Archives for March 2010

Harley XR1200 Sportster Magazine Review

Chris leans into one aboard a Harley XR1200 Sportster.

Not to belittle the present offering of Sportsters, but it’s great to see that Harley-Davidson is again putting out an aggressive machine in the XL lineup! I hail from the days when XLCHs ruled the two-wheeled streets. In my opionion, the late ’50s and all of the ’60s were a golden age of piston-powered machinery. And though the newest crop of rubber-mounted Sportsters are great bikes, being much more refined than any of the machines back in the day, I think they lack the aggressive spirit of those early bikes.

That’s all changed with the XR1200!

This bike has more than just its father’s looks going for it. The XR-750’s racing heritage can be felt in both the XR1200’s chassis and engine. The XR-750 is not for the faint of heart. In the fieldå of modern racing machines, the XR-750 is a battleax — a potent and successful battleax. Of course, the XR1200 also carries traits of modern Sportsters, which, I think, makes it a perfect blend of both eras. Sort of like a meat cleaver with an ergonomic handle.

Though the XR1200 was initially designed for and launched only in Europe (it debuted in April 2008), considerable US customer demand convinced Harley-Davidson that there was a sizable interest in the XR1200 stateside. I’m told hundreds of bikes were ordered before they were even promoted. As you can see in the photos, the XR1200 has quite a few new features. The most obvious are the rearset foot controls, rear swingarm, intake system, and oil cooler.

Our test ride was done in the mountains outside of San Diego, California. We blasted through hill and dale, with the most notable trip being on Mount Palomar. With aggressive curves on the way up and tight switchbacks on the return trip, we got to put the XR1200 through its paces. It also showed me I’ve got to improve my twistie skills, since the XR1200 had way more ability than I did to negotiate the switchbacks. And that’s great! When riding a bike that’s designed to be a performance machine, I like it when I can’t master it right away. This is a machine I can grow into and not get bored riding.

Here’s the skinny on the XR1200: the bike is stable and predictable in turns. Though not as flickable as a Buell, it was a lot of fun to ride. It’s also a solid platform on the highway and likes to run fast. While on the test ride, I got to talk with Steve Bond (who was there for another publication) and found out a cool thing about the XR1200’s riding position. The rearset controls and pegs were comfortable — both for me at 5’4″ and Steve who’s over 6′. However, that was not the case when it came time to put our feet down. Needless to say, Steve had no trouble getting both feet flat, while I could only do that with one foot, if I scooted my butt off to one side.

The 2009 Harley XR1200 Sportster is stable and a lot of fun to ride.

The suspension is well-balanced and the frame geometry was right on. The Showa inverted 43mm front forks did their job exceptionally well. Bumps were absorbed and dispensed with quickly, while still giving me solid control in tight turns. And that superlight-but-rigid rear swingarm and twin preload adjustable rear shocks made a big difference out back. The new cast-aluminum swingarm is 40 percent stiffer than the steel version and 3.3 pounds lighter, which makes a big difference in unsprung weight and, therefore, handling.

Like that 3.5-gallon gas tank? Well, the front of it almost had two indents in it. (And, yes, that is an aircraft-style fuel cap.) However, the H-D engineers worked a little magic on the front end and frame neck design to get the room they needed. It seems the fork tubes were going to smack into the front of the tank with the originally planned triple tree offset and 29.3-degree frame neck rake. The fix was to change the fork stem offset, which gave them a final rake of 27.8 degrees and, more importantly, the room they needed for the tank, without affecting the handling.

In the Stop department, the dual Nissin four-piston calipers and 292mm rotors up front have no trouble hauling the XR1200 to a quick stop. As for Go, though the engine is the standard displacement 1200cc with a 3-1/2″ bore and 3-13/16″ stroke (for a total of almost 74″), this mill does not operate like a standard XL motor. This 10:1 compression version likes to spin! Redline is at 7000 rpm, and it pulls right up until you hit the rev limiter. Many times I did a double take on the tach, since the engine was turning at 5000 rpm, but it felt like a normal Sportster at 3000. The XR1200 has nice power all around, though it pulls stronger up top than down low. For those of you who understand cam specs, both the intake and exhaust have 252 degrees of duration. The intakes open at 25 BTDC and close at 48 degrees ABDC. The exhausts open at 60 degrees BBDC and close at 13 ATDC. Lift is .550″ for the intakes and exhausts.

