Use the term "performance cruiser" in a room
full of motorcyclists, and somebody will tell you it's an oxymoron. True,
if you use 180-mph sportbikes as a yardstick, our musclebikes come up a
bit short on the performance end of the equation. But you'll also find
cruiser aficionados who will tell you that if it performs, by (their)
definition, a motorcycle can't be a cruiser. That characterization
describes cruisers as motorcycles meant merely for lazy trolling, the way
God intended motorcycles to be ridden. You might also detect an
undercurrent of annoyance that you're riding a bike that's faster than
Even if thy clock
themselves in a mantle of distain for undignified displays of
deep inside every motorcyclist is a speed freak, waiting to break
free and grab a big handful of throttle. They might not like to admit it,
but we all believe that you simply can't be too rich or too fast. That
applies to cruisers as much as any other vehicle. You can wax poetic about
style, comfort, sound, and chrome all you like, but no one will say no to
a slightly harder kick in the ass when you pull the trigger. Of course, if
you disagree there are some pretty cool-looking scooters out there.
So a performance cruiser melds the couth and
cool of a cruiser with a lot more punch. That combination puts substance
behind the bad-bike attitude adopted by some custom builders but rarely
backed up by real punch when the light turns green. Riders of 600cc
sportbikes hunt these guys for breakfast. Though performance cruisers have
been around almost from the moment the Japanese manufacturers discovered
the attraction of American styling (remember the V65 Magna?), the last
year has seen a new generation of power cruiser in the form of the muscle
twins--Honda's VTX, Harley's V-Rod, Kawasaki's Mean Streak and Yamaha's
Warrior. Each has taken a different approach to blending hard-hitting
power in cruiser ergos and style.
There are two routes to strong acceleration: pump up power
and reduce weight. The most successful sprinters, like the Harley V-Rod,
Honda adopted the old American adage that there
is no substitute for cubic inches with its 1800cc monster. In a seeming
role reversal, Harley went with a V-twin of modest displacement but made
horsepower with rpm and efficiency, then wrapped it in a lightweight,
high-tech style with a dragracing emphasis. Kawasaki simply hot-rodded its
Vulcan 1500, upgraded some components, and styled it with a performance
attitude. Yamaha also hopped-up its existing big twin, but then it infused
the rolling stock with some sportbike spirit in the form of an aluminum
frame and sportbike suspension and brakes. Then it gave its creation a
sleek, ready-to-rumble look.
But these new-breed twins aren't the only
cruisers with the souls of hot rods. The traditional way to pump more
power out of a motorcycle has been to put more cylinders into it. Three
multi-cylinder musclebikes have been leading cruising's hit parade since
this magazine was founded in 1996. That year Honda raised more than a few
eyebrows when it wedged a nicely tweaked version of the 1500cc inline six
from its Gold Wing touring bike into a cruiser platform to make the
Valkyrie, one of the most distinctive motorcycles on the road today. Not
that Honda was without a performance cruiser even then. It had introduced
the first V4-powered Magna cruiser 20 years ago, and the current version
of that model is now in its 10th year (an eternity for Honda). But the 750
Magna remains one of the most potent cruisers on the road. And then there
is the Yamaha V-Max, which like the Valkyrie is powered by a souped-up
version of an engine originally built for a touring bike, now
discontinued. Since it first started wrinkling asphalt in 1985, its 1200cc
V4 has set the standard for cruiser power and performance, and its
somewhat overwrought styling is a statement of rolling probable cause.
This is the real test of a musclebike--how hard it launches
you through a quarter-mile.
Naturally, we wanted to round up all seven of
these bad boys and settle who was the nastiest of them all. (No scooter
owners on our staff.) These bikes epitomize the performance cruiser,
making a visual statement as well as black stripe when leaving. You could
make a case that other bikes, the Suzuki 1400 Intruder for example, have
the acceleration to play in this club. But none of the bikes are presented
as musclebikes and none have the potential to be a contender for the
cruiser performance crown.
