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2010 Middleweight Cruiser Shootout Conclusion

Monday, March 1, 2010
When it came time to rank these cruiser motorcycles, it struck us how the class is less about raw performance than personal preference. Some test riders found the Kawasaki the best performing bike, but felt the Star’s alluring lines trumped any disadvantage on the street. Then there were intangibles with the Harley that can’t be replicated by its metric rivals (not
2010 Middleweight Cruiser Shootout
Take your pick... With these cruiser entries its less about raw performance than identifying which ride melds best with your personal tastes in comfort and styling.
the least of which, for some consumers at least, being its Made-in-America status). If we’re giving advice to our buddy on what bike to buy, it would be to pick the one that best suits their tastes. We only hope we’ve described them well enough to help readers figure out which fits their style best. (Read the 2010 Middleweight Cruiser Shootout For My Money picks below the rankings to see what our test riders would pick if it was their hard-earned cash on the line.)

That said, we don’t conduct comparison tests to twist our hands saying everyone’s a winner, like some recess game of kindergarten kick ball. We handed out scoresheets and our test riders sent them back. Overall ratings divide into two categories: performance data and test rider opinion. The hard data includes: dyno results for peak torque and horsepower courtesy of Mickey Cohen Motorsports; curb weights measured on our own scales; range based off fuel tank size and observed fuel efficiency (intended to reward larger fuel tanks – which are penalized in curb weight); and base MSRP.

Test riders rated each bike’s performance in nine categories, most self explanatory, with a few exceptions: Engine is broken into two cats with on-road performance (power delivery, fueling, throttle response) and personality (overall character and feel, including engine/exhaust sound). Appearance is a completely arbitrary judgment based of our admittedly limited four-rider test pool. Grin Factor is yet another personal assessment of that hard-to-describe quality about a bike that plain puts a smile on your face. Bikes earned scores based off their ranks within each categories, the points awarded in a 10,8,7,6 descending order. But enough with the explanations, here’s the final rankings:
2010 Honda Shadow Phantom
While it finished at the bottom, the Honda Shadow Phantom sounds great, feels comfortable in the saddle and delivers surprisingly brutish styling.

Honda Shadow Phantom – Fourth – 100 points

The Honda’s stout look and sound highlight its offerings in our comparison. The 745cc V-Twin’s performance didn’t match its competition, but its biggest drawback was the wallowing feel in the handling department at high speeds and the comparison's weakest braking package. While the Shadow’s ergos felt smallish to our testers, the seat is thoroughly comfortable, as is the reach to its handlebar (which looked great too). An overall plush ride, those enamored with the Phantom’s looks (and one of our testers flat out found it the most attractive ride in our testing troop) won’t be disappointed with its cruiser performance, in spite of its finishing order in our comparison.

Star V Star 950 – Third – 109 points
2010 Harley-Davidson Sportster 883L
The stalwart Harley-Davidson Sportster took a strong finish in our comparison thanks to its distinctive character.

The Star’s third-place ranking doesn’t feel right, as it’s such a well-rounded package. No question it’s a fantastic bike – looking amazing and delivering more than enough performance from its V-Twin to keep riders happy. The pitiful ground clearance, however, doomed its handling capabilities, holding it back in our eyes. That said, the Star was either at the top or near the top in all our testers For My Money selections. Pick up another random sampling of test riders and we would not be at all surprised to find the Star heading the scoresheet.

Harley-Davidson Sportster 883L – Second – 112 points

The Harley’s move up to second would have come as a shock had we taken a straw poll at the beginning of our comparison test. Before hopping on the bikes, the Sportster looked too different, too small. And while its petite ergos were the most panned, the little Sportster won over the grudging respect of the testing crew throughout the ride. The sound and raucous personality of its air-cooled Twin are the highlight, and by the end of the test our rider’s estimations of its styling progressed from dismissive, to “it’s not bad”, to “I kind of like it.” A little more ground clearance and roomier space in the cockpit, with a taller handlebar, and the Sportster would have been even more appreciated. As it is, the 883 Low scored a great finish, with its $7K pricetag making it all the more enticing.

Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom – First – 123 points

Looking at the scorecard, the Kawasaki’s dominance on the dyno certainly aided its case for the shootout win. However, the Vulcan really shined on the open road where its handling, along with competent brakes and larger ergos,
2010 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom
The Kawasaki Vulcan topped not just our scoresheet, its very nearly swept our test rider For My Money picks as well.
meshed best with our tall test riding crew. While the styling wasn’t rated the best, it does sport a rakish look worthy of its custom moniker. All the plusses add up to a design that more than makes up for the small premium for its highest MSRP. When the points were tabulated, the Vulcan’s win was unchallenged.

