Although many of you might like to think that MO staffers have been living comfortably under that rock, blissfully ignorant of the world -- or at least the world of motorbikes -- around us, we would beg to differ.
Fear not intrepid reader! We've not been asleep, merely sleepy-eyed. MO has been keenly aware for a number of years as to just how important cruisers are as part of a regular motorcycle diet. As proof of such we've assembled, yet again, what we think is a good cross-section of bikes. To drill down a little further beyond the broad category of cruiser bikes, we focused our beam on what has recently become a sub-category called "power" cruisers.
Many bike makers claim that the face of the cruiser owner is getting younger. Yet he or she still craves the performance that they may have been weaned on in their early riding experiences, and they're not ready to be lumped in with the rest of the bar-hoppers.
Manufacturers have taken notice and they're aggressively seeking to win the heart of this younger --or young at heart-- cruiser rider. In order to see what all the fuss is about MO assembled five of the more prominent power cruisers --some relatively new and one very, very old-- grabbed a well-known MO reader, and headed out to the highways and byways of Southern California to play the part of a cruiser. Let's see what these things are all about, shall we?
We selected five bikes to demonstrate what we think a power cruiser is; three of Japanese origin and two with an all-American background. We plucked the Vulcan 1600 Mean Streak from Kawasaki's stable of fine beauties.
From Star -- Yamaha's newly branded-for-2006 line of motorcycles -- we snapped up the V-Star Midnight Warrior. Looking stateside is, quite naturally, Harley-Davidson's VRSCR Street Rod.
Not immediately recognizable to the general public as an all-American -- but this is changing quickly -- is Victory, and from them we were granted the mighty Hammer.
"But wait, that's only four! You said five were in the test, didn't you?" Indeed we did. In traditional MO fashion we thought we'd throw a monkey at the wrench, or something like that, and include a bike most wouldn't be expecting.
"We've often come to refer to this black sheep selection as our wild card."
In this instance we thought it only fitting to pay homage to the bike we think really started it all. With a deservedly strong image for over 20 years there could only be one bike to which we refer: the mighty V-Max. "The V-Max? What in the Name of Modern Motorscooters were you clowns thinking?"
What we were thinking was that we wanted to see just how well a bike that was once the definition of power, and has changed little since it first saw dealer showrooms, would stack up against bikes with such mundane features like fuel injection or inverted forks. Scoff if you must, but you'll be surprised just how well 20 year old tech stood up against the rest.
Bikes assembled and safely nestled in the MO garage, we were only left the task of finding one more rider to assist the same ol' motley crew of editors Ets-Hokin, Palaima and Brissette. If you've snooped around the feedback in just about any story and virtually every news item, you've seen his handle. Most of you know him, many of you love him and some of you even get sucked into his antagonizing, witty posts. He is the incomparable Buzglyd. Yes, that's right, a rank and file MOfo. Who better to help MO assess this very important gaggle of bikes than one of your own?
Many freeway miles were logged in this test because we know that familiar line from Steppenwolf's Born To Be Wild, "Head out on the highway", is a tenet of cruisers far and wide. But because this newer faction of the cruiser world is alleged to be about more than just straight-line, brute force we took the sage advice of Buzz and added a taste of the twists.
"It's simple enough: which bike is good enough that you would shell out the price of admission to buy it with your own hard-won bread?"
Starting near Buzz's home territory, we picked up the famed Ortega Hwy. (CA State Hwy 74) in San Juan Capistrano (where the swallows come back to) and followed its serpentine, traffic-laden path as it bisects the Santa Ana mountains in California's southernmost National forest, the Cleveland National Forest. After a stop at the famed Hell's Kitchen biker bar we gradually worked our way to Lake Elsinore where we eventually picked up Interstate 15 to conclude our day with some more freeway time.
When it's all said and done, the key criteria we used to determine our individual rankings and ultimately our top choice -- as always -- is subjective. Gabe spells it out like this: "We have one standard by which we rate the motorcycles we test; which bike would our testers buy if they were to spend their own money? It's a good way of cutting through all that hemming and hawing and wishy-washy-ing about which bike is more comfortable or which gets better fuel mileage or whatever. It's simple enough: which bike is good enough that you would shell out the price of admission to buy it with your own hard-won bread? Its how we've always done it, and it gets the most interesting results."
Stop! It's Not Hammer Time.
Victory brought the Hammer on board in 2005, and with the exception of some new paint schemes the bike has changed little. But in many ways that's okay, because it's one darn fine bike. The Hammer was one of the first bikes in the Victory line to receive the 100ci Freedom motor with their six speed "true overdrive" transmission.
Although Victory has only been in the business of making motorcycles since 1998, they've done an outstanding job of paying attention to their market. In that market, style and looks are as important -- if not more so -- than any other crucial aspect of the bike. The Hammer is a testament to Victory's addressing that concern with its clean, fluid lines and muscle car stance. Just the right amount of chrome gleams around the high-quality paint job to give it that custom look that so many potential cruiser owners desire.
If you take nothing else away from this bike after soaking in its impressive styling, you'll know that the Hammer is assembled with the same amount of care with which it was designed. Of the looks in general Pete said that "it's a neck and neck race between the Hammer and the Harley." Gabe gave the Hammer similar accolades, going so far as to say "the paint is flawless!"
He even discovered a fun, leisure activity when he decided to see how many "Vs" he could count in the paint scheme, although a couple of the testers thought that the tribal accents were a little passé these days. Commenting on how Victory has grown over the years Buzglyd said that they're building "show stoppers" these days. Specifically of the Hammer, he noticed that "its interesting design draws [the attention of] admirers everywhere."
"Commenting on how Victory has grown over the years Buzglyd said that they're building "show stoppers" these days."
Climbing aboard -- or rather into -- the Hammer, you can't help but continue to bask in that custom-bike sensation that Victory has so gracefully applied to the Hammer. Yet, this bike is far more ride-able and enjoyable than many of the customs that can cost as much as three times the Hammer's $16,899.00 ($17,149.00 CA model) base price.
The reach from the relatively hard seat to the wide, super shiny V- shaped (for Victory we assume) bars should be agreeable to most riders, but taller riders may feel more at home in the saddle, according to lemur-armed Gabe. As evidence of such, he commented that when he had the bike at or near full-lock the reach to the outside bar was a bit troublesome. Pete wasn't quite as concerned by this fact but he agreed. Standing a hair taller than Pete, and several feet taller than Gabe, Alfonse's radar failed to note this about the bars whatsoever.
The next items that seize the rider's attention once he or she is settled in are the classically styled and prominently displayed speedo and tach. Remarking on their quality and simplicity, Pete said that they "further add to the muscle-car vibe that the Hammer gives off." Gabe liked them too but wished the tiny LCD read-out on the speedometer gave more detail; "Where's the clock?" Another neat feature Victory gives its rider is the ability to toggle the high/low beam without actually switching from low to high. Although it doesn't say "PASS", the light switch operates just like those found on European and some Japanese brands.
Reach over to your left thigh/knee area to access the ignition, thumb the starter and all 100 cubic inches thunder to life. After you calm yourself down from the aural thrill of the exhaust you'll be pleasantly surprised at the relative lack of vibration coming from such a large, bad-ass engine. This truly is one of the strong character traits of Victory motorbikes. Snick the tranny into gear, start trolling through the parking lot and you've become an instant tough guy. You affirm this new attitude as you casually glance out of the corner of your eye, sneaking peeks at lesser mortals admiring "that biker."
Then you attempt your first turning maneuver at parking lot pace and find that the bike refuses to acknowledge you as anything other than the weekend warrior that you are. How does it do this? By failing to heed your steering command(s) and doing everything it can to keep you headed straight for that ridiculously expensive Bentley. For all the things that the Hammer does well, turning isn't one of them.
