2012 250cc Cruiser Shootout - Video
2012 Cleveland CycleWerks tha Heist vs. 2012 Honda Rebel vs. 2012 Star V Star 250
“I feel more comfortable on the Honda,” says Melisa.
What we presumed our 5-foot 2-inch returning rider was referring to was the Rebel’s over all ergonomic layout. But after discussing with Melisa some of the Honda’s traits that she preferred, we learned it wasn’t quite so much the Rebel’s comfortable ride that appealed to her, rather that the Honda instilled confidence in her rusty riding skills.
As the day wore on and we had several circuits aboard each cruiser, Tom’s keen senses honed from decades of riding pinpointed a key ingredient in the Honda that Ms. Melisa found so attractive: clutch engagement.
“The Honda’s clutch is monumentally easier to manipulate than the V Star’s friction zone which is incredibly narrow and positioned at the end of the lever’s throw,” Tom notes. “The Rebel’s clutch engagement begins close to the handlebar.”
Experienced riders might perceive less-than-ideal clutch actuation a mere annoyance, but Tom explains how for new-ish riders clutch function can make or break a ride.
“Beginning riders will find the V Star’s clutch difficult to manage, especially when performing tight parking lot maneuvers, while the Honda’s easily operated clutch helps newbie riders overcome the anxiety often associated with starting from a stop, and slower-pace moves that require them to perform multiple tasks – like shifting, steering and applying throttle – seamlessly for smooth riding.”
The Star’s V-Twin engine layout issues the least amount of engine vibration, while the Honda and CCW are buzzier by virtue of their vertical cylinder arrangement. Despite its rigid-mount engine tha Heist’s counterbalanced Single doesn’t produce excessive vibration in the handlebar or footpegs; but as we’ll soon learn, tha Heist generates considerable vibes elsewhere.
Each bike’s five-speed transmission shifted smoothly, but the Star’s occasionally elusive Neutral bugged Tom. With traditional CV (constant velocity) carburetors as the means of feeding the engines, cooler ambient temperatures necessitated using the choke to start the bikes, and all three needed a few minutes of warm-up time before they were ready to rumble. Otherwise, throttle response was linear and predictable.
Reeling in our petite cruisers is the work of a single caliper and disc in front; but where the Honda and Star utilize a standard drum brake for the rear, tha Heist has a better performing caliper and disc. No brake set here was spectacular, however, we gave tha Heist the nod for best braking performance, which is likely the result of its lightest-of-the-group vehicle weight, as well as its steel-braided brake lines.
We didn’t have a chance to weigh tha Heist ourselves, so we’ll crib Cycle World’s numbers of 285 pounds with its 2.1-gallon fuel tank full. That’s well below the Honda’s fueled and ready-to-ride weight of 331 pounds and the Star’s 323 pounds. Not having rear suspension has advantages on the scales.
The Rebel boasts the shortest wheelbase of the bunch. With 57.1 inches between the axles (58.7 for the Star, 59.6 for the CCW) and a buckhorn-style handlebar providing good steering leverage, the Rebel earns another mark in the Plus column from Melisa as the easiest to handle. Contrarily, tha Heist falls to the back of the pack in handling.
Its narrow 21-inch front wheel, longest wheelbase and lots of steering rake give tha Heist “chopper flop” handling at slow speeds – that is to say tha Heist feels like it wants to fold in on itself when turning. We expect this trait in large cruisers and raked-out choppers, but it’s an intimidating buzz-kill for newer riders.
The V Star’s drag-style handlebar lends to a more open cockpit, but its narrow bar limits steering leverage. The Star’s brake and clutch levers are also farther from the grips and therefore less friendly to beginning riders when compared to the Rebel’s lever position.
Instrumentation is basic stuff on all three ‘cycles. An analog speedometer is the only gauge on each bike, but the Honda gets bonus points for its panel of warning and indicator lights augmenting the speedo. Our CCW test unit’s speedo reveals its country of origin with a speedo display in km/h, while mph is the subordinate readout.
Also fairly run-of-the-mill is front and rear suspension. The Honda, CCW and Star have standard oil-damped forks, with the Japanese contenders fairly matched in terms of damping quality. Tha Heist’s fork, on the other hand, is woefully short of the same quality and performance, as it exhibits too much of what’s called stiction, which inhibits the fork sliders from responding smoothly to bumps and rebounding quickly enough to prepare for the next bump in the road. A pair of coil-over shocks with adjustable spring preload are found on the V Star 250 and Rebel, while tha Heist uses… Nothing!
You read correctly. The CCW effectively has no rear suspension, making it a hard-tail cruiser. The best tha Heist can offer for bump absorption is a springer saddle: a pair of tiny shocks mounted to the underside of the seat, each with a hand dial to tune in preload on their little springs, is all you get.
It should go without saying, but the ride is rough. If you weigh, say, 160 pounds or more, you’ll likely have to crank down fully on the springer seat’s shocks to keep from compressing them fully. And if you’re a lightweight female like Melisa, you run the risk of getting bounced out of the saddle when riding over expansion joints and pavement in a poor state of repair.
Finally we come to ergonomics, an aspect of these motorcycles that carries almost as much value as their respective engines.
Registering the lowest seat height of 25.4 inches is tha Heist, with the Rebel next at 26.6 inches and the Star at 27.0 inches. Even with an inseam around 25 inches Melisa could comfortably flatfoot each bike at a stop. Tom and I preferred the openness of the V Star and Heist’s rider triangle. The Star’s tallest saddle, as well as the forward reach required by its flat handlebar, provides more room to move compared to the Rebel’s cramped-feeling cockpit.
Tha Heist has even more legroom courtesy of its chopper-type forward controls. A three-position fore/aft seat adjustment helps Heist riders fine-tune ergos – a surprisingly thoughtful feature on a bike that sacrifices in so many other areas.
The Honda’s dished-out seat and pull-back handlebar only served to make Tom and I feel like we were aboard a 4/5ths scale motorcycle, but lil’ Melisa couldn’t have felt more at home. The Honda was the perfect fit for her, where the Star felt “a bit too big and heavier.”