This wasn't going to be the usual Motorcycle
Cruiser comparison test. We were going to focus on which bikes kick butt
and which just kick back. Acceleration and speed were the big dogs here,
though we were interested to a lesser degree in related aspects of
performance such as brakes, suspension control and handling. Some of the
stuff that we make an issue of during more civilized comparisons no longer
mattered. Passenger comfort? Passengers just slow a bike down. Chrome
quality? Not an issue. Fuel economy? Didn't even measure it. If you need
to know about those sorts of things, read a previous test. Along the way
there we'd get some lessons about efficiency versus displacement, styling
versus control and the effects of weight on performance.Here is how they
finished, starting from the back of the pack.
Any bike or rider can do a burn-out. The test is how hard
7. Kawasaki Mean Streak
The first bike on the trailer was the Mean
Streak. From the beginning, Kawasaki's muscle twin was obviously in over
its head with this crowd. Though we like the motorcycle (as the big twins
comparison in our April issue will confirm), its musclebike status is more
a matter of marketing than motor. It simply lacks the power to play in
The Mean Streak is a nice cruiser, but it's not a
Kawasaki actually tweaked the chassis and the
styling more than the engine when it drew the Mean Streak from the Vulcan
1500 Classic and didn't even boost the displacement. Year in and year out,
the Vulcan 1500 Classic has always been one of our favorite big twins, but
it has always finished near the back of the pack in performance contests
with its peers.
With that kind of heritage and little real hot-rodding,
Kawasaki's performance cruiser entry never really looked like a contender
during Musclebike Madness Month. Sure enough, the Mean Streak was the only
bike of the seven that couldn't run in the 12s or break 100 mph at the
dragstrip. In fact, at 13.76 seconds through the quarter, it didn't even
get close to the under-13-second/over-100-mph run that defines a superbike.
Yes, the Meanie did manage to pull away from the Magna in top-gear
roll-ons, but with almost twice the displacement, it should have some sort
of power advantage over the 750.
It got better marks in other performance areas,
though without power to exploit them, braking and handling are kind of
empty issues. All riders gave the dual three-piston-caliper front brake,
which has the biggest discs here, high marks and some listed them as their
best of the bunch. Suspension performance and steering ease and precision
were also scored highly, though cornering clearance is not remarkable. But
none of that, nor its good ergonomics, ultra-smooth shaft-drive power
train, compliant ride, easy-to-interpret tach and speedo, or other nice
parts, helped lift the Mean Streak out of the cellar. Nice guys finish
last in this game if they haven't got power.
We know several knowledgeable riders who have
bought Mean Streaks and love them, but none will tell you that it is a
fast bike. It may be powerful for a Vulcan, but in this crowd, the Mean
Streak is just a pretender.
its muscle twin by cranking up
the volume on its traditional cruiser engine from the Road Star, then
mating it to perhaps the most advanced chassis in cruiserdom. The
lightweight alloy frame rides on suspension components lifted from
Yamaha's cutting-edge R1 sportbike.
Framed by that sort of technology, the
air-cooled, OHV narrow-angle V-twin seems incongruous, and in fact the
engine sort of lets the team down. Despite a number of power-enhancing
changes and more displacement from the mild-mannered Road Star motor, it's
still basically a pretty tame powerplant, though the pulse beating through
that huge muffler can sounds potent enough to give V-twin enthusiasts
Though lightened up with an alloy frame, the Warrior lacks
the power to run well in this pack.
Even though it's pumping 1670cc, the Warrior's
pushrod V-twin is no powerhouse. It has less poundage to push around than
some of the other bikes here, but it still lacks enough thrust get it
moving very fast. It barely broke 100 mph and 13 seconds at the dragstrip,
and even the Honda Magna, with less than half the displacement, squirted
ahead of it in this classic American test of performance. The Warrior
managed to collect a few power points with its fifth-best top-gear
With all that sophisticated hardware in the
chassis, one would expect it to be a top contender in chassis performance.