A feature I definitely liked was the way the engine sounds when you open the throttle: a little like a big-block Chevy! If you’re looking for the air cleaner, it’s tucked horizontally under the right side of the gas tank. That’s why the right side of the bike looks so clean.

View of the Sportster's gauges from the driver's seat

Though this version has slightly less volume (2.9 quarts) than a standard XL airbox (3.4 quarts), it flows enough air to feed the downdraft 50mm throttle body. As for cruising nice and easy, at 60 mph the engine is spinning at 3500 in fifth while 4000 rpm will get you to about 70.

The previously mentioned oil cooler is a sizeable unit hanging off the left side of the frame’s front downtubes. According to the engineers at the launch, since the rider’s legs are no longer alongside the engine, airflow over the cooling fins is not as good as on a standard Sportster. Result: an oil cooler was needed to keep the engine from running too hot. Since we were riding on a cool day, I can’t tell you if the XR1200 will run hot in the summer. I guess that’s something you’ll have to tell me.

So what didn’t I like about the XR1200, besides the fact that I had to give it back? The only flaw I found was that the powdercoating on the cam cover didn’t match the finish on the rear sprocket cover. Though it did match on some bikes, most didn’t when looked at from various angles.

For those of you who are already thinking about what accessories you can bolt onto your new ride, Father H-D has you covered with a line of stuff already waiting to be had. A trip to the dealership or will give you plenty to drool over. AIM –Chris Maida

Length: 85.4″ (216.9cm)
Unladen seat height: 30.5″ (77.5cm)
Ground clearance: 5.8″ (14.7cm)
Rake: 29.3 degrees
Trail: 5.1″ (13.0cm)
Wheelbase: 59.8″ (151.9cm)
Engine: Air-cooled Evolution 73″ (1202cc)
Compression: 10.0:1
Fuel system: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Transmission: Five-speed
Front tire: Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series D209 120/70-21″
Rear tire: Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series D209 180/55-16″
Fuel capacity: 3.5 gallons (13.2L)
Oil capacity: 2.80 quarts (2.7L)
Shipped weight: 562 pounds (255kg)
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR): 1,000 pounds (454kg)
Front brake: Dual-piston caliper, 11.5″ x .20″ uniform expansion rotor
Rear brake: Single-piston caliper, 10.2″ x .28″ uniform expansion rotor
Front forks: 43mm inverted
Rear shocks: Coil-over; preload dual-adjustable
Wheels: Front, 3.50-18″; rear, 5.50-17″; black, three-spoke cast aluminum
Colors: Vivid Black, Pewter Denim, Mirage Orange Pearl
MSRP: Black $10,799/color option $11,079

Harley Boots

Harley's durable motorcycle boots

As I entered my second year riding Harley-Davidsons, I decided it was time to get a pair of H-D boots that I could wear while riding to work, hitting the clubs, or performing at my latest gig. (I sing and play guitar with a band.) A look through H-D’s footwear catalog gave me lots of options, but I finally picked the Dipstick (#D91610/$112). I chose this one because it has the versatility I need for my daily routine.

I kicked it pretty hard with the Dipsticks from the first day, and I can honestly say they’ve held up well. The Dipsticks have full-grain leather uppers and full-length, cushion-sock linings. The collar is padded, and there’s a breathable lining, both of which add to the boot’s comfort. The rings for the laces are even stainless steel so they won’t rust up. Plus, the protective Harley-Davidson emblem helps to keep your laces in line while keeping your foot where it should be while shifting. Other features include a Goodyear welt construction and an oil-, slip-, and abrasion-resistant rubber outsole. (Falling on my bike or my butt is not cool.) Available in black and brown, with or without a steel toe, the Dipsticks have held up to whatever I’ve put them through.