Yep, we're sorry to say that the gianormous tire that lends so much to the visceral appeal does a great disservice to the handling. With such a wide hunk of rubber, most riders will have trouble with the transition from the wide center portion to the sidewall, getting the sensation that the bike wants to "correct" and straighten up. This challenge, shall we say, is tolerable when bopping up and down city streets, but the stakes are raised when you venture into winding canyons or even the sharper freeway on/off ramp.
The end result is that the rider has to keep a constant vigil against the Hammer's proclivities to stay on the straight and narrow by always applying countersteering pressure, lest the bike have its way.
Gabe and Alfonse had warned Buzz about such tendencies, but he retorted by saying "you don't get used to the handling, you get used to being scared."
Once the rider can accept --or not-- the untamed turning of the Hammer they can begin to appreciate all the other qualities of the bike, such as the pavement-twisting torque, or the superb transmission that accepts clutch-less upshifts with little or no complaint.
"Pete liked the gearbox so much he said it may be as good as any Japanese bike available today."
Speaking of the transmission, after you've used the combination of 102 ft.lbs of torque and 82 hp to propel you to freeway cruising speeds, don't forget about that true overdrive in sixth gear. Click it in and watch the tachometer needle drop as the engine spins carefree and settles in around 2,900rpm at roughly 80mph. Ah...so nice, this overdrive.
If you haven't been lulled to sleep by the extremely smooth engine you'll have time to notice the stellar ride quality that the suspenders supply. Though it lacks adjustability, the front suspension is a very well-balanced piece of equipment in terms of compression and rebound damping as it does a good job of keeping the bike planted without being overly firm. The rear suspension doesn't fare quite as well. Gabe felt it to be too firm and lacking in damping, but the combination of the two make for a comfortable-enough freeway jaunt and provide just enough performance for a more spirited spin through less-than-straight paths.
Finally, when it's time to bring things to a halt, no bike did it better than the Hammer, with the world-renowned Brembo calipers reeling the fun in. Pete figured them to be the best, most powerful of the five bikes in the group, stating that "most cruisers would benefit greatly from brakes like these. More OEMs should use Brembos if they can afford to." Gabe also said that the smoothness and modulation of the brakes were very good.
So, with tarmac-melting torque, a smooth and quiet motor, premium brakes, a basically flawless transmission and visual appeal with the build quality to back it up, how does the Hammer wind up dead last? Three of our testers voted it last with Alfonse being the sole hold out -- he voted it numero uno -- which is how it wound up where it did. Citing the heavy handling caused by that massive rear rubber as the main detractor, it was hard for Buzz, Gabe and Pete to justify spending the large dollars -- it was the most expensive bike by far -- to get all the other quality components found on the Hammer.
Our test bike had a Victory 'stage I' kit that'll set you back a cool $599.00 and a super bright HID headlight costing $249.00. Taking the best case scenario -- that you live some place other than California -- the Hammer will require the investment of $17,747.00 before taxes. If Victory could just bring themselves to scale down that behemoth of a rear tire and cut the price of the bike significantly while doing it, the Hammer would surely smash the competition in this crowd. Until then, all we can do is wait.
|2006 Victory Hammer|
** Specifications Courtesy of Victory **
MSRP $16,899 - MSRP - CA$17,149
|Engine||Type 4-stroke 50° V-Twin|
|Displacement||100 cu in/1634cc|
|Bore x Stroke||101x102mm|
|Valve Train||Single overhead camshafts with 4 valves per cylinder, hydraulic-adjusting cam chains, hydraulic lifters|
|Fuel System||Electronic Fuel Injection with 44mm throttle bodies|
|Fuel Capacity||4.5/17.0 U.S. gallons/liters|
|Exhaust||Staggered slash-cut dual exhaust with common volume|
|Charging System||38 amps max output|
|Battery||12 volts/18 amp hours|
|Primary Drive||Gear drive with torque compensator|
|Transmission||6-speed Overdrive constant mesh|
|Final Drive||Carbon Fiber Reinforced Belt|
|Brakes||Front Brake Dual 300mm floating rotor with 4-piston caliper|
Rear Brake 300mm floating rotor with 2-piston caliper
|Seat Height||26.4/669.3 in/mm|
|Ground Clearance||5.8/148 in/mm|
|*Claimed* Dry Weight||657/298 lbs/kg|
|*Claimed* GVWR||1165/528 lbs/kg|
|Front Suspension||Inverted cartridge telescopic fork, 43mm fork tube, 5.1in/130mm travel|
|Rear Suspension||Single, mono-tube gas, forged and cast aluminum with rising rate linkage swing-arm, 3.9in/100mm travel, preload adjustable spring|
|Front Tire||130/70R18 Dunlop Elite 3|
|Rear Tire||250 40-R18 Dunlop Elite 3|
|Solid Colors||Black, Indy Red, Supersonic Blue|
|Multiple Colors||Flame Yellow with Tribal Tattoo, Nuclear Sunset with Tribal Tattoo|
|*All specs are for standard Victory Models. Specs may change with the addition of custom order options. Seat height reflects 180 lb. operator weight. Prices listed are MSRP for stock solid black model. California Models pricing will require additional fee for fuel emissions canister. Alternate paint options or additional options may increase price. Victory reserves the right to change specifications at any time without incurring obligation. Prices exclude dealer setup, shipping, taxes, title and licensing and are subject to change. Dealer prices may vary.|
Kawasaki 1600 Mean Streak
Mean Streak or Mildly Annoyed?
Kawasaki's Vulcan line of cruisers has long been a part of their motorcycle history. With the introduction of the Vulcan 750 in 1984, Kawi entered the battle to win the hearts of the American cruiser rider. Today Kawasaki's cruiser line-up consists of 15 models, 14 of which proudly carry the Vulcan name. From the Vulcan 500 LTD all the way up to the mighty Vulcan 2000, Kawasaki offers a formidable line to suit just about everyone's needs.
If cost were the only issue in this test, the Mean Streak would easily be at the top of the heap. This bike represents a very good value, giving the rider a lot of bike for the price. But if we've said it once, we've said it a thousand times: motorcycling is an emotional experience (for most anyway). When it comes time for a motorcyclist to purchase his or her bike, lust often takes over the steering wheel of your emotional car.
And lust doesn't merely force your Economic Sensibilities into the back seat, it beats them to near unconsciousness and stuffs 'em in the trunk. Things like a slick paint and chrome combination or a fire-breathing exhaust system promise more long-term satisfaction than does a 5.8 percent savings over the amortized life of your loan. "Dude! That thing costs an extra four grand with the S & S stroker kit and billet high-flow heads!" says the Economic Sensibilities. "Yeah but...but...it's got an S & S stroker kit and billet high-flow heads!", retorts Lust, bitch-slapping Economic Sensibilities across the face.
The styling of the Mean Streak may be somewhat understated in this group, but we prefer to think of it as classically refined. From the front fender to the rear fender, and everywhere in between, the bike's profile displays one smooth, sweeping line. Just the right amount of chrome accents does a good job of giving the Mean Streak enough flare without being gaudy. Nevertheless, we're whiners and can always find something to complain about. Of the styling in general Buzz found it to be "generic" and noted, as did Gabe, that "attention to detail is so-so, with exposed wires, radiator fans, etc. punctuating the bargain Power Cruiser look", but considering the bargain price of $10,999 (2006 model) "these nits are easy to forgive."
Saddle up on the Vulcan and one thing that becomes readily apparent is that Kawasaki definitely had comfort in mind when crafting this bike. Both Gabe and Buzz said that the seat was very comfy, "even for longer distances." Pete observed, unscientifically, that the Meanie seemingly had the shortest reach to the bars. That may well be why Gabe found it to be "the perfect size for me." The seat, footpeg and bar relation are well proportioned, giving the rider a very friendly and cruising-oriented environment, perhaps to a fault.
