HARLEY-DAVIDSON V-ROD (2001 - 2008) Review

Highlights

  • Mighty Porsche-designed V-twin engine
  • Great straight line performance
  • Aggressive drag bike looks

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Annual servicing cost: £90
Power: 115 bhp
Seat height: Low (26.0 in / 660 mm)
Weight: High (606 lbs / 275 kg)

Prices

New N/A
Used £7,900 - £8,500

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The Harley-Davidson V-Rod may look to the uninitiated like every other chrome plated, low slung cruiser model from the American marque. But in fact, the V-Rod marked a real departure from the bikes we were used to seeing come out of Milwaukee.

Not only did Harley install a real wow factor in the way the bike rides that extends way above the chrome, it also managed to make it look aggressive enough to throw out any feelings of leather chaps and piss-pot helmets.

This bike is quick, like properly quick spinning its rear wheel away from the lights quick with an engine that keeps pulling right the way past where a normal Harley has nipped of for a cough and splutter. With even more power where you least expect it at the top-end.

Combine that with all-American hot-rod and dragster inspired styling (hence the V-Rod name) and you’ve got what Harley calls the start of their new VRSCA family. The A because the V-Rod is the first in a new line of performance customs in this vein and the rest for V-twin Racing Street Custom.

It’s like no other Harley you’ve ever looked at before. For a start it’s full of aluminium, it’s got a radiator and the styling is fresh but also fits somewhere around a V-Max and a Buell.

Though Harley claim they originally had the idea for this bike in 1995 so claim they’ve copied no-one but themselves. One thing’s for certain, just as you think every year they’re going to bring out a bike with new rubber engine mounts and a restyled seat and mudguard, they’ve still got it in them. 99 years old or not this is a bike for the modern age.

This bike was replaced by the 2009-2018 Harley-Davidson V-Rod.

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The way you sit in the bike doesn’t make it feel like it’s built for speed, with the back of the seat resting against your lower back and your feet forward chopper style across the length of the narrow bike. Just be careful not to burn your legs on the right hand side pipes.

Above 70mph your legs start flapping around a bit but the bike is dead stable and pretty comfortable once you’ve got used to your feet sitting out front. And besides this is a performance cruiser not a sports bike or tourer.

Laid back, the bike doesn’t feel like it should be something that goes round corners but it copes with them quite well. Despite the relaxed steering and fork angle where the forks look like they’re a few feet in front of you when you’re riding, it turns beautifully.

Pitch it in to a corner, easy now as there’s still not tons of ground clearance, and despite its long wheelbase the bike’s dead easy to flick from left to right.

There’s plenty of engine braking to let you roll off between corners but the brakes are fine if you need them. Like a lot of custom bikes carrying this much weight the bike works well by using a fair bit of back brake as well as front.

The front calliper is more than up to it and there’s considerably less dive than on older Harleys. The forks are still soft but they seem to work and you actually have some idea of when it’s going to lock the front tyre rather than just doing it.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The V-Rod uses an engine derived from the VR1000 superbike that raced in the AMA Superbike championship. And though it’s no lightweight fire-breather it is putting out a respectable 115bhp from its liquid-cooled 1130cc engine.

An engine that Porsche Engineering helped develop and Harley’s first liquid-cooled road bike motor.

At 70mph the bike’s barely registering on its rev-counter and it’s totally relaxing to ride. In fact if you really want to you can ride round town in top gear at 2000rpm and 20mph and it will chug a bit yet pull cleanly right the way up to its maximum top-speed.

For the record, 1st gear is good for 50mph, second for 80mph and it’s top speed is reckoned by Harley to be between 137mph and 140mph depending on different bikes.

The engine is the real reason for this bike’s existence and it’s an absolute classic. Forget all preconceptions you’ve got of this bike and let the engine do the talking. There’s really two ways to ride it.

One is to leave the revs down low and ride the 74ftlb of torque short shifting out of every corner and feeling it vibrate a bit as that classic big twin noise booms from the twin mufflers.

It’s surprisingly loud as standard but it all seems to be from the pipes, not the airbox. And because it’s a 60-degree V-twin it’s more jacket-potato than the traditional potato-potato noise.

But if short-shifting isn’t your thing you can ride it like a real bike and ring it for all its worth. The motor is dead smooth and quiet compared to a conventional Harley and it’s got a real kick in the top-end.

You can feel the engine pulling hard up to 5000rpm and if you didn’t have a rev-counter you’d swear that was all it had. But investigate a little more and twist the throttle harder and it feels like the bike has a supercharger. The last 4000rpm kick in so hard you could be on a TL1000S.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Lots of time’s gone into designing the Harley-Davidson VRSCA V-Rod and there’s no serious glitches in terms of reliability.

The finish on the Harley-Davidson VRSCA V-Rod is better than the air cooled Harleys but if you do let it corrode, it’ll not do the second hand value any favours at all – but most Harley-Davidson VRSCA V-Rods are sunny weekend toys not winter sluggers anyway.

There was a recall on a limited number of UK bikes shortly after it was released due to overstressing the engine during checks at the factory. All the bikes affected had replacement engines fitted.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The Harley-Davidson VRSCA V-Rod is savagely pricey when new compared to similar Japanese capacity cruises – but none of them offer the same experience or such power.

