Night Rod Special is a Mean Street Fighter
2016 Harley-Davidson Night Rod Special
My next-door neighbor back in Brooklyn owned a 2002 Harley-Davidson V-Rod. He parked it in front of his Bushwick apartment building on the sidewalk. It had a brushed, anodized aluminum tank, solid rims and fenders with plenty of chrome. It was b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l.
Sadly, he also had some chrome stick-on skulls from Pep Boys on it that killed the overall look, but it still looked mean. I wanted to ride that bike bad.
The 1,130cc V-Twin Revolution, V-Rod had an extended front end, a hot, curvy exhaust and fat rear tire that make it look like a dragster. It was designed to go very fast in a straight line and it was also the first liquid cooled, production motorcycle from Harley.
Night Rod Special in Velocity Red Sunglo
If you want a V-Rod today, you have two similar choices: the V-Rod Muscle and Night Rod Special. Both are still beauties to look at and now have a liquid-cooled, 76.1- cubic-inch Revolution V-Twin 60-degree engine (1247cc).
The Muscle is slightly shorter than the Special (94.9 verses 96.1 inches), seat height (25.6 inches), wheelbase (67 inches) and a 5-gallon tank are the same on both Rods. They also share ABS, Brembo brakes, a finicky, slipper clutch, inverted forks and a 5-speed transmission.
The Muscle weighs more at 673 pounds, while the Special weighs in at a very satanic 666. Aside from a different set of pipes, some minor body flare and a blacked-out engine and wheels on the Special, they are practically the same and share the original V-Rod’s aggressive, drag-inspired riding position.
I put some miles on a 2016 Night Rod Special and got plenty of thumbs up on the freeways from passing motorists and fellow bikers. It’s a moving work of art and if you’ve never ridden one, just remember – it’s a muscle bike that requires a little muscle to master. The heavy steering and rake are the first things you will notice after throwing a leg over it. The pegs and controls are forward like the kickstand.
The sound of the engine is a little soothing at startup, but really roars to life when you twist the chunky, throttle. The slipper clutch is a bit cantankerous and needs to go precisely into gear; otherwise you may get a slight, rubbing sensation if you release it too slow or downshift too soon.
But the more you ride it, the easier it is to tame this wicked beast. The Night Rod handles like no other custom stock motorcycle on the market and a real fighting spirit makes it even more fun to enjoy.
It offers a smooth ride on the road and can be a real hot mama if you find yourself stuck in traffic or waiting in a drive-thru. You can feel the heat from the exhaust pipes up high on your thigh, not quite Scrambler level but good enough to keep you warm and toasty in colder climates.
A Ninja rider said to me at a stoplight, “The rear tire is so fat, it must make it hard to split lanes.” I laughed and he added “It needs louder pipes.”
True, the stock pipes are decent and always can be louder as far as I am concerned. The super fat, 18-inch rear tire looks and feels great on the road. The horn is thankfully “Harley” loud and comes in handy in all types of riding situations. Sitting on this bad boy, you’ll want to take off at every light like you are on a drag strip.
The seat is super comfortable for longer rides around town, but your passenger might complain after a few hours. The non-locking gas cap-tank are tucked away under the seat and the Night Rod really leans to the left when parked.
Overall, it would also make a fantastic trade up from a Street 750 or Sportster if you are thinking about a new bike. Like the original V-Rod, the Night Rod Special cuts an awesome profile and would make a fine addition to anyone’s garage or look damn good parked in front of your house.
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Get more information about the Night Rod Special at Harley-Davidson.
Photos by Ed Tahaney
NEW in 2016
• Paint color options and graphics
Length: 96.1 in. (2440 mm)
Seat Height: 26.6 in. (675 mm)
Fuel Capacity: 5 gal. (18.9 L)
Dry Weight: 637 lbs. (289 kg)
Engine: Liquid-cooled, Revolution®, 60º V-Twin
Displacement: 76.1 cu. in. (1247 cc)
Engine Torque: 83.4 ft. lbs. @ 6750 RPM (113 Nm @ 6750 RPM)
Wheels/Tires: Black, Split 5-Spoke Cast Aluminum with Pinstripe
Front: Scorcher “11” 120/70ZR-19 60W
Rear: Scorcher ‘11’ 240 240/40R-18 79V
Solids: Vivid Black; $16,849, NEW Charcoal Denim; NEW Velocity Red Sunglo; NEW Olive Gold, $17,199.