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2012 Harley-Davidson V-Rod Muscle

This new Harley brings a whole can full of awesome to the party.

The 2012 Harley-Davidson V-Rod Muscle is one of the few motorcycles made by the company I’d honesty call intoxicating. Obviously powerful and aggressive (as its moniker indicates), its distinctive styling continues to signal a bold evolution in Milwaukee metal.

My extra enjoyment of this design is not a slap at the rest of the Harley-Davidson line. It may not be the most unbiased remark ever scribbled down by a motorcycle writer, but I’ve never ridden a Harley-Davidson that I really didn’t like. Just as the culture the company has worked to foster would dictate, I find Harley-Davidsons to provide smooth, confident rides that scream freedom and fun with every bang of their V-Twin engines.

But, I wouldn’t necessarily call many of the Harley-Davidsons I’ve ridden “exciting.” I’d throw around well-worn adjectives like comfortable, freeing, intimidating, eye-catching and – on occasion – passionate. But, I often find Harley-Davidson lack the outright thrill factor that a sport bike can provide with its blend of acceleration and lightweight, nimble maneuvering.

Enter the 2012 Harley-Davidson V-Rod Muscle to roll right through all of those prejudices. The low broad shouldered bike serves up a rubber-mounted, liquid-cooled, 1250 cc Revolution engine with Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection. It feels as light and well-balanced as the original V-Rod – a bike I obviously like a lot since I’ve frequently written that the V-Rod based Night Rod was my favorite Harley design.

That’s right. I said “was” – because the V-Rod Muscle pushed the Night Rod aside at the top of my personal list. Putting out 122 horsepower and 86 ft. lbs. of torque, the V-Rod Muscle hits 60 mpg at just a tad over three seconds. An average rider isn’t likely to use that off the line power, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play with out on the freeway…As long as you do so in a legally responsive manner, of course.

I experimented with the motorcycles’s wonderful throttle while on a 175 mile ride from Miami Beach to Key West, Fla. I was riding with a group of journalists while trying out a variety of Harley-Davidson makes. Before the first leg was half over, it was clear the V-Rod Muscle was the most powerful bike in the group. I was deliberately hanging back from the main group until I reached the sweeper – just to goose the engine and fly back to the bunch again.

That speed and power comes at a price as 37 mpg highway. While that’s a number to be aspired to by any sporty hatchback, it’s a bit on the thirsty side for a motorcycle. It’s not fair to expect elite speed and power without paying for it at the pump, so you bit the gas cap and bear it.

The V-Rod Muscle’s only other drawback is its ergonomics for longer trips. The bike’s low signature, sport handle bars and farther reaching fork bow the back forward and draw the arms forward, making for some possible cramps during longer rides. That’s a quibble as the V-Rod Muscle is clearly designed as an urban street cruiser and not a long touring vehicle. The V-Rod Muscle’s smaller, sculpted gas tank also requires more frequent fill-ups, breaking up a longer journey.

As is tradition on long media rides like this one, we all switched rides for the next leg once we stopped for gas. As much as I enjoyed the 2012 Softail Slim I took over the next leg, I hated to give up the 2012 V-Rod Muscle. With a top sticker price of $15,309, it’s priced in Harley-Davidson’s mid-range while sitting proudly on top of the company’s performance curve.