The Corporate Chopper Challenge

The Skinny Bikes Are Back

  • Harley-Davidson Rocker
  • Honda Fury
  • Star Raider
  • Victory Vegas

Shoot Out!
"Corporate rock still sucks" was an iconic bumper sticker in the 1980s, went on to become a punk anthem in the 1990s, and can now be roughly translated to bikes by changing the word "rock" for "chopper." Without a doubt, Honda has broken some seriously new ground with their release of the Fury, but there is ground that will never be broken by a major manufacturer, and that's a good thing. The leaders in the custom bike world should be guys who are actually customizing bikes, while the guys who sit down to three meetings a day and conduct focus groups lie floundering in their wake.

But that said, it's actually more shocking that nobody big and corporate has taken the plunge until now. Alternative manufacturers like Big Dog, Big Bear Choppers, Titan, American Ironhorse and others carved out a niche originally because Harley wasn't producing enough motorcycles to meet demand (some would apply this model to all cruiser manufacturers), but later found a second wind by simply producing bikes that nobody big would ever produce: choppers. Thanks to a multitude of TV shows, public awareness was at an all-time high, and still there were no corporate choppers. Until now.

People are touting the Honda as the first of its kind, but let's have a bit of perspective. The first baby steps in this direction were made by Harley-Davidson with a number of models, but most importantly with the Softail back in 1984. This blockbuster bike was what kickstarted the first wave of cruisers in the late 1980s. The Softail is far from a chopper, but it was easily the closest anyone had come to that point. The skinny look fell out of vogue in the 90s (replaced by the Fat Boy look still prevalent today) until Victory revived it with their Vegas in 2002. The Big Four were mostly out of the picture for a time with Suzuki's neglected Intruder finally biting the dust about the time that Star showed up with the Raider.

Both the Vegas and Raider show dashes of chopperism, the Vegas with its sculpted, swoopy tank and the Raider with a high neck and big rake. Honda took both of these elements and slapped them all together into one package that finally brings the entire package of chopperishness into a single bike. The Rocker? Well, as Harley's most customized Softail (though H-D prefers Rockertail), we thought it a good fit; but we maybe should have gone with the modern day equivalent of the bike that started it all, the Softail Custom. All in all, they all display the requisite beefy rear tire (to varying degrees) mated to a skinny front.

Despite their pedigrees as the vanguard of a coming flood of corporate choppers, they are all pretty different machines. The Vegas takes Victory's standard cruiser frame and air/oil-cooled 100 ci engine, mounts up a de rigueur 21" front hoop and a "skinny" (for this group) 180-section 18-inch doughnut out back. The Rocker takes Harley's familiar air-cooled Twin Cam 96 engine, a widened version of the Softail frame called the Rockertail, a chubby 240-by-18 rear tire, and breaks the mold with a skinny 19-inch front tire. Star's Raider combines the eminently practical with a style all its own; sporting the gigantic 113ci air-cooled common to the `Liners with a raked-out aluminum frame, a fattish 210-by-18 rear tire, and (as far as we know) the first use of a fat front 21-incher by a major manufacturer up front. The Fury, despite appearances, is a fairly sedate motorcycle with a moderately fat 200mm (by 18) tire out back, a conventional 21 up front, and slightly restyled 1312cc VTX mill (or 78ci to be consistent).

The Fury's big innovation is in the frame and how much of it is shown. That stretched-out neck is really only a little more out there than the others, it's mostly that beautifully sculpted tank riding the rails and accentuating the frame that really makes a statement. Further accentuating the tallboy look is a slammed seat height of only 26.7." In short, it looks huge from a distance, but it's actually a fairly normal sized bike (if a bit long). The other bikes are really not that far off in the tall neck sweepstakes. The Raider and Rocker cover up the gap from engine to frame with the tank, while the Vegas' air-cleaner fills that gap on the Victory. Enough about aesthetics; if this were a fashion show, the Fury would have won without leaving the garage.

