Good Cents Cruisers
2003 $6,000 Cruiser Shootout
It seems as though the trend in the motorcycle industry right now is to build bigger, faster, more powerful motorcycles. It's relatively easy to create a quality motorcycle with loads of power and style, but that usually is accompanied by a steep price.
The V-Rod, Warrior, and VTX1800 are all impressive machines, but not everybody can afford to drop that kind of money on a motorcycle. Just talking about a bike costing 12-large is much easier than actually paying it, especially for the large segment of the population with incomes and performance needs that are equally modest.
That's where the motorcycle manufacturers come in, offering stylish middleweight cruisers that retail for under $6000.
Taking part in our $6K test is the capable quartet comprised of the Honda Shadow Spirit 750, the Harley Davidson Sportster 883, the Kawasaki Vulcan 800, and the Suzuki Marauder 800. While some more recent cruisers are built to achieve the chunky look of the 1930s and '40s, this foursome goes back to the late-'60s for inspiration, exploring the classic chopper look with a raked out fork and a larger-diameter front wheel (except for the Suzuki's 16-incher.
After a few short rides on each of the machines it was apparent declaring a winner would be a tough task. For example, torque production is within just 2.1 ft.-lbs. among the four bikes, and the three lightest bikes scale in within 16 pounds of each other.
Six Grand Cruiser Shootout
One negative attribute all four bikes share is a small fuel tank. The largest, at 4.0 gallons for the Kawasaki, isn't too bad, but the rest vary from 3.3-3.6 gallons. This limits range to just over 100 miles which makes for frequent stops. Not an issue if you're cruising from cafe to donut shop in town, but it becomes problematic out on the open road.
Even before thumbing the starter to put a piston in motion, one bike stands out from the rest of the pack: the Harley-Davidson Sportster 883. The grandfather of economic frugality and stripped-down cool first rumbled onto the motorcycle scene back in 1957 and was built for speed and performance. The Sportster's reign as the king of high performance has passed but it still has the ability to turn heads with the best of today's bikes.