Sure enough, the brakes wield the power that the engine is missing, and
the chassis is rigid with a well controlled ride. But our ardor for the
chassis suddenly cools when we lean it over in a corner. No one here can
make it track precisely around a corner or even get it to carve a smooth
arc. Constant inputs are required to keep it going the direction you want,
a failing we attribute to the tire profiles, which seem to be on slightly
different arcs when leaned over. The fact that cornering clearance is
modest almost becomes a non-issue because of these odd steering manners in
bends. Finally, the very foot-forward riding position and the shape of the
handlebar make the bike awkward when we try to ride it fast.
the end, the Yamaha's primary strength may be its curb appeal. If it's
better to look fast than to be fast, the Warrior is a winner. Without even
exploiting the techie draw of the alloy frame, Yamaha's styling team
managed to make the bike an undiluted statement of aggression. And that
deep, solid exhaust beat provides audible confirmation that this street
fighter is ready for battle. Just be sure to pick your fights carefully.
5. Honda VTX1800C
Honda's monster V-twin brings bragging rights
for maximum displacement. Just saying that it's packing 1800cc will elicit
raised eyebrows and low whistles and make the uninitiated step back and
give it another long look. That bigger-than-life liquid-cooled long-stroke
1795cc V-twin has a 125cc advantage on the next-biggest bike here, the
Warrior. Breathing a fuel-injected mixture through three valves per
cylinder, it appears to pack the technology to ensure that it will blow
the side panels off the competition. It's nestled in a frame that is as
long as the V-Rod's with a 67.5-inch wheelbase, and the low muscular lines
of the VTX promise to deliver a whupping when the throttle cable is
A big engine alone won't do it if it's hampered by this
But there are good and bad things about being
big. Though its size makes it roomy and stylishly stretched, it also makes
it heavy. It was startling to discover that the "simple" VTX twin is 20
pounds heavier than the massive-looking six-cylinder Valkyrie, the
second-heaviest ride in this group. All that weight is just anti-power,
since some of the power is consumed just hauling that extra tonnage. As a
result, the VTX's performance figures don't live up to those big
There's nothing like getting edged out at the
lights by a bike of the same brand that's armed with just 42 percent of
the displacement (over 1000cc less!) and leaves an extra $5000 in your
jeans when you buy it instead of the VTX. The VTX couldn't quite overcome
the inertia of all those pounds off the line to run down the Magna in the
quarter-mile, though it was going 2.2 mph faster than that pesky 750 at
the end of the strip. The VTX got to show its muscle more effectively in
our top-gear acceleration measurements, where it eclipsed all but the
V-Rod and V-Max. We suspect it would have done even better if the test was
conducted at higher speeds.
Weight is also a liability when you are trying
to stop or turn. Though most riders grumbled about the linked actuation
system for the brakes, they provide great power and surprising levels of
feedback. You also get a lot of feedback--too much of it--from the
suspension. Bigger bumps hammer you through the rear end, and the ride can
be herky-jerky on concrete-slab roadways. The jacking reaction of the
shaft final drive system also makes it pitch around when throttle settings
are changed abruptly, and since the carburetor doesn't like to react
subtly, this is often the case. All of these modest shortcomings plus the
considerable mass of the bike gang up on you in corners, where the VTX is
reluctant to make sudden direction changes and bumpy surfaces can make the
bike stutter. Cornering clearance is modest too. Still, most prefer the
tank-ish VTX to the hard-to-point Warrior on bend-infested roads. The
riding position, with the low-rise bar, semi-forward footpeg position, and
roomy saddle, is comfortable both for long rides and short shots down the
This C version of the 1795cc VTX family has an
obvious street rod flavor, with its purposeful lines, aggressive posture,
hardware like the inverted fork legs, and the long two-into-one pipe. We
always decry the VTX's ignored details like the dangling turn-signal
wiring and the eye-catching tank seam, but in this company the absence of
a tachometer seems like the most glaring oversight. It is easy to spin the
engine up into the rev limiter when trying to accelerate hard, and the
limiter cuts in very hard. It takes a lot of experience with the bike to
be able to hear and feel the optimum shift point. It needs a tach.
If you just want everyone to know you have a
big one, the VTX is the musclebike for you. But if you want to actually
flex your bike's muscles, the VTX is just too much.
4. Honda Magna
Less than half the
displacement of some of the contenders, the Magna holds its own with
lightweight and good high-rpm power.
