Motorcycles

The hoglet: Harley-Davidson's Street 500 "learner bike"

The hoglet: Harley-Davidson's ...
Harley-Davidson Street 500 (Photo: Noel McKeegan/gizmag.com)
Harley-Davidson Street 500 (Photo: Noel McKeegan/gizmag.com)
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Harley-Davidson Street 500, stock
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Harley-Davidson Street 500, stock
Harley-Davidson Street 500, customised
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Harley-Davidson Street 500, customised
Harley-Davidson Street 500, stock
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Harley-Davidson Street 500, stock
Harley-Davidson Street 500, stock
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Harley-Davidson Street 500, stock
Harley-Davidson Street 500
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Harley-Davidson Street 500
Harley-Davidson Street 500
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Harley-Davidson Street 500
Harley-Davidson Street 500
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Harley-Davidson Street 500
Harley-Davidson Street 500
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Harley-Davidson Street 500
Harley-Davidson Street 500, custom
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Harley-Davidson Street 500, custom
Harley-Davidson Street 500 - headlight shroud
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Harley-Davidson Street 500 - headlight shroud
Harley-Davidson Street 500 - tank and Revolution X engine
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Harley-Davidson Street 500 - tank and Revolution X engine
Harley-Davidson Street 500 - Revolution X engine
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Harley-Davidson Street 500 - Revolution X engine
Harley-Davidson Street 500 - custom wheels
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Harley-Davidson Street 500 - custom wheels
Harley-Davidson Street 500
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Harley-Davidson Street 500
Harley-Davidson Street 500
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Harley-Davidson Street 500
Harley-Davidson Street 500
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Harley-Davidson Street 500
Harley-Davidson Street 500 - Revolution X engine
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Harley-Davidson Street 500 - Revolution X engine
Harley-Davidson Street 500 - headlight shroud
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Harley-Davidson Street 500 - headlight shroud
Harley-Davidson Street 500 - Revolution X engine
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Harley-Davidson Street 500 - Revolution X engine
Harley-Davidson Street 500 - custom (Photo: Noel McKeegan/gizmag.com)
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Harley-Davidson Street 500 - custom (Photo: Noel McKeegan/gizmag.com)
Harley-Davidson Street 500 - custom (Photo: Noel McKeegan/gizmag.com)
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Harley-Davidson Street 500 - custom (Photo: Noel McKeegan/gizmag.com)
Harley-Davidson Street 500 (Photo: Noel McKeegan/gizmag.com)
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Harley-Davidson Street 500 (Photo: Noel McKeegan/gizmag.com)
Harley-Davidson Street 500 (Photo: Noel McKeegan/gizmag.com)
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Harley-Davidson Street 500 (Photo: Noel McKeegan/gizmag.com)
Harley-Davidson Street 500 (Photo: Noel McKeegan/gizmag.com)
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Harley-Davidson Street 500 (Photo: Noel McKeegan/gizmag.com)

Back in September 2013, Harley-Davidson shocked us with the news that it was building a 500cc learner bike, and considering building an electric motorcycle – two ideas so antithetical to the H-D brand that we could hardly get our heads around them.

Scarcely a year later, and we're living in a brave new world. Project Livewire has been traveling around the United States giving riders a brief taste of what an electric Harley might look and feel like, with a series of test rides across the country.

And this weekend at the Melbourne Moto Expo we had our first chance to look at the Street 500, the bike Harley hopes will open up some significant new markets in the coming years, particularly in regions where new riders face power-to-weight or capacity restrictions in their first few riding years.

The Street 500 is built around a new engine – a 492cc, liquid cooled "Revolution X" v-twin designed to echo the bulletproof Revolution engine developed in conjunction with Porsche for the V-ROD range. In Street 500 trim, the engine makes 29.5 ft-lbs (40 Nm) of torque at 3500 rpm. Peak horsepower is unspecified, but that's really not what Harleys are about, anyway. H-D Australia assures us that the sound, feel and "soul" of the motor is H-D all the way.

Harley-Davidson Street 500 - Revolution X engine
Harley-Davidson Street 500 - Revolution X engine

Fuel economy is listed at 64 miles per gallon (3.7 liters per 100 km), which means the tiny 3.5 gallon (13.2 liter) tank is good for an astounding 224-mile (360 km) range. At 489 lbs (222 kg) wet and ready to roll, it's still a large and heavy bike for a learner, but its 27.9 inch (709 mm) seat height and low center of gravity should make it easy enough to lift up and throw around, even for female shorties. It'll be the lightest filly in the H-D stable, beating the Iron 883 by some 80-odd pounds.

