Four V-Twin Motorcycles - The 'Tude Test

Attitude Isn't Just For Choppers

  • Harley-Davidson Dyna Street Bob
  • Star Midnight Warrior
  • Suzuki Boulevard M109R Limited Edition
  • Victory Kingpin 8-Ball

Any dyed-in-the-wool motorcyclist can tell you that cruisers are as much about attitude as anything else. But as our segment has mushroomed with the rest of the industry over the last 15 years, so has the "performance" level of some cruisers. The resulting trends have birthed bikes that are no longer just visually cool, but powerful, functional runners as well. As a result, we now have more 'serious' subcategories than we know what to do with. But what about the fringe bikes that cover more than one subset?

After our last musclebike test (The Great Musclebike Brawl, May '09), we found ourselves left with several such candidates. A few didn't make it into that test because of scheduling, and the others simply couldn't be pigeonholed in the first place. We came up with the odd muscle bike here, a boulevard troller there. This one had apes; that one had a solo seat. One, frankly, could have come from a sci-fi movie. But all had character-in spades.

Initially, we planned to call this roundup "The Lucky 13s" because the bikes retail for around $13,000 in stock form. That grand scheme went up in smoke when some of the manufacturers started pimping their higher-priced limited editions on us, eclipsing the $13,000 limit. Denied our simple categorization, we ended up dubbing it The 'Tude Test: bikes whose most common denominator is a healthy dose of attitude. The stock versions still fell within $500 of the 13K mark, but "Attitude Bikes" just had a better ring to it.

As a result, all the heavy-middleweights gathered here flaunt a somewhat antisocial side, perhaps even having been called bad-asses at some point in their lives. Naturally, certain qualities come with that territory. Key among them is tire-chunking power and snarling style. Reasonably balanced road manners are a nice bonus, but they often aren't part of the package. And these dark horses don't often share the cosmetic spotlight with their bling-ier brethren.

For our admittedly loose comparison, we hauled out the Kingpin 8-Ball, a stripped, blackened solo mount which cedes the muscle banner to its stablemate the Hammer, but still packs plenty of punch with the 100-inch Freedom engine. Next out of the pen was Suzuki's rippling, 125 hp M109R-the epitome of the musclebike credo-which, through no fault of ours, simply didn't make it into our muscle test a few issues back. This time out, Suzuki sent us the Limited Edition version. Then there was the one that started the latest power craze-Star's original hot-rod, the Warrior. Outfitted in suitably sinister Midnight trim, the former AMA Champ is still potent after all these years, but perhaps because of its styling, is still considered something of an outsider by the traditional cruiser crowd. As for the Street Bob, there's no question this Harley was made to provoke love-or-hate reactions. With mini apehanger bars, a solo seat and pseudo-primer paint job, it oozes back-alley attitude. Bring it on, we said.

Traditional, mainstream cruisers they're not, but these factory bad boys address that part of your id that absolutely loves a wicked grin. We knew we were going to have some serious fun, but we came up against a few surprises, too.

New And Old Americans

Case in point: the Victory Kingpin 8-Ball. There are cynics who would deride it as merely a deconstructed Kingpin and therefore not worthy of consideration. Ignore them. It happens to be a very competent motorcycle.

The Vegas 8-Ball first appeared in 2005, but the stripped down version of Victory's Kingpin didn't follow 'til 2008. Victory's 100-cubic-inch Freedom V-Twin got a host of enhancements in '08, including larger 45mm throttle bodies as part of a new, closed-loop fuel-injection system. For '09, the changes are less earthshaking, but the bike is now pre-wired for cruise control, and a brighter LED taillight has been added.

The Kingpin 8-Ball is distinguished from the standard, upmarket 'Pin primarily by its lack of chrome-it gets black body paint, a darkened engine, blacked-out wheels, and blacked-out bars. The only shiny stuff is found on the exhaust, headlamp, instruments and clutch and brake levers. The 8-Ball also does without the Kingpin's sixth gear, swoopy headlight and removable passenger seat, but retains the floorboards and heel-toe gearshift. All of which means you can snag the 8-Ball for $13,799 -$2,500 cheaper than the regular Kingpin.

