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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was out riding recently, and as I passed one of our local dealerships I noticed a strange-looking V-Rod parked out front. When I pulled in to investigate (hey, ya just gotta look) it turned out it was the sales manager's personal bike.

The bike had Samson straight double-barrel pipes; the chrome front sliders; and a few other dress-up items. But the thing that had caught my eye was the fact that the airbox cover and fenders were painted in a metallic purple scheme. Doing a little math in my head, I calculated that the guy probably spent a minimum of $3000 customizing his bike, and probably more like $5000.

Now taste is a very personal thing, but to my eye the bike just didn't look right. It looked fast, and certainly sounded plenty raspy - but it just didn't look like a V-Rod any more.

Maybe I shouldn't have watched the Discovery Channel special on "The Birth of the V-Rod". When I watched that show, and I saw how much thought and artistic effort went into the creation of the various parts it made me appreciate the bike in a whole new way. What makes a V-Rod special? It's more than just the water-cooled engine. Its the fact that they went to the trouble of routing the coolant return line vertically, so as not to cross the base of the front cylinder. The nod to Harley's air-cooled heritage in the fins on the tops of the cylinders. Its the contrast between the chrome covers with the subtle two-tone grey of the castings. The VRSC engine sits like a precious jewel within the elegant setting of the frame.

The frame itself is a work of art - take a look at a naked Softail or Sportster frame for comparison. Most other V-Twin frames look like something you could weld together in an afternoon with some tubing, a pipe bender, and a few chunks of plate for gussets. The lines are straight, with simple constant radius curves and angles. The V-Rod's frame seems almost organic by comparison, like the skeleton of a predatory beast. The curves move in multiple axes - seeming to ignore the constraints of manufacturability.

The body work, and especially the standard color scheme, play into the theme as well. The anodized aluminum evokes images of the Auto Union race cars of the 1930s or prototype jet airplanes. The finish shimmers almost irridescently in natural light, complementing but not overwhelming the chrome and grey of the engine.

Perhaps the most visually impressive feature is the exhaust. The way the header pipes curve sinuously from the cylinders to the "auxilliary volume" and then to boldly upswept mufflers, purposeful and striking.

To me, the V-Rod is more than the sum of its parts. It is a work of art, and as such to tinker too much with the appearance borders upon sacrilege. You don't paint a mustache on the Mona Lisa - no matter how much you like the look of facial hair.

And this may yet turn out to be the curse of the V-Rod. Customiztion has become the name of the game for Harley-Davidson owners. Riders buy and customize their bikes as an affirmation of their individuality. Nobody wants to show up at a rally with a bike thats identical to twenty others parked there. Parked alone in the forecourt of a gas station a V-Rod is an object of beauty and fascination - a shimmering symbol of aesthetic perfection. Seeing your fifth V-Rod parked in a line of other bikes quickly becomes an excercise similar to one of those puzzles in the comics - "See if you can spot the differences between these bikes? Ah - this guy paid the $220 for the chrome belt covers; and this one's got the slotted chrome foot controls."

Years ago I heard a joke about a display at the Smithsonsion of George Washington's axe. The joke was that, according to curator, in 1825 the wooden handle rotted away, so they had to replace it. Then in 1910 the head finally rusted to dust, so they replaced that too- but the axe occupies the same SPACE as old George's original. I see Harley's like that axe: "Its a 1996 Softail. We put in a 103 inch S&S engine, a 6-speed Rev-Tech transmission, Exotica wheels; an Arlen Ness Headlight; and Jesse James fenders." At some point the soul of that Softail departed the machine, and it became something new entirely. The Softail served as a blank canvas upon which the owner and builder could impart their creative vision.

Will the V-Rod prove capable of serving as a blank canvas, upon which artists working in the media of sheet metal, billet aluminum, chrome, and House of Kolor paint can create their masterpieces? I cannot say for certain. I know a lot of folks are trying....
 