"How could you use the word "mean" when you're so darn cozy?"
The Vulcan's engine displacement of 1,552cc is respectable, yet it provides the lowest horsepower results (61.41hp) by far in this pack. And it's second from the bottom in torque (79.00 ft. lbs.), besting the Street Rod by just under eight ft. lbs, despite its 421cc advantage. Perhaps this general deficiency in power led our testers to say things like, "[the] motor is user-friendly, but hardly "power cruiser" material." Pete also mentioned that he found a discernible flat spot in the fueling somewhere around 1,500 rpm and felt that acceleration was soft. At the very least the Kawi provides a smooth and quiet power plant, "even near redline" that stays in good tune thanks, in part, to hydraulic valve adjusters.
Thankfully some of the bike's other attributes are noteworthy so as not to cause the relatively limp motor to overshadow the entire bike. Pete found the clutch action to be light and easy to pull. He also quipped that the transmission was (Heaven help us with his clichés) "silky smooth." Gear ratios were shorter than most, with the 'Streak spinning somewhere around 3,600 rpm at roughly 80 MPH.
All of the testers found that this machine was "easy to control and fun to toss around", thanks to its quick and light steering. Unfortunately, just about the time you get into a flowing rhythm in the back country reveling in the light steering, a loud, metallic sound grinds its way up from your feet, a perfect indicator of one of the Mean Streak's short comings. Indeed, most of the machines here suffer such limitations, but it seemed that this bike had us digging furrows in the asphalt sooner in the arc of many turns than did the others.
But just contain your carving prowess, forget about outrunning everyone else and remember that this is a cruiser.
The 'Streak (as Buzglyd liked to call it) was pretty well sorted in the suspension category considering the nature of the beasts. Gabe found the rear to be soft, although he quickly points out that the twin rear shocks are adjustable for damping and spring pre-load. An unexpected benefit of the overall good suspenders was their ability to "mask shaft-jack", according to Gabe.
If there is one area where this bike really shines, it's in the brake department.
Everyone who rode the Meanie was really impressed with them and bandied about with accolades like "Excellent brakes!" and "maybe too much for a cruiser?" The twin four-piston, radial-mounted binders are superb at bringing the cruising or carving to a halt quickly. With plenty of power and good feel at the lever, we were very happy with them.
So, with the third largest engine of the five, nice styling, a comfortable riding environment, light handling, great brakes and the tiniest price tag, how is it that the Mean Streak winds up one tick off the bottom? Buzglyd summarizes it best when he said, "We all marveled at what a good all-around motorcycle it was and it's clearly the most inexpensive in the test. If you're a 40 year-old virgin looking to be a bad ass this might be your machine. But this [category] is about being bold and dangerous; not virtuous. As nice as it is, I voted it Miss Congeniality."
|2007 Vulcan 1600 Mean Streak|
** Specifications Courtesy of Kawasaki **
|Engine||Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, SOHC, four valves per cylinder, 50-degree V-twin|
|Displacement||1,552cc / 95ci|
|Bore x stroke||102.0mm x 95.0mm|
|Induction||Digital fuel injection with dual 40mm throttle bodies|
|Ignition||Dual Plug TCBI with digital advance|
|Frame||High-tensile steel, double cradle|
|Rake / trail||32 degrees/ 5.7 in.|
|Front Suspension / wheel travel||43mm inverted cartridge fork / 5.9 in.|
|Rear Suspension / wheel travel||Dual air-assisted shocks with four-way rebound damping / 3.4 in.|
|Brakes, front / rear||Dual 320mm hydraulic discs with four-piston calipers / 300mm disc|
|Overall length||94.9 in.|
|Overall width||33.5 in.|
|Overall height||43.3 in.|
|Seat height||27.6 in.|
|*Claimed* Dry weight||640 lbs.|
|Fuel capacity||4.5 gal.|
|Colors||Ebony, Two-Tone: Metallic Flat Spark Black / Frame Persimmon Red|
|Good Times™ Protection Plan||12, 24, 36 or 48 months|
|* Note: Specifications and pricing are subject to change.|
Max is mad!
Long before anyone ever thought of the term "power cruiser", Yamaha had already made one. Set your wayback machine for 1984 when the bike was unveiled at Yamaha's October dealer show. The designers had one general theme for the V4: American hotrod. Job well done, boys. At the time, no other bike looked like or performed like the 1,198cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16 valve, 70 degree V4 monster.
Couple that beef-eater of an engine with Yamaha's unique V-Boost -- in essence, a servo operated valve in the manifold that begins to open around 6,500 rpm allowing two of the four carbs full access to all four cylinders -- and it's easy to see why the Max has lasted as an icon of power for over twenty years.
Spawing countless web resources and obtaining cult-like status, the V-Max -- now a product of the Star brand of motorcycles -- deserves all the glory ever heaped upon it.
Along with its enduring and powerful engine, the mighty Max has stayed stylish all these years. Recognizable from afar, anyone who has the slightest interest in motorcycles knows the V-Max when they see it.
The strongest impression is made from its muscular profile. The once-upon-a-time-fatty 15 inch rear wheel, the 18-incher up front and the low, stepped saddle combine perfectly to instantly create the sense that you're in the presence of something very powerful. Right in the middle of that powerful image is, well, the power itself.
Looking like a menacing robot with little concern for anything or anyone, the engine is the center piece and Max's reason for being. Redirecting your eye, if just for a moment, the faux wind scoops also have a forceful presence and further add to the domineering air surrounding the bike.
Though it has held up well over the years, the V-Max's design is aging rapidly. One can't help but think of "skullets and acid wash jeans", says Buzglyd. So too, does Gabe find himself lost in the Regan era when looking at it, stating that "the fake air scoops and other plastic bits are as cheesy now as they were when the Bangles were topping the charts." Growing up and learning to drive a car -- but far more fascinated with motorbikes -- not long after Max's birth, Pete still lives in the past and admited the bike's influence on him at an early age when he blurted out, "Yeahhh. The V-Max is cool."
Given its age, overall build quality is still pretty good. It's not plagued with a bunch of wiring or important bits carelessly screwed on at the last possible design minute, like some bikes we know. However, something that both Gabe and Pete noticed was the still-silly instrumentation.
"This thing sounds deadly even before the throttle is twisted."
Though it's easy to appreciate the speedometer taking center stage, the tiny tachometer, fuel gauge -- though you'll be glad you've got one to watch, because the bike has about a 100 mile range -- and idiot lights that are nestled atop the false petrol tank take some effort to observe. The mirrors are classic Yamaha quality, and a neat feature found on the right switch gear is the reserve fuel switch.
Swing a leg over this time machine and the stepped seat provides a soft mount. But beyond the saddle the Max looses ground just about every where else to the other the bikes in the ergos department. Were we still getting our news from a youngish Tom Brokaw and keeping dry from the Purple Rain, the riding position would make a little more sense. But time marches on and our expectations grow with the advent of more sensible and efficient dimensions. Of the relatively narrow handlebars Gabe conjures an image only he can when he remarks, "it feels like being one of those trained squirrels on water skis." Even though he thinks the silly riding position "must cramp taller riders" he admits the V-Max wouldn't be a bad place to spend the day. While trolling the streets for a fight, er...uh drag race Buzglyd couldn't deny the odd ergos, but he just told himself to "shut up and hang on!"
With respect to his ride on the icon, Pete was a little more weirded out by the relation of the saddle to foot pegs, saying "They were just too close and only seemed to accentuate the odd feeling the whole package offers." He also lamented that "it's reluctant to accept quick steering inputs." But in the end he felt he could spend just as much time -- or more -- on the V-Max as on the others; noting that "if you just pop on one of those higher quality, small windshields the Max could make a great distance rider."
