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Was catching up on my motorcycle magazine reading tonight. The October 2002 issue of Motor Cyclist has its Best of Motorcycling 2002.

Named as the 2002 motorcycle of the year is no other than our beloved:
VRSC. Yep, the H/D V-Rod was named by Motor Cyclist magazine as motorcycle of the year. The initial VRSC model is still making a splash a year after its introduction.

V-Rod owners, thoughts?
 

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It is quite a break from tradition for Harley...hope they don't make us wait until 2006 to see the technology incorporated into the rest of the Harley lineup. I would love to see the engine in a fatboy...would that make it a FatRod?? :)
 

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Harley thoughts..

Given the state of the motorcycling industry, I think the V-Rod was a pretty obvious choice for "Motorcycle of the Year".

Harley is in an interesting position right now - they obviously dominate the US "heavy" motorcycle industry (specifically cruisers) - but their position in other segments of the industry is tenuous at best:

Sportbikes - the bigger Buells are a testament to Erik Buell's skills in wringing so much from the Sporty engine. But quality problems and uneven performance mean that Harley struggles to make a profit from Buell. With Buell shipping approx. 10,000 bikes total vs. approx. 270,000 Harleys, one has to question if Harley has the tenacity to stick with Buell, and make the investment in engines, etc. necessary to compete with Honda, Yamaha, etc.

Dirtbikes/Motocrossers - no presence, none planned.

Scooters/Mopeds - don't make me laugh....

Touring - Well, yes you can buy a pretty good Harley bagger. But technologically and comfort-wise, you'd be much better off with a GoldWing or big BMW, and probably save money into the bargain. As far as the Sport-touring segment is concerned, I don't think Harley has anything that comes close to bikes like the FJR or Honda ST1100. And asking European riders to deal with SAE fasteners, sluggish acceleration, and limited parts/service availability is going to limit Harley's growth in that market.

Racing - the VR1000 program is dead, although obviously the V-Rod is a direct result. Maybe a Revoltion-engined Buell will make an appearance at some point. Every other manufacturer sees racing as the way to a) develop engine and suspension technology and b) get the bike in front of the fans. How did Honda achieve its market position in Europe? Racing.

Harley-Davidson could probably go on for years selling 200-300,000 cruiser-type bikes annually, and make handsome profits doing it. But sooner or later demographics or fashion changes are going to work against them and they are going to face some real challenges. So how do they plan best for continued double-digit revenue and profit growth over the long term?

Getting back to why I believe that the V-Rod is so deserving of its "Motorcycle of the Year" honors, I believe it is because Harley has managed to create a bike that honestly expands the market of people willing to buy and ride a motorcycle. Young professionals especially are drawn to its "out of the box" styling and performance. These guys just don't want to deal with the traditional Harley path of a) buying a new Harley and then b) replacing the pipes, heads, cams, carbs, etc. in order to achieve decent performance. Its not that they haven't got the money - its more that they haven't got either the mechanical skill or the time to do it. But these guys also don't want to buy a sport bike. They are intimidated by the riding position and twitchy handling as much as the anti "crotch rocket", "rice burner" sentiment.

The challenge that Harley now faces is how to continue the progress symbolized by the V-Rod, without pi$$ing off their traditional market. Given that the V-Rod was six years in development, I'd guess that they have at least one or two more pleasant surprises in store for us..
 

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Re: Harley thoughts..

VRodDrew said:
Sportbikes - the bigger Buells are a testament to Erik Buell's skills in wringing so much from the Sporty engine. But quality problems and uneven performance mean that Harley struggles to make a profit from Buell. With Buell shipping approx. 10,000 bikes total vs. approx. 270,000 Harleys, one has to question if Harley has the tenacity to stick with Buell, and make the investment in engines, etc. necessary to compete with Honda, Yamaha, etc.
That is what a lot of us Buellers are hoping for. IMO, Buell is being held back from building a fast bike. I feel that HD holds onto them hoping that people will want to get off of a Buell, and onto a "real bike". Ain't gonna happen. A 70 HP bike from Buells is evidence. He used to race, he likes going fast, why would he build such a slow bike?

I am hoping for the V-Rod engine in the frame of a Buell in the near future. Buell needs a 100 HP at the wheel bike.
 
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