Here at Cruiser, we love all motorcycles. Custom and stock alike, two-wheeled machines are our passion. Some of them, however, leave us scratching our heads and wondering what the designers were thinking. Or what happened to any designer's original concept to get so far and make a motorcycle that looks so ugly? Here are five motorcycles from the last decade that, while they may operate well and be a lot of fun to ride, are a little hard to look at.
Kawasaki Vulcan 650 2015-present
The <a href="/tags/kawasaki">Kawasaki</a> Vulcan 650 uses an engine like the Ninja 650, but fails to hit key points of cruiser or sportbike design. (Courtesy of Kawasaki/)
Functionally, the Vulcan 650 is a great motorcycle. It blends a sporty powerplant with a relaxed riding position to make something unique, comfortable, and fun to ride. Looking at the thing, however, makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a dull spoon. The tubular frame with lines that seem to just go every which way, the large radiator in the front, the liquid-cooled motor with unnecessary contrasted cooling fins, tons of plastic covers—it all just adds up to a gross amalgamation of cruiser and sportbike that aesthetically loses the appeal of each genre. And then the Cafe version… Well, that’s putting lipstick on a pig, or literally just a small headlight cowl on a cruiser and calling it a café. Luckily Kawasaki has the W800 and Z900RS to help satiate our need for café racers and old-school cool.
Honda CTX700 2012-present
Huge plastic covers around the engine can’t cover enough of the Honda CTX700. (Courtesy of Honda/)
Honda's CTX is a very sensible commuter and brings a handful of nice touring amenities to an affordable midsize platform. It also sort of looks like a rhinopotamus. An excess of plastic covers, a weighty fairing positioned too far forward, big flat exhaust pipe, and the disjointed lines of the trellis frame seem to be an attempt at updating cruiser lines, but result in a lumpy bike that looks like a blend between a '90s sportbike and a Gold Wing. Luckily the N700, which shares the same engine, was styled a bit better and helps to redeem the powerplant.
Harley-Davidson Softail Rocker 2008-2011
The Softail Rocker is often joked about as the ugliest bike H-D has ever made. We say it's the ugliest bike it has made <em>so far</em>. (Courtesy of Harley-Davidson/)
The Harley-Davidson Softail platform has been one of the best-looking lines in the cruiser world for years and years. It's not really arguable—everyone knows it. This one, however, missed that mark entirely. The raked-out front alone wouldn't be too bad, but paired with the chubby seat and huge gap down to the rear fender, the bike just looks like it was designed by committee and lacked a cohesive vision. Use the Triumph Bonneville Bobber as an example of a bike done well in the floating rear fender style.
Yamaha VMAX 1985-present
The <a href="/tags/yamaha">Yamaha</a> VMAX is an absolute beefcake, but the huge exhaust and intakes make it hard to focus on any other part of the bike. (Courtesy of Yamaha/)
The VMAX is a gnarly motorcycle. It's fast as hell off the line, has a comfortable seating position and ergonomics, but the massive exhaust pipe and intakes overwhelm the design. I know what you're thinking—how could it be wrong if Nicolas Cage rode it in Ghost Rider!? But the beefy muscle-cruiser is another one that tries to blend the lines between a few genres and misses the aesthetic mark. We have seen some really incredible custom versions of this bike, however, so it is possible to get all the amazing performance and a stylish motorcycle if you're willing to put some work in.
Victory Vision 2008-2017
The Victory Vision is a freight train of a motorcycle with its oversize monocoque bodywork and huge tail bag. (Courtesy of Victory/)
The Victory Vision is an amazing touring bike. It was one of the best high-mile, open road bikes available while Victory was manufacturing it, but the thing looks more like a boat or train than a traditional motorcycle. The bodywork of the Vision leaves a lot to the imagination, not showing any of the chassis, rear suspension, or much of anything other than the engine. While you could argue that the smooth line of the fairing, gas tank, and seat is visually appealing, the monocoque body just strays too much from traditional motorcycle design to sit well with the masses.
Don’t agree with our list or think we missed one? Add it in the comments section down below!
The “Warlord” Shovelhead chopper by Andy Miller and Highwayman Co. parked among the bikes at Kiki’s. (Morgan Gales/)
The El Diablo Run is one of the last true biker parties. Starting from wherever you want and ending in San Felipe, Mexico, the event was developed for older, custom, and hand-built motorcycles, but anything is welcome. There isn't really an organized ride; everyone just groups up and makes their own. All you need to do is show up in San Felipe with a good attitude, ready to party.
Bikers on the beach and vendors selling hats, sunglasses, and chicharrones. (Morgan Gales/)
The weekend's hub is a campground called Kiki's, located right on the Sea of Cortez. About a dozen suspended huts are available on a first-come-first-served basis, allowing attendees to set up their tents and hammocks above the parked bikes and festivities below. Live bands played while riders drank, danced, and socialized around the bar and down by the beach. A wide range of bikes covered the parking area at the center of Kiki's, mainly Harleys and choppers but lots of weirdo bikes and metric stuff as well—even a couple of modern touring bikes like Gold Wings and Chieftains.
The motorcycles parked at Kiki’s lined up all the way to the sand. (Morgan Gales/)
Across the street from the campground is a large dirt lot that housed the Circle of Death, a makeshift flat-track-style course that hosted races among all sorts of bikes you’d never expect to see racing on the dirt—the rigid class was our favorite. Yard games happened here as well, such as slow races and the balance beam, always a crowd pleaser and a good way to break up the day if you get tired of sitting on the beach drinking (strangely, I never did).
