Am I the only one that thinks cruiser riders are different from other bikers? Not different in a bad way, just ploughing a different furrow.
You rarely meet someone on a cruiser that owns any other type of motorcycle. Likewise, if you meet a biker with a few different bikes in the garage, it’s rare that they’ve got a cruiser in their line-up. We’re both flowing in our own way but it’s sort of oil meets water, if you will.
If you’ve never ridden a custom or cruiser, you’re missing out. There is laid-back side to motorcycling and that’s what cruisers are all about. Yes, they’re slower and don’t handle as well as a typical ‘modern’ motorcycle but if you’ve ever heard anyone moan about a Harley they rode, then they’ve missed the point.
Harley Davidson’s bikes are certainly a staple in the cruiser world but they’re not the be-all-and-end-all of cruising. There are lots of good cruisers from European and Japanese manufacturers.
The Japanese can’t bring themselves to produce a motorbike that doesn’t have a good gearbox, decent brakes and solid build quality which in some ways means they’ve ironed out some of the ‘character’ that the American cruiser brands sell themselves on.
Cruiser motorcycles make great beginner bikes too and there are many 125cc cruisers on the market. Cruisers have a low seat height, low centre of gravity, they usually have a v-twin engine which means you don’t need to rev it for it to make power and they tend to have a softer power delivery. These are all great things for beginner riders.
Cruisers aren’t all massive 1,500cc engines either, there are lots of good mid-size brand new offerings, from Harley, Kawasaki and Honda and if you are happy with an older model there are loads out there.
We’ve focused on budget for this cruiser review. Anyone can buy a cruiser for £8,000+ but we’ve set a maximum budget of £4,000 and our choices start at £1,500. So if you’re watching the pennies but keen to get out there and get the wind in your hair, these are some great picks for you.
Here’s a full run-down of each of these great bikes:
Kawasaki VN900 Key Specs
Not exactly a vintage treasure but a Kawasaki have built a really handsome cruiser. The Vulcan VN900 is also pretty cheap. Really good ones can be had for £3,000.
The smaller yet capable engine fuels more smooth rides in true ‘big cruiser’ style.
Perfectly balanced and easy to ride, it’s a great choice for rookies who have just obtained an A2 licence. Low, the ergonomic seat also makes it ideal for longer-haul journeys.
Suzuki Intruder 125 Key Specs
The Suzuki Intruder 125 is perfect for young riders with big aspirations and it’s a great 125cc cruiser.
CBT-compliant, it has classic chopper looks and is quite comfortable thanks to its low seat height. A miniature version of the larger Intruders, it’s easy to control and perfectly balanced. It’s not made for long-haul riding, but it delivers satisfaction on city streets or shorter journeys. Good examples can be found around the £1,500 mark.
Yamaha XV535 Key Specs
Yamaha Virago XV535 is one of the cheapest classic cruisers and it’s aged well.
Introduced in 1987 and discontinued in 2003, it’s a great choice for those who crave that real cruiser feel and couldn’t care less about top speed. You’re looking at anything between £1,500 and £3,000 for a really good one.
A heavily chromed body styling gives it a distinctive, bad boy look, while the V-twin engine still delivers the performance you’d expect from a small-capacity, A2-compliant old-school bike.
Victory V92 Key Specs
A cheap alternative to a Harley but still a proper lump of American Muscle.
The Victory V92 is an American-built big-engine cruiser that won’t pass unnoticed.
Distinctive lines and engine roar announce its presence but don’t expect jaw-dropping top speeds. Despite the big engine, this bike is easy-going and behaves predictably even though it’s on the heftier side. It’s not the easiest to find on the used market, but when you can find one they tend to hover around the £4,000 mark. It’s an interesting bike that has reached the bottom of its depreciation curve meaning it’s cheap biking!
Yamaha Virago 1100 Key Specs
Japanese cruiser enthusiasts looking for a bigger bike might just fall for Virago 1100.
Similar to its smaller 535 brothers from an aesthetic standpoint, it showcases the same chromed details and retro lines Yamaha Virago is famous for.
One of the few cruisers out there with shaft drive instead of a chain or belt transmission, they’re quite long in the tooth now but there are lots of very low mileage examples out there and they’re cheap to run. Good ones cost around £2,500 to £3,000.
If you’re a shorter rider, these are the types of bikes you can get your leg over and both feet on the ground, no problem. Yes, the larger-engined ones will be heavy but all have a low seat height making them a good motorcycle for shorter bikers.
Keep in mind that the easiest way to tell whether or not a bike is right for you is by trying it out. So, visit your local dealer, sit on the bike and see which bike is the most suitable for your height and riding style.
Remember, you can use insoles or buy boots with thicker soles to give you a tiny bit more height. You can also get seats re-trimmed to remove some height and width to allow your legs the best possible chance of making contact with terra firma.
Even though I think cruiser riders are different from other bikers, that doesn’t mean a cruiser isn’t a fun bike to ride. If you prefer life in the slow lane, then a cruiser is a great choice.
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