Cruiser comparison test
Wonderful world of gravity
Fat cruisers transform even the wildest fellows into lamb-pious boys. Provided you find the time to really and truly get involved with machines like a Harley Fat Boy, Kawasaki VN 1500 Classic or Suzuki VL 1500 Intruder.
The world is upside down. Trees rush past at breathtaking speed, forming a narrow tunnel that irresistibly determines the direction. Pieces of white cloud fly over the steel-blue sky as if driven by a hurricane, repeatedly submerging the bizarre scenery in short, cool shadows. Cruising can be this dynamic: the world as a fleeting distorted image, as a reflection in a huge chrome-plated lamp housing.
If the slightly lowered gaze wanders back up, there is sudden calm. The clouds hang dutifully in the sky, the trees are far away by the roadside, and the rest of the world moves rather leisurely towards horse and rider. This is cruiser driving in reality. Or just dream, whatever you like. In the present case, one way or another at the highest level, because the lubricants in this comparison do not belong in the children’s toy category. Rather, it is about the really big things, the displacement heroes of the highway.
Harley Davidson Fat Boy, a name that actually doesn’t allow any further questions, but is still a bit misleading because life can always get worse. In the form of the Kawasaki VN 1500 Classic, for example. More displacement, more weight, more wheelbase, more fenders. With the new edition of the VN Classic, Kawasaki not only left it with external, rather inconspicuous retouching, but also addressed the serious problems with the valve train. The occasional and temporary cardiac arrests of earlier VN engines are no longer to be expected after a thorough revision of the hydraulic valve clearance compensation.
However, all of this is topped by the youngest member of the cruiser guild, Suzuki’s VL 1500 Intruder. With almost identical cubic capacity, just a meager kilogram more in mass, but the dimensions of a low-loader, the new model by far surpasses both of its competitors. No one makes a more impression. The bench alone has the dimensions of a middle-class corner sofa, and with the amount of chrome half the Eiffel Tower could be permanently protected from rust.
On top of that, Suzuki knows perfectly how to stage illusions. Almost nothing is what it seems or what it seems. The triangular, chrome-plated air filter housing, placed in proper style on the right between the two cylinders, is empty. After opening the quick release, the expected air filter does not appear, but a small storage compartment for personal odds and ends. The huge tank does not store gasoline, but hides that air filter that was just missing. The fuel sloshes in a sheet metal container under the seat, and the on-board tools, which can usually be found there, are hidden behind the shiny left gearbox cover. Yes, yes, everything was different in the past.
However, it is doubtful whether everything was better in the past. After all, things like cardan drive, trip meter, fuel gauge or hydraulically operated clutch make cruiser life more comfortable.
The feeling, however, remains unchanged when the displacement cars make their first expressions of life. All three engines need the active support of the mixture enrichment for a relatively long time before they steam away almost silently with their own calm. Only the classic bumper vau of the Fat Boy underlines its resting heart rate with slight vibrations.
These then increase with increasing speed, especially in the sweeping running boards, to such a powerful shaking that the driver almost falls off the flesh from the shin bones at maximum speed. But who drives a Harley at maximum speed, even if it is only around 5000 rpm?
At most the one who has a VN or VL driver as a buddy and therefore has to cover up motor inferiority with rather atypical acts of strength. The Suzuki driver can take it the easiest. The measured 66 PS of its VL may seem rather poor in view of the 1.5 liter displacement of its propellant, but are completely sufficient to breathe life into the term cruising. For stress-free gliding in the big gear, these 66 ponies are enough.
However, for the Suzi, as for everyone else involved, the high gear is only sensible to use from around 60 km / h. Those who drive more slowly confront the otherwise tame engines with wild bucking and bucking. The only thing that helps is: No more casual and downshifting. Anyone who has so far only been able to fall back on experience with a large four-cylinder à la Bandit 1200 or ZRX 1100 will be more than disappointed by the proverbial sovereignty and torque of the cruiser.
