Launched in 2002, the original V-Rod heralded a new era for Harley-Davidson and a bold attempt to broaden its product range away from the iconic air-cooled V-twin engines. The V-Rod was an uncompromisingly modern machine with an engine designed by Porsche, no less, and with little concession to tradition. Its 1130cc 60-degree Revolution V-Twin engine was the first Harley-Davidson production engine equipped with overhead cam shafts and liquid cooling, and came with a buzzing 9000-rpm redline.
Fast forward ten years, and feast your eyes on the 2012 Night Rod Special. Like all 2012 V-Rod models, it is powered by the latest version of the Revolution engine, now taken out to 1250cc, liquid-cooled and with dual overhead camshafts, four-valve cylinder heads and Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI). There's an ‘Assist and Slip' clutch, five-speed gearbox and a high-performance carbon-fibre drive belt. Tyres are Michelin Scorcher radials, including a massive 240mm-wide rear. Brakes are by Brembo, with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) fitted as standard.
New for 2012 are a new tapered tail section, lighter wheels and improved ergonomics, which mean less of a stretch to both the rider footpegs and handlebars.
One thing you can never ignore is the length of the V-Rod's wheelbase. The bike is 2.44-metres long, and the front forks are kicked out a long way forward for improved straight-line stability. This has an interesting effect on the bends - coupled with that massive rear tyre, the whole bike seems to pivot, not from the tyre contact patch at the bottom of the wheels, but from an imaginary pole through the steering head and saddle. It takes some getting used to, but when you do, given a degree of commitment, the V-Rod will corner as hard as you dare to push it.
What Harley-Davidson have never lost sight of is the very direct and mechanical nature of the experience. Despite the fact that the engine is rubber mounted, and there's a high-tech drive belt, you can feel every single beat of the engine through the handlebars, seat and footpegs. The tiny nacelle over the headlight is there mainly for decorative purposes, so you feel the full force of the wind in your face.
Riding the V-Rod is a visceral, intense onslaught to all your senses, one long continuous explosion of noise and vibration punctuated the heat of the sun and the smell of the desert. It is thrilling and totally absorbing, and the world shrinks around you as more and more of the trivialities and worries are stripped away. Eventually, nothing exists but you, the bike and the road. All that matters is the next mile, the next bend, the next hour.
Time, cars, mortgages and all your responsibilities may well change your priorities in life, but this remains true. Once you become a biker, you are a biker for life. No matter how long it is since you last went for a ride, you never forget. Never.