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.
Page 2Point of view #2:
Evo Don rates the Revo rides
By: Evo Don
Sometimes it feels like the only function of a moto journalist is to nit pick and tearing apart years of brilliant design and quality manufacturing. So let me start by stating that both the V-Rod and the Street Rod are great motorcycles, Well above the rabble of common bikes. Theses are unique purpose-driven machines. They speak to individual riders. They are not universal. In short they are the kind of bikes that real enthusiasts live for. The exact kind of motorcycle that the world has been wishing Harley-Davidson would build. That being said, on to the nit picking....
When the V-Rod was introduced in 2002 the moto-world rejoiced. Finally the big boys from Milwaukee had made a thoroughly modern motorcycle. Fast. Water-cooled. Reliable. Not to mention wickedly cool looking. And it was decidedly not a "me too" bike. It was like no bike made anywhere. Once the euphoria wore off, the list of needed changes was quickly nailed to the front door of the Juneau Avenue offices.
In no particular order they were:
So what is the answer three years on? A new bike with:
Also added for good measure:
"The world can now one-finger stop a 650 lbs Hog."
Not bad answers. Not bad answers at all. So how does the StreetRod function? To find out we asked our friends in Milwaukee for a V-Rod and a Street Rod to compare head to head.
What we got were a 2005 VRSCA and a 2006 VRSCR. The StreetRod was bone stock and arrived in an appalling orange trim. The V-Rod was black and came with saddlebags and a windshield.
I spent my time on the StreetRod decked out in all the latest from Buell. The traditional MotorClothes line just doesn't seem appropriate for this machine. Instead I opted for Buell's Asphalt Helmet (p/n 99429-05BX), Asphalt Gloves (p/n 99428-05BX), and the XRTP Sportrider Pants (p/n BU34).
The Vanson-made pants are quite easily the best riding pants I've even slid into. Thick leather, body armor, expansion panels, no "Made in Korea" tag, and best of all, the macho equivalent of spandex (called "Keprotec") covers the inner thigh and behind the knees. No need to deal with the bulk of leather where it's not needed for protection.
These are not made for Harley-Davidson cruiser riders. They are tight and designed for aggressive riding.
Perfect for the StreetRod, but I couldn't get them off fast enough when cruising on the V-Rod.
The Asphalt Helmet is comfortable enough, but not very quiet. Crash protection being equal, sound deadening is my number one concern with helmets. However what really kills this helmet for me is the placement of the temple padding. The padding touches your temples right where the bows from your sunglasses need to be. So either you go without glasses or you deal with your glasses being pushed up awkwardly. One would think that sunglass fitment would be on the list of things to check for when laying out helmet padding. I wear this one at night only.
The Asphalt Gloves are technical marvels. Carbon fiber knuckle armor, individual finger air scoops for cooling, and sticky pads for the tips of your index and middle fingers. I was lucky enough not to ever test the knuckle armor, but the air scoops do a great job cooling on a hot ride. If you take a good look at the gloves you'll notice there must be a dozen different pieces of leather sewn together to produce one glove. To my engineering mind more stitching and seams equals more points of weakness, i.e. more places for the gloves to tear part. I am a simple, old school rider I guess. All these features are impressive, but I'm not sure if I need most of them. I find myself reaching for my boring old Churchill deerskin gloves on most mornings.
One button press brings a powerful and quiet engine to life without an effort. No choke-ing, no idle adjusting.
The riding position is very comfortable and perfectly suited for controlling the bike.
The fuel injection is well mapped and only gets a little surgy below 2500 RPM. The engine comes alive at 4500 RPM and loves you all the way to redline.
Wonderfully powerful, always controlled and predictable.
The bike has a really heavy and solid feel. This for the most part is a very good thing. A feeling of substance is encouraging and positive.
The only drawback to a heavy feel is a corresponding loss of flick ability.
Somewhere between the 180mm rear tire and the 67" wheel base, we've lost some handling performance in the name of style.
You lean into curves and get exactly where you need to, but you don't flick this motorcycle.
I've never been a fan of the fat rear tire craze.
Looking cool is nice, but not at the cost of handling. Still, the StreetRod handles very well.
"Wonderfully powerful, always controlled and predictable."
Another loss to styling are the mirrors and speedometer.
To actually see anything behind you on the VRSCR would require wider and/or higher mirrors.