The FXDB Dyna Street Bob proved less can be more when it hit the streets in 2006, cribbing minimalist styling from the post-World War II "bobber" movement to create a modern motorcycle. The Street Bob shuns components like a passenger seat and pegs, and features a solo seat perched just 25.8 inches off the ground. That, along with mid-mount controls and a 667-lb curb weight, makes this bike user-friendly for just about anyone. Modern touches include electronic fuel injection and a six-speed transmission, but because the Twin Cam 96 engine isn't new to the Dyna family, style is the only thing making a difference here.

The rear fender is chopped higher now and topped with a retro LED tail light. The new laced wheels are reinforced by gloss black rims. Internally wired mini-ape-hanger bars, a full-on Fat Bob fuel tank and wrinkle-black trim complete the street-ready profile, priced a steal at $12,999.

Eastern Promises

Google "Star Warrior" and you'll come up with a list populated by references to space operas, Dungeons and Dragons and anime cartoons. Sometimes though, the words "power" and "cruiser" bring up results like "Star" and "Warrior". Yep, this bike has become a benchmark for the musclebike segment of the cruiser market, because the Warrior is a founding member of the latest generation of that group. Birthed in 2002, the Warrior we know today started life as a hot-rodded Yamaha Road Star. It's been updated here and there over the years but has remained largely unchanged. And why not? The Warrior represented the platform for five AMA ProStar Hot Rod Cruiser championships; it must be doing something right.

What really distinguishes the Warrior among the cruiser crowd is its aluminum double-cradle frame and swingarm. Carried in that stiff, lightweight frame is a 1,670cc V-Twin that's pushrod-operated and air-cooled, but still quite capable of burnouts at the drop of a clutch.

Because even power cruisers evolve, Suzuki represents its latest generation of powermonger with the M109R Limited Edition model. With the same 1,783cc, 8-valve DOHC, 54-degree, liquid-cooled, fuel injected V-Twin engine, there's not much difference between this and a regular M109R, but that doesn't really matter; the rush is still there. 125 hp at 6,200 rpm is a pretty impressive feat, particularly in a 700+ pound cruiser. The Boulevard M109R adds an advanced chassis and suspension to all that performance, and ups the ante with world-class brakes. It's all wrapped up in sleek, flowing lines. To the base model M109R, the Limited Edition version brings a sporty racing stripe, checkerboard background gauge package, clear taillight lens with red LEDs and a stylish textured seat.

Take A Long Look

We all know appearances mean a lot in the cruiser world, but that highly subjective issue proved almost moot in our group. Our quartet of test riders all agreed that the Street Bob drew the most eyeballs right off the bat. The custom-looking mini ape bars and stripped bodywork affected even the most stoic of riders-its cool quotient was just that hard to resist. We got our Dyna in Black Denim, a color that mimics the appearance of primer. And with a quintessentially classic 45-degree, air-cooled, Twin Cam 96 engine, it felt all 'Merican, all the way. Throw in a sensible 29 degree rake, reasonably sized 160 rear tire and easy-starting fuel injection, and you've even got a reasonably street savvy, modern motorcycle with classic lines.

With its clean, Caddy-like cues and understated styling, the 8-Ball also garnered longing glances from our test monkeys, but in a more subtle way. As a sibling in the Kingpin line, the 8-Ball version retains the custom-cruiser layout, and Victory's trademark scalloped fuel tank and flared fenders are part of the attraction. Both front and back run 18-inch Dunlops, with the aggressive 32.9-degree rake and 5.4 inches of trail creating a nimbler package than you'd expect. The non-radical floorboard and bar positions and a low 26.5-inch seat height (Victory sent us an aftermarket Bandit Solo seat) keeps the bike accessible. Everyone was impressed with the fit and finish on the 8-Ball. Our test unit also came equipped with Victory's Stage 1 Exhaust kit, which includes slip-ons, performance air filter, airbox cover, and new EFI program.

