Performance Motorcycles That Aren't Sportsbikes

Everyone categorizes everything. Its human nature; the media slots up people, events and places. Even when posting to social media, we self-categorize with tags and twitter handles.

It’s not surprising then the riding world should be under the impression bikers wanting a performance ride should look to sports bike as their choice of metal steed. It’s a perceived standard and as discussed in this article, far from the truth.

Clutch and Chrome has brought together a selection of power rides that deliver performance while residing firmly in the cruiser world. These power cruisers are great motorcycles and may not get as much of the corporate spotlight as they deserve because they are established brands or could be considered a more specialized ride, but are certainly worth a serious consideration.

First things first, it would be a challenge to say the following motorcycles will go head to head against the more powerful sportsibkes. But they will deliver that adrenaline rush possibly missed by bikers who favor the cruising two-wheeled lifestyle.

An affordable ride comes from Triumph Motorcycles and its Rocket III Roadster. Priced at $15,499 this beast of a bike looks to its liquid-cooled 2.3 litre, in-line three cylinder engine to deliver more torque at idle than most superbikes at full chat.  If that sounds large for a cruiser, it is considered the world’s biggest production motorcycle engine.

The engine is paired with an agile chassis, a rigid Tubular steel frame and a sophisticated suspension which ensure first class riding and handling performances.

The five speed motorcycle features an electronic fuel injection and a shaft drive system to help power this ride. The latest Rocket III features blackened components including radiator cowls, rear mudguard rails, airbox cover, fork protectors, and mirrors giving the Roadster a menacing look.

The seat height is listed at 29.52 inches, and riders will definitely need to have their feet on the ground. This is a heavy motorcycle having a wet curb weight of just over 800 pounds. Handling is best described as heavy and ponderous, but there is no doubt about its power. Owners tell tales of dominating other cruisers on the open road only losing ground on the corners.

While this model isn’t a top-seller for Triumph, they have delivered on the most physical cruisers at the best price in those featured in this Clutch and Chrome article.

The next motorcycle defies its roots and leaves most non-Honda riders wondering if the Honda Gold Wing is truly related to the Honda Gold Wing Valkyrie. Hard to believe but it shares the frame, engine and transmission with its famous Gold Wing big brother.

The Japanese motorcycle manufacturer call the Valkyrie ‘Bigger, bolder and more outrageous than anything else on the road.’ Aside from the beefy, muscle look of this Honda, its powerhouse is a fuel injected 1832cc liquid-cooled horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine. The large 180mm rear tire is driven by a shaft drive with the most common feedback from riders new to the Valkyrie noting their surprise at the motorcycle’s nimbleness.

Understanding the Valkyrie is a stripped down version of its big brother, all that power has less weight to push which naturally translates to pure performance. While the Valkyrie may not have the luxuries of its Gold Wing roots, it does feature a LED headlight, tail light and turn signals to give the motorcycle a modern, super-clean look and provide fantastic illumination as well. The seat height is listed at 28.90 inches

The Valkyrie has a wet curb weight of 752 pounds and starting price of $17,999, a little more than Triumph’s Rocket II but, as per Honda’s tradition, it comes with a three-year, transferable unlimited mileage limited factory warranty with extended coverage available courtesy of a Honda Protection Plan.


A look at cruisers that bring power to the motorcycle-table is incomplete without the iconic Yamaha Star VMax. This has a solid following of fans, surely from its strong history of being in the Yamaha Star lineup since 1987 and certainly in some part due to its reputation as being the original power cruiser thanks to its bombshell engine.

The ultimate marriage of brawn and brains, the VMax features a fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, 1,679cc, DOHC, 16-valve, 65°, V-4 engine to produce enough power to keep up with anything mentioned in this article. A lightweight aluminum chassis does two things for this ride, makes the VMax the lightest motorcycle included in this round-up by maintaining a light 686 pounds, as well as putting the engine low and forward for mass centralization, resulting in a machine designed to handle curves as well as straightaways.

It should be noted however when matched up against the Triumph Rocket III the handling of the two were comparable, invoking the old adage of ‘six of one, half a dozen of another’.

