Comparison test Cruiser, BMW R 1200 C, Harley-Davidson Electra Glide, Honda F6C, Moto Guzzi California EV
Whom the hour strikes
One day they'll get you: BMW R 1200 C, Harley-Davidson Road King, Honda F6C and Moto Guzzi California – heavy chunks for carefree cruising, flashing chrome demonstration machines with built-in audience applause, profound low-rise buildings for soaring emotions, seduction artists all of them.
Not an hour strikes the lucky one. But what can be done to achieve this timeless state of deep well-being? Throw away the watch? A nice approach. Firing up the appointment calendar? Not bad either. Pee in the boss's desk drawer? Certainly highly satisfying for the moment, but an action with risks and side effects. Would you rather buy a cruiser and drive away from the pressures of everyday life? If you believe the advertising messages of the motorcycle suppliers, this is the safest and most risk-free way to the desired state of self-forgetfulness. It should become the royal road if it is trodden with a large displacement and on a large foot – as with the showpieces from BMW, Harley, Honda and Moto Guzzi, the crown jewels among escape vehicles.
just at the moment
Cruisers are not bought with the head, but with the stomach – they say. But how – please – should the middle of the body come to the decision-making, if not through a – you see – good connection to the eye. In the face of the four showmen, the tears come instantly. Tears of joy, of course: lots of characters, strong personalities, no trace of genetically engineered mass-produced goods.
For example the R 1200 C. This machine not only opens a new chapter in BMW motorcycle construction, it also carries new messages into the cruiser essence. With its masses around the mighty engine block, the airy appearance of the rear section, the no-frills roofed wheels, it proves that it doesn't take either sheer size or excessive body swelling to hit the issue.
Which does not mean that the BMW is all about German objectivity: The speedometer dial in the style of old VDO watches and the lines on the tank and fenders are sympathetic reminiscences of rubber cows of bygone days. On the other hand, the designers got stuck here and there: The R 1200 C gets lost in details in too many playful curves that give it a somewhat disreputable touch – keyword: motorcycle for warm showerers.
The Harley Electra Glide Road King is a Harley Electra Glide – that says it all. This motorcycle with its seemingly endless line of ancestors does the only right thing stylistically: It quotes itself. What appears to be placed on and intentional elsewhere – the thickly wrapped fork legs, the tank console, the rustic V2 with the circular air filter housing – here it is on its ancestral, natural place.
Although the Road King objectively flaunts a heavy dose of chrome and polished aluminum, it can evade the allegation of eyewash. Firstly, everything that glitters is metal, secondly, the effect of the glittering work in the shadow of large painted surfaces is lost to a digestible level. In addition, the case and windshield of the Road King make an important contribution to personality development: They take them from the show bike corner and stamp them as the serious long-distance cruiser.
It was once said that you meet the nicest people on a Honda. Which implied that nice motorcycles would inevitably find their way into the hands of nice people. At that time, however, the F 6 C did not yet exist.
The F 6 C is not a nice motorcycle, it is the exterminator among cruisers: longer than long, wider than wide, heavy without end and armed to the teeth. Efforts to test the appearance of the Honda for subtle design finesse are just as ineffective in this collection of superlatives as the attempt to break down the system of the Honda electroplating companies. Working hypothesis: Everything was dipped that was suitable for chrome plating.
Overall, the F 6 C shows on the one hand the inevitable insignia of Japanese cruiser construction – swelling fenders, XXL tires, plush upholstery – and on the other hand it hits the techno notch with an upside-down fork and conventional, functional instrumentation. No coherent overall concept that betrayed the hand of an accomplished designer.
Did the Moto Guzzi flinch for a moment? No wonder, because the California is not exactly a one-piece motorcycle either. Rather, a basically conventional motorcycle – a classic one on top of that – that was brought on cruiser course with running boards, crash bars, handlebars, chrome trims here and chrome trims there. Without resounding success: The round tank clings to the modernist-edged cylinder heads, the »cruiser« elements distributed over the machine do not come together, in short: there were already more coherently designed Calis – it was a few years ago.
Howling and chattering teeth
What matters is what comes out at the back – this basic rule of pragmatism should also be applicable to cruisers. Anyone who claims that a longitudinally installed V2 is the only blissful source of propulsion for two-wheeled road cruisers will quickly be brought down to earth by the Harley. Its twin bumper has little to offer besides its imposing appearance: little sound, little power on a narrow bandwidth, little bite, hardly any vibrations – they largely seep away into the elastic engine suspension. What remains are the good throttle response and the modest fuel consumption of the injection engine. The hard and noisy gearbox alone provides memories of more rustic times.
