The Harley-Davidson Street Bob has gone through several transitions of late. From its debut in the Dyna series in 2006 to 2016, the only change was a bump up from a Twin Cam 96 to the Twin Cam 103 in 2014. In 2017, the Street Bob became a Softail and acquired the Milwaukee-Eight 107 powerplant. Last year, the Street Bob had the ignominious experience of being functionally identical to the back-in-the-fold Softail Standard. Stepping back out on its own, the 2021 Harley-Davidson Street Bob gets the Milwaukee-Eight 114 motor and a few differentiators from the Softail Standard. Let’s go riding.
The Milwaukee-Eight 114 gives the Street Bob an obvious boost. To get to 114 from 107, the M-8 is bored and stroked, providing a balanced improvement. Peak torque is boosted by nine ft-lbs at the same 3000 rpm, giving the Street Bob 114 a total of 119 ft-lbs of torque that is always at your beck and call.
With that additional power comes more vibration—most noticeably at the smooth grips on the mini-ape handlebar ends. Given that this is a Street Bob and not a Highway Bob, it’s not a huge issue. I put in 50-mile non-stop chunks of urban riding on the Street Bob 114, and my hands were fine. However, you will feel the larger power pulses. Hey, that’s what you paid for.
Although the fists-in-the-wind riding position might look uncomfortable, it works everywhere but the freeway. Around town, you get the sought-after profile of authority. People notice the Street Bob 114 and you, and they aren’t shy about acknowledging it. The mid-mount foot controls provide a good seating position for dominating the motorcycle. The reach to the grips isn’t excessive, and it only takes a quarter-inch hex bit and a minute or so to pivot them closer or farther away from your body. A wide variety of riders will find the 26.8-inch seat height entirely acceptable.
While I’m on the subject of the handlebar clamp, I have to mention how much I like the minimalist dash. A tiny LCD is embedded in the clamp, and it’s virtually invisible to anyone not on the bike. It reads out the essential information—speed, fuel level, and gear position all the time. Plus, you get a one-at-a-time choice of left-thumb selectable info—odometer, tripmeter, time, rev count, and range—along the bottom of the display. There’s a separate collection of warning lights just below the clamp, and it is unobtrusive. There is something great about riding along on a motorcycle that isn’t continually throwing information at you—it’s just you, the motorcycle, and the pavement.
Weighing in at 655 pounds with the 3.5-gallon tank filled, the 2021 Harley-Davidson Street Bob 114 is agile around town. With so much torque on hand and the mini-ape bar’s leverage, it is easy to put the Street Bob where you want it. Filtering to the front of the line at a stoplight is usually an easy job, as the grip height is taller than the average car side mirror, yet lower than that of a typical SUV—perfect. The classic 19-/16-inch wheel combo and medium-width Dunlop Harley-Davidson D401 tires keep the steering light, while still providing a good footprint.
Hitting the twisties, you’ll notice a generous lean angle before the beveled feeler-free footpegs touch down. Typically mini-apes aren’t going to be conducive to good handling. However, on roads as varied as Mulholland Drive and Little Tujunga Canyon Road, the Street Bob 114 has no bad habits. You have to be working hard to hit the cornering clearance limits, and you always have plenty of pull exiting turns. If you want to twist the throttle to the stops on the straights, be prepared to see a high number on the dash very quickly. Setting up for corners isn’t a challenge—just brake and downshift as needed, and lean your body in. Should you need more lean than expected, pressure on the grips gets it done. It is an impressively fun canyon carving motorcycle, especially for one with 30 degrees of rake.
Showa suspension is due credit for much of the Street Bob 114’s good behavior. The Dual Bending Valve fork offers up over five inches of travel, while the single-shock moderates 3.4 inches of rear-wheel travel. The valving and springing is firm, and that keeps the Street Bob from wallowing around in corners. While providing nothing approaching a plush ride on LA’s derelict streets, the Showas never fail to take the edge off any hit. The suspension gives you a good feel for the road, adding to the Street Bob 114’s visceral feel. If you prefer suspension with damping adjustability, there are a wide range of options, all the way up to Öhlins units.
While not a long-distance runner, the 2021 Harley-Davidson Street Bob 114 will sprint down the freeway. The chassis is stable, and if you twist the throttle hard, you’ll be at 100 mph before you know it. During the run-up, you will notice that you are fully exposed to the windblast at highway speeds. That’s enough to keep the speeds reasonable unless you are passing—roll-on acceleration at 65 mph in sixth gear is outstanding—or just having some fun winding up the speedo.
Braking is always an essential part of going fast, and the Street Bob 114 will slow you down quickly—if you have the grip strength. Some Harley-Davidsons rely on the rear brake for deceleration. That’s not the case with the Street Bob 114, as the rear brake feels weak and is awkward to use. Instead, you’ll become well-acquainted with the 300mm disc on the proudly wire-spoke front wheel. Most of the time, it’s easy to slow the Street Bob down adequately. However, in situations where hard braking is needed, make sure you have a strong grip—plenty of pressure needs to be applied to the lever. As always, downshifting helps, and the six-speed Cruise Drive transmission is a willing accomplice, though you will want to keep in mind that the clutch does not have a slipper function.
A new feature on the 2021 Harley-Davidson Street Bob 114 is passenger accommodations. We couldn’t find anyone willing to sit on the deeply padded postage-stamp-sized seat, so it will be up to your passenger’s tolerance and posterior size to determine its suitability. I prefer the solo look, and Harley-Davidson makes it easy to uninstall the separate seat and pegs. The rider’s seat is comfortable for hours on end.
The Street Bob has found a new niche this year. It’s still a lightweight in the Softail scheme of things, and it’s the least expensive 114 you can buy. The 2021 Harley-Davidson Street Bob 114 is $1400 more than the Softail Standard, which is nearly identical, other than the motor, chrome, and finish. In the context of an urban brawler, there’s no need to bump up to the Street Bob 114 from the 107-equipped Softail Standard, other than the traditional reason—more power is more fun.
This week Teejay chats to Tyler Poppe. Tyler works on the TV show Mayans MC–and yet he doesn’t ride an American V-Twin. Wassup with that?? Also, Arthur finds out from friend Mike Cardillo about his thoughts on the full-size version of the Kawasaki KLX 140R F trail bike.