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2010 Middleweight Cruiser Shootout

Monday, March 1, 2010

You don’t need a gigantic engine and a five-figure MSRP to get your hands on a real cruiser.

At least that’s the conclusion that shot to mind while sipping an espresso during our 2010 Middleweight Cruiser Shootout. It was a horribly un-biker-ish moment, our four test riders milling about the ubiquitous chain coffee house drinking foo-foo, fancy drinks. One was even eating a cookie for crying out loud! The guys from Wild Hogs could’ve swooped out and stomped our sissy guts, much less a real renegade biker troupe.

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2010 Middleweight Cruiser Shootout
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Check out the mid-displacement cruiser action in our 2010 Middleweight Cruiser Shootout video.
The situation had us laughing at ourselves – we were a just little too close to the Disney-movie version of bikerdom. Even I wanted to beat myself up. After all, what sort of self-respecting cruiser rider rides a little “sissy bike” and drinks Americanos? Shouldn’t we be getting up the morning after a bar-house brawl somewhere, gulping black day-old coffee trying to remember what the hell happened?

Lucky for us, a real biker pulled up. His American Twin roared with aftermarket pipes, all shiny and chrome, studded saddlebags, tassles… the whole shebang. It was a special edition Harley of some sort, at least 25-30K, probably more with all the accessories. He took off his half-shell with the full do-rag ensemble immaculately placed to mask the receding hairline. Pitching the bike, excuse us, his hog on the sidestand, he swaggered inside the chain on his wallet jingling with each step. For all we know our bad hombre was ordering a Green Tea cappuccino with extra whip cream. Whew… Maybe we’re more typical than we first thought.

See, there’s image, and then there’s reality: The reality is you don’t need 2000cc to cruise around town and tour the backroads of Nowheresville, USA. The reality is you don’t need to rob the 401K to make a down payment on a respectable cruiser either. The reality is the chasm between tiny 250cc entry-level rides and the monster 1600cc+ crowd holds an entire stable of mid-sized offerings, with some quite respectable.

2010 Middleweight Cruiser Shootout
Our four test bikes motored across the freeways and backroads of California, in our quest to find out which middleweight cruiser best delivers a big bike feel without the hefty MSRP.
We sampled four such rides, all under 1000cc and $8400. The Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 represented the American Twin market, pitted against three metric rides in the Star V Star 950, Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom and the new-for-2010 Honda Shadow Phantom.

Riding through the urban streets, freeways and backroads of Southern Californian, our testing process included dyno runs, weights and observed fuel efficiency. Rider opinions factored heaviest in our rankings, our testers evaluating road performance of the engine and chassis, along with even more subjective assessments like appearance and grin factor.

In the end, we discovered four bikes with four distinct personalities. Each will appeal to select riders looking for a fun, affordable entry to the cruiser ranks. Let’s take a closer look at what these price-point steeds have to offer.

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Physics   June 12, 2011 08:01 PM
Comparing ~900cc VTwins with ~900cc parallel twins is perfectly reasonable. If someone wants a "middle weight" cruiser, he/she is going to have both V-Twins and Parallel-Twins to consider. Saying that's unreasonable is like saying it's unreasonable to compare an 883cc Harley to a 942cc Yamaha because they're in completely different classes. A Speedmaster is in the same class as a Sportster or a VStar950, to say it isn't is just dumb. Though some of these people are making not including a Triumph into a much bigger deal than it is. It's possible That they couldn't get a Speedmaster/America/Bonneville in time for the test or maybe they wanted to stick to twins for this comparison(which would be stupid considering they rarely review these bikes).
Mike W -inline vs V  September 23, 2010 07:03 PM
they probably werent included because its a completely diff class of bike. the V-Twin and parallel's/inlines are two completely different motors. anyone with any common sense knows theres no comparing the two.
CruznJohnW -Plenty of Bike  April 2, 2010 07:07 AM
At 5-10, 32inseam, 205lbs, these bikes will do anything I need ... but the sporty just looks and feels stubby-ugly to me, stupid tank, squashed-up position and all that. Your artical alone could persuade me to take another look .. or maybe not. Excellent comparo, exactly what I've been looking for. The Kawi or Star will likely be my next ride. If my little 650Vstar has kept me happy for 8 years (longest ride was 1500+ miles in 3 days - do THAT on a sport bike) then one of those two should be just fine for me, thanks. Great write-up.
spanky -dont get it  March 28, 2010 03:16 PM
best cruiser oxymoron?

spanky -i don't get it  March 28, 2010 03:06 PM
call me too young too uder stand call mee euro trash. i just dont like cruisers. they have zero character or aplication. the bs that owners say they enjoy about them is funny when nakeds destroy them. i realy lol when people say some cruisers are discreet and minimalist. take the greatest softail ever made and it dosn't cruise as well a streetfighter or tourer. people talk about the design being pretty but i think most man made beauty is in tandom with function like the 916 or daytona 675. im not trying to condesend but i can't get into any of them

Nick -Thanks  March 5, 2010 10:08 AM
An informative article, lack of Triumph notwithstanding.

bikerrandy -2010 cruiser shootout  March 4, 2010 04:37 PM
Triumph makes a cruiser........where ?
Ck -Good bike choices  March 4, 2010 03:09 PM
These were roughly the same bikes I looked at in '08 when I bought my bike.

The kawa and HD were close even then. I liked the engine better and am less than 6' tall so the hd fit me better but it was a close call.

Good article.
irksome -No thanks.  March 3, 2010 05:24 PM
A Harley and some clones? Thanks but no thanks. Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't you also skip the Triumph entry (Thunderbird) in your last cruiser test? That's a pity; it's the only one I'd buy.
Tom B -Whining  March 3, 2010 12:57 PM
Why do you even bother Scott. Must be hell visiting a website and reading a free story... I wish the Triumph was in there too, but oh well, not the end of the world.
Scott -Ditto  March 3, 2010 11:10 AM
Ditto - Triumph America is exactly in the price and displacement for this article. Way to drop the ball guys. Harleys and Jap bikes... why do I even bother...
Tim B -Tank Seams  March 2, 2010 08:59 PM
Nice comparo and nice bikes.

The Japanese really need to learn to get rid of their tank seams or at least hide them a lot better! They are so hideous. This is a huge reason why the Harley tanks look so much better.

But then again, Harley could learn more than a thing or two from the Japanese when it comes to the engines.
JD -You blew it.  March 2, 2010 07:06 PM
Intersting you missed out by not inluding one of the Triumph's Bonnevile, America, Speedmaster or the Ducati GT1000. What is the fixation on the V-Twin Harley and the rice burner clones? Try thinking outside of the box and do a real comparison. I guess you get what you pay for with this E magazine.
SCBonneville -Triumph Speedmaster  March 2, 2010 07:03 AM
I had the same thoughts... I guess they didn't want a parallel twin showing up the "mighty" v-twins...
TOM BROOKS -Triumph Speedmaster  March 2, 2010 06:32 AM
What happened to Triumph Speedmaster? It should have been part of this group.