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Night Rod Special - cream of the 2012 Harley-Davidsons


August 11, 2011

2012 Harley-Davidson Night Rod Special

2012 Harley-Davidson Night Rod Special

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Harley-Davidson is an American success story. The company has been manufacturing its iconic machines since 1903 but its values were forged by association with the post-war "rebel" motorcycle clubs and paradoxically with the highway patrol police they were so often in conflict with. Like so much of US manufacturing Harley-Davidson took a hit from the rise of the Far East in the 1980s but the boom years of 90's excess saw Harley-Davidson successfully consolidate its brand into the global symbol of 'the American Dream' that it is today. Harley-Davidson understands its place in the world and the 2012 model line up contains variations on all the traditional designs that people expect, some of them going back to the 1920's. It would be wrong however to imagine that the company rejects technological advancement - far from it, and there can be no more beautiful expression of that than the Night Rod Special.

The Night Rod Special is a custom variation of the V-Rod series that brought a more modern and aggressive street style plus a number of technological advances to the brand. The famous V-Twin engine has been "breathed" on by the engineers at Porsche to bring increased RPM and power - 125bhp - with fuel injection, double overhead cams and water cooling. The unique feature of the V-Rod series though is the "exo-frame" which wraps around the tank and engine like no other Harley. To manufacture the sensuous curves that the designers wanted Harley-Davidson turned to the use of hydroforming where the frame tubes are created in a mould using 60,000 psi of pressure. They are the only bike manufacturer using this technique at present.

To ensure the iconic engine and unique frame are seen without distraction all cabling is invisible, either passing through the frame or mounted in plastic mouldings under the fuel tank. Of the all the electronics on the bike Harley-Davidson is most proud of their self-cancelling turn indicators that use accelerometers to detect lean angle, direction and speed to calculate when to cancel the signal.

But enough of the technology, Harley-Davidsons are all about cruising and looks, and the visuals of the Night Rod Special couldn't be stronger - fully blacked out tank, engine, wheels, forks, tail and exhaust - apart from the stainless steel mufflers. A black low-rise bar, some contrasting red lining, a fat rear tyre and lowered suspension complete the look. If you're not particularly interested in going around corners and want to pretend to be keeping a low profile whilst gaining really rather a lot of attention, it's yours for around US$16,000.

About the Author
Vincent Rice Vincent Rice has been an audio-visual design consultant for almost 30 years including six years with Warner Brothers Cinemas. He has designed several large retail installations in London and a dozen major nightclubs across the world from Belfast to Brno to Beruit. An accomplished musician and 3D computer graphics artist, Vince also writes for AV Magazine in the U.K. and the Loudscreen digital signage blog. All articles by Vincent Rice

not for me thank you,,overpriced, under powered . German or Italian for me


robinyatesuk2003# i agree with you, just out of interest what are some of your favourite motorbikes?

Isaac Chizik

It\'s a sport cruiser and not a street racer bike. A 125hp is a lot compared to most bikes (more that Ducati Monster 1100 and BMW R1200R), except for top tier street racers and they cost more than the Night Rod Special. Plus, this power is lower in the RPM range as it should be for to be streetable in real world traffic.

Joseph Shimandle

You\'ve got to be kiddin Harley Davidson..Technology? Performance? I don\'t think so. Overpriced for what you get..HEAVEY, no handling, Tiresome riding...nobody wants this OLD stuff anymore...And looks? Good grief, look at the 1940\'s and Harley hasn\'t changed nothing at all. They have to get with the program, who wants to try and ride a bike that weighs over 400, 500, 600 lbs anymore...riding is about fun, handling, and ease of use.


I guess if you can squeeze 2.3 billion bailout money from the government, you can call yourself \"the global symbol of the American Dream\"

Dobokure Chimpou

Finally a modern designed Harley. Congratulations! (the photographer sure likes just right side photos) It would be nice to see one in ABB (Anything But Black) engine/wheel wise. The engine, frame and seating layout also looks great. However, the head angle seems kinda scary for cornering around town. (just gotta try it.. looks can be deceiving )


Not underpowered but definitely overweight. Styling looks great. No more expensive than the Germans or Italians. Now if H.D. could perform miracles and knock off 100 lbs off the V-Rod and XR 1200\'s they might have something to crow about. Guess we all dreamed of Buell getting a free hand at creating something great from scratch. Scratch that,he\'s doing that himself after being tossed out the door. Maybe a little MV Augusta creation and engineering rubbing off? Scratch that after blowing thru $200 million in no time. The Castiglioni family,for the price of a cup of coffee, will continue and improve their heritage. As the aging baby boomers die off so will H.D. They blew their chances. R.I.P.


