Laaadeeeeez and Gennntlemennnn, standing before you are the three of the newest middleweight roadsters of the 2016 model year. All have family names steeped in motorcycling history, though only one can be said to use a truly historic design. The second is a ground-up remake with the classic lines of its family heritage, which is, in fact, almost visually identical but in a thoroughly modern package. The third, a sophomore model-year tweak to a new category of bikes begun just last year, seeking to indoctrinate a new generation of riders into its world-dominating marque. These three motorcycles share two other similarities: all are Twins – though all different – and all feature hipster-compatible fork gaiters.
The fuel tanks are full. The combatants are assembled in the corners of our triad of doom. Three bikes enter, but only one shall leave – crowned as the Retro Roadster Gaiternational Champion.
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Missouri Marauder: 2016 Harley-Davidson Street 750
In the blue tank, weighing in at 753cc, the liquid-cooled 60° V-Twin Street 750 entered the fray in 2014 as a 2015 model – the first all-new Harley-Davidson in 13 years. Designed to bring new, younger riders into the H-D fold, the Street 750 stepped away from Milwaukee tradition and dropped a 85 x 66mm, SOHC, 4-valve-per-cylinder, 11:1 compression ratio, and the aforementioned liquid-cooling into an all-new chassis.
Designed for the world market, the Street 750s sold in the U.S. and Canada are assembled, from parts sourced throughout the world, in Kansas City, Missouri in the Harley-Davidson Vehicle and Powertrain Operations plant while all other markets receive the ones manufactured in Bawal, India. Since we live in a world economy, this shouldn’t really mean anything to anyone, but some folks still care. So, the American market gets Streets assembled right here in ‘Murica, even if some components come from India.
The Street 750 wins points with the short-in-the-inseam set with its 27.9-in. seat height. Though the pegs are what Harley calls mid-mount, they are the furthest forward of our trio. The low seat also made the longest-legged of our testers practically beg to not have to ride the Street the hour and twenty minutes home through traffic. For shorter stints, the foot position, which raises my knees above my thighs, is fine, but after 45 minutes, the awkward position causes my low-back to pretzel. The former President of the Street 750 Fan Club, John Burns, acknowledges that “the ergos are weird by rest of world’s standards, but H-D’s version of sporty, for me at 5-foot-8, works pretty good.”
However, what everyone has been wondering about the 2016 Street 750 was did its limp braking issue that bothered so many riders and really flummoxed journalists get fixed? The short answer is yes. The 8mm larger, 300mm rotors – front and rear – are gripped by two 34mm pistons in Harley-badged single-action Brembo calipers. Additionally, the master cylinder is now aluminum and the lines are “improved” but not braided steel. This updated the front brake power and tractability to what it should have been last year. As Burns put it, “Dunno why they didn’t put a decent brake on in the first place?” Editor-in-Chief Kevin Duke hazarded the opinion that the brakes have “now surpassed the adequate level and gone onto quite good for a single-disc setup.” Although the brake pedal has been relocated for better ergonomics, the most noticeable change in the Street’s binders comes in on the front wheel.
Still, Harley has left out a shockingly important feature for the newer rider market for which the Street 750: ABS is not available even as an option. We expect that to change for the 2017 model year when ABS becomes mandatory in Europe.
The Street has the sportiest front wheel diameter in the bunch. The 750 utilizes the only 17-inch front wheel and 15-inch rear of the trio, making the rubber donuts on either end of the bike the smallest. This pairing helped the Street turn relatively quickly despite having, at 32°, the shallowest rake and the second longest trail by 0.1 in. of 4.5 in. Unfortunately, it also ran out of cornering clearance the soonest – long before the Harley-branded Michelin Scorcher II tires were even taxed. Ground clearance issues were most noticeable on the right side, though Burns, ever willing to come to the rescue of a bike he clearly loves, notes, “What drags on the right is just the bolt for the pipe clamp. If they rotated it a few degrees at the factory, it would lean another few degrees, and we might complain less. But they don’t.” Okay, so maybe that’s just half-hearted support.
|2016 Harley-Davidson Street 750|
Lake Como Crusher: 2016 Moto Guzzi V7 II Stone
Tipping the scales at 454 lb., soaking wet, and having the smallest displacement in this competition, the Moto Guzzi has the only truly throwback engine here in the form of the V7 II Stone’s 744cc 90° V-Twin. Along with being the only engine with its crankshaft oriented from front to rear, the V7 II is also the only air-cooled mill. Still, the engine, with its distinctive twin cylinders jutting out into the air-flow, and its transmission have undergone some improvements for 2016, thus gaining the II after the V7 moniker.
