Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night – Harley Quietly Scuttles the V-Rod

Harley-Davidson V-Rod

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. – Dylan Thomas

While the majority of internet angst has been aimed at Harley’s discontinuation of the Dyna, The Motor Company’s scuttling of the V-Rod has received much less fanfare. This isn’t surprising since from the beginning the V-Rod has been the black sheep of the Harley family. Liquid-cooled, overhead cams, its engine developed with help from a German sports car manufacturer and canted at 60 degrees, the V-Rod has been atypical since its inception. Further elements that distinguished the V-Rod from its Harley brethren include a hydroformed tubular frame, a gas tank hidden beneath the seat, a round-topped airbox and battery tucked into the traditional tank space, solid alloy disc wheels, a short-stroke engine with a 9000 rpm redline, the 2001 1130cc VRSCA was indeed worlds apart from Harley’s conventional cruiser.

During the course of its 16-year run, the V-Rod was launched in several forms, from the blacked-out Night Rod and Night Rod Special to the avante garde V-Rod Muscle to a Screamin’ Eagle CVO version. There was even a Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary edition. It’s seen its original 1130cc Revolution engine grow to 1247cc, seen its backside expand from 180mm to 240mm, seen its gas tank swell from 3.7 gallons to 5 gallons. A slipper-clutch, Brembos, anti-lock brakes, a chopped rear fender with integrated turn signals and side-view mirrors with turn signals integrated in them as well are all part of the V-Rod’s evolution. The platform was adopted by the Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines Pro Stock Motorcycle Racing team, has won eight NHRA drag racing championships between riders Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec, and set the elapsed time national record of 6.728 seconds in 2012 at Maple Grove Raceway with Hines at its controls.

Yet as early as last year the writing has been on the wall for the V-Rod. We hinted that it was on its way out in our 2017 American Iron Motorcycle Buyer’s Guide: Performance Cruisers article. The final clue came this June when the Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines drag racing team switched from the V-Rod Destroyer to the Street Rod-inspired drag bike at the NHRA Summer Nationals.

I have my own fond memories of the V-Rod, one in particular that I’ll never forget. I was a green motojournalist who had never made a legitimate drag run with a tree on a bonafide strip. Leading up to my first run on the 2009 V-Rod Muscle, the words “a race is won in the first 60 feet” kept running through my head, so I pinned it to win it. I tried to track down the great photo Tom Riles shot of the bike kicking out beneath me at an almost 45 degree angle, my legs flailing in the air, and the big black question mark of rubber it left behind men. Still don’t know how I pulled that one out! Here’s a clip from the story I wrote about the incident when I was still with Motorcycle-USA.com

2009 Harley V-Rod Muscle (Kevin Wing Photo)

While I couldn’t track down Tom Riles shot of all hell breaking loose when I tried to drag the 2009 Harley V-Rod Muscle, I did find this shot from later in the day during the road test.  (Kevin Wing Photo)

The void between me and the far hill at the end of Infineon’s drag strip was black and measureless, the quarter-mile strip sticky with high-grade NHRA rubber left over from the day before. I did my best to channel the spirits of Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines riders Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines. I watched on Sunday as the two NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle racers catapulted a souped-up H-D Destroyer down the quarter-mile run at just under seven seconds. Now it was my turn to launch down the strip aboard the newest motorcycle in the Harley-Davidson stable, the 2009 V-Rod Muscle.

The throttle felt like it was directly connected to my aorta. Every roll on the taut cable made my heart race as the big 4.13-inch cylinders of the 60-degree V-Twin pump between my legs. I roll the five-spoke cast aluminum 19-inch wheel to the line as the lights blink closer to the point of no return. I lean forward like Hines did the day before, snug up to the chest-wide tank. I listen to the rpm climb with a twist of my right hand, my left squeezes the clutch cable tight against the handgrip. Roll and release, roll and release. I run Harley’s resident pro drag racer Gene Thomason’s advice through my head. Then I totally disregard everything he said.

I build rpm up to almost 8K and hold it there. I lose my focal point down the track and am fixated on the Christmas tree in the corner of my left eye. The trio of yellow lights flash. I’m thinking ‘Reaction Time’ and unceremoniously dump the clutch.

The 240mm rear tire pitches violently right as I hold on to the 1.5-inch cast aluminum bars like a cowboy with a bull by the horns. The rear and the front tire are almost parallel, but I manage to keep the 43mm inverted fork pointed forward. With the throttle still open, the Muscle’s claimed 85 ft-lb of torque at around 7K is still spinning the rear tire as the back end whips around to the left, trailing my legs behind. I do my best Superman on the tank and seat, my legs straight out as the motorcycle strafes the center wall before I finally back off the throttle and fall back into the seat, clipping the black box at the 60-foot marker for good measure. All I can think is “Damn, now that’s a Harley!”

We bid you adieu, V-Rod, with one last closing sentiment from Thomas.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.