Terror in Paradise
When eight cruisers meet, not only is a lot of dust blown up – the world of iron, chrome and plastic trembles to its foundations.
One thing is clear: cruising not only requires more time, but also more space than any other type of motorcycle riding. On top of that, you urgently need good weather. And that’s why we’re relocating our cruiser special to the vastness of southern Spain. We wanted to create perfect conditions to test these special machines under the conditions for which they are intended. With athletes you go to the race track, with enduros in the mountains, with cruisers in the desert. It’s really easy.
The story: four little cruisers ?? BMW R 850 C, Kawasaki VN 800 Drifter, Suzuki VZ 800 Marauder and Yamaha XVS 650 Drag Star Classic ?? dare to challenge the displacement giants Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, Kawasaki VN 1500 Classic, Suzuki VL 1500 Intruder and Yamaha XV 1600 Wild Star. That means: eight cruisers from light to heavy, classic to trendy, original to fake, inexpensive to expensive. And the truth is hidden somewhere between the roughly 2.5 tons of iron, chrome and plastic. Is mass really everything? Does appearance weigh more than function? Is it about performance or driving pleasure? Are the “little ones” better than the “big ones”?
We start with the classic part of any comparison: the functional test. In order to avoid a hopeless mess, only the “little ones” are allowed to show what they have to offer. For example the displacement flea Yamaha Drag Star. Its nominal inferiority, however, only catches the eye on paper. The eye of the beholder is presented with an interpretation of the topic that must be taken seriously. Long and low – long and low, that’s how the cruiser should be. And that’s the drag star. It comes as no surprise that its 650 engine is not a revelation in terms of acceleration and torque. On the other hand, one can give her credit for the fact that she lets you feel a touch of chassis both in the labyrinth of curves of the winding coastal road as well as on brisk stretches of road in the vast interior of the country. Not enough to prevent damage to the intervertebral disc in the long term, but at least sufficient to not get upset with every slight bump in the road.
The Kawasaki VN 800 Drifter behaves similarly well. However, due to its quite impressive size, a little more driving skills are required. The Drifter wants to be circled around the curves with emphasis on the wide, black painted steering antlers. Rocks a little disoriented through the landscape in a slightly inclined position as soon as the rider lets the reins too loose.
Stop. Stop. Something is going wrong. If we continue like this, we will have grumbled about all eight cruisers according to all the rules of technical perfection, without having tracked the inner values of these vehicles. But how do you get on this track??
It’s late. We are standing at a small intersection somewhere in nowhere in southern Spain, to our left the dry hilly landscape of Almeria, to the right the dark blue sea, lined with a few palm trees. Are you heading for the hotel? And then it happens. At first you can only hear the hard blow of a low-speed two-cylinder. Then HE shows up ?? from the backlight of the setting sun: a real biker. On a very old Knucklehead, completely covered in matt black. Brutally loud, bumpy idling, hand-painted, tiny license plate. The guy with sunglasses and a headscarf doesn’t look friendly, but is helpful, explains the way briefly and thunders calmly towards the beach – we understand.
Not just where to get to the hotel. But also how to get on the trail of cruisers. We therefore refer to the upper part of the evaluation table on page 36. Here the pragmatist finds an assessment according to the usual pattern of objective assessment criteria. Here’s just one more thing: Neither the medium nor the top class can find a chassis that meets the demands of modern motorcycle technology. No braking system that corresponds to the performance of a current all-rounder, and no engine output that is technically feasible in relation to displacement and consumption. The only exception is the BMW, provided that the chassis and brakes are involved. Cruisers are just different. The Kawasaki VN 1500 Classic should also be praised: a touch of chassis with a minimum of lean angle, suspension and damping. Decent brakes and an engine that at least subjectively conveys something like the sovereign thump from below.
