After a week and over 1,000 kilometres with Harley Davidson’s stunning new V-Rod I must say I was sad to be handing the machine back. This surprised me, I am a confirmed sportsbike addict, always hankering for the latest crotch rocket.
Forget your preconceptions about Harleys; the V-Rod is a smooth and very refined package. In fact, it is the most polished cruiser available. A distinct lack of vibration, and a smooth revving powerplant serve to make the V-Rod a new type of Harley.
The 1,130cc V-Twin engine is water-cooled, a first for Harley-Davidson. A sophisticated sequential fuel injection system feeds through a pair of 53mm throttle bodies and supplies each of the four-valve cylinder heads. Double overhead camshafts operate those valves and help the machine spin freely all the way to the 9,000rpm rev-limiter. Forged pistons and a forged steel crankshaft swing inside a wet-sump, aluminium crankcase.
9,000rpm is a heady number for a large capacity V-Twin, and not too far behind the specialist sportsbike V-Twins from Suzuki, Honda, Aprilia and Ducati. That Harley has managed to achieve this, and truly rival the smoothness of the sportsbike powerplants, is quite a feat of engineering.
Harley claim 115 horsepower @ 8,250rpm and 74 lb/ft of torque at 7,000rpm. Unfortunately, to achieve these heady figures some bottom end performance has been sacrificed and the V-Rod does not have the earth moving torque from idle that the traditional large capacity cruisers enjoy. But that is the price you pay when the V-Rod offers around twice as much top-end power as mainstream cruisers.
All that power is transferred through a smooth five-speed gearbox. The shifter is operated via the foot-forward controls common to most cruisers, shift throw is okay, for a cruiser, but I think a shorter throw and more positive action would make for even more fun. Due to the nature of the engines appetite for revs I also suggest that the V-Rod could do with a much shorter first gear than fitted. As standard, first gear is good for 100kph, as a result getting the V-Rod off the line quickly can be a challenge.
The best solution, sit on the start line with the rear spinning a little, then nail the throttle to the stop when the lights turn green. Under controlled conditions of course. As a result, the engine spins straight in to the more ‘sweet’ part of it’s torque and power spread, much more rapid progress results. The Dunlop Sportsmax rubber soon hooks up though and the machines settles in to quick and smooth acceleration through the gears.
I enjoyed a couple of my more memorable runs through the Kangaroo Valley aboard the V-Rod. More touring based rubber would have the hoon in me leaving nice dark lines out of the hairpins, but the rear Dunlop refused to break away, no matter how much torture I meted out. I never thought I would ever find myself asking for rubber with less grip, but I wanted exactly that. If I had a V-Rod, more touring biased rubber would be fitted on the rear, just to enjoy laying black lines out of tight turns. I know, I know……………I can’t help it, but I also don’t want a cure…..
Top speed is in excess of 200kph, the V-Rod arrives there in around 15 seconds. 180 kilometres can be stretched out of the 14-litre under-seat fuel tank in highway mode, however consumption reduces during city commuting.
Harley’s have always looked good, but the V-Rod is truly something again. The anodised aluminium body panels combine with the stunning lines, polished aluminium and shiny chrome, to project a presence that passers-by can’t help but stare at. If you ride a V-Rod, prepare to be the centre of attention. This bike makes you feel really special, only MV Agusta’s F4 (click here for review) has given me as strong a sensation in that regard.
Handling is stable and secure, enabling the V-Rod pilot to scrape both pegs and exhausts when pushing hard in the turns. More ground clearance would be welcome and the V-Rod chassis could easily take advantage of more available lean angle. During my runs through the Kangaroo Valley I did have to show some restraint, less I take the bike back with half of its mufflers and pegs missing….
Strong braking is provided via twin 292mm discs up front and a single disc of the same size slows the rear. The brakes can fade a little when really pushed and the forks can strain to cope when full braking performance is used. But the show comes to a stop in a reasonably short distance, while remaining quite composed.
Comfort levels for the rider are acceptable. However those with short legs, or that just like to be closer to the bars, can select an optional seat that positions the rider 25mm closer to the steering head. Pillions will need to have a small posterior in order to be comfortable on the passenger seat. Those who wish to remain on friendly terms with their pillion can option a back support pad which should improve things markedly. I found the lip of the pillion seat to sometimes annoy the crook of my back when riding but I think this would improve as the seat supples over extended use.
Other options include a set of well-styled hard saddlebags that blend with the lines of the machine and offer some useful carrying capacity.
Harley Davidson’s V-Rod is a very special motorcycle, the only stumbling block for some prospective cruiser buyers will be the $30,500 price of admission. However for that money you get the world’s best looking hot-rod power cruiser, and a whole swag of jealous admirers.
Model – Harley Davidson VRSCA V-Rod
Engine – 1,130cc water cooled, 60-degree, V-Twin
Bore Stroke – 100x72mm
Compression – 11.3:1
Induction – Sequential EFI, 2x53mm throttle bodies
Starting – Electric
Fuel Capacity – 14 litres
Transmission – 5-speed
Final Drive – Belt
Length – 2,376mm
Seat Height – 687mm
Wheelbase – 1,713mm
Clearance – 142mm
Dry Weight – 270kg
Front Suspension – 49mm telescopic forks
Rear Suspension – Twin shock
Front Brakes – Twin 292mm discs
Rear Brake – Single 292mm disc
Warranty – One year, unlimited kilometres
RRP – $30,500