That is, except for rain. Though they won’t rust or slip in the wet, these boots are not waterproof! AIM
–John Smolinski

Your local H-D dealer

S&S Cycle Manifold Tool

An excellent tool to help you get the correct manifold

I’ve been building stroked and big-bore V-twins since the mid-1970s. Back then, to get the correct-width manifold for your new creation, you had to just measure the cylinder height (from base gasket surface to head gasket surface) and send that info to S&S. Since the only heads available were reworked H-D ones, S&S would know what the gap between the two intake ports would be and send you the correct
manifold with its carburetor.

Those were simpler times. With the huge selection of billet heads available, there’s no way S&S, or any other manifold supplier, can know what manifold to send you armed with just a cylinder height. Now, the only way to get the correct manifold is to measure the port-center to port-center distance between the two intake ports. Okay, you can also order the entire range of manifold sizes and just keep the one that fits best. But that’s going to be a pain in the butt for the manufacturer or very expensive for the builder, depending on who gets stuck with all the unwanted manifolds.

So S&S, smart dudes that they are, have designed an easy-to-use manifold measuring kit. As you can see in the photo, one method is to bolt two of the kit’s measuring fixtures to the cylinder heads using the manifold mounting boltholes. (The kit also has fixtures for Shovelheads and Ironheads.) These fixtures give you convenient and parallel surfaces to measure between. It also gives S&S a known point of reference, so it can accurately know what manifold width you need.

Also included in the kit are fixtures, so you can measure the length of an existing manifold. Just slip the S&S fixtures over the ends of the intake runners of the manifold and measure the distance between the parallel surfaces of the cone-shaped depressions in the fixtures. AIM

–Chris Maida, as published in American Iron Magazine, the world’s best selling Harley magazine.

S&S Cycle Inc.
235 Causeway Blvd., Dept. AIM
La Crosse, WI 54603

Sculptor Jeff Decker to Create ‘Wyman Cup’ Trophy for Motorcycle Cannonball Event

Sculptor Jeff Decker

Jeff Decker, an artist whose bronze-cast sculptures depicting the synergy of man and modern machines – particularly historic motorcycles – have garnered worldwide attention, has been commissioned to create a trophy for the Motorcycle Cannonball, a transcontinental endurance ride for pre-1916 classic motorcycles to be held September 10-26, 2010. The event starts in Kitty Hawk, NC and ends in Santa Monica. An international field of 70 riders, which includes Decker, is set to participate.

Working at his Hippodrome Studio in Springville, Utah, Decker’s sculptures have depicted the history, passion and quest for speed associated with motorcycles, along with such diverse riders and devotees as Motor Company founder Walter Davidson, famous motorcycle racer Joe Petrali, two-wheel land speed record setter Rollie Free, and Elvis Presley with his first Harley-Davidson.

“Jeff is a very good friend and a very talented artist,” reported Lonnie Isam, Jr. who heads the Motorcycle Cannonball effort, “and he is equally at home in the arena of fine art as well as in the world of motorcycles and the culture of those who love them. He is the perfect choice for creating an award worthy of this historic motorcycling event. We are also extremely pleased that Jeff will be participating as a rider.”

According to Isam, the Motorcycle Cannonball trophy is to be called the “Wyman Cup” in honor of George Wyman who completed the first coast-to-coast motorcycle ride in 1903. Whether or not the award will be in the form of an actual traditional loving cup hasn’t been decided. Isam said Motorcycle Cannonball organizers are giving Decker “all the artistic license and room he needs to create this one-of-a-kind work of art.”

Decker grew up in Southern California in a family very involved in motor sports, primarily automobile drag racing. He relocated to Utah some 25 years ago and his life-long interest in motorcycles, particularly classic brands like the legendary Crocker, later merged with his artistic talents. His work, such as “Neck and Neck with Death” depicting a fleet of motorcycle board track racers in early 1900’s, has earned Decker international attention. Decker is also the only officially licensed sculptor for Harley-Davidson ( see

The Motorcycle Cannonball lasts 17 days over 3,325 miles. There are entries from around the world. Complete information about the Motorcycle Cannonball, including route details and rider profiles, is available at

Harley Magazine Review Road King Classic

Joe on '09 Harley Road King Classic

It’s not uncommon to hear Harley-Davidson touring bikes referred to as the kings of the American road, a statement that is no doubt echoed by the many owners of those bikes. Why wouldn’t you take pride in your machine being considered royalty? Heck, I’m down with that, and I only own a plebian FXR.

