Great news! The Rods finally had their second child. They named him 'Street.' Only trouble is, he and his brother 'V' don't get along too well. Such sibling unrest is unusual for the normally tight-knit Harley families. The typical Harley family of bikes is a very similar set of siblings. Despite the cosmetic variances within each model family, be it Dyna, FX Softail, FL Softail, Sportster, or Electra Glide, the riding experience remains quite similar.
The same cannot be said for the brothers Rod. When these two go out to play together, Street gets bored cruising boulevards. V gets uncomfortable leaning hard into fast corners. Street likes Ginger. V wants Mary Ann. On paper the differences between the new 2006 VRSCR Steet Rod and the original VRSCA V-Rod are notable, but few in number. However, when the rubber meets the road these bikes could be from different continents. Which actually stands to reason. While the V-Rod is aimed squarely at the US power cruiser segment, the Street Rod is built to tackle the EU.
It's often said that Harleys can't be compared to other motorcycles, only other Harleys. Recognizing this, when the Street Rod was introduced there was only one option: a head-to-head comparision with its older brother. To make it even more interesting we decided to not run the bikes in lane-splitting, canon-carving Southern California. No. They should be run where they were created, the MidWest. To top it off, we thought we would even get a diversity of opinion. A street rider and a touring rider.
Point of view #1:
Longride Finds The Forward Controls
By: George "Longride" Obradovich
I was lucky enough to test the two newest Harleys on the block with "Evo" Don. Don and I rode up to Milwaukee to pick up a V-Rod and the new StreetRod from the Harley-Davidson Juneau Avenue facility.
We ended up with each bike for 2 weeks and rode the Chicago byways to get a good impression of each bike.
Chicago riding doesn't really include many of those scenic roads and racetrack corners. It's more about seeing and being seen in the Windy City.
So Don and I took the bikes to the Michigan lakefront and up Sheridan Road a bit to hang with the beautiful people. Not to mention showing you MO-ridians a bit of our beautiful city.
I don't think we could have picked two better bikes for the task.
If you haven't ridden one of these bikes, you will be in for a treat. The motor does not disappoint in the power department.
"Both of these bikes have the "Revolution" engine, which kicks some serious butt compared to any other Harley you have ever encountered."
Anything over 4,000 rpm and the motor pulls like crazy. There is no sudden power hit. It just keeps pulling harder all the way to the red line. These bikes have excellent "real world" power. Passing slackers on the highway, playing point and shoot in rush hour traffic, or ripping through a few gears when the road is clear, is all good fun with these bikes. These bikes aren't chuggers though. They do not like to be lugged down to idle. If you do, it will buck like a bronco. Keep the revs up just a bit, and all will be well. One would think that having the same motor would pretty much ensure the same experience. Only Harley could take the same motor and create two completely different machines. They may be brothers but they sure aren't twins.
The V-Rod is up first. It's low and long, with a raked out front end and solid wheels. It looks fast just standing still. I have always liked the styling of the V-Rod, but figured that I would hate the forward controls and chopper-like handling.
Well, I didn't hate the forward controls as much as I thought, and it only took me about 5 stabs at the foot controls each time I came away from a stop before I found them. "Oh, they are out there", I concluded. Couple that with long throw shifting and funky hand controls and you know this is a Harley through and through.
The forward controls were funky, and the super-slow speed handling was a bit floppy, but I got used to it quickly and enjoyed the bike. I especially enjoyed the killer motor. The seating position might be weird, with your butt low to the ground, and your legs stuck way out front, but the handling is not. The bike handles very well for how it's laid out.
The only thing that lets it down is soft suspension. It does pogo when the going gets fast and the ground clearance gets used up before the tires do. With some suspension work it would handle much better but it isn't bad to begin with. I likened the cornering experience to riding a street luge.
"Our test bike was equipped with saddlebags, a small windshield, and an accessory seat. These made the bike much more practical for every day use than the standard bike would be, and commuting to work was great."
Another peculiarity is the disc wheel on each end. I had never experienced "disc steer" until I hit I-94 out of Milwaukee, with a 35 mph cross breeze. The bike trying to change lanes with no help from my end, and the front end wiggling back and forth in a truck's wake was interesting. It wasn't as much dangerous as it was annoying. It was just one more thing to get used to.
One thing I never got used to was the amount of attention this bike gets. The general public just goes crazy for this bike. No bike I have ever ridden has ever drawn so much attention from John Q. Everywhere Don and I stopped, people wanted to know and talk about the V-Rod. Emotionally, this bike is a winner.
On a more practical side, the gas mileage hung in the high 30's and never seemed to vary much from there. The smallish 3.7 gallon gas tank limits range to about 120 miles, give or take a few. Our test bike was equipped with saddlebags, a small windshield, and an accessory seat. These made the bike much more practical for every day use than the standard bike would be, and commuting to work was great. I had a place for my rain gear and lunch in the saddlebags.
The instrument cluster is basic, and has a tach, speedo, and a gas gauge that was a bit erratic. It would show empty right after you filled the tank, and then would decide a few miles later that you really did have a full tank. Weird. Even weirder, is that it stopped doing that after a few days, and read normally after that.