And that’s that. Out. Finished. No more functional talk. Now let’s get down to business. Cruising means taking your time, smelling, tasting and observing. Gliding through the landscape without rushing, adapting to the rhythm of nature. And as soon as one has freed oneself from the conventional demands of motorcycling, in which dynamics, acceleration, deceleration, lean angle and centrifugal forces play the main role, do the seven chrome flashing actors appear ?? the 800 drifter is black and therefore hardly flashes? in a different light. And the more agile “little ones” lose a lot of their fascination. The extravagant BMW R 850 C in particular suddenly seems out of place. It doesn’t want to come in, the casual feeling. The engine of the 850 reveals a completely inappropriate characteristic. And the unrestricted variant in the R 850 R completely unknown: poor throttle response, extreme constant jerking, stuttering engine running in the lower speed range and annoying vibrations when coasting – just about suitable for sporty road sweeping, for relaxed gliding along completely. The same applies to the sitting position. Nothing long and low, short and high is popular. Throne instead of sinking in, with a wheelbarrow handle instead of a protruding handlebar. If the engine weren’t so badly tuned, the C would still pass as a motorcycle, it doesn’t stand a chance as a cruiser.
No mercy for the Suzuki Marauder either. It just lacks charisma and volume. She can’t shake the “half portion” image. Too thin, too smooth, too soulless. Upside-down fork or water cooling, the Marauder looks as colorless as a wallflower among the cruiser elite. The only conspicuousness remains the extremely getting used to driving behavior. The wide front wheel in conjunction with the stylish but much too narrow handlebars create a sometimes adventurous line. On deeper ruts, loose ground or inclined surfaces, enormous steering forces can occur, which can cause even seasoned men to stumble. And stumbling is not only mega out in cruiser circles.
Ironically, the smallest displacement, the Drag Star, brings the relaxed feeling across quite convincingly. When it comes to torque, there is hanging in the shaft, but the trimmings: two-tone paintwork, perfect rigid frame look, consistent distribution of color and chrome? a true Harley plagiarism. However, it seems a bit silly when the heavy biker boots have to be placed on the rubberized footrests.
The Drifter with its sweeping running boards offers far better staging potential. Whether casually outwardly turned boot tips or flat footwear, the Drifter leaves room to cultivate your own style. And then the thing with the rocker switch and the large foot brake pedal. Cool. The huge fenders, even if they are only made of plastic, extra class. Black lamp, black handlebar, black engine, wouw. Now it’s there, that feeling that a cruiser has to convey. No question about it, the Drifter is the only one from the group of rebellious “little ones” who has what it takes to be bigger.
And bigger is simply more in this case. More mass, more space, more sovereignty, more »viciousness«, in other words full torque. And yet the four cars in this comparison cannot be lumped together. Take the already mentioned Kawasaki VN 1500. The sport cruiser, so to speak. Chassis, brakes, engine okay, sound really good. And yet, there is a lack of charisma. The seating position is not really relaxed, the tank is not big enough, the design is not cool enough. Japanese smooth and perfect. Fuel gauge, fuel tap with reserve position, two helmet locks and even a catalytic converter, the VN even has a sight glass for checking the oil. The positioning of the mighty rocker switch is also perfect. Great for speed cruising, there is better for cozy hours.
Which, however, does not necessarily include the Suzuki Intruder. Not only because the 315 kilogram colossus failed the pull-through test, also not because it consumed huge amounts of fuel in terms of driving performance. No, the Intruder is also equipped with the worst chassis, weak brakes and a miserable light despite two powerful auxiliary headlights. On top of that. As a bonus, Suzuki also packs crash bars, a huge windshield and these more than embarrassing plastic beauty cases with rivet design as a sales-promoting measure in addition to the additional headlights. In this case less would have been more exceptionally.
And so we come to the last two bearers of hope. On the one hand, there is the original from Milwaukee. The Harley-Davidson Fat Boy. Sassy yellow, equipped with the new Twin Cam 88 engine. Despite modern production and meanwhile high quality standards, the original V2 sounds somehow mechanically sick. As if all bearing points had been smeared with grinding paste instead of graphite grease during assembly. It’s unique, that grinding, rubbing sound. Likewise the stumbling idle. Does he die or does he make it over the dead center again? He creates ?? s ?? mostly.
And anyway, the Fat Boy is different, more independent. Also viewed from the outside. Engraved engine covers, chrome-plated oil lines, classic separate gearbox, powerful shift linkage, disc wheels and much more. Everything seems honest through and through. Everything feels rough and unsteady, suggests the pioneering spirit of days gone by. There are certainly better cruisers than the Fat Boy when it comes to chassis. Even the new, more powerful Harley brakes are sure to find their master. But there is exactly one thing that can hardly be improved about her: the feeling.