Once we all adjusted to the funkiness that is the cockpit of this bike it was time to hold and unleash all 115 horsepower. That's right kiddies, even though this bike is old enough to drink, it's still the horsepower king here! Immediately after starting the bike, or rather after you've choked the carbs long enough to get the bike to warm to proper operating temps, an intimidating rumble emanates from beneath you. Buzglyd was frightened to his soul saying, "This thing sounds deadly even before the throttle is twisted." This is what made the V-Max legendary.
Slam the throttle open from a standing start and the bike jets off the line with force. Enough force to keep you intently focused on keeping the front end under control, as precious little contact is made between the front tire and tarmac. If you've enough resolve to keep rowing through the gears, hold on even tighter as the V-Boost really sets in around 8,000 rpm. At this point you'll have lost track of the world around you and have developed tunnel vision as you pray for a clear path ahead. V-Boost aside, Pete said that "Carburetion is rough around 4,000rpm and it falls on its face from around 5,000rpm until about 6,500rpm or so." Gabe brings it all together: "It's like getting two bikes in one! Smooth, tractable and friendly under seven grand, and then it turns into a snarling beast. Everything anybody ever said or wrote about that V-Boost is true."
Believe it or not there are other parts of the engine beyond the upper half; most important to us are the clutch and transmission. Both perform well enough, again considering the age of the design, but Gabe claimed to have had a false neutral or two during his stint on the beast.
If you purchased the Max strictly for drag strip antics or you live in Florida, then handling won't be of much concern to you. But for the rest of us, the occasional corner creeps into our rides and it's here where you'll find the true weakness of this bike.
With a bendy tubular steel cradle-type frame holding that massive mill, the bike can do little but flex and wallow if the rider tries to be too sporty whilst sprinting through the twists. Pete found, as with other bikes from the '80s, that the "tall center of gravity really causes the bike to fall into the turn."
That sensation isn't very reassuring considering the heft of this old man of a bike; thankfully the fuel sits low in the chassis, hidden under the rider's seat. Good luck finding the filler neck if you've never been shown where it is.
Combine the high COG with the bias-ply tires and your confidence can be sapped quickly. But once you overcome your fear of the bike tipping out from under you, you soon realize, as Gabe did, that "compared to a lot of cruisers you can hustle it around pretty well, as it has a semi-sporting riding position and adequate ground clearance."
Despite the forks having 43mm tubes, they still seem spindly and the "air assisted" tuning speaks volumes on its age. Rear suspension is handled by the seemingly ubiquitous twin shocks that have spring pre-load and rebound damping; as delivered the overall suspension package couldn't hide the fact that you get a "see-saw" effect from the drive shaft.
Braking also leaves much to be desired by today's standards. Feel at the lever was a bit too spongy and of the solid-mount rotors Gabe commented that "with 115 HP on tap and such a wiggly chassis, I'd want better brakes." Overall they're functional enough but this is yet another area that needs much improvement. When we take into account the fact that almost no changes to this bike since its inception have been implemented, tying with the Vulcan 1600 Mean Streak is no small feat. At the very least, if Mad Max had been updated over the years with better suspension it may have garnered a much better result in this test than it did.
|2006 Yamaha V-Max|
** Specifications Courtesy of Yamaha **
MSRP* $11,099 (Onyx w/Shift Red Flames)
|Type||1198cc, liquid-cooled, 16-valve, DOHC, 70-degree V-4|
|Bore x Stroke||76 X 66mm|
|Carburetion||(4) 35mm Mikuni downdraft-type w/V-Boost|
|Transmission||5-speed w/hydraulically activated diaphragm-type clutch|
|Suspension/Front||43mm Telescopic fork w/air-assist; 5.5" travel|
|Suspension/Rear||Dual shocks w/adjustable spring preload and rebound damping; 3.94" travel|
|Brakes/Front Dual||298mm Discs|
|*Claimed* Dry Weight||580 lb.|
|Fuel Capacity||4.0 gal.|
|Warranty||1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)|
Harley Street Rod
One Hot Rod, Comin' Up!
Approximately five years ago, sacrilege of the most heinous type was committed by the most recognizable presence in motorcycling. Speculation flew far and wide that loyalists would storm the empire that created such an atrocity, like villagers bent on ridding the world of Dr. Frankenstein's monster.
In 2001 Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company broke free from the constraints of lethargy and wagered heavily against customer base alienation by doing the unthinkable and building a liquid-cooled, DOHC, smooth-revving, fuel-injected engine with foreign design assistance -- read Porsche -- and wrapped it in their first steel perimeter frame. Sitting long and low, the Revolution Motor- endowed VRSCA V-Rod was greeted with a "love it or hate it" kind of world.
Indeed, many purists found this bike to be very off-putting; only because of name association, they restrained themselves from spewing venomous barbs of verbal disdain, but you could see the pain in their faces.
Were it a bike by any other name, it would've met with the same hot displeasure usually reserved for bikes of Japanese origin. Contrarily, a new breed of motorcyclist gravitated to this Harley that performed as well, if not better, than it looked. V-Rod buyers were typically younger than much of their H.O.G. brethren, and not laden with a sense of self-imposed brand loyalty.
Harley found enough of the audience they were boldly seeking -- one that was as interested in whether or not the bike will turn efficiently, as they are how good it looks -- to keep building and developing the VRSC line.
As part of that growth Harley added the VRSCR Street Rod. With the basic visual DNA found throughout the VRSC series, the Street Rod adds performance rubber, greater ground clearance, overall lighter weight, steeper rake and trail, a marginally shorter wheelbase, inverted forks and taller, wider handlebars.
"Whether you will admit it or not, the Street Rod looks the business."
Handling performance, or the illusion thereof, is what the Street Rod is aiming for. Looking fast without moving a muscle, this motorcycle has an unconventional look --at least from a mass-producer of cruisers -- to say the least. "Is it a cruiser? Is it a sport bike? I'm stumped!", were the questions Gabe was asking himself out loud. Answered neologist Buzz, "It's a spruiser!"
With drag racer-esque lines, your gaze is trapped by the solid-looking, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, DOHC, 1,131cc Revolution power plant.
Soon though, your eyes are slowly tempted away from the engine, toward the rear of the bike by the superbly chromed, if somewhat chubby, dual exhaust as it slithers out from between the V-twin and around the chrome-covered transmission. Stepping back, the cleanly integrated 43mm inverted forks clasped by chrome triple clamps that look as if they were sliced to a razor's edge, force you to take a second or even third look. Finally, your gaze moves across the sleek, false fuel tank to the rear fender.
Although it's hard to dismiss the Street Rod visually, Gabe still thought that the integrated design was a "weird hybrid."
Buzglyd seemed far more appreciative of the Rod's appeal, saying, "The bike just flows from front to back with a purposeful look and nothing looks out of place or like a tacked-on afterthought." Summing it up, Pete said that the "fit and finish are excellent."
Jump on the VR1000-inspired bike and one thing becomes clear: this is a cruiser in name only (by category and association). The foot pegs are practically rear-sets; they're high and virtually centered beneath the rider compared to the other four.
This more practical location of the pegs lends to the bike's sporting handling, yet another reason to not consider this bike a cruiser. You'll find yourself stretching a little to reach the handlebars, but in reality it's a much more traditional, neutral position. It only seemed odd after coming off the other bikes.
Of the overall ergonomic assembly Gabe found, to his surprise, that "you can ride it like an actual motorcycle." Although he admitted that to be true, Alfonse just couldn't bring himself to see the Rod as a cruiser because "it's rather tall and heavy, at least until you ride it."
