When Harley launched the V-Rod back in 2001, it was almost as polarizing as the political climate of the time. You loved it or you hated it. The magazines got a jump on the general public, though, and for the latter half of the year we rode-tested ’Rods everywhere. Motorcycle Cruiser Editor Andy Cherney and Hot Rod Bikes minion Todd Canavan even went so far as to iron-butt them to Sturgis. Todd went so far as to piss off Harley by taking its shiny new toy to the outlaw drags, where he proceeded to spank the competition until one racer got a hole shot on him. But that’s another story.
As far as I know, that’s the oldest V-Rod touring story in the country. Keith Pierce’s V-Rod touring quest is a lot more recent, however. What unites the two is discomfort. Just like those bikes we had 11 years ago, his stock ’09 was less than optimal for cross-country trippin.’
Keith found the bike on close-out at Bumpus Harley-Davidson in Memphis. It was a new ’09 that was still on the floor in August of 2010. The price was discounted to $13,000 and the money he saved on it went into transforming it into something far better suited for long distances.
Keith is real serious when it comes to touring. He rode 44 states in 2010 with the new scoot in stock form, which wasn’t very comfortable, by which I mean, it blew goats. Keith sacrificed the bulk of the 2011 riding season customizing it: “I needed more storage and better wind protection since I’m a big ‘ABC’s of Touring’ guy—the Harley Owner’s Group program which promotes touring.” If you’re going to ride all over the US competing in the ABC’s, comfort is an absolute must.
In Keith’s case, that meant having a motorcycle with the primary function dedicated to touring, not the simple bolt-on fairing and leather saddlebags of the occasional long-distance rider. Aftermarket support for V-Rods tends to be rather lukewarm. Keith took on the extremely involved process of adapting the hard bags and fairing from an ’05 Road Glide to a V-Rod frame. This was, in fact, the hardest part of the job. The center fairing mount had to be custom fabricated and welded to the frame neck. The side fairing mounts are custom, as are the bag mounts and all of the fender mounts.
Having Road Glide luxury also gave Keith the option for a stereo for those all-day rides across the Continental US. His amp of choice is a Rockford-Fosgate with a Jensen head unit, and Polk 6x9-inch speakers in the bags. Up front, Keith runs J&M Road Glide speakers teamed with 1-inch Polk tweeters.
Not all of the tweaks were utilitarian, though. Comfortable and beautiful aren’t mutually exclusive. In Keith’s eyes, the most interesting aspects of this bike are its finishing touches. If the fairing logo looks vaguely familiar, that’s because you may have seen it on a dealer-only Harley magnet. It’s a hand-painted reproduction of the graphics from said magnet. You may also know the fender badge. Its previous job was as a Harley Christmas ornament that’s been modified for its new gig, decorating Keith’s warp-speed bagger. Keith got rid of the stock fenders in favor of a set from Metalcraft Racing in Houston. The new kids are far more in line with what you’d expect to see in Harley’s touring line.
If you’re looking for a crown jewel here, though, that would be the unique front wheel with its bar-and-shield spokes. Keith had a friend of his CNC the design into the wheel. Since the back wheel hides under a pair of hard bags, he saw no reason to give it the same love.
The same can’t be said for the seat and paint. Robert Riojas at R&R Custom Finishes coated Keith’s V-Rod in a dark Sedona orange that evokes images of the cool rock formations you see in the Southwest’s living desert. Stoney Paul at Thunderhead Designs reshaped the seat to match the bike’s new lines, then clothed it in a combination of leather and gator hide to finish hiding its stock origins.
Other than swapping over to VRSCDX bars (for shorter reach) and new controls, Keith left the rest of the bike pretty much alone. He was plenty happy with the geometry, stock Revolution motors are very fast, and the drivetrain handles its power like a champ so there wasn’t any real reason in his mind to alter the frame, mill, or transmission.
Now with the bike in touring form, Keith and the road are going to do battle again. This year, he plans to conquer the entire lower 48 aboard his all-day hard-charging bagger. “I finished in the top 10 of ABC’s of Touring in 2010 and have plans of winning it all this year in comfort.” A stylish bagger that can go 140 miles an hour should give him a great shot at the title.