Billet Motorcycle Wheel Buyer's Guide

Have your next set of wheels carved from solid aluminum. From the October 2000 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

We're happy to report that the Dark Ages of Metric Cruiserdom are behind us. Gone are the days when only a smattering of options were available to the customizer. In the not-too-distant past, owners of metric customs--who'd spent long hours laboring on their machines, stretching the frame, restyling the bodywork, building their bikes the way only they could--were forced to display their creations with original equipment wheels or, at best, new rims laced to the original hubs. But no more!

Gathered here before you are billet wheels from five--count 'em--different manufacturers. And that's not all. While we asked the manufacturers to send us only samples of their Road Star wheels, most of the companies also sell wheels to fit several different cruiser models. The majority of these wheels will bolt on without modification to the frame or fenders, but if you plan to push the envelope by mounting a 21-inch wheel where a 16-incher formerly resided, expect to have new bodywork in your future. Also, some wheels require proprietary brakes and/or pulleys. If in doubt, double-check with the manufacturer.

For our photos, we mounted a set of Avon Tyres to each wheel. Stock-sized hoops received Avon's slick, new Venom X tires, while oversized rims were graced with the long-time customizer's favorite, Avon AM-23. Since we know that all cruisers don't ride Road Stars, we've listed the bikes that each manufacturer carves wheels for and the wheel sizes offered. If you don't see your bike listed, call anyway. Billet wheels are one of the fastest-growing cruiser products on the market.

Go ahead, peruse the wealth of options available. But please, be respectful. Many blocks of aluminum were sacrificed so that cruisers everywhere could display these riches.

CRUZ CONCEPTS PEGASUS

A relative newcomer to the billet wheel arena, Cruz Concepts has brought three wheel styles with names straight out of Greek mythology. Cruz Concepts plans to continue to grow its model line in the future.

Price: Front $675 polished, $900 chromed; rear $840 polished, $1065 chromed.

Weight: Front 17.2 lb.; rear 26.7 lb.

Sizes shown: Front 16 x 3.0 in., rear: 16 x 4.0 in.

Sizes available: Front - 16 x 3.0 in., 17 x 3.5 in., 18 x 3.0 in., 19 x 2.15 in., 21 x 2.15 in.; rear - 16 x 3.0, 4.0, 5.0 in., 17 x 5.5 in., 18 x 3.0, 4.0 in.; 18 x 5.5 in.

Number of styles: Four (Pegasus, Cerberus, Centaur and Prism)

Cruiser models fitted: Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Classic, Drifter and Nomad; Honda Valkyrie; Yamaha V-Star, Road Star, Venture, Royal Star; and full line of Harley-Davidson.

Special notes: Utilizes stock brakes and pulley.

Contacts: 2321 Glasgow Road, Bowling Green, KY 42101, (888) 447-2869, www.cruzconcepts.com

DIAMOND DISTRIBUTING CUTTER

With its roots in dragracing, Diamond Distributing has entered the cruiser wheel market with what it claims are the first four-spoke billet wheels available. The new Diamond Cutter wheel is unlike any other we've seen.

Price: Front $790 polished, $1040 chromed; rear $995 polished, $1245 chromed

Weight: Front 16.1 lb., rear 21.7 lb.

Sizes shown: Front: 16 X 3.0 in., rear: 16 X 4.0 in.

Sizes available: Front - 16 X 3.0, 4.0 in.; 17 x 3.5 in.; 18 x 3.0, 4.0 in.; 19 x 2.15 in.; 21 x 2.15 in.; rear - 16 X 4.0, 5.0 in.; 18 x 4.0, 5.5 in.

Number of styles: Two (Diamond Cutter and Intimidator)

Cruiser models fitted: Honda Aero (front wheel only), Shadow and Valkyrie; Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Classic; Suzuki Intruder 1500 LC; Yamaha V-Max

Special notes: Utilizes stock brakes and pulley.

Contact: 10145 Northwest 46th Street, Sunrise, FL 33351, (800) 466-8606, (954) 749-8606, www.diamond-dist.com

JARDINE RAMPAGE CHROME

For years, wheel manufacturers claimed that billet wheels for shaft driven motorcycles would be too expensive to develop because each shaft system was different. Jardine revolutionized the marketplace by building a common set of rims around bolt-in hubs designed for each individual cruiser model. Now Jardine's competition has followed with various interpretations of this design.

Price: Front: $790 polished, $971 chromed; rear: $995 polished, $1244 chromed

Weight: Front: 28.0 lb., rear: 32.2 lb.

Sizes shown: Front: 16 x 3.0 in., rear: 16 x 3.5 in.

Sizes available: Original-equipment sizes

Number of styles: Two (Raptor and Rampage)

Cruiser models fitted: Honda ACE, ACE Tourer, Aero, Sabre, Shadow, Spirit and Valkyrie; Kawasaki 1500 Vulcan, Vulcan 1500 Classic and Nomad; Suzuki 1400 Intruder and 1500 LC; Yamaha 650 V-Star Classic, 650 V-Star Custom, V-Star 1100, Road Star and Royal Star

Special notes: Jardine's wheels are currently available in OE replacement sizes, but custom sizes are in the works.

Contact: 1220 West Railroad Street, Corona, CA 92882, (800) 347-8664, (909) 371-1744, www.jardineproducts.com

PERFORMANCE MACHINE VILLAIN

Not too long ago, if you asked who made billet wheels for cruisers, about the only answer you'd get was Performance Machine (PM). Because of this long-term involvement in the wheel aftermarket, almost all of PM's wheels have matching rotors and pulleys. Rooted heavily in the Harley market, PM only manufactures wheels for belt-driven cruisers.