Gabe pointed out that the throttle action was slow. That's not to say that there was anything wrong with the fuel injection; but there was either too much stiction in the twist grip and/or cable housings, or the return spring may have been a tad too strong.
A couple of detractions flared up in the form of comfort; everyone agreed that the seat was too narrow and firm. In addition to the saddle's lack of comfort, both Pete and Gabe observed that the top frame rails created a very wide stance for the shorter of the human race and could be downright uncomfortable when paddling around the parking lot or at a stoplight. At least they both liked the sculpted, straightforward instrument cluster. Gabe really liked the little "range-to-empty" feature that's displayed in the LCD at the bottom of the speedo.
"The Street Rod acts much more like a sport bike when it starts to get into its power around 7,500 rpm."
Once under way, the few misgivings the staff had about the comfort or less-than-cruiser-like positioning were quickly pushed to the back of consciousness -- at least for a time -- while the Rod's performance took center stage. If you're a spec sheet jockey you might be a little more than surprised to learn that this Harley has the smallest displacement in the test. It comes in dead last -- and we really mean last -- in torque ranking, struggling to twist out 71.91 ft. lbs. But it does come in second, bested by the V-Max, in horsepower, with a MO dyno result of 107.
Unfortunately for the cyclist used to the traditional cruiser power spread, the Street Rod acts much more like a sport bike when it starts to get into its power around 7,500 rpm. It peaks at about 8,000 and runs the entirety of a whopping one thousand rotations per minute, where it falls off at 9,000. As we said, just like many sport bikes, peaky.
Regardless of where it makes most of its power, the 69 cubic inch Revolution engine is fairly linear, albeit slow revving. One thing that we couldn't take away from this V-twin was the lack of vibration. Harley seems to keep getting better and better at doing that. Clutch action was pretty stiff in Gabe's estimation and though he felt the tranny felt "heavy" he countered that by saying it was "modern feeling."
"If you like to spend a lot of your time in the upper limits of the rev range on this bike, controlling speed will undoubtedly be of concern to you. Not to worry; Harley kept the high-performance quota high all the way to the brakes."
With the fourth longest wheelbase of 66.8 inches and the most aggressive overall combination of rake and trail at 30 degrees and 4.3 inches -- the Warrior and V-Max share a narrower rake of 29 degrees but both have more trail, 5.1 and 4.7 inches respectively -- the Rod should be the picture of stability and quick steering. Nevertheless, all of the testers couldn't seem to get past that long wheelbase when initiating a turn or changing directions during a series of turns. But once in that turn the Harley was incredibly smooth and solid. This feeling of stability is no doubt enhanced by the fuel tank riding low, hidden out of sight under the seat. Combine that with great ground clearance and wheels shod with sticky -- by cruiser standards -- tires and the Street Rod "will create havoc for some sport bikes", according to Pete. The amount of lean angle boggles the mind and had Pete saying that "I can't believe this is a Harley that I'm railing through these fast sweepers!" Whether or not the Street Rod is the best-looking bike of the five could be given to debate. What isn't debatable is that this is one Harley-Davidson that handles very well.
Suspension duties are taken up by meaty, 43mm inverted forks that perform admirably, and according to the testers, do a good job, in general. But it's important to note -- as Gabe did -- that the front suspension lacks adjustability. Pete felt that it was tuned pretty well for being non-adjustable, but after an extended freeway stint he blamed the Spartan twin rear shocks for nearly causing him to have kidney failure. Even Harley calls them "minimalist" on their website. Lacking rebound adjustment, they helped create the sensation that "the bike is like riding a 70 horsepower jackhammer over freeway expansion cracks." They also may be to blame for Gabe experiencing a mild wallow in the twisty bits of roadway, although it could also be an inner ear infection caused by a wayward Q-tip.
If you like to spend a lot of your time in the upper limits of the rev range on this bike, controlling speed will undoubtedly be of concern to you. Not to worry; Harley kept the high-performance quota high all the way to the brakes. Using Harley-badged Brembo four piston calipers to chomp down on twin 300mm rotors and braided stainless-steel lines, the Rod stops with the best of them. Feel at the lever was good and plenty of power could be applied with easy modulation. Even if the initial bite "felt a bit strong" to Buzglyd, Gabe was willing to overlook that minor flaw, proclaiming that "[the brakes] feel like they were engineered into the bike, not added on."
Considering then that this motorcycle had the most ground clearance, very sporty ergonomics -- though one tester claimed the freeway wind blast to be "surprisingly strong" -- , a smooth and powerful engine, brakes made by one of the best, and incredibly solid handling it should be King of the Hill, no? No, not quite. With a longish wheelbase preventing it from becoming a true sport bike-killer, overall heft, a saddle that was universally lauded, mostly unadjustable suspension -- there's no excuse for this according to Gabe -- and a very peaky rev range, all combined with a pretty steep price tag to keep it from taking top honors.
|2007 Harley Davidson StreetRod|
** Specifications Courtesy of Harley Davidson **
MSRP Starting at $15,495
|Seat Height||Laden - 30.0 in.|
Unladen - 31.0 in.
|Ground Clearance||6.7 in.|
|Rake Steering Head/Trail||30.0° / 4.3 in.|
|Fuel Capacity||5.0 gals.|
|Oil Capacity||4.5 qts.|
|*Claimed* Dry Weight||618.0 lbs.|
|*Claimed* Running Order||655.0 lbs.|
|Bore x Stroke||3.94 in. x 2.84 in.|
|Engine Torque||80.0 ft. lbs. @ 7000 rpm|
|Fuel System||Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)|
|Miles per Gallon||ESPFI - 47.7 hwy / 37.4 city|
|Gear Ratio (overall)||1st - 11.752|
2nd - 7.898
3rd - 6.322
4th - 5.459
5th - 4.899
6th - N/A
|Wheels Front||Black Staggered 10-Spoke Cast Aluminum|
|Wheels Rear||Black Staggered 10-Spoke Cast Aluminum|
|Tire Front||120/70ZR-19 60W|
|Tire Rear||180/55ZR-18 74W|
|Instruments||Redesigned gauges with enhanced features: Electronic speedometer with odometer, time-of-day clock on odometer, resettable tripmeter, fuel gauge with low fuel warning light, low oil pressure indicator light, diagnostics readout, brighter/balanced LED lights, tachometer; solid-state, tell-tale indicator module|
|Indicator Lamps||High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, security system (optional), coolant temperature, low fuel warnings|
|Lean Angle (per SAEJ1168)||40° / 40°|
|Exhaust System||Chrome, straight-shot dual pipes|
|Color Options||Vivid black, deep cobalt pearl, Pacific blue denim (new), mirage orange pearl, pewter denim (new)|
|Optional Equipment||Security system|
|Unique Features||Black powertrain with polished covers; black frame, inverted forks, pegs, front fender bracket, headlight bracket and bucket, instrument covers, brake calipers, mirrors, side covers, radiator covers, handlebar and controls; 40-degree lean angle|
|MSRP||Vivid black $15,495|
Custom color N/A
Wheel Option N/A
Chrome Engine Covers Option N/A
H-D® Factory Security System $325
Freight (applies to the 48 contiguous states and Alaska only) $290
Prices listed are the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices for sale in the United States of America. Options such as color, laced wheel and fuel systems are available at additional cost. Prices exclude dealer setup, taxes, title and licensing and are subject to change. Dealer prices may vary.
Harley-Davidson reserves the right to discontinue models or change specifications at any time without incurring any obligations. Vehicle specificatlons may vary by country and region depending on local laws. Some models are not available in certain countries.
Attention: The vehicle in the configuration shown and many of the accessories for this vehicle are not available for sale or use in several countries outside the U.S. Specifications and vehicle availability may vary from market to market depending on local importation and registration laws. Please check with your local dealer for details.
