Harley-Davidson knows a thing a two about customizing factory bikes. Yearly it releases its Custom Vehicle Operations line showcasing the best paint, shiniest chrome and highest performance you can buy straight from The Motor Company. But custom-quality bikes aren’t relegated strictly to its high-end CVO line. In 2008, it introduced the Rocker C to its Softail family, a stretched-out and slammed factory custom with a chopped front fender, a fat back tire and a look that pays homage to the hard tails of old thanks to hidden horizontally mounted coil-over belly shocks. The Rocker C gets its name in part thanks to a rear fender mounted to the swingarm that “rocks” with the rear suspension to maintain its tire-hugging position over the 240mm rear Dunlop. The bike also gets the full Harley treatment of high-dollar paint under deep clearcoating on a tank that’s finished by hand.
Other manufacturers have recently realized there is a market for bar-hopping bikes, especially in the American cruiser-loving demographic. Granted, these motorcycles are more suited for rumbling down the Sunset Strip than serious iron butt road trips, but scooting around on a thumping V-Twin with your front end kicked out at a heavy rake carries a certain machismo to it. Honda realized this fact last year when it released its 2010 Fury, a big leap from the conservative styling of its previous cruisers. Not to be outdone by its adversaries, Star Motorcycles introduced its own factory custom chopper in October when it invited a bunch of throttle-happy motojournalists to sample its latest cruiser, the 2011 Star Stryker.
These bikes are all about image, so to ensure that the Stryker had competitive styling chops, Star enlisted the services of custom builder Jeff Palhegyi, whose work has graced the pages of many a motorcycle magazine. Star also sourced an outside design company, GKDI out of California, to help dial in the Stryker’s styling. The result is a raked-out chopper with a high, open neck that drops down to a low-slung saddle with a wide, custom-painted tank sandwiched in between. Tall up front, fat out back with burly pipes sweeping down its right side, the Stryker serves the Star Motorcycle line as a factory custom chopper.
Both bikes feature long telescopic forks, the Rocker C’s 19-inch front hoop stuck out at a 37-degree fork angle with the Stryker’s 21-inch tall front wheel chopped out even more at 40 degrees. The bikes are both stretched out long, with the Rocker C’s 69.2-inch dimensions just a tad more than the Stryker’s 68.9-inch measurements. Forward mounted controls and pull back handlebars mean upright ergos are almost identical in the low-riding seats with a rider’s arms up slightly higher on the Rocker C thanks to a five-inch chrome riser. Nestled within the tubular steel double cradle frames of both motorcycles sits a potent V-Twin engine. The rigid-mounted, air-cooled Twin Cam 96B of the Rocker C has a 280cc advantage over the liquid-cooled, counter-balanced mill of the Star Stryker. But what it lacks in displacement, the Stryker compensates for litheness at 78 pounds lighter than the Harley, with the Rocker C tipping our scales laden at 722 pound while the Stryker weighed in a comparatively svelte 644 pounds in running order. Both bikes also sport a wide rear profile as Harley equipped the Rocker C with a 240mm rear tire while Star mounted a 210mm chunk of rubber on the back of the Stryker.
To test the merits of these around-town cruisers, we headed to our favorite SoCal watering hole, Cook’s Corner. We did label these as bar hoppers after all, right? But we weren’t there for the biker bar atmosphere or cold beer. We actually utilized the twisting roads of Trabuco Canyon and the surrounding area to see how these bikes dealt with tight corners and steep grades. Next up were stints on the speedway also known as the 405 to test how well they maneuvered in highway traffic and to find out more about the quality of ride they provide on grooved surfaces and bumpy pavement. We threw in some cruises along the Pacific Coast Highway to catch the sun setting over the Pacific for good measure before our final test, a few street drags to find out which beast could get up to freeway speeds the fastest. How’d the two match up? Read on.