Performance, agility and sport-like riding are not what most people associate with Harley Davidson. Classic styling, heavy metal and laid back cruising are more likely to click with the legendary name even though this hardly describes the new VRSC Street Rod. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
It’s perfectly normal for any given manufacturer to slap on a new set of mirrors, rims and a paintjob to justify a new model. The Street Rod is anything but a minor automotive “nip and tuck”. At first glance, the Street rod might look like a customised V-Rod to some who will be asking “what’s new”?
Harley stunned the world and customers alike with the V-ROD concept a few years back that set the stage for the second model in the VRSC family tree, the VRSCR Street Rod.
In short, this new bike was built to do some swift riding at more than expected lean-angles and will eat up any road from bend to bend like no other Harley to date. Core values of its mechanical heart are agility and performance, which are obvious in every new feature of the motorcycle.
At first glance, perhaps nothing is more obvious than the raised straight-shot dual exhaust pipes, which apart from a different look; gives this new Harley an impressive 40 ° Lean-angle and boosts the horsepower to 120hp at 8250 rpm.
A steeper rake supported by inverted front forks add to the staggering cornering ability which will soon have new owners taking the long way home via the closest section of bendy tarmac. Further additions to handling are the 300mm dual front rotor Brembo brakes, mid mounted foot controls and a short, forward-set handle bar.
The Street Rod is notably taller with increased ground clearance, which also enables the larger fuel tank increased from 14 to 19 litres. This point in particular has been a major complaint among V-ROD owners that found filling up the bike almost as familiar as riding it. The good news is that on a Street Rod you’ll be able to do between 270-300kms on a tank if you are well behaved and easily 250 at warp speed. As before the tank is located under the seat, but the Street rod boasts a new flip up seat that locks in seamlessly with the rest of the padding, no key required. Short riders will find the new 762mm seat height challenging.
Another major complaint from VROD-ers was the awkward positioning of the ignition lock, which has been addressed with a move to the front-right of the bike that allows a keyless start like some of the premium classic styled Harleys.
The space age instrument cluster has been revised to a two-segment display instead of three that separates the fuel read-out from speed and revs. The Speedo readout size has increased as its likely you’ll need to watch it like a hawk to avoid a pleasant chat with the boys in blue. The only complaint here is the viewing angle seems to be at odds with the new aggressive riding position. Even medium height riders will find they need to look down a fair way to see how much their ticket is going to cost them. The angle of the cluster is more suited to the ‘easy-rider’ layout of the VROD where the rider is a lot further back on the bike. The rest of the controls are decked out in standard high-quality finishes. Buell and other manufacturers could learn a thing or two to replace their low budget controls with something of similar quality.
The Street Rod’s good looks are still very much V-ROD with plenty of difference apart from the obvious. The taller bike overall make it’s appear a lot shorter and stocky than the VROD and the cast wheels made in Australia give a distinct appearance with their staggered design. The vented grill design seen on the new Brembo brakes is carried through on the drive-train cover and fuel tank. The higher rear fender makes way for a visual gap over the back wheel taking it further away from the low slung, drag-like VROD. Other details like the trick foot and passenger pegs also give cue to the Street Rod’s intentions. Needless to say, the Street Rod will pull a crowd wherever you decide to park it.
On the road, the street rod behaves like no other hog available, VROD included.
Swing it through some tight corners and you’ll forget that you are sitting on a just-under 300kg hunk of metal thanks to the sweet lean angle and a serious set of brakes.
For such a large bike (a few kilos heavier than the VROD) the brakes had plenty of bite and give the rider tons of confidence to pull up fast when needed. The steeper angled rake now 30 ° / 110 also adds to the difference even though flicking the hog around still requires a bit of muscle.
The 1130 cc Revolution mill still sounds great with some added zing courtesy of the new exhaust system that brings a bonus 5 ponies to play with. The angle of the pipes also makes the induction growl much more audible that the VROD – to the point that an aftermarket pipe hardly seems necessary. For the traditional window breaking Hog enthusiast it will still be too quiet, but under a good twist of throttle, the glorious noise is hardly lacking in oomph.
The flexible Revolution engine hasn’t lost any of its potency with a redline of 9,000 rpm and a buffet of torque to chow down on along the way. Even though ‘spirited riding’ is what this bike was built for, you can just as easily ride the wave of torque and take on a whole section of bends in one gear. It takes some getting use to the fact that after you hit the standard HD 4-5000 rpm limit, you still have a long way to go. Short shifting is all too easy and it’s not until you start playing with the top end you really get a feel for what the Street Rod is about.
Shift up to 5 th gear and you’ll cruise at 110kms turning over around 3500 rpm. Until you get to some very open road, you might not even notice the 5 th cog unless you hate the sounds of the revolution – which is highly unlikely. Speaking of cogs, shifting them is no hassle at all with a solid, smooth gear change that is central to a good fang through the corners. Actually we didn’t notice it much at all so we figure it must have worked.
Numb tailbones, aching wrists and random hurting limbs are symptoms of long hauls on most two-wheeled machines. The Street Rod is possibly the most comfortable bike we’ve tested, and definitely the most comfortable Harley we’ve tried over a longer distance. How so?…the moderately sporty riding position, great suspension and a firm but ergonomic seat that will keep your rear from numbing. Some bikes were fitted with the optional screen that proved to be worse than useless with notable vibration and a good buffeting to the head.
Passenger comfort? Don’t know yet, but the rear seat look a bit less frightening than that tapered stub of rubber found on the stock VROD. While the second seat on the Street Rod is no sofa, it looks to be able to comfortable hold a smaller rider for shorter trips. Anything more should have you browsing for a backrest.
After 600kms on the Street Rod over 2 days, the only thing that hurt was handing the keys back.
In closing the Street Rod is a carefully thought out bike that has addressed a lot of the feedback since the launch of the VROD which has made it worth of being named a new model.
The Street Rod is a performance Roadster that pushes all boundaries of the Harley Davidson brand and opens up yet another section of the market that can now consider this Hog for some serious cornering fun.