2010 Middleweight Cruiser Shootout - For My Money

Bart Madson, Motorcycle USA Managing Editor: Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom 
“For me it’s a toss up between the Star and Kawasaki. Ultimately, I’d give the Kawasaki the nod simply because of its better ground clearance and ergonomics. I value rider comfort, above almost all else, though I must admit the Star looks the most fetching of the test by far. As for a dark horse candidate for my FMM pick, I kept finding myself drawn to the Honda. Had I ridden that bike all by itself, I’d be quite satisfied with it. As for the Sportster, it’s finishing position surprised me a little. Yet, it does deliver a certain character that can’t be found in the other machines, though I’d have to get one with larger ergos as the diminutive low was way to cramped for my tastes.”

Adam Waheed, Motorcycle USA Road Test Editor: Star V Star 950
2010 Middleweight Cruiser Shootout
Had Adam picked the Kawasaki as his For My Money selection, a cheap pun would have worked for this photo. As it stands our Road Test editor chose the Star V Star 950.
2010 Star V Star 950
“Although it wasn’t my favorite in any one category, besides appearance and build quality, I would pick the Yamaha. I love the way it looks and its top-end biased engine. It’s also the largest feeling motorcycle in this comparison and feels like a much more expensive bike than the others.”

Ray Gauger, Motorcycle USA Video Editor: Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom
“For my money, I would buy the Kawasaki. It seemed to be the most middle of the road as far as looks, handling and power. The Yamaha is too big and sluggish, where as the Harley is too small and cramped. The Honda was good as well, but it lacked the overall quality of the Kawasaki. The Vulcan was comfortable enough for the long rides, but still had the riding position, handling and throttle response to attack some curves if you felt the urge.”

Joey Agustin, Videographer: Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom
“If I had to pick one of these bikes to buy with my own money it would probably be the Vulcan, I felt most comfortable and cool on it. I liked its power and handling. It had a good tone to the exhaust. The seat was very easy on my rear end and the seating position was pretty nice. I loved the look of this bike. It was the one that caught my eye right away when I first saw all four bikes parked next to each other before the comparison. With its stellar looks, comfortable ride, and great power and handling, The Kawasaki Vulcan stole my attention. They've got my money.”

