Liquid-cooled 1250cc Revolution-series V-Twin engine
Harley-Davidson riders seeking a more performance-oriented motorcycle will be interested in the 2012 H-D Night Rod Special. Based off the American Motor Company’s iconic V-Rod platform this new muscle cruiser features an updated chassis that makes the bike easier and more fun to ride.
At the heart of it is Harley’s liquid-cooled 1250cc Revolution-series V-Twin engine. This fuel-injected power plant was designed by Porsche so it goes without saying that this motorcycle has some get up and go. It features double overhead camshafts and dual four-valve cylinder heads along with a five-speed transmission with a sportbike-derived clutch that puts power to the fat 240mm rear Michelin Scorcher tire via a belt final drive.
The engine and chassis components are powder coated black for a more sinister look.
One of our biggest complaints with the previous generation V-Rod was its awkward ergonomics-- something that is addressed for ’12. The handlebar is repositioned and is now three inches closer to the seat. The location of the foot controls is also modified for a more traditional and upright riding position. Other chassis upgrades include the use of an inverted fork and the addition of black five-spoke cast aluminum wheels that are said to be three pounds lighter than before. The dual Brembo front disc brakes and single rear disc set-up with optional ABS is retained.
Swing a leg over the Night Rod Special and it’s obvious how much more relaxed the new riding position is. While the reach to the controls is still a bit of a stretch for a six-foot-tall rider, it’s way better than before. With a wheelbase of 67-inches it’s still a long motorcycle but since the seat is only two feet off the ground it’s fairly easy to command even at slow speeds.
Dial-in some throttle and the bike gets with the program. Power comes on smooth and lacks any real aggressive snap or hit – it’s very linear, which could be considered a good or bad thing depending on your preference. Grab a shift through the precise-feeling the gearbox which offers both a short shift lever throw and an audible thud during gear changes. The clutch lever still doesn’t offer that much feel but since the engine offers such a high-level of immediate torque, launching away from a stop is a simple exercise.
On the road the water-cooled Harley delivers a more firm ride compared to other models in the H-D line-up. It isn’t uncomfortable for short rides, but it might not be conducive to 100-plus mile rides if you have a sensitive backside. Further limiting its potential cross country appeal is its lack of wind protection and modest 5-gallon fuel capacity. Steering effort is light but when leaned over in a corner the chassis doesn’t offer a whole lot of ground clearance which limits its outright cornering ability. But that’s the price you pay for riding a bike with this much style.
And that in essence is what the Night Rod Special is more than anything else. It’s a modern-looking and stylish performance cruiser that gives potential H-D owners an option, something different and arguably a little more cutting edge, than some of the company’s traditional motorcycles. In its Vivid Black color way the Night Rod Special might be the best looking Harley V-Rod built to date. And with its starting price of $15,299 it’s also one of the more affordable models too.