a year or two back the term Performance Cruiser was totally
unknown. Virtually the entire cruiser market has been geared toward
looking "authentic" (old really) at the total expense
of functionality. Cruisers have been, and are currently based
on a decades-old designs and styles of early generation Harley-Davidsons
and Indians. These bikes were in designed for long straight roads
with no corners and top speeds of around 60mph! They handle and
brake poorly, and almost any other motorcycle on the streets regardless
of size can out accelerate them.
But those clever people at the manufacturers, and those radical
motorcycle designers couldn't ignore the huge business of customizing
cruisers, and making them go fast with some radical engine surgery.
This has brought us into the dawn of a new era in cruiser technology.
Gone are those preconceptions of slow speed, can't get round that
corner, let the scooter go because it will embarrass me, and so
Now we have a new game to play with our cruisers, its
called 'Hunt and annihilate the superbike'
This category is best represented by the two leaders of the current
pack of performance cruisers, the V-Rod and Yamaha's Road Warrior
(well Road Star Warrior really, but Road Warrior sounds so much
better!). These two bikes are at the top of the tree in the latest
designs of the 'Hot Rod cruiser'. There is the Kawasaki Mean Streak,
but until the new 1600 version is launched next year it will remain
the aspiring little brother. Honda do actually produce a bike
in this category but it is way too heavy and bulky, and the VTX1800
just hasn't got the ground clearance or street cred to compete
for the coveted crown.
Now Yamaha is at the top end of the high-tech
motorcycle manufacturers, a pioneer in 5-valves-per-cylinder technology,
and a serious participant in the super-tech Formula 1 world. Therefore
we have a bike that has massive fully adjustable USD forks, laid
down adjustable rear shock, a trick cruiser-first aluminium frame,
XJR1300 brakes, a 4 pot rear brake and super grippy sportsbike
tyres. So what are they thinking of by putting an air-cooled,
4-valve, pushrod engine in it for the performance cruiser battle?
Yamaha have entered the world of the
performance cruiser with the Road Star Warrior, a 1700cc
low slung beast of a bike with the biggest exhaust can
in history resembling a rocket launcher pod from a US
It says out loud 'I'm bad, I'm mean, don't mess
with me - you'll be sorry'
Well the simple truth was discovered when I rode it, the engine
in the Warrior is bottomless pit of power and torque. It's enough
to pull your arms off and it seriously worries almost every sports
bike around. It is actually based on the 48-degree V-Twin found
in the cooking model of the Road Star, but that's where the similarities
stop. The Warrior's engine gets a 2mm bore increase taking the
displacement up to 1670cc. The motor then gets new cylinder heads
and cams which are fed by a pair of 40mm throttle bodies feeding
through much straighter intake ports, and this is then complimented
by a two-section airbox that has 115% greater capacity than the
Road Star. What you get here then is a motor that has seriously
improved breathing making the rev range now go up to 5000rpm instead
of 4400rpm on the Road Star. In addition to this the cylinders
have an extra 30% more finning for better heat dissipation and
a left side mounted air scoop that sends cool air directly to
the rear cylinder. The compression ratio is increased to 8.4:1,
and a 7% stiffer clutch help harness the 40% increase in power
over the standard Road Star motor.
Yamaha have made the Warrior a true Hot-Rod
amongst bikes, and the improvements really work. The power is
now up to approx 80bhp at the rear wheel, outshining it's Road
Star stablemate by some 25bhp. But there's more, the huge low
down torque is truly impressive, this is the main difference between
standard V-twins and the Warrior. At just 3500 rpm, the Hot-Rod
Yamaha is cranking out 100 ft-lbs. of tyre-shredding torque, enough
to send the 200 section rear tyre into spin up mode at low speeds.
During one crazy moment we managed to get the rear wheel spinning
at standstill on tickover, what other bike can you say that about!
Tip of the day, when
you let off just make sure you are not in a heavily populated
pedestrian area or next to a 600 sportsbike, the intake
roar and suction from the exhaust will drag small children
off the pavement and inhale any passing sportsbike without
blinking an eye!
Blip the throttle on the Warrior and you get
an immediate response, that of two huge pistons thudding under
you and an exhaust note through that rocket launcher of a silencer
that's worthy of a fully tuned Harley! A super high-tech ECU helps
the bottom-end power by closing one of the dual intake ducts at
low revs for better a throttle response. This gives the Warrior
a massive amount of grunt from standstill, just twist and go,
there's no shortage of power at any speed you care to try it!
Twist it to the stop and the exhaust note can break windows at
100 paces, it's totally addictive!
This enormous amount of tractor-like pulling power
combined with a huge 200-series rear tyre results in some seriously
quick launches off the line at lights and junctions, there's nothing
around that's going to beat this beast of a bike away from a standing
start, and it absolutely refuses to wheelie thanks to it's long-long
wheelbase of 1665mm. Out on the ordinary roads the Warrior's frame
and steering geometry wins hands down. It is almost flickable
into corners and roundabouts, and on country roads it's just a
pleasure to ride. Motorways are a bit of a pain as the Warrior
will easily cruise at way beyond legal speeds, but it's your arms
that can't take the strain. The riding position resembles that
of an impersonation of a parachute with the wide bars offering
plenty of leverage, tuck in a bit and it becomes a little easier
to tackle high speed motorway runs. Those wide bars and the rigid
chassis allow a you to quickly lean it over in a corner without
any instability at all, all I will say on this one is watch your
boots, the pegs will touch down first quickly followed by your
heels, so keep your feet up
At a comfortable 80mph the engine is turning
at just under 3500rpm, there are no real vibrations only a gentle
reminder of what lays beneath you in the form of a slightly throbbing
seat as those huge pistons go up and down. The bars are set at
a somewhat canted forward position from the factory, I played
around with this to get my preferred position and moved them forward
a little until they were almost directly in-line with the fork
tube angle. This change in position made a big difference to the
comfort at higher speeds and it became easier to ride at slow
speed as a bonus.
