1997 Cruiser of the Year

The Honda Shadow A.C.E. Tourer takes the 1997 Cruiser of the Year award

1997 Honda Shadow A.C.E. Tourer
1997 Honda Shadow A.C.E. TourerFran Kuhn

Our selection for the Cruiser of the Year should not be misinterpreted as being the "Best Cruiser of 1997." Since style and attitude are the primary attributes of a cruiser and are subject to the vagaries of personal taste, we honestly can't name the Best Cruiser. Instead, when selecting the Cruiser of the Year, we looked for the bike we felt expanded the horizons of cruising while still retaining the essence of a cruiser. The Honda Shadow American Classic Edition Tourer fits our definition of Cruiser of the Year completely.

For too many motorcyclists, cruisers have been stylish machines, built to look at, not ride. They saw less-than-stellar suspension, minimal ground clearance, and riding positions that would make long rides an uncomfortable proposition. They thought cruisers belonged on the boulevard, and were out of their element when they strayed far. The A.C.E. Tourer explodes these myths.

The A.C.E. Tourer has the unmistakable look of a cruiser with its 45-degree V-twin. This is what pushes it ahead of the other contender, Honda’s Valkyrie Tourer, since many would say a V is the only true cruiser engine configuration. Classic styling, a swept-back handlebar, and forward located pegs, promise the relaxed riding position of a true cruiser. Chrome accents throughout the bike add some sparkle. And just one look tells you this bike is intended for horizon-chasing. The windshield keeps the elements at bay, and the 37-quart, locking hard bags allow more than a change of underwear to be carried along.

Wherever we took the Tourer, people stopped to talk about it. Although its good looks will attract people to the bike, its ride will convert most of its riders to cruising. The 1099cc engine runs silky smooth, thanks to the twin’s offset-dual-crankpin design. The five-speed transmission keeps the engine loping along at 3250 rpm at 60 mph. A rubber-mounted handlebar also helps to keep the vibrations away. The Tourer’s performance, which enables it to actually outrun a few larger bikes such as the Royal Star and Vulcan 1500 Classic, should keep all but the most power hungry happy. Honda also made sure the Tourer’s suspension could live up to the long-distance tasks that the rest of the bike was intended for. It’s supple enough to coddle you on bumpy superslab, yet firm and controlled enough to deliver responsive cornering when the road gets twisty. Whether traveling solo or two-up with fully loaded bags, the A.C.E. Tourer’s ground clearance let riders hustle through bends when they want to. Clearly, the A.C.E. Tourer was designed to be ridden all day long on a variety of roads.

When looking back at the new cruisers introduced for the 1997 model year, several bikes stand out as having pushed the boundaries of cruising. Harley's Heritage Springer vastly extended the nostalgia sector. The Royal Star Tour Deluxe and the Valkyrie Tourer both take steps in expanding what motorcyclists consider to be cruisers, yet we don't believe that either of them can eclipse the standard set by the A.C.E. Tourer. And 1998 promises to push the state of the art even further!

This article was originally published in the October 1997 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.