With its bulbous bodywork and Jetson-like swoops, the M109R's visuals are the least traditional, save for perhaps the Warrior. The M109R's massive 2-into-1-into-2 stainless steel chromed exhaust stretches over most of the bike's rear right side, giving you one clue that this is no beginner bike. The spiral spoke aluminum alloy wheels run 18 inch tires both front and back, with the massive 8.50 x 18 inch rear unit wearing a huge 240mm rear Dunlop radial. The styling definitely isn't your standard cruiser affair-a sleek, wide fuel tank holding 5.2 gallons (the most here) flows into integrated side covers, a wide, low seat and a fairly large radiator cowl. Unfortunately, the Limited Edition version we snagged comes only in white, with a blue racing stripe - hardly the deviant graphic you associate with bad boy bikes. We hoped the Suzuki's raw horsepower would shut down any wisecracks from the peanut gallery. The Limited Edition retails for $14,099.

If the M109R is a space rig, the Warrior is from another galaxy altogether. It may have started with a standard old-tech Road Star power plant, but the aluminum frame, steeper steering head and overall design aesthetic is lean and clean, feeling more sportbike than cruiser. The supersport-inspired five-spoke cast wheels look very trick, especially within the context of the Midnight trim. The only visual hiccup (besides the wiring shroud near the steering stem) is the massive exhaust can jutting out from the right side, which has inspired plenty of comment since the Warrior's inception in 2002. The Warrior also wears the smallest gas tank in the bunch, at 4 gallons. The Midnight version is priced at $13,390.

One look told us that none of these bikes were even remotely equipped for mile-munching (although Suzuki offers a windshield, soft luggage and seat options; Star has windshield and soft luggage add-ons; Victory also offers a windshield and bag options; and Harley, as you can imagine, offers all of the above and more in its accessory catalog) so we scrawled out a route that carried us over urban tarmac, occasionally mixing it up with freeway blasts and a few canyon hops.

Have A Seat.

As we settled in for the first leg of the test, opinions were formed. Riders ranged from 5'7" to 6 feet tall, so we had a pretty wide scope of comments.

The Street Bob seat places you low, and none of us had any problems putting feet down onto the road. The riding position felt comfortable despite the mid-mount (though slightly forward) foot controls and mini ape handlebar. With that 26.7 inch seat height and low center of gravity, the 'Bob fit everyone well; even our 6 footer had no complaints. Thumb the start and the bike shakes to life with a pleasant rumble, although it turns out to be disappointingly quiet when you blip the throttle. Especially when the handlebar is supposed to make you feel like a bad-ass.

Ergonomically, and stylistically, the Warrior doesn't fit neatly into any cruiser box. You sit on it, an impression exaggerated by the low headlight and instruments. The ergonomic layout didn't appeal to our shortest rider, who cited problems reaching the wide bars and gearshift due to a wide, flat seat (the tallest one here) and forward location of the foot pegs and controls. In fact, he felt more confident on the Suzuki-a heavier bike that happens to sport a more compact rider's triangle.

Thumb the starter on the Warrior and the engine whirrs to life almost too smoothly. The other riders felt comfortably positioned on the Star, though it did stretch us out on the freeway where, at highway speeds, you fight a fierce wind blast. At a standstill though, all agreed that the low headlight gives the Star a bad-ass profile.

The Suzuki has attitude to the gills, so we were pleasantly surprised to find it sported fairly nice accommodations within. The comfy, spacious seat hit at a reasonable 27.8 inch height, and despite appearances, the ergonomics felt pretty neutral. Like the Warrior, the M109R puts the controls forward and up, "but its handlebar is narrower and pulls back more for an easier reach", said one of our testers. Reach for the start button and you're rewarded with a satisfying growl as the engine catches. Those chunky stainless steel pipes feature Suzuki's digitally controlled SET (Suzuki Exhaust Tuning) system, a big part of the reason for that throaty, aggressive exhaust note sound (which we all felt was the best stocker).

