2011 Harley-Davidson Rocker C | Review

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2011 Rocker C

Some Harley-Davidson motorcycles are made to be ridden, and others are made to be seen. Without a doubt, the 2011 Harley-Davidson Rocker C is a motorcycle that is a looker.

Riding around with the Scarlet Red Deluxe color scheme, it is impossible to avoid getting thumbs up signals from pedestrians, the guy in a moving truck saying “nice bike” at a stoplight, an old guy in a beat-up pickup giving a knowing wink as we wait for it to turn green–it goes on and on, all day long, in neighborhood after neighborhood.

In a jaded metropolis like Los Angeles where people typically avoid eye contact when driving, that’s extraordinary.

There is plenty to be said for the Harley-Davidson Rocker C’s appearance, from 37-degree raked front end to the tire-hugging rear fender. There are definitely a couple of sleights of hands with the Rocker C. What looks like a solo seat almost floating in midair also has a passenger seat stored underneath that can be installed without tools in less than a minute.

The Softail mirage is especially effective, thanks to a rear fender that moves with the rear wheel, just as we’re used to seeing up front. Add to that the eye-catching paint (I wonder if I would have received the same number of unsolicited compliments had I not been on the Scarlet Red version), and you have a motorcycle that demands and receives attention.

Usually, the motor catches the eye of on-lookers, but in the case of the Rocker C, the Twin Cam 96B is relegated to simply being a fantastic performer. Gobs of torque ooze from every pore of the 1584cc air-cooled, pushrod wonder.

There’s no traditional tach, and you don’t need one. Torque peaks at just over 92 ft/lbs at 3000 rpm, so if you’re hitting the rev limiter, you’re doing something wrong. Shift the six-speed transmission early and twist the thick throttle for lightning quick strikes between stoplights.

The 240mm rear Dunlop is firmly ensconced on the ground, so none of the big V-Twin’s balanced power pulses are wasted.

Bikes such as the Harley-Davidson Rocker C encourage me to make end-to-end runs on some of the iconic streets in Los Angeles. In one case, that meant Santa Monica Boulevard from the sunny beaches at the west end to the gritty Sunset Junction to the east.

With the exceptions of a few almost-imperceptible bends along the way, the former US Route 66 (and current California Highway 2) is a straight shot for about 15 miles. Lots of traffic means weaving through sightseers, texters, cellphonies and various other people who are paying no attention to the road.

None of the lights are synced, so stop-and-go is the name of the game. The balanced engine is quite agreeable at a red light, purring along nicely instead of doing the Watusi that the unbalanced Twin Cam engines are famous for. Up at speed, the vibration remains and the pulses are wholly enjoyable.

This suits the Rocker C just fine. Plenty of stops means lots of face time for bored spectators at lights. The bars pull back nicely and are not particularly wide, so sliding in-between cars, trucks and SUVs is simple. The mirrors are minimal, but still manage to offer a fine view of the road behind you–not that anyone is gaining on you.

As a machine for doing battle in urban environment, the Rocker C is outstanding. It likes to roll straight and the only time you notice the narrow and raked front end is when you’re pulling into a gas station or restaurant. So, it seems the Rocker C is the perfect town bike–and it just may be. However, some of us have extended ideas for motorcycling.

Take the Harley-Davidson Rocker C onto the freeway and your attitude changes quickly. In town, the seating position of choice is either straight upright with a bit of bend in the arms, or leaned back a bit with the arms fully extended.

Either way, the forward-mounted footpegs combines with the seat and bars to give you a nicely aggressive attitude. However, the Rocker C is a “sit on” rather than “sit in” kind of motorcycle.

That means that you get a serious windblast at freeway speeds. It’s not enough to blow you off the solo seat, as long as you keep a good grip on the bars as your body does an impersonation of a kite.

The Rocker C has the classic 6-speed Cruise Drive, but you’ll hardly ever want to ride it far enough at 70+ mph to actually get much use out of the over-drive 6th gear. Click up to sixth any sooner and you’ll feel like you’re lugging the motor, even thought it will still have enough grunt for no-downshift passes.

I rarely found myself out of 5th on the freeway, which meant that I had lots of passing power whenever I needed it. Be wary of the brakes at speed, also. Neither the front nor the back brakes have any sort of serious slowing capabilities, but the nod has to go to the front. Plan accordingly.

In the Santa Monica Mountains, rather than on Santa Monica Boulevard, the Rocker C reluctantly tackles the canyons. The front end wants to flop into turns if you’re not fully attentive, and the big rear tire makes it want to stand up on exits.

The aforementioned brakes also discourage anything but the most relaxed pace. The Rocker C I was riding has the ABS option, but I can’t imagine locking up either the front or rear disc. Speed limits lose their meaning, as you aren’t encouraged to go fast enough to exceed them. Cornering clearance is decent, so you won’t be dragging often, which is welcome.

The suspension works best at neutral throttle–when you’re on the gas or braking, it seems to load the suspension and it’s less compliant. Just kick back and take it slow, disappointed that out in the boonies, there’s no one there to appreciate your Scarlet Red motorcycle–except you, of course.

Harley-Davidson has added a few new features to the Rocker C, but they don’t affect the ride. There’s a new Security Package that includes the Harley-Davidson Smart Security System, which I find annoying more often than not–of course, it’s not my bike.

