Not a purist’s Harley-Davidson, but is it worth considering?
You just crushed through all seasons of Sons Of Anarchy, and now it is time to explore your inner Jax Teller? It would seem obvious then that Harley-Davidson is the brand you would want to look at, but which model?
The Harley Davidson Street 500 hit showroom floors in 2014 and lasted until 2020. Powered by a water-cooled Revolution engine dubbed the Revolution X, the Street 500 was meant to be the entry-level model for Harley-Davidson, and it was priced as the cheapest Harley in their lineup.
Acceptance to this non-traditional Harley was mixed, and the sales figures reflected that sentiment. Let me break down all that I find to be right and wrong with the Street 500.
Our Take: Why You Should Buy a Street 500
Many new riders gravitate to cruiser-style bikes. This makes total sense, you have a low, relaxed riding position, the overall vibe of a cruiser is approachable, and don’t forget the sound, that rhythmic pulse is addictive. I feel quite safe in saying that most average people would hear a thumping exhaust note and think, oh that’s a Harley!
The Street 500 is fitted with a 494cc (30 cu. in) liquid-cooled, Revolution X™ V-Twin. Designed specifically for the Street 500/750 series, the greatest changes are the 60° V arrangement of the cylinders compared to the traditional 45°, and that this is a liquid-cooled engine instead of the traditional air-cooled. Harley purists will bemoan any attempts to step too far from history, and these are both radical departures, but they provided reliability, smoothness, and great torque delivery, all traits that help new riders build comfort.
The riding position is more towards the standard upright configuration, as opposed to the more common stretched legs, forward control, and positioning of most cruisers. Taller riders may even find it a bit cramped. This rider geometry does provide a very natural and familiar position that most new riders enjoy. The controls are simple and well laid out, the Harley faithful will notice right off that the turn signals are confined to the left thumb and not the traditional one switch on each side, a small detail but one more way to help keep costs down.
The fit and finish of the bike as a whole stand out as another obvious cost-saving measure. There is nothing “bad” about the chassis, welds, paint finish, or feel of the parts of the Street 500 if you are comparing it to the standard set by its main rival, the Honda Rebel. This is just not the standard set by the higher model Harley-Davidsons and if you keep in mind that this bike has been priced to reflect its entry-level status, it becomes much more apparent why the higher models command the higher dollars.
The Street 500 has a decently tuned suspension, a comfortable seat, good handling, good looks, sub-par brakes, and a very basic instrument cluster. Being a 500, the power gets it done in the city and can hold freeway speeds but will have you planning your passing attempts carefully out on the highway.
Bottom line: The Street 500 is a decent entry-level bike from a performance standpoint, and a nice looking bike when parked among its rivals. I am not part of the crowd that will bash it as “not a true Harley”, it is an entry-level Harley-Davidson and should be praised for its goal of welcoming new riders. Have no fear, Jax Teller and crew won’t reject you but they may ask you to park in the back row.
Reasons to buy the Street 500:
It is a good looking bike and will get many compliments
The riding position is comfortable for most under the 6’ mark.
The 494cc Revolution X™ V-Twin engine is great on gas
The more upright riding position (compared to most cruisers) is generally more comfortable while improving riding skills
Enough torque to make stoplight to stoplight moves simple
Lightweight makes for easy low-speed maneuvers
Modern blacked-out styling
Reasons not to buy the Street 500:
You will always hear comments that it’s not a “Real Harley” because it’s not a Big air-cooled twin
The brakes are not the strongest and ABS was an option
There is a premium to pay to be part of the Harley family
Production Run & Notable Model-Year Changes
Production Run & Model Generations
Harley-Davidson introduced the Street 500 for 2014 as part of the “Dark Custom” lineup, with the aim of attracting new riders. Production for sale in the United States and Canada was done at Harley’s Kansas City facility; production for the rest of the world, including engines, was done at the Harley-Davidson India subsidiary.
Minimal chrome to join the Dark Custom theme of Harley-Davidson
Owner Reviews of the Harley-Davidson Street 500
Press & Magazines
Street 500: Zac rides Harley-Davidson’s “budget bike”
“One thing that surprised me while riding the Street was the amount of positive comments I received about the bike. Several people came up to me with questions about the machine and said they really liked its looks. The bike may have a basic paint scheme and a mish-mash of styling cues, but people really liked the end result. Harley-Davidson forums are filled with negative comments on the bike’s fit and finish, but nobody I met seemed to notice or care.”
“We think most novice riders will be pleased with the total Street 500 package. The Harley-Davidson Street 500’s overall performance lends itself nicely for use as a city bike, but not so much for use as a road bike.”
The look – the Street 500 sits low and has a sweet blacked-out look to it.
Riding comfort – Your hands land on the bars very naturally, and the low seat height gives a great sense of stability and control to new riders
The Brand – It’s a Harley, and with that comes entry to an entirely unique culture specific to the brand.
Rarity – There are Street 500’s out there but not in huge numbers. Riding a bike you enjoy and don’t see on every corner is quite fun.
What Owners Complain About
The Brakes – multiple comments can be found complaining about the power of the front brake and the lack of feel. ABS became optional in 2017.
Performance – For a 500cc twin, the Street 500 doesn’t win many races against its rivals. The power gets the job done, but it is far from the leader in the segment.
The Bottom Line
The Street 500 is a good bike. Yes, it wears the Harley-Davidson badge, and it is a V-Twin engine, but this is not a traditional Harley-Davidson. To get the traditional experience new riders should consider the Harley Davidson 883 Sportster. What you get with the Street 500 is a Harley-Davidson offering comfort from the low seat height, lower weight, and higher reliability. The Revolution engines are fuel-injected, have a single balance shaft to smooth things out. This is a bike that hits the goal of being a great city cruiser with style.
The Street 500 has all the quality V-twin characteristics, broad torque curve, smooth power delivery, and good exhaust note. I don’t actually care that it is not the most powerful among its competitors, this is the bike that makes the owner smile because of how it looks and feels. It is a great partner for those relaxed rides around town just enjoy the sites and sounds. Brand recognition matters for some, and that is totally okay. Harley-Davidsons tend to get attention and the Street 500, even though it may not be a traditional Harley, will start conversations parked outside the coffee house.
Harley-Davidson Street 500 Competitors
If you’re looking at a Street 500, you may also want to check out the Honda Rebel 500.
Harley-Davidson Street 500 Specifications
The important specs are listed below. See the Wikipedia page for more detailed specifications.
494 cc (30.1 cu in), 60° SOHC, water-cooled V-twin with balance shaft
Est. 160 km/h (99 mph)
29.5 ft. lb. (40 Nm) @ 3,750 rpm
R: Dual shocks
F: Single disc. Twin-piston, floating caliper, optional ABS
R: Single disc. Twin-piston, floating caliper, optional ABS
F: 100/80-R17, R: 140/75-R15
L: 2215 mm (87.2 inches)
W: 815 mm (32.1 in)
H: 709 mm (27.9 in)
640 mm (25.0 inches)
Dry: 223 kg (492 lb)
Wet: 233 kg (514 lb)
13.1 l (3.46 US gal)
64 mpg (3.68 L/100 km)
Harley-Davidson Street 500 Communities & Resources