Settling into the various cockpits was an adventure with some unexpected results. Both tall and short had issues with the Rocker. With an unsupportive seat, pegs too far and bars too close, it had all riders constantly holding themselves from sliding off the seat. With proprietary bars, it doesn't even have the option of changing it up easily. The Vegas (like all Victory cruisers) has fairly inset foot control levers which some riders really dislike having to reach for, and a bit of the H-D's problem of bars too close and pegs too far, but not as much, and at least there's a well-shaped (if squishy) seat to make up for it, along with easily exchanged bars. Those who like to squeeze the tank between their legs liked the size and shape of the Vegas tank. The Fury was a surprise, as we thought the stretched-out ergs would tweak the shorter riders, but between being able to flat-foot it at stops and widely-spaced pegs (making for a straight shot and easier reach from the saddle) they actually didn't mind. However, some did complain about the formless and mostly unsupportive seat. But all that said, the astronomically-named Star Raider won almost everyone's praises with a neutral standard handlebar, and natural feel. It's a bigger bike than the rest (to the tune of 50ish pounds) and it feels hefty, but not overly so.

Rollin' out through town the Raider immediately impresses with the biggest engine of the bunch and light handling, defying its fat-tire status. The thing is just fun to romp on the throttle with super-smooth delivery, and the only dual disc brakes in the group to bring it down from speed in a hurry. Suspension on the Star is similarly impressive delivering a very Cadillacesque ride in the mean streets, while shifting through the five-speed box is smooth and positive as it smacks into gear with a thump. The Raider's tank and mirrors shake like a dope fiend in rehab at some rpm, making viewing what's behind or the display somewhat vague. What wasn't vague was the kickstand, which is perhaps one of the easiest kickstands to find and use in all of motorcycling.

Honda's Fury is the epitome of "cruiser," and makes you want to sit back and cruise. It will pick up its game if you push it, with more satisfying power coming in the midrange. The suspension is pretty firm, and turning the long bike around in tight spaces is interesting, but despite these drawbacks, it's still a fun bike to cruise the boulevard on. Brakes are middling, and the only shaft drive in this group of belts does jack the back end a touch, but its mostly unnoticeable. The five-speed transmission is silky smooth, but mysteriously refused to go into first on occasion, while the clutch was slightly heavy under constant use.

Vegas' heavier clutch and notchy transmission was not welcome in the old stop-and-go, but it was mostly made up for abundant torque and quick, precise handling. Unlike the larger-tire Victories it handles like a dream in tight situations. Front brakes were on the weak side while the rears were touchy and easy to lock up. The Rocker was both loved and hated in town. Its predictably clunky 6-speed transmission worked well enough, as do the brakes, and power is torquey and satisfying. In the see-sawing ins and outs of traffic, the close bars are not as much of a handicap. Suspension from the Rockertail rear is fairly harsh, even more than the already unrefined ride of most Softails. For the sake of looks, Harley's normally stout horn was replaced by a tinny-sounding little round chrome thing that just made it sound like a scooter.

Out in LA's canyons for an entertaining play ride, things changed up a bit. The Victory, which several testers had a lukewarm initial reaction to, was suddenly looking like a star (if not a Star). With a strong bottom end, well-sorted suspension, and stability leaned over, the Vegas shone when pushed. The front compression damping was a little harsh, but that made for absolutely no brake dive. The Freedom engine's torque made shifting optional, and the riding position worked well for a fun ride. Some less-aggressive riders never got "in the groove" with the Vegas, however, while others were fine with it. All agreed it was a very forgiving mount when the roads were challenging.

The Star was also a backroad favorite, with the strongest engine in the group, a well-laid-out cockpit, and smooth handling. A couple of the more aggressive testers had issues with the plush ride, as the big girl would start to bounce around when pushed hard, especially on bumpy roads. Nobody had any issues with the brakes, however, as they embarrassed the binders on the other bikes by slowing a heavier bike down quicker and more predictably than any of the others by a long shot. Clearance, like on the Vegas, was bountiful and the tall bike (for this class) didn't spend much time scraping parts.

