The beauty is also a beast

by TONIO DARMANIN

In the January issue, I reviewed the Honda VTX 1800 and, while admittedly this bike really impressed me, it had been a difficult decision in Gordon’s showroom to choose this above the Harley V Rod. On the other hand, Gordon’s reassuring smile that it was simply a matter of deciding which to ride first, made me return the VTX 1800 with a mixture of reluctance and great anticipation.

This whole biking adventure is developing nicely and, in a relatively short period of time, I have experienced a very wide range of different bikes and scooters, have made many numerous new friends and am really taking to the biker lifestyle.

One of the most common questions I get asked, apart from which my favourite car is, relates to my favourite bike. As with cars, I do go through the process so well described in the Maltese language “tara wahda u tinsa l-ohra” or in my case “issuq wahda u tinsa l-ohra”, however certain models do remain well impressed in my memory.

One such model was the Sportster, possibly more for the fact that this was my first Harley experience than for its impressive attributes, but impress me it did.

Many purists do not consider the V Rod to be a real Harley since it constitutes a complete break with tradition. It sports a water-cooled engine designed by Porsche, it is smooth, well constructed, it enjoys a futuristic designed and is very, very fast. This ‘shock’ creation came into existence in 2001 as the VRSC or V-Twin Racing Street Custom with an engine-based on the VR1000 super bike racing unit and aimed to compete against the muscle bike.

The V Rod is potentially one of the best looking bikes ever. Long, low and distinctively menacing, with a cruiser styling accentuated by the front fork protruding at 38% and holding in place a solid disc wheel matched with a similar one at the rear. The bike I rode was not an ordinary model but a special anniversary 2003 edition celebrating 100 years of Harley David­son building legendary motorcycles, charac­terised by an anodised aluminium finish and distinctive Harley insignia.

What I don’t like is the louvred air-intake between the tank and the headlamp that looks more like a cheap cheese grater than anything else. In true Harley tradition, the previous owner responsible for the 1,400km on the clock, before I got my hands on it that is, also put his personal touches to the machine including a Stage 1 tuning kit complete with Screamin’ Eagle exhaust.

“This ‘shock’ creation came into existence in 2001 as the VRSC or V-Twin Racing Street Custom with an engine-based on the VR1000 super bike racing unit and aimed to compete against the muscle bike”

The V-Twin, DOHC water-cooled, fuel injected Revolution engine is the one found in the original version of the V Rod manufactured between 2002 and 2006. The 1,130cc unit deve­lops an uncharacteristic 105bhp taking the Rod to a maximum speed of 135mph with tons of torque and a beautiful balance of power. It shifts between being a slow speed and laid back cruiser to a relentlessly powerful beast at the twist of the throttle.

Big bikes remain somewhat intimidating when one straddles them for the first time, but a few minutes on the V Rod were enough to make riding it an easy and pleasurable experience. Suspension is comfortable until one hits one of the deeper potholes that our roads invariably throw at us from time to time. Brembo breaking is brilliant and handling is fine but I would personally have wider handle bars fitted if I had to buy the bike, something I am seriously tempted to do.

To film the V Rod for the Paqpaq TV show, I met up with an old friend on his FatBoy on a bright Sunday morning and once we were done at the Vittoriosa Waterfront, we cruised up to Apple’s Eye where the bike attracted the admiration of one and all, not only Harley enthusiasts but also of those who normally prefer Japanese precision and performance to the American legend, proving that this model is managing to achieve what it was originally intended to do.

This article was first published on Times of Malta on February 9, 2009
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