Playing David to the VTX's Goliath, the
comparatively diminutive VF750C showed precisely how less can be more and
efficiency can overcome brute displacement. Though the Magna is the
smallest bike in the group, it's also the lightest, which helped it get
the jump off the line. And it makes horsepower by spinning up its 16-valve
V4 to a higher rpm than any of those monster V-twins. It takes a bit more
clutch slipping to get it away from a start quickly, but with 80 pounds
less weight to accelerate than the next-lightest bike, the V-Max, the
Magna will get moving in a hurry. That in turn enabled it to burn through
the quarter-mile a beat quicker than the VTX. That big bad 1800 was going
faster and catching up at the end of the quarter-mile however, and it put
the pipsqueak in its place in the top-gear contest, which requires torque
and power at a lower rpm, not the Magna's strong suit.
As you might expect, the Magna has the peakiest
engine here. There isn't a lot of grunt down low. It likes to be revved a
bit and shifted frequently. Still, the power is predictable and easy to
control. You do need to know how to slip the clutch for a strong launch,
but the Magna seems perfectly content to absorb a lot of this kind of
If the only criteria we scored were brute power
and torque, the VTX would have gotten the position. Since it hasn't been
given a bit of attention for a decade, the Magna is beginning to look a
bit dated. Its suspension isn't as sophisticated as most of the others and
its tires feel a bit less connected than the rubber on the newer bikes.
But the absence of mass makes up for a lot of plainness in matters of
chassis performance. On a tight road, the Magna steers so quickly and with
so little effort that it won our sport-cruiser comparison a few years
back. None of the musclebikes are light enough to keep it in sight on a
twisting road with rapid-fire corners. It is steady and confident while
leaned over and has lots of room to lean, rarely dragging anything.
The Magna's most noticeable chassis-performance
shortcoming is its brakes, the only single-disc front and drum rear units
here. The bike deserves more powerful binders and stickier tires to
exploit them. As it is, the VF750C can't stop with the power of most of
these other performance cruisers, though its "added lightness" means that
it doesn't need as much power, either. Whether touring on the open road,
strafing apexes on a meandering mountain lane or ripping off the line at
the dragstrip, the Magna's conventional riding position backs you up.
Despite its four-pipe exhaust system, the Magna
isn't likely to turn any heads if there is a V-Rod or Warrior in the
vicinity. But you can comfort yourself with the $10,000 you have left over
because you didn't buy the V-Rod. This bike is the undisputed performance
3. Harley-Davidson V-Rod
a strong, wide spread of power and modest weight, the V-Rod performs
better than its 1130cc would suggest.
Five years ago a lightweight, high-tech
modest-displacement Harley poised to do battle with a big air-cooled,
pushrod Yamaha and a huge, slow-revving Honda would have seemed like a
flight of fancy. And the notion that a Harley with two-thirds of the
displacement could best bigger bikes from those Japanese makers would have
seemed like pure fantasy. But it has happened.
With the second-smallest engine here, Harley's
V-Rod ran away from all but the V-Max in a quarter-mile sprint, and was
the only other bike to break into the 11-second bracket at 11.91 and top
110 mph with a 112.6-mph terminal speed through the traps. Most
impressively, it outran them all in what is perhaps the definitive test of
cruiser power--top-gear acceleration. It goes to show what you can do by
keeping the weight down and spinning the engine up.
The VRSC V-twin powering the V-Rod is a
complete departure for H-D. Liquid-cooled with a comparatively wide
60-degree V angle, it has double overhead cams and four valves per
cylinder and turns a lot more rpm than any previous Harley. And in an era
where 1500cc no longer impresses, rolling out a new V-twin with just
1130cc might have seemed like madness. But the V-Rod turns convention on
its ear and proves that a performance cruiser needn't be big, heavy,
low-revving or have a traditional narrow-angle V or other "essential"
features (like a conventionally placed fuel tank) to be accepted and
outperform the pack. The only possible loss is in exhaust note, which
lacks the traditional narrow-V cadence.
