2006/2007 Harley-Davidson VRSCR Street Rod
By David Tong
Harley-Davidson sure opened themselves up for some criticism from their air-cooled Big Twin customer base when they introduced the VRSCA V-Rod in 2002. It was nearly blasphemy. A liquid-cooled engine? Camshafts located in the heads? More than two valves in those heads? No pretty paint on the sheet metal, no chrome, radial tires? It was way too much to bear for the vast majority of them, who stayed away from these bikes in droves. So much so that they depreciated steeply and clean, low mileage examples are actually inexpensive these days.
I spent quite a bit of time and mileage on one of those original V-Rods and other than the miserable excuse of a stock seat, enjoyed it immensely. Then again, I never did fit into the Harley crowd. Being Asian, of slender build and a non-drinker, I was more an admirer of technology than tradition.
Other than the seat, those forward foot pegs were fine on the highway, but stunk pretty much everywhere else. The bike was comfortable, but the gas tank was too small. It went like a decent performance bike, but ran out of ground clearance too soon. It steered okay, but was clumsy at low speed due to the offset triple clamps excessive rake angle.
Someone must have been reading my mind, because The Motor Company produced the VRSCR Street Rod for two years, 2006 and 2007. A revised seat frame raised the seat height nearly two inches and made room for a full five-gallon plastic fuel tank under that seat. New triple clamps pulled the forks in a few degrees, reduced trail and that fork was an inverted cartridge design with more spring rate, damping and travel. Out back, the shocks were longer and had both the usual preload as well as rebound damping adjustment.
The heavy disc wheels were binned, in favor of neat and much lighter cast spoke wheels. The change eliminated side wind sensitivity and made the suspension work much better due to less unsprung weight. If I recall correctly, the engine developed five more bhp and was good for about 107 rear wheel horsepower. The handlebars were still mounted on dogleg risers, but the bar itself was narrower and lower than the stock V-Rod item. More importantly, the rider's foot pegs were now a rear set design to improve ground clearance and take some weight off one's butt.
Essentially, what H-D did was reinvent the late, lamented (and also poor selling) 1977-1978 XLCR Cafe Racer. Sadly, for reasons mentioned above, the Street Rod suffered the same fate in the marketplace. It ís a pity that the Harley faithful are more impressed with chrome gew-gaws than riding dynamics. Boy Howdy, does the Street Rod deliver the latter. In spades.
My one and only brief exposure to the Street Rod was when I considered buying one at the end of the production run. It was heavily discounted to just over $11,000. I didn't buy it and regret it to this day. My test ride was an un-chaperoned romp through some two-lane curvy country roads outside of town. It was an unmitigated blast to ride.
It ís obviously not a sportbike, nor a cruiser. Not a sport-tourer and not really a standard, either. Some have called it a performance cruiser, but to me that appellation waters down its appeal. This bike offers it all to the mature rider who has owned and ridden them all. It goes, stops, steers and handles like no other Harley before or (sadly) since.
There was a special synergy in how seamlessly it performed, befitting the modern product it is. Nudge the bar to initiate countersteer and the bike was utterly neutral in its response. Stable over bumps while leaned over at sane speeds. Roll the throttle on exiting a corner and the refined big engine rush of torque and horsepower is exhilarating. Trail brake in a corner and the bike did not stand up midstream. Those four piston Brembo calipers, lightweight rotors and good factory pads provided strong yet easily controlled effect.
I wish that H-D had fitted the bike with wheels that take the much more common 120/70X17 front and 180/55X17 rear tires that all modern sport and sport touring bikes use. The reason is simple, as the manufacturers spend more time and money developing those sizes than any other for street bikes today.
The slightly taller exhaust system makes fitting luggage back there a bit harder and it does need a slightly better seat and some wind protection. Other than that, I'd leave the blessed thing alone. I would ride it until the stock suspension got worn, then replace springs and shocks with premium aftermarket units. I would happily ride the wheels off it for as long as I wanted to swing a leg over a motorcycle. These observations were a bit shocking. A bone-stock Harley that worked so well that it was fine right out of the crate.
I guess one other thing that might be an issue to some is that the valve lash inspection and adjustment must be carried out with the engine removed from the tight-fitting hydro-formed frame. I do suspect, however, that the liquid cooled mill would make those adjustments fairly rare.
Available colors were a metallic two-tone black/white, blue/white and orange/white. I would probably choose the latter, not because it is flashy, but because it represents that the light was finally shining through all that black leather imagery the past five decades.
All this genuflecting from a long time BMW owner (25 years, six-figure mileage) and a former monthly contributor to Motorcyclist magazine, is saying a lot. It is that good. At this point in my life, I am not easily impressed and have ridden a few. Here is hoping we get a reprise from the Motor Company soon, but I am not holding my breath. H-D seems to be refocusing on their core customer base to the extent that those of us who truly enjoy the congruency between a rider and the machine on an interesting road have lost a really good bike.
Having long wanted a test ride on a VSRCR Street Rod, Harley's self proclaimed roadster, I finally got my chance in 2014. Team Latus Motors of Eugene/Springfield, Oregon took a 2006 VRSCR with approximately 4500 miles on the odometer in on trade.
This barely broken-in motorcycle came with SuperTrapp mufflers, a clear fly screen and a maroon (red) and silver factory finish. (The fly screen looks kind of neat, but accomplishes nothing.) The paint scheme was the most attractive of the available VRSCR colors in 2006, in my humble opinion.