Rattling is part of the trade – this is the motto of the transversely driving California V2 propellant. Valves tickle, there is a loud hum from airy mufflers, the gearbox works noticeably and audibly with claws and teeth – this warms the machinist's heart. It's nice that the Guzzi not only produces sound but also smoke. From the smallest cubic capacity in comparison, it conjures up the second highest performance, which on top of that spans a wide usable range – a pleasing offer that is sweetened by remarkably low consumption values. The engine layout gives the California subtle pulsating vibrations and less subtle reverse torque on the longitudinal crankshaft.
The BMW can also tell a thing or two about that, staggering violently around its longitudinal axis when there are sudden jumps in speed. On the other hand, the 1200 boxer finds it difficult to trigger a rapture of joy. With its brave torque offer in the lower creative range and its aversion to high speeds, on the one hand it challenges low-speed driving, on the other hand it spoils a relaxed pace through hectic reactions – violent tearing and rough braking – in the partial load range. Discrepancies also in the area of acoustics: the tinny exhaust sound, but above all the bloodcurdling clatter that comes to light when the clutch is magic in first gear, spoil the driving pleasure.
A source of pure joy, on the other hand, is the Honda six-cylinder, which finally pushes the two-cylinder postulate from its base: with power to the point and at every nook and cranny of the wide rev range, with the highest level of smoothness, mechanically quiet, without load change reactions, coupled with a comparatively soft and low-noise gearbox. And finally the musicality of the boxer: a six-cylinder choir that lets itself be carried up to the highest voices by a restrained grumbling while idling. Howling without chattering teeth – the Honda shows how it's done.
How do you drive??
Everything is relative – so nobody would get the idea of wanting an F 6 engine for every cruiser. Tea Road King, for example, would break. Its chassis could not take more horsepower than the decrepit Harley engine exhumed. If the V2 throws itself to the full, you already have your hands full to keep the comfortably coordinated load on race. If, on top of that, potholes and other wickedness appear under the fat 16-inch tires, the Road King gets upset: The hopelessly underdamped spring elements provoke lasting, sometimes even scary pendulum phenomena when tilted.
So it is better to stay on the passive side, let life approach you at a moderate pace, lounging in the saddle, enjoying the offered seating and suspension comfort and: Don't just take turns, but celebrate – with the prudence that a 325 kilogram classic can now take advantage of.
Tea Motorbike Guzzi proves that classics can also be completely different. There is nothing foolish about her, rather she is one of the tough activists: tight spring elements, easy handling, strong brakes, stable overall constitution. You can pepper the California around as you like, neither brisk speed nor attractive sloping areas set limits to the drive.
Tea Guzzi is an athlete at her heart. The cruising thing was pressed on her eye. Unmistakable evidence for this theory: the rebound and compression adjustment on the fork and shock absorber – in case you find yourself on the racetrack one day. In real life, however, at least the rear-facing setting options are superfluous: even if all the signs there are on "soft", the Guzzi hindquarters strikes with relentless harshness at the slightest cause.
The F 6 serves more digestible food, which does not pass every forked dung towards the top of the skull. A pinch of comfort mixed with a good dose of stability – the chassis of the F 6 was created according to this recipe. And it works. In all situations – even when the engine ignites its fireworks and tears at the cardan with the power of its six hearts: the Honda can take it. The fact that the fork starts to stuck on third-rate country roads is noted under the heading "minor weaknesses", especially since this flaw does not cause misery, but only requires more energetic grip on the handlebars.
Firm gripping is required with the F 6 C anyway. After all, 335 kilograms of motorcycles don't drive around the corner on their own – especially if they are spread across the board. The Honda is not handy, that's for sure, but – mind you – it drives easier than you think.
Of course, the F 6 C never comes close to the ease with which an R 1200 C roams through the tar world. Even the Guzzi has to fit there. A real talent for movement, this Bavarian newcomer, drives circles for the competition when it matters. In addition, it trumps with its modern front wheel guidance: There is no better garbage chute under the sun than this Telelever, which almost completely removes any impurities in road construction. At the stern, on the other hand, conditions prevail like in the past. Comfort? Not remotely. Feels damn like a rigid frame – and much worse than in the individual test (MOTORRAD 17/1997), where the chapter series dispersion has already been touched on.
