Real man's bike that. So I keep hearing, buddy. In fact, I've heard little else in my first few days on Suzuki's GSX1400FE. It's like a pre-programmed response: a big retro, air-cooled naked? 'Real man's bike.'
The Yamaha XJR1300 gets largely the same response, though with marginally less attention. Could be the subtle black paint causing less of a fuss than Suzuki's timeless blue-and-white. But what is it about riding either one of these that makes you anymore 'real' a man than if you'd hopped off a Suzuki SC650 or Yamaha R6?
The fact that you're dealing with more engine than Suzuki SV650 and Yamaha R6 combined, for a start. At 1251cc and 1402cc, respectively, the Yamaha XJR1300 and Suzuki GSX1400 are little more than engines with ancillaries. These are motorcycling's primitive core, but the Suzuki has the hairier knuckles.
The Yamaha XJR's not slow, far from it. It makes as much torque as the Yamaha R1 sport rocket - and over a wider rev range - but it seems almost revvy after the Suzuki GSX. How? With more 124Nm from 2500rpm to 6500rpm, the Suzuki is torque. The engine revs on to 9000rpm, but it's hardly worth bothering. Grunt? Like a caveman debate.
Add to this both bikes' total absence of wind protection and it's clear why the neck of a muscle bike owner is 87% larger than that of a normal rider. It's that 'real man' thing again - to use these engines, you have to hold on tight. The Suzuki is the better choice again, with wider, closer bars creating a stance that makes grabbing hold against the wind far easier.
But above all else, the reason why these bikes have a 'real man' reputation is that they actually fight back. Show either one a corner and it suddenly gains the power of independent thought, refusing to do what you ask and putting up a struggle against any idea of changing direction. The Suzuki GSX1400 is a little better behaved; haul on the six-pot brakes and speed is shed at an impressive rate; pull on the bars and it eventually turns, but the Yamaha XJR's more stubborn. The forks seem to dive faster and further on the brakes, and out of an even slightly bumpy corner the rear shocks will still be bouncing well into the next town.
Riding at a respectable pace on these bikes requires a gritty determination - both mental and physical. They're hard work - something 'real man' should relish. Of course you can just waft along on one in the neck pain-free world below 115km/h, enjoying the wide seat and good pillion provision, contemplating the impressive value for money and fair quality. But then, that's not very manly, is it?