V-Rod cruiser isn't a typical Harley bike

June 25, 2004|by ARV VOSS/Motor Matters

Harley-Davidson's V-Rod power cruiser category has some drag bike influence reflected in its styling. Except for the V-Twin motor configuration, the Harley tradition has gone totally out the window with both the VRSCA and VRSCB "V-Rod" models, which don't look or sound like anything one has come to expect from America's oldest surviving motorcycle manufacturer.

The V-Rods draw their motive power from a 115-horsepower, Porsche-designed 1130cc DOHC, 8-valve Revolution V-Twin, liquid-cooled motor with electronic sequential port fuel injection. Exhaust exits via a unique and stylish, two-into-one-into-two single-side system. The motor develops 74 lbs.-ft. of torque, and is mated to a five-speed manual transmission, with a high-ratio spur gear primary drive and final belt drive. New for the 2004 model year is a 28-tooth front drive sprocket.

The V-Rod rides on twin-fork shock tubes raked 38 degrees up front, which is deceptive since the steering head is only 34 degrees. A futuristic headlight is integrated with an instrument pod including a round speedometer with resettable trip meter, flanked by a half-moon tachometer on the left and a symmetrically balancing half-moon fuel gauge on the right. Wheels are solid aluminum alloy discs, both front and rear. The forward disc is 19 inches, followed by an 18-inch rear, shod with a 180mm performance tire. Both are capped by aluminum fenders.


The V-Rod A series is now available in five colors, rather than the earlier, singular silver aura with its collective theme of silver painted, chromed and anodized aluminum components. The VRSCB is still available in the Anodized Aluminum finish, as well as Vivid Black or Racing Orange. The frame is finished in Black, as are controls, rear springs and brake calipers. The VRSCB's engine is finished in black and silver with highly polished accents, and there is a new interchangeable handlebar and more basic silver instrument pod. Harley refers to the "B" version's treatment as a medieval approach - I prefer to think of it as a more aggressive and sinister look. The A models get a new silver-leafed aluminum frame paint with a higher sheen than before.

What appears to be the fuel tank is really an aerodynamic, tank-shaped cover for the velocity stacks and air box that feeds the engine. The four-gallon fuel tank is actually hidden beneath the hinged, locking, forward seat section for a lower center of gravity. In terms of appearance, the V-Rod, in either the A or B version, is totally space-age, complete with swooping perimeter frame. My Racing Orange VRSCB test bike's

base price was set at $17,295 with the final sale price rising to $20,030

after adding the (Calif.) emissions fee, security system, destination and handling charges.

SUMMARY: The V-Rod, is built in Harley-Davidson's Kansas City plant and is undoubtedly the most technologically innovative product to have emerged from the Milwaukee-based firm in its century-plus history.

The V-Rod is exceptionally well balanced, weighing in at 596 pounds dry. The seating position is low (seat height is 26 inches) with bars ideally situated for optimum control, even during low speed maneuvers. The fuel-injected motor revs freely to a 9,000-rpm redline (a soft rev limiter kicks in at 8,800 rpm), with adequate low and healthier mid-range torque. Missing however, is the motor company's familiar rich, thundering staccato

note with the bike's stock exhaust.

The V-Rod's foot pegs, shifter and rear brake pedal are set well forward, and gear changes come more smoothly and positively than with other Harleys. Front suspension travel is only about 2 inches, and with the rake angle factored in, makes for somewhat abrupt bump encounters. Leaning into lower speed turns requires rolling on more power to avoid continued horizontal travel. At first this may seem unnatural to less experienced

riders, but the rewards are soon apparent. The solid disc wheels are free from the tuning required by the lace-spoke variety, and make flat repair possible, though, as with the Fat Boy, they offer a noticeable cross-wind resistance.

The Harley-Davidson V-Rod is especially appealing to riders who've never considered a Harley before, as it represents such a dramatic departure from the company's heritage. It is both a work of art to behold and a pleasure to ride. However, it isn't likely to replace the more traditional rides of dyed-in-the-wool Harley loyalists.


Harley-Davidson VRSCB "V-Rod"

Base Price: $17,295.

Price as Tested: $20,030.

Engine Type and Size: 1130cc liquid-cooled DOHC, 8-valve 60-degree Revolution V-Twin, with electronic sequential port fuel injection and two-into-one-into-two, single-side exhaust.

Torque (lbs./ft.): 74 at 7,000 rpm

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Drive Train: Primary drive - High contact ratio spur gear/final belt drive.

Suspension: Front - Tube forks with internal hydraulic damping; Rear - Twin shock absorbers.

Brakes: Discs 11.5 x 20 front (dual)/11.5 x 23 rear.

Tires: Dunlop 120/70ZR-19 front, mounted on an aluminum alloy disc wheel, 180/55ZR-18 rear-mounted on aluminum alloy disc wheel.

Wheelbase: 67.5 inches

Length Overall: 93.6 inches

Lean angle (l/r): 32/32 degrees

Curb Weight dry: 595.7 lbs.

Fuel Capacity: 4 gallons

EPA Mileage Estimates: 37 mpg city/47 mpg highway

Seat height: 26 inches

Copyright Motor Matters, 2004

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