The Triumph Bobber is the kind of bike that stops you in your tracks when you see it. It has the personalized look of a custom bike with the coherence and harmony of a factory model. Not long after picking up our test bike, I found out the Bobber will help you make new friends wherever you ride it.
When I see a bike that looks as cool as the Bobber, I think, Nice, but how does it ride? I wonder if the builder, or in this case the manufacturer, sacrificed attention to ride quality, comfort, or performance for the sake of appearance. Fortunately, Triumph took measures to ensure that function was not the sacrificial lamb of form.
The “bobber” style emerged in America in the 1940s. Motorcyclists stripped their rides down, threw out everything that wasn’t essential, and tuned motors for a more exciting zero-to-full-power experience. These bikes were the simple bare necessities of motorcycling, and they appealed to riders who wanted a pure motorcycling experience without anything bogging them down.
Triumph’s attempt at a bobber-styled factory bike also involved cutting down and tuning up. Although it’s not a lightweight motorcycle – claimed wet weight is 553 lbs – the stripped-down look comes in the form of well-hidden cables, a solo tractor seat, and of course, bobbed fenders. Adding to the look of an old-school bobber are the battery box wrapped in a stainless-steel strap and the twin throttle bodies that look like carburetors.
The Triumph Bobber is powered by the liquid-cooled 1,200cc parallel-Twin with 4 valves per cylinder – the same engine found in Triumph’s popular Bonneville T120 model. However, the Bobber version of the engine gets a special tune and taller gearing. Adding to the experience is a set of slash-cut exhausts that direct sound to the rider for a powerful and pleasant rumble.
When the Bobber was introduced in 2017, we were there for the press launch in Spain. Although our overall impression was positive, we noted some shortcomings. The small fuel tank had a limited range, and the single-disc front brake was mediocre. The Bobber Black remedied one issue by adding dual-disc front brakes, along with an up-spec 47mm KYB fork, a fat front wheel, and other extras. In 2021, the Bobber got an update that moved those Bobber Black components to the base model, as well as adding a larger fuel tank, LED lighting, cruise control, and new instrumentation.
Take Me Higher
My first day on the test bike would take me through the Appalachian Mountains of Georgia and North Carolina. The Bobber is easy to pick out in a parking lot, not because it’s super bright or super big (it isn’t either) but because it sits with a poise of cool confidence, ready to be admired. The solo tractor seat is a focal point of the Bobber, appearing to float above the hardtail-looking rear. Add in the blacked-out components, brushed steel slash-cut dual exhaust, chunky front tire, bar-end mirrors, and fork boots, and it’s hard to look away.
The ergonomics of the Bobber provide a long and low riding position. The seat is adjustable fore and aft, which also changes the seat height from 27.6 inches in the forward position to 27.2 inches in the rear position. The seat is deceptively comfortable, appearing too thin to offer much support while actually providing plenty. The handlebar is a bit of a stretch for my arms, even with the seat positioned as far forward as it’ll go, but I became accustomed to the reach after a few miles, and it didn’t result in any discomfort or achiness after long hours.
Upon turning the key and starting the Bobber, the bike comes to life with a satisfying rumble befitting the Triumph name. The engine got an upgrade in 2021 with lower emissions and a lift in power at 5,500 rpm. In the Bobber tune, this engine is claimed to make 76.9 hp at 6,100 rpm and 78.2 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. There’s always grunt on tap in any gear.
Upon picking the Bobber up in Atlanta, I had to wade through traffic for what felt like forever before I could get out of the city and see what it’s capable of. While my impatience grew as the pleasing rumble reached my ears and low-end torque pulled hard off the stoplight, the crazy Atlanta traffic gave me the chance to test out the brakes. As cars darted around like pinballs, I was relieved to find abundant stopping power at the ready. Dual 300mm discs up front with Brembo 2-piston calipers, paired with a 255mm rear disc and a Nissin single-piston caliper, were up to the task and shed speed quickly.
When I finally got out of the city, I headed for higher ground. The Bobber’s tall gearing and smooth delivery allowed for both relaxing and sporty riding – a great combo for someone who likes to do both. I could cruise down the two-lane country roads with my hair in the wind, or I could twist around curves through the mountains with plenty of gusto. The Bobber is easy to maneuver and handles tight turns with grace – the downside being that the pegs often meet the pavement when ridden aggressively.
Where the original Bonneville Bobber had a fuel capacity of 2.4 gallons, resulting in a frustrating number of gas stops required, the current Bobber bumps capacity up to 3.2 gallons. During my time with the bike, my average fuel consumption was 61.1 mpg, netting nearly 200 miles from full to empty.
The Bobber’s handling was an absolute pleasure – as long as the roads were smooth. When I got to a bumpy road, I discovered the first and perhaps only change I would make if I owned a Bonneville Bobber: the suspension. The monoshock with linkage at the rear didn’t soak up bumps well enough for me, and I found myself lifting up on the pegs when I saw inconsistencies in the road ahead to save my spine. My only other complaint about riding the Bobber is that speeds past 75 mph produce a strong gust of wind at my upper body and helmet, but I’ll take the excuse to stay off the highways rather than dilute the muscular attitude of the Bobber with an unsightly windshield.
While the soul of the bobber style is stripping down to the basics, the Triumph Bonneville Bobber comes with some electronics that are simple and easy enough to use that they don’t take away from that pure motorcycling experience but rather enhance it. Two ride modes (Road and Rain) can be selected with a toggle on the right switchgear to change the throttle map. The Bobber also has cruise control, operated with a single button on the left switch. Switchable traction control and ABS are both standard.
The dash is graced by a beautiful round analog speedometer with an inset LCD screen that shows fuel level, gear indicator, and ride mode. A round button on the left switch is used to cycle through extra information, including two tripmeters, odometer, rpm, average fuel consumption, fuel range to empty, and a clock.
The 2023 Triumph Bonneville Bobber comes in four color options with a starting MSRP of $13,795. Our test bike was in the Matte Storm Grey / Matt Ironstone color with an MSRP of $14,295. For 2023 only, Triumph is also offering a Bobber Chrome Edition with chrome treatment on the gas tank.
Keeping true to the history of bobber-styled bikes, Triumph also offers a list of accessories for customization, including an ape-hanger handlebar, a diamond-stitched comfort seat, a forward-controls mounting kit, footboards, saddlebags, heated grips, a Fox rear suspension unit, and more.
