Harley-Davidson V-Rod Revisited

The Harley-Davidson Revolution engine, as good as it can be, was never favored by Custom Builders for their one-off bikes. I see the reason as their refusal to break with tradition and of course the fact that these last years saw the resurgence of the old school style using period correct, or at least look alike, classic powerplants. Are things going to change and are we going to see more custom V-Rod platforms on the road? Yes, because motorcycle designers, part manufacturers and builders have already “exhausted” the possibilities of renewing the retro style look, and also because by nature the vocation of a custom builder is to to experiment with new designs and to build something never seen before .

Customizing stock Harley V-Rods is not easy task because the bike is liquid cooled and so compact with few possibilities to move parts around to create a distinctive new look. Reason why all customized Harley V-Rods look about the same. As the opposite, building from the ground up with a custom frame (pick your look) using only the V-Rod engine and transmission gives you the freedom expected by builders.

Many custom builders here and abroad like to share their projects with me while their bikes are still in progress. And I can already tell you that for the 1st time since the launch of the Harley V-Rod, an unusual number of these projects built from the ground up are using the Revolution engine. V-Rod Cruisers, V-Rod Sport Bikes, V-Rod Baggers are the new breed of customs that you will see on the road, in bike shows, but first in my Blog. Not on a big scale, but still a new trend interesting to observe.

Example. This collaboration between David Guido (designer and freelancer for a Confederate Motors new model), Rolling Thunder Frames and custom builder Fred Vaillancourt from the Rat Shop, all located in Canada. This project is called “Republica” and will feature the Harley V-rod 1130 cc engine and 5-speed transmission housed in a “racer” short and light weight chassis custom built by Rolling Thunder. Similar to a Ducati setup, engine is used as a stress member. Notice the dual tubular front and perimeter (Rolling Thunder is also making this style of frame available for the 1250cc VRSC and for all air cooled engines.) Front end will be an inverted Showa 43mm with a rear suspension of the type gas charged 3-way adjustable Showa shock. Wheels will be light weight aluminum 17″ x 3.5″ in front and 17 x 6″ in rear, dressed with Bridgestone tires and slowed at braking by 310 mm Nissin radial brakes. From where I stand it’s kind of interesting to know that several high end Sport V-Rods projects are going on at the same time from people who even don’t know each other. To follow…

34 Responses to “Harley-Davidson V-Rod Revisited”

  1. 1 bobx May 20th, 2010 at 7:16 am

    i like it. very roland sands / ducati. id ride one.

  2. 2 ftd May 20th, 2010 at 7:51 am

    Where are the radiators. Add them and see how good it looks.

  3. 3 Brian Simmer May 20th, 2010 at 7:57 am

    FTD. Why don’t you wait that the bike is finished. We will see or not where is the radiator.

  4. 4 morriscustom May 20th, 2010 at 8:05 am

    I wish Harley would give up on that V-rod,Ugly,engines a joke,all that Tech. 110 hp,hahaaha,Goes to show people will buy a turd if you put Harley logo on it!!!

  5. 5 Jeremy May 20th, 2010 at 8:12 am

    I agree with Cyril. The V-Rod is an excellent engine. Traditional Harley riders reject it because they oppose anything high tech. I am very interested to see true custom bikes, not customized bikes, built with this engine. Sport bike stance seems the most appropriate for this motor.

  6. 6 Seymour May 20th, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Eye-opening article, Cyril. Thanks.

  7. 7 morriscustom May 20th, 2010 at 8:30 am

    I agee the engine base is excellent ,but where is the horsepower!!!!I think Porshe designed it,good tech,even Matt Hotch made a chopper out of one,looked good,give us about 150 hp,that would be fun

  8. 8 Patrick R. May 20th, 2010 at 8:38 am

    For what’s going on in the industry, the new people, new parts and design trends, nobody knows better than Cyril. So, you should trust him when he is saying that the VRSC engine is getting some new life in the custom world.

  9. 9 J May 20th, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Wow, that’s a cool concept piece….. Certainly, Harley has enough sharp engineers sitting around to put these sort of projects together, rather than designing the latest “all-black, blacker-than-black” Glide- lol…. Granted, R&D budget must be nil about now….

    Where is Porsche? They put this thing together in the first place- finish it!

  10. 10 ROCKSTAR May 20th, 2010 at 9:53 am


  11. 11 ROCKSTAR May 20th, 2010 at 10:02 am

    nice concept but how does the arch compare to Ducati Trellis structure?

    Ducati tunes enough stiffness/flex/weight by removing crossmembers until they get the right balance.

  12. 12 hoyt May 20th, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Rockstar –

    this is a hunch…

    the Duc motor (as you know) is an L-twin. Their front cylinder is not close to the steering stem, so they use their trellis frame as a direct line to the swingarm pivot. Chassis designers using the VROD motor (and any other twin with its front cylinder close to the steering stem & is unit-construction) can use the motor as the direct line from the steering stem to the swingarm pivot. The arc-ing frame here is to mount the steering stem, controls, seat & rear sub-frame.