\"The Night Rod Special is a custom variation of the V-Rod series that brought a more modern and aggressive street style plus a number of technological advances to the brand.\" Advances like double overhead cams? Didn\'t Crocker have that in 1938? How about those self canceling turn signals? Where have I seen those before? Oh yeah, on my 1983 Honda Sabre. Seems like Vincent Rice got some Harley spam in the mail and thought it would save him from having to do some work this week.


If H-D was the only motorcycle brand in the world, I\'d ride the V-Rod. But thankfully, they aren\'t. I\'ll continue to enjoy my Hondas.


A couple of things:

Porsche did not design this bike; it was designed in house. Porsche lent technical assistance and engine refinement. The bulk of the work was actually done by the team in Milwaukee.

Some of your readers need a history lesson; the V-Rod family\'s been around since 2002, long before the ill-fated (and ill-advised, in my opinion) acquisition of MV Agusta.

Comparing a power cruiser like this to a sportbike (R1, GSXR, etc.) is like comparing apples hand grenades; both useful, but hardly interchangeable. Comparing it to something it directly competes with (Victory\'s Hammer S, Yamaha\'s Warrior, Yamaha VMax) makes a lot more sense; against most of these bikes, it compares fairly well, both in price and performance.

Have any of you guys ever ridden a V-Rod? If not, you should. I went to a demo a few years ago, and I\'ve gotta tell you, these bikes are a lot of fun. I found their \'V-Rod Muscle\' edition particularly well-designed. I\'d have to replace the too-far forward controls with mid-mounts if I was in the market, but otherwise, this was an exceptionally refined, exciting bike, with build quality and attention to detail to rival the best in the world. Keep in mind this is from a guy who\'s owned hondas, yamahas, ducatis, and has ridden bmw\'s, suzukis, etc., and has never owned a Harley.

the webman

I can buy any replacement part for my \'02 XL1200c, try that with honda, they discontinue parts faster than I change underwear!! It took me 6 months to locate a fuel tank for a 1983 VT500 Ascot FT, I kept getting replies for the FT 500 ascot thumper. I finally got a tank, but it was in bad shape. I finally scrapped that bike out after trying to locate other parts. If one was to keep a honda more than ten years, better invest in vital replacement parts such as a spare fuel tank, seat and rims.

Richard Edmonds

Harley Davidson builds machines that people want to buy. Every Asian manufacturer has one or more machines in their stable designed with essence of cruiser if not intentionally imitating (with legally mandated differences) the styling of H-D. Yes there are lighter, faster, and more agile machines on the road, so what? As pointed out by another writer, parts are readily available for nearly any vintage Harley. Try finding parts for something as recent as the unfortunately short lived Honda Valkyrie. Haven\'t tried myself (though I have loved those machines since they were introduced) but I\'d wager it would be easier to find parts for a \'48 Panhead. I currently ride a Road King. It is not my first bike and hopefully not my last. I have ridden Yamahas, Hondas, and Kawasakis and have fond memories of each. I would love to have a V-Max and I would love to have a V-Rod. Don\'t hate The V-Rod because you prefer a race styled machine. That is akin to hating Ford because you drive Chevy, its just plain silly. I don\'t dislike Kawasaki because I ride a H-D. Look at the V-rod for what it is, a powerful and appealing street rod. It is intended to be neither a Cafe racer nor a top fuel dragster, neither is it a touring machine. It falls into the same category for bikes as street rods do for cars. They are not for everyone but you find yourself compelled to admire one when you see one.

Anthony Hanna

I do not like the look. Maybe because I started riding in the 60\'s on a Hondo 50, and really riding in the 70\'s, I like the older body styling. I like the old kick start even though if you did it wrong, you would either bang your shin or have it kick back to where it was possible it would break your leg. Not that I am anti electric start, I just preferred the kick start. I also like the old body styling. This one looks too much like a croch (sp?) rocket. When I think of Harley Davidson, I think of class, style, luxury (sort of), like when you think of Cadillac, Rolls-Royce, and Dusenburg. The company now appears to be abandoning that tradition.


wow Richard your smart comparing finding parts for a 9 year old bike to a 28 year old bike


It's one of the very few good looking bikes they have ever made.

