Cruisers are a style of bike that, fairly enough, not everyone will like. Generally viewed as “slower” than a supersport, less capable than an adventure bike, and generally ridden by lazy riders. The fact of the matter, however, is that all of those views couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In fact, one of the fastest accelerating bikes on the market at the moment is a cruiser. For people that can’t ride a sport bike because of back or shoulder issues, the cruiser opens up the world of two wheels to them. Cruisers allow people to commute to work in comfort, not riding a rocket with an inline-four that if they breathe wrong will send them sailing off the seat.
Despite the Harley-Davidson name being somewhat synonymous with cruisers, we endeavor today to present to you 10 cruisers from other manufacturers that are as good, if not better, than equivalent Harley bikes. As always, these are our opinions, and yours may vary, but we have tried to be as fair across the board as possible.
Honda Rebel 500
The 2020 Honda Rebel 500 is one of the best non-Harley bikes because it is Honda’s well-intentioned, and well-executed, attempt to bring more people into the cruiser fold. By offering an affordable, reliable and frankly good looking introductory cruiser, more and more people are exploring motorcycling.
This is not to say that Honda is the reason behind more people in recent years trying out bikes over cars. The economic climate, the fact that many manufacturers are offering affordable introductory models, and the ever-increasing reliability of many brands are also contributing factors.
Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom
The 2020 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom is probably the closest a Japanese bike can get to a Harley-Davidson Iron 883 without actually being one. Powered by a rumbling 903cc 55-degree V-twin, the 900 Custom has 50 HP and 57 lbs-ft of torque and, unlike Harley’s, is liquid-cooled. This both keeps the engine cooler, and helps keep the reliability up.
While air-cooled V-twins are the American “style,” with the Vulcan 900 Custom, Kawasaki has shown that you can have power, reliability, and a great noise from the exhausts as well. It still has the bark and burble of a V-twin, and still has all the attitude you could want.
The 2020 Indian Scout is a ridiculously good looking cruiser. It has all the hallmarks of a classic cruiser from the early 20th century, but with modern touches and a thundering great 1,133cc fuel-injected V-twin that has combination cooling, both liquid and air. It has 100 HP and 72 lbs-ft of torque, and will get you rolling in fine style.
What brings it a level up is that it’s extremely easy to ride. Despite weighing almost 600 lbs wet, it handles smoothly, corners with a little eagerness, and loves to send a little shiver up the body of the bike every once in a while when idling at a red light, almost like a dog tugging on the leash as you get closer to the dog park.
Triumph Bonneville Bobber
The 2020 Triumph Bonneville Bobber is, for lack of a better word, beautiful. It has just the right proportions, a place for everything and everything in its place. No excess, no fat to be trimmed, it’s like the bike is wearing a suit from a fine English tailor’s shop. The liquid-cooled 1,200cc parallel-twin also has the classic Triumph twin bark, due to its 270-degree crank.
Producing 77 HP and 78 lbs-ft of torque, it also doesn’t rip your face off with insane performance figures. Instead, it likes to get you rolling with a pleasant rumble from the exhausts and a gentle twist of the wrist. That is probably the greatest thing about the Bonneville Bobber… it doesn’t want you to explore its limits, it just wants you to enjoy the ride.
Yamaha Bolt R-Spec
The 2020 Yamaha Bolt R-Spec is the tinkerer’s dream bike. It sports a 942cc 60-degree V-twin that reportedly pushes out 65 HP and 55 lbs-ft of torque, but what makes this bike a dream for the wrencher is not the power or the engine. The R-Spec is adjustable. Shock settings, a catalog of customization parts you can order directly from Yamaha, a massive third party mod scene… whatever you want to do with the bike, you pretty much can.
As well, having external reservoir shocks on the back wheel means that the gas for the shocks is out in the air, keeping it cooler, and giving you a more comfortable ride. As well, the engine is air-cooled, and has the sharper bark and bite you’d expect. The standard exhaust is great, but there are literally hundreds of exhausts out there you can buy to make it sound just like you want it to.
Suzuki Boulevard C50
The 2020 Suzuki Boulevard C50 is what you get from the Japanese when they decide to make a softail. Featuring all the smooth, sweeping lines you’d expect, you get the relaxed, lowered seat, the forward controls, the dual exhausts that bellow out the V-twin roar, and a shaft final drive to the rear wheel.
It’s also a middleweight, at just over 600 lbs wet. The 53 HP, 51 lbs-ft torque 805cc liquid-cooled V-twin is also a delight to command, mounted low and forwards to keep the center of gravity close to the road. The C50 turns, stops, goes like a proper softail, and is infinitely comfortable for doing so.
Moto Guzzi V9 Roamer
If anyone is able to give a motorcycle a bit of quirky flair, it’s the Italians. With the 2020 Moto Guzzi V9 Roamer, not only have they mounted the 90-degree V-twin across the frame instead of inline, but they’ve also styled the bike to recall the classic cruisers of the late 1940s. It would be quite fair to call the V9 Roamer a retro cruiser.
It has 853cc’s of air-cooled goodness and produces 55 HP and 46 lbs-ft of torque. For a bike that weighs 460 lbs soaking wet, that is more than enough power to get your heart beating a little, and for the lightweight Italian make you fall in love with it. Mid-mount controls are also the only option, otherwise, you’d be kicking the engine housing every time you went to shift gears.
Honda Shadow Aero
The 2020 Honda Shadow Aero takes the classic American cruiser shape and doesn’t change it much at all. Instead of a thumping great V-twin, a modest 745cc liquid-cooled power unit gives you 43 HP and 45 lbs-ft of torque.
The drag bars, the passenger cushion, the rake of the front suspension, even the placement of the speedometer on top of the fuel tank absolutely screams American bike. Except that this one is made in Japan, and you’d have to peer at it really closely to determine that.
Yamaha V-Star 250
The 2020 Yamaha V-Star 250 is a bit of an oddity, but a welcome one. It is in Yamaha’s heritage bikes lineup, and looks the part with lots of chrome, a retro paint job, and even exposed, heavy spring rear suspension. But the 249cc V-twin at the heart of the bike is an absolute delight.
It has one of the best sounding V-twins on the market, mostly because despite all the advances in engine technologies over the years, Yamaha insists on using a carburetor for the V-Star. You get that rougher, burbling cough at cold idle, and a nice bark at warm idle, and you get the classic light whine hiding under the roar when on the throttle.
Ducati Diavel 1260 S
The 2020 Ducati Diavel 1260 S is a bit of an anomaly, but we like those around here. It’s a bike with the heart of a supersport, in a cruiser body, that has been shaped to be a mix of both. It has the seating position of a bobber, but the pegs are far back, further rearward than even a standard bike.
It’s also aggressive as all hell. It has over 150 HP from its Testrastretta desmodromic engine, which has a displacement of 1,262cc. The sound it makes has the same burble of a V-twin, but is more eager, faster, begging you to get on the throttle a little. It’s a dangerously fun performance cruiser and looks like it wants to go like hell.