It once looked like the bobber was going to overtake the cafe racer as the style of choice for aspiring motorcyclists, but in the surge of adventure motorcycles that has since taken the motorcycle scene by storm, is the bobber still cool?
That's the question I found myself pondering as I saddled up on the new Street Bob 114 at Hamilton's Road and Sport Harley-Davidson.
The Street Bob 114 is new for 2021 in the Harley-Davidson Softail lineup, with the new bobber of the family replacing the previous Milwaukee-Eight 107 powered model moving forward.
It's an interesting mix of traits that go into making the new Street Bob what it is, and for my money, I think it's possibly one of the best options in the Softail lineup thanks to its powerful engine and lightweight build. It handles well, rides comfortably in standard trim and is plenty of fun to ride. That's even before we talk about its styling.
Priced at $25,490 in the New Zealand market, for your extra $2000 over the base Softail Standard you get a great looking machine with bobber vibes with plenty of potential to further customise the machine to your tastes. Though, with that said it is a well-sorted machine out of the gate.
With the recent announcement that Harley-Davidson is discontinuing the air-cooled Sportster lineup in favour of a radically different Sportster S – running the Pan America's Revolution Max powertrain – the Street Bob 114 will be the Motor Co.'s primary Bobber product once the old Sportsters are gone at the end of the year.
My nearly week-long partnership with the Street Bob 114 started at the Australasian Harley-Davidson dealership of the year – Road and Sport in Hamilton – and saw a mix of riding from inner-city wanderings to exploring backroads out to the coast.
First impressions were, admittedly, a bit mixed.
Visually the Street Bob ticks all the boxes. With black paint and minimal use of chrome, it is certainly my type of cruiser. Personally, I don't want any of that flashy chrome stuff, mostly due to how much of a pain in the a** chrome is to keep looking good, particularly after a wet ride. I'd rather enjoy riding rather than fretting over the need to wash a bike after all.
With the bike fresh from its pre-delivery inspection with just 50km on the odometer, I had to take it easy on the wet roads I encountered on day one. The last thing I wanted was to let the rear wheel slide out and bin the bike on its beautiful black paint.
That almost happened as I unleashed the torque of the 114 cubic inch ( that's 1868cc for those who don't speak 'Murica!) Milwaukee-Eight V-twin, while I exited a roundabout after forgetting the big twin, doesn’t have traction control. It does have ABS as standard so at least I wasn’t going to skid out of control on the brakes.
The biggest adjustment to my perceptions of getting on a big Harley was the ergonomics, which I did get used to after some time on the bike but my initial thought was it was cramped in the leg department, a feeling exacerbated by having freshly jumped off my CRF250L Rally.
Seat height is just 680mm so swinging a leg over the Street Bob is no chore, while the mini-ape handlebars have you riding along with fists punching straight out which means you get the cool look of ape hangers without your hands going numb on a long ride.
In fact, the Street Bob 114 actually turned out to be quite a pleasing ride out on the open road and was far from the bar-hopping city slicker the bobber styling has you initially thinking.
The reach to the bars and pegs are comfortable for my 176cm frame and while I would personally add an accessory windshield to the bike for long trips I found overall there wasn't much more to ask from the bike to enjoy a full day out on the road.
The biggest thing I think Harley has going for them when it comes to the Street Bob 114, however, is the pricing of the bike. While it isn't the cheapest bike in the world when you look at the competition you are getting a good bit of value for your money.
Firstly, you're getting a Harley-Davidson which, like it or not, means you get access to a wide community of dedicated enthusiasts at your beck and call just for buying the bike. Then there is the myriad of accessory parts to tailor the bike to your needs in general plus a wide dealer network to tap into wherever you are in the country.
Finally, it's just a damn cool bike to blast around on and with no nanny aids to get in the way of laying down rubber, it is a thoroughly enjoyable machine to let rip on and just enjoy riding.