V Roehr 1130 | First Ride

High spec, high ambitions and hand-built in the USA - Who said it couldn't be done?

We've all had impossible dreams. But Walter Roehrich made his come true. The 45-year-old Chicago resident has combined working as an Audi/Porsche/VW master technician with building a succession of increasingly more accomplished motorcycles in his spare time, at home, culminating in the bike you see here: the Harley-Davidson V-Rod-powered V-Roehr 1130.

But isn't the 205-pound V-Rod engine too big and lacking in power, as Erik Buell himself has attested? "I went to the dealership and took measurements of the engine, and it's actually not quite as long as a Ducati motor," reckons Roehrich. "So I put it on my CAD program and played around. I knew the wheelbase would be an issue, because although it's a 60-degree vee, it's still long. But because it's such a heavy package you can use that to your advantage and put it in exactly the right spot to optimize weight distribution."

Roehrich did this by locating the stock 1130cc engine (converted to chain final drive) as close to the front wheel as possible. Wheelbase is a handy 56 inches-.3 inch shorter than a Ducati 1098. The hlins fork is set at a 23.5-degree angle with 3.5 inches of trail, yielding a 52/48 percent forward weight bias for a motorcycle weighing 425 pounds.

The V-Roehr's chassis weighs 28 pounds and consists of a pair of aluminum swingarm pivot plates machined from billet, then epoxy-bonded and screwed to twin chassis spars made from 4x1-inch rectangular chromoly steel. The fuel is carried beneath and behind the single seat, creating space for the 15-liter airbox located where the fuel tank ordinarily would be. The twin 54mm single-injector Magneti Marelli throttle bodies draw air via a stock V-Rod air filter, with the stock H-D Delphi ECU and wiring harness also retained.

The conventional-looking swingarm is currently steel, but a single-sided aluminum version is in the works, with a rising-rate link designed to work with the hlins shock. Non-radial Brembo brakes and Marchesini wheels round out the package.

Although the double-stack headlights come from a Buell Firebolt, the V-Roehr's striking styling is entirely Roehrich's own work. Seen in the metal, the racy-looking red machine has undoubted visual presence, a promise that's maintained when you sling a leg over the 31.5-inch-high seat and discover a balanced riding position with user-friendly ergos. It feels slim yet spacious and allows plenty of movement back and forth.

As for performance, there's a strong surge in acceleration delivered by a torque curve that's pretty meaty from 3000 rpm upward, that peaks out at a little over 7000. Power builds well all through the rev range, though acceleration is determined rather than explosive. But ironically, the V-Rod engine's lusty torque and lack of sixth gear helped uncover the V-Roehr's greatest asset: its confident handling that encourages you to run it a gear higher in most turns. It's a bike whose chassis "talks" to you, just like a Ducati's does.

You can feel it absorbing bumps while leaned over without being diverted from your chosen line, delivering stability in corners that encourages you to turn in to fast sweepers without any chatter causing it to shake its head, or being so stiff that it suddenly loses grip and lets go without warning. Feedback was good from both ends, though the shock will surely benefit from the planned progressive link.

The V-Roehr excels at the point of turn-in to a corner, where it feels really planted and poised, again delivering lots of rider confidence in keeping up cornering speed via a fast entry. It stops acceptably well and is completely stable under hard braking, but really could do with radial brakes for that last drop of performance.

After my day spent riding it at the Autobahn Motorsports Country Club in Joliet, Illinois-and in conversation with Roehrich-I'm left with the conviction that this bike is a very promising package. Its appeal lies in the way it delivers acceptable real-world performance-stellar steering, composed braking, confidence-inspiring handling and near-perfect ergos-with a lusty, user-friendly power delivery.

What's the point of this effort, you might well ask? "My aim is to bring this bike to production as a hand-built, limited-edition motorcycle," states Roehrich. So what we have here is a work-in-progress prototype, the first step in the evolution of a Harley-powered Bimota of the Backroads that's 100 percent Born in the USA. "I'm looking for capital to take Roehr Motorcycles to the next level," he continues. "So far, this has been a labor of love for me, a dream that I've been chasing for something like 15 years. I've done all the design work and fabrication on the frame and body, as well as the construction of the complete bike, financed with my own money while working a full-time job.

"The business plan is grounded in establishing a small but solid manufacturing operation. We plan to produce 50 bikes the first year retailing for $39,900, with carbon-fiber bodywork, a single-sided swingarm, radial brakes and forged-aluminium wheels-a quality specification. The initial capital investment to achieve this is minimal-less than $500,000. From that point on the company would be self-sufficient and fund its own growth, and I'm looking for a partner who shares this dream, who has the experience and capital to make it happen."

It's a tribute to Walter Roehrich's tenacity and talent not only that the V-Roehr exists at all, but that it works so well-apparently straight out of the box, because my test ride marked its first visit to a racetrack. Personally I reckon this is a project that deserves to succeed, and I wish Roehrich luck in finding a fairy godfather to underwrite the cost of putting it into production-just as Harley-Davidson did in allowing Erik Buell to bring the first RR1000 powered by H-D's venerable iron pushrod V-twin motor into the marketplace some 20 years ago. What goes around, comes around

Spec Tech

Walter Roerich's 15 years of blood, sweat and tears have resulted in the V-Roehr 1130 prototype, ready for limited production with the right backing.

Ummm...any of the esoteric dream rides from MV Agusta, Bimota and, of course, the MotoGP-based Ducati Desmosedici RR. Oh, and did somebody mention the MotoCysz? Not us

Price: $39,900
Engine type: l-c V-twin
Valve train: DOHC, 8v
Displacement: 1130cc
Bore x stroke: 100.0 x 72.0mm
Compression: 10.5:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Transmission: 5-speed
Claimed horsepower: 120 bhp @ 8750rpm
Claimed torque: 84 lb.-ft. @ 7000 rpm
Frame: Steel/aluminum twin-spars with aluminum swingarm
Front suspension: 43mm hlins inverted fork, adjustable for spring preload, rebound and compression damping
Rear suspension: Single hlins shock, adjustable for spring preload, rebound and compression damping
Front brakes: Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake: Single Brembo two-piston caliper, 230mm disc
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Corsa
Rear tire: 180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Corsa
Rake/trail: 23.5/3.5 in.
Seat height: 31.5 in.
Wheelbase: 56 in.
Fuel capacity: 3.9 gal.
Dry weight: 425 lbs.
Colors: Red
Available: na
Warranty: na
Contact: www.roehrmotorcycles.com

It's easy to be cynical about prototypes like the V-Roehr 1130, but making a dream a reality is no easy task. Just ask Erik Buell.

They say: "A labor of love for 15 years."
We say: "Motorcycle manufacturing, like comedy, is all about timing."
Shown here impersonating a Ducati 1098, the V-Roehr feels reassuringly planted at speed thanks to a forgiving chassis and compliant suspension.
Behold the 28-lb. composite chassis: stout internally reinforced steel spars bonded and bolted to billet aluminum plates that carry the swingarm. Production wheels are forged aluminum.
Side-mounted radiators do their best to cool Milwaukee's hottest twin. Exhaust plumbing is a testament to the tube-bender's art.
It's all engine beneath the 15-liter airbox. Currently rated at 120 horses, Roehr has bits to boost output to an alleged 180 bhp.