Like all Harleys, it's built to be customized, and the ride-away price of US$6,700 (AU$9990 in Australia) will be a starting point for all kinds of custom additions that can take the bike in a number of different directions design-wise – as demonstrated by some very nice customs H-D displayed at Moto Expo:

Harley-Davidson Street 500 - custom (Photo: Noel McKeegan/gizmag.com)
Harley-Davidson Street 500 - custom (Photo: Noel McKeegan/gizmag.com)

Harley-Davidson Street 500 - custom (Photo: Noel McKeegan/gizmag.com)
Harley-Davidson Street 500 - custom (Photo: Noel McKeegan/gizmag.com)

Underneath the odd-looking fork gaiters at the front, the Street 500's suspension travel is two inches longer than the Iron 883 – ostensibly to handle rough urban roads, but it also won't hurt the baby Harley's chances of breaking off a piece of the gigantic Indian motorcycle market.

Some 13.4 million motorcycles were sold in India in FY 2011-12, a staggering figure that dwarfs America's total sales of around 450,000 units in the same period. Certainly, most of those sales are at the very cheapest end of the market. Honda India has sold more than 30 million of its 125 cc CB Shine, which retails around 48,000 rupees (US$773).

Harley-Davidson Street 500, stock
Harley-Davidson Street 500, stock

But there's also a market for larger machines. Royal Enfield's 350-500 cc motorcycles may be ancient in design, but they're selling at a rate of nearly 2 million units a year for prices around US$2200.

If and when the Street 500 launches in India beside its Street 750 brother, the price is likely to be around 3 times higher – but vastly more affordable than the rest of the H-D range. It'll be interesting to see if and how the move pays off for the iconic American brand. On one hand, there's the possibility to post some extraordinary numbers. On the other, the Street 500 will have to blow riders away with more than its badge to compete in such a price-conscious market segment.

Product page: Harley Davidson Street 500

15 comments
jeffrey
It's like a Honda Rebel (fake cylinder fins and all) but not as nice looking and a lot more expensive.
Jeff Goldstein
Seems nice but about 50 pounds or so too heavy. HD used to sell some even smaller bikes in the seventies. They weren't very popular.
Firsts Lasts
Nice starter bike. I've never owned a bike but this one is looking very good.
Peg C
I'm surprised they didn't name it the Piglet.
Panayis Zambellis
@jeff goldstein yes they did the aermacchi series they were awesome had one 250 ala verde used to get 100 mpg imperial on long rides have never came across another bike that could top that
wahip
Pretty amazing to consider that the original XR750 from the 70's weighed in around 300 lbs and produced 80-100 hp, depending on track tune. Now, 40+ years of high-tech materials and engineering later, a small Harley will weigh almost 200 lbs more, produce probably half the horses and look more Japanese than most Hondas! Can anyone explain the concept of "Progress" to Harley?
Mike Barnett
I've been riding for almost 40 years - my first bike was an H-D 175 dual sport built by Aermacchi, and I've had plenty of different bikes, right up to and including my current Kawasaki Concours. For the first time in decades, I've been impressed with a bike from HD... an the Street 500/750 line impresses me a lot. If they hold up to close scrutiny, I will very likely get one, and probably the 500 - for a single seat commuter, I don't need a boatload of power - just economy, reliability, good tires, and a high fun factor.
Drew Gatewood
FIRST H-D STREET XG500 TO RACE AT BONNEVILLE SALT FLATS. This past August my son and I were sponsored by the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, and took for the first time ever a new Street XG500 to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to race for a landspeed record. If interested in more information please go to Facebook, and type in... "Hoosier Daddy Racing - Motorcycle Landspeed Team". The new Harley-Davidson liquid cooled OHC 500 & 750 engine designs have great potential, and we are really looking forward to seeing where these bikes go in the near future.
Harriet Russell
"a price-conscious market segment", eh? I guess that's one way of putting it. LOL. I'm in that particular segment, too.
nutcase
It's just another overweight bike but the badge will sell it. Coming soon the authentic Harley-Davidson "bad-ass" pram. "Harley's best, F#%@ the Rest" emblazoned on nappies etc