The geometric reality of a long, low bike like the Fury is that you simply will have less ground clearance, it's just something you give up for that look. So we really thought it would suck in the twisties, and were surprised when it didn't. Don't get us wrong, the thing drags its peg feelers everywhere, to the point where the pegs started to come apart, but handling manners along with suspension were controlled, predictable and fun. As in the city, it's simply a bike that encourages a rider to cruise, if you adjust your pace to the bike it's a capable companion, but even if you insist on pushing it, the Fury will work it out, you just have to hang off the bike to reduce lean angle. All together we felt the Fury just as quick-steering and confidence inspiring as the Vegas... right up until it started bouncing parts off of the ground.

The Rocker was somewhat the equivalent of the Fury. The Harley would drag at about the same point, but with its very fat rear tire it required more handlebar input to get it to heel over, but it would readily when push came to shove (on the bars). Suspension was a mixed bag with the front being very compliant, while the rear was an issue on rough roads, as a couple riders complained of being unseated by mid-corner bumps. Brakes were another area that needed adjustment to ride the Rocker properly, as the rear was far more powerful than the front, but with that fat contact patch back there, there was also less chance of sliding it.

Pulling into the parking lot of LA's many biker bars formed a final portion of the test. Unlike many recent tests the Harley doesn't flat-out win the parking lot wars. Experienced eyes will appreciate what H-D puts into design and finishes, along with the slick cantilevered rear fender, but all told, it was less eye candy than we're used to from Old Milwaukee. That, along with a high price tag, less usability, and less performance made for a back-of-the-pack finish for the Rocker. However, there were a couple of testers that said with a drag bar and slightly less-forward controls, they'd take a look at this one for the top spot.

The other bikes were all good in their own way and our testers' opinions varied widely based on taste and riding habits. The Raider is an eye-catching machine, but whether that's a good or a bad thing depends on the beholder. Custom bike aficionados find the droopy-looking back end, tilted tank, and other design faux-pas to be a dealbreaker, for what was universally praised as the overall best-riding bike of the bunch. Less detail oriented folks got off on the thick chrome of our "S" model Raider, and its big, bold stance. For sure there were some nice touches on it, like detailed flames, and stout-looking aluminum frame, there were things that Star even outdid Honda on, but clean design was not one of them. Functionally, it was unchallenged, it's an aggressive machine, but doesn't alienate the less aggressive riders. It backs up this aggression with performance in all aspects of its game. You're (presumably) an adult; if you like the looks, chances are, you'll love this bike.

Despite a clean, swoopy design, and a premium package (including billet wheels, more chrome, a hydraulic clutch, and an HID headlight) that boosted its MSRP over that of the Rocker, the Vegas had trouble truly standing out in the crowd. A reader emailed us at the announcement of the Fury and claimed it's a Vegas clone, which is an extreme compliment to the Vegas. That said, the two tanks do follow similar styles. Hell, Victory likes this tank so much they use it on everything not called "Vision." Our testers who like to push liked it well enough when scootin down a back road, and with that torquey motor and 6-speed tranny it could eat up some miles, but it just doesn't reach for the extreme like any of the other bikes do.

Really, what more can be said about the Fury? It not only broke the mold for what was possible or impossible from a corporate chopper, it also competes on an even footing with bikes both more expensive and more conventional than it is. Naysayers will ask "Who's the market? How does it make sense? Choppers are a lifestyle choice, and Honda can't deliver that!" Anybody can appreciate the flowing elegant lines of a chopper, and that perhaps, is what Honda was thinking. They saw the basic geometry, and decided they could do something with it that could still be a Honda. After all, in the 1970s compact cars were for the poor, which one might say is a lifestyle thing. Now people regardless of financial category are dying to hop in a Mini or an Accord (or if you're swanky, an Acura). Coming from a world in which bikes that look like this are rarefied air for the wealthy or those willing to devote all their spare time learning to build and building one by hand, the Fury threatens to make long low bikes a consumer product. For better or for worse, the bar for entry has been lowered, just like when Harley started marketing its bikes to Baby Boomer professionals in the 1980s.