A rider will find themselves a little higher on this ride with the seat height set at 30.5 inches. Borrowing liberally from advanced sportbike technology, VMAX features a slipper clutch, wave-style brake discs, ABS, and complete suspension adjustability front and rear. Also looking to its Yamaha cousins, the superbike-proven Yamaha Chip Controlled Intake (YCC-I) is featured on the VMax, switching nearly instantaneously between 150mm and 54mm intake funnels as needed for a broad powerband that delivers optimum performance at any rpm.

Price-wise, interested riders will find themselves in the mid-range with the VMax starting at $17,990 and choice of colors, as long as the preferred color is Black Cherry.


Riders wanting a motorcycle that not only looks fast, but appears to be moving while parked should consider Suzuki’s Boulevard M109R B.O.S.S.. Introduced in 2006 as Suzuki's flagship V-Twin cruiser, the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer has continued to refine and improve on the model.

The M109R comes from fine Suzuki pedigree, using the high degree of engineering technology taken from its highly successful and popular GSX-R sportsbike.

The addition of B.O.S.S. came with the 2015 line and though it appears the designation has been given to ‘blacked-out’ street style designs there is no explanation of what the additional name stand for. The heart of the beast this particular model obvious. Powered by a fuel injected, liquid-cooled, 1783 cc, 4-stroke, 2-cylinder, DOHC, 54-degree V-Twin engine, this cruiser has shown the power to rank it among the top power cruisers currently offered.

As with the other motorcycles featured in this article, Suzuki’s Boulevard M109R is shaft driven which pushes the widest 240/40R18M/C 79V tubeless rear tire ever used on a Suzuki motorcycle. From the headlight cowl to the sweeping lines of the motorcycle, the M109 shouts speed and muscle.

The M109R has one the lower seat heights at 27.90 inches, however it’s also one of the heavier motorcycles in our power cruiser round up, weighing in at 764 pounds. Between the weight and large rear tire, the bikes handling isn’t as nimble as the VMax.

An area where the Suzuki’s Boulevard M109R B.O.S.S. clearly tops this small list is that of price, which starts at a relatively low $14,999.


The final motorcycle to make our power cruiser ride-off is Harley-Davidson’s VRSC V-Rod Muscle. First introduced in 2001, the V-Rod has become the motorcycle that could as it bucked the Harley-Davidson mold to allow the Milwaukee manufacturer to compete in the ‘muscle’ arena of riding.

Its Revolution engine was developed jointly with Porsche, using overhead cams and liquid cooling for the first time in Harley-Davidson production. Other interesting designs about the V-Rod, what appears to be the fuel tank is actually the airbox with the real fuel tank is positioned below the rider’s butt where you might normally expect to find the oil bag.

At 1,247 cc, the Revolution engine has a 4.13-inch bore, 2.835-inch stroke and a relatively high compression ratio at 11.5 to 1. This cranks out a generous 119 horsepower, backed up by a breathtaking 87 pound-feet of torque at 6,750 rpm. This is the only belt-driven motorcycle in our power cruiser run down.

As with the M109, the V-Rod Muscle is designed to look in motion even as it stands still. The V-Rods ultra-fat, 240mm rear tire not only makes a statement but adds to the motorcycle’s powerful look and helps with much-needed grip to harness what Harley calls ‘explosive, off-the-line power’.

To keep the clean, streamlined design of the V-Rod Muscle the front indicators have been integrated into the stems of the mirrors to help shore up the front end for a clean, custom look.

Harley-Davidson’s V-Rod Muscle just beats the M109 for seat height, measured at 27.80 makes it a tenth of an inch shorter, and obviously better for riders of smaller stature. Just to prove you can’t judge a book by its cover, the V-Rod is only 673 pounds, making it one of the lighter rides in the power cruiser review.

It’s also light on price, starting at $16,149 screaming away from the less than favorable adage of ‘HD’ standing for ‘High Dollar’.


Which is the best bike for riders looking for performance in the cruiser world? As with any motorcycle decision, the purchase will come down to riding styles and what a biker is looking for. Lighter motorcycles with lower seat heights are easier to handle for the smaller riders in our two-wheeled world. They also tend to be less work managing the motorcycle around the road regardless of rider's size.

But sometimes power is just power and a rider just needs to work for that thrill!

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