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Beautifully written and you give second thoughts to modification plans. However taste is like a butt, i.e. divided :)

I have seen a few V-Rods modified into an individualized item and which I think looks better and more balanced than the original version. For example, check out the V-Rod on www.harleypics.com. I will probably not alter mine to a great extent but irrespective of all of the designwork done at H-D by greater artists than myself being advised by people with highly valued eyes for industrial design-beauty, I cannot get away from the fact that I would like to alter (1) the front light, (2) the handlebar, (3) the exhuaust system. (4) the registration plate location, (4) and most likely the wheels, at a later stage. This dispite that the V-Rod by far is the best looking stock Harley ever done but even the best stock can be altered to perfection at least for my impefect eyes...

Anyway, great piece of writing work VRodDrew. I will read it again! Maybe it will change my mind then...
 

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VRodDrew
Well spoken. I actually like Vrod owners to modify their bikes because I'm hoping that I will have the only unspoilt, unaltered Vrod left. The only thing I intend to add is chrome parts in exchange for the cheap stock parts (e.g. foot pegs, swing arm, triple trees. etc. and of course Screamin' Eagles). Let them modify their rods until nobody recognizes it anymore - then everybody can oogle ours.
 

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Yeah, I'm thinkin maybe that Black belt guard might have to go. The chrome ones sure do look good on em. Actually I had the guards off the other day looking at it, and it didnt look too bad without them. :eek:
I'd hate to see a passenger get their pant leg ripped off, LoL. Has anyone else tried this, and just replaced the upper guard with a nut for the rear attachment ?
 

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Drew
In some respects I agree with your thought and some I don’t. Like with every mass produced product many owners are trying to personalize their rides. Then there are the things the MC had to do to meet FMVSS requirements, like the horn and its cover. I’ve seen the Discovery Channel program a couple of times and don’t remember them including it in the beauty of the bike during the design phases. It sticks out in the way of your leg, especially if you’re short. But then they might have figured the rest of the MC bikes have the air cleaner in the way on the other side and thought we needed the same discomfort. Then there’s the plastic license plate frame, IMO it’s not the most appealing design, but necessary? Can’t believe they couldn’t give a better seat standard instead of making us pay for one.

Nevertheless, the frame geometry and exhaust pipe curves are part of the beauty along with the long and lean look. I personally like the change of colors for the aluminum pieces, I even think a frame painted a different color would be appropriate. The color of the pieces don’t take away from the design IMO. Using chrome or polished pieces are things I can live with too, they don’t change the basic design, they just take it to a different level. The current aftermarket pipes are a distraction from the design, IMO, the curves of the stock ones are part of what drew me to the bike.

Anyhow most of us want to have something that makes ours different from everyone else’s. Some take that to extremes, we’ve all seen the Honda Civics out there with wings that could be used on the side of a plane
:D
 

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I also agree with vette family. Here's my 2 cents - I don't think Harley designed the plan Jane stock look and then came out with all the chrome do-dads, they were in the works from day one. Let's face it the left side has no chrome to balance the right side with the nice designed exhaust. So H-D has chrome sprocket and belt guards, all of which I have gotten too. I felt I need to balance the bikes looks from one side to the other.

And how about the rubber coolant hose, I am sure the original designers had the steel braided in mind. But because it's a PITA to install they compromised with the Dealers and now have the chrome condom shield to put over your rubbers.

Harley isn't stupid, they make the bike the best looking then pick off the parts they can sell as after market and there you have your accessories. When the design team worked on it they had no limits for money then the MoCo started puling things, but they all do it, not just H-D.

But I do agree the anodized aluminum, silver frame, polished aluminum and chrome do go very well together. I didn't get a chrome swing arm because I couldn't tell almost $500 worth of difference. But you have to cover that ugly swing arm nut, which makes it look unfinished. I am sure the designer didn't intend on leaving it looking like that.

The best thing about the V-Rod is they still only have about 20 pages in the accessories catalog, so you getting a good deal on the bike now or at least they couldn't take that much off. You have to give Harley credit; they sell you the bike and then give you a whole biggie catalog for future gifts.

Dave
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Colors, Chrome, and the aftermarket..

Of all the non-stock painted V-Rods I've seen, the one SVROD pointed out looks the best. They painted the bodywork black, keeping up the monochrome theme of the bike. Doing that I felt highlighted the frame, engine, and the aftermarket wheels and radical brake rotors. Personally, I don't much care for bright colors on the V-Rod bodywork, although I suppose a high-tech yellow might look alright. I also noticed on the V-Rod on Harleypics.com that they kept the stock coolant hose - on that bike it looked just right. I hope I don't offend anyone here, but IMHO flames, cartoon characters, and naked women just don't go with the V-Rod.