So to answer the parking lot question, the Fury was the undisputed champ in iconic biker bars from Cook's Corner to the Rock Store, drawing curious crowds in its wake. The sleek design, with tucked-away radiator and shaft drive, giving off its big, bold attitude was enough to let people look past the plastic fenders and covers and generic controls. There was enough genuine machine on display to overcome the well-executed fakery, the mini chopper enough bike to get over its size. Like the Raider, (and despite being a step behind the Star in most objective categories) if you like what you see, you'll love riding this bike.

BASE PRICE $17,399 $12,999 $13,790 16,299
AS TESTED $17,744 (color) $14,590 (S model w/flames) $18,989 (premium)
COLORS Black, Blue, Black Denim, Red Black, blue, red, silver (shown), Matte Silver (+$500) Base: black, silver S:Red flamed (shown), black blue, white, red, black, blue/wht, red/wht
STANDARD WARRANTY 2 year, unlimited miles 1 year, unlimited miles 1 year 1 year
TYPE 45-deg. air-cooled V-twin 52-deg. liquid-cooled V-twin 48-deg. air-cooled V-twin 50-deg. air-cooled V-twin
DISPLACEMENT, BORE X STROKE 96ci, 3.75x4.38" 1312cc, 89.5mm x 104.3mm 1854cc, 100x118mm 1634cc, 101x102mm
VALVE TRAIN OHV 2-valve pushrod SOHC 3-valve OHV 4-valve pushrod SOHC 4-valve
COMPRESSION 9.2:1 9.2:1 9.48:1 8.7:1
TRANSMISSION six-speed five-speed five-speed six-speed
FINAL DRIVE belt shaft belt belt
FRONT SUSPENSION 49mm fork w/5 in. travel 45mm fork w/4 in. travel 46mm fork w/5.1 in. travel 42mm fork w/5.1 in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION dual pull dampers3.12 in. travel single damper with adjustable rebound and preload, 3.7 in. travel single damper, 3.5 in. travel linkage-style mono, 3.9 in. travel
FRONT BRAKE single four-piston caliper w/292mm rotor single two-piston caliper w/336mm rotor dual four-piston calipers with 298mm rotors single four-piston 300mm rotor
REAR BRAKE single two-piston caliper w/292mm rotor two-piston caliper w/296mm rotor single piston caliper 310mm Rotor two piston w/300mm rotor
FRONT TIRE {{{90}}}/90-19 90/90-21 120/70-21 90/90-21
REAR TIRE {{{240}}}/40-18 {{{200}}}/50-18 210/40x18 180/55-18
WHEELS five-spoke cast nine-spoke cast five-spoke cast five spoke forged
OVERALL LENGTH 95 in. {{{100}}}.5 in. 101.2 in. 96 in.
WHEELBASE 69.2 in. 71.24 in. 70.9 in. 66.3 in.
RAKE/TRAIL 36 deg./6.2 in. 38 deg. (+6 in trees)/ 34 deg. (+6 in trees)/ 102mm (4 in.) 32.9 deg./4.9 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 26.2 in. 3.5 in. 26.7 in. 27.3 in. 26.5 in.
WET WEIGHT 690 lbs. (wet, claimed) 663 lbs. (wet, claimed) 730 lbs. (wet, claimed) 642 lbs. (dry claimed)
FUEL CAPACITY 5 gal. 3.4 gal. 4.2 gal. 4.5 gal.
INSTRUMENTS clock, dual tripmeters clock, dual tripmeters dual tripmeters, fuel gauge tripmeter
FUEL MILEAGE 41.8 mpg average 39.4 mpg average 35.6 mpg average 35.4 mpg average
AVERAGE RANGE 205 miles 137 miles 150 miles 159 miles

Riding Positions

Billy Bartels
6', 193 lbs.
33" inseam
When Cruiser tested the Raider vs. the Rocker last year about this time and the Raider won, I was thinking "are you blind?!" And I still can't get around the droopy back end and some of the clunky design aspects, but functionally, this bike is the cat's meow. For riding, I like it better than the Roadliner it shares a motor with. It's a big bike, but it handles its size and power perfectly, and those brakes are sublime. As for the Rocker, well, let's just say that in my judgment, the last test was right.

