Showroom Showdown: Muscle Cruiser Mayhem!

Muscle cruisers combine brute strength with laidback styling. While not in the same power range as superbikes, they’ve often not been far off. They’re for the owner who wants lots of tire-shredding power, but isn’t so concerned about handling and weight.

Today, we’re going to compare the Yamaha V-Max, the Ducati Diavel 1260 and the Harley-Davidson Fat Bob 114. Harley hopefuls should also consider the new FXDR, based on the Fat Bob, but here’s how the stats of our chosen three stack up against each other.

Whether or not you believe the V-Max’s claimed 197 hp rating (at the crank, of course, not the rear wheel), there’s no question that it’s carrying a reputation for pure beastliness that’s endured for decades.

Engine

Once upon a time, there were some interesting inline-four muscle cruisers on the market, but now it’s all about the V configuration; the Harley-Davidson Fat Bob has the company’s traditional 45-degree V-twin and the Ducati Diavel 1260 is a much more modern V-twin, or L-twin, depending who you ask. The Yamaha V-Max uses a V4, as it has since the original model debuted in 1985 (it got a generational update in 2008).

Although the Fat Bob retains much of the character of Harley-Davidson’s classic V-twins, it’s got Harley-Davidson’s new Twin Cool system, which features liquid-cooled cylinder heads. You can get the Fat Bob in either the 114 or 107 cubic inch version (which is 1,746 cc or 1,690 cc in non-Harley-speak), but since ABS is standard on the 114, it makes more sense all around.

Although Harley-Davidson doesn’t officially publish horsepower numbers, it claims 109.8 lbs.-ft.  of torque at 3,000 rpm, and EPA documents indicate 100.57 hp (75kw) at 5,020 rpm.

The V-Max absolutely destroys that horsepower rating, putting out a claimed 197 hp at 9,000 rpm, as well as more torque, rated for 123 lbs.-ft. at 6,500 rpm. This is why the liquid-cooled 1,680 cc 65-degree V4 is such a legendary cornerstone of the Yamaha lineup: for years, it crushed every other cruiser-style bike when it came to sheer horsepower. Although owners of North American V-twins typically sneered at made-in-Japan copies, they often had more respect when talking about the V-Max. Ever since its debut, it has blown away the competition with ease; the biggest challenge was from inline-four-powered muscle cruisers, but those machines (Kawasaki Eliminator ZL900, for instance) are now distant memories for most riders.

Even the Diavel, with its 1,262 cc liquid-cooled Desmodromic L-twin can’t match the V-Max’s power. The Diavel 1260 makes 154 hp at 9,500 rpm and 95.1 ft-lbs at 5000 rpm. That means, when it comes to claimed horsepower and torque figures, the Yamahammer is the bike to beat here, as it’s been since its debut.

It’s worth noting the Diavel in stock form is quickshifter-compatible (it’s included, if you spring for the S model).

The Fat Bob isn’t as heavy as the V-Max, but it’s still a hefty machine. It’s surprising fun for a retro cruiser, as we found at the bike’s launch a few months back.

Weight

The Fat Bob earns its name by tipping the scales at 305 kg wet. The V-Max, never sold on promises of lightweight fun, weighs even more, a porky 310 kg at the curb.  And the Diavel, Ducati’s late entry to the muscle bike market, is by far the skinniest here, with a paltry 244 kg curb weight. That’s a huge, huge difference, and is one of the biggest reflections of a difference in design values.

All these bikes have sportier riding ergos than most cruisers, with the Diavel being the most aggressive.

Ergonomics

All these machines have a more upright position than your standard cruiser. That’s a Very Good Thing, as it’s much easier to properly control a motorcycle when your feet are more or less underneath you, instead of splayed out front like a recliner chair.

The Fat Bob has a 710 mm seat height, the V-Max has a 775 mm seat height, and the Diavel has a 780 mm seat height. Again, that speaks to a design ethos, and partly explains the Diavel’s handling characteristics. Note that the Harley-Davidson has the most reclined riding position here, thanks to that low seat height — your legs have to go somewhere, and if there isn’t enough room underneath, they go forward.