The V-Rod does have one traditional Harley
shortcoming: the handling is disappointing, especially since the bike is
so light. Although it has good ground clearance when leaned over and
responds readily to steering inputs, the suspension is unimpressive, and
the cornering manners display an unsteadiness similar to the Warrior,
presumably for the same reasons. It loses more ground to the least
comfortable riding position, one that also doesn't mesh well with the
bike's high-performance potential. The feet-forward stance combines with a
high handlebar to place the rider in an awkward position for hard launches
or strong acceleration. The 'Rod was the hardest bike to get away from the
starting line at the strip without spinning the rear tire. It was also the
least comfortable for day-to-day riding, though that was a minor issue in
Many of these shortcomings stem from Harley's
desire to give the bike unmistakable, if radical, American lines,
presumably because so many aspects of the V-Rod are departures from Harley
and American tradition. There is no question of the origin of its
raked-out, low-slung style, and though completely unique among American
bikes, the anodized alloy bodywork turns heads wherever you ride. However,
the compromises forced by the styling overshadow the VRSCA's impressive
straight-line performance and keep it from exploiting all its potential.
Though some riders thought it should be ranked higher, most felt that its
overall performance felt short of the Valkyrie, and it missed second place
by a whisker. If your priorities are weighted differently, though, you can
easily make a case that the Harley should have been second, perhaps even
first. And when people are paying a 100-percent premium to own one, the
bike is clearly a winner.
Honda's big 1500cc opposed six performs better--all
around--than its bulk would suggest.
Sprung from a touring bike and unlike any other
cruiser (save perhaps the V8 powered Boss Hoss), Honda's 1520cc six has
always dazzled us. Back in '98 it was our top pick when we compared the
flagship models from all the cruiser makers. In 2000, it surprised many by
holding its own in a sport-cruiser comparison. And now here it is
contending for the title in an arena where sheer thrust is the headline.
Whether you love it or hate it, that monstrous
six-cylinder engine is the dominant feature of the Valkyrie. It creates
the bike's wide-shouldered style and leaves no doubt that this is a
motorcycle designed to leave in a hurry when you punch it. With a
less-audacious motor under the tank, the bike would come across as just
another mild-mannered, comfortable cruiser. But with six cylinders and
carbs protruding from the engine bay, the potential muscle is unmistakable
to even the least motor-headed viewer.
But for all its mechanical prowess, the
Valkyrie is exceptionally easy to handle. At the strip Evans Brasfield
quickly extracted its best run from it because it was so easy to launch
straight and control wheelspin. Though it didn't approach the 11-second
runs of the V-Max and -Rod, it bested the rest with a 12.63-second clock
at 104 mph. That speed was 1.1 mph shy of the VTX too. Its 76.7-mph
terminal speed in the top-gear acceleration contest was fourth best behind
all the other bikes with V's in their names. But the Valkyrie's power
offers a flexibility not found in any other big cruiser. You can put it
fifth gear and slow below 20 mph, then snap the throttle full open and
motor away smoothly, without a hiccup or bit of driveline snatch.
With that hefty engine, a long wheelbase, roomy
accommodations, and features like shaft final drive, the Valkyrie is
obviously a big, heavy motorcycle. And although the sense of bulk never
disappears, Honda has done some sort of magic with how the 1500cc six
carries its mass and how it steers and handles. Great suspension is part
of the equation, but that doesn't explain the light, predictable steering
or the confidence it inspires when leaned over and dragging things.
Surprisingly, you have to lean over farther than with most of the other
bikes to get anything to scrape the road in a turn. And that flexible
power means that you can run down a winding road with a minimum of
shifting and still have plenty of drive to propel you off the corner. And
when it's time to slow down, the brakes offer great power and control.
Though some riders would prefer a slightly
lower, narrowed handlebar, all agree that the Valkyrie is the most
ergonomically accommodating motorcycle in this seven-pack. The footpegs
are located conventionally, and the position lets you adjust your posture
and will work with you whether you're heading out across the country, down
the dragstrip or just along a winding road. The engine is innately smooth,
the ride is plush, and the seating coddles you.
The Valkyrie's styling doesn't offer the
in-your-face assertions of adrenaline addiction that you get with some of
the others. Its claim to power rests mostly with that big motor. But the
engine also provides a powerful auditory statement, a deep whoomp from the
twin mufflers when the twistgrip is blipped that distinguishes it and
reminds those listening than it is much more than just a touring refugee.