So it came as no surprise to me when I recently read that the Motor Company has been the market-share leader in the motorcycle touring segment for the past 14 years. That’s no small accomplishment in itself, but nailing the title with a platform that hasn’t had a complete makeover in almost 30 years is just awesome. Well, for 2009 the powers that be at Juneau Avenue got restless and updated H-D’s entire Touring family. The results should lock up 15 straight years as market share leader, and quite possibly put a stranglehold on the title altogether.

Harley Road King Bagger

To date there has been a lot written about this unprecedented makeover, including AIM’s exclusive sneak peek (Sept. ’08). That story was thrown together by my most distinguished and noble colleagues Chris Maida and Buzz Kanter. As such, I had to wait my turn to get some seat time on one of these new rides. As you can probably guess, my patience paid off when I was handed the keys to the two-tone Deep Turquoise/Antique White 2009 Road King Classic you see here (minus windshield of course). As if that wasn’t exciting enough, it all happened at Harley corporate headquarters in Milwaukee during the 105th anniversary celebration. My assignment was to ride the bike back to our editorial offices in Stamford, Connecticut, get it photographed, and then share my thoughts with you, the readers of American Iron Magazine. Translation: take the damn bike on a road trip and write this review.

From the moment I unlocked the Classic’s console ignition and fired up the 96″ Twin Cam power plant, I realized that it was worth the wait and things were only going to get better with this redesigned machine. Did I mention that it’s redesigned? Immediately upon the engine settling into a steady idle, I knew that this bike would be different from any of the other touring beasts I’d ridden to date. The subtle, but obvious, giveaway was not what I was feeling, but what I didn’t feel. Almost no vibration! While creating a new frame, H-D’s engineers also took the time to redesign the engine-isolation mounting system. Gone is the single front isolator, replaced with twin front isolators that meld into a single tie link. The rear engine mounts were also changed, allowing the whole ensemble to work together, providing optimal balance with perfect stiffness. As if that’s not enough, I was told the durability of all the mounts has been increased, which should allow them to last for the life of the motorcycle. That’s yet to be seen.

While loading the bike at my hotel, I finally got a chance to step back and admire my ride. It was then that I noticed this reborn King didn’t look much different than its Twin Cam predecessors. I think most people would be hard pressed to tell it apart from older Kings from a distance. For that I take my lid off to Willie G. and his styling department. What you get with this King and all the new Touring models are much improved bikes that have retained the character and iconic styling of the overall brand. The visual similarities are partially made possible because of the carryover of the bike’s front end, traditional saddlebags and a new in 2008 6-gallon fuel tank, all of which were left unchanged for ’09.

Harley Road King Classic

With the King packed, I finally hit the road heading east. My travel partner was a familiar one, Chris Maida, however, he had the responsibility of piloting the company truck. This left me in the elements on my own, but able to cruise at whatever speed I wished while having the comfort of knowing he was not far behind. Being out front clearing the way made it seem like we were engaged in our own twisted version of that ’77 classic Smokey and the Bandit. It wasn’t until days later, when I was back home, that my mom pointed out that I had no CB and, more importantly, no Sally Field riding with me.

For that 1,000-mile trip home, I just sat back and reveled in what Harley had accomplished with its makeover. Mile after mile, this King purred along, soaking up any and all the bumps the road had to dish out. Blasting the interstates shines a spotlight on improved top-end performance, which is a direct result of the new 68-tooth rear sprocket (two more than previous models) creating a lower final drive ratio. When not cranking on the highway, I marveled at the newfound stability of this bike. The combination of the wider, laced, chrome steel rear wheel, which has been increased from 3″ to 5″, and its Dunlop D407 multitread 180/65-16″ rear tire, is a welcome addition. And when paired with the new 130/90-16″ front tire and matching wheel, the results give this bike solid footing in all road conditions, especially when activating the optional ABS that came on our tester. The air-adjustable rear suspension and standard telescopic front end has been recalibrated, and does a magnificent job of allowing the new single-spar, rigid backbone frame, two-piece swingarm, wheels, and tires to work together to provide an almost ideal ride. So much so, that a 1/2″ increase in trail and a 0.556″ increase in wheelbase are barely noticeable.

