2000 Cruiser Of The Year

Turning heads, turning corners and turning a new page.

This article was originally published in the December 2000 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

Harley-Davidson Deuce
The Harley-Davidson Deuce was taking Japanese manufacturers head-on with its new counterbalanced Twin Cam engine.Dean Groover

Harley's new Deuce makes eyes pop because it is the most radical styling exercise Harley-Davidson, or any company that actually designs its own motorcycles, has ever put into production. The Deuce advances into territory formerly controlled by custom builders and smaller firms that hand build bikes. Even more impressively, H-D does it with a bike that doesn't exhibit any of the quirks usually associated with custom machinery or radical designs. This long, sleek head-turner also turns corners with equal conviction, making it as much fun out on back roads as it is on the boulevard.

But we didn't pick the Deuce as our Cruiser of the Year simply because it is a great cruiser. That was secondary. What made the Deuce the milestone cruiser of 2000 is its new counterbalanced Twin Cam engine down in the engine bay. The use of a counterbalancer is an entirely new direction for Harley-Davidson. With this motor, Harley takes the Japanese manufacturers head-on, showing that it can and will harness any technology that suits it. This move surprised many observers, perhaps because they assumed the company and its customers shunned the sort of mechanical and technological trickery, complication and gadgetry that a counterbalancer represents. But the counterbalancer also offers a solution to many of the vibration-based problems that plagued earlier Softail models with their solidly mounted engines. By using a counterbalancer, Harley can retain the snug fit of the engine without the threat of harsh vibration.

The engine brings other technological advances while staying well within the parameters of traditional Harley V-twins. Compared to the Evolution engine it replaces, the counterbalanced Twin Cam offers a more efficient assembly, easier service, more modern and robust construction in dozens of details and substantially more power. It manages this with air-cooling, two valves per cylinder and a single carb. Because the Twin Cam is more powerful than most of its competitors from the Japanese firms, it leaves you wondering what advantages you get from those other bikes' complexities like liquid-cooling, four valves per cylinder and multiple carburetors.

The Deuce isn’t the only model with the new engine, but its one-two combination of modern motor technology with superior power and styling that shreds the envelope the and competition it was working within makes it the most important cruiser of 2000, and our Cruiser of the Year.