I tested the Triumph Bonneville Bobber over the span of a few weeks, and it continued to grow on me during that time. When the sunlight hit the Bobber upon opening my garage door before a ride, I knew I had a fun time ahead of me. I had people sticking a thumbs-up out of car windows as I rode by and plenty of compliments about the bike at gas stops. Whenever someone asked me if it rode as good as it looked, I was pleased to be able to say, “Yes, absolutely.”
Following Suzuki’s announcements earlier this month of the all-new 2024 Suzuki GSX-S1000GX+ crossover sport-tourer and the 2024 Suzuki GSX-8R, the fully-faired and just slightly younger sibling of the GSX-8S, the company has announced more returning 2024 Suzuki motorcycles. Included in the announcement are the returning V-Strom 800DE and 800DE Adventure, SV650 ABS naked bike, GSX-250R ABS sportbike, and Boulevard C50 and M109R cruisers.
At the beginning of October, Suzuki announced two new V-Strom 800 models with a more street-oriented focus: the V-Strom 800 and 800 Touring. Returning for 2024, the off-road-ready V-Strom 800DE and 800DE Adventure are powered by the same 776cc parallel-Twin with a 270-degree firing order and Suzuki’s exclusive Cross Balancer system for smooth operation.
The V-Strom 800DE has a chassis with the most ground clearance and longest suspension travel of any V-Strom, and its suspension is fully adjustable. The 21-inch front and 18-inch rear spoked wheels are shod with the latest Dunlop ADV tires (tubes required). The V-Strom 800DE Adventure comes equipped with quick-release black-anodized aluminum 37-liter side cases, a sturdy accessory bar, and a skid pan to further extend riding adventures.
The Suzuki Intelligent Ride System (S.I.R.S.) includes traction control with a trail-oriented Gravel mode plus rider-adjustable ABS with two levels of sensitivity and the ability to switch off the rear wheel ABS when riding off-road.
Other features include a bidirectional quickshifter, a full-color TFT instrument panel, and mono-focus LED headlights vertically stacked with a position light below a height-adjustable windscreen.
The 2024 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE is available in either Champion Yellow #2 or new Pearl Tech White starting at $11,599. The V-Strom 800DE Adventure comes in new Metallic Matte Steel Green starting at $13,049.
2024 Suzuki Motorcycles: Street
2024 Suzuki SV650 ABS
The middleweight Suzuki SV650 has a liquid-cooled 645cc 90-degree V-Twin with DOHC. Suzuki’s Low RPM Assist feature adjusts engine speed during takeoff and low-speed operation for smoother power delivery and to help reduce the chance of a rider stalling the motorcycle on difficult starts.
The trellis-style frame is constructed of high-strength steel tubes, contributing to the motorcycle’s low weight and trim chassis, and braking is provided by a pair of Tokico 4-piston front calipers grasping 290mm stainless-steel discs. ABS is standard.
The 2024 Suzuki SV650 ABS has Glass Sparkle Black bodywork, a gold frame, and matching gold cast-aluminum wheels, and pricing starts at $7,949.
2024 Suzuki Motorcycles: Sportbike
2024 Suzuki GSX250R ABS
The fully-faired GSX250R ABS returns with a liquid-cooled 248cc parallel-Twin and offers stellar gas mileage, with a claimed fuel economy of 73.6 mpg. The GSX250R ABS’s slim fuel tank helps riders easily plant their feet on the ground when stopped. It features Nissin petal-style brake rotors with ABS, KYB suspension components, and 10-spoke cast aluminum wheels. The bike has a reverse-lit LCD instrument panel and a bright halogen headlight. The position lamps and taillight use surface-emitting LEDs.
The 2024 Suzuki GSX250R ABS comes in the two-tone Metallic Diamond Red and Pearl Nebular Black paint scheme starting at $5,099.
The 2024 Suzuki Boulevard C50 gives its own style to traditional cruisers, featuring a kicked-out front fork, valance-style fenders hovering over 16-inch front and 15-inch rear tires, each mounted on spoke-style chrome wheels, and staggered, chromed dual exhausts. The C50’s liquid-cooled 50ci (805cc) 45-degree V-Twin is mated to a 5-speed gearbox. A hidden, link-style rear shock smooths the ride while giving the bike an old-school, hardtail look, and the bike has wide, buckhorn-style handlebars, forward-mount floorboards, a 27.6-inch seat height.
The 2024 Suzuki Boulevard C50 comes in Candy Daring Red starting at $9,199.
2024 Suzuki Boulevard M109R
The Boulevard M109R’s liquid-cooled 109ci (1,783cc) 45-degree V-Twin is mated to a 5-speed gearbox and shaft final drive, all wrapped with aggressive styling cues like slash-cut mufflers, drag-style handlebars, a supplied solo seat cowl, a 240mm wide rear tire, and a distinctively shaped headlight nacelle that is uniquely Suzuki.
Like the brakes from a GSX-R1000R, the M109R’s radial-mounted, dual-front brake calipers deliver ample stopping performance, and suspension comes from a large-diameter inverted fork and a link-style rear shock.
The 2024 Suzuki Boulevard M109R comes in Glass Sparkle Black starting at $15,699.
BMW has released details on two models that will replace the BMW R nineT: the BMW R 12 nineT and the new cruiser-styled R 12. The “12” in the names of these two models comes from their 1,170cc boxer Twin, and both bikes feature a new frame, new technology, and other updates.
The R 12 nineT “classic roadster” carries on in the tradition of the R nineT with suitability for urban riding and a dynamic ride, while the R 12 features some different components and ergonomics designed for comfortable cruising.
The two new models are powered by an air/oil-cooled 1,170cc flat-opposed Twin with DOHC, the same engine found in the R nineT. In the R 12 nineT, BMW claims 109 hp at 7,000 rpm and 85 lb-ft of torque at 6,500 rpm. For the R 12, it claims 95 hp at 6,5000 rpm and 81 lb-ft at 6,000 rpm. The engine redliens at 8,500 rpm.
Different from the R nineT, the 2024 R 12 models get a new airbox that is now integrated under the seat. Also new is the twin pipe exhaust system. The two rear mufflers on the left-hand side feature a reverse-cone cap design. On the R 12 nineT, the front muffler is chrome-plated, and the rear muffler is electro-polished. On the R 12, the front muffler is electro-polished while the rear muffler has a brushed finish.
Another big update from the previous R nineT is the new one-piece trellis steel main frame to replace the previous two-piece frame. BMW claims that this new frame weighs less and gives the R 12 models a cleaner look.