That might be unattractive though, so you get to stare at your elbows. Bar-end mounted mirrors might be the smartest replacement. Along those same lines the speedo is aimed squarely at your chest. Why? Because it beautifully blends the rake of the forks into the curve of the air cleaner cover (the false gas tank).
The result is visually appealing, but the gauges are not well positioned for reading while riding.
The speedo and tachometer should be mounted on top of the headlight housing.
"H-D's answer to the naked bike craze. Albeit 10 years late."
The seat is on the hard side of firm. This works for me. The handlebar and seat combination locks you into a standard riding position. It's not aggressive nor is it laid back. At the end of a long day of riding it strikes the perfect balance for the majority of riders. Unfortunately, because of the stylized speedo/tach console, the riding position is difficult to modify to suit individual tastes. Unique pull-back risers are used to mount the console, so risers cannot be changed to re-position the handlebar.
Not being able to modify your riding position is an unfortunate drawback. It is also very un-Harley like. Without resorting to radical customizing, owners will be limited to swapping handlebars and/or buying a different seat.
|TOP STREET ROD ANNOYANCES|
The footpegs are perfectly placed for riding, but terribly placed for stopping. The higher seat height limits the options of where your feet can be placed. The footpegs are mounted exactly where your legs naturally want to be.
Which isn't the end of the world. You do get used to that. However the exhaust pipes route high and wide on the right side of the engine. So right leg placement is further restricted by a burning concern. Your right leg needs to be held away from the pipe, and forward of the footpeg when stopped. A bit awkward, but doable. Yet it gets worse. On a hot day every red light triggers the radiator fans. Guess where the fans blow?
Clearly, sitting around at stop lights is not what this bike is built for. So let's get moving. One clunk down into first and roll-on. That's more like it! At 2000 RPM the Revolution engine is not the torque monster a traditional H-D long stroke V-Twin is, however it spins up readily and soon enough you feel the power band approach. Around 4500 RPM the StreetRod becomes a very happy camper and so does its rider.
A consistent and predictable throttle response is at your disposal. Power grows evenly all the way to redline. The gears are well spaced and a rider quickly becomes a pro at knowing where and when to shift. Unlike most Harley-Davidsons, this is a wonderful bike right off the showroom floor. Comfortable. Powerful. Approachable. Made for one thing: aggressive riding. It loves to lean hard and accelerate even harder. A StreetRod and a Ducati Monster 1000 could spend all day together frolicking in the sunlight.
This is Harley-Davidson's answer to the naked bike craze. Albeit 10 years late. They have combined a powerful sportbike engine with a stiff frame and a standard riding position. The result is impressive. Though it is certainly not a motorcycle built for first timers, the StreetRod is never intimidating. Even with all its starting and stopping power, it remains an incredibly approachable motorcycle.
Riding this bike is a blast.
Perhaps because I rode the StreetRod first, the V-Rod left less of a riding impression on me. Dropping down into the saddle was a rude change. Foot forward, O.K. Low seat, fine. This is a cruiser after all. But why are the handgrips level with my navel and pulled back nearly as far? My first thought was that I was riding a giant, incredibly powerful Vespa. I found myself yearning for ape hangers to complete this setup. The V-Rod riding position never got comfortable for me, but I recognize most cruiser riders love it.
Once you get past the change in riding position, the biggest difference between these two bikes are the brakes. Fitted with vented Brembo calipers on 300 mm discs, the StreetRod stops now. One finger on the giant, curved brake lever and you are in control. Late braking soon becomes your custom. Not so with the V-Rod. Traditional Harley-Davidson four-finger, heavy effort is required to haul the V-Rod to a quick stop. Which explains why the entire 2006 VRSC line boasts Italian binders.
The engine is the same powerhouse. On paper it is 5 Hp the lesser of the StreetRod mill, but that's hard to feel. The more-restrictive V-Rod exhaust does seem to dampen how quickly the Revolution engine wants to spin up. Then again it might be the attitude one assumes in the seat.
The additional front end rake is immediately noticeable. This is a very long bike. Straight line stability is admirable. Turning ability is less so. I even noticed the famous Dyna Wide Glide fork "clunk" when rolling over sharp bumps. Overall the suspension is quite a bit softer than the StreetRod, which is to be expected. This model is built for comfort not aggression.
