Night riders for dark knights

Posted on 08 Aug 2007 at 4:45pm
By Casey Williams Auto Reviewer

Who needs doors on a vehicle? These open-air rides pack a wallop.



The futuristic look of the Wraith, above, makes for an imposing profile; the Night Rod by Harley-Davidson, below, will blow you away. (Photo courtesy Confederate)

Each of us has a little gothic vampire deep inside. We buy evening wear, splash on evening fragrances, sneak into shrouded clubs, dine under candlelight, and even put on shadowy makeup or black fingernail polish. So why not have a set of evening wheels that reach into your dark little soul and tug at your dark little heart? Are you tempted to give into your inner hellion and raise hell all night? Try riding one of these angels on two wheels.

Confederate B120 Wraith:
The Bugatti of Motor Bikes

Confederate Motor Company was founded during 1991 to build highly specialized luxury motorcycles for connoisseurs and aficionados. To accompany the Hellcat, a stunning sporty bike, the company recently unleashed its evil twin. Confederate’s B120 Wraith began its haunt on April 2, 2007.

JT Nesbitt, Confederate’s chief designer, has a degree in sculpture and the Wraith is evidence. “I think things can be hand-crafted as long as love, care and attention are spent with the assembly of the machine. I believe a machine can be imbued with a soul,” he says. He sees his work as “a bridge between conceptual modernism, fine art and vehicle design.”

It is impossible to convey in words alone how menacing the Wraith looks. Nesbitt based its style on pre-1916 motorcycles, but gave it an exposed carbon fiber chassis, carbon fiber front suspension and aluminum rear suspension. I love all of the exposed components that look like they were formed and bolted by hand. Multi-adjustable titanium shock absorbers, a five-speed transmission, and smooth 120-cu. inch 45-degree twin engine are state of the art. Nothing was done on the cheap.

If Harley-Davidson is the Mustang GT of motorcycles, then the Wraith is surely a Bugatti. Day or night, it is disturbingly beautiful. Children and animals will run in freight. Should you want to clear the neighborhood of small mammals, expect to pay $72,000 for one of only 250 B120s to be built.

Harley-Davidson RSC Night Rod:
La Bella o la Bestia?

I saw an advertisement in an Italian auto magazine with photos of a silver Harley-Davidson VRSC V-Rod and of the widowed black VRSC Night Rod with the caption, “La bella o la bestia?” “The beauty or the beast?” You can have the V-Rod either way.

Even among Harleys, the V-Rod is special. Penned under the supervision of Willie G. Davidson, grandson of the company’s founder, it is a low slung sport/touring bike with large pipes, deftly integrated frame, swept-back headlamp, jutted out front wheel, fairing-bracketed radiator and low 25.2-inch seat height. Night Rods are distinguished by blacked-out mirrors, rear shocks and a steel frame. Black machined slotted disc cast aluminum 18/19-inch front/rear wheels and orange pin striping convey the sense of a scorned spider looking for fresh prey.

The bike’s 125-HP V-twin engine has the Harley trademark rumble, but it runs like a Porsche. Jointly developed by the German automaker and H-D, the engine was the brand’s first to be water-cooled. Night Rods are available with a reduced lever effort clutch, anti-lock brakes and a smart security system.

La bella o la bestia? Well, both! Since its debut, the V-Rod has been a smash success. It has enough attitude to entice your mischievous side, but is polished with sheen of class. Order it in black and only you will know how sweet this devil really is. Prices for the Night Rod start at $14,995.



The Vespa is almost too cool for words. (Photo courtesy Vespa)

Vespa LX150:
Cappuccino at a Dimly Lit Cafe

What in hell, you might ask, is a Vespa doing in a story about ominous dark-clouded motorcycles? Granted, the Vespa is a little less like rolling thunder and more like clapping patter. But, if you really want to sneak through the night, the Vespa is a much better choice than the booming Wraith or Night Rod.

It is also cool enough for an appearance in the “Transformers” movie. Italian, efficient and inexpensive, it is the perfect fashion accessory for a night on the town.

When in 1946 Enrico Piaggio, a member of the manufacturer’s founding family, first saw the simple little motorbike, he exclaimed, “It looks like a wasp!” And it does. A very tasteful little wasp that comes in colors like Portofino green, graphite black, daring plum, dragon red and midnight blue. A windshield, footrest mat, chrome kit, leather seat and alarm system are optional on the latest LX150, the star of “Transformers.” Unlike most motorcycles that force leaning over the gas tank, you take a Vespa straight up with easy access to a storage bins in front of the footrest and under the seat.

Engineers made the Vespa as contemporary underneath as the designers made it up top. Power comes from a 150cc 1-cylinder air-cooled engine, connected to a continuously variable transmission that propels the two-wheeler up to 59 mph in the straights. Fuel economy is an astronomical 72 mpg.

If the Night Rod and Wraith are armed gangsters in a speakeasy, then the Vespa is like a cappuccino at a dimly lit caf?. It may look like a wasp, but the LX150 barely buzzes through the night. Best of all, a base price of $4,299 will hardly drain your bank account. It might even enlighten your heart.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 10, 2007

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