The Victory felt the most neutral of all, with a flat pullback bar that fit everyone's reach. Because the 8-Ball has rider floorboards (the only ones in the group) it meant our longer stints on the freeway were much more relaxed than on the other bikes. The seat wasn't as cush as some of the others, but at 26.5 inches, it is the lowest. The black handlebar and triple clamp provided a cool view too. Hit the starter and the fuel-injected Victory positively roars to life. The sound is a deep one, courtesy of the Stage 1 kit on our bike. It comes off as a rich tone without being obnoxious.

Let's Hit It

Comfortably positioned, we hit the city streets for a shakedown cruise. Next to styling, the big concern in most American riders' minds is probably engine size. And all these bikes had the beans to make our rides spirited.

But some of us were snickering outright when we first got on the Harley. There was no way this thing could hang with the likes of the Warrior and M109R-legitimate musclebikes. But like a hair plug on Donald Trump, the Harley Street Bob actually grew on our test group, especially after they rode it again on the second day. All riders, to a man, praised the Street Bob's neutral manners, no-nonsense power output and decent all-around comfort. The Twin Cam 96 engine brings torque down low (92 ft-lbs at only 3,000 rpm), but some riders felt the Bob ran out of steam up top. The Street Bob's six-speed Cruise Drive transmission gets you a little extra grunt out on the highway though, and successive gear changes get smoother the more you shift through the box. You won't get any passenger points with this bike-it's got a solo seat, and clearly it's not made for touring-but it is a blast around town.

Although lacking the overdrive sixth gear of Victory's Freedom 100/6 powertrain, the 8-Ball's 50-degree V-Twin still manages to impress. With 1634cc of displacement, the New American Motorcycle's engine stacks up favorably against Harley's 96 cubic-incher, offering a broad spread of torque and bigger horsepower numbers. Initial turn-ins require a bit of muscle, but it's nothing overwhelming, and only the floorboards stop it from leaning over more. The Victory, by virtue of it being so neutral, appealed to everyone but didn't stand out in any one regard.

With their high zoot performance bits and tachometers, both Warrior and Suzuki obviously bring a sporting intent to the table.

The Warrior comes with a classic V-Twin power delivery, giving you plenty of torque and linear power throughout the powerband. Twin bore fuel injection also assures spot-on fuel delivery. With so much pulling power, we found ourselves trolling boulevards in fifth gear as low as 1,000 rpm. What's not normal for most V-Twins is the relatively vibe-free character of the Warrior mill. The bike accelerates without hesitation even in top gear at higher rpm, though hunting for neutral can be a chore. A slightly notchy transmission earned several complaints from our testers.

If you're a spec-sheet geek, the Suzuki is the leader. The M109R is tuned to produce massive power all the way from idle to redline, which translates into head-snapping acceleration. You'll feel the torque from right above idle so getting to your cruising speed only requires two or three shifts. It's a rush akin to that of the V-Max. The thing about V-Twin engines is that they vibrate (except the Warrior's) and this big boy is no exception. Although not excessive at low revs, the all-over massage you get around 5000 rpm is fairly noticeable.

Turn It On Again

When it came time to flog these bad boys in the turns, the unexpected surfaced again. Because the Street Bob looks like it was made to brawl, no one expected it to be so mild-mannered. But with a brief 64.2-inch wheelbase, it was a breeze to get 'Bob to turn in, and it proved supremely easy to maneuver. "The only problem", a few testers opined, "is the $5 suspension and weak brakes." But it's styled to be an old-fashioned motorcycle, right?

There were no gripes about the Warrior's handling prowess. The Warrior's aluminum frame and swingarm not only meant it was the lightest bike here, but also gave it rigidity for a stable ride. Road manners were only enhanced by the reasonable 65.6-inch wheelbase, comparatively shallow 28.1 degree steering angle and a manageable 200mm rear tire. "The bike turns well, steers predictably, and has impressive ground clearance," said one tester. The 41mm Kayaba inverted forks (5.3 inches of travel) and a single rear shock (4.3 inches of travel) also teamed up to provide a relatively smooth ride.