2010 Middleweight Cruiser Shootout Score Card

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captjack   March 23, 2012 09:30 AM
Are you kidding me!? Have you guys ever heard of SUZUKI??? Yeah, it's been around for a while. How about giving the Boulevard C50T a look-see! 805cc,53-hp,liquid cooled,fuel injected...& more, all for under $8000!!
Chuluun   December 28, 2011 01:52 PM
Just a note about the Vulcan's gearing, I'm pretty tired of hearing how it's 'out of its power band' or 'revs too high' at highway speeds. In fact at around 65mph in top gear it's making peak torque, and has a way to go before peak HP. Wind it out to 90 mph in 4th; after that 65 in 5th doesn't feel revvy. The engine does smooth out so you lose some of the throb/pulse that people love about V-twin cruisers -- but no way is it out of its power band. Of course it's not going to chug along like a large capacity V-twin, but then again it's lighter and more nimble than any of them. The Star may have a more authentic air-cooled feel, and it does feel like a bigger bike, but not in a good way. There are certainly better cruisers than the Vulcan for the highway, but on back roads, twisties and commuting I wouldn't swap it for any other bike in this segment.
wr -V star 950  December 29, 2010 11:27 PM
I am 5'9" and with a 29" inseam, went to the dealer to sit on the v star 950, and the Kawasaki 900 classic. They both felt great, so I had to pick by price, and l@@ks, and that my friends is the all new V Star 950 in Black of course. There is not just one thing that stood out, It was the whole package.
he haw -nit picking  November 14, 2010 10:32 PM
You guys kill me, You are all to big to ride nothing but big behemoth bikes in excess of 800 lbs + - a few pounds. And you all ride sport bikes. And you only enjoy horizon tilting in the twisty roads. This bike is not a sport bike. And you are heavy bias to Kawasaki products. All of us readers know that advertising pays the bills, and ratings sell motorcycles. Or the ratings don't sell certain motorcycles such as the rating you gave star 950. And act like you could not believe that the star came in third place. Under the sportster? Every one of you if ask to ride the sportster or the Star, you all would fight over the star. We all know that the Kawasaki custom 900's are not selling as well as they predicted so again advertising payed the magazine bills
cha cha la racha cycle freak of nature -whisper please whisper  November 7, 2010 06:37 PM
air or water? Give me that older water buffalo change made in 06 Kawaker 900 hundo please. With city driving (live in town) Air cooling is not for me, May l@@k great from the front. But, But If I wanted to roast my thigh in the hot dog days of summer I would buy the Quicker air cooled Star 950. But I will be smarter than l@@ke deciding which bike to pick. I think the 900 custom's looks are ugly, But to my likings is the 900 classic Vulcan in red or blue. That retro HD look a like, is not ground breaking with a copy cat look. But for a bike that also has plastic fenders, And plastic console and well there's a lot of plastic on both bikes. But the Vulcan I will not modify so that is fine with me. I'm planning on keeping the bike for a very long time
arless -light middle weight shoot out  November 2, 2010 10:46 PM
I have to agree with Adam, The Star V Star 950 l@@ks so good and it is air cooled with more power and torque than the good l@@king Kawasaki custom 900. The gearing in the transmission on the Vulcan 900 custom is a little short. It's also no fun running up to freeway speeds 70--85 mph It feels like you need another gear. And its out of its power band. If 65 mph is all you ride then the Kawasaki will be fine. Its just that the motor is reving way above it's power ban.The Star 950 is geared great and will run 75--85 mph at a more relaxed rpm than the Vulcan. And I'm not alone here, there is a company out there that sells the sprockets both front and rear without a belt replacement. That tames the rpm problem down to a more in the power band range for about $200.00 dollars. But with the V star being quicker by about three tenths of a second in the quarter mile that and the drop dead looks steals the show. It seems that star has fixed all the wort's that plagued the Vulcan. And plus newer modern electronics, That has sealed the deal for me. way to go !!! Star Yamaha!!! I think I will get a raven colored V Star 950--you canot go wrong with black and crome on a cruiser!
war -yahmama 1300 cruise  October 17, 2010 04:07 PM
well what do you think about the Yam 1300 cruise? Let me know thank you thank you very much
metric rabbit -950 or the 1300 water cooled models  October 6, 2010 12:25 AM
with mostly city driving,the price and looks of the lighter and nimble star 950 is all the bike I will need around here. If I was doing long jaunts on the highways then I would consider the star 1300. Might just get me one anyway if it fits me OK.48 lbs heavier than the light middle weight 950. But with a whole lot more power heard the 1300 would out run the Yamaha warrior in the Quarter mile. Now that is a bike that is 18 lbs lighter than the v star 1300. but, but ugly, and with old technology push rod low compression motor. the left over 2008 1300 can be had for $7000.00 OTD and the left over 2009 star 950's can be had for $5795.00 OTD
wr -Yamaha 1300 classic  September 18, 2010 10:47 PM
Is only 48 pounds heaver than the 900 Vulcan and the 950 yam aer but has 80+ hp and 80+ ft lbs torque at 4000 rpm take off about 10% and there you have 70hp&70foot pounds torque @ 4000 rpms.Water and oil cooled and can be had way less that 10 grand--7000 otd for a new 2008 with warranty and of course more for later model 1300's as well all new with factory warranty and everything including tools and throw in a helmet and Jacket and boots and your ready to cruise. with modern water cooled and oil cooled long lasting engine that can be tuned to produce more horsepower compression and hwy gears for overdrive 5Th gear for lower engine rpm and burns less fuel less rpm.If you can put up with the hot thyes from the under tank and seat heat from the inner cylinder then yuou will be ok with the 950 classic custom .