Both models feature cast light-alloy wheels, with 17-inch front and rear wheels on the R 12 nineT and 19-inch front with 16-inch rear wheels on the R 12. Both bikes also get dual 310mm brake discs up front with radially mounted 4-piston monoblock calipers and a single 265mm disc in the rear with a 2-piston caliper, and BMW Motorrad ABS Pro comes standard.
The R 12 nineT has a wheelbase of 59.5 inches, a rake of 27.7 degrees, a trail of 4.4 inches, and a seat height of 31.3 inches. The R 12 features a wheelbase of 59.8 inches, a rake of 29.3 degrees, a trail of 5.2 inches, and a lower seat height of 29.7 inches.
Both new models also feature a new 45mm inverted telescopic fork, which is fully adjustable on the R 12 nineT. Rear suspension is provided by a Paralever swingarm with a linked shock with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping. Suspension travel front and rear is 4.7 inches on the R 12 nineT and 3.5 inches on the R 12.
These two new models also come equipped with plenty of tech and electronic rider aids. The R 12 nineT has three ride modes (Rain, Road, and Dynamic), and the R 12 gets two ride modes (Roll and Rock). These ride modes adjust throttle response and the equipped Dynamic Traction Control and Engine Drag Torque Control. Engine Drag Control works to prevent rear wheel slip when abruptly releasing the throttle or downshifting.
These models also come standard with a Keyless Ride function, with the key now only being needed for the steering lock and fuel cap. BMW’s Intelligent Emergency Call, which calls for help in case of an accident, is also included as standard on both models.
Adding to the list of technology available on the BMW R 12 models is new instrumentation. The R 12 nineT is equipped with two round analog gauges (speedometer and tachometer), a USB-C charging port, and a 12V socket. The R 12 gets only the speedometer. Control lights and a digital display are integrated into the speedometer on both models. The display functions as a scrollable menu on the R 12 nineT and displays gear and ride mode on the R 12. Riders can also choose to purchase the option Digital Display, which replaces the round analog units with a 3.5-inch TFT display. Both models also come with full LED lighting.
In addition to many standard electronic elements, the BMW R 12 nineT and R 12 offer several optional rider aids. The optional Shift Assistant Pro allows for clutchless shifting, and Hill Start Assist Pro holds the brakes when on a hill and releases the brakes when starting from a stop. Another option is Connected Ride Control, which allows for Bluetooth connectivity to a smartphone. From the BMW Motorrad Connected app, the rider can find vehicle data, riding dynamics data, weather info for the current location, and map navigation. The MotoMount is available as an option to allow for mounting a smartphone to the handlebar.
The BMW R 12 models will each come in three color options. The standard color for both models is Blackstorm Metallic. The R 12 nineT will also come in an optional San Remo Green Metallic, while the R 12 will be available in an optional Aventurine Red Metallic. Both models will be available in Option 719 colors. Pricing has not yet been announced, but BMW expects these models to arrive in dealerships during the first quarter of 2024.
This week, during the EICMA show in Milan, Yamaha announced updated versions of the MT-09 and MT-09 SP naked sportbikes as well as returning models in several categories, including Hyper Naked, Sport Heritage, Sport Touring, Supersport, and Scooter.
2024 Yamaha Motorcycles: Hyper Naked
Born from the “Dark Side of Japan” design concept, Yamaha says its line of Hyper Naked MT models deliver aggressive street-focused styling and supersport-level capability. In addition to the updated MT-09 and MT-09 SP, the MT-03, MT-07, MT-10, and MT-10 SP return unchanged for 2024.
2024 Yamaha MT-03
The entry-level MT-03, with a liquid-cooled 321cc parallel-Twin with DOHC and 4 valves per cylinder, returns in Midnight Cyan or Matte Stealth Black for $4,999 MSRP.
The middleweight MT-07, powered by a liquid-cooled 689cc CP2 parallel-Twin with a crossplane-style 270-degree crankshaft, DOHC, and 4 valves per cylinder returns in Team Yamaha Blue, Midnight Cyan or Matte Raven Black for $8,199 MSRP
The perfect tool for long-distance on-road adventures, Yamaha’s sport-touring motorcycles are designed to provide strong, torquey engines, advanced technology, and all-day comfort. In addition to the 2024 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT+, the open-class FJR1300ES, powered by a liquid-cooled 1,298cc inline-Four and equipped with electronic suspension (ES), returns in Cobalt Blue for $18,299 MSRP.
The middleweight YZF-R7, with a liquid-cooled 689cc CP2 parallel-Twin with a crossplane-style 270-degree crankshaft, DOHC, and 4 valves per cylinder, returns in Team Yamaha Blue, Raven, or Matte Gray for $9,199 MSRP.
The models in this announcement, except for the NC750X, receive new colors for 2024, and the bagger-styled Rebel 1100T will now come in a 6-speed manual transmission version to join last year’s Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) version.
2024 Honda Gold Wing
The ultimate touring motorcycle returns for 2024. Powered by a liquid-cooled 1,833cc opposed 6-cylinder engine with a 7-speed manual transmission or DCT, the Gold Wing family includes touring accommodations and conveniences for the most comfortable long-distance ride available. Technologies include throttle-by-wire, four ride modes, Honda Selectable Torque Control (Tour models only), Hill Start Assist, optimized cruise control, and electronically controlled combined braking system with ABS. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay allow riders to take advantage of the 55-watt speakers, and 121 total liters of storage provide plenty of space for long-haul travel needs.
The 2024 Honda Gold Wing will arrive in November 2023, and the base model will have an MSRP of $24,700 and come in Matte Armored Green Metallic. The Gold Wing DCT in the same color will be priced at $25,700. The Gold Wing Tour will be $28,700 in Gray Metallic/Black or Pearl White, and the Tour DCT will be $29,700 in the same color. The top-line Gold Wing Tour Airbag DCT will have an MSRP of $33,000 and come in Pearl White.
2024 Honda Fury
The Honda Fury is a chopper-styled cruiser powered by a liquid-cooled 1,312cc V-Twin. The front is raked out to 32 degrees, and the hard-tail styling and low seat height complete the look. It has adjustable front and rear suspension, a 336mm front disc with a twin-piston caliper, and a 296mm disc with single-piston caliper in the rear. ABS comes standard.
The 2024 Honda Fury will be available in December 2023 in a new Adventure Green color with an MSRP of $11,499.
