Godzilla Cruisers Shootout

We Must Flee!

Page 3

 The Conclusions

We planned this comparison test with plenty of tongue-in-cheek. After all, we're not really cruiser people (well, except for Buzz and Al, but they dabble), seeing huge bikes like this as being a trifle excessive.

But we found that they were good, practical, economical machines that would be easy to live with day in and out.

Living With the Monsters

Le Freak/So Chic Keeping a giant radioactive mutant as a pet is probably prohibitively expensive; imagine having to take five tons of radioactive lizard poop to the toxic waste dump every day. However, servicing these five bikes is pretty reasonable. We called some local shops to see what time and parts costs would be through 30,000 miles. We figure the average service rate is about $90 per hour; the shops we talked to may charge more or less, and your local mechanic will hit you up for a different amount, depending on how many six-packs you've brought him over the years.

In any case, our "cost of service" is an estimate we calculated to give you a rough idea of service costs for these bikes and are not official rate quotes from any OEM or motorcycle dealer, so don't complain to us if your local guy charges you more. We will, however, take credit if he charges you less. We look out for you.

CVO Springer

Ray at Dudley-Perkins Harley Davidson Buell in South San Francisco, CA told us the CVO, despite having a souped-up 110-inch motor, still uses the same basic service schedule as all the other Big Twins. After a 1,000-mile break-in service, it gets a visit to Dr. Dudley every 5,000 miles. All the services are about three hours, with roughly $100 in parts.

Cost of Service to 30,000 miles: $2,200.

Average Fuel Economy during Motorcycle.com Testing: 39.47 mpg.

Kawasaki Vulcan 2000 Classic

Jonathan at Del Amo Motorsports told us that the Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha get very similar services. For the Kawi, the 600-mile service is a 2.5-hour job, with about $50 in parts. At 4,000 miles it gets another 2.5-hour service, with about $130 in

   

parts. At 8,000 it gets a more basic 1.5-hour check with $50 in parts, and this cycle is repeated through 40,000 miles when the hydraulic valve train finally gets an inspection.

Cost of Service to 30,000 miles: $2,250.

Average Fuel Economy during Motorcycle.com Testing: 35.76 mpg.

Suzuki Boulevard M109R

The Boulevard's service schedule is similar to the Vulcan's, except its more-sophisticated motor needs a valve check every 16,000 miles. That requires 3.5 hours, which would really only add another hour to servicing times to 30,000 miles.

Cost of Service to 30,000 miles: $2,340.

Average Fuel Economy during Motorcycle.com Testing: 33.93 mpg.

Honda VTX1800C

Did you say I was a ___ ? (Complete this sentence, and the best caption gets a Motorcycle.com T-Shirt.) A call to Matt at the East Bay Motorsports service department revealed pretty standard recommendations for a Japanese-built cruiser. The 600-mile break-in service is three hours and requires about $40 in parts, and that's repeated at 4,000 miles. However, valves need a check every 8,000 miles which means a 4.5-hour service and $50 in parts, including plugs.

Cost of Service to 30,000 miles: $2,915.

Average Fuel Economy during Motorcycle.com Testing: 39.57 mpg.

Yamaha Star Roadliner

The Star is a star when it comes to being easy to service; the valves don't need inspecting until 40,000 miles, so servicing it is the same as the Kawasaki.

Cost of Service to 30,000 miles: $2,250.

Average Fuel Economy during Motorcycle.com Testing: 38.14 mpg.




Well, something about you reminds me of my ex-wife, but ditch the kid and we'll go back to my place anyway. At the end of the day, we all want to ride. And after we've gotten the phone numbers at the bars and impressed all our friends at the Burger Barn, we still have a big, expensive bike we need to clean, maintain, make payments on -- and ride. The ride is the thing, like on any other bike, and these bikes surprised us with how liveable they are.

But practicality be dammed! If the CVO Springer is just too uncivilized to have as an only ride, then the Honda is just too bland to make the owner feel like he really has something special. The Suzuki performs like a champ, but has looks that keep it from being taken too seriously. The Kawi is pretty awesome -- and we know that word gets used too much, but the Vulcan 2000 is really awesome -- with all that torque and flickable heft, but it is just a few points shy in the zowie department to take the prize.

Nits and Notes

  • The Springer's security system is effective but can be annoying if you have a bunch of guys switching bikes around. It's guaranteed, every time we have a Harley on one of these tests, that when we switch bikes one guy gets left behind on a Harley that won't start when one of the other guys goes roaring down the road with the fob in his pocket. And if you try to mess with the bike when the fob isn't nearby, the "Smart Siren II" will make you feel extremely dumb by making a sharp, piercing whistle not unlike a parakeet on a steroid-and-coke jag for two or three minutes. It's loud.

