Motorcycle Cruiser Deals - Best Buys

Screamin' Deals On The Biggest Cruisers

It would be a grand understatement to say we live in interesting times. With gas prices retreating, but still high, the economy mostly in the toilet, and people looking for ways to save money, the motorcycle industry is having an interesting time of its own. On one hand, a motorcycle is an inherently efficient vehicle, and more and more people are lining up to buy one even during the winter, especially in the Sun Belt. On the other hand, motorcycles have been (successfully) marketed as a fun, escapist luxury item during the good times, and that's the impression that lingers in many potential riders' minds.

So the shakeout of all this is that cruiser sales are on fire...but only on models under 1200cc, and selling for less than five figures. If you think the housing market is upside down, welcome to the motorcycle industry. We've heard stories of dealer markups and waiting lists on 250cc bikes. The big boys have been left out in the cold, with '08s still nailed to the pine while the '09s roll in the doors. The bad news for the recently booming large cruiser segment is good news for the large cruiser aficionado. If you've got the means, the time to replace your old bike is now. The selection and variety of big cruisers today is staggering. With several of the jumbo cruisers getting dropped from OEM lineups (and thus from our buyers guide), this may not be readily apparent, but rest assured you can sill get '08s in most locales. The caveat to all this is that credit can be hard to come by right now. But since the big boys (in some cases) are going for what the midsize bikes used to go for, that might be less of a problem than you might think.

We wanted to know which specific models were the biggest losers in terms of sales, so we did some research. We made calls to the four corners of the USA, searching out dealers large and small for their insight into what, specifically, was selling and what wasn't. Results varied by area and even by dealer in a given area. For instance, Sales Manager Clay Wallace of Honda of Jacksonville, says "we've got nothing" and that sales are strong on all models including the VTX1800 (more on this later). While other dealers in the Jacksonville area reported just the opposite. The general theme is that little bikes are tearing ass out of town, while the big ones sit, but some dealers are down overall while others are feasting. Some of the dealers helping us out with our story wanted to remain anonymous, while others were glad for the exposure. For your convenience their names are listed at the end of the article.

We also talked to the big fellas themselves, the OEMs, but they were mostly pretty resistant to talk about their sales (or lack thereof), with a couple notable exceptions. Kawasaki and Victory both offered insight into the market and what they saw as the hidden gems in their lineups.

We'd like to point out that all of these bikes are favorites of ours, solid performers that have merely fallen on hard times. If they weren't good bikes, we wouldn't recommend them.

So in alphabetical order, the biggest deal from each of the majors, along with some honorable mentions:

Harley-Davidson 105th Anniversary Edition Dyna Wide Glide
This bike was a bit of a perfect storm for Harley. It was a strong seller back in the 90's when it was introduced, but really hadn't changed that much (styling-wise) in the intervening years. Known as a rider's bike, it was the foil to H-D's chopperesque Softail with exposed shocks apeing a 1970's custom Harley. However, that style has been in the dumper recently. When you can have a real hand-built chopper for somewhere around 20 g's, a dated-looking wussified version with a skinny rear tire just isn't going to cut it. Add to that what one Harley-Davidson dealer referred to as "the Coppertop" paintjob and you've got a formula for distress. One dealer was offering discounts in the neighborhood of $1500. Somehow, Star got away with delivering the similarly styled (skinny front tire) Raider into this market and it's a big seller.

All that said, the Wide Glide is a solid machine if you're into the skinny front tire look. Despite the lack of much styling change, the 'Glide sports H-D's current Twin Cam 96 motor and six-speed transmission. With a reasonable 34-degree rake, a 160 rear tire, and a relatively low 678 pound wet weight it's pretty nimble as well. Although with it's long reach to the forward controls, it's not recommended for riders under 5'9" or so.

Honorable mentions from The Motor Company include most of the rest of the Dyna and Softail lines. Harley's popular baggers and large touring machines buck recent trends towards smaller bikes with continued strong sales, but the other big bikes are fair game for good deals, and most dealers overbought them in '08. Also, as mentioned before the 105th Anniversary paint scheme doesn't seem to be a big hit, though it was the one thing that our source at H-D would comment on, claiming (wrongly) that we'd "have a hard time finding one now."

Honda VTX1800
Of particular note is Honda's VTX1800 former flagship cruiser. While most of the other makes have some regional flavor to what is and is not selling, the VTX is a pretty universal non-commodity. Sometime this year we're planning a $9000 cruiser shootout and believe it or not this bike would qualify based on discounts in many places, while average price seems to be around $10k. Honda didn't officially cooperate in our investigation, but the message from corporate was clear enough that the 1800 is in stock around the country when it was dropped from Honda's '09 lineup, yet remains on the website as an '08 carryover model.