    If the motor & heads were built with a complete structural intent, we’d probably see something that John Britten and Vincent did…only needing to mount small frame bits to the top of the motor and back of the motor. Alternative front-ends would also open up chassis options

    The above concept is promising. Hopefully the seat height won’t be too high and no wider than a 190 mm rear.

    very cool & good luck

  13. 13 A 1 cycles inc. May 20th, 2010 at 11:31 am

    the radiator could be curved to fit in the belly pan..as we know the motor carries its own oil in the case…the more power we make the more requirement for a larger radiator..but you could force feed that low mount radiator pretty easy…and the motors do work well with minor mods or 165 hp with external trask turbo…nice bike cant wait to see it

  14. 14 gabehcuoD May 20th, 2010 at 11:57 am

    VERY COOL…. who cares if it had a good “GP” style radiator… They could throw on a piece of radiator art or throw on a quick piece of junk….

    Looks sweet though ! !!

  15. 15 maroco May 20th, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Very race loocking bike, great project, good tecnollogie CAD, despiste the poblisity, existe one more project, whit Subaru power plant called kickboxer wrx, that are also very radical .

  16. 16 grayhawk May 20th, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    If memory serves the radiator and/or its size and resulting cooling capacity was one of the initial issues with the V-ROD when it was rushed to market or should I say presented to the public then only one to each dealer for what was it 6 months and even then and for a time afterwards if you had a motor problem you had to pull the motor and send it back as dealer training and dealer tooling was not yet available.

    Sorry back to the point, the v-rod motor and marketed performance outputs may have been very directly linked/in line with their legal departments bike insurability costs concerns as well as the estheics of the size of a required radiator and its capacity to cool the engine oil and with the resulting smaller less visually overpowering radiator hung on the front and the addition of two electrical fans to help compensate that seemed to stay on most of the time especially when run to its powerband and in the southern states summer heat or idling in traffic that cooling issue could play a major factor in the design and eventual looks of a v-rod re-visited. Thus don’t rush to market just to have it on display.

  17. 17 maroco May 20th, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    One more good exemple off amazing projects is Roger Allmond whid a Custom Triumph Rocket III.
    Moto Guzzi also manufacture one identical bike.

  18. 18 Jed May 21st, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Am I the only one who thinks it looks exactly like the Confederate Motors prototype of their new Hellcat?

  19. 19 Wikked Steel May 21st, 2010 at 10:35 am

    That is an awesome frame, I want one! I’ve been dying to build an extreme V-rod.

  20. 20 Spencer May 21st, 2010 at 11:20 am


    The new Hellcat prototype (which we are doing) and the V Rod frame above are not even close in design. The two motors may look similar because they are a single unit construction however, they are two totally different motors. Both of these models are still in proto type stage and belong to two different manufacturers and I’m sure will have some changes made to them before they’re approved and put into production. Cyril will be kept posted on their progress and some of the questions above will be answered(radiator,seat hieght, horsepower etc)when all of the final stages of design have been completed. I’d like to say more however there is a certain amount of information on these two projects that can not be devulged until the manufacturers are ready.


    Rolling Thunder MFG.

  21. 21 Sniperman May 21st, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    This is a very, very similar model from the guys at Hardcore Choppers. I actually got to see their bikes at the IMS Show in New York. I was very impressed with the craftsmanship and overall quality. They were actually very nice and down to earth.

    If you look on their site, they have done several Uni-Shock bikes dating several years back and they use a V-Twin motor. It’s in the specialty choppers section I believe. When I first saw their designs I was a bit surprised but they grew on me. I guess these other guys are jumping on the bandwagon and using the V-Rod motor. Not sure what the advantage is while using the V-Rod motor. Weight might be an issue.

    I’m very interested in seeing this concept bike on the ground rolling around a track………

    Excellent post Cyril! Keep us posted on this story!!


  22. 22 hoyt May 22nd, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    the uni-shock bikes on their site look like the above bike because it has a visible solo rear shock? The geometry of the 2 bikes are completely different. No bandwagon. Solo rear shocks have been around for decades.

    One of the advantages of the vrod motor is unit-construction, which leads to these 2 sets of bikes not looking like one another at all. The unit-construction motor eliminates the need for a cradle frame.

  23. 23 jatinder pal May 24th, 2010 at 1:55 am

    Get the V-ROD motor,throw some upside down shock up front with brembos along with sharp bodywork,190 rear tire with short pipes and u got yourself a DUCATI replica.

    As simple as that. This is not my taste.

  24. 24 GRIP ACE - DIGITAL SWITCHES May 24th, 2010 at 10:30 am

    About time.

  25. 25 Damon May 24th, 2010 at 10:33 am

    jatlinder pal – that is like saying a Kawasaki Vulcan looks like a Road King. Your comparison falls far short on the aesthetic details, build challenges, and functional details.