One of the slow races during Saturday’s yard games had the passengers taking the reins while the bike’s owner sat on the back. (Morgan Gales/)
Sunday was the big bike show located along the town's main strip, also known as the Malécon. Choppers Magazine ran the show so—you guessed it—it was mainly choppers, but there was a good range of diversity among them. No trailer queens were allowed in the show; everything entered had to be ridden down there. So while there were a couple of Panheads and Knucks, mainly it was Shovelheads, Sportsters, and a few XS650s. There was even one Sportster chop with a recliner as the seat, lovingly named the "Sofa King Chopper."
A killer little Ducati chopper whipping around the Circle of Death. (Morgan Gales/)
The really amazing part of EDR is that everyone actually rides there. There are a few chase vehicles, but the question is almost always “What did you ride?” not “Did you ride?” and if your bike breaks, that’s on you to fix it or figure out how to get it home.
El Diablo Run occurs once every two years, so if you missed this one, you're gonna have to wait a while for the next go-round, but we promise it's worth it. Check out the official El DIablo Run page here.
Danger Dan racing the Circle of Death in the rigid class on his Shovelhead. (Morgan Gales/) Dyna versus Bonnie on the Circle of Death. (Morgan Gales/) Pretty Shovelhead choppers lined up at the bike show on the <em>Malécon</em>. (Morgan Gales/) A nice clean Panhead chopper displayed at the <em>Choppers Mag</em> bike show. (Morgan Gales/) One of our favorites from the weekend, a tight Shovelhead chopper with well done three-color flames. (Morgan Gales/) An original Denver’s chopper ridden all the way down from Southern California. (Morgan Gales/) Most bikes were loaded up with luggage and fuel reserves—that last stretch of desert is long! (Morgan Gales/) When a bike needed a new belt, the couch seat on the Sofa King Chopper was sacrificed to be used as a stand. (Morgan Gales/)
Improving the Sport Glide’s touring capabilities included changing up the stock shield with a taller unit. (Andrew Cherney/)
Now that I've spent some time with the Sport Glide, I've gotten to know its charms as well as its shortcomings. It's been cruising around Oregon for a couple of weeks now, and I'm making slow but steady progress with getting it set up to my liking. Actually, it was the initial extended trip on the thing—a 1,000-plus-mile maiden voyage up to Portland from Southern Cal—that gave me a painfully clear understanding of the first thing it'd need to get more long-haul happy. The main issue that hit us on freeway sections of the ride—literally—was the wind, and how little protection against it the minuscule screen offered. As I mentioned in the last go-round, the fairing may look cool, but it does little to deflect any kinds of gusts, wind or otherwise. It does its best work as a good-looking bug collector, so I knew a replacement was in the cards; I had an order placed for H-D's Sport Glide 5.5-inch shield from the P&A; catalog before I even rolled across the Oregon border.
That stock “wind deflector” (Harley’s phrase) is only 1.5 inches tall. On a long ride at speed, the only thing it’s deflecting is the smile on your face. (Mirifoto/)
At $154.95, the 5.5-inch replacement shield for the Sport Glide ain’t cheap, considering it’s only, uh, 5.5 inches tall. That’s usually considered a “mini” shield by most companies, and it certainly doesn’t qualify for full touring shield status, even by Harley’s own standards (most touring units start at around 12 inches and go up from there, though naturally whatever you end up choosing depends on your own height and riding position in the saddle). But it’s literally more than three times taller than the 1.5-inch stocker (which Harley calls a “wind deflector”), so I figured something’s better than nothing, especially since there’s not much else out there for this model. Harley’s own product copy states that it “moves more air up and over the rider to reduce helmet buffeting and wind fatigue,” and hopeless optimist that I am, it was enough to get me to bite.
Swapping in the new shield requires taking the fairing off the bike and removing the outer portion from this inner unfinished side (pictured). You can see how low the stock shield sits on top. The clamps below it fasten the fairing to the fork legs. (Andrew Cherney/)
On the positive side, installing the 5.5-inch shield is a straightforward process. You simply pop the detachable fairing off the bike, flip it over (onto a carpet or towel or something soft to minimize scratching up the paint job), and unscrew the black, unpainted inner fairing from the finished outer fairing. Then you simply loosen the two screws holding the deflector to the fairing and just slide it up and out. Slide the new shield into the same slot, tighten those same two mounting screws, reattach the outer fairing to the inner one, and clamp the whole shebang back onto the fork. The whole thing takes less than 20 minutes.
Remove those two mounting screws from the inner fairing and slide the stock shield up and out. (Andrew Cherney/)
The Sport Glide’s nifty fairing design is likely to blame for the small pool of options; because it has relatively short height and width dimensions, there are only so many shield sizes it can support. We’re happy to see that the new taller shield doesn’t muck up the sleek lines of the Sport Glide too much, but then it also doesn’t completely solve the wind blast problem either. It’s a slight improvement, but at speeds more than 55 mph, the wind still came pouring over the shield; it’s just that this time, it hit me higher in the chest (keep in mind I’m only 5-foot-7). I got better results by scooching forward on the saddle and tucking in slightly to get a much cleaner pocket of air, but it’s not that comfortable to maintain that position for long. Harley’s website also tells me the replacement shield is a “light smoke” on the website, but from where I’m sitting it looks perfectly clear. Not a deal breaker mind you, just saying.
