Mention you've got a motorcycle and most people ask if it's a Harley-Davidson, so we tried out their entry Street 500 to see what makes such a popular LAMS seller... Words: Kris Hodgson, Images: Sam Kimber, David H.
Harley-Davidson’s Street 500 has been around for a few years now and filled the obvious gap in their line-up of not having a learner legal starting option for fans of the brand. It has since gone on to enormous success in the Australian market as one of the highest selling road bikes here.
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Video Review: Harley-Davidson Street 500 (LAMS)
There’s a variety of reasons, with the first being the brand’s incredible following, it’s a name synonymous with cruisers – and all motorcycles in general in many places, and one that continues to maintain that ‘rebellious’ image in a world increasingly sanitised by political correctness and playing it safe.
Available for $9995 on the road ride-away in Australia, the Street 500 (XG500) makes no attempt to provide the cheapest option available, and that’s a good thing. I’m no long term Harley-Davidson owner and in my job I test a huge variety of machines every year, so I’m certainly not aiming to represent that perspective.
What I can say though is that the Street 500 is a formidable learner option compared to anything in the cruiser market, and to me carries that cruiser personality and feeling and delivers in spades across the board.
First up the bike looks great, particularly in the Electric Blue we tested, with a nice deep high quality finish on the tank, tail and front guard, while naturally there’s a Vivid Black option for those after a more traditional look. Finish quality is exceptional across the whole bike too, the engine’s blacked out, as is the exhaust, with just the forks, shocks and rotors adding a splash of metal.
The rim of the single clock is chromed and sits above a single round headlight in a small cowl, with Japanese style indicator controls (left switchblock, all in one). Indicators are large but well integrated into the overall style, while little details like the fork gaiters and chromed tank cap add to the overall look. The dash is just an analogue speedo, digital multifunction readout (which shows odo, fuel trip, etc) and warning lights.
Reach to the ‘bars is natural, with a relaxed seat position with good room to move, while vision through the mirrors was great for the lanes on either side, but limited directly behind the bike. The mirrors look great for standard items too, and while ‘bar end options would look cooler, they also widen the bike.
The seat height at 720mm is very low, which is typical of cruisers but also very inviting for new riders who need to be able to reach the ground quickly, easily and with confidence. The ‘peg position offered me relaxed ergonomics, but are wide-set and were in the approximate region of where I wanted to put my feet down.
They can also flick up as you lift your feet, but being large and rubber clad are easy to locate and get back into position. The foot controls took me a little getting used to, but after a while felt natural, keeping in mind I ride a lot of different bikes and own sportsbikes.
THE RIDE – HARLEY STREET 500
Setting off on board the Street 500 reveals a light clutch. This takes up at the end of the lever reach, ensuring no surprises for new riders but it is not ideal and can take a little getting used to. The operation is smooth enough while giving access to drive from the Revolution X V-Twin, which delivers power to the rear wheel via a maintenance-free belt final drive.
The 494cc V-Twin is a well polished powerplant, with a torque filled low rpm character. For cruising around you can upshift early through the six-speed gearbox, with power coming on from right down low, and you really need to be doing something wrong to lug the engine.
Sixth gear feels more like a highway overdrive but the bike will easily cruise along at 110km/h, with the Street 500 handling the highway with ease and offering enough additional power that overtaking is never a worry, just knock it down into fifth if necessary.
Hold your gears and let the revs rise however and you’ve got a sporty performer (keeping in mind this is a LAMS bike!) that offers an engaging and fun ride, ideal for city conditions, and having a hoon through the twisties. There’s actually relatively good ground clearance and I only touched a toe down a few times, with the Street 500 providing plenty of fun through the 80km/h twisties that we so often test through, while higher speed sweepers are easily handled.
Power delivery is super smooth, while engine braking isn’t overly aggressive, meaning the Street 500 is forgiving for new riders and hopping onto some of the other LAMS test bikes we’ve got at the moment gave me an even greater appreciation of just how smooth this machine is in comparison.
At Harley’s recommendation we also filled up with 91 octane fuel (NO ethanol!), which can really help the wallet over the months and years, especially for younger riders on strict budgets. 91 burns faster than more dense higher octane fuels like some of the mainstream premium fuels, so generally help smaller low compression engines perform more efficiently in output and consumption.
