Best Cruiser Buys of 1998

Eight great deals on wheels

As most cruiser owners recognize, cruisers tend to be better buys in the long run than comparable sportbikes. Because they are built for the long haul and don’t change much or disappear from the lines after a few years, cruisers hold their resale value, make it easy to get parts, and provide pride of ownership long after the thrill or newness has worn off.

However, there are still some machines that provide superior deals when it’s time to buy. Though we started out looking for 10 such bikes, we finally decided that eight of the cruisers available in 1998 qualify as Best Buys. We wanted machines that offered significantly more, in terms of performance and pride of ownership, than bikes with comparable prices. As always, the value of a cruiser varies greatly in the eye of the beholder. But we think that anyone who puts money down on one of these bikes at the price listed can feel confident that he or she rode away with a bargain.

Honda Magna
Honda MagnaCruiser

Honda Magna $7499
Dropping a hard-hitting 750cc V-4 into a cruiser chassis produced a memorable musclebike. The Magna is fast, smooth, comfortable, cleanly distinctive, and responds well to customizing. It's also easier on the wallet than any quicker cruiser (and you can count those on your thumbs).

Yamaha V-Star Custom
Yamaha V-Star CustomCruiser

Yamaha V-Star Custom $5599
Though our experience with it is limited at this point, we expect the Custom variant to deliver most of the attractions that so impressed us with the V-Star Classic, priced at $300 more. It shares the same tractable 650cc engine, comparable chassis geometry and roominess, and the same sort of high-quality finish and styling usually reserved for bigger, more expensive bikes. We debated some before choosing the Custom model—with its more aggressive, chopper-style attitude, instead of the more comfort-oriented Classic model—but the similarities and price difference pushed us this way.

Suzuki Intruder 1400 $8499
Still the standard for clean styling in a large-displacement chopperesque motorcycle, the Intruder 1400 is popular with good reason. Though that style isn't quite as comfortable on long rides as the fat look of its new big brother, its looks are original, the engine generates serious power, maintenance is minimized by features like shaft drive and self-adjusting valves, and aftermarket support for customizers grows daily. All of this for a price that's $1400 below the new 1500.

Yamaha 1100 Virago $7599
It won't win any awards for appearance, but you easily forget the looks when you taste all of the other pleasures the Virago 1100 offers. With enough power to humiliate bigger V-twins, comfort to pamper its rider on long rides, surprisingly responsive handling, useful features ranging from a centerstand to shaft drive to a handlebar petcock switch, and a $7600 price tag, this is a king-hell deal. See this issue's 1100 comparison.

Harley-Davidson Sportster 883
Harley-Davidson Sportster 883Cruiser

Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 $5245
In the event that you can find one priced at the MSRP (which is becoming increasingly likely as Harley steps up production with a new Sportsters-only factory), Harley's base-model 883 is a great deal. That price falls below other makers' 500 to 600cc machines (except Suzuki's Savage 650 single), yet performance puts it right in the middle of the 800cc V-twin class. It can be—and has been—customized into almost anything you can dream of. Although vibration and other factors curtail comfort and some details are rough, the Sportster offers self-adjusting valves and belt final drive—the intangible cachet of Harley-Davidson.

Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Classic $10,699
Despite new challenges for '98, this remains our favorite of the big-inch V-twins we have tested to date. Several large-displacement twins are priced lower and most are a bit quicker. But none offer the combination of comfort, style, quality of finish, all-around riding pleasure—and the reasonable entry fee—of Kawasaki's 1500 Classic. You'll find a test in this issue.

Kawasaki Nomad
Kawasaki NomadCruiser

Kawasaki Nomad $11,999
How great a deal is the Nomad? Well, folks have been asking if the $12,000 price in our last issue was a misprint. "Are you sure it wasn't $12,999?" is the typical question. How did Kawasaki manage to add all of the touring amenities to the Vulcan 1500 Classic for just $1300? We don't know, but after riding the prototype for our last cover, we expect that they will sell like hotcakes.

Honda Shadow A.C.E. 750 $6299
This was our favorite when we compared the 800cc V-twins last August. Although the other machines were faster, we liked the A.C.E. 750's big-bike-like comfort, profile, well-controlled suspension, and strong, controllable brakes. Though it gets there by using a bit more plastic than we'd like, the newest A.C.E. is nonetheless a great buy.

Note: Prices and info stated above are from the April 1998 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.