2007 Power Cruisers Shootout
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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)|