Price: Front: $795 polished, $995 chromed; rear: $895 polished, $1095 chromed

Weight: Front: 18.8 lb., rear: 20.3 lb.

Sizes shown: Front: 18 x 3.5 in., rear: 18 x 5.5 in.

Sizes available in this style: Front: 16 x 3.0, 3.5 in.; 17 x 3.5 in.; 18 x 3.0, 3.5 in.; 19 x 2.125 in.; 21 x 2.125 in.; rear: 16 x 3.0, 3.5, 5.0, 6.0 in.; 17 x 5.5, 6.0 in.; 18 x 3.0, 3.5, 4.25, 5.5 in.

Number of styles: 13 (12 Spoke, Nine Spoke, Player, Rage, Scream, Solid, Tempest, Trespasser, Tribal, Twister, Villain, Vintage and Viper)

Cruiser model fitted: All Harley-Davidsons and Yamaha Road Stars

Special notes: All wheels can be used with OE brakes and discs, but if PM matching discs are desired, PM calipers and pulleys will also be required. Pulleys and discs styled to match wheels are available for most models. PM does not manufacture wheels for shaft-driven motorcycles.

Contact: 6892 Marlin Circle, La Palma, CA 90623, (714) 523-3000, (800) 479-4037, www.performancemachine.com

RC COMPONENTS STINGRAY

Starting 11 years ago from one set of wheels that owner Rick Ball built for his drag bike, RC Components has grown to feature an impressive line of wheels, discs and brakes.

Price: Front: $825 polished, $1075 chromed; rear: $875 polished, $1125 chromed

Weight: Front: 18.6 lb., rear: 23.5 lb.

Sizes shown: Front: 18 x 3.5 in., rear: 18 x 5.5 in.

Sizes available in this style: Front: 16 x 3.5 in., 17 x 3.5 in., 18 x 3.5 in., 19 x 2.15 in., 21 x 2.15 in.; rear: 16 x 3.5, 4.25, 5.5 in.; 17 x 5.5 in.; 18 x 3.5, 4.25, 5.5 in.

Number of styles: 10 Billet (Chaos, Dagger, Fluid, RC Comp, Regal, Slash, Stealth, Stingray, Wicked and Wizard)

Cruiser models fitted: Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Classic, Drifter 1500and Nomad; Yamaha Road Star and Royal Star; Suzuki 1400 Intruder and 1500 Intruder LC; and most Harley-Davidsons.

Special notes: All wheels utilize stock brakes and pulley. Matching brake systems for several wheel models are available. Unique Pulley Rotor combines separate caliper, discs and pulley into one slick unit. Six less expensive, polished cast wheel models are available (Sabre, Smoothie, Spectra, Spokester, Starfighter and Talon), starting at $529.

Contact: 140 Hunters Court, Bowling Green, KY 42103, (270) 842-6000, www.rccomponents.com

ALTERNATE SOLUTIONS: If you don't have have enough bills for billet

Cruisers who can't bring themselves to pay a couple thousand dollars to supplant perfectly functional parts--no matter how pretty the billet replacements are--still have a few options . Owners of bikes with cast wheels can have them either polished or powdercoated, or both. Spoked wheel owners can have them re-laced with fancy spokes and add oversized rims.

The polishing of metal traces its roots to the time before there were motorcycles. When polishing metal, the heat generated by friction seals the metal's pores, adding lustre to the surface. Polishing is, in its most basic sense, the progressive elimination of scratches through the use of increasingly finer abrasives. The sheen comes from making the scratches in the metal so fine that they are invisible to the naked eye. In the final stages of polishing, rouges (compounds of grits, lubricants and metals which help to bring out the metal's natural color highlights), not sandpapers, provide the ultra fine abrasives. Although brute force plays the primary role in polishing, the finesse of the detailed work separates the professional polishers from the garage metal buffs.

Powdercoating is a dry finishing process in which a powder, consisting of finely ground particles of pigment and resin, is given an electrostatic charge and sprayed on the part to be coated. The charge holds the powder to the part until a curing oven melts and fuses the powder into a uniform coating. Since the powdered paint doesn't contain the volatile organic compounds (VOC) found in most liquid paints, powdercoating is an environmentally friendly process that provides a durable finish. Although good powdercoaters can come close to matching almost any paint color including candy colors, powdercoating is slightly less flexible in color choice than paint, though much more durable.

Our project Valkyrie, featured in the December 1997 issue, shows how interesting a combination of polishing and powdercoating can look. Distinctive Metal Polishing (818/344-2160) polished all of the wheels' flat surfaces to a high sheen, while Andrews Powder Coating (818/700-1030, www.powdercoater.com) provided the candy color to all of the cut-out sections of the wheels--and even the holes of the brake discs! The result was a striking visual statement. For less than the price of one billet wheel, the Valkyrie's stock equipment took on a decidedly custom appearance.

Owners of bikes with spoked wheels can dress them up with a set of Buchanan's (626/969-4655) stylish spokes. Throw in a set of Sun Rims (626/969-4655), and you have basically a new set of wheels! We had a set of wire wheels built for a Vulcan Classic (December 1997). We've logged many miles on these pretty wheels and received numerous compliments in our travels--all for approximately $300 per wheel.

So, customizers who want a distinctive look for their bikes on a budget not built for billet don't need to be left out. Just give these folks a call to get things rolling.

For additional evaluations of, comparisons of, and shopping advice for motorcycle gear and accessories, see the Accessories and Gear section of MotorcycleCruiser.com.

Photography by Dean Groover (www.DeanGroover.com)