  • The Suzuki has adjustable shocks, but they don't give you an adjustment tool. There is plenty of room for one under the seat, though.

  • The Star' drive belt has "DO NOT BEND" stamped on it, which confused us. We bent the belt a lot with no ill effect.

  • The Roadliner's massive speedometer is like having a TV on your gas tank at night. Fortunately you can adjust the intensity of the light so it's not distracting.

"What We'd Buy" Table
How the testers would spend their own money.
We scored the bikes 6 pts. for 1st, 4 for 2nd, 3 for 3rd, 2 for 4th and 1 for 5th.

 

Al "Masaji the Fisherman" Palaima

Buzz "Hideto" Walloch

Jack "Emiko" Straw

Pete "Daisuke" Brissette

Gabe "Professor Tanabe" Ets-Hokin

Totals

2006 Yamaha RoadLiner 1900

1st

2nd

4th

1st

1st

24

2007 Harley Davidson FXSTSSE Screamin' Eagle Softail Springer

2nd

3rd

1st

5th

5th

15

2007 Kawasaki Vulcan 2000

3rd

1st

5th

4th

3rd

15

2007 Suzuki Boulevard M109R

4th

5th

2nd

3rd

2nd

14

2007 Honda VTX1800C

5th

4th

3rd

2nd

4th

12

That leaves the Star Roadliner. It has a motor that is 95% as wonderful as the Kawi's, with a better chassis and less weight. It's also as good-looking a cruiser as any Japanese factory has built to date, with an imposing motor and classy touches everywhere.

At $14,780 it's not cheap, but Fonzie thinks these bikes will hold their values better than some Japanese cruisers have in the past. But beyond resale value, the Star is a well-made, classy bike that will make the owner happy, and that's what's important. 
 

What I'd Buy

Cruisers. They're everywhere these days. And they only seem to be getting better and better. I'll admit that I'm not much of a cruiser fan, but each new crop of these relaxed rides make a better case each time to become one.

The land monsters that Editor Ets-Hokin rounded up for this test do a good job of fooling the eye. Only one of the five really looks like it's all business. Two of them share a more classic look. Still another strikes a good balance between looking tough and being practical. And the remaining steed is in a league of its own; at least in one respect.

I say they fool the eye because judging solely by their appearances you'd never expect them to handle, accelerate and brake as well as they do. The growth of the cruiser market has caused most manufacturers to re-prioritize their bread-and-butter lines. But they haven't done so just for the sake of having a robust number of cruisers to their name. Quite to the contrary, many OEMs have done a very good job of blending the look and feel that consumers demand with performance that is downright surprising.

Of this collection, I found picking a bike that I'd buy with my own coin a little harder than I suspected. Every time I climbed aboard a different bike for the first time I found something that I thought made me like it more than the bike I had just ridden.

... the remaining four can't quite steal me away from the RoadlinerBut in the end I guess I'm just a creature of habit. I came full circle back to the motorcycle that I had ridden more than a year earlier when it was first unveiled to the public. As far as I'm concerned the remaining four can't quite steal me away from the Roadliner. I know that its look has proven to be controversial, but to me it takes the classic cruiser look to a new high for mass-produced bikes. The old is new again with its streamline-era-inspired looks. But this bike is far more than what's on its surface. The rigid, all-aluminum frame provides excellent stability and its light weight allows it to change directions effortlessly -- at least for a cruiser. The monstrous engine runs smooth and strong, the brakes work more efficiently than some sport bikes I've ridden, and the exhaust is perfect to my ears -- throaty and threatening without being annoying. And, they've made passenger accommodations more than a leather sheath stapled to a steel fender.

So, if I ever jump into the cruiser crowd, the Star Roadliner just might be the bike that would make me take that relaxed, easy-going leap.

-Pete Brissette, Managing Editor

Gabe looked at me oddly while I donned my Nolan. "You realize you're wearing an open face helmet." I didn't realize we were going to abandon sunny Orange and San Diego counties to ride up into LA's first snow storm since 1962. Fonz had the Doppler showing us where the eye of the storm was and he took us right there.

At the first gas stop I dashed inside the Quicky Mart to warm my frost-bitten face when I realized something. You get a better feel for these bikes when you don't have the chin bar blocking your view of the styling of the tanks, instruments, headlight nacelle and other parts. That gives me a fresh perspective a full-facer would have blocked.

It'll buff out. Really, trust me, it'll buff out. The Harley didn't have the punch or brakes of the others but dang it felt good once we got off the freeway and onto some meandering curvy roads. It's just has a pure American Hot Rod feel to it with the right vibrations and perfect paint and chrome; all eyes gazed upon the Harley at every stop. I'm still not spending 25 grand for it though. I'd rather buy a stock Dyna and put the 110 kit on it and leave all the chrome doodads in the box. Oh and one more note: When we stopped for coffee in Malibu to warm up, a nattily-attired Malibu cougar waltzed up to us and asked, "Are those your Harleys out there?" None of us corrected her. 'nuff said.

