Test riding reworked versions of Harley Davidson's three best bikes
Harley Davidson reworks three of its best — 2016 Dark Custom Street 750, Iron 883, and Forty-Eight. Harket Suchde takes a ride and tells you what to expect
2016 Dark Custom Street 750
The newest Harley to be inducted within the Dark Custom fold, the Street 750 has been adored in India, even though hardcore Harley fans have panned it. If you cast a glance at the 2016 Street, though, you wouldn’t be blamed for scratching your head and wondering what’s new.
It looks just the same, unless you caught it lathered in the hues of the new Dark Custom colour palette, and even then not much has changed visually. Pull out the old magnifying glass and a Sherlockesque deerstalker, however, and the answer to the “what’s new” question is elementary, my dear Watson.
Looks-wise, the Street is as sleek as ever, and doesn’t get much apart from a little more blacking out. Another constant complaint, visually, was the cluttered wiring, and H-D has addressed that too.
The riding posture is as comfortable as ever, and is made more so with the slightly meatier handlebars. The much lauded twin-cylinder 749-cc engine has been left untouched, which means it still produces 47.5 PS and 60 Nm of torque, and darts forward at a twist of the throttle.
Stopping power has been given a bit of a boost through the addition of bigger rotors and callipers, along with a new master-cylinder for improved brake fluid distribution. The brakes are a lot more urgent, and were unfazed by the wet conditions we were riding in. ABS is still conspicuous by its absence, but Harley-Davidson reps at the event assured us that this particular upgrade is in the pipeline.
The suspension set-up was another shining light on the first Street 750, and both the handling and ride quality are as good as ever since they haven’t been tampered with at all on this new iteration. The Street 750s we rode also came equipped with Michelin tyres, but they’re staying back in Japan because Harley India has a commercial tie-up with Madras Rubber Factory, so no kicks from the house of Bibendum for us.
This new and improved Street 750, thankfully is still priced at an economical Rs 4.52 lakh, ex-Delhi.
The bobber culture, since its inception in post-WWII America, has been all about taking a production bike, stripping it down to the bare bones, and shedding all those excess pounds to extract every ounce of performance you possibly could. So, for Harley-Davidson to profess the Iron 883 as a factory bobber seems a bit of an oxymoron. Harley has made it their own, however, by echoing stylistic cues of the bobber style, but adding elements that pay tribute to the bar-and-shield marquee to give the bike an individual personality.
That personality has been only enhanced in the latest version of the mighty Iron 883. The Iron 883 is a glorious looking bike, and a presence that constantly draws eyes. All that menacing metal laid bare for the world to see, a blacked out exhaust system with a new air-filter, and the bullet hole-ridden front fender and belt guard, coupled with those sleek, nine-spoke cast aluminium wheels all scream badass. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a literal Screaming Eagle etched into the tank, just to add a touch of Americana to the whole affair.
The suspension did need some looking into, and Harley has given it its due diligence. The improvements are a result of new 39-mm shocks that now feature cartridge dampers up front, and the introduction of emulsion technology in the back, which can be further adjusted for a fine-tuned ride.
The Iron 883 is the smallest of Harley’s sportsters, and while you can’t really corner hard on the Iron because you run the risk of snapping the foot-pegs off, that’s all right; that’s not what these bikes are all about. It has been priced at a slight premium over its predecessor, retailing at a still decent Rs 7.73 lakh (ex-Delhi).
The Forty-Eight is a primal, bad-to-the-bone Harley-Davidson that oozes attitude. It also may just be the least practical bike ever, but that doesn’t matter because this bike is a metal and rubber embodiment of cool.
The most magnetic aesthetic quality? Those 16-inch wheels, wrapped up in 130/90 B16 tyres — up front. With a 150/80 16 at the rear, to say those tyres are distinctive is an understatement. Those mean tyres are wrapped around brand-new nine-spoke wheels, built from aluminium to shed a few kilos. Look past the wheels and tyres, though, and you see a sculpted 7.9-litre ‘peanut’ tank carrying striped or flaming decals as per you choice. Another eye-catcher is the glimmering dual-exhaust running parallel down the side of the bike, although the inverted café racer-style mirrors are attractive, but distinctly shine-free in comparison.
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The seat on the Forty-Eight is spanking new, and doesn’t disappoint in the comfort department either. The riding position on the bike is still extremely forward-biased, which means both your arms and legs are at full stretch, giving you the appearance of someone getting ready to row an imaginary boat. It isn’t the most comfortable way to cover long distances, but if the meagre tank didn’t tip you off already, the Forty-Eight is definitely a form-over-function kind of bike. The bike now sports 43-mm telescopic front forks, and new aluminium triple clamps matched with a new aluminium fork-brace, meaning the rake is that much tighter, providing a sharper turning radius.
As has been a running theme on these, the 2016 budget Harleys, the engine, in this case a 1,202-cc mill known to put out about 67 PS and 96 Nm of torque, remains unchanged. Give the throttle a bit of wrist-action and the engine comes to life, the exhausts roars out a bellowing challenge, and those who are in the way had best get out.
The thick-built tyres, while providing high-speed stability in a straight line aren’t the quickest to change direction. Priced at Rs 9.12 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), this is the perfect bike for someone looking to rock the bad boy motif, but doesn’t intend to do inter-city runs.
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