The original from the USA in particular requires a lot of manual work. Whether in city traffic or on the country road: the lack of pulling power repeatedly forces loud and cracking gear changes. Anyone who wants to increase speed by around 80 things at a relaxed country road pace, be it for the fun of the Freud or to overtake even slower vehicles, should let the transmission crack twice to ensure the necessary propulsion.
Suzuki and Kawasaki convey a clear plus in sovereignty, are far ahead of the Harley in terms of engine performance, acceleration and torque. Above all, the Suzuki pleases with a little more bang in the middle and upper regions. The American original stands out from the two water-cooled Japan cruisers with annoying vibrations. They only release a pleasant, calming pulsation of the moving proportions from the inside of their steely hearts. The gears slide, even if not completely silently, at least much more easily and, thanks to the ergonomically better designed shift paddles, much more casually than with the Harley, which is traditionally committed to rough mechanics.
The drinking habits of the three test subjects, on the other hand, are anything but casual. If you consider the not exactly lush power output, the low speed level and the rather scanty performance of the displacement giants, then the fuel consumption is unhealthy disproportionate. Even the more economical Suzuki can only pass as one-eyed among the blind. The unregulated catalytic converter in connection with the secondary air system of the Kawasaki, politically correct and environmentally extremely effective, cannot make up for this deficiency.
For enjoyable windjamming, however, not only a powerful drive is required, but also a decent hull and a wide sail pole. And once again the Intruder can outperform the competition. But their superlative appearance also has disadvantages, namely when the driver measures less than 170 centimeters in length. Then the handlebar ends and running boards are almost inaccessible, and an arm’s length of ten centimeters is missing for turning maneuvers with a large steering angle.
When it comes to handiness (what a funny word given these three steel steeds), the Harley is doing well. Anyone who switches from the Suzuki to the Fat Boy immediately thinks of the Yamaha XV 535. Narrow, low and unusually light-footed when changing direction of any kind. It’s just a shame that the spring elements don’t really feel. Waves and blows are simply ignored by the hindquarters and passed on almost unprocessed.
The Kawasaki is the least likely to cross-break on poor roads. The rejection of the rigid frame look so popular among cruiser fans is worthwhile. The thickly hooded telescopic fork and the two conventional suspension struts do a good job on poor ground. You can really feel a kind of modern chassis here. The VN quickly made itself the darling of the tortured test crew. Not as easy to control as the Harley, at least the Suzuki drives away easily on winding streets. Only when the roads become level and, above all, straighter again, the somewhat clumsy Intruder can make up ground. The running boards, which are all set up early, guarantee that the tempi is strictly within the legal framework.
Which is also quite good for three reasons. First: If you want to make the world your friend on a cruiser, you shouldn’t be in a hurry. Second: At speeds over 140 km / h, the chassis stability is no longer that far off. And thirdly: The sparse braking systems are less likely to reach the limits of their capabilities at a moderate pace. Because all three cruisers have to be content with a single disc brake per wheel. Each with a maximum of two pistons per pair of pliers. It’s a good thing the huge footbrake pedals can take a hard kick with the boot. Except for the really decent front brake of the Suzuki, there is little that can be achieved with sensitivity. Even if the times are over when Easy Rider had their boot heels replaced instead of the brake pads at every inspection: You are still a long way away from a well-dosed, effective function, especially with the Fat Boy.
The instrument consoles offer a more suitable field for cultivating traditional values. Every decent cruiser swears by it, even if the magnificent speedometers and lights unfortunately slip out of view when using a full-face helmet. They still provide useful information: for example, a fuel gauge shows the Kawasaki surfer when the tank is expected to ebb, the Intruder can memorize two digital trip values at the same time, only the Harley tries, as usual, to make its small indicator lights completely useless by means of weak lights close. Instead, the lockable ignition switch on the Harley tank is a pleasure. Really convenient and well worth imitating.
Although a couple of kilograms are hardly important with the thick gliders, longer tours with an escort are not recommended. Not because the machines would be overwhelmed, but rather for humanitarian reasons. Even if the size of the passenger cushion of the Suzuki is hardly inferior to the driver’s sofa, the elevated seating position with the legs slightly bent forward is quite uncomfortable in the long run.