Offering suspension performance that ensures comfort and handling is the 41mm forks and dual rear shocks, which I found very well balanced for my weight – 75kg in gear. It took a really big road inconsistency to upset the bike, but it still remained very controllable, with the bike also responding well to body language for line corrections or quick changes of direction. There was a slight tendency over the really big bumps for the bike to stand up but was easily controllable even at a fast pace.
Where I’d expected the bike’s weight and long low design to be a limiting factor, there’s actually plenty of potential to really carve up the suburbs on the Street 500 with surprising agility and while I had to get used to speaking the same language as the bike. Once I was, the 500 was very rewarding.
On braking, the single front rotor with dual-piston caliper does a good job, with ample power and not too much initial bite, while that large rear rotor with another dual-piston caliper also offers good stopping power. The two combined are very capable of bringing the bike’s 220kg plus rider weight to a stop, without upsetting the suspension, but do require solid input at the levers.
The bike’s also fitted with ABS although there’s no traditional rotor mounted wheel speed ring, and throughout all my time on the bike it never came into play, despite a few occasions when I thought it would surely get some use. Even testing out the brakes and traction it was quickly obvious where the limits of both reside, with neither disappointing.
Standard fitment are the Michelin-made ‘Scorcher’ Harley-Davidson specific tyres, with strong dry weather performance and good wet weather performance, ensuring that the standard rubber will meet the needs of new riders across a variety of conditions and be an easy and obvious replacement choice.
STREET 500 FINAL THOUGHTS
Having spent two weeks with the Street 500 I came away impressed. The bike feels like a true representation of a cruiser, sharing those distinct riding ergonomics in a package which offers new riders a great place to start. If you’re looking for the fastest learner bike money can buy, you’re obviously looking in the wrong place. However if you’re looking for a LAMS cruiser, this is a machine you’ve got to test ride, and if you’re simply after a Harley-Davidson you won’t be disappointed.
The Revolution X V-Twin is lively down low and super smooth, with linear power delivery, and while ground clearance isn’t enormous, with me leaning into the corners and keeping the bike upright proved plentiful. Combined, the brakes do the job, much like the suspension which was just a good all-round system. The immobiliser and siren are a great inclusion, and ABS a simple expectation these days, while I can’t fault the styling or build quality, keeping in mind these are built in India.
I wouldn’t mind a louder exhaust to be honest, for a bit more exhaust note, and a brighter headlight bulb would help night visibility, however there’s little else I feel I can criticise without delving into unfair expectations.
Overall, in my opinion Harley-Davidson have done a great job staying true to their brand, while delivering an entry level machine that can welcome a whole new generation of riders into the sport, and that’s what it’s all about. Stay tuned as we’ll have a Street Rod 750 test up next!
2018 Harley-Davidson Street 500 (LAMS)
Price: $9,995 On-Road
Warranty: Two-year warranty, two-year roadside assistance,
& 12 months International HOG membership
Colours: Vivid Black, Olive Gold, Electric Blue (as tested), Bonneville Salt Pearl, Vivid Black Deluxe, Wicked Red Deluxe, Bonneville Salt Pearl Deluxe
Claimed power: N/A
Claimed torque: 41Nm@4000rpm
Wet weight: 233kg
Fuel capacity: 13.1L
Engine: Liquid-cooled, Revolution X V-Twin, 494cc, 69 x 66mm bore x stroke, 11:1 compression, SOHC, 35mm Mikuni single-port EFI, black two-into-one exhaust, belt final drive
Clutch: Wet, Multi-disc
Suspension: 41mm Telescopic fork with gaiters,twin coil spring over shock absorbers
Brakes: Single 300mm rotor front & rear, dual-piston floating calipers, ABS.
Wheels & Tyres: Black seven-spoke cast aluminium wheels, 180/80 R17, 140/75 R 15, Michelin Scorchers, 2.5 x 17in, 3.5 x 15in
Seat height: 720mm
Overall height: 1060mm
Overall width: 820mm
Instruments: Single analogue speedo with digital multi-function display
2018 Harley-Davidson Street 500 (LAMS) Gallery
The Verdict | Review: Harley-Davidson Street 500 (LAMS)
Harley’s Street 500 is the brand’s entry level offering, boasting the 494cc Revolution X V-Twin, cruiser styling and a well balanced brake and suspension package. Super smooth power delivery with a belt final drive and focus on low to mid-range performance ensure new riders will have an easy time learning the ropes, with room to grow their skills, and offers a strong stepping stone to their next Harley-Davidson.