Harley-Davidson’s 2015 Night Rod Special is one of the coolest OEM performance cruisers available today. Its DOHC, four-valve, liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-Twin pumps out a measured 107.6 rear-wheel horsepower and 71.5 Ib-ft of torque. It’s straightline performance dominates most other cruisers regardless of engine capacity. Which makes sense considering the Rod’s affiliation to H-D’s Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Pro Stock machine. They’re only similar on the surface, but it gives the Night Rod some extra street cred.
“Face it, who wouldn’t be thrilled by the performance of Harley’s Porsche-designed, liquid-cooled 60-degree V-Twin,” says guest tester, Scott Rousseau.
From the Special’s narrow front end, sporting an industry-standard 120-series front tire, through its tightly packaged engine bay and under-seat fuel compartment to its thick 240-series rear tire, the Night Rod’s visual appeal is intimidatingly elegant. With 67 inches between contact patches, the Night Rod is long, but longer cruisers exist. It’s the combination of wheelbase length and wide rear tire that conspire to make the Night Rod’s handling a steep learning curve.
It takes a fair amount of bar pressure to leverage that wide rear tire up on the skinny part of its contact patch when aggressively navigating corners, turning sharply around town, performing parking lot maneuvers… you get the idea. It becomes second nature once accustomed to the bike’s special needs, and during ownership you’ll rarely give it another thought.
At 28.6 inches above the pavement, it’s not the lowest seat height in Harley’s lineup, but with its five gallons of fuel residing below the seat, the Night Rod certainly has the best CoG compared the traditionally located fuel tanks of H-D’s other offerings. The low CoG helps offset some the adverse cornering effect caused by the wide rear tire.
Measured wet weight of the Night Rod is 662 pounds, which certainly isn’t light and can’t help but overtax the limited travel of the rear shocks. Two-point-nine inches is more travel than some HD models, but not enough to provide a compliant ride. The fat tire/wheel combo adds a lot of unsprung weight, which compromises ride quality.
The Rod’s clamshell riding position is another area that drew some ire from our testers. “Forward pegs and drag race handlebar are a ridiculous combo,” says “Whatever!” Editor, John Burns.
However, it’s Associate Editor, Evans Brasfield, who smartly sums up our time with the Night Rod. “As much as I love the Night Rod’s kick-ass engine, as much fun as I have riding it around town or on other short jaunts, as many smiles as the instant throttle response puts on my lips, just the thought of sitting in that clamshell riding position for an extended period makes my lower back ache. I like my cruisers to be a little more versatile than this one-trick-pony.”
Handlebars and footpeg placement can be modified, so anyone considering a Night Rod has that option. For many, the seating position may not be as bothersome as it was to some of our testers – whiny, little complainers that they are.
So, if you can get beyond the seating position, limited shock travel, peculiar handling (due to the wide rear tire) and excessive rear cylinder heat, the Night Rod Special is a helluva motorcycle. It’s fast and gorgeous and showcases a level of performance unseen in other Harley-Davidson models save for the the V-Rod Muscle.
|2015 Harley-Davidson Night Rod Special Specs|
|Engine Type||Liquid-cooled 60° V-Twin|
|Bore x Stroke||4.13 in. x 2.835 in.|
|Fuel System||Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)|
|Frame||Steel perimeter upper frame with hydroformed main rails and bolt-on lower frame rails|
|Front Suspension||43mm inverted fork|
|Rear Suspension||Dual coil-over shocks, preload adjustable|
|Front Brakes||Dual disc with Brembo calipers, ABS|
|Rear Brakes||Single disc, ABS|
|Seat Height||28.6 inches|
|Rake/Trail||34° / 34°|
|Curb Weight||661.7 lbs|
|Fuel Capacity||5.0 gal.|
|Observed Fuel Economy||29 mpg|
|Colors||Vivid Black, Deep Jade Pearl, Superior Blue, Black Denim, Vivid Black|