I wouldn’t call the 5.5-inch shield “tall,” but it’s an improvement over the stocker. On the plus side, it flows with the fairing’s lines pretty well, but it still lets through lots of turbulence. (Andrew Cherney/)
If you really want to embrace the Sport Glide's stated mission, which is light touring, the 5.5-inch shield might do the trick for you. But if you're looking for true wind protection on longer trips (or you're taller than 5-foot-9, it ain't gonna cut it. I'm thinking about trying out a Klock Werks unit next, since it makes a Flare unit for the Sport Glide. It's about 8 inches tall and shaped differently, so I'm hoping it'll do the trick. Gustafsson Plastics also makes a replacement unit for the Sport Glide, but its version is a true touring unit and looks a great deal taller.
I’m also looking to make a seat swap on the Glide, and hopefully some new rubber; the stock Michelin Scorchers are starting to look a bit tired. Stay tuned.
The Sport Glide has been the perfect weapon for longer weekend rides and the occasional overnighter. It just needs a couple more tweaks to better handle the truly long hauls. (Andrew Cherney/)
Music makes everything better. Cooking? Throw on some tunes. Wrenching on your bike? A little mood music makes maintenance better. So why shouldn't you enjoy some music while you ride? Motorcycle Cruiser has picked the best bluetooth motorcycle helmets and bluetooth speakers for you.
Have you ever been on a group ride and all of you communicated with complex hand signals? Smoke signals? Why bother when you can communicate with the best Bluetooth motorcycle headset?
Best Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet
Bluetooth motorcycle helmets have two jobs. The first is protecting your head and face in the case of a crash. The second is providing you with quality audio, whether it be a podcast, music, phone call, or the voices from other connected Bluetooth motorcycle helmets. Choose from some of our best picks.
Sena Momentum Lite Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet
A stripped down version of the Intelligent Noise Control Momentum Helmet offered by Sena, the Lite version is just as powerful with 10 series integration. (Amazon/)
Sena has been leading the motorcycle accessory industry by producing some of the most versatile Bluetooth motorcycle headsets. The Sena Momentum Lite is a DOT-rated smart motorcycle helmet and comes equipped with Sena's 10 series unit that allows you to speak on the phone, connect with other rider's Bluetooth headsets, and listen to music or the radio, all without having to string wires through your helmet liner.
FreedConn Modular Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet
Safe for anyone’s wallet and just as safe for your head. The FeedConn is perfect for the beginner, or a good second helmet. (Amazon/)
This helmet from FreedConn gives you a DOT safety rating and an integrated Bluetooth device to listen to music, talk on your phone, and connect with two other riders, all for a wallet-friendly price. Available in three colors, the FreedConn Modular Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet is a top pick for beginner motorcyclists.
Torc T15B Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet
Bold graphics and an integrated Bluetooth, along with a DOT rating make this a stylish pick for a rider that wants more than a standard black helmet. (Amazon/)
Torc's T15B Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet features a race-inspired design and a graphics scheme. It is DOT rated and has a drop-down sun visor so you don't need to swap visors when it gets dark out. The Torc T15B allows you to listen to music, talk to other motorcycle intercoms, and speak on the phone.
Best Bluetooth Motorcycle Headset
Listening to music is one perk to have a Bluetooth motorcycle headset, but communication with other riders in your group is just as important. Rather than purchase a whole new helmet, our picks for the best Bluetooth motorcycle headset can turn any motorcycle helmet you buy (or already own) into a Bluetooth helmet.
Sena 20S Evo Motorcycle Bluetooth Headset
Featuring some of the latest tech, Sena’s 20S is a staple in the motorcycle Bluetooth headset lineup. (Amazon/)
Sena's 20S Evo Motorcycle Bluetooth Headset was its follow-up to its successful 10S line. Upgrading everything from the previous model, the 20S Evo comes with Bluetooth 4.1, meaning less interference from other devices. The 20S Evo is also connected to Sena's app, allowing you to update the device from your iPhone or Android device.
Thokwok Motorcycle Bluetooth Headset
A budget option that works just as well as other products at three times the cost. (Amazon/)
The Thokwok Motorcycle Bluetooth Headset does everything you need a Bluetooth motorcycle headset to do, at a significantly smaller price point. With the ability to communicate with other motorcycle intercoms, listen to music, talk on the phone, and navigate from a GPS unit, it's our best budget headset.
Cardo Scala Rider Packtalk Bold Motorcycle Bluetooth Headset
Built with innovation and audio-quality in mind, the Cardo Packtalk Bold continues to be one of the best rated Bluetooth motorcycle headsets. (Amazon/)
Cardo is another big name in the motorcycle Bluetooth headset space, providing quality headsets and intercoms. The Cardo Scala Rider Packtalk Bold has the option to change out the speakers for higher-quality JBLs. Cardo's dynamic mesh communication makes this one of the most versatile and hands-free motorcycle Bluetooth headsets currently offered.
These are just some of the options for Bluetooth integrated technology for motorcyclists, some of which we have personally used. Always make sure to listen to music at a reasonable volume and not distract you while you’re on the road.
