The unique muscle bike co-developed with Porsche has been put out to pasture.
While many are mourning the loss of the Dyna Big Twin lineup, the most un-Harley motorcycle in the Harley-Davidson family has been quietly discontinued during the heavy-duty revamp of the Milwaukee bike brand’s 2018 lineup: the V-Rod. The 2017 V-Rod Muscle and Night Rod Special were the final iterations of the VRSC (V-Twin Racing Street Custom) line.
Introduced in 2001, the V-Rod was intended to compete with Japanese motorcycles that many riders were flocking to as reliable, low-cost Harley alternatives. Everything from the engine to the overall design of the V-Rod was a pretty radical departure from the retro bikes that dominated Harley’s lineup.
As its name implied, the V-Rod still had a V-Twin engine, but this Revolution engine—co-developed with Porsche, and it was based on the engine in the VR-1000 Superbike Harley used in competitive drag racing—was the first overhead cam, liquid-cooled Harley-Davidson engine to see mass-market production. The cylinders were placed at a 60-degree angle, rather than the 45 degrees that’s key to creating the signature Harley-Davidson sound.
To meet Porsche’s standards (and possibly as a marketing gimmick), the Revolution passed the famous Düsseldorf Test at the Porsche Engineering Group’s Weissach Development Center in Germany. The Düsseldorf Test is a rigorous endurance test that requires an engine to run for 500 hours without failure. This proved that the V-Rod was both powerful and reliable.
As for the rest of the bike, it looked like no other Harley ever built. It had a hydroformed tubular frame, an athletic stance, a gas tank under the seat with a round-topped airbox cover up front posing as a gas tank, and it went easy on the chrome and other frivolous dressings common on Harleys. It was big, tough, and powerful, yet subdued, not unlike a classic muscle car.
The Harley-Davidson V-Rod will be missed. It was the Harley for the non-Harley rider that stood out as proof that the brand was capable of doing something different. From my own experience, I’ve heard a handful of riders say something along the lines of “I don’t think I’d ever own a Harley…except maybe a V-Rod.”