Well, some people are always going to be opposed to it aren’t they? Progress that is. No matter what motorcycle you’re writing about, you can count on there being at least one guy who’ll pop up with: How is this thing any better than my ’84 Sabre (Nighthawk, Vulcan, Magna, Midnight Maxim, et al), which cost half as much (in 1984 dollars) and is twice as fast and has never let me down in 86 years of ad nauseum …

There’s no answer, really. I can totally relate, as a matter of fact, because I’m the same way with cars (mostly because I can’t afford new ones). The psychologists call it “sweet lemons.” But I can try to put myself in the shoes of a bright-eyed 20-something with a 25% chance of being female who might be attracted to a bike like the new Harley-Davidson Street 750 (which I’ll use as an example). That’s who H-D is building the Street for. They know better than to try to talk you down from your Scott Flying Squirrel.

2015 Harley-Davidson Street 750 Review – First Ride

This is the kind of thing we need to encourage, people.

This is the kind of thing we need to encourage, people.

To get a look at the bike after seeing it here on MO and elsewhere, our hypothetical bushy-tailed customer might transport herself to her local H-D dealership, where if she’s the least bit physically presentable, the sales staff will be tripping all over each others’ tattoos to provide her with coffee and a nice cruller. (If you’re a dude, you can usually browse unspoken to for hours.) I admit I haven’t been to an H-D dealer to look for a Street, but if it’s anything like the Buells were, there might be one shoved in the darkest alcove of the showroom, the red-haired stepchild (which phrase I hereby move we officially change to Governor Schwarzenegger’s blue-eyed-domestic love child). Our shopper will have to make her way past all the Sportsters the sales staff wants her to buy to get to the Street.

2015 Harley-Davidson Street 750: Extended Play + Video

There might be a Street 750 back there somewhere … Actually, to be honest, when I stopped in Huntington Beach H-D, the Streets were right up front.

There might be a Street 750 back there somewhere … Actually, to be honest, when I stopped in Huntington Beach H-D, the Streets were right up front.

If she sits on both bikes, she’ll be immediately impressed with how much lighter the Street feels compared to the Sportster: 70 pounds difference is a lot, and the Street’s seat is lower too. (So is the price tag. Way.)

If she overcomes the salespeople’s objections and is able to persuade them to let her buy a Street, H-D’s website says she could roll out for about $130 a month, zero down, 7.49% for six years on H-D’s only slightly usurious (by current standards) plan. There she’d be on a brand-new shiny fuel-injected bike likely to fire up every morning without fail for probably all six of the years it will take to pay it off, with a 24-month warranty in case it doesn’t for the first two. And our hypothetical rider will have a fun, zippy little motorcycle to ride all over the place.

Discuss this at our HD Street Forum.

Plan B.

Plan B.

Plan B is your ’84 Sabre. Hmmm. If our hypothetical buyer knows anything about 1984, it’s the name of George Orwell’s romance novel she was forced to read in high school, since she wasn’t born yet. Actually, you’re right, there are some smoking deals out there, like this 22,000-mile ’85 Sabre in Chicago for $1,500, freshly tuned up. To see it, she’ll have to contact Alex, probably also in Chicago, and possibly the guy who writes in to diss all motorcycles built after Clinton’s first term (as well as Clinton). If she drives Alex down to $1,400 and buys the Sabre sight unseen, she’ll probably borrow it from a credit agency, then she’ll only need another $700 to have it shipped to her. Getting such a great deal will encourage her to buy more shoes (motorcycle boots!), and will make it necessary to pay the minimum on the credit card every month, bringing the total cost of the Sabre eventually to about the same as an F-22 Stealth fighter.

That will be as nothing compared to the cost of having everything repaired at the local dealer, since our first-time buyer has no motorcycle knowledge, no tools, and neither does her boyfriend. And, critically, neither do any of the kids at the Honda dealer when it comes to this Honda. And any V-Four Honda, with its 30-year-old carburetors wedged down in the V on 30-year-old cracked manifolds, is not going to be the ideal model to learn how to do a nice carb-sync on, with your trusty old Motion Pro vacuum gauges.

Its brakes might not be any worse than the stinkers the Street 750 comes with as original equipment, but it will be a great candidate for learning more than she wanted to know about fork seals, steering head bearings, also swingarm and swingarm-linkage ones. Then the stator will go out, and everything else electrical will be in a constant state of unease thanks to 30 years of crud on every connection.