Except for the shitty 45 V twin and it's appalling vibration (should be 90) the 1977 XLCR was the only other really good looking Harley ever made.


http://www.motorcyclespecs.co.za/Gallery/Harley XLCR 77..jpg

Take it or leave it - but it is a shit load of money for what amounts to a V8 motor with 2 cylinders sliced off the end - slung in a steel tube frame between 2 wheels....

Many years ago - it was when I saw all this Harley Paraphenalia stuck up in an Authorised HD Dealers shop - the bandanna's, leathers, gloves, boots, wallets, zippo lighters, T shirts, key rings, ear rings, stickers, shot glasses, posters, etc., etc., etc and worst of all - Harley Davidson runners with the Harley Logo formed in the sole - like William Firestone's advertising that lead to tread on tyres.

And I thought HOW crap, how cheap, scummy, gimmicky...

That is when my perception of HD changed from liking the motorbikes - as a means of transport, to despising the WAY OVER PRICED brand.

Mr Stiffy

The VRSCDX Night Rod Special has been the most reliable and comfortable motorcycle I\'ve owned since 1978. I\'ve owned the 2003 VRSCA and sold it with 50k miles. I now own two Night Rod Specials each with over 30k miles . I\'ll upgrade to the 2012 NRS asap.

Facebook User

This is the only Harley I ever want.


Not because it\'s a Harley - because it is big, fast and sounds like a real motorbike.

And the power is more tractable, it feeds in, instead of jumping in.

Mr Stiffy

You have to just love the morons who still compare this bike, which is undoubtedly a street cruiser, to sport bikes. Not just any sport bike but Ducatis of all things, Harley must be loving that. You have to love the idiots who clammer about it\'s cost and then quote Ducati, Aprilla and the like which is more yet. I know I\'m comparing HD to Duc but you started it! You have to love the emotions that a 125HP Harley evokes, It\'s rather bizarre actually. Why all the concern. hate and rhetoric over a Harley? And from those who consider their bikes superior? Anyone??? Why all the bragging over being faster? It\'s \"just a Harley\". Anyone? Willie must be doubled over with laughter, listening to the industry chatter, listening to all those with faster and better handling bikes attempt to discredit it for whatever juvenile reasons.

The V-Rod is unique, love it or hate it, it\'s not a cookie cutter sports bike or some Jap copy wanna-be V-twin cookie cutter or some oddball looking monstrosity like the Triple or V-max. It\'s unique in many ways, right or wrong, Harley finally did something way out of the box and people bietch about it???? A very respectable 125 HP and they call it a dog? This is a V-Twin folks, a true V-Twin. It rocks.

I suppose for those who need to be king of the hill, justify their own purchase or are just envious, jealous, hater types, all the crying makes sense. Not from this view.


I purchased one of the first 2012 Night Rod Specials that rolled into Virginia. My first Harley. It is bad @ss from top to bottom. Everywhere I go people ask me about the bike and I have plenty of cagers that try to keep up for a closer look.

To each his own. If you don\'t like it (or Harley\'s) you\'re in good luck. There are plenty of other bikes out there. But I\'m having a blast on mine.

Scott Collin

I find it amazing how everyone says it's too heavy.

Do they not understand the difference between a Sport bike and a Cruiser. (Harley is not trying to make a sport bike hence Muscle Cruiser) Cruisers are heavier, the heavier the bike the more comfortable the ride at long distance.

Their reason for the VROD is to have a Cruiser with speed and performance. Everyone talks about the price, well let's take a look at the resale value for a Honda, Yamaha, or any of the other bikes out there. If someone does not like the bike to each their own, but how can you think you're an intelligent person if you knock the way it handles or rides if you never rode the bike? In response not everyone thinks riding is about speed, some like to just get on the bike and ride. Take a 300-400 pound sport bike on a five hour ride and take a Harley on the same ride and tell me how you feel after. I think they did a great job and people should stop expecting a Cruiser to be light like a sport bike. By the way this Cruiser is faster than a lot of Stock sport bikes. Try riding one and see for yourself before you talk.


HD's are expensive but i wouldn't consider them overyly heavy like the cruisers built by honda. They Keep their value aswell. A friend of mine has Night rod, i have ridden different kinds of bikes i love the performance that a ninja can put out but that night rod i was more comfortable on and it will out perform sport bikes any day of thee week

The night rod is comfortable and puts out power the only cruiser I think that can out perform it is personally one my favorite bikes besides night rod. The Kawasaki Vulcan Meanstreak 1600. It's loud mean and comforable. But it does not hold its value like a harley.

