The V-Rod Muscle\'s style is certainly distinctive starting in the front with the air box cover, trimmed fender, faux wire mesh air intakes, large radiator shroud and integrated LED turn signals in the mirror stems. In the rear a chopped fender with integrated LED turn signals/stop light and side mounted license plate finishes the look of the Muscle.
With a seat height of only 25.6 in. flat footed the V-Rod shouldn’t be an issue even for those sub six footers. The seat is a new design that is only found on the Muscle. Like every other V-Rod though you still need to get off the bike and lift the seat to access the fuel filler cap. This particular V-Rod Muscle had an accessory "sissy bar" for the rear seat passenger.
At the heart of the V-Rod is a 1,250cc Revolution Engine designed by Harley Davidson\'s Powertrain Engineering team and Porsche’s engineering team in Stuttgart, Germany. It is a liquid cooled, dual overhead cam, internally counterbalanced 60 degree V-twin engine producing ~120 HP at 8,250 rpm (redline: 9,000) and 86 ft lbs of torque at 6,500 rpm. This massive engine is rubber-mounted in a hydro formed steel perimeter frame to reduce vibration.
Whack the throttle and the V-Rod hustles to 60 mph quickly for a 673 lb. motorcycle (full of fluids). Third gear at 5,000 rpm is sheer bliss and I found it perfect for either around town riding or cruising on the highway. Sure there are two more gears left but trust me, keep it in third between 5-7,000 rpm and you’ll be as close to heaven as you can come without actually seeing the pearly gates.
The V-Rod utilizes Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI). Unfortunately the throttle sometimes stuck in the open position and none of the adjustments I made seemed to help. Even when I didn’t experience that problem I still had to grab almost two fistfuls of throttle to reach maximum rpm’s and that was cumbersome. I think there’s a balance between too much throttle sensitivity and a total dead zone but the V-Rod hasn\'t found it and falls into the latter category.
The dual exhaust system on the V-Rod Muscle is a 2-1-1 design and looks like you stole it off a big rig. This is a departure from its siblings as they normally have a 2-1-2 setup. Surprisingly at idle or at speed there’s no "rattle your teeth out" feeling which some Harley’s are known for. As a matter of fact the V-Rod is extremely quiet and relatively free from vibration. Too quiet some might say so you wouldn’t have to twist my arm very hard to add a set of aftermarket pipes to fully hear that V-twin rumble and shake.
Harnessing all that power’s not easy but the belt system and slipper clutch works well and with a 240/40R-18 rear tire there is no question about "hooking up." The front tire is a 120/70ZR-19 and both tires are from Dunlop mounted on silver and black, 5-spoke cast aluminum rims. The tires provided plenty of grip but with such a large rear tire it wasn’t easy leaning into turns and when I did I kept scraping the front peg feelers so ground clearance is at a premium.
Examining the dash and you’ll find it’s somewhat of a throwback to the muscle car era. Of course being fitted on a bike named "Muscle" it should be. The tachometer, speedometer and fuel gauges are all analog and remind me of a ‘69 Camaro or a ’67 Shelby GT500. There are warning lights however which will tell you if you have engaged your high beams, are currently in neutral, have a turn signal on or have an issue with low oil pressure, high coolant temperature and/or low fuel warnings. The only items that are digital are the clock, odometer and a reverse mileage countdown when you reach the red zone on the fuel gauge.
Speaking of fuel consumption the V-Rod sucks down gas more than a top fuel funny car. OK, maybe not that much but I never got over 25 mpg and around the 100 mile mark I started looking for a gas station. So even filling the 5 gallon fuel tank you’re still going to make friends with your local gas station attendant real quick.
I’ll admit that I’m not an NFL linebacker but I’m not the smallest person on the block either. I mention this because I could just never get comfortable with the seating position on the V-Rod. Perhaps it was the forward foot controls or the position of my hands but to me the whole rider triangle seemed off. At the end of a full days worth of riding my limbs were sore and aching. Add the fact that there’s only 2" of clearance between the mirror lens and levers and shifting and braking took a toll on my fingers and wrists. This clearance issue never gave me an opportunity to fully relax my hands. I was wearing full gauntlet style gloves with carbon knuckle protection which may have exacerbated the issue but I think vertically and horizontally adjustable mirror stems should be implemented.
Hauling the V-Rod down from freeway speeds are a pair of Brembo 4-piston calipers squeezing 300 mm discs up front and a single Brembo 4-pistion caliper grabbing a 300 mm disc in the rear. With stainless steel braided brake lines lever feel was tight and never rubbery. The V-Rod has an option for ABS which mine had and it worked flawlessly. I should also mention that Harley-Davidson’s ABS is not a linked system (e.g. Honda), meaning the rider maintains full, independent control of both front and rear brakes. I did notice that the brakes seemed to fade and squeal after a period of hard braking so maybe a new pad material could be used.
Suspension wise a 43 mm inverted fork is used up front and a pair of shocks with black springs (adjustable for preload only) are used out back. Although I would’ve liked to have seen a fully adjustable suspension package the stock setup worked fine for most circumstances but when the pace quickened the V-Rod showed its lack of composure. A few times I bottomed out going over the occasional pothole and turn in was lethargic. This is most likely attributed to the V-Rod’s wheelbase of 67 in. with a rake of 34 degrees. Although this makes the V-Rod as stable as a tank it loses a few points when it comes to nimbleness.
The time I spent with the V-Rod gave me valuable insight into what type of motorcycle it is. It is an undeniably good looking motorcycle that makes you feel "cool" while riding it. This cool factor can’t be so easily dismissed as great pains go into marketing and building a motorcycle of this caliber to make you part with your hard earned greenbacks. This is precisely why you can have a grin on your face whether you’re going 20 mph or 120 mph. It is a motorcycle that can cross the boundaries of Harley riders of old and new up and coming riders who want to own a Harley Davidson. Not an easy task by any means but one that the V-Rod accomplishes without breaking a sweat.
The V-Rod is considered a power cruiser so its obvious competition is Yamaha’s Star V-Max, Triumph’s Rocket III, Victory’s Hammer S, Suzuki’s M109 and other like-minded motorcycles. Perhaps a 2WF Power Cruiser Showdown is necessary for a true comparison but until then let’s just say that Harley Davidson’s V-Rod isn’t perfect but has some of the characteristics needed to be named "King of Muscle" (not that we are naming it that without a full comparo mind you).
The 2009 Harley Davidson V-Rod Muscle has a manufacturer\'s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $17,199 with plenty of accessories to increase that price tag. Color choices are; Vivid Black; Dark Blue Denim; Red Hot Sunglo (New); Brilliant Silver (New). Like all Harley Davidson paint jobs they look much better in person (in the sun) than they do in pictures so make an appointment at your local dealer to see them all up close and personal. Visit Harley Davidson’s V-Rod web site for more information.