Harley has eliminated a few wires on the bars, and there’s a new odometer trip switch and hazard warning button. Also, the odometer readout is larger, and there’s supposedly a gear and rpm display. I have to tell you–I rode the bike a number of times and never noticed. But, I can report that they are there, but I have no idea why anyone would use them.

The rpm readout is difficult to read (though easily accessed from a left thumb switch) and wholly superfluous. As far which gear you’re in, I can’t imagine who would care. Also, a little green “6” lights up when you’re in overdrive–as if you couldn’t figure it out on your own.

In my case, I can ride all day without looking at the speedometer or any of the information surrounding it and do just fine.

The 2011 Harley-Davidson Rocker C is a great bike, as long as you know its place. Keep it on the urban streets where people can appreciate it and you can enjoy the best aspects of its handling, suspension, and power delivery.

Sure, you can take it out of its element for short bursts, but it will register its disappointment in you. This is a bike for hanging out at clubs and flaunting your bling. Rock on.

Motorcycle Riding Apparel

  • Helmet: Fulmer V2
  • Eyewear: 7EYE Bali
  • Jacket: Tour Master Magnum Leather Jacket
  • Gloves: Tour Master Custom Midweight Glove
  • Pants: Cortech Mod Denim
  • Boots: Harley-Davidson Walter

2011 Harley-Davidson Rocker C | Motorcycle Specs

DIMENSIONS

  • Length…95.0 in.
  • Overall Width…35.1 in.
  • Overall Height…46.0 in.
  • Seat Height:
  • Laden…25.2 in. (640 mm)
  • Unladen…27.4 in. (696 mm)
  • Ground Clearance…5.1 in.
  • Rake (steering head) …36°
  • Fork Angle…37°
  • Trail…6.2 in.
  • Wheelbase…69.2 in.
  • Tires (Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series, bias blackwall front and radial blackwall rear):
  • Front…D408F 90/90-19
  • Rear…D407 240/40R18
  • Fuel Capacity…4.9 gal.
  • Oil Capacity (w/filter)…3.5 qt.
  • Transmission Capacity…1.0 qt.
  • Primary Chain Case Capacity…1.0 qt.
  • Weighs:
  • As Shipped…686 lbs.
  • In Running Order…717 lbs.
  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating…1175 lbs.
  • Gross Axle Weight Rating:
  • Front…415 lbs.
  • Rear…760 lbs.

ENGINE

  • Engine…Air-cooled, Twin Cam 96BTM
    Valves…Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; two valves per cylinder
    Bore x Stroke…3.75 in. x 4.38 in.
    Displacement…96 cu. in. (1584 cc)
    Compression Ratio…9.2:1
    Fuel System…Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection
    (ESPFI)
    Air Cleaner…Paper, washable
    Lubrication System…Pressurized, dry-sump

DRIVETRAIN

  • Primary Drive…Chain, 34/46 ratio
  • Final Drive…Belt, 32/66 ratio
  • Clutch…Multi-plate, wet
  • Transmission…6-Speed Cruise Drive
  • Gear Ratios (overall):
  • 1st… 9.311
  • 2nd…6.454
  • 3rd…4.793
  • 4th…3.882
  • 5th…3.307
  • 6th…2.79

CHASSIS

  • Frame…Mild steel tubular frame; rectangular section backbone; stamped, cast, and forged junctions; forged fender supports; MIG welded
  • Swingarm…Mild steel, round tube sections, forged junctions; MIG welded
  • Front Forks…49 mm telescopic
  • Rear Shocks…Hidden, horizontal-mounted, coil-over
  • Wheels:
  • Polished, 5-spoke Cast Aluminum
  • Front…19 in. x 2.15 in.
  • Rear…18 in. x 8 in.
  • Brakes:
  • Caliper Type…4-piston front and 2-piston rear
  • Rotor Type:
  • Front…11.5 in. x .2 in.
  • Rear…11.5 in. x .23 in.
  • Option…Anti-lock Braking System
  • Suspension Travel:
  • Front Wheel…5 in.
  • Rear Wheel…3.1 in.

PERFORMANCE

  • Engine Torque…92.2 ft. lbs. @ 3000 RPM
  • Lean Angle:
  • Right…26.8°
  • Left…26.8°
  • Fuel Economy…35/54 mpg (EPA urban/highway test)

ELECTRICS

  • Battery…Sealed, maintenance-free, 12V, 19-amp/hour, 270 cca
  • Charging…Three-phase, 38-amp system (439W @ 13V, 2000 RPM, 489W max power @ 13V)
  • Starting…1.2 kW electric with solenoid shift starter motor engagement
  • Lighting:
  • Headlamp… 55-watt low beam, 60-watt high beam (quartz halogen)
  • Stop/Turn/Tail Lights…Integrated LED
  • Turn Signal Lights…28W (21W) self-canceling
  • Indicator Lamps… High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, security system (optional), 6-speed, low fuel warnings

WARRANTY

  • Warranty…24 months (unlimited mileage)
  • Service Interval…First 1,000 miles (1,600 km), every 5,000 miles (8,000 km) thereafter

COLORS

  • Vivid Black Deluxe, Scarlet Red Deluxe, Cool Blue Pearl Deluxe, Black Denim Deluxe

MSRP…$19,499 (Vivid Black); $19,874 (others)