Dalton Kurtz

great comments guys i ride a R1 2008 and was passing a harley dealer and stopped to take a look, i loved the look of the vrod and asked to take it on a test ride, wow i was totaly surprised how much i enjoyed it, i was a bit nerves about cornering but soon gained the confidence after a few turns the power is nice and smooth and plenty enough for the road i liked the speed sensation as there is no fairing so it felt fast. nice to be in a up right postion after being on a sport bike. i am now trading in my R1 for 2012 nrs.

Facebook User

Cruisers are heavy bikes because they are made for cruising. I would love to see you do a 1,000 mile ride on your little crotch rocket. Harley owners ride and ride a lot. Japanese, German or Italian bikes are not superior or better built because if they were, then the warranties of those companies would reflect that. Most motorcycle companies have a two year warranty. Second, the VROD Revolution engine was designed by Porsche and is a pretty modern engine. Ducatis still use desmodromic valves for cryin' out loud. Talking about ancient. The Revolution engine is so modern that the Harley diehards hate it because 1) it produces HP and 2) it isn't American enough for them. But, the diehard crowd are idiots anyway, so you can ignore them. 125hp is good hp for a power cruiser. The closest competitors of the Night Rod Special (666 lbs) are the Yamaha VMAX (683 lbs), Ducati Diavel (527 lbs), Honda VTX (734 lbs) , Triumph Rocket III(808 lbs). So in this class, the NIght Rod Special isn't that heavy. A lot of people compare the Diavel to the Night Rod, but the Diavel is really in a whole new category. That bike is a beast and an awesome bike, but it isn't really a cruiser in my opinion. The Night Rod is a Harley for people that don't like Harleys and are the only Harley subculture smart enough to wear full face helmets. lol.


i realize im about a year late and all, but the 2012 vrscdx has more than enough power and handling for fun riding and more than enough comfort for a 6' tall man to ride for hours. got mine in october last year and put 2600 miles on it fast as i could and shes a beast of a bike. now im not saying top end doesnt leave anything to be desired, cus it does at ~137 mph screaming at redline (it could have used a 6th gear), but base power is unbelievably great off the line. not because of the power itself but the way the bike is designed. i can take off, dump the clutch, and beat about anything in town without ever thinking about how tight my front tire hugs the ground, cus she wont lift, EVER. with hot tires she sticks and screams off the line, and cold tire straight power, no brakes burnouts are always fun. i ride with a friend that has about a 2006 750 gsxr and off the line all he sees is shrinking taillights when we line up. hell i can catch up with the group we where riding with, slow back down to highway speed, look over my shoulder and count to 2 before he passes me. all completely stock. now if he takes off at highway speed our roles completely reverse but im STILL one of the fastest stock harleys in town. now the only bitchgripeandcomplaint i have with her (besides range and fuel mileage) is her stock exhaust. WAY TOO QUIET! but toss on some vance and hines and ive heard vrods roar. and at high rpms it is sexy loud. so if you guys wanna compare your streetbikes to my drag bike, go ahead. your streetbikes dont have shit on my vrod on the 1/4 mile. ill eat your cbr's and gsxr's and shit em out sideways. so untill you try this bike and look at it the way its meant to be ridden, and the way its meant to be seen, dont knock it. cause it'll find something it can do better than your bike. as your bikes can do things better than mine can. to each their own and thats how i feel about my night rod. its smooth, sexy, fast, comfortable, and nothing else is quite like it. and i wouldnt trade mine for the world.

Jesse Pittenger

I will say this to all the haters! First of all I love my sport bikes I own a 2002 GSXR750 and love to blaze! I bought my first Harley last month and got the 2012 v rod musical yellow chrome. This bike is just in two words bad ass! Went blazing with some friends one that has a CBR 1000 RR and had no problem keeping up even around corners the bike is well built and well designed to the T... I will say this also if you have never ridden one then you have no clue of what the hell your talking about, and if your still riding the girlie bikes like the gold wings im still laughing at you as I blaze by. The Harley V Rod is the best bike Harley ever built and it's about time. My next bike will be a Busa GSXR 1300 because I love my sport bikes. Also I have already smoked a GSXR 600 a BMW 1200R and a slow ass bagger that was sporting a name called Honda. Top speed all of it with 2 grand to go 150 plus. When I first got the V Rod I had to find out for sure and I was blown away. I had to use the rear pegs and ride it like my jixxer but no problems it was smooth as silk. I just wished it had air shifting on the handlebars othet then that this is one bad ass bike! So shut up if you have never riden one because you have no clue and as for the price at least the Harley will hold it's value. What about your bike will it hold it's value? If you say it will I will call you a lier!

Kevin Esses
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