The Vegas really surprised me. For a bike that was designed going on seven years ago, it really works very well. I loved blasting it around back roads and canyons like a sportbike. There are some little refinement issues with it, but overall the bike just works.

But there's something about opening the garage and finding the Fury, knowing it's the bargain bike of this test. And then the view out over that tall tank cruising down the road that just exudes cool. If the bike didn't perform, I'd probably still like riding it, but that fact that it does, just makes it that much sweeter.

Chopper Dave
6', 215 lbs.,
32" inseam
I know what Yamaha is thinking with the Raider, "let's give it that front up in the air look so the back half looks like it's doing a wheelie or has long high forks when it's sitting still..." I hate it. And yet this motorcycle has the cleanest, broadest powerband of all the bikes. It's fast, it pulls hard throughout the whole rpm range and despite the wide rear tire, it handles pretty well.

The Rocker is a decent bike, I had no qualms about throwing it too hard into turns and grinding the pegs every time. It doesn't exactly want to turn, but once you get used to it, it's ok. Not inspiring but a decent bike to cruise around on.

The Fury has a ground-breaking gas tank for a major manufacturer, pretty sweet. Rides decent for a "long" bike, thanks to its rear tire not being "that" big. I didn't have to muscle it as much into the turns as the Yamaha but not quite as fun to ride.. Pretty blah power, I really figured it would be faster. Sounds decent, but has too much plastic.

The Victory Vegas was completely uninspiring, foot control positions suck, front brakes suck, the H-D had better front brakes. Got more used to it riding it more, handled ok, like a vanilla cruiser. Pretty boring over all. Polaris should go back to snowmobiles.

Orlando Belotti
5'6'', 145 lbs.,
29" inseam
The bike that I liked most is the Honda Fury. When I sit on it, it makes me feel I'm riding a `chopper'--it gives off some attitude. The engine is not the best, but it pulls you out of slow turns smooth enough, even a gear high. Medium and top end are better and the stock exhaust sounds good. The riding position, especially for a short guy like me (5', 6'') is good. I can reach the handlebar and the foot pegs easily and place my feet on the ground firmly.

The Star Raider has the best engine. Power everywhere and the gearbox is really good. Seating position is the most comfortable. I don't like the look, but that's subjective.

What I don't like on the Harley-Davidson Rocker was the riding position, the foot pegs are too far, the seat doesn't hold you, it makes you slide backward and the handlebar is in a mid position that you cannot hold your upper body, especially at high speed.

The Victory Vegas' engine is not bad, after the Yamaha it's the one that I like the most. Seating position is the worst though, the seat pushes my legs out and the foot pegs are too close to the motorcycle, making them hard to reach. Plus the brakes are weak and the gearbox is really 'clunky'.

David Zemla
6'2"/200 lbs./
34" inseam
A shaft drive and might I add, water cooled...chopper? Mongo wide wheels right from the factory? Stump pulling torque without any mods? This parallel universe we have dubbed production choppers adds a whole new dimension to the showroom floor, but how do they work in the real world? Pretty damn good if I do say so myself. I favor a relaxed riding position, spacious ergos and an angry twin. For the most part, these bikes delivered just that and more. The broad spectrum of OEM long bikes should make a good fit for just about all those who care and the aftermarket is certain to offer a cornucopia of personalization and fine tuning options, all without the nuisance of dicey garage built reliability. The Chopper has finally come of age.

On a fun per dollar basis the Yamaha is the probable winner and a set of pipes away from being a boulevard-eating machine. The Honda could also be a true contender if it where only priced about 3K less, as it'd likely attract an entirely new (and younger) demographic to this segment.

Victory and Harley? Well, for the loyalist they have little choice, the rest of us will be looking into Star tattoos.

**Real Choppers **
(or the slightly less corporate chopper challenge)
While the Fury broke new ground for a big motorcycle manufacturer, it was old hat for the third-tier manufacturers commonly known as American V-Twin makers. Choppers from mild to outrageous have been around for over a decade, built on a production line and available with a two-year factory warranty.