I think that Harley did a pretty good job of giving you a nice mix of options for the parts you can put on the bike. I've got the chrome belt covers, because I agree that you need to balance out the chrome of the exhaust on the right side with chrome on the left. I've also got the swingarm and axle bolts covered. I don't really care for the chrome fork sliders - another personal opinion, but they make the bike look like a woman wearing too much jewelry to a formal event. Plus they show up even the tiniest dead mosquito or dab of road dirt - maybe more suited to a trailer queen than a daily driver. I'd probably feel the same way about chrome brake calipers and brake and clutch reservoirs, chrome drive sprocket, and the swingarm. Chrome hand and foot controls - expensive but nice.. they seem appropriate for the bike. A chrome jiffy stand seems like more trouble than its worth - I just can't see chroming a part that by definition gets kicked with a dirty boot and rested on concrete and asphalt. The chrome voltage regulator? A heck of a lot of money for a part you've got to bend over and stick your head under the steering head to even see. Maybe if my stock one goes bad.. The only "must-have" I haven't put on yet is the braided coolant hose - again I think that this just serves to balance out the bike, making a nice contrast with the horn cover on the other side.

The stock mirrors are pretty pedestrian. I can see upgrading those to possibly the chrome bullet-style from Harley. I did see some parts on a Jesse James chopper that had been chromic-acid etched - it leaves a finish that is sort of a semi-gloss silver gray. A variety of parts with that finish would look very nice on the V-Rod.

The functional parts for the bike really depend on your riding style. If you spend much time at all at freeway speeds, you probably need a windshield. You want to take a passenger - you need the fender bracket, sissybar, backrest, and a new pillion. And if you want to carry anything that won't fit in your pockets, then you'll need the luggage rack and possibly the saddlebags.

Changing the wheels is another area that I think can be done succesfully, both from a practical and an aesthetic viewpoint. Practical because the solid disc wheels make the bike a handful in crosswinds; and aesthetic because I don't think the stock wheels add anything that special to the bike. Chroming the stock wheels, however, wouldn't be on my list of things to do.

The aftermarket has been pretty slow to come up with new parts for the V-Rod (Bub and Samson excluded.) I think part of it comes from the fact that the bike doesn't fit into any specific category (you wouldn't really call it a metric cruiser like a Valkyrie or Vulcan, would you?), and yet the fittings are mostly metric. Its not a sportbike, but its also not a chopper or a touring bike. I really can't see putting laughing jokers or golden eagles all over the V-Rod either. Its interesting to me that so many of the best things done to the V-Rod have come out of Europe. I'd really like a set of black carbon-fiber body parts (fenders, side covers, and airbox cover) that I could bolt on and off the bike. It would be almost like having two different bikes, depending on your mood. The current price of the available carbon fiber makes it unlikely I'll do this anytime soon, though.
 

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You couldn't have said it better. (sorry I'm new to this forum, and for that matter new to Harley-Davidson). The stock exhaust is beautifully scultured, but I want a louder sound. I considered the Screaming Eagle muffles because they maintain stock lines, but opted for double barrels instead, on order. I hope I am not disapointed and that they don't detract from what I consider to be the best designed bike ever.

Pete
 

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VRodDrew---great wordsmithing

I concur with you about the soul of the bike , and have expressed similar thoughts------

I suggest that not only did Harley collaborate with Porshe , but with H. R. Giger, the creator of Alien , in the design of this LIVING MACHINE .

Hutch
 

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VRodDrew,

All Harley riders personalize their rides. They have been doing that since before we were all born regardless of model. Harley did not invent the custom bike, they copied it from us.

DieselDoc
 

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SVROD said:
I cannot get away from the fact that I would like to alter (1) the front light, (2) the handlebar, (3) the exhuaust system. (4) the registration plate location, (4) and most likely the wheels, at a later stage.
I dont own a V-rod but overall I do like the bike. I agree with you on what you would like to change. I dont care for the headlight, the rims, the exhaust or those weird gills on the steering neck.

I have seen a couple with painted bodywork & the changes I mentioned & the bike looks fantastic. Have also seen some different setups for the "gills".
 