With a pair of radial-mount calipers, the Warrior stops as well as any OEM cruiser on the market, though the smaller testers wished for adjustable levers to better fit their hands.

To one rider, the M109R handled better -it felt more solid and planted in turns. But its handling is impressive nonetheless, considering the M109R is the heaviest bike here-it tracks well and holds a line stably in fast sweepers, even with a somewhat twitchy throttle. We also give Suzuki kudos for patching up the heinous clutch engagement issue marring first generation M109Rs. Plus, if you get into a corner too hot, the Suzuki's excellent four piston brakes or powerful throttle can usually save the day. The wide tires (130mm front and 240mm rear) provide admirable grip and manage to keep the bike stable.

Alas the suspension didn't always garner such accolades from the group. When the road got bumpy, all riders scattered. "The Suzuki has absolutely no rebound damping," opined one. An aluminum alloy swingarm working with a progressive shock linkage and an adjustable rear shock (for 4.3 inches of travel) weren't quite able to harness lateral wheel hop or jacking. When the road unfurled into long, gentle sweepers, things were peachy-the M109 stuck to pavement like a massive slug. But when irregularities came into the picture, the jig was up. Most large bumps (usually sharp-edged) were enough to upset the chassis.

The 8-Ball however, did a decent job ironing out bumps on the mean streets, thanks to its 66.3 inches of real estate between the wheels. The 43mm fork offers a generous 5.1 inches of travel while the preload-adjustable shock provides a fairly smooth ride, though its 3.9 inches of travel get overwhelmed fairly easily. With that way-low seat, the sharper edged bumps come through every now and then.

The Kingpin, with its single front disc, never set any records for stopping, but its 4-piston caliper and 300mm front disc manage to slow the bike effectively (though it's best if a rider also adds some power from the 2-pot caliper out back).

The lack of overdrive on this Freedom engine isn't an issue unless you plan to pile on highway miles, and even then the engine is smooth enough that vibration doesn't annoy. The gearbox offers solid shifting, and driveline lash is nearly non-existent. All were impressed by the bike's friendly manners.

In Sum

If you're in the market for a cool ride, any one of these machines should satisfy. It all comes down to what's important to you-looks or performance.

The testers were almost unanimous in naming the Warrior as excellent in all aspects. Its performance, both in low-rpm cruising and in more aggressive situations, was the tops. For those who want to walk the walk and are experienced riders, the Warrior or M109R are your best options. Stylistically, both bikes are also the most non-traditional.

The Street Bob is a great value and a fun ride, and will probably appeal more to a novice, while the 8-Ball proved to be a lively and stylish mount. But even an aggressive rider can have a blast on either one. The Harley and 8-Ball basically disappeared into the background of competence in this test. There was nothing spectacular about either one-just a good riding position and willing power in a good-looking package.

It's nice to know you can't go wrong for around $13000, especially with the right attitude.

