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Harley-Davidson Night Rod Special review: Ram Rod

Leow Ju-Len
14/12/2015

 harley night rod review singapore

The Night Rod Special might be something of an oddity within Harley-Davidson, but that’s a large part of its appeal

SINGAPORE — What to make of the Harley-Davidson Night Rod Special? Well, they say weirdos come out at night, and maybe it’s true. Its maker playfully suggests that the kind of performance the Night Rod Special is capable of should only be unleashed under the cover of darkness, and in some ways the V-Rod family members are odd members of the Harley clan.

You might think of Harleys as rolling ingots of chrome with thumpy, lazy engines, but then the Night Rod sort of turns that upside down. Where you expect to see great lashings of chrome, they’ve applied litres of black paint instead. And where there’s usually a chugging, air-cooled engine, the Rods all have a water-cooled, revvy torque factory. One that was co-developed with Porsche, at that. No wonder the redline is 9,000rpm.

harley davidson v rod night rod special review singapore

Apart from the mean, blacked-out metal, what makes a Night Rod a Night Rod is its slightly pulled back handlebar — the V Rod Muscle has a more forward-positioned setup that mimics a drag-bike more, as well single exhausts on each side of the bike. If anything, the Muscle is aesthetically truer to the street racer custom origins of the V Rod, but the Night Rod’s Dark Custom look works better if you’re into cutting a more understated figure on the road.

There isn’t much new about the bike for 2016, apart from new colour options, but if you’re popping by the Harley showroom to see the latest model year machines and have never straddled a V Rod, it be worthwhile hopping astride the Night Rod Special. Just be sure to leave your expectations at the door first. Like with most Harleys, there a great deal of heft here — 302kg, to be exact — but thankfully, it’s all very low down on the bike so the Night Rod doesn’t feel particularly unwieldy, even at low speed. It’s a long, long machine, though, which means it needs a great deal of space to turn, the same way a stretch limo would need something as wide as an airplane runway for U-turns.

harley davidson night rod special review singaporeOnce you’re rolling along and you’re used to the length, though, the Night Rod is a pussycat to ride.

Make that a tiger, actually. The first time you twist the throttle in anger, prepare to either giggle or scream into your helmet. There’s an abundance of torque at the low revs (so much so that I kept forgetting to shift down and had no problems starting off from second or even third gear) but when you let the engine rev properly, the Harley becomes the kind of bike that seems like it was built to kick decently fast cars in the teeth.

All that’s in a straight line, of course.

On long, sweeping corners you need to put effort on the bars to get the Night Rod cranked over, and to get it to stay that way. For the tighter stuff you just have to slow right down, thanks to the lengthy wheelbase, before leaning the bike in. I didn’t get it to flop over far enough to shave the footpegs though, which is unusual for a Harley.

Some of the bike’s gentle steering behaviour must be down to that back end. The Night Rod has a rear tyre the same way Jennifer Lopez has a backside, and while it’s nice to look at, it doesn’t make for much agility. At least the brakes work superbly, and even though the tyres aren’t much taller than rubber bands, the Night Rod is surprisingly civil over bumps.

harley night rod special review singapore

I’m not sure about the bike’s ability to let you do long touring days, however. The forward pegs are pretty comfy in town, but on the highway the riding posture effectively turns you into a human parachute, which can be tiring after a while. The main saddle is lovely and plush, but the one for pillions is about the size of a video cassette, so even if you do decide to go touring you’d probably have to do it solo.

Still, there are other Harleys to do long, endless rides on. The Night Rod is about blasting through town with a bit of attitude. Mind you, it can be perfectly courteous, and even with our test bike’s optional Remus end cans, the Harley never raised the kind of ruckus that has your neighbours angrily chucking empty bottles at you.

But that’s a large part of the Harley’s appeal. The Night Rod isn’t a troublemaker all the time, and can pull off slow and lazy rides as well as any Harley, while morphing into something wicked the moment you unleash the engine. In that respect, it’s almost like two bikes into one: one for the everyday ride, and another best reserved for quiet nights.

harley davidson night rod review singapore

NEED TO KNOW Harley-Davidson VRSCDX V-Rod Night Rod Special
Engine type 1,247cc, 4V, 60-deg V-Twin
Bore x Stroke 105 x 72mm
Gearbox type 5-speed manual
Max power 122hp
Max torque 111Nm at 7,250rpm
0 to 100km/h Very fast
Top speed 212km/h
Weight (wet) 302kg
Seat Height 675mm
Price $41,500 (machine price)
Availability Now

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Leow Ju-Len

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