It used to be that a motorcycle was a motorcycle, and the definition was quite simple; two wheels and a motor. However, over the years technology has fractured a simple vehicular category and transformed motorcycling into a variety of subgenres which satisfy the specific interests of individual consumers.
The advancements in technology and mechanical design have pushed the boundaries of what is possible with a motorcycle (just check out the performance numbers of this year’s literbikes). Yet, despite the proliferation of technology, motorcycles that adhere to a classic paradigm at the expense of performance (cruisers) are one of the most popular categories, period.
If you’re a fan of cruisers, thank Harley-Davidson. The Motor Company’s stubbornness or quest to remain true to its roots has developed a following that millions of people in and outside of the U.S. are obsessed with. Other manufacturers, hoping to get a piece of the billion-dollar industry, began designing bikes in the same traditional mold and the cruiser genre proliferated.
Unfortunately, the desire to own a bike with a classic cruiser look requires a sacrifice in performance for aesthetics. However, in the past few years many manufacturers have blurred the boundaries of the cruiser market by upping displacement and fitting cruisers with high-performance components like sportbike brakes and inverted forks. Together with increasingly larger displacements and a subsequent increase in power, quarter-mile times have dropped and top speeds have been raised. In the process, manufacturers have created yet another sub-genre called the performance cruiser. This is a place where you can haul some serious ass but look like a bad muthaf@#! while doing it.
Our performance cruiser test started innocently enough at an MCUSA roundtable session. The Bruiser Cruiser comparo had sparked such an impressive debate on the message boards regarding the differences between a Bruiser Cruiser and a Performance Cruiser, so we had no choice but to take this opportunity to set the record straight on what exactly is a performance cruiser.
Here we have five different machines that were all designed to do the same thing: Get you from point A to point B with a huge grin on your face.
Initially, the definition of a performance cruiser seemed to be easy to describe. Basically, we were looking for a cruiser-styled bike without as many of the dynamic compromises this style of bike typically brings.
When the smoke settled we were looking at a five-bike shootout between the Yamaha Warrior, Honda VTX1800F, Victory Hammer, Kawasaki Mean Streak, and the Harley-Davidson Street Rod. They are all designed to pump out some impressive performance numbers while scattering the crowds off the local boulevard, all while searching for oblique back roads to decimate accordingly.
Yet, as we took possession of this quintet of V-Twins, we were still debating the minute details of what a performance cruiser is. Thus, this comparison test would be as much about defining the category as it would be about picking a winner. Sit back and read on as we explore the high and lows of these five bikes in our quest to find the ultimate performance cruiser.