Comparo – Honda, Suzuki, Harley-Davidson Cruiser Test, Part 2

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I Guess We Just Don’t Get It
Last week we brought you CMG’s definitive, authoritative test of three randomly-chosen cruisers, in which we confessed our complete lack of comprehension as to why people like you buy these things. Following are the personal preferences of the four people involved after riding the Harley-Davidson Sportster, Honda Magna, and Suzuki Marauder.


Rob the Editor’s 400 Word Blurb (he lies, it’s 518)

At last some bikes that I can criticize. I was starting to get worried that every bike I was testing was relatively faultless and thereby wondering if I was missing something or even giving the impression that I had a very brown nose to please the manufacturers so that we can get more test bikes! (no comment from the rest of the staff…) So…

I think someone should sue the bike companies for misrepresentation with the term ‘cruiser’. You can’t cruise, not for long anyway. Both the Marauder and the Magna put you

firmly on your coccyx, you know, that miniature evolutionary tail thingie at the base of your spine. Combine this with feet forward and arms at full stretch, and you have a machine that the Spanish inquisitors would be proud of.

After a very short spell at highway speeds, your fingers begin to ache, your upper back starts to cramp and yer butt goes numb to escape the pain. Unfortunately the Harley, with its high bars but sensible peg position still sits you on your tail, and still leaves you holding your body up against the wind. Basically they all fail on the comfort front with the Magna getting two butt cheeks down, despite its plush seat, just because it left me in the most pain in the shortest time.

Where the Magna does score is in the engine department. I know it’s just not hip to have more than two cylinders in a vee, but the 750 V-four has

the most power, no vibration and all-round usability. The Marauder has been widely criticised for its weedy engine, but it does the job even if it does fail to excite. And the Harley… Well, it was interesting. Monster torque and a blat, blat, blat exhaust note made it the most fun on the lanes, but the vibes quickly became a handicap where speed was required. It reminded me much of my old Yam XS650 twin, which, although less torquey, was just great fun around town and down twisty lanes. But that cost me $80, not a good chunk over $12,000.

I suppose then, it comes down to the crunch when you look at the prices. The Marauder comes in at a bargain $8,039 (although you should allow a bit extra for the optional one piece seat). Honda asks a sizable $2,660 more for the Magna, which admittedly has better build quality, but not that much. And Harley sustain their ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ joke by asking $12,669. Shit, screw the pose

value, you can get a VTR1000 for $11,700 and still have almost a thousand bucks left over. Don’t get me wrong, if all the bikes were the same price I’d probably go for the Harley. Since none of them are usable in the real world, you might as well go for the toy which is the most fun, and to me the Harley achieves that. But if I can get close for only $80 with a rattly old XS I’ll buy another one of those and spend the remaining $11,989 on something more usable. Writing with a pink, but soon to be broken nose,

Rob Harris


Larry the Test Writer’s 400 Words (actually 312 to make up for Rob’s excess)

I can understand looks being the most important thing when buying a bike, even if you have no taste. I can understand not caring about lots of horsepower or great handling (hey, remember the bikes you started out on and loved years ago?). What I can’t understand is why anybody would pop their hard-earned money for an uncomfortable machine that doesn’t do what it might so easily accomplish.

Most of our complaints about these bikes come down to one thing – the riding position. Surely it’s possible to keep the cool looks without making the rider sit on the point of his or her ass, while hanging on to the bars for dear life at speeds greater than 60 km/h. Honestly, moving the pegs back a few inches would make any of these bikes a giggle.

To say some positive things, the Sportster didn’t break down. It’s the first test Harley I’ve ridden in 20 years that didn’t, so that’s good.

Also, it surprised me by being a giggle around town and having, for me, the best seating position. But no tool kit or fork lock for nearly 13 grand? I think not.

The Marauder’s slightly cheezy good looks appealed to me, actually, maybe it’s the deep green paint or my low artistic sensibilities. I think with the accessory seat and with a relatively inexpensive surgery job on the footpeg location, it’s a machine I could like. Particularly given the price, what a deal.

The Magna is typically Honda in that it’s smooth, sophisticated, elegant, and beautifully finished. Not to mention fast; you gotta love the V-4 engine. Unfortunately, all it does for me is make me want to buy a VFR (same basic engine) instead

Actually, I guess if I had to have one I’d take the Harley ’cause it’s the most expensive. Then I could immediately sell it and buy a VFR and pay the insurance.