The one big complaint I had is that Harley really skimped on some of the components on this bike. They go to the trouble of making a beautiful frame and wheels, styling it to the 9's, putting steel braided lines on the brakes and clutch, and leave handlebar controls, mirrors, radiator hoses, and kickstand looking like crap. These parts really stand out against the quality of the rest of the bike. They could have really made this bike a showpiece. But they went the cheap route on a few components. I noticed you could find upgrades to these cheesy components in the Harley-Davidson Genuine Accessory catalog. Hmmmmm.
Time Out For A Rant
Why is it that motorcycle manufacturers can't position a set of mirrors on a bike so you can actually see something behind you?
The V-Rod mirrors were crappy looking, but semi-useful. The ones on the StreetRod not only looked like crap, but I couldn't see a damn thing in them, except my elbows. I wanted to pull them off and throw them in the weeds.
Nothing bugs me more than things like this. Things that can be fixed so easily, but manages to make their way into production. Don't the test riders say anything about this stuff? Is it really worth compromising rider safety for mirrors are an inch and a half shorter, just so they look good? Am I the only one that has this problem?
Deep breath... Now I feel better.
So, the StreetRod is up next. This was the bike that was the answer to all the concerns some people may have had about the V-Rod. Tank too small? How does 5 gallons grab ya? Don't like the forward controls, or limited cornering? How about we put your feet under you, and give you way more cornering clearance? Hate those solid wheels? Would these cast, 10 spoke wheels be up your alley? Yes, the StreetRod is the practical V-Rod. It's still got that great motor, but the riding experience is as different as night and day.
The riding position is classic "naked standard". You sit up on top of the bike rather than "in" it. The seat is a bit of a plank, but I've sat on worse. This bike is still long and heavy, but the front end rake is tightened up a few degrees from the V-Rod, and this bike certainly has solid -- and stable -- handling. Heel this one over and it tracks like it's on rails. It isn't nimble, but the stability is comforting. It's also got some stiff suspenders on it. Maybe a bit too stiff for my liking, but it certainly didn't shimmy and wallow around the bends.
"This bike is great on the back roads and isn't too bad on the highway either."
Did I mention the brakes? To use the Brembo brakes effectively on this bike, you need to cut off at least three fingers, to make sure they never touch the lever. These things are one finger strong. They have lots of initial bite, and threatened to throw me over the bars if any more than two fingers got near the lever. These brakes actually make you ride more aggressively, because you know these guys are up to anything you ask of them. After two days on this bike, I wanted these brakes on every bike I own. They are that good.
This bike is great on the back roads and isn't too bad on the highway either. I can't see it as a touring bike, but you could go places on it. The instrument nacelle actually keeps some of the wind blast off your chest, so cruising at 75 mph doesn't become a wrestling match with the handlebars. Trouble is, the angle of said instrument pod is such that its view is obscured, unless you duck your head to look at it. Not having your eyes on the road is not a good thing when that Peterbilt is bearing down on you. And that scenario will happen often, with the state of the instruments, and terrible mirrors.
Between the heat from the pipes and the radiator fan blowing more hot air, the lunch special when I got home was "Roast Leg of Longride".
Besides the mirrors, I had only one major gripe with the StreetRod. In hot weather it has some heat management issues. In the downtown heat when we were crawling along, I kept seeing Don moving his right leg out away from the bike. I was wondering if he had too much caffeine, or maybe had a cramp. Then we switched bikes for the ride back home. Stuck on the Eisenhower Expressway (that was moving at 10 mph), in 95 degree heat, I found out why Don was fanning that leg.
Well done for me, please! Damn this thing is HOT when you aren't moving faster than 20 mph. I rode it many hot days, and each was the same. I needed one of those NASA heat shields strapped to my thigh to deflect the blast. Ok, there is a little drama there, but it is a bit of a nuisance.
The cheap part syndrome also attacked this bike a bit. While there are some positively gorgeous pieces on this bike, such as the inverted forks and stunning triple clamp, the same ugly mirrors and cheap plastic rear turn signals were there to do their best imitation of a sore thumb. Harley could have done better. While I'm on a roll, the gas gauge had the same glitch that the V-Rod did, where it would show an empty tank at fill-up and then take its sweet time to register full.
On another note, styling on this bike is not as extreme as the V-Rod, and that is a good thing in some people's eyes. Younger people seem to be drawn to the styling of the StreetRod. I was asked many times about the bike, and it always seemed like the under 30 crowd had the interest. I thought it looked great.
In my evaluation of these bikes it may sound like I was picking on the StreetRod and V-Rod a bit, but when you ride something for 2 weeks you notice all the pimples. I just wanted to be honest about what I saw and felt. All bikes have their strengths and shortcomings. I can assure you that these are wonderfully competent, fast, and reasonably comfortable motorcycles. I loved riding them, and I think anyone would do well to test ride one of these bikes. Harley actually lets you test ride them. Not many other manufacturers allow that. They are the best Harley-Davidsons I have ever ridden. Period.
If they decide to put this motor in a touring platform, I'll be first in line to get one. But the question is which bike would I choose here? Well, I'm a shallow guy, and the looks and the versatility of the V-Rod won me over. I could tour on it with bags and a windshield, or hop up the motor for a custom street racer, or spend every last dime chroming and polishing it to have a street show bike. Or I could do some of all three.
The StreetRod is great fun, but I can't see it with bags or bling. To me, it's just a real fine naked standard. It's certainly the fastest, best handling, hardest stopping Harley I have ever ridden. If the riding here in Chicago means seeing and being seen, I wouldn't mind being seen on either of these bikes.