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I bought my bike to be different.I modded my bike First so it would be like No other.Now the Mods are to be the Fastest.Not everyone is as extreme as me"Thank God"!Every Bike I own"6 as of now" has been IMPROVED for me.I race my machines and most of them except my Ducati Race Bikes were made for sport not competition.Thats what makes the world go around.Different Strokes for Diffferent Folks!
Kaz.........:cool:
 

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Good thread!

I like the anno look of the skin with the solid wheels.

If you park your bike with the front wheel turned out the opposite way, the bike looks like an old art deco train. The aluminum body work, the solid wheels, the sloped headlight - and it has been said here earlier - the amazing pipes.

The pipes (I also went with the SE for the sound and original look) look like oil brush strokes - perhaps the final signature of the artist.

Warren
 

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The thing about the V-Rod that makes it attactive to customization is that you can take it in different directions. SuperKaz has gone one way (toward the drag strip) and some of the rest of us headed for the open road with the bike.

My bike with custom paint (gloss black with blended metalic silver stripe down the top, and orange pinstiping), SE 16 guage, Sundowner, Touring Shield, Backrest and Rack, Engine guards, and some chrome pieces gets even some Harley owners asking me "is that the new V-Rod". They love the look of my bike, and flock to admire it, but with these mods puts doubts in the mind of even those who might immediately identify a stock Rod. This is two model years into its production run and everyone expects the bike to look just like it did when it was introduced (i.e. silver). The stock bike is beautiful, but no longer unique. The basic form is a work of art, and tastefully customized V-Rods in my opinion only improve on it.

I drool over Holi's bike, but would not spend my money to duplicate it. I find what SuperKaz has done technically facinating, but would not spend the bucks to make mine go faster (too old and too chicken), but the small stuff I will readily spend my money on. I enjoy surfing for pics of bikes looking for the perfect part. Right now it is pegs(perhaps "Switchblades"), and mirrors (wish to improved vision and like billet style) but am taking my time to get it right (what I feel is correct for my bike may not be another's choice).

Changes make bikes unique and special to the owner, and when they are appreciated by others significantly adds to the pleasure of ownership. Why else do we post pics of our bikes on the forum. We are proud and enjoy the positive feedback from others who appreciate the bike. I was at the Arlington Fly In (planes not bikes) and a retired "consultant" offered to buy my bike. He owns a Porche and a plane, and wants to add a bike to his toy collection. He fell in love with mine, but had not even invisioned that a V-Rod could look different than what he had seen on the floor of the Harley Dealer. He has the money to spend, but would not pull the trigger on a stock V-Rod. He told me if the dealer had mentioned that it could be more of a touring bike, he proabably would have gone for it.

I think if more Dealers did what Destination Harley does in Tacoma (put stunning paint by Gary Ebert on V-Rods, who did mine) or what Downtown Harley in Seattle does (make outstanding custom Rods - one sold for $40,000) dealers would increase interest in the platform. Too many dealers simply put a crap solid color paint job on the bike (probably cost them $300, and charge $1500 for it), then discount the bike when it also sits on the floor. I have seen lime green and blue dealer installed paint on V-Rods that are sacralige and make me agree with the original post (to make a beautiful bike worse is a crime).

If dealers would stock a full line of parts for the Rod (possibly installed on a bike on the floor), many buyers would be spending far more initially on the bike. Special ordering parts you cannot feel or touch is risky at the prices Harley charges, and even the two dealers mentioned stock a minimum of parts for the Rod (Destination surprisingly has almost nothing "in-stock"). No dealer in the Seattle Area will order in the Kuryakin Swithblade for stock, even though I am convinced that they will be a huge seller for Kuryakin (I want to see and touch the damn thing before plunking down my money). Not all buyers surf the internet forums and aftermarket sites to find parts like I do, and simply rely on seeing a part or accessory on another bike for inspiration, or at least on a rack at the dealer.

I know that parts inventories have to be managed, and the numbers of V-Rods pale in comparison to Sporties and Soft-tails, but I think they might sell more Chrome Belt guards than some of the tastless multi-fit crap made for the other models that hang on their walls.

My 2 cents worth. When I figure out how to change my photos to 640x800 or take that resolution I will post some pics.
 
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