Sure we can fix that.

Sure we can fix that.

Overcoming those kinds of old-bike breakdowns can be really satisfying if you’re a gearhead with a cozy little workshop and back-up transportation. If you’re getting started and just want to ride your new motorcycle, all those minor problems will drive you right back into the Yaris. So will the the fact that even on the rare days when everything on the Sabre is working perfectly, it’ll still be a heavy old pig compared to the svelte little, admittedly way less powerful, Street.

All of which completely overlooks the reason she wanted a bike in the first place: because bikes are cool. Kids only think that lately because they haven’t been exposed much to the horrors of Japanese cruisers from the era when people wore leisure suits and emulated Goulet. Burt Reynolds and the Trans-Am will never go out of style, but many vehicles of that era did for motorcycling what the Plague did for Europe. A darkness settled upon the land …

Thanks to the Snake and Mongoose and Shirley “Cha-Cha” Muldowney, the big Magna’s crazy straightline speed made it appealing in spite of its looks. Its performance was eclipsed, of course, only a few years later, leaving it one more overweight ex-jock with a lot of plaque build-up in its pilot jets and thin paint on top. Just what every young woman wants to struggle to get started in the mornings. And drag racing ain’t exactly a “green” activity today’s kids are all into.

All I’m saying is: if you have a 30-year-old bike you love, more power to you; we’re all happy for you. We understand you’re going to tell us why it’s the greatest motorcycle ever every time you have half a beer, and that’s okay, because then you’re going to have to listen to us tell you in turn, in great detail, all about our hip dysplasia, our grandmother’s fried chicken recipe, why Rush is the greatest band of all time. It’s all part of the social contract. I’ve learned to nap with my eyes open.

These guys would totally embrace the new Street 750. Photo courtesy of Webbikeworld.

These guys would totally embrace the new Street 750. Photo courtesy of Webbikeworld.

But please. Let’s not clip lead weights of doubt to the leading edges of our  little birds’ wings before they even have a chance to launch themselves out of the nest. Not that they’re listening to us any more than we listened to the old guys who told us the Japanese would never make a decent motorcycle, much less the Italians, that Ronald Reagan was a genius. Hmmm. Come to think of it, keep doing exactly what you do, Mr. Negative Old Guy. Barely suppressed laughter is one of the things that keeps me going. Laughter and cheap Petite Syrah and my ’97 Jaguar XJ6, probably the best car Jaguar ever built.

  • Steven Holmes

    Sir, you’ve hit the nail right square on the head. Also to your point (in caption for image #2) YES! Ladies should get just as much, if not more enjoyment on 2 wheels as we (guys) do. Period. More ladies should ride… It’s good for society.

    Both new and used serve a very important purpose, meaning that they’re there for a reason. I’m glad i picked up an old 400 kickstarted thumper for my first bike (’81 GN400TX (best bike ever)). It was great for me. Not necessarily great for everyone else But AWESOME for me. Now after 2 seasons of grumpy, irritable, and finicky carbs (even after an upgrade to a 4 banger), I’m looking forward to some fuel injection. Maybe I’ll win me a new Scout, mua ha ha.

  • Old MOron
  • DickRuble
  • DickRuble

    How much did HD pay for this pathetic shill act? Between a low mileage 90’s Nighthawk for $2200 in mint condition and a $7500+ for a lousy, made in India HD, the choice is easy, unless the pretty girl rider-to-be has nothing between her pretty ears.

    • john burns

      Well, Dick, if i may call you Dick, I have ridden a few mid-`90s Nighthawks, and while I agree they are remarkably reliable motorcycles (I’m told), I also remember them as being some of the least inspiring, most “soul-less”, antiseptic and appliance-like Hondas of them all. Which is saying something. And I bet if I felt like looking up the original MSRP and the CPI, I’d probably find the $$$ right in line with a new Street 750. Which is a happy puppy of a motorcycle. I didn’t have you in mind when I wrote this column, but subconsciously I must have. Thanks for the inspiration.


      • DickRuble

        No need to thank me. It’s a lousy piece.

        • john burns

          Top Ten Used Beginner Bikes?

