2012 Harley-Davidson 10th Anniversary Edition V-Rod Review

V-Rod gets improved ergos, lighter wheels and pays respect to the original 'Rod


I distinctly recall the first time I saw Harley-Davidson’s V-Rod. With its long, low and slender profile, silvery paint from tip to tail and an eye-catching aluminum solid front wheel it was hard to miss, even in a crowded parking lot.

It seems like only a couple years ago I first gazed upon this Harley, but folks, the reality is that 10 years have passed since the tradition-busting V-Rod first rolled into the Harley lineup. Ten years! To mark the ‘Rod’s notable birthday Harley has created a 10th Anniversary Edition V-Rod as part of the company’s 2012 model lineup. The 10th joins the Night Rod Special and Muscle, making the VRSC series a family of three for this year.

Much like the 2002 V-Rod, the anniversary edition is also gleaming with a silver color job in homage to the original. More than just sentimental paint, however, the 10th Anniversary model receives some worthwhile updates aimed at improving rider comfort and handling.

2012 Harley-Davidson 10th Anniversary Edition V-Rod

Early ‘Rods developed notoriety for putting the rider into a “clamshell” posture via a long reach to the handlebar and forward foot controls. If you’re long-legged, or just generally tall, the ergos weren’t the worst thing on two wheels. But if your build is closer to my 5-foot-8-inch frame with 30-inch inseam, then the reach forward was a turnoff.

2012 Harley-Davidson 10th Anniversary Edition V-Rod

The updated V-Rod’s pullback handlebar is now 3.0 inches closer to the rider, while footrests are a little more than an inch closer. A new inverted, cartridge-style fork – a la the V-Rod Muscle – provides good damping for a smooth ride, and a 2.0-degree reduction in rake (36 to 34 degrees) tightens up handling. In addition to friendlier rider ergos, an all-new set of wheels gets top billing.

Chopping 4.8 lbs from the front wheel and 3.8 lbs from the rear, the new Split 5-Spoke cast aluminum wheels are a whopping 8.6 lbs lighter in total than the previous models’ wheels. One of the best ways to improve a motorcycle’s handling and improve suspension performance is to lighten the wheels. Mission accomplished here.

Other updates include a more tapered tail-section design with a new flush-mount LED taillight and integrated stop-turn-taillights similar to those on some of the Dark Custom models like the Nightster.

2012 Harley-Davidson 10th Anniversary Edition V-Rod

The V-Rod Night Rod Special, a model sold in greater numbers outside the U.S. than domestically, according to Harley, receives the same upgrades given the anniversary edition. And while both models have a special 10 Years emblem on the engine case, the anniversary edition ‘Rod is all the more special: Harley intends to manufacture this bike for one year only.

Improved indeed

If the V-Rod’s appearance doesn’t signal to you this is a Harley beast unlike any other, then its engine most certainly will set it apart from the rest of the H-D family.

For the birth of the V-Rod in 2002, Harley turned to renowned German sports car maker, Porsche, for assistance with engine design, and drew inspiration from the powerplant in the Harley VR1000 superbike. Going where no other production Harley Twin has gone before, the 2002 V-Rod was powered by an 1130cc liquid-cooled 60-degree V-Twin with overhead cams and dubbed the Revolution engine. The first-generation Revolution engine claimed 115 hp at 8250 rpm.

2012 Harley-Davidson 10th Anniversary Edition V-Rod

When we last dyno tested a V-Rod, the Street Rod in our 2007 Power Cruisers Shootout, the 1130cc Revo managed peak torque of 71.9 ft-lbs and 107 hp (approx 8000 rpm). Ten years later the V-Rods are motivated by the latest version of the Revolution, now displacing 1250cc. Claimed power output for the current engine is 125 hp at 8250 rpm and 85 ft-lbs at 7000 rpm.

If you’ve ridden a recent model-year V-Rod, then straddling either the 2012 Anniversary or Night Rod Special is a familiar experience since the 26.7-inch seat height is unchanged. However, reaching for the handlebar and footpegs reveals the controls on the new ‘Rods are significantly closer than on previous V-Rods. The overall sensation is a more compact rider triangle with nowhere near the clamshell posture previous models folded the rider into.

The saddle’s deep dishing and rear hump hold you securely as you wick up the power in the smooth liquid-cooled Harley, the billet-aluminum-looking engine accelerating eagerly all the way to its 9000-rpm rev limit. Equally as impressive as the engine are the strong-biting Brembo front calipers. Anti-lock brakes are part of the $1195 Security Package.

2012 Harley-Davidson 10th Anniversary Edition V-Rod

As welcome as the changes to the ergo layout are, so, too, are handling performance improvements gained from the new inverted fork, lighter wheels and shallower rake angle.

Steering effort is moderate to light, and the stout front-end keeps the bike tracking true through a turn. It’s quite a treat to hustle this Harley around a corner quicker than you might any other Harley. The chassis updates do an excellent job of masking any ill effects the 240mm rear tire might have on handling, except, say, during ultra-slow speeds.

The limiting factor to spirited riding is the V-Rod’s stingy lean angle. Get too aggressive and you’ll start scrapin’ sooner than you’d like. With so much riding performance potential, increased lean angle clearance would make a worthwhile improvement in future V-Rods.

2012 Harley-Davidson 10th Anniversary Edition V-Rod

A 67.0-inch wheelbase unchanged from last year can aid in giving the bike stability at speed, but when combined with that big rear tire, slow-speed maneuvers, like a tight-radius U-turn, are still a challenge to complete cleanly, as the bike feels cumbersome at a walking pace. You might find yourself second-guessing if you can get the V-Rod turned without dabbing your foot on the pavement like a back-up training wheel.

Good for another 10

The V-Rod was, and still is, a polarizing motorcycle. Traditionalists disliked the move to a foreign influence in engine design, while a new generation of Harley fans has embraced the performance-driven qualities so readily apparent in V-Rods.

For those loyal V-Rod fans we say, go experience the thoughtful ergo and performance enhancing updates to the 10th Anniversary V-Rod and Night Rod Special – we’re certain you’ll love ‘em. To the V-Rod’s detractors we say, go experience the thoughtful ergo and performance enhancing updates to the 10th Anniversary V-Rod and Night Rod Special – we’re certain you’ll love ‘em.

2012 Harley-Davidson 10th Anniversary Edition V-Rod

Just make sure to saddle up soon before all the 2012 10th Anniversary Edition V-Rods have left the building.

The 2012 10th Anniversary Edition V-Rod retails for $15,999. The Night Rod Special starts at $15,299 for Vivid Black, and $15,609 for Denim Black or Sedona Orange.

Related Reading
2012 H-D Updated V-Rod 10th Anniversary Edition and Night Rod Special Unveiled
2012 Harley-Davidson Models Updates
2009 V-Rod Muscle Review
2007 Harley-Davidson Night Rod Special Review
2007 Power Cruisers Shootout
2006 Harley-Davidson Street Rod Street Ride
2002 First Ride: Harley-Davidson VRSCA V-Rod
Track Test: Harley-Davidson VR1000
All Things Harley-Davidson on Motorcyclel.com

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2012 Harley-Davidson 10th Anniversary Edition V-Rod BJN20902
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2012 Harley-Davidson 10th Anniversary Edition V-Rod BJN88539
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