Test, Harley-Davidson VR 1000
Harley-Davidson VR 1000
The sun is still smiling in Japan and Italy. But something fast is brewing in the USA: Harley’s first interpretation of a small-series athlete is called the VR 1000.
Warning: This is a high performance racing vehicle and is only intended for use by very experienced users.
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Harley-Davidson VR 1000
According to Harley-Davidson USA, VR 1000 was homologated in this country of all places (with Harley Germany one is clueless) in order to be allowed to participate in the US Superbike Championship. In addition to homologation, the regulations stipulate a minimum number of motorcycles built, depending on the manufacturer’s production volume, in the case of Harley-Davidson it was 50. In the end, 53 were built by hand, three remained with the factory team, the rest were initially for 49,000 and later for 34,000 US dollars (about 74,000 and 51,000 marks) all sold.
The price is steep, but so is the VR 1000: cockpit carrier, airbox and various small parts made of carbon fiber, programmable engine management, electronic tachometer and LCD display on which almost a dozen pieces of information can be called up, Marchesini wheels, Öhlins fork and Penske shock absorbers, brakes from Indycar supplier Wilwood and many other delicacies.
The four-valve heads of the water-cooled 60-degree V-Twin are fed by a Weber-Marelli injection system. The motor housing underneath with its rough sand-cast surface is not particularly filigree, but precisely for this reason it fits the aluminum bridge frame. In keeping with the company’s tradition, company boss Willi G. Davidson insisted on a distinctive design. Above all, the front section is a direct hit, and at the same time the risk of being copied by the Japanese, as usual, is zero. Traditionally the paintwork in the Harley colors black and orange, one side like this, the other like this – not very imaginative.
Anyway, Harley’s first superbike brings you – Ducati 916 watch out! -205 kilograms on the scales and pushes 116 of the promised 135 hp on the test stand roller. With such promising figures, all warnings are quickly forgotten, but at first it is not easy to use, because the corners of the underground car park are medium-tight and the turning circle of the VR 1000 is huge: over twelve meters.
After a few hundred meters, the engine is cleanly on the gas and pulls the chain without jerking even below 3000 rpm. The free-running dry clutch rattles when the lever is pulled, but does not grind when the clutch is engaged and is otherwise fine-tuned. City trips are actually unproblematic, only the stooping position over the long tank in order to reach the wide handlebars that are attached low down is tedious in the long run. The seat cushion is hard, but fair, almost comfortable. Because of the flat transition to the tank, you don’t sit in, but – similar to the current Guzzi athletes – on the motorcycle.
Only outside the city does the tachometer needle pass the 5000 mark, because the first gear is so long that at the rated speed, 115 km / h is already lit on the display. Seen in this way, 3.8 seconds is a rocket-like pull-through value when accelerating from 0 to 100 km / h. The tight spring elements respond sensitively and reliably prevent blows to the back and wrists. The steering damper does its job just as confidently, so that even when accelerating over rough bumps, no wheel jumps off the track. Only when braking in an inclined position does the VR 1000 stand up suddenly, a well-known shortcoming of the Dunlop D 364, which is fitted as standard.
After just under 20 minutes of driving, the display in the cockpit begins to indicate a steadily falling battery voltage, until the injection system quits at just under eleven volts. Obviously, the alternator does not produce enough electricity, a problem that already occurred on the maiden voyage in 1994 (see MOTORRAD 3/1994) and which has apparently not been resolved in the 50 street versions sold.
The next day, with a freshly charged battery and a much better conscience on the part of the driver – driving through town is embarrassing, even outrageous with the exhaust system of the VR 1000 – the test motorcycle provided by the Harley-Davidson dealer in Hanover takes the Hockenheimring under its wheels. Down the straight forest line with the tap fully open, the front wheel becomes light for the first time at 6000 rpm. But really forwards, as if the second cylinder was just switching on, it goes from 8500 rpm. The background noise that this “series motorcycle” makes is impressive, whereas a Termignoni-equipped Duc is as silent as a fish. The gear changes from the foot are not quite as quick. Nonetheless, the rev limiter kicks in long before the east bend, when the test motorcycle is 237 km / h. With a longer fifth gear, more would be possible, the stable chassis would not have a problem.
A real tightrope act is every time when braking into corners: At best, the rear wheel locks when downshifting, but if you let the clutch come a little too quickly, the rear wheel rattles out. Also a problem that has already been solved for the factory racers with an anti-hopping clutch. The lurching rear in front of the curve entrance is joined by a front wheel brake that can hardly be dosed, because it is so toxic that the limit area can only be explored by professional users.
Once these hurdles have been overcome, the rest is child’s play: As if by itself, the Harley falls into an inclined position, gently but still powerfully the engine begins to push again. The Dunlops are now at their best and are literally stuck to the ground, the Harley remains razor-sharp on the line that has been targeted, the chassis is raised above any unevenness in the ground. This stability is not at the expense of handiness, however, the VR 1000 reacts promptly to shifting weight in alternating curves and not only when the driver has long been hanging on the other side. After a few laps, oil oozes from every crack in the engine and from the Öhlins fork – the high-performance racing car shows the first signs of use.
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