2024 Honda Rebel 1100
Introduced for 2021, the Rebel 1100 cruiser is the next step up from the popular Rebel 500. It’s powered by a liquid-cooled 1,083cc parallel-Twin with a 6-speed transmission available in either manual or DCT. Last year, the bagger-styled 1100T DCT joined the family with hard saddlebags with a combined 35 liters of storage and a fairing with a short windscreen. For 2024, Honda has added a 1100T with a manual transmission.
The 2024 Honda Rebel 1100 will arrive in January 2024. The base model with a manual transmission will come in Gray Metallic or Metallic Blue with an MSRP of $9,549. The 1100 DCT will come in the same colors with an MSRP of $10,149. The bagger-styled 1100T with a manual transmission will come in Metallic Black or Matte Armored Green Metallic for $10,699, and the DCT version will come in the same colors for $11,349.
2024 Honda Rebel 500
The Rebel 500 is Honda’s highly popular modern cruiser and is powered by a liquid-cooled 471cc parallel-Twin. It features a peanut fuel tank, LED lighting, and blacked-out engine components. It’s available in standard and ABS versions, as well as the ABS SE version, which includes add-ons like a diamond-stitched seat and a headlight cowl.
The 2024 Honda Rebel 500 will be available in January 2024 in Matte Laurel Green or Pearl Black. The standard model will have an MSRP of $6,499, and the ABS will be priced at $6,799. The Rebel 500 ABS SE will come in Pearl Smoky Gray with an MSRP of $6,999.
2024 Honda Rebel 300
The Rebel 300 is Honda’s most approachable and affordable cruiser. With a low seat height, comfortable ergonomics, and predictable power delivery, the Rebel 300 is designed to provide new riders with confidence and fun without breaking the bank. It’s powered by a liquid-cooled 286cc Single and, like the Rebel 500 and 1100, includes a peanut fuel tank, blacked-out components, and LED lighting.
The 2024 Honda Rebel 300 will be available in January 2024 in Pearl Black or Nitric Orange. The standard model will have an MSRP of $4,849, and the ABS version will be priced at $5,149.
2024 Honda NC750X
The do-it-all Honda NC750X commuter bike is powered by a liquid-cooled 745cc parallel-Twin and comes standard with DCT. It features an upright riding position and a large front storage compartment. Also included is the Honda Selectable Torque Control, which allows riders to choose between some rear-wheel spin for gravel and dirt or reduced spin.
Buell has announced that it has surpassed $120 million in preorders for its new Super Cruiser 1190, which will go into production in 2025. This impressive amount over only six months of preorders shows an enthusiastic interest in the Super Cruiser and will help Buell continue growing its company.
The Super Cruiser 1190 was designed in collaboration with famed builder Roland Sands and was unveiled in February 2023 at Roland Sands Design’s complex in Long Beach, California. It uses a new steel-tube frame, is powered by Buell’s liquid-cooled V-Twin that produces a claimed 175 hp, and weighs in at only 450 lb. This club-style hot-rod, which was also seen at Daytona Bike Week in March, has clearly attracted enough attention to draw in big dollars for Buell even before production starts.
“Americans love style, muscle, and performance,” says Bill Melvin, CEO of Buell. “The Super Cruiser breaks the mold for all three, and the response shows that Buell simply nailed it. This is utterly unheard of for an American V-Twin.”
Buell re-entered the motorcycle scene in 2021 with two new models. The company now has a five-model lineup, including the Hammerhead 1190 and Buell 1190SX sportbikes, the SuperTouring, and the 185-hp Baja Dune Racer dirtbike. The Super Cruiser will use Buell’s existing 1,190cc sportbike engine and a chassis inspired by Harley-Davidson’s FXR, which Erik Buell helped design. The Super Cruiser is estimated to retail for $20,000-$30,000.
This hefty preorder number has cemented Buell’s commitment to continue growing its company. Buell is looking to create jobs, collaborate with suppliers and vendors, and find development partners.
“We’ve laid a solid foundation over the last two years with an amazing team and support from West Michigan leaders,” said Melvin. “Now, the overwhelming demand for the Super Cruiser puts Buell on a trajectory for significant long-term growth. This ramp-up will be nothing short of exhilarating. Anyone interested in joining us for this exciting ride – in any capacity – should reach out now. We want to work with you.”
When something has been around for four decades, it’s usually because of a combination of inherent quality and general likability. Take a look at Rider magazine, for example. Next year, we celebrate our 50th birthday. There’s a reason for that. But quality doesn’t live in a vacuum. To survive – and even better, to thrive – there has to be change. Honda has succeeded in finding the next step in the evolution of the Honda Shadow Phantom, and the company hopes the changes, combined with a 40-year history, will help the bobber-style bike succeed in the middleweight cruiser market.
The Spirit of 750
The Honda Shadow was introduced in 1983 with two options. The larger of the two cruisers featured a liquid-cooled 745cc 45-degree V-Twin with SOHC and 3 valves per cylinder. It had a 6-speed gearbox, a slipper clutch, and shaft final drive. More than 19,000 Shadow 750s were sold that year.
There were several other chapters in the Shadow story, but if we’re following the lineage to the Phantom, significant mileposts included the shift to a 52-degree V-Twin in 1988 with the 583cc Shadow VLX. The 52-degree V found its way to the larger displacement 750cc Shadow ACE in 1998, which dropped down to a 5-speed gearbox, chain final drive, and no slipper clutch. The Shadow Phantom was introduced in 2010 with blacked-out styling (the exhaust was still chrome), the introduction of fuel injection, and a return to shaft drive.
The 2024 Honda Shadow Phantom sees the blacked-out styling now carried through the exhaust – a good look that represents a more modern appeal. It still features a liquid-cooled 745cc 52-degree V-Twin, but machine-cut cylinder head fins add a nice visual contrast that makes the engine pop. There’s also a new two-tone paint scheme on the tank (Deep Pearl Gray or Orange Metallic), LED turnsignals, fork boots, shortened fenders, and a new single seat (a passenger seat and footpegs are available as accessories).
Colin Miller, American Honda assistant manager of public relations, said members of Generations Y and Z are more attracted to Honda’s Rebel platform, partially because of its more aggressive styling, and Honda is leveraging some of that style with the Shadow Phantom. Whereas the Shadow Aero still has the more laid-back appearance of a traditional cruiser with a swept-back handlebar and more relaxed seating, the revamped Phantom takes a more contemporary approach, with a new handlebar and clamp that puts the rider in more aggressive forward position. A graphic during the presentation showed the handlebar position close to that of the Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight.
And from a customization standpoint, while the previous model’s rear fender and license plate holder was one piece that had to be cut if a customer wanted to make changes, the holder on the new model can be unbolted to aid customization.