Wayne A Rhodes -Yamaha 950 custom classic  September 18, 2010 10:30 PM
the air cooled or oil air cooled 950 is the bike that caught my eye. and now I am waiting on the dealer to get them in so I can get me a black in color 950 custom classic with that air cooled engine and that top end biased engine and the fit and finish that only Yamaha can do.I like a engine tuned low at the bottom and high when you twist the handle bar far enough then this baby will stretch your arms out till you let off of the roll handle. I town next to the Kawasaki the 950 Yamaha mill asks like it will not run at all very passive and easy.---don't let that fool you the top end on the yamer will out run the vulcan 900 hands down. very good artical. I am getting the 950 air cooled yame
Bob -Aussie  July 30, 2010 05:02 PM
I have a vulcan 900 custom kitted out with screen, scootworks pulley, sheepskin seat, throttle lock, venturer rack and bags and I can tour. Bike is OK up to about 130ks-140ks (80-90mph)- Vibes a bit at that speed. Petrol is consistent at about 55mpg@ 100ks (62mph) and I can get up to 60mpg. It handles great, is reliable and does everything I need. I want to do longer distance travel ie central Australia where roads are loooong and would like some more smooth horses underneath. Now looking at yamaha 1300 for those longer legs. Rode the others and didnt like them much but each to his own.
Mike -Fair test  June 25, 2010 08:55 PM
I read the article and thought it was pretty well done and the riders said what they thought. I will have had my Vulcan 4 years this November and have put a little over 50,000 miles on it right now. I have not done any work to it only the normal things, tires etc. I rode a HD for 22 years before I bought this bike and still ride with the same group (they ride HD and still think they will get me back on one)we ride 12 months out of the year. My thoughts about this test are these people did what they were suppose to do, pick a winner. Everybody knows the bike you sit on is the best bike. I have been riding for just over 40 years and do not remember having a bad bike. I plan to get another Vulcan when I replace this one, because I like it. So I am happy with the test outcome too.
MikeA -Expensive, underpowered, outdated technology solely relying on their Brand Name!  June 12, 2010 06:32 PM
Finally an apples to apples, to apples, to apples comparison! Most reviews of Harleys usually want to compare them to race bikes, and then want to pretend all Harleys are $25,000+ Apparently Honda has become the new Harley! This Honda has less HP, has a crappy outdated drum brake and costs more than the Harley! Drive shaft? Theres a reason the other competitors here have low maintenance belt drives, they are lighter, and waste much less of the already meager HP! Water cooled? Air cooled v-twins have been around forever and are a proven design. Watercooling on these models isnt worth the added expense, and that increased cost could have been better utilized elsewhere. At least Honda added Fuel Injection, something Harley added in 2007. Ooooo... and the black trim, wait Harley did that a few years back as well. So there you go, in Hondas effort to copy Harley at every turn, they litterally became what Harley used to be! Expensive, underpowered, outdated technology solely relying on their Brand Name! Meanwhile Harleys Sportster first introduced in 1957, is going toe to toe with a Yamaha introduced in 2009, and a Kawasaki that was introduced in 2007 Sorry to upset the Black Helicopter / Tin Foil Hat conspiracy theorists, but theres currently a Yamaha / Star ad on top of this page! Even though they came in third!
harleyridereveryday -?  June 6, 2010 04:21 PM
my loved 2205 small hog has just about 37,000 miles-third set of tires-oil changed 3 times a year-one belt-ridden daily and treated roughly and left outside.i love all who ride!thanks for being different-otherwise we'd be brainless clones-driving little square cars-going nowhere-enjoy-ride on
tdk -Rider  May 5, 2010 10:50 AM
I like how the complaints about the 883 were cramped cockpit and cornering clearance. Both are remedied if you weren't testing the "Low" (lower seat/lower suspension). Try a R next time. . .
StuW -Mr M/C Safely  April 17, 2010 10:00 PM
I sold my 2002 dyna glyde a few months ago, and bought a 2009 Vulcan 900. The vulcan does not have the upper end of the dyna or the raw hp, but it rides smoother, engine runs cooler, and handles better. I tried the 993 but it was not as smooth feeling as the Vulcan.
Iron 883 bobber -20 year olds like Sportster  April 12, 2010 11:24 AM
Sportster why did they not show the Sportster IRON 883.My is 20 now and he had 2006 R6. But now he is on the new IRON and he is 6,0" and all his friends are buying Sportster and making bobber out them
Dream Catcher -Nuttin wrong with personalizing your bike...  April 9, 2010 09:24 AM
My Vulcan 900 Custom now has a Mustang seat and Vance and Hines exhaust... After 5,000 miles it's still like new... resembles a Softail, at a 50% savings... Style and a liquid cooled smooth ride...
Harley has my Road King waiting for me somewhere down the road... But for now it's the Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom that sits front and center in my storage room...
dh -about the 900 custom ...  March 31, 2010 05:23 PM
talking from experience, regarding the vulcan 900, it is important to say that the even though the seat looks cushy, it's not that comfy. many vulcan riders feel the need to replace the stock seat. (rides longer than 2hrs)