The list of improvements to the V7 II is short, but they do make a difference. The 4° forward tilt to the engine doesn’t sound like much, but longer-legged folks will appreciate the extra knee room. On the performance end of the scale, gaining a sixth gear affects more than just the rpm in highway cruise mode. Guzzi took the opportunity to tighten the ratios of third, fourth, and fifth gears. As a result, the V7 feels a bit more sprightly as it runs through the gears. It’ll never be confused for a sportbike, but it gets up and goes – and does so with a quite pleasurable character. There’s a reason that the V7 has been Guzzi’s best-selling motorcycle.
Just because the V7 II plays the authenticity and heritage cards so heavily doesn’t mean the bike has been left behind technologically. ABS and TC are both standard not because of earth-shattering performance but because riders don’t always have the luxury of dry, grippy pavement. Also, since the V7 is popular among newer riders, the additional safety measures are sure to be appreciated – even more so in a price-point-focused motorcycle.
When ridden hard, Duke noticed how the persnickety clutch didn’t like aggressive launches and just a couple wheelie attempts had us smelling the clutch plate. He also took great pleasure in pointing out that riders “can use the V7’s softly engaging rev limiter (7200 rpm) as a quickshifter for full-throttle clutchless upshifts.”
|2016 Moto Guzzi V7 II Stone|
Bangkok Basher: 2016 Triumph Street Twin
Designed in Triumph’s Hinkley, Leicestershire, England headquarters, the Street Twin is manufactured in Thailand as part of its cost-savings model to keep the price attractive to riders, especially younger ones.
The newest entry in this class uses a “less is more” approach to the power delivery. Triumph’s latest engine is now 35cc larger and is cooled by liquid, but it’s not tuned for producing big horsepower numbers. Instead of relying on the high rpm and horsepower to deliver the Street Twin’s motivating force, the all-new mill utilizes a healthy torque curve to get the bike going from the time its throttle is first cracked open. Triumph uses a single 39mm throttle body (rather than two) to maintain high air velocity even at lower revs to supply broad torque production.
In fact, our feelings about the Triumph’s engine were unanimous. Burns praised the “great sound, perfect fueling” before moving on to note that the “transmission feels like it belongs on a more expensive bike.” Duke effused, ”Considerable engine braking at high rpm is its only throttle foible.” He’s right, the Triumph’s fuel metering is buttery-smooth until elevated rpm are reached. We should also note that we had mixed feelings about how early the Triumph’s ECU shuts down the party. Even with all its bottom end grunt, a 6,900-rpm rev limit seems kinda low.
Along with the engine, the rest of the Triumph is new, too. Burns gushed, “Most modern cockpit gauges by far, both adjustable levers. In fact, it’s got the most modern everything and wins every performance category here easily.” While he’s right, he’s also getting ahead of things a bit. Still, the Triumph’s ABS and TC will be much appreciated when needed. The brakes were the best of the trio, and the handling is the quickest – even with an 18-inch front wheel.
Like the engine’s superb performance at lower speeds, the Street Twin carries its weight so well and is so narrow between the knees that it delivers the most balanced and confidence-producing low-speed manners. The importance of a first impression can’t be downplayed – especially with novice riders. From the moment the Triumph is lifted off the sidestand, its poise is apparent. Duke sums up this experience by saying the Triumph is the “tops of this group for a slow-speed race.”
At higher speeds, the Street Twin’s handling continued to top the field. The ground clearance is comparable to, if just a little less than, the Guzzi. The suspension, while lacking any adjustments other than rear preload, works quite well for a bike in this price range.
|2016 Triumph Street Twin|
Round 1: Objective Testing
In this round, it’s all in the demonstrative numbers. Opinions don’t matter. We’re just looking at the hard facts.
The Street 750 steps in with an early win in the pricing category. Weighing in at $7,549, the Harley is $1,151 cheaper than the Street Twin and a whopping $1,441 less than the Guzzi. For riders on a limited budget, this is a clear delineation in favor of the Street 750.
In the weight category, the Harley reverses its early lead by settling in with the highest weight at a porky 510 lbs. The Triumph hits a solid second again, tipping the scales at 478 lbs. Surprisingly, the Guzzi scores the win as the lightweight of the bunch with a 454-lb. weight on the MO scale, even with more than 10 lbs of extra fuel in its capacious tank. If I’d have guessed which was heaviest based on the visual feel of the trio, I would have arranged them from lightest to heaviest: Triumph, Harley, and Guzzi – with the Guzzi being far heavier.