But then, the Valyrie seems to be able to be whatever you ask it to be.
1. Yamaha V-Max
Almost two decades after its introduction, the V-Max is
still the dominant performance cruiser.
The king is still the king. Yeah, the styling
may be dated, but that isn't going to matter much. If you are riding one
of the other bikes, you aren't likely to see anything besides the
taillight, rapidly getting smaller as the V-Max disappears in the
Laying down an 11.62-second, 116.9-mph quickest
run, the V-Max easily bested all challengers. And for those hoping for a
rematch, it may come as a shock that we regard this V-Max as something of
a dog. Previous samples, which are mechanically the same, have turned
quarter-miles under 11 seconds and well over 120 mph with top-gear
acceleration numbers over 90 mph. The 81.6-mph terminal speed of this bike
in our top-gear acceleration test was something of surprise and let the
V-Rod win that category.The V-Max is all about the joy of acceleration.
Though Yamaha doesn't list horsepower figures anymore, specs published
when it was rolled out in the mid 1980s claimed over 130 horsepower. And
the 1198cc V4 adds to the rush with its V-Boost system, which, as the revs
rise, opens a crossover valve in the intake manifold, allowing each
cylinder to inhale through two carbs. This gives an added kick of
acceleration, adding to the kinetic fun at Mr. Max's party. Power is
adequate down low, though nothing like the Valkyrie, but when you get the
revs up, there simply isn't any cruiser like the V-Max, and its V4 growl
confirms that it's no pretender.
The ergonomics both heighten and complement the
V-Max power rush. Although its comparatively low handlebar and rearward
pegs are less cruiser-like than the other bikes here, the position still
sits you up more than on most bikes with a similar horsepower hit. As a
result, you feel the acceleration more, even though the high seat back and
narrow bar make it easy to stay comfortably in control. The saddle doesn't
cut it on long rides but is perfectly suited to fits of hooliganism in
town. You also get some added sensory input from the shaft final drive
system, which makes the bike rise on its suspension during bouts of hard
acceleration. That can turn into an unintended wheelstand when leaving
hard, especially if you are accelerating uphill, as on an interstate
highway entrance ramp.
Of course, you have to work around the
shaft-induced jacking when riding roads with bends to charge. Keeping the
power on through a corner's apex helps you make the most of the VMX12's
substantial concerning clearance. Despite upgrades a few years ago, the
suspension is nothing special, offering neither remarkable control nor
compliance, but it does the job satisfactorily. Steering and cornering
stability are likewise OK but nothing noteworthy. Despite its massive
look, the V-Max is actually one of the lightweights in this crowd, with
only the Magna carrying fewer pounds. Though it has none of the cool
aluminum chassis components of the twin-cylinder Warrior and carries a
shaft-drive and radiator, this old V4 actually weighs 40 pounds less than
the V-twin. With limited mass to toss around, the narrow bar provides
plenty of leverage and control. However, most V-Maxs seem to develop some
corner-tracking problems by a couple thousand miles when the rear tire
begins to show some wear in the middle. We managed to get the brakes to
fade some on one of our standard downhill runs.
Though it's about as subtle as sledge hammer,
the V-Max's styling looks a bit contrived and is certainly getting dated.
We keep hoping that Yamaha will give the bike an update using an approach
similar to that taken to create the Warrior (but with better steering).
But then we always worry that what we get will have a tamer engine, more
weight and better manners than this bad boy. Taking the hooligan out of
Mighty Max and making it politically correct would take the fun out of the
ultimate performance cruiser.
HARLEY-DAVIDSON V-ROD MSRP:
Wet weight: 620 lbs.
Wheelbase: 67.5 in.
Seat height: 27.1 in.
Engine type: Liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin
Valve arrangement: DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Final Drive: Belt
Rake/trail: 38 degrees/5.9 in.
Front tire: 120/70ZR-19
Rear tire: 180/55ZR-18
Front brake: 2, 4-piston calipers, 11.5-in.discs
Rear brake: 4-piston caliper, 11.5-in disc
200-yard top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 83.0 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 11.91 sec., 112.6 mph
HONDA MAGNA MSRP: $7499
Wet weight: 539 lbs.
