Showroom Showdown: Cruiserpalooza!

What if you don’t want a MegaCruiser®? What if you don’t need 800 litres of luggage space, or a 40-kg frame-mounted windshield? What if you don’t like gaudy factory custom-paint, and you think a massive onboard sound system is silly?

High-end factory custom baggers get all the ink these days, but if you want a basic, stripped-down cruiser for less than $12,000, that’s still doable. This month, we’re looking at the Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883, the Indian Scout Sixty and the Yamaha Bolt. We’re also throwing in the Moto Guzzi V9 Roamer, which is a little closer to a standard bike, but with cruiser-like styling and very much aimed at the same market — these bikes are very hipster-friendly.


Motor

All these machines use V-twins, although the Guzzi has the cylinders across the frame, instead of front-to-back, and is usually called a transverse V-twin (and yes, we know a pile of readers are poised to point out that’s technically incorrect! – Ed.).

The Scout Sixty is the only liquid-cooled engine here. It’s a scaled-down version of the 1200-class V-twin originally developed by Polaris for Victory, which was slotted into the Scout as Victory closed its doors. It’s a 1,000 cc 60-degree V-twin, with four valves per cylinder. It makes 78 hp at 7,200 rpm, and 65.5 ft-lb of torque at 5,200 rpm. That’s more rev-happy than most modern cruisers, which make much ballyhoo about getting to max torque low in the rpm range.

The other three engines are all air-cooled.

The Bolt’s engine, seen here, has been around since the 2000s, but the Iron 883’s roots go even farther back, to the first EVO Sportsters of the ’80s.

The Yamaha Bolt also uses a 60-degree V-twin, with SOHC setup and four valves per cylinder. Yamaha’s had some variation of this 942 cc engine in its lineup for some time now, as it also used to power V-Star models. It makes 59.3 lb-ft of torque at only 3,000 rpm. Yamaha doesn’t publish official max horsepower numbers, but it’s generally rated for about 46 horsepower at the rear wheel at 5,500 rpm.

The Iron 883 uses the 45-degree EVO engine that Harley-Davidson has been putting in its Sportsters since 1986. The current design is fuel-injected, with pushrods actuating the two-valve heads. Max output is 40 hp at 4,000 rpm, and 53.8 lb-ft of torque at 3,750 rpm. This version of the engine is 883 cc.

Finally, the Guzzi. The Roamer is built on the V9 platform, which is basically a big-bore evolution of the long-running V7 design. It’s more modern than the Harley-Davidson and Yamaha engines, as it also has an oil cooler, and a six-speed transmission (the Scout Sixty, Iron 883 and Bolt all have five-speeds). Still, it has old-school two-valve heads, with pushrod-actuated valves. The 90-degree, 853 cc V-twin makes 54 hp at 6,250 rpm and 45.7 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm.

The Scout Sixty is actually a small-bore version of the Scout engine, but it still handily beats all the other bikes on power and torque. Liquid cooling and modern design help a lot here.

The Indian makes the most horsepower and most torque here, but it’s also worth noting it has an edge in displacement, and makes its torque at higher revs. Some cruiser customers might not like that. Also, if you’re into engine tuning, the Iron 883 in particular has almost endless possibility for upgrading. Stock Harley-Davidson parts will quickly big-bore it to 1200 cc. The Scout Sixty can also theoretically be hopped up with parts from the standard Scout model, but the Indian machine doesn’t have the decades of tuning data that the Harley-Davidson does.

But that’s all talking about upgrades. In stock form, the Scout Sixty tops the output ratings, followed by the V9 Roamer, with the Iron 883 and Yamaha Bolt scrapping it out with near-identical specs at the bottom.

Yikes! Even though it’s Harley-Davidson’s stripped-down model, the Iron 883 comes in the heaviest on this comparo.

Weight

Although they’re still portly when judged by the standards of naked bikes/dual sports/sportbikes/just about anything else, these cruisers are much lighter than their fully-dressed, big-dollar counterparts.

The V9 Roamer has a 199 kg curb weight. The Scout Sixty weighs 252 kg at the curb. The Iron 883 is spec’d for 255 kg at the curb, and the Bolt is rated at 245 kg.

