2010 Honda Fury vs. 2009 Star Raider S - Comparison Test

Choppers go mainstream and morph into usable motorcycles.

Photography by Brian Blades

2010 Honda Fury vs. 2009 Star Raider S - Comparison Test

2010 Honda Fury vs. 2009 Star Raider S - Comparison Test

The irony of the original chopper movement of the Sixties and Seventies is that the bikes that showed such freedom of expression were awful for actually pursuing the freedom of the open road. Our staff chopper guy is the Editor-in-Chief, and he kindly (?!) let me try his raked BSA and also his Honda 350, both ex-showbikes of the era. I have to say I have never been so terrified on two wheels in my life. And all I did was ride down the street.

These days, even custom builders make a better chopper-like motorcycle, thanks to fatter forks, improved brakes and all the engine advancements the decades have brought, but it took major manufacturers to roll out raked custom machines with The Look that don't have The Penalty.

The Star Raider S proved the pick of the bunch last year after a head-to-head comparison with the Harley-Davidson Rocker, getting the nod for its overall higher functionality and lower price.

Honda, meanwhile, surprised everybody this year with the 2010 Fury, perhaps the most unexpected machine from the least likely manufacturer. But we stopped scratching our heads in mild confusion after we rode it because it turned out, simply, that the Fury is a really good motorcycle. Displacement-disadvantaged in the class, yes, but it's got an excellent combination of functional balance and a cleanliness of line that is impressive.

Yep, after our full test of the Fury (CW, June), we felt compelled to get this rakish pair together to search for that rubber road to freedom we all are after and can finally ride on a "chopper" because they now work like real motorcycles.

But before we saddled up, we thought we might just park the Raider and the Fury together and consider how they look and what they are made of. Material considerations weigh heavily here, due to the fact that the chopper-like custom is as much an aesthetic exercise as it is a functional one. In terms of the actual "stuff" that makes up the bike, the Raider is definitely more materially satisfying. It's got steel fenders, metal engine covers, and it is just generally lighter on plastic parts; this isn't to say it doesn't have any, but the important metallic bits are there. The Fury's fenders, some of the engine covers, valve covers, headlight bucket, etc., are plastic or plasti-chrome, which just seems antithetical to the idea that these bikes are meant to represent. You also appreciate the air-cooled Star's lack of radiator, although the Fury's rad and hoses are very well-concealed. Further, the belt final drive of the Raider makes later application of a custom rear wheel that much easier than with the Fury's (well-hidden) shaft-drive setup.

So the Raider definitely gets the "magnetism" award here, even if the Gothic styling seems rather more forced than the Fury's airy, clean contours with its awesome gas tank shape. Yes, the Raider has a look to it that makes it seem sort of like an Iron Cross genetic-mutation experiment gone awry, particularly our extra-chrome S model with its "tribal" pinstripe graphics. But the Star does feel a bit more real and definitely more satisfying when you put your hands on it, and the paint quality is better, too. If you don't find a plastic chopper problematic, there is no doubt your eyes will glide much more smoothly along the Honda's pleasing and chopper-like lines.And? Well, we're in it for the riding more than the parking, so, to the road!

Both these machines are comfortable for riding around town and even on the highway flying along at 80 mph. Turns out, the high steering heads and upswept fuel tanks have a useful wind-blocking side benefit. Both riding positions are quite comfortable, with bars placed at a reasonable height, good feet-forward peg positions and broad seats that offer excellent support. But the Star is more comfortable mostly by virtue of the better damping provided by its fork and shock. The Fury's fork, in particular, proved harsh on sharp bumps and freeway expansion joints, making its ride less pleasant.

The Raider's total fork rake is 40 degrees, while the Fury's is 38. Both use offset triple-clamps to get the forks out there like that, while maintaining less-angled steering heads, the combination of which results in reasonable trail numbers. So both bikes, despite their 70-inch-plus wheelbases and chopped look, steer beautifully. The Honda's light feel is actually amazing the first time you ride it, but the 3.5-inch trail is quite short, while the Star's 4.0 inches is slightly more relaxed and stabilifying.

In fact, the Fury's lightness of steering, while fantastic for maneuvering the bike, gives it an almost too-delicate feel. The Raider, on the other hand, is nearly as easy to steer but offers a more substantial dynamic presence, and you welcome the slight extra effort it takes to change direction at speed. Winding-road competence is there for both bikes but, naturally, cornering clearance is limited due to the very nature of these beasts.

As ever, cruisers with decent brakes really can stop, thanks to their long wheelbases. In this regard, the Raider is fantastic. Not only are there twin discs up front, but the calipers are monoblocks with four pistons each. The payoff is at both ends of the braking scale, from the sensitive feel and minimal effort required at light lever pressures to excellent modulation and outright power for full-on hard stops. They simply are superior to the Honda's numb single-disc front and two-piston, sliding-pin setup. There is perhaps some aesthetic purity to the single front disc (even an ABS version of the Fury is coming!), but it is no match in performance.

Neither is the Honda's sohc, liquid-cooled, 52-degree, 1312cc V-Twin a match for the Yamaha's pushrod, air-cooled, 48-degree, 1854cc V-Twin. Certainly the Fury's engine is sweet-running and torquey, with a good sound and a nice surge of forward progress when you give it some stick. It also lugs down to very low rpm better and pulls off-idle more cleanly and with more refinement than the Star. When you drop the revs on the latter, particularly in a taller gear, the action of the torque compensator is a bit harsh and noisy, and because of the balky shift quality from the five-speed gearbox, you're less apt to want to downshift, too. But the Raider's muscled output and its booming 106 foot-pounds of torque squash the Fury's 72 foot-pounds of "sweet" every time you roll open the throttle.

Yes, the Fury is lighter in feel and on the scale, easier to handle and does provide a more refined overall riding experience, but the Raider is just burlier, from how it runs to its operational "presence" when you ride down the road. And it kills in performance terms.

It's true that the Fury is cheaper at $12,999 than a base Raider is at $13,790. (Our chromed-out S rings-in for $14,490 but is functionally the same as the base bike). The Star's $800 premium over the Honda gets you metal fenders, better brakes, nicer suspension, more fuel capacity (4.2 gallons vs. 3.4) and an additional 542cc of engine displacement. So when you want to hit the road to freedom, the Raider is the chop of choice.

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