SPECIFICATIONS
2009 Harley-Davidson Street Bob 2009 Star Warrior 2009 {{{Suzuki}}} M109R 2009 Victory Kingpin 8-Ball
BASE PRICE $12,999 $13,190 $13,799 $13,999
AS TESTED $13,344 $13,390 (Midnight Warrior model) $14,099 (Limited Edition) $14,599 (Stage 1 Exhaust kit and Bandit Solo seat)
COLORS Black, dark blue, dark red Black White/blue Black
STANDARD WARRANTY 2 yrs., unlimited miles 12 mos., unlimited miles 12 mos., unlimited miles 24 mos., unlimited miles
** ENGINE**
TYPE Air-cooled, 45-degree V-Twin Air-cooled, 48-degree V-Twin Liquid-cooled, 54-degree V-Twin Air/oil-cooled, 50-degree V-Twin
**DISPLACEMENT, ** 1584cc, 1670cc, 1783cc, 1634cc,
BORE X STROKE 95.25mm x 111.25 mm 97mm x 113mm 112mm x {{{90}}}.5mm 101mm x 102mm
VALVE TRAIN OHV, operated by pushrods, 2 valves per cylinder OHV, operated by pushrods, 4 valves per cylinder DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder SOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
COMPRESSION 9.2 : 1 8.36 : 1 10.5 : 1 8.7 : 1
FUEL SYSTEM EFI, 42mm throttle bodies EFI, dual 40mm throttle bodies EFI, 56mm throttle bodies EFI, 45mm throttle bodies
PREFERRED FUEL 91 octane 87 octane 91 octane 91 octane or higher
TRANSMISSION 6 speed, multiplate wet clutch 5 speed, multiplate wet clutch 5 speed, multiplate wet clutch 5 speed, wet clutch
FINAL DRIVE Belt Belt Shaft Belt
CHASSIS
OVERALL LENGTH 92.8 in. 93.9 in. 96.5 in. 99 in.
WHEELBASE 64.2 in. 65.6 in. 67.3 in. 65.6 in.
WET WEIGHT 667 lbs. 650 lbs. 764 lbs. 683 lbs.
SEAT HEIGHT 26.7 in. 28.1 in. 27.8 in. 26.5 in.
RAKE/TRAIL 29 deg./4.70 in. 29 deg./5.1 in. 23.5 deg./3.9 in. 32.8 deg./5.4 in.
**WHEELS ** Laced steel 5-spoke cast aluminum 16 in. 7-spoke cast 5-spoke cast aluminum
FRONT TIRE {{{100}}}/90-19 57H 120/70-ZR18 radial 130/70R-18M/C tubeless 130/70-B18 Dunlop
REAR TIRE 160/70B17 (73V) {{{200}}}/50-ZR17 radial {{{240}}}/40R-18M/C tubeless 180/55B18
FRONT BRAKE 299mm disc, 4-piston caliper Dual 298mm discs, 4-piston radial mounted calipers Dual 310mm discs, 4-piston radial-mounted calipers 300mm disc, 4-piston caliper
REAR BRAKE 292mm disc, 2-piston caliper 282mm disc, single-piston caliper 275mm disc, dual-piston caliper 300mm disc, 2-piston caliper
FRONT SUSPENSION 49mm fork, 5.12 in. travel 41mm inverted fork, 5.3 in. travel 46mm inverted telescopic fork, 5.12 in. travel 43mm inverted fork, 5.1 in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Dual shocks, preload adjustable, 3.10 in. travel Single damper, adjustable for preload and rebound damping, 3.6 in. travel Single damper, preload adjustable, 4.3 in. travel Single damper, preload adjustable, 3.9 in. travel
**FUEL CAPACITY ** 4.8 US gal. 4.0 US gal. 5.2 US gal. 4.5 US gal.
INSTRUMENTS Electronic speedometer with odometer/dual tripmeter clock and fuel gauge; indicator lights for high beam, neutral, FI, turn signals, engine diagnostics, oil pressure and low fuel Analog speedometer, digital tachometer, LCD odometer/tripmeter, lights for neutral, high beam, turn signals, oil pressure, coolant Analog speedometer, LCD tachometer, LCD odometer, dual tripmeters; clock; lights for neutral, high beam, turn signals, low fuel, oil pressure, engine diagnostics Electronic speedometer with LCD odometer, clock and dual tripmeters; lights for low fuel, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, high beam, neutral, turn signals
** PERFORMANCE**
FUEL MILEAGE 30.8-34 mpg; 32.4 mpg avg. 36.1-37.75 mpg; 36.92 mpg avg. 30.85-32.55 mpg, 31.7 mpg avg. 35.9-39.72 mpg; 37 mpg avg.
AVERAGE RANGE 155 miles 148 miles 165 miles 166.5 miles

Riding Positions

Billy Bartels
6', 193 lbs., 33" inseam

My least favorite is a favorite nonetheless: Suzuki's M109R. It takes generously from Suzuki's rich sportbike heritage and applies it to a cruiser. The M109's got a fabulous motor and is a solid machine, but aesthetically it lags behind the others, and the shaft drive makes the power a little less manageable.

