringing the same engine to a wider market and with a reduced price. Could this be the sweet spot the big green machine?

We were invited over to Estoril in Portugal to find out.

At first glance, all of the necessary elements are there… Take the block out of the H2, bring in the knowledge gained from the competent and much praised ZZR1400 and the Z1000SX, throw in a couple of panniers and you’re onto a winner. Right?

It’s not so simple.

At a ‘performance workshop’ the project developer, Watanabe-San explains that Kawasaki have had to completely redesign the H2 block for the new H2SX; adding lower consumption and more torque to the low and mid-range areas.

We start the test in the usual, gung-ho way; full-power, giving it everything, and immediately discover that going from zero to full in freezing temperatures on wet asphalt is not the greatest of ideas.

And then there are the electronics.

From the moment you come face-to-face with the new H2SX, the LCD display strikes as something completely new for the famous green marque. The buttons on both left and right bars are extensive enough to feel initially overwhelming and the functions that they enable are extensive enough to put the most technologically advanced of all modern tourers to shame. There’s no electronic suspension but with multiple dashboard layouts, adjustable driving modes, three levels of traction control, switch-off’able quick-shifter, cruise control and launch control there’s enough to get to grips with.

We start the test in the usual, gung-ho way; full-power, giving it everything, and immediately discover that going from zero to full in freezing temperatures on wet asphalt is not the greatest of ideas. Couple this with fresh Bridgestone Hypersport S21s that have yet to be ‘scrubbed in’ and the drifting from both tyres and buttocks is enough to send a shiver of fear up the spine.

So traction control on medium and riding mode put back firmly into the ‘middle’ it is then.

It’s a motion that doesn’t take as long as I had first feared – the controls are intuitive enough to be done on the fly, and help to settle the nerves.

It’s really not the greatest of conditions in which to test the H2SX’s abilities to be honest and after 250kms of riding in ice cold wind and rain it’s all that we can do to keep going. Riding comfort wise everything is fine and with a nice, wide tank and spacious seating position there’s nothing to complain about. But that cold wind?!

The windshield is large enough to hide behind and take the edge off of most of the buffeting and heated grips coupled with electronic ‘castration’ tools mean that we make it to our destination as relaxed as possible.

But a sunny day at Estoril circuit the following day is all that we can think about to keep us going towards our destination.

Finally, we give it some gas.

It’s an early morning start, but we don’t truly wake up until we put the supercharged engine into the limiter at the beginning of the first, Estoril straight. Launch control for the win!

The electronics ensure that everything goes to plan and all you need to do is to find first gear and then open up the throttle.

‘Watatatatataaa!’ then the whistling of the wastegate before letting the clutch lever rise. Bam!

‘The braking point is just around the third bridge’, is the advice offered by the PR-man before we start. In truth that’s about one bridge too far for this rider and the double-disc brakes have trouble scrubbing the incredible speed from my H2SX and the gravel is just about avoided.

After a while of careful measuring and balancing, the potential of the engine is realised and it’s striking just how much more powerful the motor is at the bottom end when compared to the H2. It just doesn’t matter what gear you’re in or what speed the engine is running at; whatever power you need is available, seemingly on tap.

The brakes struggle a little on track after a while, but there is nothing to suggest that there won’t be more than enough stopping power for even the most spirited of rides on a public road.

‘Watatatatataaa!’ then the whistling of the wastegate before letting the clutch lever rise. Bam!

The suspension in this regard is excellent. At 256kgs the H2SX isn’t exactly svelte and in chicanes the fat rolls take some effort to tuck back in, but it’s smooth and managed. And there is always that throttle response to aid in allowing the extra gas needed to get you back onto the riding line.

It never ceases to be breathtaking ;the 200 horses coming out of that 998cc four-cylinder beast is something that will never get old.

And this is a tourer don’t forget. So once all of the modern touring equipment is back on the machine and the sporty underpinnings are still available, what’s not to get excited about?

So where exactly is the catch? It’s a question that is asked of us throughout our time with the machine. And the only real issue with the Kawasaki H2SX is one of compromise.

Do you want an super-comfortable Grand Tourer? Or do you want the world’s fastest sportsbike? The H2SX is not going to be the best in class when compared to pure machines in each of those segments. But if you want an engine that is at home on all roads, across all markets and is unbeatable in a straight line, then you can start planing your first Autobahn or Nürburgring trip now.


