Muscle-bound Cruisers Square Off
2002 Harley-Davidson V-Rod vs. Yamaha Warrior
The H-D V-Rod is the tire-shreddingest, baddest-ass, babe-pullingest cruiser to ever leave a factory production line. It attracts attention like Angelina Jolie strolling through a shopping mall naked. And it tears at pavement with about the same power as a Ducati 996.
In comparison, the clean and aggressive countenance of Yamaha's Warrior is as subtle as a wallflower. Worse, its burly powerplant is, relatively speaking, kinda slow.
If that's all you need to know to make your performance cruiser selection, you can just drool over at the pictures and read no further. But Harley has sacrificed much at the altar of the Style gods and may not be the best overall muscle cruiser, so don't relax your reading comprehension skills just yet.
Until recently, there was no such thing as the Performance Cruiser class. Virtually the entire cruiser market has been geared toward looking "authentic" (read: old) at the expense of functionality. Cruisers have been based on a decades-old archetype of early generation Harleys and Indians that, in contemporary terms, handled and braked poorly and could be out-accelerated by nearly every other bike on the street.
But bean counters and motorcycle designers alike couldn't ignore the billion-dollar business of customizing cruisers, not the least of which is making the slammed scooters go fast.
All of which has brought us a new era in cruisers, best exemplified by the Warrior and V-Rod. This power-packed duo represent the current pinnacle in the emerging hot rod cruiser class.
Honda's VTX1800, while muscular and well-finished, is big and heavy, with not much cornering clearance. Kawasaki's Mean Streak is a contender in a beauty contest, but it packs the least punch of the bunch. Suzuki hasn't yet joined the fray, and Victory which has a more powerful engine this year hasn't yet supplied us with a test bike.
Smoothness is not the dominant riding impression of the V-Rod. What stands out is the way the handlebars want to leave a rider's hands under acceleration. This thing is a rocket, blasting off the line with 50-foot darkies painted in glorious detail on the pavement behind it. There's nearly 110 horsepower at the rear wheel behind the so-called Revolution engine when it hits its power peak at 8250 rpm. The revvy, Superbike-derived motor delivers power with a hit that would make a Mille proud.
That tractor-like pull combined with a fat 200-series rear tire results in hard launches off the line.
Conversely, the Warrior's meaty grunt is more typical of a cruiser, albeit one with a few grand worth of hot rod parts. It emits a very Harley-ish sound out of its howitzer of a muffler as the throttle is blipped: Blaaahhpp!, and pistons thud underneath like Sugar Ray Leonard on speed. The high-tech ECU helps bottom-end power by closing one of the dual intake ducts a low rpm for better throttle response.
The hot-rodding tricks Yamaha has made with the Warrior have really worked. With horsepower in the mid-70s at the back wheel, the largest air-cooled V-Twin in production out-stomps its Road Star brother by about 20 hp.
And there's more to defining power than just in horsepower terms. Huge, low-down torque is what separates big Twins from Big Twins. At just 3500 rpm, the hopped-up Yamaha is cranking out nearly 100 ft.-lbs. of tire-shredding torque, towering above the V-Rod's puny torque figure of 75. Moreover, peak torque from the newfangled H-D arrives much later in the rev range, around 7000 rpm.
This gives the Warrior the kind of grunt that we expect from a fast cruiser motor. Just twist and go; rumbling power is always available. Twist the throttle to its stops and the Warrior emits a honk from its two-stage airbox that sounds like it could inhale a 600cc sportbike.
That tractor-like pull combined with a fat 200-series rear tire results in hard launches off the line. Not much is going to beat this beast across the street from a stoplight, as it simply refuses to wheelie thanks to its long 65.6-inch wheelbase.
Once out of first gear, though, the 67.5-inched wheelbase V-Rod scampers away like a full-on sportbike. Use all that Revolution power and the Harley will lay down quarter-mile times in the 11.3-second range at 115 mph. It'll take another second or so later until the Warrior cuts the timing lights in the mid-12s. The Yamaha's advantage in torque can't make up for its 35-hp deficiency.