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Metric Cruisers Are Great Alternatives to American Iron

© Motorcyclist   The XDiavel expanded Ducati’s cruiser offerings when it debuted in 2016.

By Kevin Duke, Motorcyclist

Options for American-style cruiser motorcycles built outside of the USA.

When discussing cruisers, Harley-Davidson is the brand that usually comes to mind, and we’ve recently been adopting Indian Motorcycles in that conversation. But there are plenty of viable cruiser options from lands beyond our shores where the metric system is the standard of measurement. Hence the “metric cruisers” nomenclature for motorcycles built in any country but the US.

We love our cruisers here in the land of the free, so manufacturers around the globe build their own versions based loosely on the traditional American template of low seats, feet placed forward, and powered by torquey engines. Listed here are cruisers selected for their individual uniqueness or their functionality, the latter because we realize most _Motorcyclist_ readers want to ride farther than just their neighborhood coffee shop or pub, and do it at a higher pace than most Sturgis devotees.

So, if you’re looking for an interesting cruiser and are willing to look globally, here are eight respectable options to consider, listed alphabetically.


2011–2020 Ducati Diavel/XDiavel

© Motorcyclist   Our favorite cruisers aren’t afraid of corners, like the butch Ducati Diavel.

Okay, so calling this stretched Italian hot rod a cruiser is a bit of a stretch, but perhaps that’s why we like it so much. Of any bike resembling a cruiser, the Diavel stands the best chance of keeping up with your sportbike buddies on a curvy road. With 160 claimed hp on tap, the Diavel (Italian for devil) certainly won’t be left behind on any straight roads.

The Diavel debuted in 2011 with a retuned version of 1198 superbike’s V-twin placed in a steel trellis chassis with a cast aluminum subframe. A 30-inch seat height (barely) qualifies the Diavel as a cruiser, and its 516-pound wet weight makes it extremely light for a 73ci cruiser. Its single-sided swingarm proudly displays a fat 240/45-17 rear tire.

The platform was updated for the 2015 model year with a new headlight, TFT instruments, and a twin-spark ignition and new fuel injectors for the engine. At the time, it held the record for the quickest 0–60 mph time of any production motorcycle Cycle World had ever tested, thanks partially to its longish 62.3-inch wheelbase that mitigates wheelies. Excellent stopping power comes from radial Brembo calipers and 320mm discs.

The Diavel line was augmented in 2016 with the arrival of the XDiavel, hewing even closer to the cruiser formula with a stretched wheelbase (63.6 inches), a lower seat (29.7 inches), belt drive, and footpegs placed further forward. Significantly, the X receives a 1,262cc V-twin with variable valve timing, vastly improving the delivery of power below 6,000 rpm. Although wet weight went up to 545 pounds, the XDiavel is still plenty sporty and has a fairly generous 40-degree available lean angle, the same as its predecessor.

Rounding out the Diavel story is the Diavel 1260, introduced in 2019. It uses a version of the XDiavel’s 1,262cc motor, and is endowed with sleeker styling and improved electronics.


1985–2020 Honda Rebel 250/500, 300/500

© Motorcyclist   The Rebel 250 was priced at $4,190 in 2016, its last year of production, looking awfully similar to how it did in 1985.

This little icon earns its place on this list for its value and reliability, but mostly for its stupendous longevity and ubiquity. The Rebel 250 has been rousing American roads for an incredible 35 years, and has been under more American riding students than any other motorcycle.

The Rebel debuted way back in 1985, using Harley-esque styling cues in a compact, inexpensive package. It’s powered by a 234cc parallel-twin engine that’s at least adequate enough for highway travel and mostly bulletproof. (A Rebel 450 existed for only two years, 1986–87.) A low seat height (26.6 inches) conspired with modest weight to make almost anyone feel like they could master it.

The intrinsic goodness of the Rebel 250 is defined by two numbers: 31 and 150,000. It remained in Honda’s lineup, mostly unchanged, for a stunning 31 years. And more than 150,000(!) Rebel 250s were sold in America until its retirement after the 2016 model year.

Upholding the Rebel’s enviable reputation as a highly approachable cruiser is the bobber-style Rebel platform introduced in 2017 and available with your choice of two engines. Start out with the 286cc Rebel 300 retailing for $4,399 at its launch, or step into the 471cc Rebel 500, using a parallel-twin motor just like its progenitor.