Another significant update to the Phantom is its stopping power. Braking in the front is still provided by a 2-piston caliper gripping a 296mm disc, but the previous rear brake drum has been replaced by a 276mm disc and 2-piston caliper, and a new ABS version is available for an extra $300.
Front suspension travel has been increased by half an inch (to 5.1 inches) but remains the same 3.5 inches in the rear courtesy of dual shocks with five-position spring-preload adjustability. Otherwise, seat height is essentially the same at a very cruiser-like 25.6 inches. Even though fuel capacity has been bumped 0.2 gallon to 3.9, curb weight of the 2024 model is 6 lb lighter at 543 lb.
Unlocking the Phantom Zone
The middleweight cruiser market exploded during the Covid pandemic. The wave crested in 2021, but Miller said Honda is hoping the Shadow Phantom will bring in both new riders and existing cruiser fans looking for something new. I don’t know about the younger generation – in more ways than just their riding preferences – but I can say this Gen X cruiser guy sure enjoyed the ride.
The first thing I noticed when firing up the bike was the rumble, which was surprisingly satisfying for a Japanese bike with the stock exhaust. The Phantom continued to impress as we rolled through the streets of San Dimas, California. When we tested the 2013 Shadow Aero, it made 44.7 lb-ft of peak torque at the rear wheel, with more than 40 lb-ft available between 2,200 and 5,000 rpm. I appreciated that level of low-end grunt when pulling away from intersections in town, and it held its own as we climbed 6,000 feet on State Route 39 to Crystal Lake.
The rear suspension was a little squishy in some of the bumpier parts, but that was likely a result of the preload being set for someone a little lighter than my two-plus bills. Fortunately, the new saddle is nice and cushy and didn’t give me any grief during the four hours I was on it.
The pull on the clutch lever was a little heavy, and I would rate it “medium.” Since I own an older cruiser, it’s not anything new to me, but many bikes today are equipped with slip/assist clutches, and once you get used to this feature, you notice when it’s not there. I was okay with the lever pull – although a slip/assist clutch would’ve lightened it – but there was a moment going up the twisty, narrow one-way route to Crystal Lake where a quick downshift, combined with some debris in the road, gave a hop of the rear wheel on a curve that was a little bracing.
At just $8,399 ($8,699 for the ABS version), the 2024 Honda Shadow Phantom may not have all the bells and whistles, but it is a very attractive proposition for either a new rider or someone looking to add another steed to their stable from a segment without a lot of competition.
Only Breath and Shadow
I had only one other issue with the Phantom. The bike has a decent 27.4-degree lean angle. However, when I put the arch of my boot on the forward-mount footpegs, if I didn’t want my toe resting on the brake pedal, the heel of my boot found the road surface before the pegs did. This required a shifting of my right boot to various positions, none of which were as comfortable or confidence-inspiring as having the peg positioned directly under my arch.
This is not to say that I was high-speed slaloming up the canyon. In fact, I was the most conservative of the riders that day on the winding SR-39. As to those peg scrapes, I was once advised by my colleague and editor-in-chief of our sibling publication American Rider, Kevin Duke: “Ride your own ride, but challenge your limits when your confidence grows.”
So I did. Most riders won’t treat the Honda Shadow like a sportbike, but it certainly responded to my prodding enough to make it a spirited ride up the winding SR-39. When it comes to riding my own ride, I like to cruise, take in the scenery, breathe the air, and get my heart pumping enough to remember I’m alive.
If you are of a like mind, you’ll be very happy with the Phantom. And for those of you wondering if it’ll haul a little ass, the Phantom has something for you as well, as I can attest based on the taillights winking in the distance ahead of me from some of the other riders in my group.
The new Phantom has brought the Shadow into the light, and it looks to be a bright future indeed.
When a new rider asks for advice on a good first bike, they quickly find out that opinions vary wildly. Some will suggest a bike in the 250-300cc range, but that might not be ideal for riders who frequently travel at highway speeds. Others will suggest larger-displacement bikes that the new rider won’t outgrow, but those might be too intimidating and squash what little confidence the new rider had to begin with.
The 2024 Kawasaki Eliminator seeks to be the Goldilocks in this story, slotting above the smaller-displacement beginner bikes to be the bowl of porridge that is just right: It’s an approachable machine that will grow with a new rider while providing enough punch to entertain an intermediate rider.
The Eliminator also seeks to attract new riders with a sport-cruiser style. The new 451cc parallel-Twin derived from the Ninja 400 likes to rev high and provides pizzazz, and the new chassis and ergonomics fall somewhere between a cruiser and a standard, making for a controllable yet comfortable riding experience. Add to that a light curb weight of only 386 lb for the base model, and you get a motorcycle that’s both easy and exciting to ride.
While the 2024 Eliminator is an all-new model for Kawasaki, the name is a familiar one. It first appeared in 1985 with the ZL900 Eliminator, a cruiser stuffed with the ZX900 Ninja’s liquid-cooled inline-Four. The Eliminator name carried on to other models up into the mid-2000s. Now, the Eliminator has returned and brings some of the sport-influenced lineage with it.
The Eliminator makes some nods to its namesakes in the styling department. The round headlight harkens back to earlier days, although now all lighting is LED. The tailsection is also reminiscent of older models, as are the headlight cowl and fork boots available on the SE version of the Eliminator.
These styling hints are incorporated into a contemporary look, so nobody will think you’re riding around on your dad or mom’s old bike recently unburied from the back of the garage. With a mostly blacked-out frame and other components, a slim fuel tank, and a tidy taillight and turnsignals, this is a modern-looking machine.
Kawasaki did a good job of making the Eliminator feel like a “real” cruiser – although the same can’t be said for its sound. The parallel-Twin uses a 180-degree crankshaft instead of the more popular and rumbly 270, so it doesn’t have a deep exhaust note befitting a cruiser. Some are more interested in how a bike performs, but there’s something to be said – particularly for cruisers – for sound and style. Deep down, we love a bike with character, and whereas Kawasaki has paid attention to the character of the Eliminator’s style, the company has missed the mark on giving us those nice rumbling exhaust notes we expect from a cruiser.
The good thing is that once you start riding, you remember that exhaust notes are superficial, and the real spirit of a motorcycle lies in its performance. What the engine lacks in sound, it makes up for in the riding experience. The liquid-cooled 451cc parallel-Twin with DOHC is derived from the Ninja 400’s 399cc platform, and its extra displacement comes from lengthening the stroke by 6.8mm, from 51.8mm to 58.6. That longer stroke adds torque befitting a cruiser, and that extra grunt is obvious while riding. This is a bike that is happy to lope through town and sit comfortably in a cruiser rev range with nice low-end pull. That is, until you decide to twist that throttle for a little more pep.