With the raw horsepower numbers, the Harley Street 750 came out on top with 54.0 horsepower. Just 1.4 hp below, the Triumph Street Twin puts out 52.6 hp, despite its 147cc displacement advantage. The Moto Guzzi V7 II Stone runs a distant third with a 41.7 hp. When it comes to torque, which is largely determined by displacement, the Triumph, with its 900cc, easily twists out the largest number of pound-feet, reading 57.8. The Harley, having the second-largest displacement, scored 43.3 lb-ft, and the Moto Guzzi, which brings up the rear in cubic centimeters with just 744, reads just 39.8 lb-ft.
While the above information is notable, it really doesn’t mean anything until it is put into context by comparing how much poundage each of those horses and pound-feet have to push around. Here, the Triumph scores two wins. For each horsepower produced by the parallel-Twin, there are 9.1 lbs. of Triumph to push around. The Harley comes in an extremely close second with 9.4 lb./hp calculation. The Guzzi’s horsepower deficit essentially negates its lightest weight, requiring each horsie carry 10.9 lbs. Again, with the additional volume of its cylinders, the Triumph cleans up pound/torque department, netting a svelte 8.8 lb./lb-ft. The Moto Guzzi and the Harley trail well behind with 11.4 lb./lb-ft and 11.8 lb./lb-ft, respectively.
In case you’re counting, that tallies to a first, a second, and two thirds for the both Guzzi and Harley. The Triumph continues its early dominance with two firsts and two seconds notched before the round-ending bell.
Round 2: Subjective Testing
As you know, subjective testing relies on our personal opinions, although, after so many years in so many saddles, our editorial hinies are highly calibrated. The results of Round 1 pretty much codified how we felt from the seat of our collective pants. We are now stepping into the realm of character and rider interfaces, the how these retro roadsters do what they do. Since Round 1 concluded with engines, we’ll begin there.
When the famed MO Scorecard is consulted, the Triumph easily bests its competitors, earning a 90.83% in the engine category and 91.67% for its transmission. Duke loves how the Triumph’s “270-degree crank delivers a nicely gutteral rumble that belies its parallel-Twin layout.” The Street Twin’s exhaust has to be one of the throatiest OEM pipes we’ve heard in a long time – loud enough to set off a car alarm when I was demonstrating the sound to Kevin.
Still, the Harley’s power output is not to be ignored. The engine likes to rev up to into the higher elevations as the power builds. The Dukester was even seen prodding the mill into doing a few wheelies. He praised the engine for its modern feel and its revability, saying he wished it was bolted into more of a street-tracker package than the low-slung cruiser that it is.
While the Guzzi’s powertrain received some upgrades in the transmission, it felt a bit dated in this gathering. Some might call this character or vintage appeal – and that’s all well and good – it just doesn’t win many points in the MO Scorecard performance categories. Still, we should note that the Guzzi has been updated to the new Euro 4 emissions standards and has gained a revised gearbox that includes smaller gaps between gears and a new sixth gear. These combine to make the V7 II noticeably perkier than the previous generation, and the exhaust note from its 90° V-Twin sounds wonderful.
Though the Street 750’s brakes are much improved over last year, they’re not quite up to matching the Street Twin’s. The Guzzi’s brakes were described by E-i-C Duke as wooden, while I felt they had the power available but lacked feel. So, I think we were in agreement. The real irony of the brakes on the non-Triumphs is that they were both Brembo units.
When it comes to handling, the competition was a little tighter, but the result is the same. With more ground clearance, the Harley probably could have stuck with the other bikes. In left turns the peg gives plenty of warning about impending hard parts, but on the right, the pipe touches down long before the peg would.
Though the Guzzi slightly edged out the Triumph in outright lean angle, its lazier rake and trail figures conspire to make it turn relatively lethargic. The 2° rake and 0.6-in. trail increases accounted for the dramatic difference in responses, as both bikes have 18-inch front (both with 100/90–18 tires) and 17-inch rear wheels. “Steers deliberately,” says Duke of the Guzzi, ”like a traditional Italian bike from the 1970s.”
Burns noticed another issue with the V7’s handling: “The Guzzi’s bias-ply tires feel a little sketchy at speed, which is strange because the Triumph on its 18-in bias front and radial rear is the rock solid, best-handling bike here. The Guzzi will do over 100 mph easy, but that speed on those tires, especially on rain-grooved pavement on a big freeway off-ramp for instance, is a thing I only did once.”
Another round goes to the Street Twin.
Round 3: Imponderables
Finally, we arrive at the less quantifiable, more personal opinions of the retro roadsters. You may have noticed that each of the bikes has a different final drive. The Harley has a belt, naturally. The Triumph, being the sportiest of the bunch, uses a chain, and the Guzzi marches to the beat of a different drummer with a shaft. The only difference we noticed in these modes of propulsion was an increase in stiffness over bumps when at a positive throttle position on the Guzzi. It suffered from no jacking effect as the throttle is rolled on or off, but the same bump is handled differently depending on whether the V7 is on or off the gas.