The Suzuki was the cheapest of the bunch and powered through traffic like the fat bully shoving all the other nerds out of the way to be first in line at the Grand Opening of the new Star Wars movie. He may have the best seat in the house but he's still a dork. Memo to Suzuki: You've got the goods with this motor and chassis but get some stylists in there stat!

That leaves me with Grandma's New Yorker. I was torn in both directions by the Star and Honda. One seemed trying too hard to be groovy while the other didn't care. Both offer excellent performance. The Yamaha is a little more spendy due to the fancy phallic look.

That leaves me with Grandma's New Yorker. What's not to like about a 440 cubic inch V8, or a 2,000cc V-Twin for that matter? The Kawasaki had a great feel to it and a wonderful view over the fuel tank and through the bars and swooping headlight. It made me smile and I had visions of being on the open road on it with a curvaceous passenger tucked warmly behind me.

If you're gonna ride a Godzilla Cruiser it might as well be the biggest, and my money says it's the Vulcan 2000.

-Buzz Walloch, MOron-at-large

I am a small man. Many small men have a complex about being small; Napoleon, Pol Pot and Paul Simon come to mind. But I like to think I don't have a problem with it. In fact, I'm comfortable in small spaces, like small cars, and even occasionally enjoy being picked up and carried around by large women. But I digress.

My point is that I had no need of a large motorcycle like these behemoths. My first instinct was to dismiss them as being SUV-like penis extenders designed to get attention for people who cannot attract attention otherwise. Riding them around for a while showed me how wrong I was.

These things are fun. They really are the essence of why cruisers are the numero uno type of streetbike sold in `Merica. They have a commanding presence, iron out bumps and deliver a stellar ride while make shifting mostly unnecessary. Also, as each manufacturer's flagship product, they have luxurious levels of build quality you don't really see in other models. They are versatile, too; good around town, as good as most other cruisers in the twisties, and are just luggage and a windscreen away from being competent tourers or commuters.

So what would I do if I had to pick one of these? Well, it wouldn't be the Harley, that's for sure. This CVO is an amazing thing; powerful, fun to ride, with a Cameron Diaz meets Courtney Love sort of that is hard to explain but very charming nonetheless. But it's torture on the back to ride, rougher and slower than the other machines, has really bad suspension and is priced like the collectible bike that it is.

The Honda and Vulcan wouldn't get the privilege of hosting my hairy little ass either. The Honda is a wonderfully-engineered machine that also represents superb value. Like many Hondas, it does everything just well enough to amaze you with its technical brilliance, but does nothing to really endear it to you. The Kawi is a brutal hulk that works way better than I thought it would but is really too big and heavy for what I like to do with/to a bike.

It's a big cruiser that appeals to little people with big feet and bigger hearts. When I first rode the Yamaha and the Suzuki back-to-back I instantly knew this would be a contest between these two bikes. The Suzuki really does act like some kind of jumbo sportbike and is a hoot to ride. It turns and brakes like a GSXR, while possessing power and torque usually found in switching yards. But the cheesy plastic and styling-of-the-future turned me off. I'm not that traditional, but this kind of styling needs to be really tastefully done, and there is too much frippery to be convincing.

We said it back in 2005; the Roadliner is an impressive bike that handles, brakes and goes like something much smaller and lighter while having clean, stylish looks. It's also reasonably priced and easy to customize. It's a big cruiser that appeals to little people with big feet and bigger hearts.

-Gabe Ets-Hokin, Senior Editor


2007 HARLEY DAVIDSON CVO SOFTAIL SPRINGER 2007 HONDA VTX 1800 C 2007 KAWASAKI VULCAN 2000
Engine Counterbalanced, Air-cooled TwinCam 110B™ engine Engine 1795cc liquid-cooled 52-degree V-twin Engine Four-stroke, 52-degree V-twin, dual cams, eight valves

Horse Power

81.46

Horse Power

89.10

Horse Power

95.74
Torque 95.58 Torque 102.25 Torque 120.87
MSRP $24,995 MSRP $12,899 MSRP $12,999
2006 STAR ROADLINER 2007 SUZUKI BOULEVARD M109R
Engine 113-cubic-inch (1854cc) air-cooled pushrod 48-degree V-twin Engine 1783cc, four-stroke, liquid-cooled, V-twin, DOHC, 4-valves

Horse Power

89.96

Horse Power

106.40
Torque 109 Torque 101.30
MSRP $14,980 MSRP $12,599

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