Upon that twist, you’ll discover that this engine has so many revs to give. Redline shows at 11,000 rpm on the tachometer, and the power keeps building until that limit. Where you’d expect a cruiser like this to need shifting much earlier, this engine is eager to rev. Although Kawasaki doesn’t slot the Eliminator into the “sport-cruiser” category, the engine’s attitude certainly does. It pulls down low for a satisfying power surge, and then it continues building power all the way to its rev limit.
Engine performance is only a small part of the equation for a fun and comfortable beginner to intermediate bike. We need ergonomics to match. The riding position of the Eliminator is sportier than most cruisers. The mid-mount footpegs give a sense of control that is often lacking on more forward-mounted cruiser pegs. The 28.9-inch seat height is also a little taller than many cruisers. At five-foot-one, I am not able to flat-foot on the Eliminator, but I feel stable enough that I would be comfortable on this bike as a new rider. Accessory seats that raise or lower the height by 1 inch are available. The stock seat is nice and plush with a slightly scooped-out design.
The Eliminator’s brakes are uninspiring but get the job done. Up front is a single 310mm disc with a twin-piston caliper, and in the back is a single 220mm disc with a single-piston caliper. The ABS version of the Eliminator adds $300 onto the base price and 2 lb to the wet weight. The 41mm telescopic fork has 4.7 inches of travel, and the twin shocks have 3.1 inches of travel, and there is no adjustability. The suspension felt well balanced and absorbed all but the most egregious road bumps.
The round instrumentation screen also harkens back to Eliminators of yore. The LCD screen has a tachometer up top, speedometer, gear indicator, clock, fuel level, and the option to switch between odometer, two tripmeters, fuel range, and current and average fuel consumption.
The Eliminator pairs with Kawasaki’s Rideology app. Once connected, the display will show message and call information. More interesting are the options available on the app itself, which includes vehicle information and general display settings (such as preferred units and clock format).
Most interesting is Rideology’s ability to log your rides. I used the app to track our test ride in and around Oceanside, California, and it showed a map of the route and information such as date and time, location, mileage, total trip time, and average speed. I found this feature quite fun, and I enjoyed the ability to look back at my route after the ride had ended. The app stops tracking the ride if the bike is keyed off, but as long as the rider remembers to resume the route on the app after gas or lunch stops, that isn’t an issue.
Other useful technologies on the Eliminator are the slip/assist clutch and the positive neutral finder. The slip/assist clutch results in a very light clutch pull and easy shifting, which was helpful for reducing fatigue during our several photo stops throughout the test ride day. The positive neutral finder is a feature that is quite helpful for newer riders. When stopped or traveling below 6 mph, a lift of a toe from first gear will automatically access the neutral position and prevent upshifting to 2nd gear.
The Eliminator’s closest competitor is the Honda Rebel 500, which has a starting price of $6,449 for model year 2023. Both bikes have a sporty cruiser style, and a glance at the spec charts shows similar numbers. The Honda Rebel has 20cc more displacement than the Eliminator, but they make roughly the same torque (about 32 lb-ft). Kawasaki has not released horsepower figures for the Eliminator, but we expect those numbers to be similar as well. The Eliminator is lighter than the Rebel by 26 lb for the ABS versions, and the Eliminator has a longer wheelbase by about an inch. There are other small differences, but they stack up closely.
The Eliminator comes in three versions. The base model has an MSRP of $6,649. For an extra $300, you can upgrade to the ABS version. Both the base model and ABS version are available in Pearl Robotic White and Pearl Storm Gray. Tack on another $300, and for $7,249, you’ll get the SE version, which includes ABS, a headlight cowl, a USB-C outlet, fork boots, and a two-pattern seat. It’s also the only version available in the eye-catching Candy Steel Furnace Orange/Ebony colorway.
As someone who loves to see new riders finding their place in the world of motorcycling, I’m glad Kawasaki has recognized a hole in its lineup and made the effort to fill it, providing a cruiser option that’s more approachable and significantly lighter than the 650cc Vulcan S. With its light weight, low seat height, comfortable riding position, and a Ninja-derived engine, the Eliminator is a motorcycle that is as welcoming as it is fun.
Starting Friday, Sept. 8, and resuming Monday, Sept. 11, we’ll be announcing two MOTY finalists per day, with the big reveal of Rider‘s 2023 Motorcycle of the Year winner on Friday, Sept. 15. So bookmark this page and keep checking back. –Ed.
If Rider’s Motorcycle of the Year, now in its 34th year, were a person, it would have graduated from college or completed military service, launched a career, got married, bought a house, and started a family. It would have a couple motorcycles in the garage, perhaps a cruiser or sport-tourer for the open road and a dual-sport or adventure bike for exploring the backcountry.
In other words, it would be like the rest of us: a dedicated motorcycle enthusiast.
Rider has been bringing you “Motorcycling at Its Best” for almost 50 years. We’ve tested nearly every street-legal motorcycle on the market, with an emphasis on real-world bikes that are within reach for most of us. For every $100,000 Arch 1s we review, we test dozens if not hundreds of motorcycles you’ll find in dealerships and garages across America, from sea to shining sea.
Unlike car dealers, most motorcycle dealers don’t offer test rides. Demo rides are great, but they are few and far between and often involve parade-pace conga lines that don’t allow riders to experience a motorcycle’s true capabilities. We know you count on us to provide honest, in-depth reviews to help you make informed purchase decisions – or to just keep you up to date on the latest and greatest bikes on the market.
Every year, we ride as many new or significantly updated motorcycles as we can and evaluate them within the context of their intended use. Then we put our collective heads together and identify those that best fulfill their intended purpose and advance the state of motorcycle design, performance, and function.
For 2023, there were more than 80 eligible contenders. We narrowed them down to 10 finalists and one winner. Starting Friday, Sept 8, and resuming Monday, Sept. 11, we’ll be updating this post with two finalists per day, with the big reveal of this year’s 2023 Motorcycle of the Year winner on Friday, Sept. 15. So bookmark this page and keep checking back.