While the Road King Classic was in my garage, I realized that I liked riding it so much, despite its color combination, that I took it wherever I had to go. Better still, the one passenger I had on the back never complained of heat exposure around her calves, compliments of a revised routing of the new 2-into-1-into-2 exhaust system (too bad she wasn’t Sally Field). Thanks to John over at Dyno Solutions in Brookfield, Connecticut, I know that this bike puts out just over 75 ft-lbs. of torque and has 62.8 hp at the rear wheel, which feels about right.

I have no qualms declaring that Road Kings have always been my favorite Touring models. Truth told, I’ve always favored the Classic with its whitewall tires, since it seems to exude a bit more character. And the 2009 redesign has provided a significantly improved riding experience in many ways. Overall, the 2009 Road King Classic is more comfortable, has more carrying capacity, and is more maneuverable than its predecessor. With this bike, and the rest of the Touring family, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Harley-Davidson lead the touring segment in market share for the next 15 years. AIM

–Joe Knezevic as published in American Iron Magazine, the world’s best selling Harley magazine.

Tour Master Motorcycle Rain Gear

I’ll be the first to admit I’d prefer not to ride in the rain, but there are times when you just have to do it. And when that happens, you want to be wearing a rain suit that keeps the wet stuff where it belongs: outside! The other mandatory trait for a motorcycle rain suit is that it not take up much packing room, yet be designed so as not to cause you to curse the product the entire time you have it on. The Tour Master Sentinel jacket and pants are extremely lightweight and can be rolled into a small bundle. Plus, they did a great job of keeping me dry. But it was the little details that really made the Sentinel shine.

The Sentinel has a simple gray-on-black pattern, with reflective piping so you can easily be seen at night, and extra material on the shoulders to bead away the rain. It has plenty of big pockets on the chest and sides, and fits over your riding jacket. There’s also a handy pocket inside the jacket behind your waist, which sits right above the zipper that joins the jacket and pants for added rain protection. The wrists secure closed, and a small fabric hood unfurls from a hidden  zippered neck roll to fit close to your head under your helmet. All this means that you’re going to stay dry once you’re zippered in, but the lightweight jacket is also breathable thanks to small, covered vents on the back, so you don’t get hot when wearing it.

The pants are roomy, which I prefer, since I’m not planning on walking around Main Street with them on. And they have extra water-repellent material in the places that are going to get soaked, namely your lower legs, seat, and crotch.

The bottom line is that I rode through some good downpours with this rain suit, and stayed dry and comfortable without feeling like I had a rubber sweat suit on. The Sentinel definitely gets my seal of approval. AIM

–Terry O’Brien of American Iron Magazine, the world’s best selling Harley magazine.

Tour master/Helmet House
26855 Malibu Hills Rd.
Dept. AIM
Calabasas Hills, CA 91301

Icon Motorcycle Boots

Icon Motorcycle Boots

Talk about a long-term test! I was asked to review a pair of boots two years ago, and I’ve finally got the word that the story is due. We’ve been through a lot, these boots and I; we’ve climbed mountains, tackled the badlands, and ridden from sea to shining sea. Ah, memories. But the important question still stands, how’d the boots fare through all this? Simply put, they performed exceptionally well.

Icon’s Field Armor Chukka boots ($115) have a breathable, nylon-and-leather upper that’s flexible and comfortable. It’s a midrise boot, so you get a bit more support than a shoe would give, but it’s not as confining or rigid as a taller boot might be. A midfoot buckle keeps the fit snug, while well-placed shift pads up front, and some thick protective toe and heel armor keep things safe. I’ve worn these boots all day around the office with no problem. They’re fairly light and good for the post-ride hang. The sole is street-riding specific, with a grip tread and a thick heel that hangs nicely off the pegs. The boots are available in two colors: Wheat, a
common tan work boot look, and Stealth, otherwise known as black.

