We're also compelled to point out the Muscle's peculiar handling. Unlike the original V-Rod, whose fork was kicked out an additional 2 degrees, the Muscle's is set parallel to the steering head at 34 degrees. But strangely, trail has been increased from a generous 4.5 inches to a Kenworth-like 5.6. Combined with a 67-inch wheelbase and the mammoth rear tire, steering is floppy at slow speeds, the bike falling into corners and crabbing out in the rear. Matters improve significantly at speed, where the bike is supremely stable and steering is surprisingly light, if not exactly neutral. In fact, we'd dare say the Muscle is the best-handling wide-tire production bike we've ridden. Just be careful not to lean it over too far, as the first thing that touches down is your boot heels-not the best way to get a kick in the pants!
What the Muscle is about is its motor. Powered by the 1250cc twin that debuted in the '07 VRSCX Screamin' Eagle CVO edition, it churns out a respectable 104.9 horsepower at 7750 rpm and 76.8 lb.-ft. of torque at 6250 rpm. The tach shows a 9000-rpm redline and the speedo's tiny digits read to 150 mph. Those are some very un-Harley-like numbers and point to the real appeal of the Muscle. It doesn't just look muscular; it is muscular! It's truly a wonderful engine: smooth, powerful, quick revving and fast. Throttle response is excellent; gearshifts are positive, if not exactly slick; and the hydraulic clutch has a reasonably light pull. New this year is the A&S (Assist & Slip) slipper clutch, which reduces the effect of engine braking during downshifts-an important consideration on any high-compression, light-flywheel engine. Our only real complaint is the rear header pipe broils your right inner thigh.
Harley's website claims the Muscle gets 34 mpg city and 42 highway. We got nothing like that, netting a high of 32 mpg and a low of 23, with most tankfuls hovering right around 30. That gives the Muscle a theoretical range of 150 miles-not that you'd want to ride it that far.
Side-mounted license plate is lit per the law, flips out of the way when running from it.
Our test bike was equipped with the new optional ABS, which works great. It ain't subtle, though: The tires howl, and the pedal and lever pulse whenever it's activated. But it's nice to have on a fast, heavyweight (674 pounds wet) power cruiser like this, especially in an unpredictable city environment.
ABS adds $795 to the Muscle's $17,199 base price. That's for the good-looking Vivid Black version; it's $17,504 for the Brilliant Silver, Red Hot Sunglo or badass Dark Blue Denim. A coded-key security system goes for $345, while California buyers pay a $100 emissions fee.
Much as we performance-minded moto-journalists hate to admit it, many motorcyclists buy bikes based largely on their looks and here the Muscle scores a direct hit. Everywhere we rode it, heads turned and more than a few popped out from car windows and face shields to ask, "What is that?!" One dealer who spied the bike at the L.A. Calendar Show gave it a backhanded compliment, saying the styling "isn't as Euro foo-foo as before." But the most telling comments of all came from those onlookers who said the redesigned V-Rod looked "more muscular"-and hadn't even been told its name yet. Guess that makes the Muscle an unqualified success.