Where Harley-Davidson is stuck in the past with its air-cooled engine, not all hope is lost on keeping up with the times.
The 2017 Harley-Davidson Roadster has a café racer style look which adds to its garage-built custom style, sure to set you apart from the pack. The Roadster has a 1200cc Evolution V-Twin engine which is air-cooled like most Harleys, staying true to its roots. Many updates went into the Roadster, making it more practical and comfortable with its upright seating position.
Right out of the gate, the Roadster was fairly comfortable. Both the slammed drag bar handlebars and mid-position peg placement are fairly comfortable for the lengthier rides, while still giving it a slight forward-lean riding position. The emulsion-type twin rear shocks are comfortable and do a good job of absorbing bumps in the road. Handling is good as you’d expect with any roadster, this is in part with the new 43mm inverted front forks, new steering geometry, and a set of really meaty Dunlop radial black walled tires made specifically for Harley-Davidson which grip the road real well.
It’s a fairly nimble bike thanks to its modest curb weight of 571 lb., as well as its 1200cc engine. Jumping around traffic is a breeze; leaving most cars in the mirror with its excellent bottom end torque. The engine sounds good with its V-twin grumble and chrome two-into-two blunt cut mufflers, which have slotted blacked-out muffler heat shields to keep the reflection down. New lightweight offset split five-spoke cast aluminum wheels give a better power-to-weight ratio than the previous model Roadster. Harley’s dual disc front brakes with floating rotors, stopping power is ample.
Where Harley-Davidson is stuck in the past with its air-cooled engine, not all hope is lost on keeping up with the times. The Roadster comes with a keyless fob, which is quite ahead of the curve when it comes to motorcycle tech. If you lose the fob, don’t worry, Harley has thought of that too. You can enter a pin code on the instrument cluster using the turn indicators which will allow you to ride your Harley without a fob present or if your fob runs out of battery.
A very tasteful touch is the beefy look of the new triple clamps, with “MILWAUKEE, USA” imprinted in them. This is an ode to Harley Davidson’s raw American roots. A lot of black is on this bike, from headlights to heat shields, coming together to give the roadster a murdered-out look that manages to catch onlookers’ attention, even without the shiny chrome that most people know Harley for. One thing that’s new to the roadster this year is a new seat and tail section. Simple and minimal, it’s both pleasing to the eye, and to my bottom. The fender has been chopped 1.5” to highlight the rear wheel.
Clutch pull is light and easy on the hand, so taking off from a stop is also fairly smooth. However, if you’re off the clutch before being up to speed, the bike tends to chug quite a bit, which is arguably characteristic of V-twin engines, but excessive in this case. There are a few grievances to air when it comes to the Roadster, and my chief complaint is the gear selector. Finding neutral is damned near impossible on the Roadster, I’m hoping it’s just an easy adjustment to rectify this issue. I literally spent the duration of an intersection light change (several times) trying to find neutral, and to my surprise the light would turn green before I was able to find the neutral position.
Secondly, if you aren’t already aware of Harley Davidsons turn indicator switches, there are two separate switches; one for each hand. While a good idea in theory, I feel as if it’s Harley’s attempt at separating themselves from the pack, but by fixing something that isn’t broken. The left hand thumb switch is easy to operate, being that you only use that hand for operating the clutch, but the right hand switch is awkward to reach when your hand is in various throttle positions throughout your daily rides. I often found myself rolling on or of the throttle inadvertently when trying to reach the turn indicator switch.
There are also a few other minor things that I hesitate to mention, such as vibration. It’s impossible to clearly make out what type of vehicle is behind you when using your mirrors. From sitting at a complete stop to highway speeds and anywhere in between, I was unable to clearly use the mirrors because they vibrate so much, again partially attributed to the nature of a V-twin engine. Also, the Roadster only has a five-speed transmission. That paired with the smaller capacity fuel tank equates to frequent fuel stops.
Grievances aside, the 2017 Harley-Davidson Roadster is still a decent bike that can fill many different needs for many different riders. It’s stylish, aggressive, and has a great amount of torque. The new Roadster is available in 3 different colour schemes, as well as optional ABS and an optional security system. Base price is $12,999, and $14,369 as tested (with both options checked off).