Cruisers. Laid back, cool statement-making. Here Snag finds us a range of used cruisers that make for clever buying right now.
The cruiser category underwent a huge expansion at the turn of the millennium. New models entered the marketplace all over the shop as manufacturers fell over themselves to corral the bike-returnee market. Think ‘people with pockets full of cash and a hankering for their youth’.
Before this mad rush that there were but a few Japanese offerings taking nibbles from the cruiser pie and the large majority of worldwide sales in the segment came from one place, and one place only – Milwaukee.
Well, Harley-Davidson still sold a whole bunch of motorcycles, but Japan Inc was now a serious player, and the choices out there were many and varied, in price, capacity, specification and styling.
How to define the category…? Hmmm.
The cruiser generally applies more relaxed ergonomics designed for comfort and style rather than speed and maneuverability. Seat heights are lower (which brings those of shorter stature to the market), pegs are placed further forward, bars are placed higher.
Engine characteristics see power made low in the rev range, rake angles are less steep, wheelbases are long. It’s all about, well, ‘cruising’, rather than ‘blasting’.
Of course, style is a big factor with the cruiser owner. Looking good is a big part of the deal. The lifestyle that runs alongside cruiser ownership (for many owners), is a big part of the whole deal. Members of some other motorcycle sectors scoff at this.
My standard answer to them is ‘have you checked out how important getting the right look is to the average adventure bike buyer lately?’.
It’s all about tribalism and every motorcycle category has it. Yep, the whole leather and black helmet thing is fine with me; it keeps people out using their bikes and the industry keeps ticking.
More power to them I say.
Is a Cruiser right for you?
As with all motorcycle categories, there are idiosyncrasies inherent in the cruiser sector.
First port of call is to look at your intended usage. Cruisers are all about relaxed riding, taking in the scenery and doing it with a chromed shimmer.
If that’s what you are after, read on.
There are exceptions, but in general terms, cruisers are not particularly quick (in motorcycle terms, most will kick the butt of most cars). If you are used to sports bike operation, the whole cruiser thing will be totally alien to you.
It often happens though, that a rider becomes fed up with the frenetic nature of sports bike riding and wants to ‘pull things back a little’. If that is the case, a cruiser is a great choice. Just understand the difference prior to spending. Buyer-remorse hurts like billio.
As mentioned, seat heights are low. This is great news for people that like the idea of a big bore motorcycle but can’t get their feet flat on the ground at standstill.
In most cases, a cruiser is more comfortable than bikes from other categories, and many older riders find the seating position roomy and forgiving, with big, wide seat pads the norm.
Bear in mind though, that most of your weight will be supported by your derriere, and it’s difficult to use your legs as ‘shock absorbers’ to lift your weight off your rear end. This can become uncomfortable.
Used cruiser contenders
- 2010 Yamaha XVS1300A
- 2010 Suzuki Boulevard M90
- 2010 Harley-Davidson FLSTFB Fat Boy Lo
- 2010 Triumph Thunderbird 1600
Let’s examine each, warts and all, and see if we can find your new cruiser.
2010 Yamaha XVS1300A
Price new: $17,299 plus ORC
Price now: $11,000-$14,000
What you get: Yamaha was at the forefront of the ‘metric’ cruiser phenomenon before the rest of Japan caught on, introducing the XV1100 Virago way back in 1987. The bike quickly became a favourite worldwide.
The XVS1300A is a vastly different beast from those beginnings, but the lineage is there and Yamaha has shown the faith in the cruiser category, enjoying a brand-loyalty among cruiser riders for it.
The bike is powered by a 1304cc, liquid-cooled, SOHC, fuel-injected, four-valve, 60 degree, V-twin, housed in a steel double cradle frame. Pretty much the norm for the cruiser segment of the time. Dual counterbalancers keep the vibes to a minimum.
Power is 53.5kW at 5500rpm, torque is 10.8kg-m at 4000rpm.
What is a little different here is the fact that the engine is oversquare (the bore is greater than the stroke) and this makes it more of a midrange and top-end powered bike.
That’s outside the norm, given that most cruisers look to make their power lower in the rev range and the bike has some (limited) sporting prowess as a consequence.
Brakes all round are 298mm discs (dual at the front and a single unit at the rear) gripped by twin-piston calipers. These do the job, but braking is never ‘startling’ on a cruiser of this age; the length and rake dictate this, front wheel brake lock-up would be a problem otherwise.
Seat height is 715mm, wet weight is 303kg, and fuel capacity 19 litres. Final drive is a cool-looking and low-maintenance belt.
Add-on accessories of the day included, saddlebags, windscreen, fender trims, extra comfort solo and pillion seats, and billet accents. Look for a used example that has all this gear for extra bargain-cred.
The pick if you like: This one hangs its hat on road manners. Handling is really very good and if that’s what you are looking for, this is a lot of bike for the money. In short, the XV1300A is cruiser that can actually be hustled along more quickly than most. For a bike with footboards, the XV has decent clearance, normally a big cruiser bugbear.
Not the best at: All that weight needs to be pulled up, and these brakes only just do the job. Plenty of lever pressure is required, and that hardware is getting long in the tooth.
2010 Triumph Thunderbird 1600
Price new: $21,990 plus ORC
Price now: $9000-$12,000
What you get: Triumph had once again ‘gone its own way’ by producing the Thunderbird 1600. While the predominant engine configuration in the cruiser category was the V-twin, Triumph looked to its heritage of building parallel twins for the Thunderbird.
