2005 V-Rod versus 2006 Street Rod
A Harley Family Feud
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.