The Street 750 gains points for cleaning up the cluster of wires that hung out from under the side cover on last year’s model, but it loses some of them for the visible wiring connectors resting on top of the left fork leg calling attention to itself with its yellow connector. We have high hopes for model year three in this regard. The 750’s mirrors are too far inboard, giving a nice view of biceps and shoulders for those who workout. On the plus side of things, the Harley is the only bike without a tank seam. The tank’s shape is considered fetching by two-thirds of the testers. The blue color scored positively, as well.
The Triumph is a puzzler. Priced at $8,700 it comes in below the $8,990 Guzzi and above the $7,549 Harley, but then it absolutely decimates the others with its level of fit and finish.
“Manufacturing in Thailand really must trim production costs because the Triumph dazzled us with its many lovely details,” raved Duke. “I drooled over the brushed finish of the simple twin exhaust pipes and the shapely aluminum sidecovers, things that would look at home on much more expensive motorcycles.”
Or is Triumph trying to hook new riders into the Hinkley-designed fold with a minimal profit model? From the period-correct seat design to the red pinstripe on the wheels, the Street Twin scores. The only styling miscue is the tank seam that appears to be more prominent than that on the Guzzi.
Speaking of the Guzzi’s tank, how does 5.8 gallons strike you? Perhaps the reasoning behind the V7 II’s courtly engine performance and sedate steering response is that they will help the rider relax into the 250+ miles the tank will carry you.
Crowning the Gaiternational Champeeen!
As the dust settles in the arena and all the lights but the center spot begin to fade, only one of our contestants has proven itself worthy of claiming Gaiternational victory. In case you haven’t looked at the scorecard yet, the Street Twin managed to win two of the four objective categories plus sweep all 11 subjective categories, with the closest challenge a difference of 2.5% with the Moto Guzzi in the ergonomics category. In the handling category, the Triumph was a whopping 12.5% ahead of its nearest competitor. Yes, having the largest engine helped a great deal, but the bike with the smallest was also the most expensive.
Triumph has put together quite a package in the Street Twin, and while any of this trio could earn a hipster vote of approval, the Triumph has earned this victory, seemingly without breaking a sweat.
|Retro Roadster Gaiternational Shootout Scorecard|
|Category||Harley-Davidson Street 750||Moto Guzzi V7 II Stone||Triumph Street Twin|
|Quality, Fit & Finish||68.3%||75.0%||88.3%|
|Retro Roadster Gaiternational Shootout Specifications|
|Harley-Davidson Street 750||Moto Guzzi V7 II Stone||Triumph Street Twin|
|MSRP as tested||$7,549||$8,990||$8,700|
|Engine Type||liquid-cooled 60-deg. V-Twin||90° V-Twin, air-cooled||Liquid cooled, 8 valve, SOHC, 270° crank angle parallel Twin|
|Bore x Stroke||85.0 x 66.0mm||80.0 x 74.0 mm||84.6 x 80 mm|
|Fuel System||Mikuni single-port EFI, 38mm throttle body||Weber-Marelli electronic fuel injection||Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection|
|Front Suspension||37mm fork; 5.5 in. travel||40mm telescopic fork, 5.1 in. travel||Kayaba 41mm forks, 4.7 in. travel|
|Rear Suspension||Twin coil-over shocks, preload adjustable; 3.5 in wheel travel||die cast light alloy swing arm with 2 shock absorbers with adjustable spring preload,4.4 in.travel||Kayaba twin shocks with adjustable preload, 4.7 in. rear wheel travel|
|Front Brakes||300mm, 2-piston caliper||320 mm stainless steel floating discs, Brembo callipers with 4 differently sized opposed pistons, ABS||Single 310mm disc, Nissin 2-piston floating caliper, ABS|
|Rear Brakes||300mm, 2-piston caliper||260 mm, stainless steel disc, floating calliper with 2 pistons,ABS||Single 255mm disc, Nissin 2-piston floating caliper, ABS|
|Rear Tire||140/75-15||130/80-17||150/70 R17|
|Seat Height||27.9 in.||31.1 in.||29.5in.|
|Wheelbase||60.4 in.||57.0 in.||56.7in.|
|Rake/Trail||32°/4.5 in.||27°50ʼ/4.6 in.||25.1º/4.0 in.|
|Curb Weight, MO scales||510||454||478 lb.|
|Fuel Capacity||3.5 gal.||5.8 gal.||3.2 gal.|