          • DickRuble

            Top Ten 650-750cc used street bikes. Top Ten 400-550cc used bikes. Top 10 used sport/touring bikes. You can use the vast archive of MO to dig up material. i liked the piece on the Cagiva Raptor and a comparison to a comparable modern bike (BMW 9T?) would be interesting, if you can find a Cagiva anywhere. What’s best for a beginner is difficult to articulate..

  • JMDonald

    When you are trying to buy an identity, logic and reason only complicate the decision.

  • Here are two questions for the haters to ask of themselves:
    1) Do you buy all your clothes at Walmart?
    2) Do you want to be an exact replica of your father?

    If you answered “no,” or can conceive how someone else might answer “no” to either of these questions, you are beginning to understand why an H-D Street model is “better” than a Honda Magna.

    Plus all the other good reasons listed in this article. Some people want motorcycling to be a part of their life, rather than the purpose of their life. They want a cool mode of transportation, not a hobby. Failing to support them in this only damages motorcycling in the long run.

    (For evidence on the general public’s lack of interest in learning everything about a bike in order to keep it maintained, research the death of every British brand, the death of Indian, the death of Excelsior, and so on)

  • JMDonald

    I see it as a good thing when any manufacturer makes an entry level machine to attract new buyers. Most of the motorcyclists I know could care less what other folks ride. Some however believe if you aren’t riding what they ride you are a fool and cannot be trusted. I can afford any bike I want. I ride a ten year old roadster. There has to be an underlying passion for me to be attracted to a bike. I like certain attributes/features. Those preferences have been developed over many years and are very different from when I first started riding. There is a psychology at work in all of us that the manufactures try to tap into. It borders on mind control. Buying for the right reasons (whatever they are) carries more weight/credibility than buying for the wrong reasons (whatever they are). It is predominately subjective. I like the philosophy of all you need to know is what you like. The common denominator for all of us is that we ride. That is enough for me. Logic and reason are your friends. Especially when making a purchase that can be as emotionally charged as buying a motorcycle. Take a deep breath and buy what makes sense for you.

  • Tim Sawatzky

    Having an 81 cb750 that I have made into a cafe racer I get a great feeling every time someone says, `nice bike`. I enjoy the quirks of an old bike, sometimes. But it is definitely not a cheap alternative, especially if you can`t do the work yourself. Also I missed the first 2 months of the riding season (which is short here) due to a re-build.

    There are many days when I just want to jump on, push the starter and go. Ah, but this is a cold morning, I can barely get it started and need to let it warm up properly. And then there is my wife, who is a fairly new rider. She has ridden my bike once, I believe she called it a tank, asked why it had wooden brakes, and then she jumped back on her Ninja 650 and left me in the dust.

    I love old motorcycles, but I would not recommend them to a new rider, unless they also want a project and not something to ride. New bikes handle so much better, and are so much more reliable. But there is nothing quite like the smell and feel of an old bike.

    • DickRuble

      There’s old and very old. There’s good new and bad new. Ask you wife to test ride a Street 750 and write a piece comparing to her 650 (an honest one) and share with us. Would love to hear her opinion, and yours too.

      • Tim Sawatzky

        Don`t know if I could get her on a Harley. She started out on a Shadow, and felt it was to heavy and cumbersome. I think she could manage now that she has more experience, but I think the Street 750 might feel a bit sluggish to her Ninja, and I really don`t like the way it looks. Honestly I`m trying to get her to try the Indian Scout, I think she would love it.

        • DickRuble

          Indian Scout works too. Please, write a report. My money is on the Ninja.

  • john h

    Ouch this hurts. I happen to own a 1984 V65 Sabre. It really is a handful, had it for 2 years now. Only paid $1200 for it, had 15,000 miles on it. Always starts, pretty fast too.
    Definitely not a beginners bike. It’s for old guys like me that like to ride old classics.
    I’ve had lots of new bikes over the years (been riding for over 40 years). I’m really tempted to invest in a NEW Yamaha FJR 1300. Just as soon as this 30 year old dinosaur packs it in.

