Harley-Davidson 2016 Range – Minor Updates For Major Gains

Harley-Davidson 2016 Range – Minor Updates For Major Gains

INTRODUCTION

Since its launch, the Street 750 has expectedly become the largest-selling model in Harley-Davidson's India line-up, and also the largest-selling 500 cc+ motorcycle in the country. Achieved through a radical departure from the company's product philosophy, the Street 750 helped the company scale up in terms of sales. The product, however, wasn't perfect and some of the issues were widely reported. As a natural evolution of the product, Harley-Davidson introduced the 2016 Street 750 along with the new Iron 883 and Forty-Eight. We rode the first two motorcycles to find out the difference these changes have brought to the motorcycles after the Dark Custom treatment.

STREET 750

When we rode the Street 750 in 2014, we were impressed by the engine and chassis but didn't find the brakes and finishing quality to be of the famed HD level. On a motorcycle that goes seriously quick, good brakes are imperative. Harley-Davidson has taken that feedback from the media and its customers and has endowed the 2016 Street 750 with a revised braking system on both wheels.

As a result of the upgrade, the disc size has been upped to 300 mm for both the wheels. The braking system too has been improved to offer improved stopping power. The upgraded callipers offer increased initial bite and higher stopping power. Other changes to the braking system include re-worked all-aluminium master-cylinders, the rear being an integrated unit with reservoir and the front with lower-friction and stainless steel braided lines. ABS is still not being offered disappointingly, but more on that towards the end of this article.

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On the road, these changes do speak out loud in form of significantly better initial bite from the brakes. One doesn't need to pull the lever with force to stop the motorcycle now and just two-fingers will do the job, even during panic-braking. While the older brakes on the Street 750 offered no feedback at all, the new ones provide considerable feedback. One can now somewhat gauge an upcoming wheel-lock, but not accurately. This in our view isn't entirely the braking system's fault as the quality of tyres plays a crucial role on how any motorcycle's brakes work and communicate with the rider. HD's choice of sticking with MRF rubber is that reason, as the tyres continue to get easily overwhelmed by the motorcycle's pace. While things are fine on dry surfaces, a more than expected loss of grip on wet surfaces calls in for a much cautioned riding style. Running out of grip also happens quickly and unexpectedly with little chances of catching it back.

Other changes to the Street 750 include new brake and clutch levers, which are better to look at and easy to use. The paint quality also seems to have improved along with introduction of new blue and red shades. The visible wires below the tank too have been tucked in but they're still visible and continue to attract attention for the wrong reasons. Beyond this, the impressive 749 cc Revolution X engine and the frame and suspension remain the same. Closer to the redline, there are vibrations from the motor and foot pegs but these are significantly lesser than other motorcycles of the company. From a low-engine speed, there is ample torque available, helping drivability in traffic and the higher redline makes for easier and quick overtaking manoeuvres. All of these qualities make the Street 750 a versatile and fun to ride motorcycle.

IRON 883

The Iron 883 is the second motorcycle we rode that has been given the Dark Custom treatment. Mechanically, the Iron 883 hasn't undergone any major changes but features a reworked suspension, which is a good thing. Anyone who's ridden the older Iron 883 would understand when we say that the Iron's suspension is sprung just like its name. In order to change this, the front suspension now is made up of cartridge dampening shockers and emulsion technology finds its way into the rear units, making it possible to adjust the rear for pre-load. The seat is also a new inclusion and aimed at enhancing rider comfort. There are also new cosmetic updates like the wheel, paint shades and exhaust pipes, all of which give the Iron 883 a pinch of freshness.

Out on the road, the Iron 883 doesn't behave too differently from the earlier model except for the ride quality. Going over bumps and craters was bone-jarring earlier and continues to be the same, albeit the extent of it has reduced considerably.

CONCLUSION

Feedback is critical for evolution of any vehicle, more so when they're a lifestyle choice and not a necessity. Harley-Davidson has utilised this feedback to improve the competitiveness and appeal of its key models in the right manner. The Street 750 is already a successful model and with these upgrades the order books should fill up even quicker. The extent of success for these improvement though is mixed from a technical and value perspective.

The company selected the right models and approached the right improvement areas but took a long duration to roll out these upgrades. We say long time because nearing two years of sales, the changes are only those that are generally expected to be sorted issues on the first model itself, especially from a global manufacturer. This also highlights the initial challenges global brands face within the Indian supply chain. The fit and finish although better on the Street 750 now, is still not up to the standards expected at this price-point. Cost-cutting is still evident on the motorcycle in functional areas such as headlamp illumination, which is lesser than that offered by some 200 cc motorcycles costing much lesser than the Street 750. In addition, the absence of ABS on the Street 750 is surprising and might come in only when the new rule mandating the technology comes into effect next year.

The Street 750 continues to be a great powertrain and chassis package and now has better brakes too, making it a joy to ride but as an overall motorcycle it still isn't perfect. The Iron 883 too has received and important upgrade in the form of a better suspension but we would've liked to see a new six-speed gearbox instead of the present five-speed unit, which feels a bit outdated. However, the Iron 883 is still a better motorcycle to enter the Harley-Davidson brand and experience what it really stands for.

The 2016 Dark Custom Street 750 is priced at Rs 4.52 lakh, while the Iron 883 is priced at Rs 7.38 lakh, both prices being ex-showroom, Delhi. At these prices, both motorcycles are priced competitively and offer good value-for-money.

Text: Arpit Mahendra

Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay