2003 Harley V-Rod Vs. [modified] Yamaha Warrior

Torrance CA. One speaks softly and carries a high rpm stick. The other thunders and tries to change the earth's rotation with torque. These aren't "Cruisers" in the traditional sense of the word, oh no, these are modern "Power Cruisers" represented here, by the latest and greatest unconventional bike from America's "traditional" motor company and the best from the Land of the Rising Sun. In 2001, Harley stunned the cruiser world, with its $17,995 VRSCA "V-Rod" A 106hp / 72LbFt, modern liquid cooled 11XXcc powered, DOHC, 4-valve per cylinder V-twin, in a raked-out, trick-looking dragsterish chassis. The V-Rod represents both a move into the second half of the 20th century for Harley, and a significant rising of the performance bar for the cruiser world.

Another brilliant MO idea: shooting photos on the shoulder of the freeway...

The power cruiser genre almost got started in the mid 80's with Honda's V-65 Magna and Yamaha's awesome VMX-12 V-Max. These bikes however, were powered by liquid cooled OHC V-four motors, which though extremely fast, didn't feel or sound right to traditional cruiser buyers. Oddly enough, just when Harley was changing the cruiser game, Japan stepped up to the plate with bikes that finally looked and to some extent sounded like traditional American cruisers.

The Yamaha Roadstar Warrior combines best in class suspension, and excellent brakes, with a 73hp / 92LbFt, 102ci (1670cc) air-cooled, pushrod, V-twin in a racy long and low cruiser package, for $11,999.

Vance and Hines' exhaust frees up some pheromones and horsepower and lets the Warrior sound like a real motorcycle.

Having both of these bikes at our disposal, MO decided this was a prime opportunity for a mini "Best of the Best Power Cruiser Shootout" Given the disparity in price between the Warrior and the V-Rod, we allowed two easy to install and fairly inexpensive bolt-on mods to the Yamaha.

The mods are: a $449 Vance & Hines "Pro Pipe" 2 into 1 megaphone exhaust, and a $329 Dynojet Power Commander PCIII adjustable tuning module.

Thus modified, the Warrior gained a somewhat louder and deeper exhaust note and more importantly, picked-up 5.2 horsepower and 5.8 foot-pounds of torque, for a total of 78.4 and 97.8, bringing the Warrior a little closer to its more powerful rival from Harley. How ironic the Japanese does its best work at about half the rpm level of the V-Rod...

"Both bikes look cool, and with the V&H pipe, the Warrior even sounds the part."

Sulking, tough-guy like, at the dragstrip. Yo, gimme one those cigarettes!

Unfortunately, around town the V-Rod sounds a little castrated, though I wouldn't recommend saying that to its face. If you allow it to rev however, the V-Rod sounds like the highly tuned raceresque motor that it is. Even though it has a few added horsepower and sounds big and bold, the Warrior is still unable to hang with the V-Rod in a straight line, lagging around 1/2 second back at the dragstrip and falling further behind, as speeds rise. If you really want to pick on V-Rods with a Warrior though, all is not lost. Yamaha now offers a 104 hp, 122 LbFt Yamaha Speedstar Stage IV Competition Kit. This kit includes an extensive list of upgraded engine parts and will result in V-Rod eating sub-12 second quarter-mile times for the Warrior. The price of the kit is $3,000 + labor and would result in about a $16,500 Warrior.

What's it all mean you ask? In a nutshell: These bikes are capable of being ridden in a reasonably swift manner. Ground clearance is respectable, allowing for more lean angle than most motorcyclists typically use. Aggressive cornering is still accompanied by loud scraping noises, and your ability to change direction in an emergency is well behind that of a "standard" or "sport" bike. On the other hand, stopping is a strong suit for the Warrior.

In a straight line, with a good drag racer aboard, these bikes will embarrass the vast majority of custom and cruiser motorcycles. When traction is low, they will easily spin the tire off the line, but this isn't a problem, due to their long wheelbases. In fact, a little wheelspin is a lot of fun on the Warrior or V-Rod and entirely in character with their bad boy street brawler image.

Just the facts, man   (winners in bold)

H-D V-Rod Modified Yam Warrior Yam Warrior
Price MSRP $17,995 $12,777* $11,999*

Drag Strip Sean Alexander 12.55sec @ 107.62mph 13.10sec @ 99.40mph N/A

Eric Bass 13.32sec @ 105.09mph 14.22sec @ 94.49mph N/A

Dyno SAE HP 106.6bhp @ 7,950rpm 78.4bhp @ 4,500rpm 73.2bhp @ 4,500rpm

SAE Torque 72.6LB-ft @ 6,900rpm 97.8Lb-ft @ 3,700rpm 92.0LB-ft @ 3,300rpm

Eric Bass Says

You got a V-Rod, you're allowed to park in the red zones. My cousin's a cop...

Alright, this one oughta jog a few long-dormant brain cells in the 30 and over set: A kid eating a chocolate bar bumps into a kid eating some peanut butter and the chocolate bar gets jammed into the jar. "Hey, you got chocolate in my peanut butter!". "Hey, you got peanut butter on my chocolate!". (tentative tasting ensues) "It's good!" (smiles and nods all around).

A combination of intuitively disparate flavors brought together with potentially calamitous results give birth to a tantalizing new delicacy. That's pretty much the equation at work in the "power cruiser" category. While the vocal minority seem to fall into purist "sport bike" or "hog" camps, the silent majority of riders are open-minded to the possibilities of a hybridized bike that allows you to have your cake and eat it too with a minimum of compromises. Not that the purists will ever stop hurling insults at one another but somehow, it just won't be the same.

Yamaha Warrior:

All the Warrior's visual clues tell you this is a massive, heavy, 800-pound gorilla of a cruiser. The fat, 200-section Dunlop D220 rear tire, the Schwarzennegger-like V-shaped gas tank, the grenade launcher of a muffler (pre-Vance & Hines mods), even the prominent chrome air intake and filter scream "big, bulky, muscular cruiser... attempt to turn or brake at your own risk!"

But a funny thing happens once you climb aboard. The first thing you notice (at least at night) is the space-age indigo glow that emerges from the instruments when you turn the key in the ignition. So what if you can't read a damn thing. You're thinking hmmm, never seen THAT before! Looks pretty damn cool splashing over the cobalt-purple paint too!

"What did they make this thing out of, carbon-fiber?! Yamaha somehow managed to get the weight down to 606 pounds dry, and the 28" low seat position gives it a center of gravity that makes it feel even lighter."

Must've made a wrong turn at that last strip mine.

Starting the engine reveals not a Screamin' Eagle growl but a . . . well a sport-bike purr. Hmmm, definitely not what I was expecting! Myself, I'm partial to the growl but let's stay open-minded here, we haven't slapped the Vance & Hines on yet. Alright, now for the clean and jerk to get this bad boy upright. . . WHOAH! Time to get this baby rollin'!

The 1670cc air-cooled, pushrod V-twin will get you a quarter mile out of Dodge in about 12.5 seconds, depending upon rider girth and agility with a clutch.

This be plenty fast enough to leave all but the most exotic 4-wheel vehicles reading your John Burns autographed edition "My other bike is your sister" license plate holder (only 10,000 left so order yours today!).

Installing a DynoJet Power Commander is easy as pie -- even a Chimp could do it. (But not Sean, it gave him fits.)

The rev limiter kicks in hard and early (somewhere shy of 5000 RPM) so I had to punch through the gears pretty fast (especially first gear) but once I got it dialled I couldn't believe how quick the Warrior was for such a "big" bike. The clutch and shifter are very smooth and once accustomed to the Warrior's internal rhythms it gets gone in a hurry. Now let's see if it can stop. Thanks to the R-1 derived brakes, the Warrior has no trouble at all coming back to reality without the runaway freight train feel of an old-school cruiser. A real confidence builder in traffic. About now I'm ready to exit the freeway and as I approach the cloverleaf I hear a little birdy whispering in my ear to "flick" the Warrior down and see how it handles.

"Flick" a cruiser? OK, let's not get crazy here, but the Warrior enjoys a good off-ramp as much as you do. Soooprise! Sooooprise! Alright, time to come back to earth, if it sounds as though the Warrior is without flaws, it's not. Despite it's fine performance, it has some aesthetic and ergonomic quirks that I would change if I were King.

I already mentioned the bike's Mike Tyson-esque quality of looking like a natural born killer and sounding like . . . well . . .like Mike Tyson! Hell, this fearsome "Warrior" couldn't even wake a baby! So while of course our swapperoo to the V&H pipes was for purely performance related reasons (an extra 6bhp), the addition of a throaty growl to the Warrior's vocal repertoire was a welcome improvement. The aftermarket pipes also give the bike a more conventional look that could be mistaken for an unnamed American-made motorcycle (wink, wink) at a distance.

Can't think of any more Yamahas that make 98 foot-pounds at 3700 rpm. You?

If you will indulge my whining a bit longer, the handlebars are exceedingly wide, low, and forward and the pegs are sort of tucked under. So my legs are at a 90 degree angle, but my back is slightly hunched over to reach the bars (unless you have an NBA-caliber wingspan) and now my neck is tilted back to keep my head level.

Which pretty much made me feel like a crucified hunchback in a windtunnel, when riding at freeway speeds. And I don't mean that in a good way. The mirrors stick out wider than Ross Perot's ears, and make "motorcycle lane" trips to the front of the traffic signal more of an adventure than they need to be.

Actually that Vance & Hines pipe doesn't look half bad.

Add the aforementioned unreadable instrument panel and the rev limiter's itchy trigger finger to the list and I'd have to surmise that the Warrior is an awesome bike with room for improvement, but nothing that a little aftermarket cosmetic surgery couldn't cure.

I will say this, the bike's exaggerated features do lend it a truly magnetic "what is that?" appeal. I keep the test-bikes at a secured underground lot and park them right next to the valet office. When the parking attendants saw the tricked-out indigo dash glow they were swooning and sighing like schoolgirls at a Backstreet Boys concert. After a few days, one of them even asked me to move it somewhere else because he was so sick and tired of all the customers asking him about the bike!

A couple of friends of mine own a cafe in L.A.s downtown garment district and when I went to join them for a free lunch (my faaaavorite kind!) I parked the Warrior out front and we sat in the window and watched it twist necks like crazy. The bike was literally stopping all the fashionista designers in their tracks. When the three of us stepped outside so I could give the fellas a closer inspection, the locals swooped down on us like pigeons to bread crumbs. Bottom line, the Warrior passes the test in terms of performance and curb appeal but could use some tutoring in Ergonomics 101.

Get Motorcycle.com in your Inbox