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2006 Motorcycles: 6 Cruisers
2006 Motorcycles: 6 Cruisers
Daytona Bike Week is about to mark its 65th anniversary and we’re ready to ride. Okay, that’s just an excuse. Actually, we have a million excuses, each one more justifiable than the last. We can’t help it. We like bikes. We appreciate the ungodly speed of sport bikes and the long-distance comfort of the touring class, but for street cred and relaxing rides on the back roads, it’s tough to beat a cruiser and its La-Z-Boy riding position.
We undertook this difficult task and narrowed the field to six cruisers for our 2006 feature. There are dozens of models that deserve mention and warrant a test ride. So consider this an opportunity to whet your appetite for the season.
1- Big Dog K-9
Bridging the gap between custom-bike builders and traditional manufacturers, Big Dog aims to give you a tailored look at off-the-rack prices.
The newest hound in Big Dog’s kennel is the K-9. Her name maintains consistency with the whole dog theme and it hints at this chopper’s length. Yep, nine freakin’ feet from the car-sized 300-millimeter rear tire to the end of the 41-millimeter telescopic forks and skinny front tire, visually dwarfing the rumbling V-Twin motor. For guys used to riding mass-market cruisers, this might sound intimidating to maneuver. But Big Dog has a way of making their bikes surprisingly easy to handle -- enhanced by the softail frame, designed to appear as an old-school hardtail.
Pinning down specs like power and prices is tough because the possibilities seem endless. Big Dog offers almost 90 graphic choices in addition to options for paint and accessories. Whichever way you rig yours, it won’t go unnoticed.
My take: With a 300-millimeter rear tire, the K-9 barely needs a kickstand to remain upright.
A hot custom job and a retro-fitted classic.
2- Boss Hoss Viper ZZ4
Why did Monte Warne put a Chevrolet V8 engine on two wheels? Because he could and has since 1990. If V-Twins and four-cylinders aren’t enough for you, Boss Hoss has the supersized meal for your cruiser appetite.
What’s that? The V8 Boss Hoss bikes aren’t enough for you? Then you’re a Tony Reynolds kind of guy. Reynolds, a Kentucky dealer, reckoned that if a V8 is great, a V10 is greater. So he modified a ZZ4 frame and slithered a Dodge Viper engine aboard. Neither feat was a cakewalk. Dodge has a funny way of not wanting to part with their flagship’s venom, sans car, at any price. Even with the engine procured, Reynolds and his crew spent more than 1,500 hours putting the beast together and they essentially re-engineered the whole bike.
Somehow, this cruiser makes do with a measly 580 horsepower and 630-pound-feet of torque. Top speed? Well, how brave are you?
To answer your next question, the Boss Hoss Viper ZZ4 costs $150,000.
My take: Wretched excess? That’s the point.
3- Harley-Davidson Street Bob
Selecting a single Harley-Davidson to feature in a cruiser article is like singling out one great Quentin Tarantino flick: Most are at an elevated level of worthiness.
So why the Street Bob? With so many other cruisers mimicking Harleys and slathering on more wild paint than ever before, Harley actually followed suit. In the spirit of stripped and modified bikes from half a century ago, they created the Street Bob on their Dyna chassis. The trim “bobbed” fenders, high ape-hanger high-rise bars, a solo seat, and stretched forks bring the past to the present. The usual color options are offered, but to best complete the look, we like the low-gloss Black Denim paint.
Harley has modernized the bike -- at least by Harley standards -- to include a six-speed transmission and fuel injection. Critics will argue that Harley should have been making these features standard years ago, but they’re missing the point. All is forgiven when the V-Twin growls to life and you clunk it into first and twist the throttle.
Prices start at $13,195. Go ahead. It’ll make your day.
My take: Retro, yet mostly modern. It’s what Harley does best.
4- Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic LT
Not so many years ago, it was tough not to snicker at guys on Japanese cruisers. The bikes and their owners desperately wanted to look the part, but they weren’t fooling anyone -- especially the guys on Harleys.
Little by little, the field has improved. Instead of owners trying to justify their bikes based on price and reliability, there’s a growing population that ride these because they actually prefer them. Kawasaki’s Vulcan 900 Classic LT presents one of the most convincing arguments to date. The exhaust tone actually hits the bass notes and the overall look demands a second look before you can make a positive ID. A Harley owner on our staff actually met one on the road and executed the low-five salute, thinking it was another Hog -- he shall remain nameless.
In LT trim, this Vulcan Classic comes with a windshield, saddlebags and a passenger backrest. These are typical accessories an owner might add, so Kawasaki thought to make them standard on this model. The Vulcan LT has a smooth 903 cc, which provides enough torque to be spared. All in all, it poses a strong argument to the rider who is willing to pledge allegiance to foreign wheels.
The base MSRP of $8,499 certainly gets the look for less.
My take: Classic cruiser styling for the metric-bike crowd.
A cruiser inspired by a sport bikes and a victory for Minnesota.
5- Suzuki Boulevard M109R
Modern cruisers like Suzuki’s new Boulevard M109R could come off as wannabe Harley V-Rods at first glance. But first impressions can be deceiving.
Stretching to eight feet in length and visually appearing even longer, the M109R is packed with DNA that traces to Suzuki’s GSX-R sport bikes. That translates to handling and speed in more than adequate doses; the latter delivered by a new 108.8 cubic-inch, fuel-injected powerplant. With 1783 cc at your disposal, you’ll have all the torque you’ll ever need. If the specs don’t convince you, maybe a glance at the tachometer’s (high for this class) 7500 rpm redline will do the trick.
We could do without a few of the cosmetic extras that seem to cover nothing worth covering, and shorter riders will have to cope with the M109R’s girth. The latter could prove annoying in heavy traffic with repeated starts and stops. Those gripes aren’t enough to dissuade us, though. The $12,399 MSRP only sweetens the deal.
My take: More than just a V-Rod clone.
6- Victory Vegas Jackpot™
When Minnesotans aren’t flying around on their snowmobiles or blazing trails on ATVs, they’re building some fine bikes. We’re referring to the folks at Polaris Industries. In less than a decade, their Victory motorcycles have become worthy players in the cruiser game.
Based on the standard Vegas model -- not exactly a wallflower itself -- the Jackpot ups the ante with features like bold graphics, stiffer suspension, lowered seat height, and a beefy 250-millimeter rear tire. We like the Jackpot for its good balance of modern and classic elements. Specifically, the modern 1634 cc V-Twin motor that boasts four valves per cylinder, overhead cams and fuel injection. No, this isn’t a long-distance, interstate cruiser. Well, it could be, but do you know a good chiropractor?
Instead, the Vegas Jackpot is true to its moniker. Like the city, it’s all about appearances and glitz. Like the prize, you’ll feel lucky every time you throw a leg over that low-slung seat. Best of all, the buy-in is surprisingly decent: $17,499. Even when loaded with options and graphics, you’ll still get a buck in change from your 22 grand. Just enough for one of those Las Vegas 99-cent shrimp cocktails.
My take: Appropriately named; it’s not subtle, but it’s a winner.
Ride on, brother
Among motorcycles, cruisers aren’t the fastest or best choice for long distances. But they excel with big-engine rumbling, sheer mass and relaxed riding position. These are just six of the great 2006 models worth a ride.