Specifications may not match those of official certification in some markets due to timing of content release, variance in testing methods, and/or vehicle differences. Customers seeking officially recognized regulatory specifications for their vehicle should refer to certification documents and/or contact their respective retailer or distributor.
Measurement reflects 180 lb. (81.7 kg) operator weight.
Recommended 91 octane or higher fuel (R+M)/2. Standard and optional fuel systems may vary by country and region.
Per SAE J1349 (SAE J607 for FXDSE, FXSTSSE & all VRSC models).
Values shown are nominal. Performance varies by country.
Estimated from fuel economy tests on a sample motorcycle from the corresponding family conducted by Harley-Davidson under ideal laboratory conditions. Not all motorcycle models undergo fuel economy testing. Fuel economy and mileage may vary among motorcycle models within a family. Your mileage may vary depending on your personal riding habits, weather conditions, trip length, vehicle condition and vehicle configuration and other conditions. Break-in mileage may vary.
Standard and optional wheels may vary by country and region.
Availability of colors may vary from dealer to dealer, and is subject to change without notice.
All models feature 6-speed transmission (VRSC and Sportster models are 5-speed) and carbon-fiber belt final drive; multi-plate clutch with diaphragm spring in oil bath; and 2-year unlimited-mileage warranty.
V-Star Warrior Midnight
The Black Knight
If you can't brag about your accomplishments, what good are they? At least that might be your mentality if you were the Star Warrior. Claiming four AMA ProStar Hot Rod Cruiser Class Drag Racing Championships in its early history, this Star has plenty to be proud of. Birthed in 2002 under the Yamaha banner, the Warrior we know today started life as a hot-rodded Road Star. It's been updated here and there over the past few years but has remained largely unchanged. There's no shame in that when you are the Warrior.
"The Midnight Warrior makes a striking impression."
Low and black, it looks tough sitting still, just like the Street Rod looks fast even before the ignition is switched on.
With virtually every component --including that howitzer of an exhaust can -- draped in black, this motorcycle means business and lets you know it.
Red is the only color that seems to have been allowed on the Warrior and it's tastefully applied to the wheel's edges. The red striping does a great job of carefully distinguishing the wheels from the rest of the black package, lest you think the entire bike was some kind of Department of Defense stealth project. Generally, the Warrior's appearance draws some kind of lust out of many who look upon it, and they can't help but ask the rider, "what is that thing?"
It should go without saying, but everyone knows that many Japanese products offer unquestionable quality. What they often sacrifice in place of quality, at least in the past, is refinement in the name of price points. If they have to bolt an ignition coil near the top of the head tube of the frame to minimize the effort to hide it, so be it. Unfortunately, the Warrior is riddled with such design appointments. If you can manage to separate the black-on-black components from one another you'll quickly discover that a lot of the functional bits on the bike were plopped on in some kind of post-engineering haste, with what seems like little concern for continuity.
Buzglyd had an extra keen sense of style during the test and he pointed out many of these items to the rest of our camouflage-fooled eyes. "The Warrior comes across as unfinished, especially since it doesn't have any liquid-cooled bits to hide.", said Buzglyd in his succinct manner. Of particular tackiness to Pete was the "blatant use of sport bike -- probably R6 or R1 -- passenger foot pegs. They didn't even bother to color them black!" He was also really annoyed by the way Star had flippantly wedged the ignition coil, as noted earlier, near the head stock in plain view of anyone close enough to scrutinize the details. Thankfully the Warrior suffers little else.
"When you climb atop Black Beauty you're greeted by a wide, soft seat."
After riding the Street Rod, it seems like one of those Simmons Beauty Rest mattresses. Once you've settled in you can lever yourself forward a bit to grab the wide bars, though you may agree with Buzglyd when he says they "fold you into "a C-clamp position."; he found himself wanting a little more "pull back" in the handlebars. Foot pegs are typically feet-forward, but that didn't seem to bother any one rider in particular.
The Warrior's instrumentation is quite stylized, which Gabe felt detracted from ease of use. He noted that the odometer was small and "too far away" as placed on the triple clamp-mounted tachometer. Pete simply thought that the separation of the speedometer and tachometer led to too much confusion when bombing down the freeway or canyons. "It'd be nice to get it all in one, simple package like the Street Rod, but without sacrificing the existing style."
The Midnight really sets itself apart when it comes down the focal point of these machine's existence: the engine.
Flaunting 102ci (or 1,670cc) of pushrod-assisted fun, the air-cooled 48 degree V-twin barely beats out the humble Mean Streak for second to last place with 78 horsepower according to the MO dyno.
But it produces rocket-like thrust with 101 ft.lbs of torque, narrowly conceding first place to the beautiful Victory Hammer, which produced 102 foot pounds (with the aid of the pipe and FI tuning). But numbers aren't everything.
Utilizing much of that torque early on, the bike accelerates quickly and smoothly and gets up to the Gabe approved "cruising speed of 90 plus miles per hour" easily. That torque can easily be tapped when cruising in top gear; thanks to good gear ratio combos, a simple twist is all that's needed to pass that SUV blotting out your view of the scenery.
Speaking of gears and things that help us access them, Pete felt that the clutch pull was a little firm but he admitted that the transmission had classic Japanese motorcycle traits: "buttery smooth and trouble free." Fueling was always spot-on and responded instantly to the slightest throttle input. When it comes down to it, Gabe calls a spade a spade and asks rhetorically "Who needs all that torque?", but then answers his own question in a roundabout way when he admits that "[it's] lots of fun anyway!"
What good are mounds of torque and power if they twist the frame so far out of shape that going around a corner is more work than keeping Paris Hilton's publicist from pulling out all of his hair? Not to worry here though as the "class-exclusive" double-cradle aluminum frame and aluminum swingarm are the backbone of the Midnight. That weight-saving combo interfaces perfectly with the stout, 41mm Kayaba inverted forks and pre-load and rebound adjustable single shock. Gabe really appreciated Star for "providing semi-serious suspension, even if the rear shock is a challenge to get to -- it's mounted horizontally underneath the bike." Lastly, the decision to use 17" wheels, albeit with a big, fat 200mm Dunlop out back, was a good one.
So what does this modern chassis equate too? A bike that initiates turns more quickly and easily than the other four.
The obvious caveat to all this fluid and light -- almost sportbike-like ease of use -- action is the limited ground clearance.Though Star proudly touts the 41 degree lean angle, we could only hope that all the speed we were carrying through the turns wouldn't be abruptly sapped by levering the rear tire in the air, courtesy of the foot pegs.
If digging trenches in the asphalt doesn't end your fun prematurely, you'll have time to bring the tomfoolery to a stop yourself.
And there isn't a much better way of doing that than by clamping down on a pair of 298mm floating rotors with the four-piston, radial-mounted calipers that Star claims provide "supersport-spec stopping power."
We were all in agreement that their claim might be one that these brakes could back up; they were that good. Gobs of power, good feel at the lever and good efficiency make stopping a pleasure.