about the mpg rating, the two vulcans in personally know get more like 48-50mpg on the daily basis. 42mpg seems very odd in your review considering that nothing changed on the 2010 model.

ps. important note: the fuel gauge is off on the 900. you can 'learn' to read it or have a simple fix, but otherwise you can't go by it.

ride safe!

nice comparison ppl.
Hotbike 1200 -the real truth  March 30, 2010 04:35 PM
H/D is the only REAL bike out there! The SPORTSTER is one of the best I have had six Sportsters in the last ten years. I now have a 2010 883L (GREAT BIKE) that i will ride this summer and then have a full 1200 converson (maybe cams too)done this fall. Love to see some riders faces when my little Sporty leaves them behind and wondering "WHAT JUST HAPPENED" Good Riding Everyone.....
Randy -2003 883R 1200 conversion  March 12, 2010 07:32 AM
I've owned a Sportster for 15,000 miles now and six years, and I'm not a cruiser guy. In the time I've had this bike I've also owned a Multistrada, S4R Monster, 2001 Bonneville, 650 Dakar, and 1150GS, so it's had some zoot competition for ride time.

Aside from the engine conversion all I've done to the engine is oil changes. Early on I found a set of Showa 1200S shocks on fleabay for $125, and I Raceteched the forks. Now the bike is well controlled AND fairly smooth. BTW, shocks are the main thing to change.

I was surprised to see the "Low" had corner clearance problems. I have been able to just touch my footpegs but that's really far over. My tires usually don't have a "chicken strip". Unless you are under about 5'4" I'd look at a standard Sportster. I'm 5'9" and yes, it feels a little cramped.

I got my Sporty as a stock 883. It was fine for one up riding but it wasn't terribly quick. My best pass at the (Inyokern) strip was 15.1 seconds (about 14.7 sea level). Where it fell down for me was two up riding, it just didn't have the stonk for quick passes at highway speed with my wife aboard. BTW, I'm 170 pounds and my wife is 115. Because of a local group of motorcycle drag racers I became interested and had my engine built to quality Stage 2+ by a local racer/builder. Unfortunately the Inyokern closed down for good before I got the engine sorted but I ran high 12's without power-shifting, hard lanches, race gas, fine tuning, or experience for that matter. I think it's capable of high 11's.

The Rubber mounted models gave up some of the edginess of the solid frames - 55 pound heavier, handling can be vague (so I read on the forums). But definately the rubber mounted models gain for high speed cruising. With 883 final drive ratio my bike (both 833 and 1200) was smooth at GPS 70-73 mph max. I've since changed to 1200 final drive and can now cruise at a true 75-80, which is the wind blast limit for me.

I have a string of disconnected thoughts. Japanese cruisers leave me cold. I don't consider my Sportster a cruiser. In hindsight I should have found a used 1200S Sportster. In hindsight I should have done a straight 1200 conversion (stock 883 heads/cams) as it would have worked just as well on the street and been a whole lot cheaper. HD dealerships are strange places that I avoid. I don't give a rat's ass about Buell and I don't hold the Buell decision against HD. If I want a sportbike I'll get a Ducati, but I might own a Buell someday. I sometimes think about picking up a used 883 solid and making an adventure/bobber-rat bike.

And finally, my experience at the strip was an eye opener. I saw Sportsters with 120 HP running mid 10's 130 mph. My builder ran a street pro Sportster in the low 9's 150mph - it was amazing to be staged behind him and see that. There was some old coot with a shovel head bobber runnning in the high 10's. While I saw some Japanese sportbikes at the races I never ever saw any Japanese cruisers.

Mac -For shame!  March 11, 2010 12:14 PM
"Not Fooled - New Buyer Warning March 4, 2010 04:54 AM
Nancy you need to learn a lot more if you are going to buy a Harley only because the dealer will let you take a test ride. The Harley sportster is the most out of date motorcycle on the market. That bike has not changed, except for color, in the last 50 years. For safety, especially if you are a new rider, I would go with the Kawasaki. If you want a Harley, look in the want ads. There are hundreds of low mileage used ones for 1/2 of new price. These are people that realized what they bought after the fact. "

Clueless! Sorry but you are. I bought an XL1200R in 2007 after watching a Discovery Channel plant tour of the Kansas City Sportster plant. It's very well run. As to the bike itself - hydraulic lifters, spin-on oil filter, belt drive, tubeless tires - and built heavy - check the steering head bearings in a Sporty, versus the others.

A "Sportster" is not a race bike, but mine will do 1/4 mile in the high 12s, and there are millions of accessories - pipes, for example, that will add another 4-5 hp.

I've put 20,000 miles on my bike since I bought it, with only a valve cover leak (fixed under warranty) and do my own service. Far easier to maintain than, say, my wife's C50. Those valve adjustments are no fun at all.

Get past the land-pirate image and go ride a Sporty. It's like owning a '57 Chevy that doesn't leak oil and starts every time.