These boots may not be the iconic Air Jordans or Elvis’ blue suede shoes, but with Icon’s style and riding comfort, these chukkas are sure to make a long-lasting impression.

Hmm, I guess they already did. AIM

–Matt Kopec as published in American Iron Magazine, the world’s best selling Harley magazine.

Icon Motorsports

Titan Bulldog Motorcycle Review

I know what you’re thinking: seen one motorcycle wheel chock, seen ’em all. Not true! While there are several models available, some have better features, which is the case with the all-new Titan Bulldog ($239). Made of steel, it weighs in at a hefty
33 pounds. The extra weight — plus the four large rubberized feet — keeps the Bulldog in place when rolling your bike up into the cradle and gives it a 1,500-pound load rating.

The spring-loaded chock cradle always returns to the entry position when not in use, an enhancement over other, similar chocks on the market. Combine that feature with the squeezing action of the cradle sideplates, and it makes for one smart chock. As you push the motorcycle wheel into the rocking cradle and over-center, a cam action, combined with the return spring, draws the sideplates toward each other. There’s nothing to adjust or activate. It’s ingenious. Once the wheel comes to a stop against the front V-plate, you can lock the cradle in place with a small metal latch: make this a mandatory action. To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to use some tie-downs to secure the bike, especially if using the Bulldog in the back of a truck or on a trailer. The only downside is that it’s not easy to adjust the cradle to one of its three positions for different wheel sizes.

The Bulldog, which has a two-year warranty, is available in black, blue, red, orange, and an orange/black combo.

Guess which one is for H-D owners? AIM

–Steve Lita as published in American Iron Magazine, the world’s best selling Harley magazine.

Titan Lifts

Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Knives

Harley Pocket Knife

A wise man once told me “Always carry a knife.” Well, over the years, I’ve taken that to heart and carried a plethora of knives. But these days I usually carry one of the Harley-Davidson knives shown here. There are about a dozen different Harley-branded knives to choose from, and the two shown are the Mini-Hardtail (#13150, $200) and the Nitrous (#13710BK, $150). Made by Benchmade Knife Company, which has been making quality knives since 1988, the company’s simple philosophy is “Make it cool, make it solid, make it happen, and definitely make it Benchmade.”

All Benchmade products feature world-class craftsmanship and are proudly made in the US. These two knives are similar in size and weight, but boast different finishes and features. Also, be warned that they are amazingly sharp when new. The Mini Hardtail (far left) has a D2 high-grade tool steel modified clip-point blade and a patented AXIS locking mechanism. It measures 7-1/2″ open with a 3-1/4″ blade, 4-1/4″ closed, and weighs in at 3 ounces. The body of this knife is machined from billet aluminum and features G-10 inserts with skull designs. The steel carry clip is reversible, and the blade opens manually with ambidextrous thumb studs. I opted for a plain edge and no coating on the blade for this knife.

The Nitrous (left) offers a 154CM premium stainless steal clip-point blade and a modified locking-liner. This knife weighs in at 2.7 ounces and measures 8″ opened with a 3.4″ blade, and 4-1/2″ closed. It snaps open thanks to the Nitrous Assist opening mechanism, and looks pretty cool with its black G-10 handle and milled flames. On this particular knife, I opted for a plain edge and a proprietary BK1 black, corrosion-resistant-coated blade.

Overall, both of these Harley-Davison knives feature the superior quality and finish that I would expect from a company like Benchmade. If you carry a knife, I highly recommend either of the two you see here. AIM

–Joe Knezevic as published in American Iron Magazine, the world’s best selling Harley magazine.

Benchmade Knife Company

Harley V-Rod Muscle Magazine Review

Harley V-Rod Muscle Motorcycle

As of this writing, Vance & Hines/Screamin’ Eagle Racing’s newest rider, Eddie Krawiec, just earned his second NHRA Pro-Stock motorcycle event “Wally” victory trophy. He was aboard the bike many consider to be the inspiration for the VRSCF V-Rod Muscle you see on these pages. Heck, we even have the color right. Eddie’s rise to fame started last year when he pulled off a seemingly impossible mission by winning the Pro-Stock Bike season championship without scoring a single event win. That takes consistency. He was right there, in the thick of things all year, but didn’t once stand atop the winner’s circle podium. But after all the points were tallied, he got the big trophy. That’s what really
matters. Now, with this year’s victories (so far) at Atlanta and St. Louis, Eddie has the single-event win monkey off his back. He’s proven that he can win on a weekend, or last the long haul.