"And they call us clones!" quipped Big Dog's John Nasi when I brought up the Fury to him a few months ago. So we put together a plan to do a brief test of Big Dog's K-9 chopper to test head-to-head with Honda's new wunderkind. As it turned out, we scored a Big Bear Choppers Athena to go with it thanks to Triple Threat Choppers.

Read my column this issue if you want to know why I might view all new extreme production choppers with suspicion, but I got the surprise of my life. Both of these bikes, from the looks of them, should be all looks and attitude, at the expense of handling, but it simply wasn't true. For the light duty we did on them, through the freeways and streets of Orange County and out into the canyons, they were able companions, while throwing down serious rumble and attitude.

The K-9 is touted by Big Dog as America's #1 Chopper. It's a chopper so big that its 21-inch front wheel looks a bit puny out there, like one of those 70s bicycle-style front wheels. Other than that, it shares a strong family resemblance with the other Big Dog models and is fairly standard blingy chopper.

The original Athena was actually built for the infamous Biker Build-Off show (which it won), and was made into a production bike afterwards, so you are getting a true productionized award-winning showbike with this one. Its got a "floating" rear fender (like the Rocker), and a super-dropped seat.

The differences between the Fury that tagged along and the "real choppers" was striking. For one thing there is no mistaking the Fury's diminutive nature (for a chopper) when parked next to these to behemoths. Both claim dry weights of about 700 lbs, but I'd guess both are lying. These things are huge and feel it. In fact, that might be the downfall of them both, or at least the challenge they both face. Though the handling, and ergonomics on the two bikes were very different (more on that later), in many ways they were similar.

Both used their massive air-cooled S&S; V-Twins to their advantage, with the 117ci K-9 engine besting the more sedate 100ci Athena mill. Both shook like mad at high rpm (the K-9 more than the Athena), but both were more than able to pull hard in the lower rpm range. The S&S; Electronic Fuel Injection performed flawlessly, warming without issue and carbureting well in all ranges.

Suspension action from both was superb, very controlled within the travel range, but if you overwhelm either one of them, look out. There are fairly short travel systems sporting a lot of unspurng weight in gigantic 18x10.5" rear wheels and 300mm tires. That said, mid-corner bumps aren't the demon to these things that they are to a couple of the bikes in the main shootout. Handling for both was surprisingly good. On a moderately snaky road, they were a ton of fun. You know you're riding a big machine but they're supremely stable and planted and turn in to corners well. Naturally, flipping u-turns, parking lot maneuvers and other fine-line riding requires some foresight and planning with bikes this big.

Both bikes have decent ground clearance, with the obscenely large rear tires actually helping by both jacking up the rear end when cranked over and resisting additional lean at the end of their range. The bar levers don't work like a "normal" bike with both requiring a firm pull. The brakes are pretty good but should be better for bikes of this heft and thrust. Both sets of levers required a full four-finger grasp to get proper engagement.

The big boys differed in a few key ways. Ergonomics are surprisingly accessible on the Big Dog, with a fairly tight riding triangle, considering the size of the bike. While the BBC was more extreme, with a super-dropped seat and a stretch to the bars and pegs, but anyone over about 5'9" should be able to work it out. The seat was a far better design than the Rocker seat, however, and actually offered some support in front of its floating fender.

Though both transmissions were made in the same plant, the BBC unit was far smoother than the Big Dog, which was notchy on downshifts.

Riding the Fury back to back with these bikes was a lesson in the difference between a chopper and a cruiser. The Fury felt like a toy going around corners, flicking easily, compared to these ponderous machines. That said, the suspension (within their range) actually had a more refined feel than the Honda's, which was one of the better units in our shootout. However, the Honda does act like a bridge between bikes like these and more conventional machines. You can feel the similarities when you ride it despite the differences.