Without further ado…
2023 Motorcycle of the Year Finalists:
1. BMW R 18 Roctane
The fifth member of the R 18 family is a unique alternative to the ubiquitous American V-Twin. It’s powered by the BMW 1,802cc “Big Boxer” Twin and features blacked-out styling, a midrise handlebar, a 21-inch front wheel, and hard saddlebags. The Roctane has admirable curb appeal, good comfort and handling, and high-tech features including Rock, Roll, and Rain ride modes.
CFMOTO has been on the gas lately, expanding its motorcycle lineup from seven to 10 models, including two versions of the Ibex 800 adventure-tourer powered by a 790cc parallel-Twin adapted from the KTM 790 Adventure. The top-of-the-line Ibex 800 T is comfortable, capable, and packed with useful features yet retails for an accessible $10,499.
The simple formula for going fast has been in play since the dawn of motor vehicles: Stuff the largest and most‑powerful engine into a sporty chassis that can handle it. When it comes to fully air-cooled motors made in America, none are bigger than those in the cruiser motorcycle comparo you see here. They’ve got a combined 233 cubic inches on tap for our visceral and aural pleasure – 117 cubes on the Harley-Davidson Low Rider S and 116 on the Indian Sport Chief.
Power has a charm all its own, but nothing puts butts in seats like attractive designs. Here we’ve got variations on West Coast club-style, with sporty windscreens leading their way to tall-but-forward club-style handlebars and mid-mount foot controls. These are elemental but imposing motorcycles, graced by subtle flash and plenty of dash.
Low Rider Cruiser Motorcycle Legacy
The Low Rider S follows a lineage of Low Riders that began in 1977 with Willie G.’s Shovelhead-powered FXS and then the belt-driven FXSB. The model transitioned to the Dyna platform in 1995 and remained in production until 2009.
The nameplate was too potent to lay dormant, so Harley delivered a new Low Rider for 2014-17, including the debut of the Low Rider S moniker in 2016. In 2018, it transitioned again – a bit controversially – to the Softail platform and the Milwaukee-Eight powertrain. Upon its debut, H-D referenced past models and inspirations from California.
“We’ve applied that coastal style and performance-first attitude to the Softail chassis to create a Low Rider S that’s more powerful and agile than ever,” said Brad Richards, H-D vice president of design. And the formula has proven to be successful, also spawning the desirable FXRT-inspired Low Rider ST in 2022.
Indian: Me Too!
Indian gave the Chief a thorough overhaul for the 2022 model year, introducing a steel-tube frame with twin-shock rear suspension. Ironically, its layout is closer to Harley’s former Dyna than the Softail-based Low Rider S.
And now we have the Sport Chief, which adds a bullet-nose fairing sized midway between the Low Rider S’s windscreen and the Low Rider ST’s more expansive fairing. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
A cursory look at this duo reveals many similarities, all framed around narrow-angle V-Twins. Most surfaces are black, but polished cylinder finning adds a bit of brightwork. Harley’s M-8 is a little brighter with its chromed pushrod tubes. The Indian’s black wheels feature machined spoke edges for a flash of bling, while the Radiate wheels of the Low Rider are finished in dark bronze.
The most visually obvious distinction is in their snouts, with the Indian’s fairing much more prominent than the diminutive wind deflector on the H-D. Both bikes have dual-disc brakes on their inverted forks, and both have black shotgun-style mufflers. Neither accommodates a passenger in stock form, but accessories are available to ensure your significant other doesn’t have to stay home.
Both bikes feature cruise control and self-canceling turnsignals as standard equipment, but the cockpits differ in terms of technology. The Low Rider uses a familiar 4-inch analog tach with a small digital section that includes readouts for speed, gear selection, fuel level, clock, tripmeter, and fuel range. Its location is set higher than the Chief’s, making it easier to scan quickly.
That’s enough instrumentation for most, but Indian one-ups its Milwaukee rival with a color TFT touchscreen that adds Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, and audio inputs, as well as readouts for air temperature and altitude, a trip computer, and ride-mode selection. It also provides a USB charge port and a 12V outlet.
The Harley’s triple clamp, handlebar clamp, and tank console are finished in a Rhino Lining-like Wrinkle Black, which looks tuff if not pretty. On the other bar, the Sport Chief’s upper triple clamp features machined accents that add a high-end touch, along with a bar clamp capped by an attractive scripted Indian “I” in silver.
West Coast Cruiser Motorcycle Cost Analysis
Parking either of these bikes in your garage will set you back about $20K, but their prices add up differently.
The base Low Rider S retails for $18,199, while the Sport Chief starts at $18,999. Choosing a color other than black adds $525 to the Harley and $500 to the Indian. The Indian comes standard with ABS, but it’s a $950 option on the LR-S. Traction control is also standard on the Sport Chief, but H-D’s Rider Safety Enhancements package (with traction control) costs an extra $200. As tested, the Harley is priced at $19,874 and the Indian at $19,499. Both companies tack on additional surcharges and fees, some of which are at the dealer’s discretion.
Both bikes come to life via an electronic key fob, which is a huge convenience for many and a PITA for some old-school brothers. While many appreciate the tactile mechanicalness of an actual key, there’s no denying the handiness of a fob.
Harley’s Milwaukee-Eight engine convulses at idle, adding some drama to the experience, accompanied by ticking lifter noise. Indian’s Thunderstroke feels smoother, like it’s bathed in oil. Both rumble with pleasing baritone exhaust notes – loud enough to sound mean but not mean enough to be obnoxious. They’re a decent compromise within EPA requirements.
Our fondness for Harley’s M-8 powertrain is raised to a more supreme level with the 117ci versions we’ve tested. It spits out hearty low-end grunt beginning below 2,000 rpm and continues surging with a strong pull on the way to its 5,500-rpm redline.
Indian’s 116ci Thunderstroke is a nice match, just 1ci shy of H-D’s M-8. Can you really feel the extra inch? How about 33cc? A bit, but the bikes feel similarly powerful in general use. Indian says its mill cranks out 120 lb-ft of torque at 2,900 rpm, while Harley claims 125 lb-ft at 3,500 rpm.
It’s at the upper end of the rev ranges where the MoCo motor stretches its 4-valve-per-cylinder legs, making it feel almost like it has dual personalities – it’s torquey yet revvy – and cranks out about 95 hp at 4,700 rpm on a rear-wheel dyno. That’s more than 10 ponies up on the Indian motor, a significant advantage. However, when riding them on the street, we never would’ve guessed the gap was so large, as these engines are all about surfing their prodigious midrange torque.
The Harley’s motor also earns an edge in the direct responses from its twistgrip. No ride modes here, just an unbroken connection with the throttle. In comparison, the Thunderstroke feels like a computer is dictating its responses.