The Warrior has been designed effectively and
Yamaha have not gone overboard trying to get the lowest possible
seat height, it still comes in at a low 715mm, low enough for
the majority of potential riders I would say. The huge fuel tank
is a bit of a design exercise really as it only holds some 14lts,
the underside is mainly filled with air box stuff and plumbing,
but under the seat is another tank of approx 5 lts remotely linked,
so all in all the capacity is approx 19lts which is enough to
give you a respectable cruising range - if you can ever cruise
on the Warrior! In addition to this capacity the Yam is fitted
with the family count down mileometer when you go to reserve,
a feature I wish all other bikes had as standard sometimes.
There are a lot of clues to tell the casual
onlooker that the Warrior is something special. There are subtle
touches like the sculptured handlebar clamps, hi-tech yet strangely
retro (if that makes sense!) instruments that glow neon blue at
night. Even if the tacho is difficult to read as it sweeps up
it's digital dial, it still looks great, and who needs a tacho
when you can almost count every beat of that stonkin' motor! Then
there's the blacked out cylinders of the enormous engine and the
giant exhaust can, no there's no way you could mistake this bike
for anything ordinary!
all black Warrior attracts considerable attention. I
always surprised when people came up to me in the street and complimented
me on my choice of bike, comments ranged from "Wow cool bike"
from a bunch of 16yr old schoolgirls (they did say other things
but I just had to resist temptation!), to "what a lovely
colour, and doesn't it shine", this was from a rather upper
crust lady and her friend out shopping, they were both well into
their 50's I would think! Comments like that whilst on your average
sportsbike are a little like getting let off a parking ticket
by a warden, so street cred it has - by the truck load!
I totally enjoyed riding the Warrior during
the time I had it, it was a real eye-opener to the world of the
Performance cruiser only having previously ridden the mean Streak
in 2002. The Warrior handles well, has power in reserve whenever
you want it, looks wicked and will eat superbikes off the line
for breakfast (he says as a superbike rider most of the time!).
Not only that it's pretty exclusive as there won't be that many
around, so get down to you local dealer, if they stock them, and
be prepared to be converted into a Road Warrior.
So how is it made and who conceived the idea.
We obtained this design and development information regarding
the Warrior directly from Yamaha, it makes some interesting reading
as to the concept and construction of the bike.
leader Tatsuya Watanabe: "We liked the idea
of using Road Star's big v-twin to give cruisers a new flavor.
Many riders told us they had a strong preference for performance.
We engineers immediately had an affinity to these needs. What
we envisioned was a bike you could ride easily but still enjoy
Watanabe and his men increased the performance
of the big V twin by 40% and at the same time reduced the weight
by 40 kg comparing to Road Star XV 1600. Watanabe explains how
the decision to use an aluminum frame for a cruiser came about:
"As we were thinking to reduce weight, the suggestion of
an aluminum frame came up almost as a joke at first. But after
a few days of studying, members of the development team were convinced
"Hey, this will really work".
Even the shape is conventional yet the
Warrior's frame is made of aluminum.
less weight, higher performance and dual brakes, upside down fork
and sporty rear suspension, and a higher ground clearance when
banking, the Warrior is more than a cruiser. Hiroshi Tanaka, in
charge of engine design is convinced:"If you take the
Warrior for a ride, you will ask yourself - with an acceleration
like this, can you still call this bike a cruiser?"
Fuel injection cuts emission and gives the big V-twin a fantastic
Derek Brooks, motorcycle product manager at
Yamaha Motor US has been deeply involved in the product development
of the Warrior. He adds:"We've been hearing from lots
of riders, particularly those who grew up with sportbikes and
dirtbikes, who said they wanted something more in a cruiser than
was currently available- more performance and better handling
in particular." Derek adds: "At the same time
they didn't want to lose those things that make cruisers great,
like the traditional styling, character and sound of an air-cooled
pushrod V-Twin engine and a clean design that can be customized
to their own tastes."
The heart of Warrior: the 1700 cc V-twin with plenty
Tamura, from GK Dynamics took care of the styling: "One
of the basic elements of cruiser design is, how powerful you can
make the engine look". The 1700 cc V- Twin looks powerful
and is powerful. Based on the XV 1600 powerplant, the new engine
has undergone significant changes. Next to many detail changes
including an increased bore and cylinder head changes, a major
contribution to the high power and torque is the new injection
system. Hiroshi Tanaka explains: "We
were not able to fit twin carburetors in the engine's narrow V-bank,
so a 40 mm downdraft type Bosch twin bore fuel injection system
replaces conventional carburetors".
The large diameter 2 into 1 exhaust is one of the character features.
Engineer Fumio Takatani knows, "we
got comments like - it looks like a bazooka - but we kept it."
This large displacement engine simply needs a high volume muffler
to ensure a high output. Also to increase banking clearance for
cornering the muffler is mounted rather high. With a new close
ratio 5 speed transmission the Warrior engine gives a real sensation
of acceleration in particular out of corners.
To give a more direct running feeling and a sense of pulse,
rigid engine mounts are used. The lightweight aluminum rear arm,
the upside down front fork and the optimized rear suspension damping
force ensure a high level of handling and stability.
Warrior's aluminum swingarm construction is based on
layout of sportbikes.
The brake system is identical with that of XJR 1300. Comparing
cruiser standards this system with its Yamaha patented single
body brake calipers has an outstanding brake force, operability
and operational feeling, which gives a ride on winding country
lanes a new cruiser dimension.