Power aside, the fatter handgrips, weaker brakes and additional rake do, without a doubt, change how you use the grunt. This bike is well suited to spirited cruising punctuated by quick blasts of acceleration. Rocket off the line at a light or blow around a slow vehicle, then it's back to cruising.
|TOP V-ROD ANNOYANCES|
Snooping under the hood I see that the speedo/tach console on the V-Rod shares the StreetRod's customizing limitations. On the V-Rod there are no separate risers at all. The risers are welded to the handlebar. A new owner can't even rotate the bar 5 degrees to suit their riding style. On a more positive note the console is aimed squarely at the rider's face - unlike the chest-targeted StreetRod console.
One final critique on both of these motorcycles the top of the gas tank is flat, rather than the usual curve of a standard metal tank. This maximized the usable volume under the seat. It also makes it really hard not to overflow. There is no warning before these tanks are full. Once gas reaches the top of the tank it overflows suddenly.
All and all the V-Rod is a fun ride. A real 21st century power cruiser. Uniquely styled with impeccable power credentials. With this motorcycle Harley has completely out-maneuvered the other players in the power cruiser market segment. Rather than stuffing yet another over-bored engine into a swoopy Fatboy knockoff, the boys from Milwaukee grafted the cruiser riding position and attitude onto essentially a sport bike. With its stiff frame, powerful engine, and the addition of Brembo brakes on the 2006 version, this bike is an unbeatable power cruiser.
Had enough nit-picking yet? Let me re-state what I said at the onset of this article: These are both great motorcycles. Not to mention two very unique motorcycles. Choosing between these two rides should be no problem for rider. All one has to do is sit on each of them. Don't even start the engine. You should have your answer. Starting the engine will only tell you if you want the StreetRod over a Ducati, or the V-Rod over a Softail.
The StreetRod is the cat's meow right off the showroom floor. As a rider it is a dream. My only concern is as a potential owner. It just might be too instantly comfortable. Too controlled. Too predictable. Predictable. That's the word I keep coming back to when describing the StreetRod. It's a word hardly ever used to describe Harleys and it's the one thing that bugs me about the StreetRod.
Predictable. Do I want a predictable bike? Do I listen to predictable music? Have predictable opinions, attitudes and friends? No. I don't. I don't mind having predictable electricity supplied to my house. Even a predictable car. But a predictable motorcycle?
I prefer, nay, demand imperfection from my great passions. That certainly includes my motorcycles. It's a metal disorder I'm sure. A motorcycle that does everything it is supposed to, the way it is supposed to, every time I ask it to? What could be more ideal? One that occasionally aggravates me, that's what. One I have to spend time tweaking to get just right. One that can become an extension of my personality. The way the StreetRod is put together makes it difficult to envision making your own.
On the other hand the V-Rod is as unique as they come. Not exactly quirky mind you. Just very, very different from all other motorcycles. It's been argued on the boards that the V-Rod is the Yamaha V-Max 20 years late. That is plainly crap. The V-Max is what it is. The V-Rod is inspiring. People stop you on the road and ask you about it. "Is that the motorcycle Harley designed with Porsche?" "That is the coolest bike I have ever seen." "One day I want to get one of those!" And on and on.
"The Revolution engine is the real star of this new Harley family."
This is that rare motorcycle that gets non-riders talking positively about our sport. A motorcycle that gets reviewed by art critics. The V-Rod and the Revolution engine are the basis of the future of Harley-Davidson. Not because Softails will soon be water-cooled and metric, but because Harley-Davidson had to prove to themselves and the world that they could compete and win in a non-nostalgia segment. These two motorcycles undeniably make that case.
Beyond the bikes, the Revolution engine is the real star of this new Harley family. Sure the frames are massive, gorgeous and stiff, but without this engine these bikes would just be O.K. The Revolution is a beauty of a beast. The stock power from it is really impressive. Not just in terms of raw power, but in terms of how well that power is controlled and directed into asphalt. What else would we expect from a company known first and foremost for Knuckles, Pans, & Evos rather than any particular model?
I suppose I've avoid the final answer long enough. Which Rod is better, "V" or "Street"? As a rider the StreetRod is without a doubt my first choice in the VRSC family. As an owner I might want to lean towards the uniqueness of the original. Then again, I might just like the challenge of making the StreetRod an extension of my personality.