2013 Light-Heavyweight Touring-Cruiser Shootout - Video
Honda Interstate vs. Star 1300 Deluxe vs. Suzuki Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S.
Trends come and go, capturing the zeitgeist of the times and fading into obscurity as quickly as they burst onto the scene. By their nature, these fads are ruled by eye candy, and it’s as true in motorcycles as it is in pop music or reality TV. Choppers, bobbers, café racers – eye-popping machines and the people who build them will always get the lion’s share of attention from media and fans. And when it comes to bike nights, bike shows and enthusiast magazines, the attention-seekers usually become the attention-getters. It’s the way of the world.
Meanwhile, sneaking under the radar of fashion and fad is a style of motorcycle whose popularity is cresting largely due to its functionality: the bagger. Now, it’s true customizers are making outlandish productions out of these bikes – after all, the real estate offered by saddlebags and fairings are a poly fabricator’s wet dream and an airbrush artist’s wall-sized canvas. But the folks who ride them, really ride them, do so mainly because of their sensibility.
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Cargo capability has established itself as a key factor for Gen X and baby boomer bikers, who prefer not to arrive at the workplace with shirtbacks soaked in sweat where their backpack rested. Wind protection is another convenient perk of the segment, and creature comforts like audio and navigation systems, cruise control, touring seats, floorboards, etc. are other advantage that mature motorcyclists – that desirable demographic saddled with disposable incomes and bad backs – often appreciate.
Harley’s Street Glide is the undisputed king of baggers, so far fending off challenges from Victory’s Cross Country and Harley’s bagger stablemate, the Road Glide, which we compared to Kawasaki’s Vulcan 1700 Vaquero in a 2011 bagger comparo. Yamaha’s cruiser brand Star Motorcycles jumped into the fray a few years back with its now-on-hiatus Stratoliner Deluxe.
These semi-dressed Japanese touring bikes came at a friendlier price point and with many of the same accoutrements of their domestic counterparts, but they couldn’t match that “American-made” panache desirable among many members of that preferred demographic. Earlier this year Honda (finally!) joined the battle with a bagger version of its mammoth highway machine, the F6B Gold Wing, a lighter and cooler blacked-out GL sure to seduce a new generation of Wingers. But will it entice devotees of other brands? The jury is still out.
Until recent years, earning “bagger” cred necessitated an upper fairing. Not so anymore. Recently, bikes with windshields such as Suzuki’s C90T B.O.S.S. and those without, like Victory’s Hard Ball, have tactfully donned the moniker, staking claims in bagger shows and publications and expanding the definition of what a bagger can be.
So with wind protection tossed out the proverbial window, what do all these aforementioned baggers have in common besides saddlebags? First of all, they’re freakin’ huge. All sport massive engines that top 1600cc and offer loads of power – and they need it to move all that poundage. All require their riders have a certain amount of strength and/or girth to operate them.
Secondly, and even more polarizing, all of these baggers cost upwards of 20 grand – a reasonable price point for their target demographic. But what’s an upstart aficionado of Bagger Nation to do?
In 2013, the industry has an answer. Introducing the new breed of light-heavyweight touring cruisers: the Honda Interstate; the previously mentioned Suzuki Boulevard C90T B.O.S.S.; and the V Star 1300 Deluxe from Star. All are smaller and lighter than the heavyweights, with engines in the 1300-1400cc range; all boast creature comforts designed to enhance the touring experience; and all cost less than $15K. Finally, whether purists consider them true “baggers” or not, all of these motorcycles are designated as “tourers” by their manufacturers, and that’s the yardstick by which they’ll be measured in this shootout.
What distinguishes them? At first glance, curb appeal. The long and low VT1300 Interstate is clearly a more stylized bike than the competition. Ditch the windshield and you’re riding a bona fide looker (or a Sabre). You can read our review of the 2010 Interstate here.
The Boulevard B.O.S.S. was introduced last fall, while a non-B.O.S.S.-ified C90T is already on showroom floors. A standard Boulevard C90 is promised by summer. With its 1462cc mill the B.O.S.S. is brawnier than the other baggers in this shootout, and for the most part behaves as such on the road. Dark components and leather-like saddlebag covers liken it to the Interstate; a bigger engine, fat rear tire and traditional touring styling set the Suzuki apart from both the Honda and the Star.
The V Star 1300 Deluxe, released in February, is the only faired bagger of the bunch. That’s a distinction Star is proud of and rightly so – neither Honda nor Suzuki claim to have even considered jumping on the batwing bandwagon. The 1300 Vee-Dee not only sports the ABS fairing, its color-matched saddlebags are easily the largest in this comparison and, at 7.6 gallons each, larger even than those on the V Star 1300 Tourer.
The similarities and differences of these three baggers go beyond what meets the eye. All have fluid five-speed gearboxes actuated by heel-toe shifters, but only the Star moves via belt drive – the others are shaft-driven. The Honda and Suzuki feature keyed helmet locks, while the V Star offers only underseat tabs. The Star counters with a hinged fuel cap; the others require you to find a place to rest the gas cap when refueling.
Unlike the Interstate, both the V Star and B.O.S.S. feature locking saddlebags, but the Suzuki’s are always locked – you must use the ignition key whenever you want to open them. This is especially irksome once you’re geared up and idling, then realize you want one more swig from your water bottle before pulling away. None of these quirks are deal-breakers, but it can be the little things that drive us bikers crazy, dontcha know.
Finally, the Interstate is the only bagger in this shootout to offer anti-lock brakes (a $1000 option), and none of these bikes offer cruise control. Curious omissions, but ones we’ll wager will likely be remedied on future releases.
To sort out all these highs and sighs, Editor Kevin Duke, Content Editor Tom Roderick and I flogged these baggers in the hills and on the streets, comparing our notes and contrasting their features. As in all our Shootouts, the Motorcycle.com staff put together a Scorecard by which to judge these three light heavyweight baggers.
Turn the page to find out what we learned.