Running costs aren’t cheap either but few owners do enormous mileages. Depreciation is low. Harley’s own Street Rod is a grand cheaper and arguably a better bike than the Harley-Davidson VRSCA V-Rod.

If you are considering buying a used Harley-Davidson V-Rod, look also at the Yamaha VMAX and Triumph Rocket III. You may also consider an original  Ducati Diavel.

Equipment

2 out of 5 (2/5)

Find the key on the side of the bike turn it all the way forward and the needles of the speedo, tacho and fuel gauge all jump round the dial in a very Japanese way with the rev-counter needle glowing red when it hits the red-line. Why? Because as Harley says it shows all your instruments are working and it’s a cool thing to show your friends. And yes they really did say that.

Fancy clocks aside, there are few frills on the standard Harley-Davidson VRSCA V-Rod and a small fuel tank. The riding position’s not like any other bike; the seat’s low, as are the bars, and the pegs extremely far forward. It’s not a comfy position for most people but at least you can dip into the enormous range of accessories, both official and unofficial get the Harley-Davidson VRSCA V-Rod's ergonomics closer to what you need.

Specs

Engine size 1131cc
Engine type 8v V-twin, 5 gears
Frame type Tubular steel cradle
Fuel capacity 14 litres
Seat height 660mm
Bike weight 275kg
Front suspension None
Rear suspension Preload
Front brake Twin 300mm discs
Rear brake 300mm disc
Front tyre size 120/70 x 19
Rear tyre size 180/55 x 18

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 42 mpg
Annual road tax £96
Annual service cost £90
New price -
Used price £7,900 - £8,500
Insurance group 17 of 17
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two year unlimited mileage

Top speed & performance

Max power 115 bhp
Max torque 77 ft-lb
Top speed 130 mph
1/4 mile acceleration 11.5 secs
Tank range 130 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

2001: Original Harley-Davidson VRSCA V-Rod launched.
2006: Harley-Davidson VRSCA V-Rod gets optional 240mm rear tyre.

Other versions

Harley-Davidson VRSCB V-Rod: launched in 2003 – black frame and rear shocks plus other minor colour changes about £1000 cheaper than the Harley-Davidson VRSCA V-Rod.

Owners' reviews for the HARLEY-DAVIDSON V-ROD (2001 - 2008)

3 owners have reviewed their HARLEY-DAVIDSON V-ROD (2001 - 2008) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your HARLEY-DAVIDSON V-ROD (2001 - 2008)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 3.7 out of 5 (3.7/5)
Engine: 4.7 out of 5 (4.7/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Value vs rivals: 3.7 out of 5 (3.7/5)
Equipment: 3 out of 5 (3/5)
Annual servicing cost: £90
4 out of 5 Best kept secret in the Harley range
03 November 2015 by AlanDub

Version: Night Rod

Year: 2006

Annual servicing cost: £100

Underrated bike - a lot better than most people think.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

4 out of 5 (rated as a cruiser/tourer). I can go for 1 full tank of fuel (c.120 miles!) before I need to get off and stretch the legs. Choice of switching between mid and highway pegs helps on longer runs too.

Engine 5 out of 5

Big flat torque curve, wonderful.

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

Some of the polished finishes need attention otherwise they will tarnish, but the overall build quality is good, and it has proved 100% reliable

Value vs rivals 3 out of 5

Oil, filters and break pads annually - easy for any competent DiY'er

Equipment 3 out of 5

Comes fairly spartan in standard form, but has everything you need (imho). Fit a decent set of panniers and discover one of the best kept Harley secrets - the water-cooled 60 degree V is perhaps the best fast touring bike in the whole HD range.

Buying experience: Bought privately

5 out of 5 Cool Cruiser with a Rush!
13 June 2015 by freemaxuk

Version: Muscle

Year: 2010

Annual servicing cost: £75

What a looker! it draws the crowd everywhere it goes. Sounds great with the V&H slip-ons, goes well too. It's quite nimble considering the big rubber its wearing. If you want cruising with a rush..this is your bike!

Ride quality & brakes 3 out of 5

Very little suspension travel, function follows form on this baby and with Brembo brakes you'd have thought they'd be better, but the rear weight distribution means you really need to use your right foot! The engine more than makes up for the brakes though and you really can control your speed off the throttle.

Engine 4 out of 5

The early Vrods had a real top end rush. This version has been tuned more to the low end. I preferred the original, but it's all good:-)

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Four years of use and no problems..it's always ready to run

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

Very easy to do it yourself... so I do

Equipment 3 out of 5

I regularly ride with a pillion. With the optional backrest fitted she is very secure and loves it. Fuel gauge is a problem, miles to empty doesn't help. Thank god they put a bigger tank on this version, but even so I end up filling up too early. It's not a big issue really

Buying experience: Bought from a dealer. Actually it was their tech guy that sold it to me. Cool and a bit of speed too. Whats not to like?

4 out of 5 vrscb 04
27 June 2007 by fazers123

very quick for a cruiser,handles and stops well,strong engine not good value at £12000

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5
Value vs rivals 3 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
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