In general, the comfort: The sitting posture may seem so loose and relaxed for the first 100 kilometers, but it soon turns out that cruising requires a good level of athletic ability to take it. Hardly a back muscle that didn’t hurt the cruiser apprentice like hell after a day of dedicated strolling around. The sales strategists are therefore advised to include ten vouchers for a massage when buying such a cruiser.
A.In view of the high prices of 20,670 marks for the Kawasaki and 19,490 marks for the Suzuki, one or two extra should fit into the calculation anyway. The Harley Fat Boy, on the other hand, is in a class of its own. The fact that their price was corrected upwards by 770 marks after the VAT hike no longer makes the cabbage fat. With 30,880 marks for the basic model, it is the undisputed winner in this discipline. Those who opt for a metallic paint, the two-tone variant or even the anniversary model can add up to 1620 marks on top. But myths are not measured in marks or dollars. Who exchanges an Elvis autograph for one from Guildo Horn??
Accessories – cruiser accessories: playing field for individualists
There is practically nothing that is not there. Whether it’s a sissy bar, chrome-plated axle caps, additional headlights or windshields, whoever buys cruisers gets the right accessories catalog tucked under their arm from the importer. True masterpieces of literature open up to interested retrofitters, as in the case of the 60-page edition of Harley Davidson. In contrast to the small but not necessarily cheap accessories such as radiator covers or brand emblems for side covers and air filter boxes is also in the catalogs find quite useful accessories. Windshields are right at the top of the ranking when it comes to improving not only their appearance but also the quality of life. The prices for the windows, which are offered in different heights, are between 450 and 600 marks, depending on the version. And they are well invested. Because now the open face helmet can finally be used, which, if not for safety reasons, then at least because of the unpleasant tingling sensation when a swarm of mosquitoes hit, was worn with a queasy feeling. In general, the driving characteristics are not impaired by the addition of the large wind deflectors. Only at higher speeds can there be slight pendulum movements and louder wind noises, especially when driving in the air vortex of vehicles in front. The focus was therefore on the positive properties of the windshields. They keep the upper body almost free from annoying wind pressure and therefore finally enable acceptable long-term speeds despite the protruding antler handlebars. The view through the only moderately curved panes, which hardly vibrate even at high speeds, is perfect even when wet. And the workmanship of the windshields and their predominantly chrome flashing attachments are definitely convincing.
1st place – Suzuki VL 1500 Intruder
The Suzuki ensures clear conditions from the start. Huge in size, huge in appearance. Although it adheres to the cruiser rules of the game with its massive Vau engine and rigid frame optics, it surprises with unconventional details such as the location of the air filter and tank barrel. The heavy-duty transporter with wide tires pushes ahead appropriately thanks to its sufficient power and, at least on well-developed roads, conveys that carefree easy-rider feeling. Another plus point are the decent brakes compared to the competition.
3rd place – Harley Davidson Fat Boy
Just the last seat for a Harley again? What should the test driver say? Quite simply: put better brakes on it, breathe 20 hp more into the bumper Vau and install proper spring elements. There is nothing wrong with the basic idea of the Fat Boy. It’s only the many little things, such as cables and cables that are sloppily laid on the handlebars, that call the high price into question. Something can be made of the American dream, as most Harley owners impressively prove with their own modifications. In the standard trim, however, the Japanese can do significantly more today.
2nd place – Kawasaki VN 1500 Classic
Just a hair’s breadth from the new Suzuki, the Kawasaki is still a good choice. A powerful, cultivated engine, enough mass for the appropriate public impact and the best chassis in this comparison, with which even worse roads can be included in the UN area of activity. The Kawa could, however, use a second brake disc, as is also used in the sister model Classic Tourer. The high fuel consumption is difficult to tolerate despite the good environmental compatibility thanks to the unregulated catalytic converter and secondary air system.
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