The magic bullet here seems to be somewhat the same as the Wide Glide, dated styling meets uncomfortable price point, with the added bonus (in the case of the VTX) that it doesn't get particularly good fuel economy. Honda had made periodic changes to the front and rear fenders and offered them up as new versions, but the bike between the wheels was pretty much the same. Performance-wise, the bike is strong, but unremarkable, and outclassed in recent years by the flagship offerings from Star and Kawasaki. While the industry has been trending towards belts of late, the VTX still wears a shaft and has all the handling issues associated with one.

That said, seeing as it's now discounted to the tune of over $5000, it's the big winner in most head-to-head matchups. Of the five different trim styles it comes in, we're not sure which one is the least popular (and most available), but if you're unfinicky about your fenders (the main difference between the VTXs) you should be able to get onto a VTX for a steal.

Kawasaki Vulcan 2000
A few years ago, hailed as avant-garde and possessing what was then the largest motor ever in a motorcycle (apologies to Boss Hoss), the V2k was the all-conquering hero. But when its more sedate and conventional looking sibling the Classic arrived shortly thereafter, it was relegated to odd-duck status and was quickly outsold by its little brother. Many point to the four-headlight cluster as being too out-threre, while others point to the fact that its blacked out and outshined by the chrome of the Classic. For some reason it's actually $800 more expensive than the Classic, while other makers' blacked-out bikes go for less than the chromed version. From what we've seen, discounts should be at least in the $2000 range for an '08.

It would be redundant to state that the Vulcan 2000 is a big bike, as all of the bikes here are big, but the Vulcan is big for a big bike. Ergonomically, it's not too stretched-out, but the sheer dimensions of the thing, along with the weight, make for a very, very "big bike" experience. What you do get for that price is an extremely torquey machine that somehow is also very manageable. Needless to say, this bike is all about the motor, effortlessly and soulfully thrumming away from a stop when the wick is turned on it. Ironically fuel mileage (one of the big factors in people rushing to little bikes these days) is actually pretty solid on the 2k, getting close to 40 mpg from its pushrod-equipped, water-cooled mill.

However, also of note from Kawasaki is the Vulcan 2000 Classic, as it's been outselling the V2k and so might have more inventory in some locations. The now-discontinued Vulcan 1600 models and Vulcan 1500 are also worth considering, as the dealers who are still sitting on them would like to see them depart soon.

Star Road Star
This was a hard one to call and was a bit of a tossup between the slightly dated Roadstar, the granddaddy of the Star brand, and it's newer flagship twins, the Stratoliner and Roadliner. All three are struggling right now, though it seems the Star brand has been less effected by the overall slowdown than some others. But the nod has to go to the old guy. Like the Wide Glide and VTX its familiarity and somewhat generic looks have yielded a yawn from riding populace. For whatever reason, sales are down on what was once a game-changing bike and it can be snapped up for a steal, with deals in the $1000-$2000 off range.

Other than its age, the Roadstar has few warts to speak of. It's a neutral handling bike with solid torque and smooth mechanicals. The air-cooled, pushrod-driven four-valve is reliable, and known as a fantastic customization platform for you aspiring custom builders out there. It's also sized just right and will appeal to riders at all but the extremes of height and weight, unlike its more stretched-out siblings the Stratoliner and Roadliner. It'll stretch a tank of gas like those bikes can't, with average fuel economy near 40mpg.

As we mentioned earlier, the Strato and Roadliners are also selling slow, and as these are typically faster-selling models, there may be even more excess inventory of them at some dealers. So take a long look around and watch for the red tags to get the best deal possible.

Suzuki Boulevard M109R
We seemed to get the least information from dealers regarding Suzuki's Boulevard line of cruisers, other than vague lines about how "the big bikes have really slowed down." So we're going to go ahead and pick the M109R out of the hat that includes the M109R2 with its different headlight treatment, and the C109R with it's traditional fuller-cut fenders and slightly smaller rear tire. Chances are that any of these machines are available as an '08 for at least $1000 off, especially since they are in Suzuki's '09 lineup as well.

Considering that most of its peers are MSRP'd at over $14K, The M109R is value priced at $12,699 (08 price), so with prices down, the deal is even better. The big, water-cooled twin cranks out the torque and horsepower in equal measure, offering a very sporty ride. It sports a massive 240-section rear tire, which is not for everybody, but still handles very well for spinning that much meat out back. Ergoes are on the big side, but not ridiculously so, appealing more to riders average to tall. Suzuki really tried to inject their racing GSX-R DNA into this cruiser, so aggressive riders will be right at home on the M.