Only the Yamaha Wild Star can keep up on this point. Feeling. The calming pounding from the depths of its 1,600 cubic centimeters. Good vibrations, they have to be. The Wild Star is not only an almost perfect copy of the American original, it also adds something to it. The beautiful bumper motor stomps under the huge tank like a mighty marine diesel. With a certain amount of unevenness when idling. It’s all there on the Yamaha: timing belt, rigid frame look, chrome and wide steering antlers. But everything is arranged with a fine hand so as not to appear excessive. A flagship of a motorcycle. Brand XXL. And the best thing about it: it works. Not only under rational criteria, also emotionally. Take your time, smell, taste, observe. Hardly faster than 80 km / h, shift gears as little as possible, enjoy the vastness of the southern Spanish desert landscape.
D.he thing has only one catch. In Germany there are alpine passes, clogged motorways, hectic cities and densely populated surrounding areas. The great expanse is missing, the hot weather mostly too. And under such conditions, even the best cruiser finds it difficult to arouse the right emotions.
Yamaha XVS Drag Star Classic – The Baby Harley
Long and low. Despite its weak engine, the Drag Star Classic embodies the American philosophy almost perfectly
Suzuki VZ 800 Marauder – The minimal cruiser
Little engine, little chassis, little styling. Nowhere is there really much missing, but it is missing
Kawasaki VN 800 Drifter – The Retro Indian
Huge fenders, if only made of plastic. Running boards and rocker switch. The Drifter looks amazingly grown up
BMW R 850 C – The anti-cruiser
Good chassis, good brakes, good sprinter qualities. Just cruising, it doesn’t quite work out
Accessory addresses –
ABM: footrest systems, CNC parts; Telephone 07667 / 944625AME: frame and wheel kits, complete conversions; Telephone 05601 / 202224Arlen Ness: Parts and conversions for Harley; Telephone 07223 / 80940Custom Chrome: Everything for Harleys; Telephone 0671 / 8888868Falcon: handlebars, parts, exhaust systems and footrests for choppers and cruisers; Telephone 07023 / 95230Fehling: handlebars, sissy bars and grills for choppers and cruisers; Telephone 02377/2033 Five Stars: conversion parts for choppers and cruisers; Telephone 06002 / 910391FS Chopper accessories: Fork and footrest conversions for Harleys and Japan ChopperHM Motoaccessoires B.V .: parts and conversions for many Japan models; Telephone 0031/315/655074 Kess-Tech: Exhaust systems for Harley-Davidson and Japan models LSL: Handlebars, footrest systems, sports conversion for Harley Sportster models; Telephone 02151 / 555915Müller Technology: Harley conversions and parts; Telephone 08252 / 83268Phoenix: wheels, undercarriages and other parts for choppers and cruisers; Telephone 0241/5688222 Seeger: footrest systems; Telephone 07533/82580 Thunderbike: Modifications and parts for Chopper and Cruiser models from Suzuki; Phone 02852/72914 Tom ?? s Motorcycle Products: Everything for Harleys; Telephone 0671 / 65014W & W: Custom parts for Harley-Davidson; Telephone 0931/2506115 Zodiac: Custom-Parts for Harley-Davidson; Telephone 02154/428828
It’s not just the machines that make cruising so fascinating. It is the connection between the concentrated mass on the one hand and the seemingly endless expanse on the other. And the more of each, the better. It has been working in the USA for tens of years, it also works here in the barren, hot south of Spain. It becomes more difficult when the traffic in Germany becomes more dense, the weather worse, the landscape becomes narrower and the ice cream parlors have already closed. Here the dream of freedom is easily shaken, here a Harley quickly looks arrogant, a Drifter overdone and a Wild Star bulky. From a technical and driving dynamics point of view, the eight cruisers don’t exactly create high spirits. Grumpy, you say? Oh no. With a spark of imagination, the drag star becomes Harley and Bottrop becomes Boston ?? and the perfect cruiser world is all right again.
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