Tallying all the good, discounting for the flaws and factoring in the price, Star's Black Knight narrowly snatched the coveted spot of top power cruiser out of the clutches of the Street Rod. If Star's designers, or engineer would just take a little more care next time to clean up the details, this bike would've left us little to complain about. As it is, the retail cost of this bike in relation to the others may well have been the biggest factor putting it on top. Good job Yamaha, er...uh, Star.
|2006 Yamaha Warrior|
** Specifications Courtesy of Yamaha **
MSRP* $12,699 Midnight Warrior (Onyx)
|Type||102 cubic-inch (1670cc), pushrod OHV, air-cooled, 48-degree V-twin, 4-valve per cyclinder|
|Bore x Stroke||97mm x 113mm|
|Transmission||5-speed, close-ratio, w/multi-plate wet clutch|
|Fuel Delivery||Twin-bore Fuel Injection, w/throttle position sensor|
|Suspension/Front||41mm Kayaba inverted telescopic fork, 5.3" travel|
|Suspension/Rear||Single shock, link-type w/adjustable preload and rebound damping; 4.3" travel|
|Brakes/Front Dual||298mm Discs|
|*Claimed* Dry Weight||606 lb.|
|Fuel Capacity||4 gal.|
|Warranty||1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)|
What did we learn from this little lesson in power? Sheer power doesn't win shootouts. And neither does being the most blingy-techy-expensive machine in the stable. In contrast, proudly exclaiming yourself as the cheapest item up for auction won't grab the most attention either. Furthermore, being the old man doesn't necessarily mean you'll be relegated to dead last.
We should take this away from the 2006 Power Cruiser Shootout: If you're going to bill yourself as -- or at least not exclude yourself from being -- a power cruiser, you'll have to do more than just put down tire-melting quarter mile times. As the cruiser market grows year after year, more riders than your stereotypical bar-hopper are going to be graduating to the market. When this market runs out of old fogies, they can only be replaced by riders who are more demanding of the variety of tasks their bike of choice can perform, and they'll probably be better-informed decision makers, not relying on the traditions of cruiser lore.
"This bike will certainly get you into trouble with Mr. Man, and create some grief for the regulars at the drag strip or the arrogant youths careening up and down the twisty roads."
So, to help stitch it all together into a concise, non-rambling nutshell, we would tell you that if American tradition means that much to you, but you're open-minded and like a spontaneous change of pace in your ride, please give much consideration to the Street Rod. If you care little for the far reaches of the wild and woolly canyon country, prefer to bop up and down surface streets, look good doing it and money is no object, then go new-American and visit Victory.
Not really worried about impressing anyone with your straight line antics? Are you conservative, practical and looking for a tremendous bargain? Look no further than Mr. Nice Guy, the Kawasaki Vulcan 1600 Mean Streak. Find it on sale and you'll be left with plenty of cash to buy extra attitude.
Are you're someone who doesn't like change, or should we say nostalgic? There's nothing wrong with that; and neither is the bike to fit your style, so long as you're not too concerned with modern performance to go with 115 horsepower. Go find a good second-hand clothing store and buy some acid wash jeans, a leather Member's only jacket and a pair of white, high-top Reeboks, then take all the money you just saved and pick up one more classic: the mighty V-Max. C'mon! It's a freakin' V-Max! You know you always wanted one...
If none of those image types really describe you, or you're a little bit of all of them rolled into one, MO thinks that you'll agree with us that the Star Midnight Warrior is the one to have. It doesn't have all the horsepower or all the torque but it has more than enough of each. Nor does it have the most refined and honed appearance. But at least it's modern looking, and bad ass, too. This bike will certainly get you into trouble with Mr. Man. It will also create some grief for the regulars at the drag strip or the arrogant youths careening up and down the twisty roads. Do you have a riding partner who refuses to let you have all the fun? Stick her or him on the back and cruise to your hearts content. The Warrior will do all this and more, for a mere $1,700 more than the least-expensive bike in the test.
Now for the sake of keeping the motorcycle industry at an all-time high, get out there and power cruise!
|Power Cruisers Vote Table|
|H-D StreetRod||Kawasaki Mean Streak||Yamaha Warrior||Yamaha VMax||Victory Hammer|
($17,149 CA model)
|*(1st=6pts, 2nd=4pts, 3rd=3pts, 4th=2pts, 5th=1pt)|
|Buyin' 'em and keepin' 'em up!|
2007 Harley-Davidson Street Rod
Maintenance Intervals and Cost (parts and labor)*:
*Courtesy of Glendale Harley-Davidson: http://www.glendaleharley.com/
2006 Victory Hammer
MSRP: $16, 899 (CA model $17,149; our test bike had the HID headlight, add $249; and Stage I kit, add $599)
Maintenance Intervals and Cost (parts and labor)*:
*Courtesy of Southern California Victory: http://victory.socaltriumph.com/home_victory.asp
2006 Kawasaki Vulcan 1600 Mean Streak
Maintenance Intervals and Cost (parts and labor)*:
*Courtesy of Honda/Kawasaki of Hollywood: http://www.honda4u.com/default.asp
2006 Star V-Max
Maintenance Intervals and Cost (parts and labor)*:
*Courtesy of Malcolm Smith Motorsports: http://www.malcolmsmith.com/
2006 Star Warrior Midnight
Maintenance Intervals and Cost (parts and labor)*:
*Courtesy of Bellflower Motorsports: http://www.bfmoto.com/
Note: Obviously the above prices of parts and labor will vary widely depending on location and should be used as a guide only.
|What I'd Buy|
Power Cruising. That's kind of an oxymoron, isn't it? Aren't cruisers all about a relaxing riding style that lets you slow down and enjoy the scenery? Why do you need triple-digit torque? The reason is power cruisers are motorcycles and motorcycles are supposed to be fun, and pavement-melting torque numbers and big horsepower are fun.
So which one of these bikes provides the most fun-per-dollar? If it's my own money, value is going to be important. So we'll weed that big orange Victory out right away. I know this bike is aimed more at the $25,000 custom buyer than at poor slobs like myself, and compared to your average chopper, the Victory is practically an R6 in terms of functionality. It turns, stops and goes like stink (once you get used to the ridiculously heavy steering caused by that lunar rover rear tire) and is visually heart-stopping. However, at $16,899 I don't see the value, not when the Yamaha and Harley offer better performance and handling for less money.
The V-Max's motor is brilliant and as fun as everybody says it is, encouraging very bad behavior (where is the CHP in Malibu when you need to be saved from yourself?), but the hideously outdated suspension, brakes and tires need to go to Goodwill. It wouldn't cost a fortune to update these components and freshen up the styling. Jeez, they update the R6 every two years; can't they update Mr. Max once a decade?
"The Mean Streak was my favorite bike in a lot of ways, even if it wasn't that mean."
The ergonomics fit me perfectly, there's good wind protection and comfort, the brakes are great, and it has more than enough power for a cruiser. It also handles almost as well as the Yamaha, probably due to its small size and relatively light weight. However, this is a power cruiser comparison, so something this down on horses can't hope to finish any better than third.
This is tough to do, but the bike I thought would win is now the first loser. The Street Rod is an incredibly cool and ground-breaking motorcycle. It takes the "sport cruiser" concept further than any other bike. It has incredible ground clearance, is as stable as a dry docked battleship in long corners, and has a good (but not great) engine. Everything works so well on twisty roads I couldn't believe I was riding a Harley. Plus, it looks so cool I was checking my reflection out in passing car windows at every opportunity.
However, it was uncomfortable, with a hard, tiny seat and Category-5 wind blast, plus it's too long and heavy to make a credible sporting motorcycle out of. They could have made it lighter with a shorter wheelbase, and added some adjustability into the suspension, too. Then we might be talking about writing an imaginary check.
That honor would have to go to the Road Star Warrior. The raucous, torquey motor feels like the real deal, what with those huge pushrod tubes and nice thumping feel, not to mention 101 foot-pounds of torque. That would almost do it there, but you also get a very competent aluminum chassis -- with adjustable suspension front and back, thanks - almost-adequate ground clearance, radial tires, killer brakes and a decent price point. It also has great styling that would make me proud to own one. Sure, the wind blast is atrocious and it has some cheap, nasty touches like those plastic clips on the handlebar and that ghastly exhaust can, but it can be customized to perfection.