Capitalizing on knowledge gained from its success in the Dakar Rally, KTM has made a monumental impact on the adventure-bike market. Over the past 20-plus years, the Austrian manufacturer has introduced a multitude of single- and twin-cylinder machines across a range of engine displacements. Latest in the lineup is the highly anticipated 790 Adventure and more off-road-focused 790 Adventure R. Both machines are based on the oversquare, liquid-cooled, dual-counterbalancer-equipped parallel twin that also powers the 790 Duke (and rumored 790 Duke R). A steel tube chassis is fitted with WP suspension front and rear, a low-slung 5-gallon-plus gas tank, and enduro-size wheels with either street or more dirt-friendly rubber.
As with KTM’s larger streetbikes, electronics play a critical role in the 790 Adventure’s performance both on- and off-road. Street mode is intended for situations where grip is plentiful. Off-road complements the standard tarmac-oriented rubber and works even better with knobbies. Rain reduces engine performance and dulls throttle response. Rally, optional on the base model and standard on the R, introduces 10 levels of lean-sensitive traction control, plus three engine tunes—Street, Off-road, and Rally—to dial in throttle response and wheel spin.
Likes: Excellent ergonomics; engine power delivery tailored for off-road adventure
Dislikes: Buy now or hold out for a 2020 Yamaha 700 Ténéré? Decisions, decisions…
Verdict: Think a 950 or 990 Adventure is the only real off-road ADV option, think again
2019 KTM 790 Adventure/R Reviews And Comparisons
“The 790 Adventure R sets a new standard in the adventure segment for dirt-worthiness,” Senior Editor Justin Dawes wrote following a KTM press ride in the Moroccan desert. “The low center of gravity, narrow chassis, great ergos, impressive engine, and unbelievable suspension will put all other ADV bikes on their heels.”
The definition of a “middleweight” motorcycle has evolved quite a bit over the past few decades. Nowadays, the 790 Adventure falls nearer the lower end of the category’s displacement scale, with some of its competitors edging toward a full liter. But if you’re a buyer, it’s nice to have options.
2019 KTM 790 Adventure/R Specifications And Pricing
Where might a 790 Adventure take you? Answering that question will help you decide how to outfit this new midsize twin. Do you need the largest-available aluminum cases and maybe even a top trunk? Or will a tank bag and a waterproof duffel suffice? Either way, KTM has a solution.
Whether you're a purist, casual admirer, or serious buyer looking at the wide range of current production cafe-racer offerings, you'd have to admit this current collection is pretty damn cool. Snobs may turn their noses up at these factory-produced bikes looking to capture retro aesthetics, but that's their prerogative. We, on the other hand, absolutely love seeing brands looking to experiment with the boundaries of what the cafe genre is capable of, not just where it's been.
We all know that pleasing everybody is a feat of impossibility, and the manufacturers of these new cafe-style bikes don’t seem to be aiming for approval from riders across the board. With so many different brands offering so many varying interpretations within the genre, there is a lot to choose from, but variety is the spice of life, isn’t it?
The Cafe-Racer Culture
Just like a lot of other styles of bikes, the cafe-style racer symbolized a subculture. In the ’60s, it was British bikes that were stripped down to bare bones and customized to get the look just right with elongated tank and low-mounted bars. In the ’70s, Japanese motorcycles squeezed the Brit-bikes out of the consumer market; the modifications changed a bit but the overall aesthetic stayed true for the most part.
Fast-forward to the modern marketplace and we now find these cafe-style bikes being offered by multiple manufacturers with their own spin on the genre. Some aim to capture the true retro vibe, while others take modern, somewhat futuristic liberties with their production models. Not every one will appeal to all cafe-racer fans, but love them or hate them, there is no denying that the cafe trend has gone mainstream.
2019 Royal Enfield Continental GT 650 | $5,999 (Royal Enfield/)
Now available in the US, Royal Enfield's Continental GT 650 twin is a fully modern motorcycle wrapped in cafe-racer style that will certainly appeal to those who value old-school aesthetics. Carefully crafted after Enfield's Continental GT 250, the GT 650 retains a familiar appearance and maintains a similar tucked-in riding position along with classic touches that have always attracted eyeballs to the cafe-style motorcycle.
With a starting price right around $6,000, there’s a lot to consider with the Coni GT 650. Potential buyers aren’t expected to sacrifice much with that price tag, however, with a totally new air-/oil-cooled SOHC parallel-twin engine as well as five tank options to choose from among other things. All that gives the bike its own streamlined sophistication that classic cafe aficionados as well as riders new to the genre can appreciate.
2019 Kawasaki Vulcan S ABS Cafe | $8,099 (Kawasaki/)
Riders who love the sport-cruiser feel will dig Kawasaki's Vulcan S ABS Cafe offering, which brings comfort as well as Ninja-derived 649cc parallel-twin power to the table (along with a hearty helping of tasty cafe styling). To appeal to riders of all sizes and experience levels, the Vulcan features Kawasaki's Ergo-Fit sizing system that offers an impressive 18 different configurations to better cater to riders who can benefit from the adjustable footpegs, seat, and handlebars for a tailored fit and feel.
A sportbike-inspired chassis and suspension offer the rider aggressive handling abilities, and a seven-way-adjustable rear spring preload further promotes a true custom experience for riders of all sizes. The Vulcan Cafe strays furthest from the true cafe formula, adding only a cowling and not much else to tell you it’s a “racer.” This is really more of a crossbreed that’ll appeal to those enthusiasts who don’t expect retro flavor from a modern production cafe motorcycle.