One passenger can completely spoil the fun on the R 1200 C. First it hangs in your back, then in your ears: Where to – please – hold on and what a lousy number that is, with this joke about a seat. Apart from interpersonal disturbances, the two-person operation also provokes unrest in the chassis, instigated by the underdamped central spring strut. By the way: For just under 500 marks, BMW offers a pillion seat that a pillion can sit on.
In the realm of the senses
Cruising is not the same as cruising – this ancient Chinese wisdom still persists at the end of the 20th century. While some still find their salvation in the pulsation of two running boards under their feet, others seek their happiness with their right hand.
We don't know what your image consultant recommends, we can only suggest: Don't do it. Do not ask your gas station attendant or your pharmacist and do not listen to anyone who claims to know something about cruising. Cruising is a matter of interpretation, a matter of the senses.
Cruising is: driving a BMW. Sit morally, act morally. Pushing the good-natured load in front of you on the softly mounted wheelbarrow handles in the gentleman's style, hardly wasting a thought on the chauffeur yourself, because it practically runs alongside. Swimming in the flow of time without any excitement. Everything will be fine in the saddle of the R 1200 C. The world is a pink cotton ball and everyone loves each other.
Cruising is driving a Harley. Legs apart, extra cool. Boot heels casually thrown onto the running boards, hands laid loosely on the knee-deep handlebars. Zero problem with the external image. You are taken seriously: you drive a Harley. A feeling that cannot be replaced by anything. Performance deficit – so what? The Road King is moving. Only that counts. And she does it for you. Gives everything. Always. She is the rock in the surf, the stone on which the achievement society breaks. She determines the rhythm, you join in.
Cruising is driving a Honda. Turn the throttle grip and grin, turn the throttle grip and laugh, turn the throttle grip and leave everything that annoys behind you. Driving F 6 is cruising in its weirdest form, it is power, power and glory. Powersurfing, synthetic – kind of, but highly ingenious. The dignity of the six-cylinder is inviolable, and the dignity of the person who serves it is no less. You become part of this great machine.
Cruising is: driving a Moto Guzzi. Biological, dynamic. A California under the bum feels like whole grain bread between your teeth: hearty and outrageously healthy. It looks agricultural through and through, the Guzzi, gives the impression that it can be repaired with a hammer and chisel if necessary. If she could do what she wanted she would certainly get rid of the chrome bezels that were used to trim her on Show Bike.
VS.ruisen is … actually not much different from riding a motorcycle. The only difference is that when riding a motorcycle, the path is the goal, while cruising the goal is in the way. It continues beyond the horizon …
Conclusion Motorcycle Guzzi
If you dream of dolce fare niente, you should rub your eyes as quickly as possible, because Mediterranean light-heartedness is the last thing you can expect from California. At its core, it is a completely normal motorcycle – manageable, directionally stable, powered by a rough but hearty engine. Even if such qualities may not have top priority when cruising, they pay off if you want to use the California – certainly in the sense of its inventors – primarily for motorcycling.
Not a motorcycle that the dentist recommends to his family: When it comes down to it, the F 6 C tears in such a way that it almost pulls the seals out of your teeth. No question about it, the bite of this six-cylinder bolide degrades other cruisers to denture wearers. The question of whether exuberant driving dynamics can be used without regrets can be answered with a clear "yes". The F 6 C brings its performance to the road, it can be moved nicely piano if necessary, and it does not even neglect comfort.
“Try some coziness,” grumbles the Road King with conviction. A request that is gladly obeyed, because the neat, but very sedate acting engine and the underdamped chassis nip sporty ambitions in the bud. In return, you get good seating and suspension comfort, which gives the driver and passenger the certainty of being on the right boat in the long term. And last but not least, the Road King gives you the good feeling of driving a Harley in the most unsavory way possible.
Its courage to flattering forms makes the BMW appear a little – let's say – eccentric, which has earned it the nickname "King Ludwig" internally. In principle, the R 1200 C is well equipped for royal amusement: with a stable, easy-to-use chassis, good brakes and a motor with an impressive torque base. Unfortunately, the dream of relaxed, comfortable driving breaks in real life: the hard rear wheel suspension and the hectic load change reactions of the engine.
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