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Used bike guide: Japanese Middleweight Cruisers

By Jon Urry -

General news

 30 August 2013 05:00


To many riders cruisers are the domain of one brand – Harley-Davidson. The American icon has cornered the market to such an extent that like a vacuum cleaner is no longer called a vacuum, it’s a Hoover, a cruiser is simply a Harley. However this kind of notoriety comes at a cost.

If you are looking at getting a second hand middleweight Harley such as the 883 you are unlikely to see much change from £4,000 for quite an old bike as resale values are strong. While this is good news for owners not wishing to lose out in depreciation, it can be a stumbling block for potential buyers who are tempted towards the laidback lifestyle but are not 100% sure if it is for them. Riders who may be returning to two-wheels after a break, are younger or even just fancy a cool looking second bike in their garage. Which is where the Japanese cruisers come in.

With prices starting as low at £2,000, Japanese middleweight cruisers offer all the show of a Harley but with a vastly reduced price tag. They have the same V-twin style of engine, yet unlike Harley aren’t constrained by years of heritage and so can experiment with valve arrangements, cam shafts and even, perish the thought, water-cooling…

So are they the poor man’s Harley? Not at all, bikes such as the Yamaha Drag Star have an every bit as loyal fan base as HOG, it’s just a smaller section of the motorcycle community. And the same story is true for the customisation side.

Where Harley have a telephone book sized custom catalogue, the Japanese cruisers are as equally well catered for when it comes to accessories. There are countless aftermarket firms who make chrome, leather and even steel items that are designed to either enhance the noise, practicality or look of a Japanese cruiser.

Although they lack the correct name on the tank (it is very noticeable that no Japanese cruiser displays the same company logo as their sportsbikes) there are many plus sides to thinking outside the ‘normal’ cruiser route. The build quality, performance and styling are every bit as good on a Japanese cruiser as on a Harley (some would argue they are better) while the price is considerably lower. And anyway, most people are dazzled by the chrome and just assume that any bike of this style is a Harley – why bother correcting them?