The clincher for me was passing a ZX-10R-mounted squid near a busy freeway interchange. He sensed me approaching from behind while we were lane-splitting, and sped up(why do squids do that?). I passed him anyway, and made it to the connector ramp where there was some clear road to wick it up a little. He howled past me, knee down, so I wicked it up without downshifting and roared around him on the outside of the sweeping turn, coming to a smoking stop at end of the ramp to avoid hitting backed-up traffic. It did it all with unflappable aplomb and confidence, revealing the soul of not just a power cruiser but a true hooligan bike as well as a machine with real sporting competence.
Oxymoron or not, the Warrior is a lot of fun for $1,700 more than the cheapest bike in this test. That makes it the best value in my eyes.
"Is that a Bultaco?" I nearly choked on my sandwich. I was out looking to pick a fight on the streets of my old hometown aboard Yamaha's legendary V-Max. After an hour of revving the throttle at every intersection, no one dared throw the first punch. I decided to stop at Johnny's Pastrami in West Los Angeles for one of their famous French Dips. Johnny's opened in the '50s and according to the menu, some of their waitresses started then. My waitress wasn't quite that old but apparently a 40 hour week of sniffing pastrami fumes (or glue), convinced her that we were in Idaho in the '70s.
"Uh, no ma'am. That's a Yamaha V-Max."
"Oh, " she said. "When I used to live in Idaho we rode Bultacos, Yamahas and Hondas."
I finished my sandwich with a side of Peyote and continued evaluating the King and how it would stack up against the newest pretenders to the throne.
I seem to recall reading a recent test in a motorag where the Revolution engined Harley was disqualified from the test because it was too fast and too obviously the winner. Irony, eh? Among the V-twins the H-D is the smallest-engined bike by far. The next closest is the 1600cc Kawasaki followed by the mammoth Victory and Yamaha. At first glance the Street Rod (along with the Hammer) is the looker in the test. Harley-Davidson certainly knows how to turn out an eye-catching product. Considering the extra plumbing associated with the liquid-cooled motor, Harley has done an incredible job of keeping the ugly stuff hidden.
Did I mention the Street Rod hauls ass? During our freeway commute towards the Ortega highway, Pete (aboard the Warrior) and I got in an impromptu roll-on drag and the Harley walked away from the Yamaha. After a bike swap in the canyons, Pete went flying by me on the H-D and at the subsequent stop seemed pumped about the Street Rod's charms. "I could take this on the Crest and embarrass a few sport bike riders." The long wheelbase doesn't allow the Rod to change directions quickly compared to say, a Buell. However it is the handler here with great ground clearance and it absolutely rails through sweeping turns. The lack of wind protection didn't bother me as the riding position allows for a good grip on the bars and a buffet-free clean air flow around my helmet.
About the only nit to pick is the narrow, hard seat which will have you pleading for a ride on the more plush Kawasaki after about 100 miles.
The V-Max --is it really the King? I was about to find out as I finished up the last bites of my Pastrami. The oddly-styled machine has '80s written all over it. Due to the lack of change it has become something of a classic but its lines definitely lean toward the rider sporting a skullet and acid-wash jeans. The motor might be Judas Priest but the appearance is totally Flock of Seagulls.
I rolled onto Hawthorne Blvd. and whacked the throttle. The Max makes a ferocious whoosh and catapulted me forward. The narrow bars and pegs feel a little dorky but what the heck, shut up and hang on! The Max has some odd handling traits and it clearly was designed to go in a straight line. It has a dated look and feel, and despite the charms of it's intoxicating V-4, I found myself wishing I was on the Street Rod or the Warrior. The Max is nearly invisible to the public at large and oddball waitresses aside, has zero bling factor. It's easy to see why the Max has a huge following and cult-like devotion from its fans. Nevertheless, a seven horsepower advantage isn't enough to remain on top.
If 5 sets of keys are hanging on the wall and no one has claimed the Harley yet, I'm taking the Street Rod.
All hail the new King!
Alfonse "Fonzie" Palaima
A power cruiser should be just that, a cruiser with lots of power. The top pick would the one with the most satisfying power output and feeling. The votes are to be tallied on my purchase and if I have to give blood to buy the Victory, I'll do so. Motorcycles aren't practical things, nor necessary. They mostly exist as a luxury in this country and although I live on a bike --commuting by bike everyday-- I still include the looks in my decision. A power cruiser would be my second or third bike of course, a toy for real, with the more commuter bike being the Concours, of course. The MOfos would have it no other way.
I toiled over the final votes for a while, the Harley versus the Victory and the Warrior fighting the Kawi. There's comfort wanted when cruising, and so the latter couple were battling each other as well as the first two loud mouths for top billing. The Harley is a very heavy bike and rides rather tall, but both factors melt away when you ride away; the fact that it feels more like a sport standard with its geometry and hi-speed V Rod motor, it outclasses itself from my mental realm of cruiser. The "cruiser" --in my world-- is a bike for trolling, parading, chick watching, babe scoping, terrorizing the neighborhood, looking bad ass, spine crushing, being noisy and getting to the next bar without having to stand on your tippy toes at the traffic signal. Toss in some stellar braking ability, some not-so-unique-but-acceptable-tribal-paint scheme, a megaton of low-centered steel and chrome with a trendy and mean-looking piece of rear rubber and the Victory is my clear winner for top power cruiser.
Growing up in the '80s and early '90s, I was in love with the V-Max. If you're any kind of an enthusiast, you know you wanted one too. The raw horsepower and drag racer-like stance even appealed to people who weren't really all that into bikes. But as I got farther and farther into motorcycling I realized that it wasn't just about power. As I owned and sampled an array of different bikes over the years I understood that the overall package meant more than any one shining aspect did. I don't have any idea in what volume Star moves the old boy, but if Kawasaki's EX/Ninja 500 or KLR, Suzuki's GS500 or Honda's Rebel 250 are any indication that little or no change can still bring in the dollars, then I'd guess that the V-Max is doing the same for Yama...er, uh, Star.
Fortunately for me and unfortunately for the Max, my riding prowess grew and so did my expectations for things like handling and braking. Those two things may never have been exploited by the V-Max when it first came on the scene, but their lack of presence is more prominent than ever now that all the other bikes do handle and stop well.
I really liked the Harley a lot. I just couldn't believe how much fun it was to strafe through the canyons and actually hang off the bike while doing it! When I was riding it where the majority of us speed, I mean spend our miles -- the freeway or surface streets -- I got a kick out of how good and fast it looked as I saw my reflection in shop windows. Turning heads was fun too. I just knew people were looking. But the Street Rod doesn't completely fit the mold of a sport bike and certainly doesn't make me want to "cruise." The forward riding position and firm seat help exclude it from the cruiser category. And there's just no way my girl would ride for any length of time on the back. Oh yeah, it's also over fifteen thousand dollars!
The Victory is built with the utmost quality, but that ego-boosting rear tire and the equally large price tag keep it out of consideration for me. Hopefully one or both of those things will change for 2007. On the other end of the price spectrum is the Mean Streak. Find one on sale, and I challenge you to find a better value. But it's just a little too run-of-the-mill looking for my tastes, and it doesn't set itself apart from all the other cruisers out there. Couple that need for looks with my need for speed, and the Kawasaki just can't place any better than it did in my book.
Star has been doing a really good job lately of applying knowledge gained in the engineering of their sport bikes to their cruisers. The Roadliner is a perfect example of this. With an all-aluminum frame and cast swingarm and a 50/50 weight distribution, it handles incredibly well for such a big, long and low cruiser. The Warrior Midnight is not left out of this technology-meets-tradition philosophy. It has unexpectedly light and quick steering, a powerful engine, great brakes and tough styling. I just wish they didn't skimp on the fit and finish. All in all, it's a competent package, and given that it's only $1,700 more than the Kawi the Warrior does an honorable job of reaching the top of the pile.
Ah, heck! I want a V-Max too!