The 43 mm Showa forks on the Fat Bob are superior to most Harley-Davidson suspensions, but they still aren’t adjustable.

Suspension

The Harley-Davidson has a set of very trick-looking Showa USD forks up front, but they’re not adjustable. However, they’re well-adapted to everyday street riding.

The V-Max makes do with an old-school set of 52 mm telescopic forks, which sounds all fuddy-duddy but actually isn’t. They’re fully adjustable, which is good when you’ve got that much horsepower to keep under control.

The Diavel also has fully adjustable front suspension: a set of 50 mm USD forks. The Diavel is aimed at much sportier riding than the other two machines, and when you ride it, that’s very noticeable from the suspension feedback. It’s more akin to riding a sportbike than a slushy retro cruiser.

All these bikes have an adjustable monoshock in back. The Fat Bob is only preload-adjustable, but there’s a handy remote adjustment knob that makes the job easier. The V-Max rear shock is fully adjustable and the Diavel is preload/rebound-adjustable

The V-Max doesn’t have the up-to-date electronics package that you’d think you might want with that much horsepower.

Brakes/Safety Electronics

All these machines have dual disc brakes up front; the Harley-Davidson and the Ducati have four-piston calipers, but the Yamaha has six-piston calipers. The calipers are radially-mounted on the Ducati and the Yamaha, but not the Harley-Davidson.

All these machines have ABS as standard (it’s an option on the 2018 107 Fat Bob, but standard on both versions of the bike in 2019). However, on the V-Max and the Fat Bob, that’s as far as the electro-trickery goes. There’s no traction control, no leaning ABS, no wheelie control, no launch control, and so on.

The Diavel, on the other hand, has cornering ABS, traction control, wheelie control, launch control, cruise control, and Bluetooth integration with mobile devices.  It’s a truly modern motorcycle, with a lot more to offer than just brute muscle.

On a pure bang-for-buck comparison of stat sheets and MSRPs, the Diavel 1260 looks pretty good.

Pricing/Summary

Here’s what we know: the Harley-Davidson Fat Bob 117 is $23,599 in basic black, or $24,049 for colour variants, $24,949 for two-tone colour. The Yamaha V-Max is $25,199.

The updated Diavel 1260, however, hasn’t had a Canadian MSRP listed yet, but the 2018 version cost $21,995. Expect it to bump up in 2019, but still, it’s very likely it will be the most affordable machine of these three.

So, on paper, the Diavel is the lightest bike here, probably has the sportiest suspension, definitely has the most up-to-date electronics package, and will likely have the lowest price, or close to it. Looking at spec sheets alone, this is the obvious winner.

But it still lacks the brute horsepower of the V-Max, or the cachet of the Fat Bob. Some cruiser riders will be quite happy with a Ducati, as it’s a prestigious brand, but for some other buyers, Harley-Davidson is the only cruiser brand they’ll spend money on, and it’s certain the new Fat Bob is a far superior motorcycle to previous editions of the bike.

To put it another way: some buyers don’t care about traction control and the like, or might not even want it. All they want is boulevard poseur cred, and all these bikes offer that.

4 thoughts on “Showroom Showdown: Muscle Cruiser Mayhem!”

  1. You’d need (at least) the 114 to show up in an engine comparo like this, heheh…
    So I’m glad to see that motor. Basically makes 100+ lb/ft any time it’s running.
    And the big Harley’s not even the heaviest bike here!
    If its weight was a bit more Diavel-esque, would be a highly entertaining package.

  2. More like two power cruisers and a Harley. Power to weight ratio? Vmax > Diavel >> Fat Bob. The Vmax and Diavel are pretty closely matched in that department, the Fat Bob is way behind.

    H-D used to make a power cruiser, the V-Rod. Maybe if you were to put a super- or turbo-charger on the Fat Bob…

    1. While I have never ridden the gen 2 V-max, if it’s nastier than the original one, it’s a power cruiser. I’ve never ridden the Diavel, so I can’t comment on it other than the fact that it seems to have suffered an assault by the ugly stick. Probably quicker and faster than old heck. The HD is just that, an HD. Power cruiser, no. I had a 30 year old Maxim X that would could show its taillight to the ‘Bob till the teacup fuel tank was empty.

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