© Motorcyclist The bobber-style Rebels were introduced in 2017, available as a 500 (left) or a 300 (right).


1996–2015 Honda Valkyrie

© Motorcyclist   The wildest of all Valkyries was the limited-production Rune, produced in 2004 and 2005. Dual 330mm front and single rear 336mm brake discs were also the largest ever fitted to a production Honda.

The Honda Valkyrie earns its spot on our list for being one of the original power cruisers. It began in 1996 when Honda stripped down its Gold Wing to create the Valkyrie, powered by the Wing’s 1,520cc flat-six engine that received hot-rodding tricks like bumpier camshafts and six individual carburetors. To many, the six-cylinder motor was an attractive alternative to the V-twins typically found in cruisers, barking out an exhaust note similar to a Porsche.

The original Valk was discontinued after 2003, but the model reached its apex in 2004 with the introduction of the audacious Valkyrie Rune. Now powered by the updated Gold Wing’s 1,832cc six-cylinder, the outlandish Rune looked like it came from a high-end custom builder rather than the conservative Honda.

Priced at an outrageous $25,499, its attention to detail was far beyond anything from a major manufacturer, with a lovely faired radiator, flush-mount LED turn signals, and a single-sided swingarm. The trailing-link front suspension was unlike anything seen on a modern production bike, giving the impression of a heavily raked fork while having conventional steering geometry. Due to its high price and unorthodox appearance, the Rune sold in small numbers and was dropped from Honda’s lineup after the 2005 model year.

The Valkyrie was resurrected in 2014, again as a stripped-down Gold Wing, supposedly 150 pounds lighter than the Wing. However, consumer reaction was tepid and the Valk ceased to be after 2015.


2013–2020 Moto Guzzi California Eldorado/Audace

© Motorcyclist   Moto Guzzi’s California platform is an Italian alternative take on a V-twin cruiser, here shown in its Eldorado model.

The California was reintroduced in 2013 with a new 1,380cc engine, the largest V-twin ever produced in Europe. This platform was augmented in 2016 with the attractively retro Eldorado version and then the hot-rod Audace. Either iterations are worthy of consideration, as their 90-degree air-/oil-cooled V-twins deliver sportier characteristics than traditional cruiser engines, outputting a claimed 96 hp and 88.5 pound-feet of torque (rated at the crankshaft). All are built in Italy at Guzzi’s Mandello del Lario factory, the same place Guzzis have been constructed since 1921.

It’s the Eldorado version that perhaps offers the best blend of performance and style. It features classic touches like chrome inserts on the fuel tank, classy double pinstripes on the tank and fenders, and aluminum spoked wheels wearing tubeless whitewall tires.

In addition to ABS and the standard electronics suite found on all Californias, the Eldorado has cruise control as standard equipment, as well as shrouded shocks and classic round turn signals. Four-piston Brembo calipers and 320mm discs are sportbike-worthy, and enough to bring the bike’s sub-600-pound wet weight to a quick halt. Oddly, the plush Eldorado is more fun to ride than the performance-biased Audace that rolls on fatter tires. The Eldorado currently retails for $16,490.


2017–2020 Triumph Bonneville Bobber

© Motorcyclist   Triumph’s Bobber brings a new take on cruiser motorcycles, melding the popular bobber style with the historic Bonneville platform.

Triumph’s versatile Bonneville platform gives cruiser riders an alternative from the glut of V-twin engines that dominate this category, and the Bobber version has been one of the best-selling of the line. It uses the 1,200cc version of Triumph’s parallel-twin motor with a 270-degree crank to give it a deeper growl akin to a V-twin. It’s rated at 77 hp and 78 pound-feet of torque, which is plenty enough to move the bike’s 500-and-change pounds of weight. Sporty-ish steering geometry (27.8-degree rake, 3.5 inches of trail) and a cruiser-stubby wheelbase (59.4 inches) endow it with greater agility than most cruisers.

The Bobber is instantly recognizable by its adjustable tractor-style seat that appears to float above the rear fender. Other nice details include the battery box with stainless-steel strap, fork gaiters, bar-end mirrors, and bullet-shaped turn signals. Wire-spoked wheels add to the vintage appearance. The couple of downsides to the Bobber are its tiny 2.4-gallon fuel tank and no passenger provisions. New MSRPs start at $11,950 and bump up to $13,150 for the Bobber Black version.