While the Muscle has the visual stance and a healthy acceleration, this V-Rod’s not gonna keep up with Eddie’s quarter-mile pace of 6.90 seconds at over 192 mph. But slapping a holeshot on slower traffic during your daily commute “competition” will be no problem. The 76″ (1250cc) liquid-cooled Revolution engine is shared with both other V-Rod models this year, and churns out 86 ft-lbs. of torque. With sequential-port fuel injection and 11.5:1 compression, there’s plenty of power when the green light drops. One item that doesn’t exude muscle is the dual left and right, low, streetsweeper exhaust. I can’t even say it flexes the acoustics under heavy throttle. The Muscle is downright whisper-quiet … just ask my neighbors. One dirty little secret about the exhaust is in the smallish passenger footrest area. The pipes get hot enough to sizzle boot soles and the resulting dark marks are a black mark on a cool bike.

In the ergonomics department, this is no La-Z-Boy recliner. Forward controls differ from Eddie’s rearsets, and the cast-aluminum handlebar (with concealed wiring) creates a cool Pro-Street posture. In keeping with the “be like Eddie” theme, I tried riding with my feet perched on the passenger pegs. Low and behold, that’s where I was most comfortable, but it’s not the safest of foot placements, as you lose quick brake and shifter reaction. Making a fashion statement, megafox runway model Marisa Miller is shown in V-Rod Muscle ads straddling the bike and reaching far for the bars. While the bars are a bit forward, and my back had a nice stretch to reach, don’t worry, Marisa’s posture is exaggerated. (See more of Marisa at

Visual enhancement comes from new bodywork panels in the radiator shroud, dual-scooped steering neck covers, stubbed rear fender, and LED taillamp with integrated signals. The swingaway license bracket also uses LEDs to light your plate. The five-spoke, cast-aluminum wheels are new, and the mirror-stalk, front-LED signal lights are trick, if not a tad low. I banged knuckles more than once. Pilot information comes from a triple-gauge layout with speedo front and center, a smallish-but-readable tach, and an always welcome fuel gauge with an active needle. The inset LCD panel displays assorted mileage figures and low-fuel countdown.

I equate the handling characteristics of the Muscle to that of trying to grasp a 55-gallon drum of race fuel at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions on the lid, and trying to rock it over. Okay, so the drum isn’t full on VP juice, but it does take some effort. Thank the 673-pound curb weight, the 240-profile rear rubber, and the 5.6″ trail (which is great for that long straightaway), but ironically you’ll need to muscle this bike through the twisties. Up front, the Muscle sports a 43mm upside-down front end, and only preload is adjustable on the pair of rear shocks. Twin 11.8″ floating rotors up front, and an equal-size single disc out back, are clamped by a triple play of Brembo four-piston calipers. Our test unit was also equipped with H-D ABS. I found the engagement to be predictable and strong, with no chattering, just a deep thud when it becomes active.

With some bicep flexing required to maneuver the Muscle, you may want to try a new workout exercise. It’s called the wallet curl. You’ll be doing plenty of sets as you pay for the repeated fillings of the 5-gallon tank. Generally speaking, I was getting 28 mpg, but I was doing plenty of right-wrist twists while riding, to build my forearms. Your not-so-friendly banker will be saying “No pain, no gain” as you sign on the dotted line for the most expensive of the three VRSC models this year: $17,199 gets you basic black, but red, blue, or silver will cost you $17,504. And at $795, the ABS option is a downright bargain and a must-have in my book. But perhaps the hardest part of owning this bike will be the ribbing you take from your buddies about riding something called a Muscle. Better be secure in your manhood. AIM

–Steve Lita as published in American Iron Magazine, the world’s best selling Harley magazine.