Harley-Davidson is one of the strongest motorcycle brands in the world. Even in the most remote corners of Thailand, or the whole world, there's guy or girl wearing an Harley-Davidson T-shirt or cap. It can make you wonder how they get the Harley-Davidson garments.
Anyway reputations are tough, though. Sometimes they bring you everything you could hope for, other times they're the curse that brings you down. For Harley-Davidson, the strength of the brand and the perceptions we all attach to it, mean that their great motorcycles are often tarred with the same apathy as their shaky old retina-detaching V-twin shakers.
The Harley-Davidson V-Rod Muscle is a world apart from those characterful old bone-shakers though. Obviously part of the V-Rod stable, the Harley-Davidson V-Rod Muscle warps just a little bit of additional style around 1246cc engine from the standard Harley-Davidson V-Rod.
Out on the tarmac, the Harley-Davidson V-Rod Muscle is a surprisingly accomplished ride. The engine is smooth and tractable, delivering 115Nm torque surges, and acceleration throughout the rev range. What is so extraordinary about the Harley-Davidson V-Rod engine, though, is that it doesn't die like a wheezing badger as you punch for the redline. It holds on all the way to the limiter without running out of power, dropping you right back in the power as you take another gear from the slightly heavy operating gearbox. The handling is predictable and consistent at all speeds, and on all surfaces, allowing you to hustle it with confidence. That's not to say it's refined, though. IT still lacks a suppleness and modernity that other cruisers have had nailed for years. It's not unpleasantly harsh, but relatively minor road blemishes will be translated through your seat with unnecessary clarity, accompanied by creaks and groans from the frame as it tries to dissipate the hit. Avoid potholes if you ever want to have children.
There's ABS as standard on the H-D V-Road Muscle, to help you control the 307kg mass under severe braking. Again, while the system works, it's not exactly refined or unobtrusive. The nature of the geometry means that the V-Rod Muscle pushes the front easily anyway, so the ABS can be a bit keen to get in on the party, and then thrashes around with a funny unexplainable feeling. Of course everything is relative, if you come from a Japanese cruiser and test the Harley V-Rod Muscle it still feels a bit rough...