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2012 Harley Davidson V-Rod Vesus the Ring


 vrod title

A lot can happen in ten years. Regimes will change, markets boom and bust, but for the world's most traditional motorcycle manufacturer all of that is just a blink of the eye. It was only 10 years ago that Harley Davidson brought out the genre-busting Porsche-developed VRSC V-Rod.

2012 Vrod 10th Anniversary EditionThe 'Rod was a revelation back then. It was the first Hog with real power and modern technology. So radically different to the air-cooled 45-degree twins that many traditional cruiser customers shunned it. Which was fine, as the Porsche-developed engine and straightline speed actually brought the brand to the attention of a whole new type of customer.

So given Harley's propensity for making something and then not changing it much for a few decades, maybe we should actually be pleasantly surprised that it's only taken 10 years for a big upgrade to the V-Rod.

This is the 10th Anniversary Edition, and it's got more power, more torque, and a bigger motor (up from 1130cc to 1250cc) as well as lots of detail changes to the suspension and ergonomics. It's not quite such a reach to the bars as the first model, and the new cartridge-type front forks and upgraded rear shocks are given a much easier time by the lighter wheels too.

 MG 4691But riding the big 'Rod through the twisty Eifel mountains, all those thousands of engineering hours play second fiddle to one relatively small improvement. The tyres.

Actually they're modern, nice-feeling Michelins. And to be precise, Harley branded 18" Michelin Scorchers. With quality rubber, the rest of the V-Rod comes alive. I remember the original bike I rode in 2002 had such awful old-school tyres that even the stingy lean-angle of a Harley felt like I was pushing the limits of reality on every roundabout.

Not so with the 2012 model. Now the pegs are taking a pasting from the confident handling and I'm getting upset at the thought of scarring some expensive chrome work. Seriously, the ground clearance is probably enough for most riders on a street. But the hydroformed steel chassis feels like it could handle so much more.

Hard to believe, but this 305kg mass actually rolls from feet-forward peg to feet-forward peg in a remarkably composed fashion. I think 'flicking' might be a step too far in literary license, but you could certainly refer to a direction change as swift to achieve. And that's despite an impressively beefy 240-wide rear tyre, which you wouldn't imagine helping at all. Apart from maybe taking stress off the side-stand at a stand-still.

So with confidence in the handling at a high, and the grin from the 125bhp V-twin still fresh on my face, I do something really odd. For the first time in more than few years, I pull on my leathers and head out for the track. The Nordschleife is open for a public evening and it just seems like the right thing to do...

Laughing in to my Arai like a maniac, I realise that this is one of the funniest laps I've done in years. The noise through the top of the air box as I keep feeding the hungry lump gear after gear, the gentle wobble through the bars as we go over the crest before Schwedenkreuz at 220kmh... but then there's the shocking realisation that in the middle of every corner we're basically stopping. It's an odd sensation, and while I can't argue with the straight-line prowess of the 'Rod, it's cornering is less than adequate when compared to the acceleration.

Nothing to do with suspension or tyre grip you understand, just ground clearance and my desire not to hand over a month's wages for a 'straight-shot' exhaust system to replace the one threatened by the kerbs at Adenauer Forst.


Another five laps later and the big 1250cc Harley is gently ticking to itself in the workshop of Rent4Ring. While the bike might feel delightfully out of place on the actual racetrack, it looks a million dollars off of it. And that's the point really. After 10 years the V-Rod takes the look and feel of a Harley and adds that Porsche-developed motor, so you can justify your feet-forward fetish by telling yourself it's more than just a shiny cruiser. And it is.

Full gallery of photos on FlickR - click here if the gallery module doesn't load. 

2012 Harley Davidson V-Rod 10th Anniversary Edition
€17,945 - see more here

Engine: 60-degree V-twin 1250cc
Frame: Steel trellis
Power: 125hp
Weight: 305kg (wet, ready to ride)

Bike supplied by, additional nordschleife photography by, bullet-camera by Drift Innovations and supplied by


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