Though both the K-9 and Athena occupy fairly "value" spots in their respective makers lineups, they are still a hefty investment. That said, they're also made from steel and billet, with very little plastic anywhere. There is (at least aesthetically) very little which looks unfinished on either bike, which is the way it should be for bikes claiming to represent show bikes for the street. --BB

BASE PRICE $28,{{{900}}} $33,400
AS TESTED $27,900 ($1000 cash deal) $35,400 (EFI)
COLORS Too Many To List Too Many To List
STANDARD WARRANTY Two Years Six months (longer for some components)
TYPE 45 deg. air-cooled V-Twin 45deg. air-cooled V-Twin
DISPLACEMENT, BORE X STROKE 1917cc, 104.8x111.1mm 100ci, 4x4"
COMPRESSION 9.6:1 8.5:1
TRANSMISSION Six-speed Six-speed
FINAL DRIVE Belt Right side belt
FRONT SUSPENSION 41mm fork with 4.25 in. travel 41mm fork with x.xx in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION dual reverse dampers with 3 in. travel dual progressive dampers with 3 in. travel
FRONT BRAKE single 4-piston differential bore caliper single 4-piston PM caliper
REAR BRAKE 4-piston caliper 4-piston caliper/pulley combo
FRONT TIRE {{{90}}}/90-21 90/90-21
REAR TIRE {{{300}}}/35-18 300/35-18
WHEELS Machined billet aluminum Forged aluminum
OVERALL LENGTH 108 in. 115 in.
WHEELBASE 82 in. 88 in.
RAKE/TRAIL 39 (+3 in trees) 40 (+6 in trees)
SEAT HEIGHT 24.25 in. 20 in.
WET WEIGHT 701 lbs. (dry, claimed) 700 lbs. (dry, claimed)
FUEL CAPACITY 4.4 gal. 4.25 gal.
INSTRUMENTS tach, tripmeter, low fuel light low fuel light

Cruisers And Choppers???

Really what do they have to do with each other? Well, nothing cept maybe where they come from...

Let's go back, before there were "Cruisers". Before cruisers, on the street in the 50's we really had basic street bikes and big, bulky Harley-Davidsons pretty much ruled the road. Yes, there were brit bikes coming overseas at that point in time, but they were smaller, quicker and generally handled way better. That is what prompted the Americans to start stripping their bikes down for performance. OK they were doing that before the brits came over, but it really didn't start to change things til the late 50's. That's when guys started building customs and the first choppers. It's these bikes that were geared for riding, not performance riding, but cruising! Yes, you can argue that choppers aren't real cruisers and that's fine, I agree with you. But it's these bikes that are the precursor to the cruisers of today. The new Harley- Davidsons aren't what they were 50 years ago, they aren't the workhorse they were then. Some have evolved into a "Cruiser" that is based, loosely, on the choppers of the 60's and 70's.

Yes, the 1971 Harley-Davidson Super Glide was Willie G Davidson's answer to the chopper craze, and it's that bike that evolved into the cruisers of today. You also can't argue that the Japanese have always copied that basic style. Well, you can argue all you want, I don't care, and it's the truth.

Forward to the cruisers of today, the Harleys, the Yamahas, the Hondas, and yes the Honda Fury. They are way different in feel and function than traditional "Choppers" but they share the same lineage, even though it's blurred by make and origin. While there has never been a production bike that is a real chopper, (A chopper can't be a production bike, part of the true choppers history and allure) there are bikes that share the "Basic" lines of the chopper.

The Honda Fury is a good example of a major manufacturer trying to get into the chopper craze, even though it's a few years late, it's a decent attempt. The fuel tank alone is a huge step for a major, based on the custom gas tanks on many custom high-end "choppers" on the road today. Harley-Davidson has never taken a step that bold!