2019 Triumph Thruxton 1200 | $13,000 (Triumph/)
When you think back to the original retro-inspired cafe-racer movement, it would be impossible not to mention Triumph's Thruxtons. Today's Thruxton and Thruxton R (the premium version) both offer the 1,200cc Thruxton-spec Bonneville engine, which is more than enough to satisfy thrill-seeking riders who would expect such an experience from the namesake of Triumph's modern cafe racer. Yep, the Thruxton is as exhilarating to ride as it looks.
To match the Thruxton’s natural performance, the chassis and suspension promote handling prowess that works in tandem with the bike’s power abilities. You get a lot of bang for the $13,000 price here with the twin front disc brakes, 17-inch front wheel, clip-on bars, and overall sporty nature and ergonomics. The Triumph Thruxton is everything OG cafe-racer fans could ask for in a modern version: the nostalgia factor with the right look and, most importantly, well-rounded, exciting performance for riders who plan to ride often and aggressively.
2019 BMW R nineT Racer | $13,545 (BMW/)
For a cafe-inspired bike with a modern twist, BMW's R nineT Racer fits the bill pretty fully. The R nineT Racer strikes a perfect balance of nostalgia and today's sport-flavored performance that all riders will lust after. The lines of this bike are extremely pleasing to the eye, as the tank, half-shell fairing, and seat have been slimmed out to meet a sleek, aerodynamic appearance. The handlebars sit at a low position, and the footrests have been slung back to promote an aggressive riding position and place the body in full attack mode. To further promote the R nineT Racer's agile nature, the air-cooled, two-cylinder 1,170cc boxer engine is capable of 110 hp.
The Bavarian racer might not be the answer for demanding cafe purists, but for those who want perfectly engineered performance in a package that maintains a nostalgic 1970s vibe, BMW’s R nineT Racer is the best of two worlds.
2019 Moto Guzzi V7 III Racer | $9,900 (Moto Guzzi/)
You might not see it at first glance, but the V7 III Racer is capable of two-up riding, which might be the tipping point for riders who often travel with a partner. The V7 III Racer has been produced in numbered editions which gives it a sense of limited availability, but plenty of V7s have found their way onto the road in the two prior generations of the model (both of which got vast improvements).
Now it's the 50th anniversary of the original V7, which was first unveiled in Italy in 1967, and new third-generation V7 owners can revel in pride of heritage along with the excitement of riding a bike that delivers high-flying performance with classic cafe-racing styling cues. Although the V7 III Racer is impressively equipped off the lot, Moto Guzzi has left a ton of room for customization to truly make it your own with its line of officially branded accessories.
2019 Kawasaki W800 Cafe | $9,799 (Kawasaki/)
Cafe fans who remember the impact of the legendary W1 will no doubt feel a direct connection to Kawasaki’s 2019 reintroduction of the W800 racer. Retro styling abounds, but it’s enhanced by modern technology and sophistication to give the W800 the aesthetic cafe purists can respect, with a level of performance today’s rider demands.
Kawasaki’s new W800 hits multiple hallmarks of cafe-racer heritage styling. You can practically check them off a list, from the vintage-looking front cowl to the low-slung clubman-style handlebars, long two-person seat, elegant muffler design, sleek, sculpted tank—man, the W800’s familiar attributes can be called out all day long. The 773cc vertical-twin engine promotes torque-heavy low and midrange performance while the front and rear suspension systems deliver modern handling with a smooth, classic appearance.
Ducati has really doubled down on its lineup of Scrambler-branded motorcycles. Each model has a distinct, unique character, and the Café option is no different. The styling maintains that old-school vibe, but there's no mistaking that this is a modern machine. The cool blue throwback graphics are reminiscent of the 125 GP desmo and blend well with the frame and dedicated solo-looking seat (a cover masks the passenger portion). 1960s-style aluminum handlebars get bar end mirrors to add to the classic look, and 17-inch spoke wheels back up that vibe.
While the Scrambler Café Racer has a retro soul, it’s built to take today’s riders into the future. The bike is Ducati Multimedia System-ready and features crisp LED lighting and handy handlebar switch controls, while a dual-channel Bosch ABS braking system dials up safety ratings. The 73-hp rating is capable of delivering a real good time on one of Ducati’s coolest bikes.
Arai prides itself on producing world-class helmets with cutting-edge safety technology, so I was kind of surprised to see the basic, Classic-V open-face lid enter its lineup last year. Seems the retro-inspired craze is going bonkers and everyone wants in on it, so we snagged a Classic-V and wondered out loud how this latest three-quarter offering would fare in a sea of Biltwell Bonanzas and Bell Custom 500s.
Arai’s Classic-V helmet is the company’s latest entry into the popular open face retro category. It’s one of the few Snell-rated lids in the class. (Andrew Cherney/)
I probably should’ve known that with Arai involved this wasn’t going to be just your basic helmet. It’s taken the classic, stone-simple three-quarter style and tweaked it by subtly adding some premium features. The Classic-V’s shell utilizes the same complex laminate construction as Arai’s higher-end race helmets, and this model even gets a coveted Snell rating, which is something you don’t see too often in the open-face set (the only comparable one I can think of is Shoei’s RJ Platinum).
The medium Classic-V slid easily onto my noggin with its intermediate oval shell shape and fit true to size. As for the profile, the helmet sits low on the head but it’s not nearly as compact or narrow as some other less-padded options because the Classic-V rocks a pretty plush liner which uses the same moisture-wicking, antimicrobial fabrics as the higher-end full-face Arais. The cheek pads are removable on the Classic-V and there are speaker cutouts so you can slap in your comm device of choice, or speakers or whatever, but unfortunately that’s all you can remove—the comfort liner is permanently attached to the EPS liner. On the plus side, the helmet is relatively light, weighing in at 2 pounds, 10 ounces (even with a Snell rating) on our trusty Salter kitchen scale. I’ve been riding around with it for a couple of months now, and it feels well balanced and unobtrusive on my dome too.