I rode this very clean machine on the usual Team Latus test ride course, which includes a wandering country road with some nice straights and tight corners, a brief stint on a two lane highway and a sprint to the finish on the I-5 freeway. The VRSCR handled all of this with aplomb.
My impression (without a side-by-side comparison) is that the VRSCR's 1130cc Revolution motor doesn't have quite the immediate roll-on torque, from idle to about 5000 RPM, provided by the 1550cc, stage three, Twin Cam mill in my personal ride, a previously reviewed Dyna Super Glide Sport (FXDX). However, even below 5000 RPM it provides very credible power and from about 5000 RPM to its 9000 RPM redline its 120 HP comes into play and rockets the Street Rod forward in very impressive fashion. The motor is definitely a winner.
The Street Rod has the best suspension and brakes ever offered on a Harley-Davidson street bike. Although not adjustable, the fat, inverted front forks do an excellent job, as do the long travel, compliant rear shocks. The latter are user adjustable for preload.
The bike's 40-degree lean angle is complemented by its neutral steering and calm demeanor when leaned into a corner. Due to its substantial weight and very long wheelbase, it doesn't have the quick steering of, say, a Triumph Bonneville, but it is predictable and rock steady.
The triple disc Brembo brakes deserve special mention. They can haul the big machine down from high speed in impressive fashion. There is a lot of initial bite, unlike the brakes on classic Harley cruisers. So much initial bite at low speeds that the brakes took me by surprise, making my first stop (in the dealer's parking lot) rather jerkey. However, the VRSCR's brakes are quite controllable once you get used to them, which doesn't take long. They reminded me more of the brakes on my S3 Buell than any other bar and shield motorcycle I have ridden.
Even with the SuperTrapp mufflers, the Revolution motor was very quiet and civilized. Its exhaust note is so subdued it is deceiving, considering the power lurking inside the motor. There is no shaking and almost no vibration. The clutch is smooth and the five speed transmission shifts effortlessly. The very positive belt final drive is silent and trouble free. The entire power train is exceptionally good.
The finish, workmanship and overall quality lavished on the VRSCR is typical Harley-Davidson, which is to say outstanding. The controls and switch gear, including the self-canceling turn signals, are the same as used on Harley's Dyna, Touring, Sportster and Softail lines, the best in the industry.
The stylish instrument cluster includes an analog tachometer, speedometer and fuel gauge. There is also a digital odometer and two trip counters, plus the usual assortment of idiot lights. The analog instruments are difficult to read at a glance, being positioned too low and not tilted toward the rider as much as they should be. The face of the tach is too small; it should be the same size as the speedo, but at least there is a tach.
On the open road, the Street Rod is an exceptionally capable ride. Why, then, was it unsuccessful in the market place? Following my test ride, I believe I can provide some insight to help answer that question.
Despite its excellent performance and handling, the VRSCR is not a good all-around motorcycle. Here's why.
There isn't a lot of steering lock, resulting in a wide turning circle, much like many modern sport bikes. This makes everyday parking lot maneuvers a hassle on the VRSCR. The tall, 31 inch seat height gives the rider a rather high perch and reduces leverage for paddling the machine around by foot. It also raises the bike's center of gravity, making low speed maneuvers more problematical, as does its considerable weight and long wheelbase. All of these factors make backing into or out of a parking space, for example, more difficult than necessary or desirable. For use as a commuter or city bike, the Street Rod is a poor choice.
In addition, the short, rather low handlebar doesn't give the rider a lot of steering leverage and the riding position (a forward lean with a long reach to the handlebar and slightly rear-set foot pegs) is rather uncomfortable at speeds below about 60 MPH, when wind pressure helps take some of the weight off of the rider's wrists. Fit a windshield for protection from the elements, a practical necessity for the touring or year 'round rider, and there is too much weight on the rider's wrists at any speed.
The stock rider's seat is acceptably comfortable for short rides, but not for the long haul. (Very few stock seats are!) Unfortunately, neither H-D nor the aftermarket (as far as I could discover) offer a touring seat to rectify this problem.
While the rider's accommodations leave something to be desired, the passenger's are far worse. What passes for a passenger seat is a joke. It is small, tapered and hard. Making matters worse, the passenger foot pegs are mounted much too high for comfort, leaving the poor passenger with cramped legs to go along with an aching butt.
Your significant other is not going to enjoy riding behind you on the VRSCR and very few passengers are going to volunteer for a second ride on a VRSCR. The stock seat, high foot pegs and lack of a readily available touring seat essentially keep a Street Rod owner from sharing the joy of motorcycling.
The Revolution motor's eight valves require adjustment at 15,000 mile intervals. To perform this service, the motor must be slipped from the frame. This is done by unbolting the front section of the super tight fitting frame. The whole process is beyond the capability of the average owner and (understandably) expensive for the dealer perform. For comparison, Harley-Davidson's Evolution and Twin Cam motors have self-adjusting valves that never need attention.
When you come right down to it, the VRSCR Street Rod excels at brisk rides on country roads (which are fun), but not much else. It is probably at its best in a high speed, sweeping turn. Very challenging two lane roads with tight, 15-25 MPH corners are not its forte', due to its heavy weight, long wheelbase and short handlebars. Nor are long rides on the Interstate, touring, year 'round riding, running erands or city commuting. For riding double, the Street Rod is a non-starter.
After riding one, I am not surprised at the VRSCR's short production run. It was a bike with excellent high speed handling and performance, but limited versatility; too much of a one trick pony, if you will.
Copyright 2011, 2014 by David Tong and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.