Motorcycle.com

2015 Harley-Davidson Night Rod Special

Editor Score: 81.75%
Engine 17.75/20
Suspension/Handling 11.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.0/10
Brakes 9.0/10
Instruments/Controls3.5/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 6.0/10
Appearance/Quality 9.5/10
Desirability 8.0/10
Value 7.5/10
Overall Score81.75/100

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.

Scorpion V-Rod Reverse Trike

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.

It’s a heavy lump of liquid-cooled performance, but the Night Rod’s Revolution engine gets the job done in authoritative fashion. Residing in the driveline of the Rod is a race-derived slipper clutch.

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.

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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.

Cornering isn’t the Night Rod’s strong point, but, the Rod retorts, “My cousin-in-law twice removed is a drag bike, man!”

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.”

+ Highs
  • Fast, revvy engine
  • Rare, compared to air-cooled big-inch Twins
  • A cruiser with a slipper clutch
– Sighs
  • Fat rear tire affects handling
  • Heavy
  • Outcast of the Harley clan

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.

Dual front disc brakes with Brembo calipers and ABS provide excellent stopping power. Note the blacked out engine, exhaust, frame, fork… nice. The combination of rear cylinder and exhaust routing throws considerable heat to a rider’s right leg.

2015 Harley-Davidson Night Rod Special Specs
MSRP $16,549/$16,899
Engine Capacity 1247cc
Engine Type Liquid-cooled 60° V-Twin
Bore x Stroke 4.13 in. x 2.835 in.
Compression 11.8:1
Fuel System Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Transmission Five-speed
Final Drive Belt
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
Front Tire 120/70-19
Rear Tire 240/40-18
Seat Height 28.6 inches
Wheelbase 67.0 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

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