In 2001, Harley-Davidson released the VRSC “V-Rod” to compete with international and domestic muscle bikes. The manufacturer teamed together with Porsche to build the “Revolution” engine for this new drag cycle, and its evolution has continued.
V-Rod Muscle shows how the Kansas City, Missouri, manufacturing has spent the last 14 years. This drag bike preserves the design ideals of the original VRSC, with slight changes due to the bike’s popularity and technological advances over the past 15 years.
The original VRSC was built loosely on the VR-1000 superbike design, but cosmetically the two bikes are as different as chalk and cheese. Harley employed a 60-degree, water-cooled V-twin engine instead of a 45-degree, air-cooled engine.
The “fuel tank” atop the engine is actually the airbox, and the true tank is below the rider’s butt where the oil bag would be. This design concept isn’t my favorite, although it has some benefits, including a lower center of gravity. Nobody misses the right knee’s ham-can air cleaner.
The airbox’s low lines kink sharply behind the seat. This is crucial for 1/4-mile strips or holeshots from your favorite green light.
A molded LED stop/turn/taillight tucks beneath the rear fender, while the front turn signals are merged with the mirror standoffs. I adore the subframe abbreviation. It’s like they created a chassis, motor, and wheels, then added a seat last minute. It looks like a saddle tied to a rocket from Looney Toons; all it needs is a salivating coyote. Yes!
Big 43 mm front forks add to the bike’s bulky and aggressive look while adding strength, stability, and cutting unsprung weight. Michelin “Scorcher” tires on black cast-aluminum wheels help with traction. 240 mm rear tire gives ample traction.
Dual front Brembo brakes (and a single in the rear) handle braking strains, while the ABS ensures confidence in bad situations. The bike’s 34-degree steering head angle gives it a low, nasty look. The loaded seat height of 25.6 inches is low for a non-Softail model and should eliminate the requirement for a “upping block”
Radiator is guarded. The guard’s dark hue blends in with the engine, but it nevertheless catches attention. It’s impossible to make a radiator disappear or look lovely, but at least the cowling/guard hides the fins and tubes. The guard avoids flying-object damage while guiding ram-air into the scoops and across the rad for forced ventilation. Could be worse.
The V-Rod Muscle’s VR-1000-inspired engine backs up its design. The 1,247 cc Revolution engine has a 4.13-inch bore, 2.835-inch stroke, and 11.5-to-1 compression. This engine produces 119 horsepower and 87 pound-feet of torque at 6,750 rpm, enough for the street and a strong start for the track.
Muscle’s “slipper” clutch transitions from race track to street, offering smoother cornering and rear-wheel hop prevention. This is amazing, however the power-to-weight ratio is low compared to other similar models, and someone wishing to use it on a track should anticipate to modify the engine. A excellent beginning place, but not the end-all, be-all. H-D is new to performance, thus growing pains are to be expected. Nope.
2015 Muscle in Vivid Black starts at $16,149; add $350 for Mysterious Red Sunglo, Sand Camo Denim, or 2105 Black Quartz. Choose one of the Two-Tone Option colors for $16,699. The security option is $395 (affordable insurance, if you ask me), and the California Emissions package costs another dollar. Vivid Black costs $16,449, Black Denim or Crushed Ice Pearl cost $16,799, and two-tone Billet Silver or Velocity Red Sunglo cost $16,999.
Vivid Black now costs $17,449, Black Denim or Corona Yellow Pearl $17,799, and two-tone Velocity Red Sunglo or Crushed Ice Denim $17,999. That’s a big jump with no changes from last year.
Given the sector’s expectations, street-drag bikes with less than 1,500 cubes are rare. When the Ducati Diavel appeared, I wondered how I missed it.
While not a “drag bike,” the Diavel meets most of the criteria. 30-inch seat height maintains center-of-gravity low. Aggressive stance, 240 mm rear tire, and ram-air intake scoops indicate a serious ride. The Diavel has less rake than the Muscle’s 34-degree front end, but its 5.1-inch trail is close to the Harley’s 5.6 inches, making both bikes stable on straightaways. I’d call it dragtastic.
Looking at the engines, it’s clear the two manufacturers lack high-performance experience. Harley’s 1,247 cc Revolution engine produces 87 lb-ft of torque and 119 hp, but Ducati’s 1,198 cc Testastretta produces 96.3 lb-ft and 162 hp.
The Diavel is lighter than the Muscle at 527 pounds wet. If a Diavel pulls up at the dragstrip, H-D riders are suddenly competing for second place. Yes, it’s harsh, but stock motorcycles are like this.
The H-D is $17,449 versus $18,795 for the Duc. The Diavel’s ride-by-wire throttle offers traction control and rider modes. A rider who doesn’t care about the H-D name and wants a stoplight burner probably won’t consider the Muscle. Riders searching for non-competitive fun and a “not-your-daddy’s-Harley” may enjoy the Muscle. I’m torn but leaning toward Duc. You choose your priorities.
“First time I saw VRSC, I thought, “Oh God, is this the new normal?” I’ve never liked this design, especially the engine and radiator, but I appreciate that it fits a niche and draws certain riders into the brand with a motorcycle closer to an import than a classic Harley. Anything that promotes H-D or motorcycling is beneficial.”
My wife, Allyn Hinton, adds, “A 60-degree Harley engine looks odd. Do they want Asian fans? The loaded seat height is 25.6 inches, assuming a 180-pound rider. 27.8 inches. Not a big deal, but I wanted to clarify for us shorties who must load it ‘and’ touch the ground. With a 67-inch wheelbase, it’s long, low, and slightly raked. That large back tire looks dragster, but I think that’s the goal. Muscleheads will love it.”
- Revolution® 60° V-Twin, liquid-cooled
- 4.13-inch bore
- 2.835-inch Stroke
- 11.5-to-1 compression
- E-SPI Fuel System (ESPFI)
- EEC/95/1 engine torque test
- 87 lbs.
- 6,500 Engine RPM
- 32-degree right lean
- 32-degree left lean
- 37 mpg city/highway
- Primary Gear: 64/117
- 1st: 10.967
- 2nd: 7.371
- 3rd: 5.9
- 4th: 5.095
- 5th: 4.563
- Dual side, satin-chrome exhaust with black end caps
- Front 5-Spoke Aluminum Wheels, Black
- Black 5-spoke aluminum rear wheels
- Front and rear 4-piston calipers 94.9″
- Unladen seat height: 27.8″
- 4.1-inch ground clearance
- 34-degree rake
- 5.6-inch trail
- 67-inch wheelbase
- Front 120/70ZR-19 60W
- 240/40R-18 79V Rear Tires
- 5-gallon fuel capacity:
- 5 quarts (w/filter)
- 640 lbs. shipped
- 673 lbs.
- High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, security system, coolant temperature, low fuel alarms, ABS
- Electronic speedometer with odometer, time-of-day clock on odometer, dual tripmeter, fuel gauge with low fuel warning light, low oil pressure indication light, engine diagnostics readout, LED indicator lights, tachometer.
- Vivid Black, Sand Camo Denim, Black Quartz, Mysterious Red Sunglo Flames
- Vivid Black, Black Denim, Billet Silver with Flames, Crushed Ice Pearl Deluxe with Two-tone design, Velocity Red Sunglo with Flames.
- Vivid Black, Black Denim, Corona Yellow Pearl, Crushed Ice Denim with two-tone pattern, Velocity Red Sunglo with Flames
- Vivid Black $16,149, Color $16,499, Flame $16,699
- Vivid black: $16,449, color: $16,799, two-tone: $16,999
- Vivid Black $17,449, Color $17,799, Two-Tone $17,999