Big Bagger Showdown II

2011 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero vs. 2011 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Custom
2011 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero vs. 2011 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Custom

Once again, the Harley-Davidson Road Glide shows up in a 2011 bagger showdown, this time being pitted against the Kawasaki Vaquero by Motorcycle.Com.  They compared the two bikes head to head and found out a couple of interesting things.

First up, is the issue of power.  If you shell out a cool two grand extra for the 103ci Harley PowerPak mill, then  the power and torque curves of the two bukes are practically identical. That tells us two things: That the PowerPak package from Harley-Davidson gives you competitive engine performance, while the standard 96ci engine is underpowered relative to other bikes in the class. Of course, we’re talking about heavy touring cruisers here, so power may not be your priority when it comes to purchasing.  And if it is, that $1995 premium for the PwerPak seems a bit…steep.

The other thing we learned is that Harley-Davidson’s new chassis and geometry for the baggers has really improved their handling quite a bit. The Road Glide has always been the best handling of the big Harleys anyway, so this improvement must be particularly noticeable. Having said that, the Road Glide’s suspension seems to still be a bit “meh”.

The big difference between these two bike is the price.  With equivalent engines and accessories, the Vaquero comes in at a miserly $16,499 compared to the lofty $22,149 sticker price of the Road Glide. That means for almost the price of the Road Glide, you could by a Vaquero for touring…and a Versys for commuting.

Big Bagger Showdown

2011 Victory Vision and Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra
2011 Victory Vision and Harley-Davidson Road Glide UltraPhoto Credit: Motorcycle USA, Ray Gauger

Motorcycle USA has published their head-to-head comparison of the Victory Vision and the Harley Davidson Road Glide Ultra.

Visually, these could not–except for size–be two more different-looking motorcycles. The Road Glide is a blast from the past, showing of the signature Harley-Davidson style that has been little changed since the 1960’s. Some say that’s a bad thing, demonstrating a lack of willingness to push their designs forward from Peter Fonda’s Captain America hippie-era. The Victory Vision, on the other hands, looks as if it comes to us from 40 years in the future, rather than 40 years in the past. Some say that’s a bad thing, too, making the Victory an exceptionally execrable example of Arlen Ness-iness gone wild.

Underneath the looks, however, both of these bikes are designed to do one thing and do it well: eat up the day by effortlessly cruising the highway.

Both bikes have their admirers and detractors, of course, but what’s surprising in the MotoUSA test is that they both do it equally well.  It seems that which bike to prefer really comes down to a matter of taste.  their that closely matched.

Personally, if the day ever comes when I want to dip my toes in the cruiser well, the Road Glide will be my bike of choice.

Sadly, though, if I got rid of my FJR, my inner hooligan would incline me to look for something a little…faster. For instance, I certainly intend to personally test the new BMW K1600GT when it becomes available.

Ride Reports: 2011 Harley Davidsons

Motorcycle.Com kicks it off with their ride on the new Sportster 883 SuperLow.  H-D has redesigned the suspension of this bike to give it a smoother ride and more suspension travel, all while keeping the seat height only two feet from the ground. Sadly, those improvements, while increasing the ride quality, haven’t–and can’t, really–solve the problem of cornering clearance with a lowered bike. There’s a host of improvements on the bike, however, meaning that the “SuperLow checks in with new suspension calibrations front and rear, new wheel and tires sizes, new fork and gas tank, even a new and better-padded solo seat.”

meanwhile, Motocycle USA went straight to the high-end bikes, checking out the new CVO custom editions of the Road Glide, Street Glide, Electra Glide, and Soft Tail. These are Harley’s top-of-the-line bikes, and are all Powered by the 110ci V-Twin, rather than the standard 96ci plant.  This gives them a nice bit of extra oomph that the standard models don’t have.