  26. 26 David Guido May 26th, 2010 at 9:58 am

    The frame design has more similarities to the OEM V Rod frame than most Ducati frame designs although the motorcycle geometry is more in line with a Ducati or similar naked sport bike rather than a cruiser.

    If any similarities exist between this design and a Ducati, it is closest to the Sport Classic frame design rather than a Monster or Steetfighter.

    The goal was to create a naked HD Cafe-esque Racer, rather than a dress up a cruiser like most customs.

    More to come….

  27. 27 tremor Jun 14th, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Oh yeah, this I like.

    The Revolution engine is, in my opinion, a more interesting power source than the Twin Cam 96 (which has seen it’s days).

    If H-D was more willing to take a few risks they would have rolled this into other non-V-Rod lines by now and, perhaps, attracted younger buyers and, perhaps, helped convert some of their more traditional customers to more efficient machines.

    Still, this is a great trend. Let’s see where it takes us.

    Just think about it… American Muscle plus liquid cooled. Of course, they run the risk of losing customers to the S&S market, but they also have a lot to gain… and those other customers will be back.

    As a long-time Harley lover, I’d certainly be interested.

  28. 28 09 Night Rod Special Jun 15th, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Sweet concept. Where’s the gas tank going to be? I like the idea of the duc and put it in the frame rails but everyone on here is going to have a titty attack!! I am really excited to see the finished product.

    I’m tired of all this nonsense with Harley and the cult worshippers. If you want to pay tomorrows prices for yesterdays technology ( more like 50 years ago ) fine go ahead. But stay out of my way and don’t talk crap unless you actually rode the bike your dissing. I personally don’t like the potatoes poppers and I have ridden ALL OF THEM and truth be told I don’t like harleys and never will. I rode my buddies Vrod for him and I fell in love. But not with the fat leather, toothless zz top crowd and that’s just the women =\ I fell in love with the bike and how it rode but I didn’t realize what I was buying into. A fake ass ” Family” I feel more love on the road from the sport bike group then I do from my “FAMILY”.

    Harley is bogus and the truth will come out when they sell to china!! I can understand sibling rivalry because that’s what siblings do they rival. But its the parents that’s supposed to support all their kids and harley treats us like red headed step kids with no parts, no properly informed personnel nothing. You go to the wall of “UNIQUENESS” that only harley offers and you have a selection of different and cool trinkets for every bike except for the VROD you get a choice of colored turn signal lenses >=| You figure they spent how much time and money developing this awesome bike but then ignore it when it hits the showroom floor just because willy nelson, jethro tull and credence clearwater don’t like the bike. Shoot next time sober them up and give them a few test drives which is what I suggest to those out there hating a bike you haven’t thrown a fat leg over. If you qualify and have the opportunity go test drive one do just that test it and see just how many times you smile when you crack that throttle >=) its ok when you get back you can continue hating the bike. But what happens when china owns harley ? I only wish Porsche would have finished the job. Oh and My bike is a Davidson since Harley’s been dead. Thanks

  29. 29 Lane-splitter Jun 16th, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Long live the liquid cool V-Rod……Harley airheads are dead heads.

  30. 30 Mike in Jax Jun 17th, 2010 at 6:44 am

    Very interesting design. I can’t wait to see the finished bike.

  31. 31 Brad Jul 1st, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Harley doesn’t make sport bikes. They killed Buell and decided to go away from bikes and build trikes for their aging riders. Younger buyers want a cheaper, faster, lighter, sport bike (More of a Cafe Racer style like this one would be cool.)

  32. 32 nolicense Jul 6th, 2010 at 7:46 am

    “Build it, and he will come” 🙂

    Really inspiring work! *googling for “garage space” and “autocad for osx”* 😉

  33. 33 LuxTwin Jul 8th, 2010 at 5:02 am

    Another Japanese looking design? Just what we need. The V-Rod, love it or hate it is a very unique design. That can not be argued. Leave it be, all these great thinkers, “original” thinkers want to mold it into something else like a Ducati, or a Roland Sands copy. All have been done 1000’s of times.
    If I wanted an expensive, uncomfortable, heavy sports bike without the 180 HP I guess this would work.

    Most of the above comments, especially all the good advice for HD come from ill informed people who obviously know little about the V”s design, little about Harley history and even less about their customer base and their wants/needs. Maybe they’ll get something right in their NEXT 100 years.

  34. 34 VamboToo Jul 8th, 2010 at 5:20 am

    The Revo is very specific in it’s needs as far as a chassis. This is why you won’t see a lot of variation like a damn “softail” everyone screams for. Designers/builders also feel constrained, that’s why you don’t see the Revo used a lot.
    The above design is not shown finished because they have yet to figure it out – if they ever do. By the time they account for the air box, gas tank, electronics, radiator and every day goodies like various mounts and pegs they will back to square one……..a V-Rod!! LOL!

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Cyril Huze