Wheelbase: 65.0 in.
Seat height: 28.0
Engine type: Liquid-cooled 45-degree V-4
Valve arrangement: DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Carburetion: 4, 34mm CV
Final Drive: Chain
Rake/trail: 32 degrees/5.2 in.
Front tire: 120/80-17
Rear tire: 150/80-17
Front brake: 1-piston caliper, 12.4-in. disc
Rear brake: Single-leading-shoe drum
200-yard top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 73.0 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 12.71 sec., 102.9 mph
HONDA VALKYRIE MSRP: $13.099
weight: 738 lbs.
Wheelbase: 66.5 in.
Seat height: 28.9 in.
Engine type: Liquid-cooled opposed flat six
Valve arrangement: SOHC, 2 valves per cylinder
Carburetion: 6, 28mm CV
Final Drive: Shaft
Rake/trail: 32.3 degrees/5.98 in.
Front tire: 150/80R17
Rear tire: 180/70R16
Front brake: 2, 2-piston calipers, 11.7-in.discs
Rear brake: 1-piston caliper, 12.4-in disc
200-yard top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 76.7 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 12.63 sec., 104.0 mph
HONDA VTX1800C MSRP: $12,499
weight: 758 lbs.
Wheelbase: 67.5 in S
eat height:27.3 in.
Engine type: Liquid-cooled 52-degree V-twin
Valve arrangement: SOHC, 3 valves per cylinder
Final Drive: Shaft
Rake/trail: 32 degrees/5.8 in.
Front tire: 130/70ZR18
Rear tire: 180/70ZR16
Front brake: 2, 6-piston calipers, 11.7-in.discs
Rear brake: 2-piston caliper, 12.4-in. disc
200-yard top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 78.4 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 12.72 sec., 105.1 mph
KAWASAKI MEAN STREAK MSRP: $10,999
Wet weight: 695 lbs
Wheelbase: 67.1 in.
Seat height: 27.6 in.
Engine type: Liquid-cooled 50-degree V-twin
Valve arrangement: SOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Final Drive: Shaft
Rake/trail: 32degrees/5.7 in.
Front tire: 130/70R17
Rear tire: 170/60R17
Front brake: 2, 3-piston calipers, 12.6-in discs
Rear brake: 2-piston caliper, 8.7-in disc
200-yard top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 75.8 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 13.76 sec., 95.6 mph
V-MAX MSRP: $10,899
Wet weight: 618 lbs.
Wheelbase: 62.6 in.
Seat height: 30.1 in.
Engine type: Liquid-cooled 70-degree V-4
Valve arrangement: DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Carburetion: 4, 35mm CV
Final Drive: Shaft
Rake/trail: 29 degrees/4.7 in.
Front tire: 110/90V19
Rear tire: 150/90V15
Front brake: 2, 4-piston calipers, 11.7-in.discs
Rear brake: 2-piston caliper, 11.1-in. disc
200-yard top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 81.6 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 11.62 sec., 116.9 mph
WARRIOR MSRP: $11,999
Wet weight: 658 lbs.
Wheelbase: 65.7 in.
Seat height: 28.1
Engine type: Air-cooled 48-degree V-twin
Valve arrangement: OHV, 4 valves per cylinder
Final Drive: Belt
Rake/trail: 29degrees/5.12 in.
Front tire: 120/70ZR18
Rear tire: 200/50ZR18
Front brake: 2, 2-piston calipers, 11.7-in.discs
Rear brake: 11.1-in disc
200-yard top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 76.6 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 12.87 sec., 101.2 mph
Height: 5 ft. 10 in.
Weight: 210 lb.
Inseam: 32 in.
Yup, after all these years, the V-Max is still
the best answer when somebody asks. "What's the fastest cruiser?" But it
is certainly showing its age. Instead of trying to turn a air-cooled
V-twin sow's ear into a high-speed silk purse, as was done with the Road
Star turned Warrior, I wish that Yamaha had devoted the same sort of
effort and talent into making the V-Max the modern Max.
About the Warrior: every time I look at it, I
like it more, and every time I ride it, I like it less. I just cannot get
that motorcycle to track around a corner the way I want it to. Lovely
sound, but the fury is lacking. That's true of the Mean Streak as well.