While none of these production bikes are really choppers, they are a direct result of the impact that choppers have had on all of us, whether we want to admit it or not!
--Chopper Dave

Harley-Davidson: The Rocker makes the questionable styling choice of basically fusing one of their standard speedos on to the top of the tank panel, while a faux left cap provides a fuel gauge; all is finished in the matte finish found throughout the bike.
Honda: The Fury's high-arching tank is beautiful to behold, and the wedge-shaped instrument cluster only compliments it. A single black button on the idiot light strip cycles through dual tripmeters and a clock.
Star: The Raider sports a big tank-mounted speedo, like most Stars do, with slightly confusing controls, the function select button is on the left control pod in a "trigger" position where the high beam button is on some bikes, while the reset is on the dash.
Victory: The Vegas throws down Victory's usual Spartan selection of idiot lights and white-faced speedo, which has only a tripmeter and the federally-mandated odometer. The Vegas' chromed pullback risers are especially nice-looking.
H-D: The Rocker is one of the few bikes that really emphasizes the fat rubber it swings under its rear fender.
Honda: The Fury's back end is a mixed bag--plastic fender and the mounting cluster at the back are bad, while the slim LED taillight and fake dual mufflers (for more volume, and thus performance) are very good.
Star: Several testers thought the Raider's rear end looked "droopy," ruining the lines of the bike. That said the low-profile radial tire worked like a champ, making this fat-tired bike handle like it wasn't one.
Victory: The Vegas' radiused rear fender was also a nice back-end look, complimented by the optional billet rear wheel.
H-D: The Rocker had the only 19-inch wheel in a field of 21s, but it's a really nice piece with smooth organic lines, painted to match the bike's details.
Honda: The Fury's front end was good from far with a nice wrap-around (plastic) fender, and a rotor that syncs the wheel. But the hotrod-style wheel had some ugly casting tabs.
Star: The Raider's beefy 21 with dual rotors looked (and worked) like it meant business, but managed to look a little busy compared to the rest.
Victory: The Vegas rivals the Rocker for attractive front ends, helped by our tester's (optional) chrome package, and the (standard) braided lines. The tightly fender-hugging steel fender compliments the one out back.
H-D: The H-D Rocker's two-valve pushrod mill was torquey enough with a broad spread of power, and only annoying vibration at the top end of the scale. A six-speed transmission makes for smooth times on the highway though.
Honda: Though swathed in plastic covers, the Honda Fury manages a legit look, tightly cradled in the frame at the rear and proudly showing off a big gap up front, yet still managing to look like a VTXesque Honda powerplant. Though not at torquey as the others, its EFI system is an improvement over the older VTX 1300s' carbs, making for a more responsive engine that revs out well.
Star: Though the big-barrelled Raider engine is overall an attractive unit, the left side is guilty of apparatus maximus with hoses and lines and linkages and horns and canisters everywhere. That said, this motor ruled the roost, with responsive power everywhere in the powerband, yet managed to be pleasing to the less throttle happy as well as the hooligans among us.
Victory: The Victory's engine bay is so clean it's almost antiseptic. The Vegas' mill makes all kinds of valvetrain noise, but puts out mighty bottom-end torque. If you're so inclined you can start this thing in second gear without any kind of rattle.
H-D: The Rocker's minimalist perch made everyone feel a little insecure. It's wide and supportive enough laterally, but in combination with the close bars and reach to the pegs, the slight rise in the rear is not enough to be supportive.
Honda: The Fury seat is thin (as style would dictate) and basically unsupportive.
Star: The Raider had the best seat in the group, yet still manges to be a good looker as well, with both a nice kicker at the back , as well as getting a support assist for the rider from the angular passenger pad.
Victory: Though the shape of the Vegas seat is ergonomically-correct, the foam is not, with a very squishy consistency. Some people (and a couple of our riders) are into the "gramma's feather bed" feel.
Seems like it was just a few years ago that most cruisers (other than H-D) had shockingly generic controls that stuck out like a sore thumb of bikes that otherwise exuded style...
It's still that way on the Fury, as Honda refuses to update their 90s-era dated-looking controls. The Fury also has the only "stick-style" non-rounded levers. Harley brings it with painted versions of their organic-looking (actually, also 90s-era) buttons,
while Star thoughtfully includes a switch for the auxiliary lights
and Victory's rounded housings get the chrome treatment.
Big Dog K-9
Big Bear Choppers Athena