Article By: J Ken Conte
Originally Published In The March 2019 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
I am fortunate in that I get to ride a lot of different motorcycles and when I’m traveling, especially to LA, I always try to get on a new bike. I was going to make a visit to Arch Motorcycle and go to Chopperfest, and there is no better way to get around LA then on two wheels, so I contacted Harley. I knew that after all the bikes that we have ridden over the last 12 months it made sense to review the least expensive big twin Harley has to offer, the 2019 Street Bob.
I arrived in LA early on a Friday morning and took an Uber to the Harley fleet center. Alan, who runs the fleet center, has always been great at making sure bikes are ready to go. After only 5 minutes of paperwork, I was standing in front of the Red Denim 2019 Street Bob admiring its styling and aesthetic. As I straddled the big twin, I was struck by the comparative comfort of the solo seat. The foot controls were set slightly forward and mini-ape hangers complimented the natural riding position. I always look at comfort first, because if it isn’t comfortable, really nothing else matters. It can be the coolest looking two-wheeled rocket, and if it isn’t comfortable, well it’s going to be hard to convince me to look at it objectively. The caveat is that there are purpose-built bikes that are just meant to go fast, and comfort is a secondary concern, we don’t ride too many of those at Cycle Source, but we get the reasoning behind them.
The Street Bob is one of the Milwaukee Eight Softails that used to be on the Dyna platform. Chris and I have debated, on our weekly news show, Shop Talk (Live on Facebook every Thursday at 9 PM EST and also on iTunes, etc. under 4Ever2Wheels) if it made sense to go with the Softail moniker over the Dyna, considering the resurgence and passion for Dynas these days. The Softail naming system has been around since 1990 and has a lot more history than Dyna, so, from a historical standpoint, merging them under the Softail name made sense. If you look at the 2016 Street Bob you will notice exterior shocks with basically the same aesthetic, stripped down and ready to rip, but the 2019 Street Bob offers much more. Although the blacked-out finish of the Street Bob is nice, the question is: Does it perform? In a one-word answer Yes. The bike features a 107-inch Milwaukee Eight with over 110-foot lbs. of torque in a 630 lb. package, making this the lightest Softail available. This is partly because of its meager 3.5-gallon tank but also because of it’s no frills set up. The front end is an upgrade for the M8, to a racing style cartridge fork enveloped in old school fork boots with a single fourpiston caliper up front for stopping power. The miniapes have a small but visible LED screen that shows all the pertinent information and is equipped with keyless entry, which proved useful. Also, as with all Softail models, it comes with a USB port at the neck, which is set up to charge devices.
As I headed out onto the congested freeways of Los Angeles, I realized that I had only been on stock baggers while trying to split lanes, and not being a California native; it intimidated me. Visions of people merging too quickly in front of me, opening doors and other riders plowing through me were all going through my head. I focused on the nimble handling and treated it like a live video game. The Street Bob, with its neutral riding position, narrow stance and plenty of stop and go power gave me the confidence to split lanes with ease all the way to Chopperfest.
Los Angeles is not known for its amazing road surfaces, and as I rode some of the rougher sections, I thought it would be a good idea to soften up the suspension, which I suspected was set at the middle setting. The Street Bob does share the single shock under the seat that the Softails have been known for, but at the lower MSRP, it is not hand adjustable as it is with the other models. The shock needs a spanner wrench, and it is located under the seat, which makes it easy to get to but not hand adjustable like the other Softails. That trade-off is well worth the cost savings. What I found out about the 2019 Street Bob, after I put several hundred miles on varied terrain, was that it was a fully capable Big Twin, with performance built in. The budget Big Twin is packaged in a minimalistic, sleek design that will appeal to younger riders who want to get into a big twin as well as budgetminded riders who want a base that they can customize to their hearts content. At an MSRP of $14,949 (non ABS), you can see why this is a popular model for seasoned riders as well as riders wanting to jump up to the big twin world. More info www. harley-davidson.com