The renaissance of the Hog continues. Tim Luckhurst takes a Pyreneean tour on the stylish new Night Rod

Harley-Davidson is only occasionally guilty of subtlety. So, full marks for its new 2006 VRSCD Night Rod. This bike casts its spell via sophistication not grunt. Overlook the reality that many of the aforementioned brutes emerge from the same factory. The Night Rod is part of the new family of sleek, modern Harleys launched by the Porsche-powered V-Rod.

Its upswept exhaust, low-rise bars and speed-screen visor give it oodles of street-cred. For poseurs in lightweight leather jackets, open-face helmets and shades it is an ideal mount for that short blast to the cruising strip.

In terms of practicality it shares the winning characteristic of all the VRSC range. It is a modern motorcycle conceived with traditional Harley-Davidson flair but incorporating the best available technology. The 1130cc 119hp V-twin features liquid cooling, overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. Instead of rumbling like air-cooled Harleys, it roars, and goes on roaring to the brink of the 9,000rpm red line.

Women riders and short men need not be restricted to pillion duty. The Night Rod shares the original V-Rod frame and retains that bike's low-slung seat. Steering is also lighter and more precise than most riders will be accustomed to in a cruiser. The Night Rod's forks are raked at 36 degrees (as opposed to 38 on the V-Rod) giving it additional agility through tight bends. But it is not quite as brisk through the twists as the Street Rod.

I enjoyed the perfect test ride. Having blasted up a steep pass in the Spanish Pyrenees on a less practical Harley-Davidson, I transferred to the Night Rod. Miles of corkscrewing mountain road stretched ahead, punctuated by short uphill straights. The sun was shining and the road surface was lumpy.

The Night Rod handled the bumps without bruising my posterior. Then it handled the rest. At 60mph in fifth a lazy rider does not need to change down to pass a coach on an up-slope. Approaching a 90-degree right-hander at 90mph I was extremely grateful to the excellent Brembo brakes now fitted as standard to the VRSC range.

For pure handling the Street Rod version is better. It permits a lean angle of 40 degrees from the vertical; the Night Rod can only go to 32 degrees. But it is enough. Comfort is good too. The Night Rod also has mid-mount foot pegs and controls, not forward-mounted cruiser versions, though there are neat little fold-down cruiser-pegs for those who want to stretch out.

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