Living with a 2003 Harley-Davidson V-Rod VRSCA

Shippey lives the dream and spends some time with the H-D V-Rod

Living with a 2003 Harley-Davidson V-Rod VRSCA
Engine Capacity

June 2003

1989, I opened a Woolwich savings account and told everyone (to muffled sniggers) that it was my 'Harley Account'.

There are two types of motorcycle that people aspire to. One, a Ducati. Two, the Harley. For me, the Harley is a true icon of motorcycling. It encapsulates so much. Half a ton of throbbing, vibrating mass between your legs is hard to beat. Richard La Plante wrote a book that I found on a window shop to Warr's. 'Hog Fever' told of his love, his trials and his tribulations of his life with Hogs.

Then, in 2001 the V-Rod was thrust upon the world in all its shimmering silver-cloaked glory. For many it became a biking idol overnight.

I have lost count of the number of times I have been stopped by people wanting to comment on how beautiful she looks (if only the same could be said about the girlfriend), by young and old alike. Well, they are right. This has got to be the ultimate pose machine. If you want people to look at you (Wozza), then check out the V-Rod. The respect this beast commands and deserves far outweighs its contemporaries. You catch yourself admiring your reflection in shop windows, and purposefully cruising to places where people will stop and stare in awe.

Through a seven-year development partnership, Porsche have kindly reworked the bike's classic air-cooled lump and turned it into a fuel-injected, liquid-cooled monster of torque. Few others can keep up with her away from the lights and she's as happy as Larry pottering about through town or cruising on the open road.

The gearbox is silky smooth, as you would expect from Porsche. Gone is the laborious clunk of shifting, and bulging arms from heavy clutches. This has been swapped for a slick box that makes clutchless up-changes a breeze. The former may be a true Harley characteristic, but times are a changing. The V-Rod is probably what the big Jap four should have built. Instead they were too concerned with mimicking existing Harley's. H-D have now, themselves, developed a fast, reliable, good handling sports cruiser that has suddenly reached a whole new audience.

I still have the Woolwich account by the way. It now has £7.26 including interest. The money may not have come but the dream is still there. Ladies and gentlemen, let's rock.

December 2003

I think that I was remarkably calm all things considered. There I was relaxing on holiday with my family in France when I got the ansafone message that I'd been dreading. As soon as I saw it was from Ponsford I knew he'd binned the Rod. Boy was I right, over four grand's worth of damage cos some twat had pulled out on him. If it had been any other bike it would have been consigned to the scrap heap, and Universal Salvage would be punting her out in their next auction for a pittance.

It has taken 10 WEEKS for me to get her back after many emails and phone calls. 'Why so long?' was always my first question. It transpires that it was the fault of the insurance bods dragging their heels yet again. Ponsford crashed on 9th July, and I finally plonked my skinny arse back in her plush seat on 17th September! The wait was proof positive that I was treated just like anyone else and not a pampered hack. One reason I was given was that it was taking an eternity to get certain major parts, like the false tank and the rear master cylinder. Considering that Harley have not sold that many V-Rods in Europe surely there would have been enough spare parts to have sorted me out sooner?

Oh well, such is life! I had just about had enough of all and sundry asking when I was going to get her back, and as the weeks went on my patience was starting to evaporate. Then out of the blue I got the nod from Warr's that she would be ready in three days! Oh joy! As soon as I was off the plane from the Milan show I was gagging to get over to west London. I wasn't to be disappointed. Everything had been replaced. The gorgeous chrome master cylinders and switchgear, the new pegs and foot controls, even the Screamin' Eagle cans were brand spanking new. They had even put wider bars on with the electrics now routed through them to unclutter the front.

I had a nagging feeling that it would take ages to get used to her again after riding the SV1000S for most of the injury time, however, as soon as I hit the starter, kicked her into first and headed off with a solid thwap of the throttle, the all too familiar grin spread across my stubbly mug. When you ride a bike like this for 1800 miles across Europe, even a long enforced break like this doesn't affect things. Almost instantly we became one again, grinding the pegs round the Wandsworth Bridge roundabout and pissing off the local couriers by riding like a man possessed through the rush hour traffic. The pose factor was in full effect. It may be vain but I love the fact that people stop and stare at my iron horse, it makes me feel fanbleedintastic!

I recently read Andrew English's rather derogatory piece on the V-Rod in the Saturday edition of the Telegraph. He made a number of comments that were, basically, bollocks. It's got no ground clearance, he said. It's uncomfortable and windy, he said. And then he made the assertion that the V-Rod is "clearly a bike for men with moustaches," which was why it hadn't sold very well in Europe. OK, it may not have sold in the numbers that Harley anticipated once they upped production, but the Rod is a superb motorcycle. With the addition of the Stage 1 tune and the Screamin' Eagle zorst, linked with the huge torque there is almost nothing that can match it for sheer acceleration. Get it into a rural setting and she eats up the miles in total rider comfort. In my Spanish summer trek I encountered everything Mother Nature could throw at me. Motorways were a breeze, A and B roads were relaxing, and even tight mountain passes like those in the Pyrenees were possible without much struggle. Ground clearance was acceptable, I was comfortable and I didn't suffer at all from wind lash. And I'm 6'6"! And finally, I don't have a moustache either. In future, try not to rely on hackneyed old clichés, Mr. English. Surely he should know better and if he doesn't he is writing out of his depth.

Now for the bad part! I had only gone about six miles from Warr's when that all too familiar sight reared its ugly head. The dreaded fuel light came on! I had almost forgotten the savage thirst for the green pump she has. Then there are the wheels. They look the dogs when the bike is new, but let even a drop of water near them and they suddenly get white fur coats. For a 14 grand bike you would expect better quality on a basic product, but then a Harley is just a blank canvas to paint on. And I intend to build...

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