Triumph Rocket III
Joining the Vulcan 2000 in the plus-sized category is the Rocket III. In a world where big and bad are king, this is the emperor, but today, that trend has been set on its head, so the Rocket III is in the dumpster. The comment most heard from dealers is that for something priced akin to a Harley, it sure is funny-looking. The Rocket III also hits a trifecta of things that could be wrong in todays market: size, fuel economy, and price, all of which have it on the wrong side of the tracks.

The Rocket is a cartoonishly big and powerful machine, so big that its 240 rear tire looks right at home beneath its arched steel fender. It's got an asymmetrical style with two pipes sticking out on the right and one on the left side of the bike, the triple headers on the right and a big sweeping air intake to the left. One dealer described it as "funky." Sporting a curb weight of close to 800 pounds, it handles like a wheelbarrow, but as long as you don't hit many mid-corner bumps it's pretty solid. Ah, but there's that motor. The unique growl of the triple, and the fury with which it launches forth makes all its other warts somewhat disappear when you twist the dumbstick.

Other possible deals from Triumph are the floorboard-equipped Rocket III Classic, as well as the Rocket III Touring, which had a warm reception in some circles but not in others. Forget about the smaller Bonnevilles and their ilk, as they seem to be flying off of showroom floors like most sub-1000cc bikes.

Victory Hammer S
America seems to have a love/hate (or love/indifference) attitude with Victory. We got a very mixed reation to the Victory brand that seemed to transcend region, but more had to do with individual dealers. Sales manager Luca Rattazzi of Scuderia West in San Francisco claimed that, while "San Fransisco is not a cruiser city," the Vision was flying off of the floor. That said, he still had other '07 and '08 models in stock.

As all of Victory's offerings are big bikes the market has been especially cruel to them, but it still seems there are places that the Victory brand is doing well. That said, we had trouble coming up with a consistent line on what was up with Victory. So we went to the source. Our Victory rep told us that the slowest selling Vic' has been the Hammer (and Hammer S), the line about it being a performance cruiser just not finding traction overall. So if you can locate a leftover '08 (or '07) good prices will probably follow, especially since the Hammer is still around in '09.

The Hammer was the first mainstream cruiser with a 250 rear tire, mated to an 43mm inverted front and performance rubber all around. The S model is the upgraded version with Performance Machine wheels and other doo-dads which bring the price up near $20k. Naturally in this market that price is negotiable.

Another potential Victorian product is the Vegas Jackpot. Victory's other wide-tire bike is similarly-priced to the Hammer S, except swapping performance for bling. Since it's been a bigger seller in the past, there might be more stock out there.

The Best Of The Rest
Naturally, a deal is where you find it, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Big bikes in general are on the ropes and smaller ones are selling, but there is probably more to find on a micro level. Cruise your local (and not so local) shops for deals. There may be a lower-priced model that got some bad ink, or lack of exposure, or simply not the sort of bike a particular dealer knows how to sell.

And don't forget the "Alternative Americans." Big Dog, Swift, and especially American Ironhorse (AIH) are ripe for the picking with bikes that start at prices at where most lines top out. AIH is especially ripe for picking, as all the bad press surrounding their recent bankruptcy may have put a damper on sales as much as the economy has. Parts availability is less of a concern with all of these brands as there is considerable interchangeability between all aftermarket bikes (home-built or factory), as well as with Harley-Davidsons. If you've got the kind of coin needed for a bike like this there has rarely been a better time to buy.

Smaller Euro brands like Moto Guzzi might be a good deal as well, with prices higher than an equivalent Japanese machine, and less name recognition. As always, happy hunting. And let us know what you pick up and for how much at: cruiser@sourceinterlink.com.

Resources
Jacksonville:
Big Bike Motorcycles
888-426-0182

Honda Of Jacksonville
904-721-2453

Purcell's Motorcycles & Marine
904-771-8244

Ron Turner Cycles
904-641-0066

Los Angeles:
Bartels' Harley-Davidson
310-823-1112

Bert's MegaMall626-974-6600

New England:
Canton Cycles (Winsted, CT)
860-738-1718

Libby's Motoworld (New Haven, CT)
203-772-1112

Motorcycles of Manchester, Inc.AKA M.O.M.'s (Manchester, NH)
603-627-3957

San Francisco:
Golden Gate Cycles
415-771-4535

Munroe Motors
415-626-3496

Scuderia West
415-621-7223

Victory Motorcycles
Victorymotorcycles.com

Kawasaki
Kawasaki.com

Save Big!
Harley-Davidson 105th Anniversary Edition Dyna Wide Glide
Clearance
Honda VTX1800
Best Buy!
Kawasaki Vulcan 2000
Great Bargain
Star Road Star
Marked Down
Suzuki Boulevard M109R
Willing To Deal
Triumph Rocket III
Discounted
Victory Hammer S