The difference between the Moto Guzzi and all the other machines listed here is significant, although the V9’s design might feel a bit heftier, due to carrying its weight higher. Even the Yamaha comes in significantly lighter than the Harley-Davidson, which was its main competition when it was released in 2013. The Scout Sixty and the Iron 883 are sad reminders of perhaps the biggest problem with American-made motorcycles: they’re far heavier than they need to be.

The Bolt and Scout Sixty have almost identical suspension travel, between the Harley-Davidson on the low end and the Moto Guzzi on the high end.

Suspension

All these bikes have old-school non-adjustable telescopic forks up front and preload-adjustable dual rear shocks.

The Iron 883 has 92 mm of suspension travel up front, and 41 mm in the rear. The Bolt has 120 mm of travel up front and 70 mm in the rear. The Scout Sixty is almost the same as the Bolt, with 120 mm of suspension travel in front and 76 mm in the rear. The V9 Roamer has 130 mm of travel up front, and 90 mm in the rear.

Although suspension suitability is somewhat subjective, the Roamer’s added travel, especially in back, would make it more comfortable for most riders, while the Iron 883’s shocking lack of travel in the rear will leave many riders opting for aftermarket shocks, or sticking to smoothly-paved roads.

Want a butt-dragging ride? The Scout Sixty will oblige, with the lowest seat height here, under 26 inches.

Ergonomics

As these are cruisers, they have low seat heights, and the Scout Sixty is the lowest of the low, at 643 mm. That’s not even high enough to legally qualify as a motorcycle in the province of Nova Scotia, which states a motorcycle must have a “seat height unladen greater than 28 inches above the level surface on which the vehicle stands.” See the regs here, if you don’t believe us!

The Bolt has a 690 mm seat height (which also doesn’t meet the NS regs!), the Iron has a 735 mm seat height and the V9 Roamer has a 785 mm seat height.

Aside from the seat height, the V9 Roamer also has footpegs set closer to the rider, in almost a mid-mount position; the Bolt’s footpegs are also closer to the mid-mount position. Although riders’ tastes vary, mid-mounted pegs are arguably more comfortable and more conducive to aggressive riding.

The funky-looking V9 Roamer has the most comprehensive safety package here, with ABS and traction control.

Safety

The Bolt doesn’t have ABS, but at its price point, you might expect that. But it’s the 21st century, so surely any motorcycle priced over $10k will have ABS as standard, right?

Wrong! ABS is optional on the Iron 883, and optional on black-painted Scout Sixty models (while standard on the models with more expensive paint). Two-channel ABS is standard on the V9 Roamer, though.

Then look at the front brakes on these bikes. All these machines have single discs, which isn’t so bad for the lighter Guzzi (320 mm disc, four-piston caliper). It’s downright silly on the portly Iron and Scout Sixty, which come with two-piston calipers and discs in the 290 mm range. The Bolt is also similarly equipped.

ABS is definitely a huge asset, but the V9 Roamer also has the best non-ABS setup here.

Traction control isn’t available on the Yamaha Bolt, but again, you might not expect it, as it’s Yamaha’s entry-level cruiser and has modest power output. But it’s also unavailable for the more-expensive Iron 883 and Scout Sixty. The Harley-Davidson’s engine probably doesn’t require traction control, but the Scout Sixty makes much more power. Traction control would be a nice option.

The Moto Guzzi, meanwhile, comes with two-level traction control as standard.

The Iron 883 might be an entry-level Harley-Davidson, but it still comes with nice paint.

Visuals

All four bikes riff on traditional cruiser lines. The Scout Sixty comes with heavy skirted fenders, like the original pre-war Indian models. The Iron 883 is a bit more modern, but still has fork gaiters and a peanut tank, like a machine from the 1970s.

That ’70s theme also carries over to the V9 Roamer, which almost has a banana seat. It’s more of a standard than the other bikes here, with a higher seat. Throw on a set of taller handlebars, and you’d have the modern equivalent of a Norton Commando Hi-Rider.

The Bolt is perhaps the most modern design of them all, but still looks like it could have rolled off an assembly line in the ’80s. Its paint options are somewhat restrictive (Yamaha wants you to buy the more expensive Bolt R-Spec), but all the other machines have at least a couple of flashy paint options.

