A humble Harley-Davidson machine, called the Street Bob, just got a potent dose of customisation, making it a mean, sinister-looking motorcycle that is out on the streets to hunt those so-called choppers down. Bike India meets this demon from hell
Photography: Rommel Albuquerque
In its normal guise the average Harley-Davidson bike does look appealing. It was in the 1970s that the company introduced an array of factory customs that catered to those who wanted to give their Harley a distinctive appearance. This tradition continues even today. You may customise your Harley-Davidson bike extensively and multiple examples of that were showcased by Harley-Davidson India at the 2012 Auto Expo, where the company displayed an array of customised models from its line-up. Recently we got our hands on one of these custom creations, the Street Bob.
When I first looked at the customised Street Bob, my mind struggled to take in the fact that this motorcycle could be made to look so sinful. I mean, whereas the standard model is a sober and no non-sense bike, the one standing in front of me looked like a cousin of the Ghost Rider’s chopper. Anyway, I somehow managed to come to terms with this demonic bike that would easily intimidate any other motorcycle on the road. The low-slung stature of the bike coupled with a single seat, which is uncomfortable, Ape Hanger handlebars, foot-pegs that are stretched far ahead of their normal position and an overall black theme give this bike a very a sinister look. This wickedness is carried forward by the glossy paint job that features air-brushed flames with skulls on a black background. The black theme continues and components like the primary cover, rocker box covers, exhaust heat shields, front fork sliders, rear sprocket cover and headlamp assembly that are all done in black simply appear diabolical.
Harley-Davidson India have put in great efforts to show the extent to which they will go to provide the customer with all these and a million more components to customise his/her H-D bike. You have a number of possibilities when it comes to customising your Harley aesthetically. However, there is very little you can do to improve the ride and handling of these bikes. Almost all Harley-Davidson motorcycles are designed and engineered for riding on arrow-straight highways of America that are smooth and have no bumps or speed breakers. In India, however, we have exactly the opposite condition. And this has a negative or bad impact on the ride quality of the bike.
The reason for this is the rear suspension. Harley have equipped the bike with short rear shock-absorbers with very little travel to keep the ride height low. However, this set-up eventually hampers the overall ride quality of the bike.
Generally, Harley-Davidson bikes have a neutral handling thanks to their low centre of gravity, but this particular bike’s riding position makes it a bit difficult to handle. The combination of the seat, lacking back support along with Ape Hangar bars and stretched out foot-pegs take a toll on your back and legs while making it hard to handle. It also feels nervous when you take a corner as the bike refuses to work with you while going through a corner. I understand that it cannot tackle a corner like a normal bike because of its long wheelbase, but the suspension set-up and riding position make taking a corner on this bike tougher than it appears. And there seems to be no connection between the front and the rear of the bike while cornering. It’s really a weird feeling while tackling a corner.
But many would be impressed by its performance. The massive twin cylinders produce 125 Nm of torque that help push this 300-kg monster from 0 to 60 km/h in just 2.68 seconds and to 100 km/h in just 5.66 seconds. The roll-on figures are also quite strong as there is ample power to overtake those slow moving trucks and buses in the third or fourth gear. But to enjoy the pleasure of performance this bike has to offer, you have to compromise with comfort. The acceleration figures may seem tantalising, but the lack of extra padding on the seat to support the lower back won’t let you have fun the way you would anticipate. You are pushed almost to the rear fender if you do not hang on to those Ape Hangars. I believe some extra padding at the back seat will make it much more enjoyable and safe. Plus the weird riding position is not really to everyone’s liking.
In the end I would simply say that Harley-Davidson India have done a fabulous job of customising this baby. The numerous options that can be purchased to customise your bike in your particular way is a unique concept in India that is only offered by Harley-Davidson for now. However, there are areas that need attention and I believe that the company can improve it. For example, the rear suspension can do with some more travel that would improve the ride and handling to an extent. They can also provide bikes like the Street Bob with extra padding in the seat for lower back support. If H-D India address these issues, they will have a great product that would attract more and more customers for the company in India.