Back in Black: Harley-Davidson's Night Rod Now Prowling the Streets

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Harley Davidson Night Rod (Photos courtesy of Harley Davidson)

This past weekend I flew to Indianapolis for two reasons: To escape Hurricane Irene, and to spend some time with the crew from Harley-Davidson watching their bikes go head-to-head at the XR1200 races at the Speedway (more on that to come), while checking out their newly forged, back to black, 2012 Night Rod Special.

The Night Rod shuns gloss

Getting its base genetics from the V-Rod, now celebrating its 10th anniversary, the belt-driven Night Rod is outfitted with bold styling and a host of features that turn this street bike into a dark and sinister power cruiser. And when I say dark, I mean dark. There’s not much color or chrome on this Harley. The Night Rod gets a flat black “murdered” paint job; a blacked-out, powder-coated V-Twin engine with matching straight-shot exhaust pipes; black frame, handlebars and front fork, and a pair of black, split 5-spoke cast aluminum wheels (19-inch front, 18-inch rear). The only thing bringing a little light and color to the Night Rod party are a pair of twin orange racing stripes down the center of the airbox and tail, orange pin-striping on the wheels, orange lettering on the tank, and the chrome on the exhaust ends. (For about $300 more, you can get the Night Rod in Denim Black or Sedona Orange, but I’d have to ask you: Why?)

The restyling isn’t just about giving it a what-the-F-are-you-looking-at attitude on a bike design that, 10 years later, some still consider un-Harley-like. (“What? No teardrop tank?!”) The team at H-D wanted to make the bike easier and more comfortable to ride. So they pulled the handlebars back three inches and and also forward-mounted the footpegs to give riders a more upright position with reduced reach. To improve handling, they inverted the front forks and retuned the rear suspension. For pure power, the liquid-cooled 1250cc Revolution V-Twin in this 637-lb street predator (mated to a 5-speed tranny with a race-bred clutch), gets dual overhead cams, four-valve cylinder heads and Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection that’ll make 125hp @ 8500 rpm and push 85 ft.lbs. of torque (@ 7000 rpm), to the Michelin Scorcher radials cloaking the 8-inch-wide rear wheel.

If you think of your average crotch rocket like a jack russell terrier on a sugar high, think of the Night Rod as the doberman that showed up at the party unannounced. Then left with the jack russell’s date.

Starting at $15, 299

This is the little bit of chrome you see on the Night Rod

(Legal stuff I have to tell you: Harley-Davidson paid my way out to Indy, put me up in a hotel room for race weekend, and fed me incredible steaks from St Elmo’s. The opinions in the post are completely my own.)