The Best Motorcycles From 2001

The best of the rest

This article was originally published in the December 2001 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

The cruiser market has seen some extraordinary developments over the past 12 months. We've sampled everything from all-new and seriously down-to-earth middleweights like the Suzuki Volusia and Honda 750 Shadow Spirit to early-release 2002 headliners like the Honda VTX, H-D V-Rod and Kawasaki Mean Streak. In the 2001 model year there were 82 cruiser-style options available in dealer showrooms, and the 2002 roundup will only be larger. It doesn't get much better than this. Motorcycle sales—especially cruiser sales—are growing despite a chilly economic climate that's put other recreational markets in a downward spin. The only problem bike manufacturers have today is keeping up with the competition. But it sure is fun watching them try.

Harley-Davidson V-Rod
Astounding power and eye-popping style, it's no wonder the 2001 V-Rod claimed the award for best 1100.Kevin Wing

BEST 1100

Harley-Davidson V-Rod
Tested: October 2001

It's weird to think that this new Harley won't be included in the Big Twins comparison we have planned for next issue. The dimensions of its motor simply don't match the class requirements. And it certainly won't be pitted against the current lot of 1100cc metric cruisers. We might take it to task alongside Yamaha's V-Max and Honda's Valkyrie and Magna for a fun-fest, but really, at least in the traditional V-twin arena, the V-Rod stands alone. It also stands above any other middleweight because of its astounding power and eye-popping style. Its excellence is complemented by the significance of the huge break it makes with Harley tradition. The 60-degree, short-stroke dual-overhead cam and liquid-cooled V-twin mill will spin happily to 9000 rpm. We like the radical styling, especially the exposed perimeter frame, disc wheels and alloy body treatment. And frankly, we dig having one in our garage…too bad you probably can't have one in yours, even if you were willing to shell out the $17K asking price ($23K average actual taking price). The 11,000 V-Rods slated for 2002 are mostly spoken for.

Suzuki Volusia
The thorough test of eight middleweights concluded with the Suzuki Volusia taking the crown.Dean Groover

Best Middleweight

Suzuki Volusia

We just finished a huge comparison of the middleweights, and the new Suzuki took top honors. Click HERE for the full report.

Kawasaki Vulcan 500
Kawasaki took the awards for both entry-level and best touring-intended cruiser categories with the Vulcan 500 (pictured) and the Vulcan Nomad 1500 FI.Kevin Wing

Best Entry-Level

Kawasaki Vulcan 500
Tested: February 2001

It's true that 250cc V-twin motorcycles are the easiest to learn on, and you'll find the little wonders used in riding schools the world over. From that mix, we prefer the Yamaha Virago 250 and the Suzuki GZ250. However, these miniature cruisers have one major drawback—you're likely to outgrow them in a matter of months. The Vulcan 500 is a bike that's oh-so-easy to learn on, offering predictable handling, extreme maneuverability, decent brakes, a low seat height (27.6 inches) and light weight (477 pounds wet). Yet there's enough power on tap to allow you to keep up with a pack of big-bore cruisers if you work the spunky parallel twin. The littlest Vulcan is also roomy for its size, and we all find the ergonomics comfortable enough for a bit of soft-core touring. Best of all, it's only about $4700, not much more than the 250cc V-twin cruisers, which range from $3000 to $4400.

Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1500 FI
The 2001 cruiser of choice to take you cross-country: The Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1500 FI.Kawasaki

Best Touring-Intended Cruiser

Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1500 FI
Tested: April 2001

If you’re a regular reader of Motorcycle Cruiser, you won’t be surprised by this choice. This Kawasaki remains our favorite mount for everything from cross-country humping to romantic overnighters. We’ve had the pleasure of sampling all of the cruising rigs touted as touring bikes for 2001, and the Nomad is still the most comfortable, versatile, reliable and good-looking. And, best of all, at $13,000 (in 2001) it’s at least $2500 less than the other hard-baggers on the market. We’ve loved stacking miles on this bike since its release in 1999, and we’re not planning on stopping anytime soon. If you have an itch for big-twin performance and styling, but often find yourself lost in dotted yellow daydreams and craving truck stop coffee, the Nomad will deliver.