Harley-Davidson continues to develop its V-rod Revolution range and has now added the VRSCDX Night Rod Special to that. It's longer, lower and meaner looking than anything else out there. Mind you, it's the closest thing to a road legal drag bike without the wheelie bar fitted. It's only due in SA next month but we have a scoop test!
The Night Rod was launched in 2006 and the new Special is all dragged-out with a mega-wide 240mm rear tyre, drag handlebars and forward-mounted foot pegs. This doesn't happen very often, but as soon as I first saw it in the flesh it was love at first sight.
Both the Street Rod and Night Rod had to grow on me, but the Special is truly special. Some of the feelings from when I first sat my eyes on the original V-rod come back. Night Rod Special is just more of everything in a single minded, very black way.
Riding the brutal VRSCDX is neither easy nor difficult, but certainly not neutral. It is easy enough to have a sit and ride straight on as the jumbo rear tyre and mile-long wheelbase makes sure the Special is stable as a mountain in a straight line.
The trouble comes in the corners, there's no ground clearance and Harley did not intend it to be so either. So corner speed is sacrificed for fast'ish entries and early throttle openings.
Cruising down from the mountain passes where had been riding and onto the motorway finally gave me the chance to let the Revolution engine breath freely.
The Special features the most powerful version of the 1 130cc Revolution engine and Harley claims 90 kW and 108 Nm. Above 6000 r/min the liquid-cooled engine revs in a delightful fast and powerful way.
This is what all that rubber is there for and I played with on/off sharp throttle openings to get that acceleration again and again. From standstill the initial few thousand r/mins fail to impress, but then again you can just dump the clutch with literally full throttle opening as there are some drag-bike heritage on the Special.
If you do the same, but grab the front brake lever you have a nice and scary burnout happening. Scary because there is no way you can stand comfortably on the forward pegs doing one and that 240mm rear tyre really does grip.
Slow speed manoeuvres are a bit scary too because if you don't allow enough space at the right angle when turning you might get stuck waiting for someone to push you out. I saw it happen to a journo colleague and I could understand why.
Some of the facts that make the Special such a beast to handle at low speed are: 240 mm rear tyre, 1715 mm wheelbase, 36-degree fork angle and the lowered rear suspension. Whilst on the suspension the Night Rod Special does not feel particularly soft.
Up front is a fork with 49 mm stanction legs that feels good under braking. As mentioned earlier, I could not challenge the handling capabilities more than I did due to safety and health issues tattooed to my brain. Common sense I believe it's called. All the 2007 VRSC models now gets a 19 litre petrol tank and new instruments that now includes a clock and second trip-counter.
After riding the Night Rod Special I didn't really want to ride any of the other Harleys. It is as special, peculiar and attractive to a motorcycle journalist as a honey pot to a hungry bear. I loved it and could not bring myself to hate it for its downsides.