2009 Harley-Davidson Muscle First Ride

August 4, 2008
Bryan Harley
Bryan Harley
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Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it's chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to 'Merican, he rides 'em all.

Harley flexes some muscle on the  09 V-Rod Muscle.
Harley flexes some muscle on the ’09 V-Rod Muscle.

The void between me and the far hill at the end of Infineon’s drag strip was black and measureless, the quarter-mile strip sticky with high-grade NHRA rubber left over from the day before. I did my best to channel the spirits of Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines riders Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines. I watched on Sunday as the two NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle racers catapulted a souped-up H-D Destroyer down the quarter-mile run at just under seven seconds. Now it was my turn to launch down the strip aboard the newest motorcycle in the Harley-Davidson stable, the 2009 V-Rod Muscle.

The throttle felt like it was directly connected to my aorta. Every roll on the taut cable made my heart race as the big 4.13-inch cylinders of the 60-degree V-Twin pump between my legs. I roll the five-spoke cast aluminum 19-inch wheel to the line as the lights blink closer to the point of no return. I lean forward like Hines did the day before, snug up to the chest-wide tank. I listen to the rpm climb with a twist of my right hand, my left squeezes the clutch cable tight against the handgrip. Roll and release, roll and release. I run Harley’s resident pro drag racer, Gene Thomason’s advice through my head. Then I totally disregard everything he said.

I build rpm up to almost 8K and hold it there. I lose my focal point down the track and am fixated on the Christmas tree in the corner of my left eye. The trio of yellow lights flash. I’m thinking ‘Reaction Time’ and unceremoniously dump the clutch.

The 240mm rear tire pitches violently right as I hold on to the 1.5-inch cast aluminum bars like a cowboy with a bull by the horns. The rear and the front tire are almost parallel, but I manage to keep the 43mm inverted fork pointed forward. With the throttle still open, the Muscle’s claimed 85 ft-lb of torque at around 7K is still spinning the rear tire as the back end whips around to the left, trailing my legs behind. I do my best Superman on the tank and seat, my legs straight out as the motorcyle strafes the center wall before I finally back off the throttle and fall back into the seat, clipping the black box at the 60-foot marker for good measure. All I can think is “Damn, now that’s a Harley!”

At that moment, I couldn’t think of any name for a motorcycle that could be more appropriate. The V-Rod Muscle. Were it not for a little muscle and a lot of luck, the power of the 1250cc Revolution engine would have given me the ol’ heave-ho. And though it’s got plenty of shoulder-poppin’ power down low, it’s even more impressive on the top end. First gear keeps giving for a long time. It didn’t even reach redline after a long rev where I was fighting to get my big legs back on the pegs against the G’s of a good launch. Granted, it’s a stretch to the forward-mounted foot controls for me at six feet tall, even though they are moved in slightly more than on the standard VRSCAW. But that’s no excuse. The 2009 V-Rod Muscle just brings plenty of gusto to the table, especially when revs climb into the meat of the powerband between 6000-8000 rpm.

The chiseled look of the tank area and the angular air-box cover increase the visual mass of the midsection on the new V-Rod.
The chiseled look of the tank area and the angular air-box cover increase the visual mass of the midsection on the new V-Rod.

This new V-Rod is ripped. The smooth tank got a brawny, chiseled makeover that gives it a mean streak. Big air scoops with wire mesh screens on both sides of the five-gallon tank give the motorcycle’s midsection more mass. The color-matched radiator shrouds are styled a bit differently as well and are more noticeable than before. The sheet-molded compound used on the ’09 Muscle’s body is the same durable stuff they use on the front of bullet trains.

The 2009 V-Rod Muscle looks longer than the standard V-Rod but is actually 0.2 inches shorter. The seat is 0.4 inches lower and has a new, deeper design that gives riders a little more support in the small of their back while they lean forward in an aggressive arms-up riding position. The clean design of the new clipped rear fender makes the bike appear longer as well. It’s wide but short, allowing the fat rear tire to prominently trail behind the bike. The combo stop/tail/turn LED light has been integrated into the fender, tucked neatly just under its edge. The design looks fantastic but only three lights blink when the turn signals are engaged and were a little difficult to see at an angle from a lane over. At a distance, the brightness of the LEDs is easily visible though. The license plate mount has been moved to the left side, keeping the view from the rear clean and uncluttered.

The long, low look of the new V-Rod is accentuated by satin chrome pipes streaking down both sides of the bike. The fat, turn-out mufflers shoot out a little past the rear axle and rumble with each shift of the five-speed transmission. Running through the gears quickly in drag mode, the tranny didn’t miss a shift. A race-bred ‘slipper-style’ clutch keeps chirps to a minimal when downshifting the 640-lb power cruiser. When coming to the end of the Infineon runway after a triple-digit run, a potent Brembo triple-disc arrangement has no problems shaving off speed. And in case you feel the need, all VRSCs have the option of being equipped with factory-installed ABS.

Before leaving Infineon to sample more of the 2009 Harley-Davidson lineup, Krawiec and Hines both took a turn cracking the throttle on the factory Muscle down the dragstrip. Krawiec set the fastest pace of the day with an 11.5 right out of the gate. Not to be outdone, Hines demonstrated why he’s leading the Pro Stock Motorcycle class by calmly laying down an 11.3-second run.

Fans of the old-style VRSC need not fear. The traditional look of the rounded-tank V-Rod continues in the 2009 VRSCAW. The sinister Night Rod Special also returns in ’09 with a slew of blacked-out components and a few extra horsepower out of its 1250cc liquid-cooled Revolution engine. But the release of the Muscle is the biggest news coming out of the V-Rod camp. The stylistic changes have been eight years coming, and the 2009 Muscle rings in at the top of its class with a MSRP of $17,199.

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