Harley-Davidson's Street Bob brings a far different flavor-it literally drips with old-school vibes while feeling almost like a modern bike. Unsophisticated suspension is its Achilles heel, but some would say that's part of the charm. Carrying less weight than the others and equipped with bars that make it easy to throw around, it manages to sit lower than the rest yet sport comparable ground clearance.

The sleek lines and blacked-out badness of the Kingpin 8-Ball almost won my heart. Despite not getting Victory's top of the line powertrain, it still has a smooth, strong powerplant and handles well enough. But Star's Warrior bested it in everything except looks. The Warrior is the oldest bike in this test, and it's frequently a forgotten member of the Star lineup. But with a stout motor, slick shifting, and spot-on ergonomics, it's easily the best for me. The Warrior doesn't have the Cadillac-cruiser vibe of the Kingpin, nor the coolness of the 'Bob, but it brings a mesh of sport and muscle that the M109 could only dream of. It's also really neat to look out over the front end and see nothing but the gauge.

Brad Olshen
5'10", 180 lbs., 32" inseam

Because I ride aggressively I preferred the Warrior. It had ample power throughout the powerband and handled the twisties incredibly. The combo of satin black with shiny black was perfect for a Bad Boy look. I didn't especially like the riding position, though.

My next favorite was the Victory Kingpin; it just looks so cool. The inverted forks and stretched tank should fit both tall and short guys or women. The power was good on the highway and in the corners.

The Harley-Davidson Street Bob was my third fave. Sure the bike needs better suspension, and I wasn't impressed by its braking or performance, but it handled quite well in the twisties. All of its problems can be solved with a little money, though. And this bike had a style that turned all heads.

Last but not least was the Suzuki M109R. For starters, the bike was white-not my favorite color. But this one had the power and braking that I wish some of the others did. A heavy rear end made it tough for the small testers to push this bike around in turns but because of my riding style, it wasn't such a problem for me. The suspension needs a little work and I am not a fan of shaft drives, but it's a great bike for the highway and for riders over 200 lbs.

Andy Cherney
5'7'', 155 lbs., 31" inseam

I love the idea of lumping these seemingly random bikes together, but I was also surprised to find that most of them brought decent doses of performance to their in-your-face attitude.

Not that that's always a good thing. For instance, the M109R's rev-happy, monster motor usually overpowered its limp suspension and magnified the jacking effect of the driveshaft. When I tested the M109R2 alone a while back, I drooled over its brutish character, but against these lighter bikes, it just can't hang. Phenomenal brakes, though.

The 8-Ball plays it closer to the vest. Sleek, blacked-out and simple-with the Freedom engine chuffing out gobs of grunt-it served up fun jaunts when I asked it to, almost making the single front brake disc forgivable. Refinement with a sneer.

As for the Harley, I'm not normally a fan of apehangers, but, like the other testers, I dropped my grudge against the Street Bob by Day Two. The 'Bob tracked more lightly than expected, plus its willing engine and mid-mount controls made things fairly breezy on canyon hops. That single brake disc won't win any slow races, but the 'Bob made no bones about what it was-a basic street sled that's just a fun ride.

For the best all-around riding and ergonomics, make mine the Warrior. Quick steering, four-pot radial brakes and a seamless, spirited power delivery made it unquestionably the most fun to ride. It also managed to bring a sort of dark menace with its Midnight trim, and for the price, I can't imagine a better way to say, " I'm not just another V-Twin..."

Rick Talbot
5'7", 170 lbs., 31" inseam

As a new street rider, I felt each bike here had something different to offer, and I wasn't sure which one I liked best.

