The Harley Davidson VRSCA V-Rod

Text: Daniel Neuhauser • Photography: Daniel Neuhauser

Without a doubt, the exciting new Harley-Davidson V-Rod was the attraction at last year's European Harley Bike Week in Faak, Austria. The wait in the long line of "test riders" seemed interminable, but eventually I saw what the buzz was all about and took a V-Rod ride for RoadRUNNER. The friendly and very professional working press team made it all possible.

Concept and Transformation
Comments about this "performance custom bike" were generally positive, and the machine was the main topic of conversation throughout the week.

Perhaps one sentence says it best, however. Defining the character of this extraordinary motorcycle, Harley Davidson's Chairman Jeff Bleustein put it this way: "The V-Rod has the heart of a superbike, the styling of a custom machine, and the performance of a dragster." With the introduction of the V-Rod, Harley-Davidson is reaching for a new target group; but of course, the other models are still in production, and in ever-increasing numbers. (Harley-Davidson is, after all, Forbes magazine's "Company of the Year.")

And although the V-Rod represents a departure for the company, many aspects of the new bike maintain the Harley tradition. There's quite enough pressure in the cellar of torque, a comfortable riding position, and that unique sound transmits a thrilling resonance emphasizing its special hot-rod character. The legendary Willie G. Davidson is responsible for the distinctive styling.

Riding Milwaukee Iron is a new experience for me, and very exciting - I grew up on street bikes, always leaning forward. Sitting in a relaxed position was novel and I was surprised several times...

Engine and Transmission
My first thought about the heart of this motorcycle was "This cannot be a typical Harley engine!" But deep inside you can feel the soul of H-D.

The V-Rod engine is a revolution, beginning with the 60-degree V2 and liquid cooling. Equipped with a sequential, electronic fuel injection, DOHC, and four valves per cylinder, it is based on the successful power plant in the VR 1000 factory racer, a veteran of the American Superbike Series. Porsche engineers trimmed that racing engine for production, and with 115 hp out of 1130cc/m at an engine speed range limit of 9000 rpm and torque of 88Nm at 6300 rpm, Harley set a new yardstick in the category of power cruisers.

The thrust feels great - the sound reminds me of the meanest dragster on the strip, but the comfort favourably compares to a four-cylinder touring bike - and only the good vibrations are sent to the rider. Shifting with the 5-speed gearbox is easy and exact. The clutch is comfortable.

Chassis and Brakes
A picture of the naked V-Rod frame should be in Webster's beside the word 'beauty.' The double-cradle, steel tubular frame is formed by high-pressure liquid to realize those fantastic curves. A 49-mm fork holds the front disc wheel, and an extreme rake of 34 degrees provides best balance at high speed.

The suspension works perfectly. My first impression was: "hard like a sport bike." Riding up to the old castle to find a good spot for pictures, I thought, I might hurt myself on that bumpy road. But surprise! That suspension swallowed any-sized holes without losing control. And if you momentarily lose traction, you can even feel the sand beneath the tires instantly.

Entering the first city after a ride on the highway, I was still a bit too fascinated by the V-Rod's driving force and had to slow down abruptly. So I pulled at the brakes without any respect. I expected to need extra power to stop a 280 kg/617 lbs. (without driver) cruiser. But the Milwaukee ghost punished me by giving me a lesson in "easy braking" when my seat lifted straight up to the sky. With those two front discs (292mm diameter [rear: single/292mm]), you can really anchor!

Accessories and Arrangements
The combination of chrome and aluminium looks cool and clean; the drag-racer geometry looks fast. You'll discover a lot of nice details, like the attractive brake- and clutch-fluid tanks. I like the disc wheels most: No more spoke cleaning! A head-turning profile in front of the coffee shop is guaranteed!

To me, it is incredible how directly you can steer while sitting in a lounge-chair position. The V-Rod proved to be the perfect two-wheeler to enjoy (without helmet) on a short trip around Lake Faak. But I can also imagine undertaking a longer trip on the curvy roads of the Alps. But who would want to carry luggage? This bike is too pretty to mount any cases. And it is advisable to enjoy this pleasure alone. The under-seat gas tank (15 l/3.96 gal.) will force frequent stops. But that's a small price to pay at the pump while enjoying the gawking and comments of many admirers.

Test Summary
Luckily the V-Rod is difficult to obtain in Europe, so I do not have to worry about learning a new sitting position. And because I really like the engine - What about planting this V2 in a naked bike? The technical performance of the V-Rod is unique, as well as the design. You don't need to spend any time in shops customizing; your time is better spent on the road where this power cruiser is all about one word: Fun!

TECHNICAL SPECS:
The VRSCA V-Rod

Retail Price $ 16,995
Warranty 1 year unlimited milage
Maintentance Schedule
1000/5,000/every 5,000 miles
Importer/Distributor
Harley-Davidson Motor Co., Inc., 3700 W. Juneau Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53208,
Phone (414) 343-4680,
www.harley-davidson.com

ENGINE
Type 2-cylinder, V, 4-stroke
Cooling water-cooled
Valve Arrangement 4 valves per cyl., dohc, cams chain driven, shim under bucket adjustment
Bore & Stroke 100 x 72 mm
Displacement 1130 cc
Compression Ratio 11.3:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Emission Control catalytic converter

TRANSMISSION
Gearbox 5-speed
Clutch multi-plate wet clutch
Final Drive belt drive

CHASSIS
Frame steel tubular frame, double cradle
Wheelbase 1,713 mm (67.4 in.)
Rake 56 degree
Trail 99 mm (3.9 in.)
Front Suspension inverted cartridge fork
Stanchion Diameter 49 mm (1.9 in.)
Adjustments No
Travel 100 mm (3.9 in.)
Rear Suspension alloy swingarm w/two shocks
Adjustments spring preload
Travel 60 mm (2.4 in.)

WHEELS & TIRES
Type billet aluminum wheels
Front 3.00 x 19
Rear 5.50 x 17
Front Tire 120/70 ZR 19
Rear Tire 180/55 ZR 17

BRAKES
Front Brake 2 discs, 4-piston calipers
Diameter 292 mm (11.5 in.)
Rear Brake 1 disc, 4-piston caliper
Diameter 292 mm (11.5 in.)
Anti-lock/Combining No

WEIGHT & FUEL CAPACITY
Wet-Weight 288 kg (640 lb.)
Fuel Capacity 15 l (3.9 gal.)

PERFORMANCE
(European measurements)
Claimed Horsepower (crank) 117 hp at 8,300 rpm
Torque 10.0 mkp (74 ft.-lbs.) at 6,600 rpm
Top Speed 220 km/h (138 mph)
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (0-62.5 mph): 3.6 s
Fuel Consumption 5.7 l/100 km (41.7 mpg)
Fuel Range 263 km (164 miles)

EQUIPMENT
Dashboard w/speedometer, tacho­meter and fuel gauge, digital gauge for odometer, key switch on the right side below seat, side stand.

RoadRUNNER Test Diagram
Engine 5/5
Chassis 4/5
Brakes 4/5
Comfort 4/5
Luggage w/accessories 4/5
Equipment 4/5
Design 4/5
Bike for the buck 4/5