Nice bike, but a bit wimpy for this crowd. As for the V-Rod, the engine is
great and it's nice and light. I just don't find anything else about the
bike that appeals to me besides the finish. The lines of the VTX-C appeal
to me, but with the biggest engine here it should come out swinging a bit
harder. Honda needs to take a lesson from Harley and Yamaha and get the
lead out. Knock off 150 pounds or so and this thing could feed the
power-hungry. Now it's just a big bike that can't quite live up to its
Honda's Valkyrie is also a big bike, but
somebody forgot to tell it. It zings through corners like a much smaller
bike and launches you from a stop with all the authority of six 250cc
cylinders. Any visual display of aggression emanates from the engine, but
don't be fooled by its somewhat porky lines, the F6 is no road hawg. This
bike does so much so well that it seems to rise to the top no matter what
The littlest bike here, the Magna is just the
opposite of the VTX. It looks like the underdog, but bites hard when
goaded. You have to spin it to get that performance, but I like a bike
that takes some skill to extract all its performance. Because it's
relatively small and light, it is the handiest of these seven. Like the
V-Max and Valkyrie, the Magna would benefit from some modernization.
But dated or not, those three are my favorites.
Picking one would depend on what other duties I had in mind. Traveling
would point me toward the always-versatile Valkyrie. Straightforward
street fighting would make the V-Max my choice. And if curvaceous roads
were a major part of my plans or money was a sticking point, the Magna
would be my choice. --Art Friedman
Height: 5 ft. 10 in.
Weight: 135 lb.
Inseam: 34 in.
Enjoying a ride is much a state of mind as it
is a physical occurrence. And although it is a combination, it can be more
of one or the other at any given time. For example, when I'm on a journey,
a weekend tour or even my long (seven-hour) commute home I find the
peacefulness of the motion the best part. When I'm riding around town, out
testing in the mountains or chasing my favorite roads on Sunday it's the
visceral element of motorcycling that warms me up. You'd think being on a
bike with good power would be more of a priority in the latter
circumstance--the one where the effects of gravity and velocity play key
roles. Yeah, but I also want a ton of power when the bike's taking me to
Oklahoma on the Interstate. Actually, I want a ton of power when the
bike's sitting in the garage.
So, what the hell am I getting at? Jamie's same
old bottom line, I suppose. The bike should do more than one thing well
(unless I get to own as many bikes as I want). I dig all of these power
cruisers. They're all tremendously sexy, bold and fun to ride and almost
all of them can be found the list of my top ten favorite cruisers. But if
I had to choose one as my long-term ride, it would have to be both
wickedly fast and incredibly comfortable. That would be the Valkyrie, of
course. Each time I sit in the saddle I feel like I'm a hooligan, er, home
again. --Jamie Elvidge
Height: 5 ft. 7 in.
Weight: 149 lb.
Inseam: 31 in.
It's heartening to see that even with all the
supposed progress we've been subjected to in the 21st century, pure muscle
can stir your adrenaline like nothing else. I guess I shouldn't have been
surprised that the doddering old V-Max can still turn me on, or that the
Valkyrie delivers boost at least on par with all these newcomers. With the
exception of the V-Rod's awesome motor, and occasionally the Warrior's
killer chassis, I'd take the old over the new in any streetfight (except
for the Magna, that is--it seems to not have aged quite as gracefully).
The Mean Streak, while comfortable, is just underpowered, and the VTX is
akin to sending an aircraft carrier when a battleship would do. Don't get
me wrong, I like the new breed pretty well; I just think they could stand
a few more improvements on the originals. --Andy Cherney
V-Rod: 4.0 / 3.0 / 2.5
Magna: 2.0 / 4.0 / 4.0
Valkyrie: 3.5 / 4.5 / 4.5
VTX1800C: 3.0: / 4.0 / 3.0
Mean Streak: 3.0 / 4.0 / 3.5
V-Max: 3.0 / 4.0 / 4.0
Warrior: 3.0 / 3.0 / 3.0
Additional motorcycle road tests and
comparisons are available at the