First Ride: 2006 Harley-Davidson VRSCR Street Rod Motorcycle

Harley's more powerful engine ever finally gets a chassis to match, delivering the most sporting Harley motorcycle ever sold.

Harley-Davidson Street Rod
The Street Rod is Harley's corner cruiser.Photography by Kevin Wing.

Harley's new 2006 Street Rod is the most sporting motorcycle Harley has ever sold. Its standard-ergos riding position is as aggressive as any Harley has ever offered (even on the old XLCR Cafe Racer), and it is the first H-D with the suspension and cornering clearance to attack corners with real purpose.

As mentioned in our first look at the Street Rod, this variant of the V-Rod Cruiser uses 43mm inverted fork legs set more vertically than the conventional fork of the V-Rod, more massive triple clamps and a shorter 66.6-inch wheelbase. These changes add up to handling that's quicker, more linear and more predictable than the cruiser's with stability comparable to the V-Rod's. The Roadster's steering still isn't nearly as nimble as a more sporting-oriented naked bike such as a Ducati Monster. Part of that is due to the Street Rod's weight, which runs in the mid 600s with fuel. That's about 200 pounds heavier than the Monster. It's also about 20 pounds heavier than the V-Rod.

Harley-Davidson street rod
Street Rod on the road.Kevin Wing

The Street Rod has the most effective suspension and brakes ever put on a full-production Harley. The extra inch of travel that the Street Rod offers over the V-Rod at both ends makes it more stable, controlled and comfortable on bumpy roads, and it passes over both big and small bumps more smoothly.

Though some potential buyers, especially those used to cruisers, may view the Street Rod's 30.0-inch seat height with trepidation, it probably isn't the issue they might believe. Our five-foot-eight tester could comfortably stand flat-footed aboard the bike. The saddle, at least the rider's section, is roomier than the V-Rod's and better shaped and padded for extended rides. Raising the bike also increased lean angle by eight degrees on each side, according to Harley's figures, and even though the V-Rod had good clearance for a cruiser, the Street Rod can now bend much deeper.

Harley-Davidson Street Rod Side View
Harley-Davidson Street Rod Side ViewKevin Wing

With the lower flatter, handlebar and the footpegs set back under the rider rather than way up front, the rider has better control, can stand over bumps and supports some of his weight on the pegs. Though the reach to the bar is a bit stretched, even shorter riders felt that control was improved over the V-Rods.

The Street Rod uses Harley's most powerful engine (and its second-smallest). The 1130 VR engine is the same motor found in the V-Rod, pumped up with a less-restrictive exhaust and some tweaks to the black box. There seemed to be just a little less power off idle than the V-Rod, but the prototype we rode offered a stronger rush at about 5000 rpm. We would have guessed that the power gain was more than the three horsepower that Harley claims. Redline rpm remains at 8500, with the 120-horsepower peak arriving just a few hundred rpm before that. The torque peaks at the same 7000 rpm as the cruiser, but there are 80 foot-pounds, six more than the cruiser.

Harley-Davidson Street Rod
Harley-Davidson Street RodKevin Wing

Clutch pull is similar to other Harleys—heavy—but it engages predictably and controllably. We don't have any complaints about current V-Rod gearboxes, but this one shifts even more smoothly.

The Street Road also boasts the best braking of any Harley. Braking is improved not only by the added power of its Brembo components but also by its smaller grips, which let your hands get better purchase.

For riders who have always wanted a Harley, but, as one rider put it, "haven't quite slowed down that much yet," the Street Rod offers Harley attitude and the promise of some real fun on winding roads. For a more complete report on the motorcycle, see the March issue of Motorcyclist on sale now.