2004–2020 Triumph Rocket lll/3

© Triumph   The 2020 Rocket 3 brings a new era to Triumph’s Rocket line, a much sportier motorbike than the previous generation. An aluminum frame, single-sided swingarm, Brembo Stylema brakes, and beautiful metal finishes highlight this handsome monster.

Triumph’s Thunderbird 1600 nearly earned this entry and is a worthy metric cruiser alternative, but its Rocket lll brother stole the spot thanks to its sheer audacity. Debuting in 2004, the Rocket was defined by its massive 2,294cc three-cylinder engine, the largest-displacement engine of any production motorcycle. Amazingly, the Rocket was more manageable than a motorbike’s size could be expected to handle, helping it earn our Cruiser of the Year award.

Over the years, the Rocket spawned several sub-models, including the Classic, Tourer/Touring, and the hot-rod Roadster, the last Rocket lll in Triumph’s lineup, existing through 2018.

The Rocket lll was retired, but it’s now been replaced by the Rocket 3, vastly improving the model’s finish detailing and performance. It again uses a monumentally large three-cylinder engine, now displacing 2,458cc. Miraculously, it’s 40 pounds lighter than its smaller predecessor, contributing to an overall 88-pound weight drop, thanks largely to the new aluminum frame.

Both the Rocket R ($21,960) and touring-oriented Rocket GT ($22,600) boast 165 hp and a gargantuan 163 pound-feet torque from the 2.5-liter triple. Their hydroformed header arrangement and aluminum airbox look sublime, exemplary of the bike’s high-level of finish detailing. Early reports say it’s really fun to ride and handles much better than expected, so we can’t wait to ride one for ourselves.


2007–2017 Yamaha/Star V Star 1300/Silverado

© Motorcyclist   The V Star 1300 blends versatility, attractive good looks, and a modest price for a metric cruiser worthy of consideration.

Reasonable people will appreciate the V Star 1300 for its cost-effectiveness and understated good looks. Yamaha (and its erstwhile cruiser brand Star Motorcycles) has been the Japanese OEM most successful in creating attractive American-style cruisers, exemplified by this 1300 platform that includes touring variants (Silverado/Tourer) and the batwing-fairinged Deluxe that debuted in 2013.

All are powered by an 80ci (1,304cc) V-twin engine that provides ample power for the bike’s relatively low weight. A well-disguised liquid-cooling system keeps heat away from its rider, and a belt-drive system requires minimal maintenance. Excellent attention to detail belies the reasonable cost of entry. A seat height around 27 inches keeps even short legs within comfortable reach from the ground.

The V Star 1300 is a more manageable cruiser than the giant heavyweights that typically get the most recognition, and its touring-oriented sub-models provide a worthy mount for any trips farther than the neighborhood roadhouse. Older models are available today for as little as $3,500.


2002–2010 Yamaha/Star Road Star Warrior XV1700 

© Motorcyclist   The Road Star Warrior remains desirable today for its aluminum chassis, hot-rod air-cooled motor, and sportbike suspension and brakes.

The Road Star Warrior remains desirable today for its aluminum chassis, hot-rod air-cooled motor, and sportbike suspension and brakes.

Although introduced nearly 18 years ago, the Road Star Warrior remains one of the best performance cruisers ever built. Powered by a 102ci (1,670cc) V-twin and featuring a lightweight aluminum frame and swingarm—unusual in the cruiser category—the XV1700 delivers a sporting punch that continues to be desirable even today.

Its 48-degree V-twin is air-cooled, making it prettier than liquid-cooled lumps, but it uses modern four-valve cylinder heads to produce nearly 100 pound-feet of torque and 76 hp at the rear wheel. It sprinted through the quarter-mile in just 12.5 seconds and from 0–60 mph in 4.3 seconds when we tested it in 2002. Hydraulic lifters and belt final-drive help minimize maintenance.

Weighing in at a relatively light 658 pounds, the Warrior undercut Honda’s original VTX1800 by a full 100 pounds. Four-piston front brake calipers and a 41mm inverted cartridge fork are ex-YZF-R1 bits, further adding to its sport credentials. Decent ones can be found for $5,000 or less.

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Autos Magazine: Metric Cruisers Are Great Alternatives to American Iron
Metric Cruisers Are Great Alternatives to American Iron
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