Indian’s Sport mode delivers unnecessarily jumpy throttle responses, but switching to Standard mode calms things considerably and makes for a much smoother ride. But when you jump on the Harley and feel the immediate responses cued from its right grip, the Chief feels docile in comparison. I ended up preferring the liveliness of Sport mode and adjusted to its snatchiness.
The Sport Chief may lose ground in outright power, but it makes some of that back with a gearbox as good as a big-inch cruiser gets, even allowing seamless upshifts without using the clutch. The slip/assist clutch requires less lever effort and allows for sloppy downshifts, but its engagement zone isn’t as broad as the Harley’s. Six-speed transmissions feed belt drives on both.
Cruiser Motorcycle Battle Tale of the Tape
Again, we have a close match in several areas, but there are a few key distinctions. Weights with full fuel tanks are nearly identical, with the Low Rider just 6 lb lighter than the 685-lb Sport Chief. The actual weights of the machines are likely 12 lb apart due to the 5-gallon Harley tank holding 1 gallon more than the Indian’s.
Ergonomically, there are few distinctions. Straight handlebars are mounted on risers for tall hand positions. The Low Rider’s 4-inch bar risers position the handlebar a little closer to the rider. Footpeg locations are pretty much identical, mid-mounted to deliver a position that places feet below knees. They yield a much tighter knee bend than with forward controls, so longer-legged riders might feel cramped.
The Sport Chief enjoys a lower seat height, at 27 inches, but that’s certainly not a problem if you have an inseam of at least 28 inches, which is where the Low Rider’s seat is located. The Harley’s saddle is slightly more scooped out than the Indian’s, but both feel equally comfortable, with supportive bolsters holding riders securely in place.
In terms of chassis geometry, both bikes have the same rake angle (28 degrees), but the amount of trail diverges. More trail results in slightly slower steering responses, and it’s 4.4 inches on the Indian to the Harley’s 5.7 inches. However, the wheelbase of the Low Rider is 1 inch less than the Chief’s 64.6 inches, gaining back some agility, as does its slightly narrower front tire.
All those numbers add up to remarkably similar vehicle dynamics, with neither bike having a clear advantage. The narrow bars look cool but decrease leverage, yielding steering effort best described as deliberate, not flickable.
Both are quite sporty for bikes with more than 5 feet between contact patches, feeling secure up to and beyond the available cornering clearances. Burly frames keep the bikes from getting twisted up when levered hard into corners. Harley states a 31.3-degree lean angle for the Low Rider S, which is a slender cornering advantage over the Sport Chief’s 29.5 degrees.
Suspension performance is nearly a wash. Inverted forks with 5.1 inches of travel on both respond similarly well with nicely dialed damping. The Harley’s 4.4 inches of travel in its Softail rear suspension is slightly more (0.4 in.) than the Indian’s dual shocks offer – more than other Softails and Chiefs – but both do an effective job of smoothing out all but the biggest bumps.
With the power on tap to pile up speed on these muscle-bikes, it’s nice to know they have stout sets of brakes. Both use dual-disc setups up front with 4-piston calipers actuated via braided-steel lines. We’ll give the nod to the Indian’s radially mounted Brembo calipers and bigger discs, which provide a bit more power and feedback than the Harley’s binders.
The lighter clutch pull on the Chief makes it less fatiguing to ride in stop-and-go traffic, but the effort required from the Low Rider isn’t onerous. Heat radiating from the engines is attenuated by rear-cylinder deactivation programming, but there’s no escaping the warmth produced by immense air‑-cooled motors.
Hand controls are similarly effective, both with beefy, contoured levers that feel good on fingertips. Gripes are few. Harley’s dual-button turnsignals still feel like one button too many, while we wish Indian’s signal switch had a tactile cancel click. Self-canceling turnsignals mean you never look like an absent-minded old man, even if you are one. Kudos to H-D for its signals canceling quicker. But shade gets thrown on the Low Rider S for the mediocre low-beam illumination from its headlight.
Same But Different
The motorcycles in our last all-American shootout – H-D Sportster S and Indian’s Scout and FTR – couldn’t have been much more different for a trio of bikes with liquid-cooled V-Twin engines. But the bikes in this comparo are remarkably similar and priced that way too.
The Low Rider S stands out for the stellar responses and visceral feel of its 117ci M-8 powertrain. It feels more alive – and more powerful – than the cloudier feedback from Indian’s Thunderstroke. On the downside is a less attractive cockpit. The H-D’s instrument pod looks cheap in general – especially next to the Indian’s TFT – and its wrinkle-finish triple-clamps and bar risers aren’t as classy as the finishing on the Indian.
The Sport Chief struts an impressive profile with its prominent and visually appealing fairing and is augmented by classy finish detailing. Technology adopters will appreciate its vastly more robust suite of electronics. Purists might whinge about the dilution of feedback from the machine relative to unadulterated responses from the MoCo’s offering.
“In terms of engine character, overall performance, and handling, these bikes are pretty much neck and neck,” said EIC Greg Drevenstedt, co-rider in the comparison. “If one isn’t clearly head and shoulders above the other in terms of function, then it comes down to the details. The Wrinkle Black finishes on the Harley look utilitarian, like the bed of a pickup truck. The Indian exhibits more attention to detail and has nicer finishes, and the Sport Chief’s fairing gives the bike a more cohesive look than the Low Rider S’s flyscreen.”
Greg and I were on the same page when deciding which bike we preferred, judging them remarkably close.
“While I appreciate the more raw feel of the Harley’s 117, neither of these bikes will stay stock for long,” said Drevenstedt. “A few performance mods will make either bike even meaner. For me, it comes down to style and stance. I love the bronze wheels on the Low Rider S, but I’m not a fan of the White Sand Pearl paint, which looks beige. Those wheels look better on the Vivid Black version, which reminds me of a late ’70s ‘screamin’ chicken’ Trans-Am.
“But the one that draws me in is the Sport Chief. It’s longer, lower, and looks more aggressive. A muscle cruiser should scream ‘bad ass’ even when parked on the curb, and the Indian does that.”
With a comparison this competitive, choosing a winner might all come down to brand loyalty and how the forms of each bike hit subjective eyes. And whichever bike you pick, you won’t be wrong.
West Coast Cruiser Motorcycle Spec Chart Shootout
2023 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S: $18,199
2023 Indian Sport Chief: $18,999
Price as Tested:
H-D: $19,874 (White Sand Pearl paint, ABS, Rider Safety Enhancements)