Cruiser motorbikes


This page deals with Cruisers . . . 



Cruiser Styles• Traditional Retro
Customisation• Traditional Chopper
Typical Cruiser• Classic Cruisers
Touring on a Cruiser• Performance Trend
Buying your first Cruiser• Street Rod
 • Power Cruiser
What exactly is a cruiser? 

This question puzzled me for a long time because it is not a motorcycle. I would say that it is a many faceted phenomenon of which the 'motorbike' is only one. Cruisers are all about 'style', 'attitude' and 'size' - not just any, but a style that is more at home in a small North American town in the late 1960's. The bikes are in a time warp with styles ranging from the late 1930's to the late 1960's - they may or may not be fitted with the innovations in bike design of the last 20 years.

Cruiser Styles. 

There are four distinct design philosophies namely Traditional Retro, Chopper (a sub group of Traditional), Classic and Street Rod but they are all retro in nature. The extended influence of this retro styling can be seen in the music, hair, dress, icons and way of life of the average cruiser owner. Cruiser owners have been riding huge motorcycles that have remained unchanged for decades - some of which have been completely untouched by the march of technology and fashion. 

Traditional - Retro

Kawasaki Drifter 1500

This style is as retro as you can get going back to the 1930s and 1940s and usually associated with the "Indian" marque.


Traditional - Chopper

Suzuki Intruder

Choppers are a sub group within the traditional style and feature exaggerated laid-back styling and front wheels way out front (rake). They were made famous in the movie classic "Easyriders" staring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper (and Jack Nicholson.) 


Classic Cruisers

Kawasaki 1500 Classic F1

Classics are cruisers that embrace mid-20th century style yet are finished and equipped to moderately modern expectations. 



This would imply that all cruisers are essentially the same - well yes, almost without exception they have big V twin engines - no other engine can erupt, rubble and excite like a V twin! Getting past that fact however and nothing could be further from the truth. Cruises are not all the same. Pivotal to the world of cruisers is individuality and customisation. Where a sportbiker would compare acceleration and handling, so a cruiser owner will compare paint jobs, chrome jobs, wheel rims, accessories and most importantly - the sound of the tail pipes!! No self respecting cruiser owner will ride a cruiser straight off the show room floor. He will either accessorise it or in extreme cases, have it custom built, by hand, by a professional cruiser builder from a catalogue of parts which cater to this very exclusive industry. 

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The Stereotype Traditional Cruiser

The result of static cruiser technology has been large, beautiful machines without the advances that are standard in other types of motorcycle design. Therefore the typical stereotype cruiser is uncomfortable and vibrates like hell. They have engines which are often in excess of 1200cc but without the performance that one would expect from such a large engine. This is just as well as their brakes are not known for their stopping power! Handling too has remained static without the remarkable advances now standard in sportbikes 

The Cruiser - an Art Form

Cruisers are an art form where the motorbike is the canvas - platforms for customisation - built for show and visual enticement - and costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in extreme cases. The rider too, is often part of the canvas where beards, bald heads, tattoos, bandanas, leather, tassels and a jug of ale complete the picture! The cruiser style, in the backwaters of fashion for decades has recently burst into focus and become fashionable again.  It has pulled society back fifty years to a time when the 'diagonal line' was king (and straight-line box designs were very out). Every facet of industrial and interior design has been affected and of course motorcycle cruiser sales have dramatically increased as society has began to enjoy the nostalgia of "the good old days" . 

(photos from magazine "EasyRiders")

The Performance Trend

This much needed cash from increase sales has been ploughed back into cruiser R&D and therefore for the first time in nearly fifty years the effects of technology are now being felt in cruiser design. Whether the cruiser follows the Traditional, Chopper, Classic or Street Rod style, all are beginning to see the effects of the better technology with the 'performance trend' growing particularly in the Street Rod style. This has resulted in a new breed of cruisers which will perhaps become known as the "Power Cruiser". Below are shown two motorcycles of the Street Rod style -  both of which are Power Cruisers with upgraded performance all round. The Harley Davidson V - Rod in particular deserves special mention with the first all-new HD power plant, developed by Porsche, in forty years.

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Street Rod - Power Cruiser

Harley Davidson V - Rod


Street Rod - Power Cruiser

Yamaha Road Star Warrior



Can one Tour on a Cruiser?

The answer is definitely 'yes' and definitely 'no' - it depends on the cruiser. While all cruisers have great straight line tracking characteristics (because of their greater rake angle and longer wheelbases) some are not that comfortable. One, or a combination of the following factors can make long distance touring very tiring i.e. the riding position, handlebar, footrest and seat position and their relations, harsh suspension, zero wind protection and excessive vibration. Still others may make the attachment of luggage difficult or almost impossible.  A bike that has very little ground clearance can be annoying when travelling a route with a lot of twisties. An excessively small fuel tank brings its own problems.

By avoiding the pitfalls mentioned above however, one can invest in a cruiser that is well suited to touring and where hundreds of kilometres are both easy and effortless.

Buying your first cruiser

With this background what can the prospective cruiser owner expect when he begins to look for a motorbike? 

• Cruisers weigh between 200kg and a massive 366kg. The average is 284kg
• The engine capacity is between 1000cc and 1800cc (although some are available with 650cc)
• 150kpm is an average top speed for cruisers
• A low revving engine with maximum torque between 3000 and 5000 revs
• The amount of travel on the rear suspension is small at around 100mm
• Cruisers use either shaft or belts (but never a chain) for the final drive
• The seat height is lower than most other bikes at around 700mm - great for shorter riders.
• The pillion seat varies from generous to non existent
• The rider position ranges between upright and laid back
• Limited ground clearance when leaning the cruiser over in a corner

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