Mac -Too bad no C50 in the comparo  March 11, 2010 12:06 PM
Tell me about the valve adjustments you'll be making on the Sporty... None!
My wife has a C50; we love both, but they're different for sure. I've taken my Sporty ('07 1200R) on an 11 hour, 650 mile ride, with a windshield and throwover bags - just fine. All Sporties from '04 on are rubber-mounted. And if you want, an 883-1200 conversion kit is available + not that expensive.
Niki -Don  March 11, 2010 08:18 AM
Don I have nothing personal against the Sportster. I give it credit for being reliable and the most competitively priced HD but the ride for me was just to rigid, rattly, and cramped for my taste. Even my Harley friends say they would prefer the Vulcan or Star for serious rides over the Sport. And as far as "the real thing" goes I suppose that depends on whom you ask. I hear it all the time from MOCO, Triumph, and Indi owners. One of you must be right so while you guys fight over who's bike is "real" the rest of us will just continue to enjoy the ride =).
DonC -Three wanna-be's and one real Sportster in this comparison.  March 10, 2010 07:07 PM
Seems like a pretty even handed comparison. I've owned multiple motorcycles over the years. At present I own a Sportster. It is a fine bike. I usually don't make comments about other people's rides but I'm a little tired of hearing people knock Sportsters. I bought mine in February 05. Since that time it has never refused to start or leaked a drop of oil. Ryder 7 Nancy before you "settle" for a new or used cheesy copy of a Sportster take the real thing for a test ride.
Ryder -To Niki  March 8, 2010 11:12 PM
Could never get past the S50 styling, and while I used to love balancing carbs and the ritual of slowly bringing a bike to life on a cold morning, fuel injection is addictive! I'm definitely a Suzuki fan, however. I've got an M50 in the garage that I love but is about to be sacrificed to round out a house downpayment. So sad to be a one bike guy again...It'll be interesting to see how long Suzuki and Honda take a backseat in this new middleweight displacement battle. I bet the next time a magazine tests the "middleweights" somebody will have cracked the liter mark.
Ward -Vulcan 900  March 8, 2010 01:33 PM
You only stated what all of us Vulcan 900 Custom owners already knew. If you would have asked us, you would have known to get all Vulcans, that way, each tester would have been happy at the same time.
Niki -Ryder - GASP!  March 8, 2010 11:13 AM
No need to settle for the Sportster Ryder. If you're looking to buy new the S50 is still a better deal for only a couple hundred more. You might be able to find an 09 at the Suzuki dealer.
Ryder -Good review...  March 7, 2010 10:52 PM
A pretty good review. Largely confirmed what I thought about these bikes but I would have had the V-star in second and the Harley in third. Speaking of Harley, I've been a Harley-hater since I started riding and their shutdown of Buell didn't boost my opinion. I've always thought them to be a marketing company that just happened to sell outdated motorcycles with more focus on aestetics than performance. But, I'll grudingly admit that a $7k Sportster isn't a bad deal now that everyone else has raised their prices. I never thought I'd see an HD as the value offering in any class of bike, and this may assist Harley in attracting those younger riders it can't seem to get onto it's bikes. If I was in the market for a middleweight cruiser, I'd get over my Harley-hater status cross-shop the Sporty. It's slooooow evolution towards modernity combined with one of the lower prices in the class finally make it worth a look, though personally I'd have my eyes peeled for a lightly-used Kawi.
Brian H. -Took Notice.  March 7, 2010 05:19 PM
Hmm....four tall men........This leaves out shorter men (like me) and probably 95% of women, which (I would imagine)constitute a greater percentage of people actually in the market for a mid-size cruiser.
George 82 -Not supprised with the results  March 6, 2010 04:18 PM
thanks Joe for noticing the adds, it just makes me trust the reviews, on this site, less and less every time.
roughcut -nobody  March 6, 2010 06:33 AM
I normally think your tests are fair and well done, the fact that the Triumph America was missing makes this test abit flawed. Triumph has lowered the price, so I believe it would meet the requirements. I know my sister has 34,000 miles on hers and she sees no reason to trade it away. Better luck next time!
XMan -Sport - str?  March 5, 2010 05:20 PM
Sure, Harleys can be made to perform, but you have to rebuild them from the ground up and by the time that you get any decent performance out of a Harley, you could have bought two or three Japanese bikes for cash. The Sportster, isn't anywhere near deserving of its name. There is no "sport" to the Sportster, and with a 883cc engine pushing out a meager forty seven horsepower, you have all the makings for a Black Angus set in motion by a mouse fart.
The Ratman -Nice Review  March 5, 2010 01:50 PM
I liked the review but I feel that even though a Triumph is not a V Twin they still should have had one in the review. If I was in the market for a cruiser type bike I would go for a Triumph or a Yamaha. A Harley would not even be on my list.
MCGUIRE -SEWER RAT  March 5, 2010 12:26 PM
Harleys do change over the years, they change hands from rider to rider everytime the owners figure out that they bought the equivilant to a good 500, except for all the vibration. I know a girl that took the Harley training program to get her liscense (they teach you on Hondas) and when it was done she bought her a sporstster. 1 week and 4 trips to the pavement later she sold it. She said it wasn't as easy to ride as the honda but you could hear it from further off.
Stardog -shotout middleweights  March 5, 2010 09:17 AM
I thought the entire test was pretty fair and unbiased. It must be difficult to pick one winner from a group so similar. More dealers are giving demo rides these days and I think actually riding a bike is the best way to pick the right one. I looked at all these bikes when looking for a new daily commuter, but ended up buying a new "leftover" 2007 Roadstar for less than any one of these. It nicely and low speeds, felt more substantial overall, had a gas gauge and actually less maintenence duties since it's aircooled, belt driven and has a spin-on oil filter.
Matt -Joe (Brand Favoritism by M-USA).  March 5, 2010 08:05 AM
After reading the ENTIRE review and watching the video I personally don't see enough bias towards any particular brand or brands to justify accusations of blatant favoritism. I admit some of the final score card tallies don't seem to coincide with some praises and criticisms made by the article. But even the writer addresses how surprised they were by the final scores including the Sportster's placing. One of the main differences I see in this test compared to similar ones is that a far majority of the test runs appear to be done on curvy backroads rather than on city & highway roads. This might explain why the rigid suspension, standard mounted pegs, light weight, and mid range of the Sportster and the cornering clearance and low end torque of the Vulcan excelled as well as they did in this comparison.
Joe -Hmmmmm.....  March 4, 2010 05:06 PM
Thanks for the detailed reviews, but how come the Yamaha always comes out on top in other comparos but places third in this one? Oh wait; just saw all the Harley and Kawasaki adds. :>/