The Classic-V babies you with hidden ventilation channels to keep your sweaty dome cool while keeping the look sleek. (Andrew Cherney/)
Another premium aspect is the patented ventilation system, which tucks three integrated (and hidden) intake channels in the forehead area to suck in the fresh air that’ll keep your crown cool. The warm air is then exhausted via two vents in the back (on the bottom of the back lip). It’s a functional set-up you don’t often get in this category, and it doesn’t ruin the simple lines of the Classic-V.
A well-designed goggle strap holder out back keeps accessory eyewear put. That faux leather mimics the trim around the rest of the helmet. (Andrew Cherney/)
Nicer details include contrast stitching across the faux leather trim running around the helmet’s edges. And while it doesn’t look or feel like cheesy vinyl, you can’t help but think, at this price, maybe that should be real leather or ostrich or something. Anyway, you also get low-key, inconspicuous logos to keep things on the down-low, while a nicely constructed goggle strap holder perches on the back and five snaps up front give you a way to attach any universal bubble shields, flat shields, visors, or what have you.
These two vents on the back bottom lip exhaust the warm, moist air out of the helmet’s interior. (Andrew Cherney/)
Ready for the bummer? The Classic-V will run you $469.95. Ouch. We’re talking full-face territory here. The other gripe is that the Classic-V only comes in solids (though we hear new graphic options are on the way). Alas, I feel the Bell Custom and its bros will kill it on price, color options (there are endless metallic flake paint jobs to be had out there) and style -- the hipster lids have a far lower profile (and are also way less comfortable because of that) but by comparison, the Classic V comes close to making you look like the Great Gazoo. So what’s your priority -- looks or comfort? Would it help if I told you kids that the Classic V’s build quality is excellent, fit is ultra-comfortable, the ventilation really works, and you get optimal protection? And that it comes in six shell sizes, XS to XXL? The Classic-V goes for the retro look and mostly nails it, but it’s still a premium, modern and protective product, not a minimalist, thinly-padded brain bucket. It might be one of the priciest open-face helmets on the market, but it’s also one of the most protective.
The Classic V sits fairly low on your head, but all that interior padding (which is super-comfy, and protective, BTW) does give it a bigger moon-like profile. (Andrew Cherney/) Compared side by side, the Bell Custom 500 looks way more compact next to the more robust Arai Classic V (shown in gray). (Andrew Cherney/)
Triumph's two special editions of its best-selling Bonneville—announced several months ago—are now available for purchase. The Bonneville T120 Ace and Diamond editions celebrate the iconic Bonneville and the history that has made it so successful, and you can scoop one up now.
The two bikes vary on the surface only, with both riding on the well-developed Bonneville T120 platform which brings iconic styling riffing on the 1959 original, a 1,200cc High Torque twin Bonneville engine and a dedicated chassis and suspension setup.
The limited-edition blacked-out T120 Ace model is the result of a partnership between London’s Ace Café and Triumph. Production is limited to 1,400 units. (Triumph Motorcycles/)
The 2019 Bonneville T120 Ace is a collaboration with the iconic Ace Café in London. The very spot that was the “café” that cafe racers were named after has partnered up with Triumph before on the successful Thruxton Ace in 2015, and now returns with a darker edge on the blacked-out T120.
The 2019 Bonneville T120 Ace is a collaboration with the iconic Ace Café in London. The very spot that was the “café” that cafe racers were named after has partnered up with Triumph before on the successful Thruxton Ace in 2015, and now returns with a darker edge on the blacked-out T120. (Triumph Motorcycles/)
The one-off limited-edition model gets a slew of unique details and features, most of them cosmetic. It’s a blacked-out urban “traffic light racer” themed special, with unique matt Storm Grey with a contrasting stripe Ace Café paint scheme, dedicated Ace Café and Bonneville T120 graphics (including a “Head down—Hold on” tank graphic), and black Triumph tank and engine badging. A black tuck-’n’-roll seat, the archetypal ace of clubs logo, and a fender removal kit as standard equipment make the T120 Ace stand out from your base-model Bonnies. The special edition will be limited to 1,400 units worldwide, and each bike comes with a numbered certificate signed by Triumph CEO Nick Bloor and Ace Café founder Mark Wilsmore. Pricing is $12,500.
Seems appropriate. The classic “Head down—Hold on” phrase is emblazoned on the tank of the Bonneville T120 Ace edition. (Triumph Motorcycles/)
The Bonneville T120 Diamond Edition meanwhile celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Bonneville, a British motorcycle legend. The iconic twin was first rolled out in 1959, and for 2019, the Diamond Edition pays tribute with a one-off premium paint scheme and a unique level of high-specification finish and detailing ladled atop the classic style and modern capability of the standard Bonneville T120. That higher standard of finish includes an exclusive white and silver tank design with striking Union Jack flag graphics, a special Bonneville T120 Diamond logo on the side panels, chrome Triumph tank and engine badges (recalling the Thunderbirds of the 1950s), and chrome chain guard. This model will get a limited run of only 900 units worldwide and each will come with a numbered certificate of ownership signed by Nick Bloor, Triumph’s CEO. They’re available to order now, with pricing set at $12,350.