The Bolt has the lowest price, by far, but is also the most stripped-down model here, with no ABS available.

Price/Conclusion

The Yamaha Bolt retails for $8,999 in Canada this year. The Harley-Davidson Iron 883 has a $11,499 price tag. The Indian Scout Sixty sells for $10,999, and the Moto Guzzi V9 Roamer has an $11,090 MSRP for 2019.

The Yamaha has the lowest MSRP, by far, but also the least options. It’s a plain-Jane bike, and if that’s what you want, the price could be right. It’s a basic, bare-bones cruiser, and the cost reflects that.

But from there, you can get into other questions, like what do you really want in a cruiser? Performance? Style? Handling? Or the other all-important H-word: Heritage?

There are some people who would argue that it’s a waste of time buying a cruiser brand other than Harley-Davidson, as all other machines are just imitators … except Indian has now come along and rolled back into business, with a timeline that goes back even farther than the MoCo (as long as you ignore all those decades of dormancy and other silliness after the original Indian went out of business).

So you might buy the Iron 883 to get entry into the Harley-Davidson scene, but once you get there, you’ll get the Rodney Dangerfield treatment. Many Sportster owners just don’t get no respect from Big Twin fanatics.

If you’re buying a brand on the specious idea of North American motorcycling heritage, the Iron 883 might look good at first, but the Scout Sixty is actually cheaper, has a more powerful engine and weighs less even if it “just isn’t a Harley.” Indian has been chipping away at the Harley-Davidson support base for years now, and bikes like this are the reason why.

But! If you’re not worried about allegiance to motorcycles made in the land of Stars and Stripes, then you should take a long, careful look at the Moto Guzzi.

The fact is, Guzzi also has a long, respected history of building cruiser-style bikes, and is certainly no Johnny-come-lately to the scene. And the V9 Roamer weighs less, has better brakes than all the other bikes and probably better suspension. It has a lower price than all the other machines except the Yamaha. And ABS and traction control are standard.

It might not have as much power as the Scout Sixty, but it has more than the Yamaha and the Harley-Davidson. It’s still got more than enough to burn up a back road at speeds high enough to lose your licence — and if a deer jumps in front of you, you’ve a much better chance of stopping before hitting it. For all these reasons, if you’re choosing between these bikes, we’d recommend you start with the Guzzi.

7 thoughts on “Showroom Showdown: Cruiserpalooza!”

  1. If I had to pick one of these (mostly) overweight, under-suspended, under-powered dogs, it would probably be the Guzzi. While it doesn’t deliver a lot of power, it at least has normal sized wheels and tires on both ends (I’m looking at you, Scout), doesn’t weigh as much, and has more than 2″ of rear suspension travel.

    But I’m making the same mistake as you guys, judging these bikes on their functionality. Cruiser buyers have shown time and again that they seem to value style over function. Else why would anyone consider buying a bike with <2" of rear suspension travel? Or a 900 (883) that makes 40 HP (impressive numbers for 1949, to be sure)?

    So I'd probably say to go for Indian for the best combination of style and function at this price point, for those who just have to have a heritage style bike.

  2. There is the subject of dealer networks and support. Yamaha and Harley have a strong presence. The Guzzi and Indian dealers are much fewer & farther between. There is a Guzzi dealer where I am, but the Indian dealership is non existent.

  3. Let me see now, under 12 grand, hmmm.
    Suzuki Boulevard C50s, Kawasaki Vulcan 900s or VulcanS 650s, Honda Rebel 500s, all of which would do the job quite nicely thank you.
    And don’t call him Shirley… 🙂

    1. Agree, we have the m50’s and we love them. Smooth as butter gearing. Comfy feet positioning but I gotta say that motto guzzi has been on my mind for awhile now and seeing the suspension travel just know…. I think I will have one in the garage by the end of summer

  4. 41mm suspension travel, heheh… surely you jest!
    And 40 HP at 4000 RPM? Geez, even my car revs out to seven grand in each gear.
    That Harley is prehistoric. I wouldn’t want to even borrow one.

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