I know you guys have bills to pay, but how about not letting the sponsors pick the winners.
Mike -Options  March 4, 2010 04:01 PM
"That bike has not changed, except for color, in the last 50 years."

That is not a very educated statement; and I own the Star. You should do a little research and perhaps take a closer look at some Harleys before completely disregarding them. It may surprise you.

I have ridden all four of these bikes and they each have a different personality.

The Honda has the least power and "cheapest" feeling components.

The Harley has the most character and very good build quality, but that character comes at the price of cramped ergos and a ride that literally feels like someone is kicking you right in the butt -hard- every time you hit a bump.

The Vulcan has the most cornering clearance and is probably the best if you like really hammering it in the twisties, but I found the build quality to be way below the Yamaha.

The Star's fit and finish is excellent. The motor has plenty of power and I have no problem keeping up with any of my buddies on a twisty mountain road. Do the floor boards scrape? Yep; they certainly do if you push it hard enough, but they fail to mention that they are designed to. They have removable metal sliders bolted to the bottom of the floor boards and the boards themselves fold up far before your scraping any "hard parts". As a matter of fact, I have never scraped a "hard part" on my Touring model yet and I'm coming from riding a Supermoto, so I'm used to leaning. They also fail to mention that the Star is available in a Touring model straight from the dealer which was one of the big selling points for me.

All that being said; there is not a bad option among them, but comparing each to the other, there could be a best way to spend your money if you're in the market, your mileage may vary.
Steven -Look Before You Buy  March 4, 2010 09:37 AM
I agree, don't waste your money on a out of date underpowered Harley. Head for your nearest Triumph dealer. They left Triumph out of this review and that was a big mistake. The new Thunderbird is one beautiful motorcycle......
Not Fooled -New Buyer Warning  March 4, 2010 04:54 AM
Nancy you need to learn a lot more if you are going to buy a Harley only because the dealer will let you take a test ride. The Harley sportster is the most out of date motorcycle on the market. That bike has not changed, except for color, in the last 50 years. For safety, especially if you are a new rider, I would go with the Kawasaki. If you want a Harley, look in the want ads. There are hundreds of low mileage used ones for 1/2 of new price. These are people that realized what they bought after the fact.
Nancy -AZ/CA  March 4, 2010 12:40 AM
Great timing for me with your reviews of all four! Husband and I just got licenses (rode many years ago) and are now in the market for 2 bikes. Your excellent, detailed reviews are especially helpful for me since I've only found one dealer that will let you 'test drive' and that's a Harley dealership. SO....makes it hard for me to know what kind and how much of a bike I can handle. After reading all the reviews and your summary AND printing everything out so I can highlight and review, pretty sure it will be the HD or the Kawasaki. Read "Mitch - Well Done" review and maybe it should be the HD, haven't watched the video myself yet! Anyway, thanks very much, I'm enjoying your website and learning a lot!
Bonneville -Thank you  March 3, 2010 06:44 PM
Great comparison. Love reading about real world bikes. Good job.
TriMan -Need a Trumph in the test.  March 3, 2010 05:54 AM
I would have liked to see the Triumph Thunderbird or America in the mix. It seems only the V twins are reviewed when in many ways the Triumph is a superior motorcycle. Harley will never come out with anything new except a new color - too bad they are so out of touch.
Curvi -Just an observation  March 2, 2010 09:00 PM
Honda has the lowest measured power. But, it has the smoothest power curve.
Chris -Brian  March 2, 2010 08:25 PM
Brian there was a similar mid-sized cruiser comparo in Cruiser Magazine that did included the America. I think it manage to edge out the Sportster at least.
Brian -Master of the Obvious  March 2, 2010 04:24 PM
Uh...where were the middle-weight Trumpets? The America or Speedmaster would have easily won this competition.
SoloLobo -H-D idea  March 2, 2010 02:55 PM
Good comparison. I would love to see Harley-Davidson make a mid sized/priced wider, lower cruiser or two built around the 2 sportster engines. For once they could copy the metrics! It might really grab a chunk of market that they are totally overlooking right now.
Chris -K_Man  March 2, 2010 01:25 PM
Ergonomics and style tastes vary but I can tell you my impressions of the performance & handling after riding both the Vulcan and Star is that the Kawasaki has better handling and torque for the twisty back roads while the Yamaha's smoother high end and floor boards make it better adapted for highway riding. But either way you can't go wrong. they are both solid bikes for the $$$.
K_Man? -New K Bike  March 2, 2010 11:28 AM
I was giving the Kawasaki some serious consideration at the dealer last week. I am just waiting for him to get the new Yamaha in so I can check one out and take a quick spin on it. I am pretty sure though that the Kawasaki will be my next ride. I am checking out some nice bags and a better passenger seat now........
Mitch -No Suzukis!  March 2, 2010 10:24 AM
Floyd, Suzuki is taking the year off. There is no new bike to test!
Floyd -Where is the Suzuki in this test??  March 2, 2010 10:06 AM
It doesn't seem right that a Suzuki wasn't in this lineup..
George 82 -Not supprised with the results  March 2, 2010 08:59 AM
I really don't mind which cruiser wins this cruiser shootout I think they are all great bikes, but anyone who reads this should take note at the advertisements on this website, which are kawasaki and H-D. This just makes me thing that someone is trying to make the sponsors happy.