The M109R felt the most stable to ride. It wasn't the easiest to turn, but it felt solid in the corners and it fit me well. I could reach the controls and the seat was narrow enough to reach the ground when stopped. On the freeway, it felt comfortable at higher speeds. It had plenty of power and stopped well, though it didn't handle bumps as well as the others. The shaft drive was sensitive and would cause the bike to "jump" on transitions.

Star's Warrior handled the best. It had plenty of power and was easy to ride in the canyons, but I also had the hardest time reaching the controls. The seat was too wide, so it made me feel too short. It's too bad because it stopped, slowed, and cornered well.

At first I was intimidated by the Street Bob. It just didn't feel as smooth as the others. Once I got used to the mini-apes, it was easier and I have to admit it fit me well. The seat was narrow enough for me to reach the ground and the controls were easy to reach. It felt more "old school" than the other bikes.

Victory Kingpin 8-Ball was fun, solid and comfortable. Aesthetically, this one was the coolest too. I could reach the ground and controls easily and it had lots of power. It rode the canyons well, but it wasn't as fun as other bikes around corners because of the floorboards.

Twin Cam meets the Mini Apes. "Whatchoo lookin' at?" The Street Bob brings original gangsta style to the masses with all the comforts of home. Cruise Drive never felt so weird.
Our M109R came in pure white with a jaunty nautical stripe. Attitude? Well, at least it brought plenty of ponies to the table.
As the lightest bike by far, the Warrior had a big advantage in the turns. Its ergonomics were suspect for shorter riders, but the Star's good points far outweighed its bad ones.
The 8-Ball swaddles its Stingray wheels, forks, engine and other bits in a shiny black coat. The dark demeanor works: everyone voted the 8-Ball as best-looking bike here.
Four bikes that couldn't be more different. Though every one was a V-Twin, each brought a different character and personality to the table. The Victory just manages to be the most photogenic.
H-D Dyna Street Bob Even though it was down on displacement here, Harley's Twin Cam 96 performed admirably once you spun it up. It felt pretty vibe-y, but the Cruise Drive six-speed was just the ticket for freeway cruising
Star Midnight Warrior Seven years old, 1670cc, pushrods and air-cooling: In Midnight Trim the Warrior packs performance and gobs of attitude. Pure evil, with a conscience.
Suzuki Boulevard M109R LE Suzuki's 1783cc high-compression DOHC twin had the most ponies on tap but you had to use them judiciously. Those beefy cans brought the best exhaust note in the group. White is not a slimming color for the M109R tho...
Victory Kingpin 8-Ball The ubiquitous 1634cc Freedom engine without the 6-speed tranny held its own. Our 8-Ball benefited from an aftermarket Stage 1 kit with new cans and refined EFI mapping.
H-D Dyna Street Bob The Street Bob continues the retro theme into the cockpit. Though they're not rubber-mounted and you can feel the vibes, those mini apes aren't as uncomfortable as they might look.
Star Midnight Warrior Looking out over the Warrior's Spartan, nearly naked dashboard - no headlight nacelle blocking your view of the road - it feels almost like you're flying.
Suzuki Boulevard M109R LE Full tachometer, drag bars and backlit instrumentation -the Suzuki makes it sporting intent felt loud and clear. The Limited Edition's speedo face has polished metal finish.
Victory Kingpin 8-Ball Back in black -and in front, too. The 8 Ball hits almost all components with the ebony paint. The best positioned bars in the group keep it minimal, with just a single gauge perches in the middle.
H-D Dyna Street Bob
Star Midnight Warrior
Suzuki Boulevard M109R LE
Victory Kingpin 8-Ball
Suzuki Boulevard M109R LE Wanna differentiate the hot rods from the cool cats? Just look at the front wheels. Both the Warrior and M109R (top right and bottom left, respectively) roll with inverted forks and dual-disc, radial front brakes. The Harley and Victory opt for a single disc upfront and a clearer view at their stylish front hoops.
H-D Dyna Street Bob
Star Midnight Warrior
Victory Kingpin 8-Ball