The T120 Diamond Edition embraces the Bonneville’s 60th year as a Brit motorcycle legend. The run is limited to 900 units. (Triumph Motorcycles/) The Bonneville T120 Diamond Edition classes it up with white and silver Union Jack flag graphics and bright chrome finishes. (Triumph Motorcycles/)
US voting for Harley’s 2019 Battle of the Kings contest will be closing in a few days, so best to vote now! (Courtesy of Harley-Davidson/)
The worldwide battle between Harley-Davidson dealerships for the coolest custom build is getting down to the wire and voting for the US bikes will be closing on May 15. We thought we'd show a couple more cool builds we spotted in the contest to remind you to get out the vote at h-d.com.
To recap, the Battle of the Kings (BOTK) custom build competition is the largest dealer custom event in the world, where dealers build a custom Harley-Davidson with a defined budget, and with half of the aftermarket parts required to be H-D Genuine Motor Accessories. Bikes can be entered in three style categories—Dirt, Chop, and Race. This year, Harley-Davidson brought in local trade schools to be part of the process, so students could help build the customs at the US dealerships.
You get to vote online for your favorite custom Harley, and after the People’s Choice winners are announced, one US champion gets picked at the Harley dealers’ meeting. The US champion then goes on to the big smackdown against the top international bikes for the title of Global Battle of the Kings champion.
Todd Clay wanted a bike that didn't look the same as the others, so his team at Black Sheep Harley-Davidson along with Collins Career Technical Center turned to the video gaming world. Todd explains, "We wanted to build a bike that will resonate with fans of Fallout 76 as well as the <em>Mad Max</em> movies." This Fat Bob dubbed "War Pig" entered in the Chop category should definitely do the trick. (Courtesy of Harley-Davidson/) “Split Decision” is a Softail Slim from St. Joe Harley-Davidson entered in the Chop category. Crew chief Justin Simpson was the guiding force along with some help from the students at Hillyard Technical Center. (Courtesy of Harley-Davidson/) Laidlaw crew chief Keith Hurt at Laidlaw’s Harley-Davidson calls its bike the “FXGTS Coast Glide” because it’s a blend of the different pieces and parts: “FX” for the dual-disc brake front end, with mid-controls; “GT” for Grand Touring; and “S” for the sport styling. And “Coast Glide” refers to that famous highway nearby, and the fact that this bike started life as a Sport Glide. (Courtesy of Harley-Davidson/) One of the cooler Road King Specials we’ve seen is this wild build from Appalachian H-D, called “Apex.” Crew chief Brandon Older and his team partnered with tech school partner Cumberland Perry Area Vocational Technical School to fabricate parts and work on all aspects of the build. (Courtesy of Harley-Davidson/) Is that a 117ci motor stuffed into a Fat Boy? It sure looks like the Sedro-Woolley High School students are serious about the Battle of the Kings. “We have at least 10 regular students here weekly” says Ash Friedrichs, crew chief of North Cascades Harley-Davidson. “Early on, we engaged the kids as a think tank to help with build decisions, but they've been coming in regularly to work on the bike.” (Courtesy of Harley-Davidson/)
With aggressive style and solid performance chops, the FXDR 114 is the acknowledged power cruiser in Harley’s Softail lineup (even though we coaxed “only” 78.7 hp out of it on our dyno). (Harley-Davidson/)
We'll admit it—inspiration for this list came to us after seeing Triumph's new Rocket 3 TFC model release. Hearing numbers like 168 hp and 2,500cc prompted us to take a trip to the archives and revisit who exactly could stack up as legitimate competitors to the Rocket. Perennial power cruiser suspects like the VMAX, Vulcan, and VTX used to be a foregone conclusion, but the landscape has changed in the last couple of years. So is there any room left for those rubber-melting musclebikes of yore? We think there is, and some of the newer models carry on the big power tradition even more forcefully. As a bonus, some of these power mongers will even let you carve a canyon or two pretty handily (looking at you, Ducati). Let's take a closer peek at some of our faves.
Mr. Max practically invented this category back in 1985, so we’ll list him first. It doesn’t hurt that the 65-degree, four-valve-per-cylinder, 1,679cc V-4 at the heart of the beast still produces eye-opening amounts of perfectly controllable acceleration, egged on by liquid-cooling, fuel injection, and a ride-by-wire throttle. Other supporting bits include a slipper clutch, dual wave-style brake discs with six-piston calipers, and suspension adjustability front and rear. A cruiser in sportbike clothing, or the other way around? Either way, this bike is no joke.
Triumph’s newest superlative supercruiser is the mammoth Rocket 3 TFC. With a claimed 168 hp and 163 pound-feet of torque emanating out of the 2,500cc triple, you’d better hang on for dear life when you twist the throttle. We haven’t seen a working production model just yet, but even if those numbers are off by 5 to 7 percent, we’re still talking ridiculous amounts of grunt. If it’s anything like its predecessor, that outrageous engine will be tempered by shockingly benign manners, much like the OG Rocket III was in 2004.
1,649cc | 160 hp @ 7,750 rpm (claimed) | $20,095 (Courtesy BMW Motorrad/)
The Bavarian bagger essentially gets sportbike-y bits shoehorned into a touring bike and somehow, with typical German precision, makes it all work oh-so-well. At its core is an inline-six tucked transversely in the frame and canted forward so it’s shorter as well as more compact. An oversquare 72mm bore and 67.5mm stroke pencils out to 1,649cc and a wicked 12.2:1 compression ratio. Hot stuff, especially since BMW claims a pretty lively 160 horses coming on at 7,750 rpm (along with 129 pound-feet of torque at 5,250 rpm).
