- The Washington Times - Friday, June 14, 2002

Harley-Davidson's latest two-wheeler falls into the power-cruiser category with some drag-bike influence reflected in its styling.

Except for the V-Twin motor configuration, tradition flies totally out the window with the new VRSCA "V-Rod".

It doesn't look or sound like anything one has come to expect from America's oldest motorcycle manufacturer.

The Harley-Davidson V-Rod is powered by a 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 is mated to a five-speed manual transmission, with a high-ratio spur gear primary drive and, final belt drive.

Up front are twin-fork shock tubes raked 38 degrees, which is deceptive since the steering head is only 34 degrees.

A futuristic headlight fronts an integrated instrument pod that includes a round speedo with resettable trip meter, flanked by a half moon tach on the left and a symmetrically balancing half-moon fuel gauge on the right.

Wheels are solid aluminum alloy discs fore and aft. The forward disc is 19-inches, followed by an 18-inch rear, shod with a 180mm performance tire.

Both are capped by anodized aluminum fenders.

The V-Rod comes finished only one way for now the entire bike takes on a silver aura with its collective theme of silver painted, chromed and anodized aluminum components.

What appears to be the fuel tank isn't it's really an aerodynamic, tank-shaped cover for the velocity stacks and air box that feeds the engine.

The four-gallon fuel tank is hidden beneath the hinged, locking forward seat section for a lower center of gravity. In terms of appearance, the V-Rod is space-age, complete with its swooping perimeter frame. My test bike's base price was set at $16,995 with the final sale price rising to $17,695 after adding the California emissions fee and destination and handling charges.

Don't get your hopes up for getting one at this price, as many dealers are bumping the sticker substantially.

The V-Rod is like no other Harley. It may well be the most technologically innovative product to have emerged from the Milwaukee-based firm in its hundred year history (Harley plans to build 10,000 V-Rods in their Kansas City plant this first production year).

The V-Rod is well balanced, weighing in at just under 600 pounds dry.

The seating position is low with bars ideally situated for optimum control.

The fuel injected motor revs freely to a 9,000 rpm redline (a soft rev limiter kicks in at 8,800 rpm), with adequate range for a low and healthier midrange torque. Missing however, is the motorcyle company's familiar rich, thundering staccato note.

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 Harley-Davidsons, though the clutch pull seems a tad heavy.

Front suspension travel is only about two 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 learned.

The solid disc wheels are free from the tuning required by the lace-spoke variety, and make flat repair possible.

The Harley-Davidson V-Rod will no doubt appeal strongly to riders who've never before considered a Harley, as it represents such a dramatic departure from the company's staid heritage. It is a work of art and a pleasure to ride.

Will the traditional Harley loyalist be moved by the V-Rod.

Probably not.

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