Power is supplied by a 1597cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-valve, parallel twin. Inherent in parallel twins is the evil of vibration. To counter this, the Thunderbird has twin balance shafts, placed front and rear of the plain-bearing crankshaft and a torque compensator to smooth out the hefty engine pulses.
Maximum power is 63kW at 4850rpm and maximum torque 14.8kg-m at 2750rpm. Yep, you read right, that’s a big batch of torque right off the bottom.
The frame is a tubular steel twin spar arrangement, front brakes are twin 310mm discs with Nissin four-piston calipers. At the rear is a single 310mm disc with a Brembo two-piston caliper.
Seat height is 702mm, wet weight 339kg and fuel capacity 22 litres. Rake figures are 32 degrees. Final drive is belt.
There was no fewer than 100 accessories available for the Thunderbird! Handlebars, painted parts, silencers and performance kits, chrome accents, luggage and racks, hand and foot controls, seats and backrests… The list was truly amazing.
The pick if you like: Being different. With all those add-on possibilities, coupled with the biggest parallel twin it town, you will stand out. Superb gearbox adds to the appeal. Performance figures are truly impressive.
Not the best here at: Comfort. This one is a little harder-edged than the other offerings, if you like it extra plush, think hard.
2010 Harley-Davidson FLSTFB Fat Boy Lo
$27,995 plus ORC
Price now: $18,000-$20,000
What you get: The Harley-Davidson Fat Boy has been a mainstay seller for the Milwaukee brand since its release way back in 1990. New for 2010 was the Fat Boy Lo.
Powered by a 1584cc, air-cooled, twin cam, fuel-injected, two-valve 45 degree V-twin, the donk is rigidly-mounted, but vibes are cleverly disguised via the employment of balancer shafts.
Power figures are hard to come by, but a good heft of torque is on hand – 12.2kg-m at 3300rpm.
The Softail moniker comes about because the bike has a rear-suspension design that follows the lines of a vintage hardtail frame, but offers the comfort of hidden modern rear suspension (horizontal mounted coil over shock). Frame type is constructed of mild tubular steel, with rectangular backbone.
Brakes are a single 292 mm gripped by a four-piston H-D caliper at front and a 292mm single disc with H-D two-piston caliper at the rear.
Dimensions see a dry weight of 313kg, fuel capacity at 19.7 litres, rake is 31.6 degrees and the seat height a mega-low 616mm (the lowest of any bike in the stock Harley range at the time). Final drive is the ubiquitous H-D belt system.
Note that there is a long reach to the bars with this one, partly due to that low seat height.
The range of add-ons, once again, was huge. Items include: Windscreens, seats, backrests, saddlebags and luggage, suspension, chassis trim, hand controls, foot controls engine guards and gauges and consoles. In short, H-D does this part of the equation brilliantly; the ways to personalise the Fat Boy Lo were seemingly endless.
There are faster and better handling bikes in the H-D range at that time, but we doubt there are any better looking. The attention to detail with the Fat Boy Lo was first class.
The pick if you like: Authenticity. Harley-Davidson imitates no-one. For the 100 per cent cruiser deal of that period, there is one emblem, and one emblem only, and the Fat Boy is one of the flagship bikes in the H-D stable. You’ll be noticed – for all the right reasons.
Not the best here at: Price. All that brand cred costs, there is no hiding that. If you are a practical type, you can do better in the value arena. Cornering clearance is not brilliant here either.
2010 Suzuki Boulevard M90
Price new: $15,490 plus ORC
Price now: $8500-$10,000
What you get:
The M90 debuted here in 2008, a couple of years after its big brother – the 1783cc M109. The M90 offered a somewhat similar experience to the M109, but was a whole bunch easier to deal with (lighter, smaller) and cost significantly less.
The engine is a 1462cc, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, four-valve, 54 degree V-Twin housed in the standard fare of a steel double cradle frame.
I’d love to give you power and torque figures, but Suzuki won’t tell.
Brakes are dual 290mm discs, gripped by a Tokico two-piston caliper at front and a single 275mm disc with two-piston Tokico caliper at the back.
Dry weight is 310kg, fuel capacity is 18 litres, seat height is 716mm and final drive is by shaft.
Accessories for the M90 included: backrests, tailbox, billet mirrors, tank covers, saddlebags, GPS, and engine bars.
A big plus is the nice throaty exhaust note at standard. This was purposely designed in (the top muffler is tuned for high-frequency response and the bottom for low). Very clever. No-one wants their cruiser sounding like a Toyota Prius.
The pick if you like: Price. There was a saving of $3890 over the bigger M109 of the day, yet this thing has more to like about it as an everyday mount, and used prices are pretty reasonable. Handling is strong. Very good ergonomics make this one a great ‘one-size-fits-all’ pick.
Not the best here at: Street appeal. The bike does things well, looks the goods and will serve a buyer well, but there is no real ‘gee whizz’ factor. Once again, if you are a slave to fashion, well, this one is more ‘King Gee’ than ‘Versace’.
Cruisers are not for everyone, but if you like your life a little less frantic, and a fair deal more comfortable, this is your category. And you’ll stand out. Whenever I bring a cruiser home, the kids from everywhere. Even old ones like this lot. And who doesn’t like that?
Go for it!
Snag’s career in motoring journalism spans 29 years with stints at major bike mags Australian Road Rider, Motorcycle Trader and AMCN along with contributions to just about every other outlet worth a hill of beans. He was editor of Unique Cars magazine and hosts his legendary podcast ‘Snag Says’ when he gets off his date.