Naked? Power cruiser? Sporty standard? Biggers brains than ours have debated the genre Ducati’s Diavel should slot into, so we’ll just give you the numbers. For 2019, Italy completely recast the Devilish One giving it a larger 1,262cc Testastretta DVT V-twin and a more streamlined but still hefty vibe. Ergonomics are a kind of hybrid between a relaxed standard and a racebike (which is what the factory calls a “power cruiser”), and despite that fat 240mm rear tire and the bike’s low-slung nature, the Diavel delivers good handling and a comfortable ride.
2019 Honda Gold Wing
1,833cc | 125 hp @ 5,500 rpm (claimed) | $23,800 (Courtesy American Honda/)
Redesigned from stem to stern in 2018, the new Gold Wing in standard trim (five versions are available) now resembles what used to be called the F6B: a stripped-down, lighter, and peppier bagger (with more than 40 degrees of available lean angle) rather than a fully loaded dresser. Which suits it fine; that 1,833cc flat-six mill is freed from hauling extra weight and can now fully exploit its 125 hp, along with the Honda-patented double-wishbone front end. The riding position is perfectly neutral, and that surprisingly deep available lean angle is just begging to be tested.
Packing a 54-degree V-twin that displaces 109ci, or 1,783cc, the M109R is definitely a boss at this party. Although it’s virtually unchanged in more than a decade, the M109R still has plenty of street cred thanks to a modern design that brings a sport-oriented oversquare engine with a bore and stroke of 112.0 and 90.5mm. Using lightweight slipper-type pistons, four valves per cylinder, and dual-overhead camshafts, the excellent V-twin mill is definitely rev-happy. If you can handle the space cowboy styling, the B.O.S.S. just might be your jam.
Moto Guzzi’s California series don’t often make the cut for listings of power cruisers, which is weird because that 1,380cc engine is awesome. With its broad shoulders and beefy stance, the lighter-weight Audace model brings the right attitude to the street and the 90-degree V-twin brings a healthy maximum power claim of 96 hp, with maximum torque claimed to be 89.2 pound-feet. Even if it’s just shy of 100 hp, this definitely feels like power cruiser territory.
Available only on CVO bikes, Harley’s air-/oil-cooled 117-inch motor is the biggest, most powerful V-twin to ever come from the factory. We’ve heard power numbers claiming a peak of 105 bhp and 125 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm. After dyno testing it, we recorded 93.7 hp, but with a few legal tweaks, it’s a safe bet that the 1,923cc monster could legitimately break the 100-hp mark without breathing too heavily.
2019 Indian Scout
1,131cc | 84.62 hp @ 8,260 rpm (as tested) | $11,999 (Courtesy Indian Motorcycle/)
Indian claims its 1,133cc DOHC V-twin Scout unit makes 100 hp and 72 pound-feet of torque at 6,000 rpm, but we reckon it’s capable of much more as the engine feels so understressed even when you’re at WOT. Officially we’ve recorded 84.62 hp at 8,260 rpm and 63.85 pound-feet of torque at 3,220 rpm on our dyno, which is not insignificant, especially because the Scout serves that up in a smooth, flat line. Since the Scout is relatively light (558 pounds wet), performance is gutsier than you’d expect from a classically styled bike. This thing just flat-out rips.
The horsepower wars were also a real thing in the not-so-distant past. Here’s a look at some two-wheel tire-shredding blasts from the past we still get misty over.
Kawasaki Vulcan 2000
2,053cc | 116 hp (claimed) (Andrew Cherney/)
Although the biggest, baddest Vulcan is no longer being produced, it was top dog during the mid- aughts, boasting a burly 2,053cc engine set in a classic V-twin configuration. The V2K’s old-school mill churned out 141 pound-feet of stump-pulling torque at 3,000 rpm which, combined with around 90-plus hp at the rear wheel, felt like you were riding a freight train.
Harley-Davidson V-Rod (Night Rod/Night Rod Special)
1,247cc | 125 hp (claimed) (Harley-Davidson/)
Ahead of its time on several levels and bringing race-bred DNA to the street, Harley’s 1,250cc 60-degree Revolution V-twin mill pumped out a pretty spectacular 125 hp and 85 pound-feet of torque in the Night Rod model. Not too shabby for a bike much smaller and lighter than Milwaukee’s Big Twin offerings at the time, and a surefire bet to beat your buddies at red light drag races.
1,832cc | 104 hp (claimed) (Honda/)
Although not in the Honda cruiser lineup for several years now, the 1,832cc bruiser is still a beast to be reckoned with. Okay, so it’s the same engine as found in the base Gold Wing, but in Valkyrie form it’s got less weight to push—you’ll be propelled across the earth that much quicker. The 1,832cc engine can make 104 hp and 110 pound-feet of torque.
1,179cc | 104 hp
Cranking out 104 hp at 8,000 rpm from a fuel-injected 1,179cc V-twin powerplant, the late lamented Victory Octane was a true power cruiser, especially when you consider it had a relatively low wet weight of 548 pounds to push. That engine was derived directly from the Victory Project 156 Pikes Peak racer, and is pretty close to the same one that’s now in the Indian Scout.