MCN Cruiser test diary

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It’s impossible to resist when someone asks you to spend a weekend riding bikes. Particularly when it involves riding around the seaside on one of the hottest weekends of the year. Which is how I found myself on a cruiser test for MCN.

Friday 6pm: As everyone else heads home, five of us assemble in the car park next to our bikes. On test are the Kawasaki VN2000, Harley-Davidson V-Rod, Honda VTX1800 , Suzuki Maruader and BMW Montauk. The test team comprise of roadtesters Michael Neeves and Adam Child, off-duty staff photographer Mark Manning, myself, and freelance stand-in Dave. Photographer Howard Boylan shoots off in his Audi. I find myself on the VTX1800. First impressions are good for the second-heaviest bike, but the screen is the wrong height for smaller riders and buffets me all the way down the A1M.

Friday 7pm: First fuel stop, with fuel economy constantly calculated. We’ve set a relaxed pace, with car drivers more ready to move aside for cruisers than sports bikes. Children wave as we come past and we’re all in high spirits. Until the ignition key falls from the stationary V-Rod and melts between hot engine and hotter exhaust. We frantically find a branch to fish it out with and carry on.

Friday 8pm: We pass Boylan as he sits in the inside lane on the QE2 bridge at Dartford. We’ve switched machines, and I’m riding the Montauk. The riding position is closer to an all-rounder, even if BMW indicators confuse me.

Friday 9:30pm: Roll into Margate seafront and find picture locations. Formation riding at 15mph brings traffic to a stop behind us. The BMW gets the most attention every time we stop. Formation parking reminds us how heavy these beasts are, especially the VN2000. And I prove my worth by managing to start the V-Rod when two roadtesters had struggled to turn the key for ten minutes. The problem doesn’t return all weekend.

Friday 10:45pm: Check into hotel. Dump gear. Dash to Chinese restaurant, before returning to sleep.

Saturday 7am: Shower, breakfast and out by 9am on the Suzuki Marauder. It looks like a stripped-down special, and sounds great as we rumble through empty roads, stopping for more photos by some impressed local children. And then it’s time to switch again, jumping on the V-Rod. Probably the most iconic bike here, it changes from a docile pussycat at low speeds, to an animal with a twist of the throttle. Not convinced about the blue paintjob or the horn which sounds like a clown’s nose.

Saturday 10am: Riding through Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs at urban speed limits, cruisers make sense. Broadstairs is hosting folk week, so we need to pick our way through obstacles such as Morris dancers, but we make it to the promenade. And the Kawasaki VN2000 surges ahead in the popularity stakes from onlookers.

Saturday 10.45am: It’s time to mount the biggest bike on test, the VN2000. On the move it’s surprisingly manageable, and it has more presence than the others. The two-litre engine sounds great, and it’s hard not to blip the throttle constantly. Proper foot boards add style, as does the heel-and-toe gearchange. More formation riding means close-quarters concentration to avoid a £50,000 pile-up, and then we stop at retro 1950s ice cream parlour Morellis to cool down.

Saturday 12:00 noon: Individual shots are performed, with me grabbing the V-Rod for the tight, uphill bends.

Saturday 2pm: Grab lunch, and ride more before grabbing final shots. Sudden urge to visit Daytona Bike Week or ride coast-to-coast across the US. Dream garage is extended to include a cruiser.

Saturday 3pm: Comedy headshots taken after tense negotiations with stall holder on beach. The test is now officially over, so Adam joins local kids throwing themselves from the end of the pier. Then complains his clothes are wet for the next two hours.

Saturday 7pm: Got some more riding in, but everyone is hot and exhausted. Lock up bikes and retire to pub.

Sunday 9am: Say goodbye to seaside and head home on the Marauder, via my parents house in Medway. Once back in Peterborough I borrow the Honda for its huge pillion seat, and take my fiancee for her first ever pillion ride. Cruiser now moves into fiance’s dream garage.

Monday 9am: Park VTX1800 at office and settle back in front of computer. I’m tired but grinning every time I remember the weekend. Idly wonder if the girl smiling at me at some traffic lights would have been so impressed with a sports bike and full-face lid. I scan cruisers in Bikemart, but tonight I’ll start prepping my RVF 400 longtermer for trackday later this week. See the full cruiser test in MCN, August 18.

MCN Staff

By MCN Staff