Beginner Bikes

19 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Beginner Bikes
Suzuki VX800 Concept
Suzuki VX800 Concept

Welcome to this month’s Customarily Minded. For April we’re going to look at the state of the motorcycling market and arguably its most popular engine configuration, the venerable V-Twin. Quick historical fact: While Harley Davidson is best known as the masters of the V-Twin, it was Indian that first belted one out for production back in 1903 when Harley was just getting their foot in the door.

In fact Harley didn’t belt out a V2 until 1909, and revamped it in 1911 to the basic design that is still in use today.

No doubt there’s a certain appeal to owning a V-Twin cruiser of any kind. They pack lots of personality and potentially unexplored power (look at Suzuki’s SV line, the Ducati’s, and the Honda VTR-1000), and they just look good too. As for unexplored power versus good looks, can you really have both?

Is there truly a rule written in stone that all cruisers must be lazy? That’s what I’m going to tackle here.

Look at the V2 sportbikes, their wide angled V2 mills don’t look as stylish as cruiser motors, perhaps with the idea that some of them will be covered in fairing. But what if those mills were visually refined? Would chrome covers look good on a wide angled V2?

Well, Yamaha has a 60º angle between their cylinders, not quite as drastic as the 75-90 degree sport mills, yet many would say that the V-Star motor still looks pretty good. Surely the more narrow V2 looks best, and make them a single pin to sound the best, but must we truly sacrifice dual pin power for looks and sound?

The VT1100 Shadow did (as did other earlier Shadows from the 1980’s), and while it packs more power than the former 1100 ACE single pin counterparts, it still looks just as good, but the flatter exhaust note leaves many folks wanting more.

Take Harley’s V-Rod, another wider angled V2. At 1130cc displacement and a single pin crank, it puts out more power than Honda’s dual pin 1800 VTX mill. The 750 Vulcan and 800 Intruder both sport dual pin cranks, and like stacking the V-Rod against bigger bikes, test after test yields them as the acceleration kings amongst the mid sized (and often larger) V2 crowd.

Which begs the question, can mid-sized V2 mills put out more without sacrificing the personality of a single pin exhaust note?

Most of the single pin V2 cruisers today sport 3 valves/cylinder or less, and one cam per cylinder. Would DOHC and 4 valve/cylinder treatment with hotter cams make a more potent single pin narrow angled V2?

The major manufacturers have yet produced it, I would like to know if they’re at least contemplating it or at least testing it in secret labs, after all that new Hyosung Aquila GV650 looks to be a potential hot rod of a machine with its 75º DOHC 4 valve V2, in all respects it’s practically a SV-650 motor in a cruiser package. If it takes off and packs the power it suggests, the Japanese manufacturers really need to consider adapting some more performance mods to their mid sized V2 bikes, after all the answer obviously isn’t more cubic inches when bikes nearly half their size are producing similar results with less displacement, and more importantly, less weight (re: V-Rod vs VTX). And should the GV650 be capable of embarrassing the big inch bikes, then they really need to consider these alternatives. guess what bike I’m eagerly awaiting magazine reviews on next summer?

Now back to alternative motor configurations. The inline four truly produces more power in any guise, but they lack the personality of the V2. Does it look out of place in a cruiser package?

In the eye of the beholder, as they say. I’ve seen plenty of sweeeet (not a typo, that means sweeter than sweet) 750 choppers, and Kawasaki’s former ZL-600 Eliminator is something of a looker too, but with the wide power plant jutting out from either side of the tank there isn’t room for forward controls, so you’re stuck with a cruiser with a more standard riding stance. Which brings us right back to the beholder again.

When it comes to cruisers, I subscribe to the feet forward brigade, but that’s just my preference and it shouldn’t be construed as what I think is best.

and then there’s the V-4, a happy medium between the inline’s and the V-Twins. I still don’t understand why Honda dropped the Magna, along with the Nighthawk and Valkyrie either, with no replacements on deck. From a marketing standpoint the Aero replaces the ACE easily enough, maybe not so much for the 750 Spirit, but perhaps if chopper styling is what the customer is after the VLX is still available with a similar designed engine and closely matched performance.

Suzuki VX800 Concept
Suzuki VX800 Concept

Not that it makes it all justifiable. but the Magna was long overdue for an upgrade under the tank, and with luck Honda might unleash a VF800 version next time around, once again sharing the motor with Honda’s Interceptor as was the case back in the days of the VTR750. Well, I can wish in the meantime.

But why dump the Valkyrie and CB750? The Valk nailed high marks in every review it was subjected to, despite having a funky flat six when compared to the standard V-Twin cruisers it competed against. Surely Honda didn’t can this gem because it didn’t sport a V2.

Which brings me to the CB750, Honda’s historical trademarked machine. Three generations and thirty five ago the 750cc motorcycle put the Japanese manufacturers on the motorcycle map, featuring affordable bikes with powerful results, and it all goes back to the CB750. Easy to own and operate, and substantially powered too, who would ask for more?

Surely the 599 isn’t a replacement, not priced within a few hundred dollars of their ultra-performer CBR600 and thousands over the CB750. And think about it, the CB750 was the original metric cruiser. re: those sweeeet 750 chops.

But if bikes like the 599 and the other inspired naked sports, like the Bandit, SV-650, Z1000 and ZR-7, etc are netting respectable sales numbers, why not a cruiser-styled I4 to fill that niche? Granted the Eliminator has historically been a two year model (although the 125 makes a comeback this year following it’s initial two year run), perhaps it was another bike that was before its time (bikes before their time? hey guys. it’s definitely time now so let’s get them back in production! ), following the footsteps laid down from bikes like the Honda NT650 Hawk and Suzuki VX800, naked sports with motors based on their cruiser counterpart engines (the VLX and Intruder respectively).

Which brings us right back to square one, can these motors be pumped up? Looks like they already have been, albeit in dual pin crank mode. But it’s already been explored so it’s definitely feasible.

There’s definitely a market for something extreme in performance, low in the tonnage, yet cruiser-cool; who wants to be the first manufacturer to explore it? Who wants to try and play catch-up after they succeed? Anyone else out there paying attention and catching on to this?

And can sales associates be trained to claim you won’t outgrow a cruiser that’s under 1000cc? Honda? Suzuki? Ferris Bueller. Bueller. Bueller. (Yes, that was a pun directed towards the Motor Company. They made great strides with the V-Rod, tell me if you’re not interested in a Harley-based 450-650cc power cruiser?)

When Beginner Bikes associate editor Richard Rose isn’t (g)rumbling about the state of today’s market, he answers email at rich@beginnerbikes


Suzuki VX800 Concept
Suzuki VX800 Concept

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