Kawasaki H2SX 
Engine: 998cc, 4 kl./cil., Liquid-cooled 4-in-line with compressor
Max. power: 200 hp / 11,000 rpm
Max. torque: 137.3 Nm / 9.500 rpm
Transmission: zesbak, chain
Frame: steel lattice frame
Front suspension: 43 mm UPSD, fully adjustable, suspension 120 mm
Rear suspension: monoshock, fully adjustable, suspension 139 mm
Front brake: 330 mm discs with 4 piston calipers
Rear brake: 250 mm disk with 2zuigerremklauw
Tires Front / rear: 120 / 70-17 / 190 / 55-17
Wet weight: 256 kg
Seat height: 835 mm
Tank capacity:19.0 l.
Colors: Emerald Blazed Green / Metallic Diablo Black (SE)

This review first appeared on MaxxMoto ; It’s translated and republished here with explicit permission.



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Ride Review: The Kawasaki Z900RS really does have it all




The Z900RS is a pretty amazing bike.

Literally, everyone that spoke about it to me on the launch was unanimous about the way it looked and how pretty it is when looked at up close. And then, after the ride, not a single person felt the need to nag about the lack of stereo-suspension in the back, spoke wheels being missing, or even grunt over the chrome bits and fenders. Why?

Because quite simply, the four pot engine is stunning – because of it’s massive torque down in the rev range – and it pulls through nicely to the limiter. Even though the RS feel heavier than the Z900, I’m pretty sure it accelerates faster. It’s a beauty.

After spending some time with the bike, it’s clear that Kawasaki have spent some serious effort on the design of this bike and even though you might be tempted to think that it’s just a reworked Z900, it’s not.

Frame, engine, suspension, brakes… Basically everything got a complete overhaul and the result is truly impressive.

I know that our friends here at Motofire have had reservations about the machine, but actually – in my opinion – it’s genuinely the very first bike that combines actual, real 1970s heritage (there are soooo many small hints of the original Z1) with modern day ride qualities.

Yes, there is the BMW RnineT,  the Yamaha XSR or the Honda CB1100, but the first two don’t really have a link with bikes from the seventies and the latter is overpriced, under-powered and not nearly as beautiful as the Z900RS.)

After spending some time with the bike, it’s clear that Kawasaki have spent some serious effort on the design

The Z900RS really does have it all… Radial four-pot brakes, adjustable suspension, adjustable levers, traction control (3- stage) and it’s quite clear that Kawasaki wants to present it as a premium bike. And here in Belgium where MaxxMoto are based, the pricing is competitive too, starting at €11.599 which is about €4k cheaper than the average BMW RnineT. So it’s fair to say that you get a lot of bike for the money.

Now, before I completely come away sounding like a Team Green press representative, there are a few, minor flaws.

First of all, the throttle response is quite ‘twitchy’ with an on/off feel that can initially seem disconcerting; possibly because of the transmission, the injection, or a combination of both. It’s not as bad as on a Suzuki GSX-S1000 or the first gen Yamaha MT-09, but even though the 4 cylinder engine is very smooth, the pick up of a closed throttle is rather abrupt.

Basically everything got a complete overhaul and the result is truly impressive.

The same thing goes when you close the throttle – for example when entering a hairpin corner. In that situation you get a bit too much off the engine brake delivered back at you, which can get the bike a bit off balance at times. This is a minor issue and it gets better when the bike warms up, but it never really disappears.

Speaking of things that get better after they’ve warmed up: let’s talk tyres.

On the cold Catalonian asphalt (7° and less) it took forever for the Dunlop Sportmax GPR 003 tires to warm up, and it was a good thing that the bike had traction control. It’s a rather typical Kawasaki thing to put cheap ass tires on a good bike here in Belgium – the Z1000SX, Ninja 300, Versys… All of these come on less than desirable rubber – and for a bike that feels so premium elsewhere, this is a bit of a shame.

Apart from that, it’s a struggle to come up with much more by way of criticism. I think the seat is quite high – if you are smaller that 1m 75 this might become an issue, especially if you’re a less experienced rider, and the transition from the seat to the polished, slippery tank is rather, too smooth. So when you brake hard during some spirited riding, you better squeeze your knees hard to help in holding on.

Oh, perhaps you could argue that despite the retro dials looking nice, the lettering on the analogue clocks (‘the same as on the Z1 in 19-seventies’ blah blah blah…) is just too small and hard to read. But now we’re literally nitpicking.

So the takeaway conclusion from our couple of days riding the Kawasaki Z900RS around the Catalonian roads?

The Z900RS has an excellent looks/performance/price-balance and really takes the whole neo-retro thing to a higher level than anything else before it.

For more photos from the launch – including lots of images of the details on the new Kawasaki Z900RS, visit MaxxMoto.

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