Best of the Best 2002: Motorcycles: Best Cruisers

<< Back to Robb Report, June 2002
  • Fluto Shinzawa

A Different Look
The BMW R 1200 C is a cruiser with an eye-catching twist, one that distinguishes it from the acknowledged king of the cruiser market, Harley-Davidson. “The biggest player in the cruiser market is Harley-Davidson,” says Tom Plucinsky, BMW Motorcycles general manager. “When we came into this segment, we decided we wanted to create a BMW cruiser that was uniquely different from the rest of the offerings out there. For those individuals looking for something unique, it’s the perfect bike.”

It’s the R 1200 C’s engine that sets it apart from its cruiser counterparts. While most cruisers have V-twin engines, the R 1200 C has a 1,170cc Boxer engine. The Boxer’s cylinders are opposed, and the cylinder heads stick out to the side. “For some people, that look is very different,” says Plucinsky.

The R 1200 C’s performance is just as appealing as its look. The bike’s suspension eliminates brake dive on hard stops, and it comes standard with ABS brakes. The bike hits 70.85 ft lbs of torque at 3,000 rpm, giving it enough oomph to power you through your ride.

BMW Motorcycles, www.bmwmotorcycles.com

Coming Back—Again
In 1998, after 45 years of dormancy, the Indian Motorcycle Corporation was resurrected, celebrating its return with the relaunch of the Chief, the company’s signature cruiser. Indian, which built its first motorcycle in 1901, was poised to challenge Harley-Davidson and other cruiser makers with the classic Chief. Indian riders thought differently.

Upon its return, Indian purchased 88-cubic-inch engines from S&S, a Wisconsin engine builder. Indian enthusiasts criticized the company for using a Harley-clone engine instead of building its own product.

Now, four years later, Indian is making its second comeback—this time with the 2002 Indian Chief, complete with an Indian-built engine. The cruiser has a Powerplus 100-cubic-inch, 45-degree, air-cooled V-twin, the largest displacement engine designed by an American motorcycle company. The Powerplus rumbles with a sound similar to its Indian-made predecessors, which powered New York City Police Department motorcycles in the 1950s. With its 60-spoke, 16-inch wheels, oversize headlight, and relaxed, swooping lines, the Chief’s appearance is just as nostalgic as its sound and performance. “I think motorcycle enthusiasts across the country will be surprised and delighted,” says Indian CEO Frank O’Connell. “They’ve waited a long time, and that wait is over.”

Indian Motorcycle Corporation, www.indianmotorcycles.com

A Sporty Cruiser
It looks like a cruiser and feels like a cruiser, but the Hellcat 240R has the agility and power of a sportbike. “You can hang with cruisers and not have to eat crow for being on a Japanese rice rocket,” says Hector Valdes, chief operating officer of Hellcat, the company that builds the 240R.

Cruiser enthusiasts and sportbike riders loyal to their respective breeds of motorcycles now have an option if they want to cross over—and do so without derision—to the other side. A Hog rider who has always wanted to lean into the corners can flick the 500-pound 240R into a turn much easier than a 700-pound Softail. A closet cruiser can kick back, listen to the growl of the air-cooled engine, and act like the bad boy he’s always wanted to be. “The biggest thing is that the bike is well liked by both markets,” Valdes says.

Valdes credits the 240R’s superior performance to its power-to-weight ratio. The bike’s carbon fiber construction keeps weight to a minimum, while the 1,976cc engine (that’s 120 cubic inches for Harley diehards) can power the 240R to speeds reaching 135 mph. While it performs like a sportbike, the 240R looks pure cruiser. The bike has a 30-degree rake and a fat rear tire—the hottest item among cruisers. “That’s what’s in,” Valdes says. “This is the only big-tire bike on the market with a comfortable ride.”

Hellcat, 310.306.3637, www.hellcatalley.com

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