Soap­box

IS THERE LIFE AFTER DEATH?

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While ev­ery­one with a key­board is busy fall­ing all over them­selves talk­ing on­line about the merg­ing of the Dyna and Sof­tail plat­forms into one lineup, no one’s gush­ing for or against the V-rod’s re­tire­ment from pro­duc­tion in 2018. I own one and I’m not sur­prised by it, even though it is kind of a big deal.

Sales were flat. It was pop­u­lar in a few mar­kets (the Pa­cific North­west, Texas, and over­seas, mainly), but for the most part Har­ley-david­son’s liq­uid-cooled Rev­o­lu­tion V-twins with dual over­head cams and four-valve heads just never caught on like their air-cooled cousins did. Al­though it’s out of pro­duc­tion, I don’t think it’s dead by any means. Cult clas­sic bikes like this never truly die off. Now that it’s re­tired, how­ever, there are three pos­si­bil­i­ties for its fu­ture.

HE’S DEAD, JIM

Sce­nario: It’s just dead. The V-rod line is gone from pro­duc­tion for­ever. Much like the death of Elvis, there’ll be ru­mors of a re­turn for a few years, per­haps a com­mem­o­ra­tive plate on QVC or two, but no, the game is over. Con­sole your­self to hunt­ing spare parts on­line.

LIKE­LI­HOOD: 50%

The mo­tor­cy­cle in­dus­try has taken a beat­ing over the past decade. Vic­tory closed its doors, the sport­bike mar­ket is de­hy­drated, and so on. To the sur­prise of many, Har­ley-david­son got rid of one of its most pop­u­lar-sell­ing mod­els when it killed off the Dyna in 2017. Why not take the V-rod de­sign out to the desert, make it dig its own grave, and squeeze off a round into its nog­gin? The only rea­sons I didn’t give this one a higher like­li­hood was for the rea­sons we’ll go into be­low.

DEATH IS JUST THE BE­GIN­NING

Sce­nario: With the big wa­ter-cooled twins out of pro­duc­tion, the price drops through the floor for used mod­els. Deal­ers scramble to off­load them for cheap. A new gen­er­a­tion of younger rid­ers with a need for H-D but lit­tle money and no prej­u­dice against the V-rod gob­bles them all up lead­ing to a golden age for the re­tired mo­tor­cy­cles that they never got while in pro­duc­tion.

LIKE­LI­HOOD: 90%

This is ex­actly what hap­pened with the FXR, isn’t it? The bikes go out of pro­duc­tion, prices sink to cheap, and peo­ple buy ’em all up then cus­tom­ize them. Both mo­tor­cy­cles are known for great per­for­mance. Love it or hate it, the V-rod is a re­ally fun bike to ride, with gobs of power for days. The stigma lies in its pedi­gree as a true hog. That’s what kept it from re­ally catch­ing on in the first place. Ul­ti­mately, money talks and peo­ple want max bang for the buck. We’ve seen that with the FXR, the Sof­tail, and all those pro­duc­tion cus­toms that were so pop­u­lar a decade back. A cheap, used V-rod fits that bill too.

WEL­COME BACK TO THE LAND OF THE LIV­ING

Sce­nario: Har­ley-david­son takes the Vrod out of pro­duc­tion to re­think its de­sign then re­launches a “new-and-im­proved” ver­sion in a few years just like the com­pany did with the Road Glide.

LIKE­LI­HOOD: I HAVE NO IDEA

When look­ing at the V-rod’s ul­ti­mate fate, two other Har­ley lines come to mind for me: the FXR and the Road Glide. Much like the FXR, the V-rod is ex­pen­sive to pro­duce and doesn’t sell enough units to jus­tify the cost. That’s what lead the Moco to re­place the FXR with the Dyna in the 1990s. Al­though Har­ley brought the FXR out of re­tire­ment here and there un­til the end of the cen­tury, it never went back into full yearly pro­duc­tion. Killing off the V-rod does save Har­ley-david­son some money, but I think the big dif­fer­ence for the V-rod here lies in the Street lineup. These are the scaled-down gate­way drug ver­sions of the Rev­o­lu­tion mo­tor. If the 500cc and 750cc Street mod­els pull in enough new blood and build a fol­low­ing, the day may come when they want higher-dis­place­ment ver­sions of their bikes. Mean­ing, a re­turn to pro­duc­tion for the V-rod. In what form? Who knows. Like they did with the Road Glide, the folks at Har­ley-david­son could up­date the V-rod and bring it back. Given how much money Har­ley-david­son poured into the V-rod plat­form and its smaller dis­place­ment kin, I think there’s a good chance of this hap­pen­ing.

Fur­ther­more, these aren’t all mu­tu­ally exclusive. Har­ley could very well have killed the V-rod off “for­ever” but change its mind after enough of us buy up all the used ones and the new blood weaned on Street mod­els yearns for big­ger Rev­o­lu­tion-pow­ered twins. Al­though its ul­ti­mate fate has yet to play out, I hope the V-rod finds new life in its death.

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