No brand is more American nor, over the long haul, more successful than Harley-Davidson. So it’s not surprising that the massive passion for big noisy bikes and wild open spaces has been translated into a prolific all-American palette of tattoo art. And while the most popular Harley ink incorporates traditional themes like swooping eagles and shields of stars and stripes, a survey of the newest Harley-Davidson lineup makes it clear that the next thing to turn up in Harley-inspired tats should be flowing lines, flexing contours, and the color black.

Obviously, image is not Harley-Davidson’s problem. But staying relevant and in demand with a younger generation of motorcycle riders might be. More than half of Harley owners are in their 40s and 50s, hurtling toward the big six-O. That’s not to say all these riders will be turning in their hogs for wheelchairs anytime soon, but Harley has realized it needs to move decisively to capture a younger audience that has been drawn to the sizzling sport bikes and sexy racers offered by Ducati, MV Agusta, Triumph, Suzuki, and Kawasaki. In 2002, the company rocked the motorcycle world with its introduction of the dramatically styled V-Rod. Long and low-slung, with a clam-shell riding position, the heart of the bike is its competition-based 1200-cc water-cooled 125-horsepower Revolution V-twin engine jointly developed with Porsche. Since its big-bang introduction, the V-Rod has become a subculture within a subculture. And to keep the interest stirring, the line has been updated with various editions.

The Harley-Davidson VRSCDX/A Night Rod Special is new for 2008. It’s based on the popular long, low-riding V-Rod with a single thematic variant—black is bad, and the blacker the badder! Like the old joke about Henry Ford offering the Model T in any color (as long as it was black), the Night Rod is available in 2008 in two versions: gloss black with matte black racing stripe accents or, visa versa, matte black with gloss black racing stripe accents. The new Special also adds drag bars, the sometimes-controversial forward controls, five-spoke cast aluminum wheels, a new Slipper Clutch with reduced lever effort, and optional anti-lock brakes. The big fat 240 mm rear tire adds to the bike’s swagger, and of course the swing arm on which it’s mounted has been blacked out. Adding to the cool quotient of this black beauty is a pair of brushed straight-shot dual mufflers with black end caps. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price starts at $16,695.

The original basic black Night Rod VRSCD edition also gets an update in 2008 with new five-spoke cast-aluminum wheels, and black powder coating on the visible engine surfaces. This Night Rod starts at $14,995. If black isn’t your thing, there is somewhat of a color choice available on the 2008 VRSCAW/A V-Rod: an Anniversary bronze edition to go along with a black and chrome trim edition that starts at $17,465. Will these offerings please the younger demographic that Harley-Davidson is apparently going after? Most likely. And, at the very least they’ll inspired some nice black-and-gray tattoos.