This trend is apparent in other articles as well.

Mitch -Garret  March 2, 2010 06:53 AM
Sorry Garret, the only thing you get from HD under $8-9,000 is the Jr. Sportster models. I don't see much of a point in drag racing this class of bike but I would like to have seen what the review results would have been had they tested them equally on the highway as they did the back roads.
Mcguire -sewer rat  March 2, 2010 01:45 AM
Drag race and roll-on numb....Dude you better not go there
GarrettR -Nice  March 1, 2010 11:20 PM
Great Article. It seems you tested some of the most expensive Japanese models and only the cheapest HD. Where's the drag race and roll on figures?
Garymc -diversity  March 1, 2010 08:34 PM
You should have had tall and short people doing the reviews. Otherwise, good job.
Woolery -MSRP  March 1, 2010 07:21 PM
No sense in objectively scoring the MSRP because in this economy used bikes are the new “new” bike. Especially since none of these models are new for this year (I don’t count putting flat black paint on a bike and call it new) and many used and non-current models are sitting around begging to be bought at below market value.
Mcguire -sewer rat  March 1, 2010 02:16 PM
Practically every Yamaha dealer in the country still have left over 08 and 09 1100 models (I know my dealer has some) and with a few aftermarket goodies (header,stage 1 kit, and a dyna ignition) they will scat. Bikes like these are mildly tuned and they will really respond to modification.
Jesse -Agree  March 1, 2010 12:16 PM
For the money, looks, quality and power the one that stole my heart was the VN900 and that's why I own one :)
Mitch -Well Done  March 1, 2010 12:01 PM
Well done comparo guys. I had to giggle a little by the polite way the narrator referenced to the Sportster as a ladies bike on the video =).
TT -Waheed get a haircut! ZOMG  March 1, 2010 11:49 AM
Great review, was curious to see how the new Honda would stack up against the rest. Are any of these bikes carbureted? Go Team Green!
Gimmeit -950, 900  March 1, 2010 10:49 AM
I was a little surprised at the 883 hp number because most tests I have read put it around 40 hp. The Honda makes about the same as an air cooled V-Star 650…not acceptable. The Honda’s 750 motor is almost as old as the 883 design (they both came out in the 1980s). For me, it is really only between the V-Star 950 and Vulcan 900C. Best looks, good power, recent designs and fair price. Sad to think the Harley big twins only make 16 more hp than an 883. Sure they make a lot more torque but they also weigh a lot more.
KC -Mr  March 1, 2010 10:16 AM
Objectively and subjectively, we couldn't ask for much more from a comparison test for this type of bike. Thanks M/C-USA!
Morvegil -Lord of Bikes  March 1, 2010 09:28 AM
They dont make a Vstar 1100 anymore. Thats why they made the 950. It was to close in price to the 1300, which is liquid cooled.