Larry Tate


Piero the, uh, Zambotti’s 377 Words (helping to make up for Rob’s chatter)

The motorcycle industry’s confusion on what these blasted cruisers should actually look like, and how they should perform, is shown quite well by this garish lot of chrome covered choppers. For pure motorcycling fun per dollar, I say the Suzuki easily has the edge. $8,000 buys you a versatile little cruiser that works better than the other bikes here for anything you care to name, whether it’s extended trips, commuting, or comfort. It’s got a punchy, flexible motor that loves to rev, agile handling, and the best brakes, too. Although the Marauder is a bit bland, it is the most practical bike here, and often the most pleasant to ride.

$3,000 more will get you the Honda, a bike that feels twice as big and heavy as the Marauder, but which actually has a smaller engine. Despite the

extra fat, the Honda easily smokes the others, and with practice, could blow off some unsuspecting sportbikes too, thanks to its smooth VFR-based motor. The rest of the Magna simply doesn’t keep up with the motor, though, and results in the rather schizophrenic combination of sportbike motor and full blown cruiser chassis.

Then there’s the Harley. Crude, ugly, obsolete, and the most expensive, I get the distinct feeling that Harley-Davidson went to great lengths to engineer it that way. It’s the complete opposite of the Suzuki. While the Suzuki is modern and refined, but a little bit characterless, the Harley is a little too ‘characterful’. Riding the 1200 strongly reminds me of a worn out ride-on lawn mower that I had to use years ago. However, the Harley’s goofy riding position, the motor’s incredible laziness, and the comical backfires combine to make for a different experience, and different can be fun for a while.

In the end though, all these bikes make big performance compromises to adhere to some misguided idea of how ‘real motorcycles’ should look. They all place form before function, and to me, end up looking a bit dumb in the process. The best motorcycle in this group is the Suzuki, but the best cruiser is literally in the eye of the beholder.

Piero Zambotti


Heather the Flight Attendant’s 608 (!) words

The idea of being a part of a weekend test ride of three shiny new bike (a Sportster, a Magna, and a Marauder), for an amateur like myself was one of excitement and anticipation. I couldn’t sleep the two nights before. Someone was willing to trust me with brand new, expensive motorcycles? (Well, actually…Ed.)

Actually, the Harley was most daunting, and most costly. I have become so comfortable with my Suzuki ’78 GS750 – after a brief encounter with a Yamaha XS650 and a parked car, I was convinced that my Suzuki was the only bike I could really ride. Hmm… I had to do this, I could do this.

Now for the hard part, putting my impressions into words. All three bikes look good. They shine and gleam in all the right places, however, if you’ve seen my bike you know that looks aren’t that important to me. I ride strictly for the riding not the posing, though Rob is quick to point out that I’m probably more noticed on my “ratty” GS, with leaking exhaust and thick black smoke trailing behind. Well, back to riding. The Magna is a comfortable bike to sit on. The seat is nicely scooped and well padded. The moment you shift into gear and lift your heels it’s like pulling the wooden arm on the side of your lazy-boy. Ahh, oh yeah, must be alert. I found it scary in town because I didn’t feel in a position to react quickly and the many surprise potholes left me considering who would be the best masseuse in the crowd. Out on the highway I couldn’t “cruise” at anything over 100 km. My fingers curled desperately around the grips while the rest of my body dragged through the wind.

A quick gas up on the 401 was my opportunity to beg Rob to let me try the Marauder, thinking that it must be easier to ride at high speed, yes I like to go fast. My first impression was that my foot wasn’t quite long enough (size 8 woman’s) to comfortably shift gears. I had to lift my heel off the foot peg. I found that the riding position felt natural and highway riding wasn’t quite so difficult but still quite windy (Rob was riding in front). It didn’t take me long to realize that my butt was no less susceptible to that “crack” you’ve heard so much about. Somehow I thought my womanly padding would save my ass, so to speak. The Marauder was a rougher ride than the Magna but I won’t get into that.

Onto the Harley, my stomach twisting and turning in anticipation. Just what was all the Harley craze about anyway? Well, I don’t think I ever found out, and I was willing to be converted despite the fact that if I were I would have to spend the rest of my riding life pining for one, or a rich husband. The seat was super comfy and offered the best in riding position as far as posture goes. This bike was the best size and weight for me but nothing could make up for the awkward handlebars. It didn’t take long for me to lose all feeling in my fingers and hands as the blood drained into the bend of my elbows. This of course made it even more difficult to manipulate the clutch and front brake which were extremely stiff.

After a day’s riding I concluded that there’s nothing like home and that’s on my GS. If I had to buy one? I’d probably go for the Marauder, on which I could enjoy endless pleasure…parked, engine running….hmmmhhh!

Heather Brownridge

 

 

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