What do Beethoven and Metallica have in common? Or bratwurst and pecan pie? What does German engineering have in common with American Muscle? Nothing – you’d be inclined to think, right? Wrong! The answer is – the Harley Davidson V-Rod.
The Harley Davidson VRSC or V-Twin Racing Street Custom (I always get the order wrong) is a series of motorcycles better known as the V-Rod series. The Revolution engine used in the V-Rod motorcycles was developed in 2001 by HD and Porsche jointly, to compete with Japanese and American muscle bikes.
Until then, in Harley’s 99-year history, all motorcycles were powered by 45 degree, air-cooled V-twins with camshafts in the engine block. Harley and Porsche changed that with the new VRSC engine which for the first time was a 60 degree, liquid cooled V-twin producing 115 bhp and taking the newborn V-Rod from 0 – 100 in just 3.5 seconds.
I had the pleasure recently, of taking out the 2016 V-Rod Muscle from Harley Davidson’s DIP Dealership, aptly called ‘Desert Pearl’ (it’s in the middle of nowhere in DIP). I mention this here because the experience of riding out from the DIP showroom was an absolute pleasure.
The showroom is massive and is a biker’s oasis in the desert. Clint Peters, the branch manager is a beacon of two-wheeled wisdom and whips up one hell of a cuppa while he talks to you about the bike you’re going to ride out.
The V-Rod series was born in 2001 to attract a new breed of Harley rider – think designer denims ripped strategically, biker accessories on-point and a substantial wallet.
The strategy obviously worked because since then, V-Rods, Night Rods and V-Rod Muscles have popped up everywhere. Show up to any Friday ride in Dubai and you will see for yourself!
The first thing that strikes you is its extreme rake and you wonder how it will handle with a front wheel that’s way out there. But I got a very pleasant surprise. It handles brilliantly for a motorcycle that’s a foot shorter than a Smart car! Yes, process that!
‘Long and low’ were evidently the design cues given to the drawing board staff when sketching the blueprint for this beast of a motorcycle. The V-Rod Muscle harks back to the glory days of drag strip racing, muscle cars, mullets and black leather.
From exaggerated air scoops, the muscle-car inspired air box (Nope! It’s not the fuel tank), the low-slung seat and the drag handle bars – the V-Rod Muscle’s cosmetics definitely justify its name. It comes in a variety of colour options as well, my favourite being the Two-Tone Crushed Ice Pearl. I ended up with a Two-Tone Silver with – hold your breath – flames!! While flames definitely bring the V-Rod’s drag-strip legacy to life, I still think the time is right to get out of the ‘flames’ time warp, Harley! A massive 240 mm Michelin Scorcher brings up the rear on this muscle-bound cruiser.
The spec-sheet promises 115nm of torque and 120 odd horses. But for the V-Rod Muscle, ignoring the spec sheet and having your ‘ungentlemanly’ way with the bike is highly recommended! This is a bike that you will want to ride from daybreak till dusk simply because it’s so much darn fun!
For a 305kg motorcycle, the Muscle wears its weight really well. The bulk helps you stay planted when you’re giving it the gas and the chassis feels very well positioned.
You can adjust the pre-load to your liking but I got the V-Rod Muscle cranked just the right kind of stiff for my riding from the dealership itself.
The V-Twin engine displaces 1250cc and with such great compression, liquid cooling and fuel injection it feels like, well – not a Harley! Which is a good thing because I haven’t been on any other Harley Davidson motorcycle that’s quite as ‘bat-out-of-hell’ as this one.
However, if banging a bike through twisties and bends is your thing, the V-Rod Muscle is not for you. Which brings me to one of few hiccups that I experienced astride the beast – the controls are just too far forward for my liking and mid-controls would’ve been much appreciated.
The lean angle on the V-Rod Muscle is a bit disappointing too, because for a motorcycle that’s this fun to ride, I would’ve liked to throw it in the bends wantonly without having to worry about a chiding from the dealership owing to worn out foot pegs.
In a straight line though, the VRod Muscle will put a big smile on your mug! Gear shifting is precise, concrete and clunky – just the way I like it. There’s no searching for gears at lower RPMs and it’s very un-Harley like smooth even in stop-go traffic.
Gassing it is a euphoric feeling and stopping its sheer bulk is a worry- less exercise thanks to the really efficient Brembo triple four-piston calipers. Standard ABS is a deal sweetener although you won’t get it to do any stoppies with such a long wheelbase.
The V-Rod Muscle has a hydroformed stiff frame and with inverted front forks and standard twin-rear shocks, the overall ride is simply set up for fast, hard and aggressive riding. It’s evident that Harley Davidson puts a lot of effort into understanding the VRSC customer, thinking of the ‘little things’ such as the seat which grabs your behind thanks to a rear shelf, so that it ‘holds’ you securely when you accelerate towards the end of your insurance policy.
The instrument cluster on the bike is intuitive and well thought out. The self-cancelling turn signals, located very ergonomically, independently on the right and left sides are a little touch that warmed my heart. A ‘kms to empty’ reading on the instrument panel was another similar touch that’s a testament to Harley’s attention to detail.
I did, however, have some gripe with the headlight. With a bike that you will want to tear up the road on, it’d be nice to actually light up the way whilst doing just that at night!
The tachymeter proved to be too small to read at decent speed, but then the V-Rod Muscle was built to beat on the throttle till the revlimiter kicks in. The V-Rod Muscle doesn’t have much in the way of the Harley soundtrack that we’ve been accustomed to and sounds a lot like an in-line 4 than a V-twin.
This is only a small niggle though, that can be fixed to your aural leanings thanks to Harley Davidson’s vast inventory of aftermarket parts. In all, this is is a very capable motorcycle in the power cruiser category, even despite its anemic power shortfall when compared with a Suzuki Boulevard or a Triumph Rocket 3. It has the grunt and the straight line velocity to justify being in the same segment as the Yamaha VMax and the Ducati Diavel. And what it lacks in absolute power it more than makes up for in sex appeal and charisma. Now if only I could actually throw it into bends.