Harley Night Rod Special vs Suzuki M1800R

Cruisers are evolving. Often berated by those of a sportbike persuasion for using ancient design and basic parts, the laid back side of biking has seen an injection of technology of late, a new twist to the design, instigated by the arrival of the Harley-Davidson V-Rod in 2001. Four-valve heads, liquid-cooling, over 215km/h and fresh lines? From Harley? Shocking...

It sparked a revival among the bustling ranks of Japanese competitors, one of the newest of which is this Suzuki M1800R Intruder: 1783cc and a third of a ton of radial brakes, exhaust valves, chrome and fresh modern looks. And lurking menacingly next to it a Harley Night Road Special, the latest V-rod variant, here to fight the corner of the increasingly popular American brand. Both impress with enormous presence and steamroller rear wheels, which have a big effect on the handling.
This is function trailing form by several lengths, as the over-tired set-up messes with stability when crossing white lines or tackling bumps.

The Suzuki has a small wibble , but the Harley is worse with a sizeable wobble. And this is more of an issue on the Harley Night Rod as it's indecently, scarily fast for a cruiser. Smooth, refined, with extremely nice fueling, the V-twin behaves more like a sportbike engine than an engine designed for lolloping along sniffing the hedgerow, picking up from 6000rpm with muscle-stretching urgency. The problem is that this refined rush draws you into going faster, until you catch a cats-eye or patch of over-banding. And liquidate your trousers...

The front end can't hack the speed the bike's capable of either. Steam into a corner faster than you planned, go for the decent brakes and the tire feels like it wants to tuck, the bike bucking and running wide while you dap at the road. Not a happy feeling...

Yes, it's a lovely engine; stick it in a Buell and it'd rock. But a cruiser should be less frantic, more relaxed. Like the Suzuki M1800R. Tease the Suzuki M1800R's gas anywhere in the revs, in any gear, and the monstrous torque supplies effortless thrust with big, fat pulses to the tire. But this doesn't mean it's slow - it still fires you to death diving speeds in a mere blink, though the gearbox and injection aren't as smooth as the Harley's.

The Suzuki M1800R's more capable on the average Thai road too, the GSX-R brakes providing reassuring power and less raked forks retaining more composure. It's surprising quite what this bike will let you do with a measured input.

But the nice thing about the Suzuki M1800R is that you don't feel like you have to ride fast. It's an elegant cruiser with potential, whereas the Harley's dominating pace gets a touch frustrating. Conclusion it is a Nice engine, but on the wrong bike.
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