For a company that built a multibillion-dollar empire on tradition, the V-Rod was a gamble of epic proportions. Though driven by an internal-combustion V-twin, there were few other resemblances to the iron that made Milwaukee famous. This one came with a radiator. Created in a joint venture with the Porsche Engineering Group, the Revolution twin put 60 degrees between its liquid-cooled cylinders, each topped by four valves and two chain-driven camshafts. Hydraulics keep the chains tight so you don't have to. A pair of 53mm throttle bodies make up the business end of a sophisticated Delphi EFI system created to fuel the 1130cc fire. With forged-aluminum pistons setting compression at 11.3:1 inside 100 x 72mm cylinders, this was an engine with a heartier appetite for rpm than its lumbering predecessors.
Our '02 testbike cranked out a convincing 109.3 horses at its relatively stratospheric 8250-rpm peak, along with a less-shattering 74.3 lb.-ft. of torque at 7000-that's just a bit more torque than Harley's 1200 Sportster. The V-Rod backed up its strip-derived silhouette by covering the L.A. County Raceway quarter-mile in 11.31 seconds at 115 mph-1.7 seconds and 15 mph ahead of the inveterate Sporty and quicker than Japanese behemoths such as Honda's VTX1800 and Yamaha's Warrior. The result is dead-smooth at freeway speeds. The only downside to all that is a healthy appetite for super unleaded, compounded by a 4-gallon plastic fuel tank under the seat that puts 130-something miles between fill-ups. Some well-used examples develop an appetite for oil as well, burning a quart every 1000 miles.
A V-Rod conferred instant rock-star status in '02, and it's still a standout. At 620 pounds wet, it's no lightweight, but that's still 38 lbs. less than an '02 VTX. And with radically raked steering geometry and a pair of axles spanning more than 5.5 feet of real estate, handling was more of an acquired taste. Trajectory changes take some muscle at parking-lot speeds. The 26-inch seat is a boon to shorter folks, but forward foot controls are a stretch for anyone under 5-foot-7. Steering is a bit quirky around town as well, especially with the throttle off. The 'Rod is a solid piece of work, and Milwaukee did a good job on quality control. But watch for fuel lines worn thin from rubbing against the frame, warped brake rotors and corrosion/oxidation on exposed fasteners.
Still the only
V-twin power cruiser
Quirky cornering manners and harsh stock suspension
Worn jiffy-stand bushings, sticky cables, noisy/ pulsing brakes, corrosion on wheels and exhaust system
Modern rapid-transit cast in real Milwaukee steel