Honda’s 1999 Cruisers

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Words: Rob Harris Photos: Rob Harris/Nick Smirniw

Motomag’s Bertrand Gahel cruisers up a Savannah street aboard the Interstate.

Pic: Scot Magnish

In my opinion, one of the typical down sides to cruisers is the tendency for manufacturers to detune the engines to such an extent that they couldn’t even pull the skin off a rice pudding!

Thankfully, Honda went against this grain a few years back with the introduction of the six cylindered torque miester, the Valkyrie. 1999 sees a new addition to the Valkyrie family – the Valkyrie Interstate.

Based on the already successful Valkyrie and Valkyrie Tourer, the Interstate adopts a more Harleyesque look to it with ‘Bat Wing’ style handlebar mounted fairing, integrated passenger rest and top box and the all important stereo.

The departure from the famous Milwaukee brand occurs with the flat six, 1520cc motor. Silky smooth, gobs of torque, along with the ability to annihilate any rice pudding you may come across on your travels.

99 Valkyrie Interstate gets gawped at by gawping fish in front of a bloody big gawping mural type thing.

Pic: Rob Harris

Instant power delivery enables the rider to spin the rear wheel from a standing start but with a capable chassis (beefed up from the other Valkyries to cope with the 350Kg dry weight) combined with usable brakes, the Interstate not only accelerates like no other cruiser, it handles and stops as well.

The only complaints I had on our relatively short association, were a rather overly complicated stereo control panel (getting stuck on one of the many local country stations didn’t help my street cred) and side luggage tops that were awkward to remove due to the close location of the rear top box.

For those among you who would prefer to err on the more traditional side of North American motorcycles, the VT1100 A.C.E. may be more your style.

1100 A.C.E. in front of the main screen at one of Savannah’s abandoned Drive Ins.

Pic: Rob Harris

The 1099cc, v-twin motor has been retuned for ’99, along with reworked carburation and exhaust system. The desired effect of this is to reduce some of the vibes inherent on previous models and give it some more “blat, blat, blat” out of the pipe.

I’d tend to agree with both of these statements. The vibes are still present at low rpms but rapidly dissipate as the throttle is opened. Apparently, the original A.C.E.s had this vibration effect built into them as this is what they perceived the cruiser customer wanted from a v-twin. Backwards engineering in my opinion, but maybe these new changes signify a move in the right direction.

The other major change to the A.C.E. is a reduced seat height – down 30mm. This is normally done to attract the growing number of female riders to the sport. I can’t complain with that, but at 6′ 4″, it left me with my knees in my face and the base of my spine on the rear of the seat.

ole out the A.C.E. and bring in the VLX.

Pic: Rob Harris

Otherwise, the A.C.E. fits the classic cruiser specifications, with a large capacity v-twin motor (finned to look like an air cooled, but there’s actually a rad hidden up front), deep valanced fenders, wire wheels and white walled tires. Rice pudding skin pulling power? Maybe, if you slipped the clutch.

And that brings us nicely to the VLX600. “Long, low and easy to live with” is how Honda describe it in their brochure. Sounds like a well endowed troll on Prozac™ to me, which actually isn’t that far off the truth. Again, Honda have opted to lower the seat height to an ultra low 650mm. They’ve also pulled in the steering head slightly to reduce the VLX’s tendency to flop into corners at low speed, two alterations designed to attract the novice rider – the target market for the VLX.

Honda also cite engine mods, which include the move to a single over a dual carb, along with revised ignition timing, to give a boost to power and torque. I didn’t have last years model handy to compare, so I can’t judge.

However, output is still minimal – enough to hold highway cruising speeds but not enough to get the novice into too much trouble. Since that’s the market, fair enough. Rice pudding pulling power? I think the pudding would win.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Bike

Valkyrie Interstate

Shadow A.C.E.

VLX600

MSL (Canadian)

$21,399 (2 tone) $20,999 (mono)

$12,299 (2 tone) $11,999 (mono)

$7,499 (deluxe) $7,099

Displacement

1,520cc

1,099cc

583cc

Engine Type

Flat six, liquid-cooled four stroke

V-Twin, liquid- cooled four stroke

V-Twin, liquid- cooled four stroke

Final Drive

Five speed, shaft drive

Five speed, shaft drive

Four speed, chain drive

Wheelbase

1,690mm

1,650mm

1,605mm

Dry weight

350 kg

260Kg

202Kg

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