Harley-Davidson's Side-Piped Surprise - First Look

Really, with a name like Muscle, this bike’s biggest surprise is what an easy motorcycle it is to live with.

Harley-Davidson

Milwaukee's Big Twins have become incredibly civil over the years, but those air-cooled lumps are no match for the liquid-cooled refinement and power of Harley-Davidson's Revolution engine as used in the V-Rod.

It is the picture of smooth, soulful and—at 113.7-rear-wheel hp—powerful. Maybe not quite as "charming industrial" as a Twin Cam 96, but it isn't meant to be.

The latest version of the V-Rod to get this excellent 1250cc, 60-degree Vee is the $17,199 VRSCF Muscle. Mechanical departures from the V-Rod norm are few. Styling and stance are the news here, with the almost delicate slenderness of the standard Rod replaced by a wider, square-shouldered look. The muscle-car-inspired side-pipes cue into the wider, restyled bodywork, and the bobbed rear fender and folding side-mount license plate are tidy departures, too.

Is that legal? "There actually is no U.S. requirement for rear fender coverage," said H-D Communication Manager Paul James. "The real issue is the license plate—it has to be visible from all the angles required by every state."

LED stop/tail/turn lights are tucked like a thin blade under the fender. And just so you know, your back will get wet if you ride through water. Such is the price of style.

The contoured aluminum handlebar (with steel inserts for the grips/controls) is internally wired and the mirror stalks house yellow LED front turnsignals. Indeed, Harley-Davidson presents a cohesive aesthetic like few other manufacturers can.

The riding experience shows the characteristic integration and refinement we've come to expect from the V-Rod. Ride quality from the inverted fork and twin shocks is very good, especially in light of the 2.9-inch rear travel. It is good to remain aware of available cornering clearance, but thanks to the 34-degree rake, 67.0-inch wheelbase and the meaty 240mm-wide rear tire, a leisurely backroad pace is called for anyway. Considering these elements, handling and steering quality is pretty good. The rear brake is quite numb, but otherwise the Brembo system (with ABS a $795 option) worked well.

The riding position is laid back without being too laid back (the stepped seat helps here), and all the controls are buttery-smooth, including the lighter-pull slipper clutch introduced in 2008.Really, with a name like Muscle, this bike's biggest surprise is what an easy motorcycle it is to live with.

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle

2009 Harley-Davidson VRSCF Muscle