1995 Yamaha Virago 750

Yamaha's Venerable V-Twin Cruiser Simply Styles Down The Boulevard - But Is It A One-Trick Pony...

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Banner Grade, the section of Highway 78 which takes you out of Julian and down the mountain toward the Anza Borrego Desert, is one of those roads that allow the rider to hustle the Virago along at a pace that would have most other cruisers beveling hard parts. With the Virago's shocks adjusted to their highest preload settings, the bike leans quickly and confidently into every curve. The footpegs are much less prone to touching down, but they'll still drag occasionally just to remind you the pace is getting a little hot and this ain't no sportbike. All too soon this wonderful ribbon of a road straightens out as we hit the desert floor. A pitiful excuse for a top speed run shows the 750 to be lacking in top end punch. Unable to pull red-line in either 4th or 5th gear, the best we could muster riding two up, throttle pinned, was an indicated 90 mph before the V-twin ran out of steam.

Pulling into the desert retirement community of Borrego Springs the Virago hits reserve. The efficiently carbureted motor achieves almost 50 mpg and the 3.8 gallon fuel tank is ready for a fill-up after 150 miles. But that's okay with us because after an hour in the saddle, wind fatigue and engine vibration coupled with that cramped cruiser seating position has us eager for another break. It's hot down here in the desert - 90 degrees or more. Hot enough to have us longing for a biker-friendly, cool watering hole. Won't find one in Borrego Springs, though. This is the land of gray hair and Golden Sunsets. So we thought we'd head up to Mother's Kitchen on top of Palomar Mountain to search for some much-needed refreshment.

Boy, did that turn out to be a mistake! The springtime weather in California is unpredictable, to say the least (refer to Senior Editor Andy Saunders' write-up on the BMW R1100R for more unfortunate experiences with So. Cal. weather). As we approach the summit (over 5300 feet above sea level) the air temperature turns cold and heavy fog rolls up the mountain and our fingers begin to numb from the chill air. At the top it's freezing cold and beginning to drizzle. To make matters worse, we discover that Mother's Kitchen is closed for remodeling! By now we've lost our thirst and our passenger is losing her temper (Why did you bring me up here? It's about to snow, for chriss-sakes!), so we fire up the Virago and beat a hasty retreat down the mountain for home.

Pulling into the garage, it's time to reflect on the Virago's performance. The engine hasn't missed a beat all day. It revs freely, has good low-end grunt, and starts easily no matter what the weather - from scorching desert heat to near freezing, high altitude mountain air. The air-cooled V-twin offers simplicity, reliability, and it just plain looks good. It's beautifully styled, civilized, has an easy-to-ride personality and, when adjusted correctly, good suspension. All day rides are certainly not out of the question with the Virago - just allow time for frequent breaks. Is it a one-trick pony? We think that with the addition of a few well-chosen aftermarket accessories, the 1995 XV750 Virago can become a multi-faceted thoroughbred, a nice addition to anyone's stable.

Specifications:

Manufacturer: Yamaha
Model: XV750 Virago
Price: $5999 (U.S.)
Engine: Air-cooled SOHC, 75 degree V-twin
Bore x Stroke: 83.0 x 69.2mm
Displacement: 749cc
Carburetion: Dual 40mm Mikuni
Transmission: 5-speed - shaft drive
Wheelbase: 60.0 in.
Seat height: 28.1 in.
Fuel capacity: 3.8 gal.
Claimed dry weight: 483 lbs.
Impressions:

1. Tom Fortune, Contributing Editor.

The Virago has got to be, by far, one of the sportiest, best handling cruiser bikes I've ever ridden. Can the term "sporty" be applied to a cruiser? I think so. Multi-talented? You bet. Great looking with high quality construction, the Virago fits best in an urban environment. The smooth-running engine is perfectly suited for cruiser duty. All of the switches and controls fall readily to hand and foot in typical Yamaha fashion - I enjoy those white-faced dials and self-canceling turn signals. The biggest problem I have with the Virago centers around the rear suspension. Two-up, the shocks spend more time bouncing off the bump stops than not. Vibration and cruiser ergonomics do limit comfort on longer rides, especially for taller riders like myself - 100 miles is about all I could handle at a stretch, and one of MO's resident pillion testers complained of numbing and tingles in her hands and face - but, for me, a quick blast down a smooth mountain road on the nimble Virago 750 is all it takes to shift any irritations to the back of my mind. ***1/2

2. Mike Franklin, Road Test Editor.

It impresses me how Yamaha got a bike to look so much like a cruiser, yet behave like a standard. It hides its length well, has great brakes, and the shaft effect is barely noticeable. Fit and finish is first-class, but I found the key-switch difficult to access because the tubular handle-bar runs right over the top of it. I like the self-canceling turn signals and the fact that they're also running lights. The terrible starter gear set-up of the older Viragos has been re-designed to be, well, less than terrible, but still miles better than its predecessor. Bigger guys (listening, Tom?) will want to fork out the dough for the 1100 to get the extra room and horsepower the bigger bike offers. For a cruiser style bike, the Virago is an excellent standard at an affordable price. For my money though, I'll stick with a more standard-looking bike.
***

3. Brent Plummer, Editor.

What's not to like? This is one great street bike! Torquey with good fuel mileage, it's also comfy for average and small size people. And I'm really impressed at the detail work Yamaha put in on the Virago; the chrome is excellent, paint well done, and all the minor little details -- such as a rubber boot covering the left lever's clutch cable adjuster and a flip-up cover for the "trunk" lock under the rear seat -- are nice additions. I rode on the back of the Virago for a couple hundred miles one day, and found the pillion seat comfy, too. However, our larger testers universally hated the 750 Virago, as it's just too small for people over six feet tall and 200 pounds. But hey, I'm 5' 10" so I say screw the tall people! I like bikes this size. At 6000 dollars it's a bit hard on the wallet, especially since Honda's 750 Nighthawk ($5139) and Harley-Davidson's 883 Sportster ($4995, prices are from our 1994 compilation so may be a bit outdated) are cheaper and have easier maintenance since they've both got hydraulic valve lifters compared to the Virago's threaded rockers. But I digress: This is an excellent all-around bike that I found supremely comfortable and a joy to ride. Probably one of the best beginner bikes around, though experienced riders or torque freaks should save up the cash and get the 1100.
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