  • I wouldn’t buy a HD Street nor a Magna. I sure would like to have my first bike back or one like it. A 1978 KZ1000. Not because it’s better at all, but just because. It would be my sunday bike. In the meantime, I’ll ride my 2009 RT until I get the itch for something better and/or different. The new RTW is a nice bike as is the new GSA. I really like the Stelvio NTX, but I can’t explain why…If I listened to my friends, I’d get an old man’s bike like an ultra. Anyway, it’s nice to have such problems and I am glad the bad old days are over. The truth is, if I had a KZ1000 that got ridden only once a week, It wouldn’t like it. They had terrible charging systems and thank god they had a kick starter.

    • Kevin

      Here I have been thinking that the Stelvio must be an old mans bike because I really like it and I am an old man! My first bike was a Suzuki GT380 and the second a Honda Shadow 500, and I would never want to have either one of them back: In fact I wouldn’t want anything from the 20th century to ride today!

      • So a HD would be a corpses bike? 🙂 A suitable current analog to the Z1 would be a ZRX1200. It’s still made in Japan. Still, the old KZ was and is a classic. If I had the dough, I might get a K1600GT or a Ducati Multistrada GT. The Stelvio is affordable by comparison and doesn’t have the maintenance cost or the complications if you do it yourself.

  • Oslo Norway

    A V65 Sabre John, really? I mean I get your point but a V65 Sabre? That thing was a tuna boat when it came out. If ever there was a two-wheeled straw man argument my gawd this qualifies…What? Why not the Madura 1100?

  • spectralsarah

    That’s an awfully broad brush you’re painting women with, John. I got into motorcycling not because it’s “cool”, but because I thought it would be a huge amount of fun. The street is okay in that regard. The track is much better.

    • john burns

      Hah, I use a roller generally.
      I agree with you. Most new women riders I encounter are taller than me. And smarter, and… but H-D insists a low seat height is a huge thing its beginners are all concerned about. Even if it means a bike with very little cornering clearance, like the Sportster SuperLow.

  • Oslo Norway

    I think this is a clear case of John raging against the darkness…

    “Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

    Next week you’ll see him with a mohawk and a really interesting facial hair arrangement…

    • john burns

      after years of experimenting, I have determined there’s really no way to make my facial hair very interesting. As for raging, though, Troy S and I spent last couple of days tearing around on a KTM SuperDuke and Erik Buell’s latest. That’s got to add years to your life, doesn’t it? If it doesn’t kill you… Riding the latest good stuff just makes me acutely aware of how much better most of it is, compared to bikes no older than everything in my underwear drawer and some of the stuff in my refrigerator.

      • DickRuble

        It’s even more puzzling that you would sing odes to the Street 750 after riding the SuperDuke.

  • Guest

    The reason why HD is banking on the Street models’ appeal to female riders is because HD, being all about the image of being a 1-percenter and heritage and rebellion etc. instead of being an objectively good motorcycle, realizes that many many many women don’t actually want to BE a lawyer, gardener, motorcyclist, etc. – they want to be SEEN as that thing for the perceived status involved and because they saw too many tumblr and instagram feeds of cute chicks in heels in a law office or in cut-off and rubber boots smiling while she plants flowers or whatever. It’s all about playing dress-up for women like this. That’s why HD is the perfect brand for them.

  • JWaller

    Hey, I’m glad you realized it…. Rush is the greatest band of all time!

    • Old MOron

      Well, yes, except once they parted with Terry Brown, they went to shit.
      I’ve tried very hard to make myself like their stuff after “Signals”, but to no avail.
      They just didn’t, and don’t, rock any more.

  • mikeinkamloops

    I’m a Harley rider for many years now, and the new Street is just sad. The handlebars, levers and cables look like something off a Sears pedal bike. The other bits are very cheesy and flimsy. Fit and finish sucks. The brakes DON’T work! I wouldn’t even let my ex-wife ride one!
    I’m not dissing the technology — I had a water cooled, shaft drive Honda CX500 back in 1980 when that tech was just weird — and I think HD needs to bring out a big twin water cooled bike soon. The Street motor eels ok, but the rest of the bike is tin-can junk.

    • DickRuble

      Don’t tell that to jb

  • Archie Dux

    Well I for one hope the Street 750 is a big success and that Harley does more with that engine. It is way better in every way that that two-wheeled mullet in a Led Zeppelin T-shirt, the Sportster.

  • Backroad Bob

    ’97 Jag? Look who’s waxing nostalgic now.