An American classic, the cruiser motorcycle gets you to your destination comfortably. Read our reviews on the latest cruisers from popular manufacturers.
Cruiser motorcycles are largely an American design, adopted by the Europeans and Japanese. Often powered by a large, V-twin engine tuned to deliver bottom-end power and a substantial amount of torque. Built with more comfort in mind, cruiser motorcycles have a relaxed seating position with a slight recline, forward foot controls, and a handlebar sitting at or below shoulder height. Harley-Davidson remains the most popular motorcycle cruiser maker, but Indian Motorcycle is catching on, not to mention the Big Four Japanese manufacturers who have been putting out metric cruisers for decades.
While all cruiser motorcycles don’t focus on performance, the editors here at Cycle World love to find out how these motorcycles perform. Whether it be a first-ride review, dyno run, or a cruiser comparison, we push these bikes to the limit.
Our cruiser reviews can help you find out if a certain bike is the best cruiser motorcycle for beginners, or a cruiser that can challenge sportbikes on twisty canyon roads. Cycle World test rides every cruiser motorcycle, ensuring that you know which motorcycle is right for you.
Customization and motorcycles go hand in hand, especially when it comes to custom cruiser motorcycles. The custom cruiser scene has been popularized by the television series American Chopper with the focus on entirely hand-built machines, but customization doesn’t mean building your cruiser from scratch. Adding a windscreen, saddlebags, or a custom paint job with pinstriping all falls under the custom cruiser motorcycle umbrella. Whether your mods are for comfort or aesthetics, if you change something on your cruiser, you are making it custom.
Custom cruiser motorcycles don’t always have to be one-offs that you build in your garage, meticulously designing metal brackets in AutoCAD. Every major motorcycle manufacturer has accessory options for you to bolt on to your cruiser. Besides buying your cruiser from a manufacturer and customizing it yourself, there are custom motorcycle builders that sell whole builds, like Roland Sands and Deus Ex Machina.
If you’ve already built your custom cruiser and want to show it off, there are various shows around the US to attend. Motorcycle shows like Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show and J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show focus on the beauty of custom cruisers. Other shows, such as The One Motorcycle Show, Mama Tried Motorcycle Show, and The Handbuilt Motorcycle Show, are centered around the aesthetic of all motorcycles and their builders.
Harley-Davidson has been producing cruiser motorcycles for more than a century, capitalizing and swallowing the global motorcycle market, becoming the most recognizable brand for cruisers. Another American company, Indian Motorcycle, is trying to capture that same success with its classic styling combined with modern motorcycle refinements.
The Japanese and European cruiser manufacturers don’t follow the tradition of American cruisers in how they measure their engines. American cruiser motorcycles use cubic inches (ci), while Japanese and European cruiser motorcycles use cubic centimeters (cc). Thus, the moniker of the metric cruiser refers to Japanese and European cruisers.
Honda’s Gold Wing is one of the most popular cruising tourers, the choice of many Iron Butt riders who strive to rack up miles. The Star Venture is Yamaha’s response to the Wing, while its VMAX sits in the power cruiser, or musclebike, segment. Kawasaki’s Vulcan series comes in a variety of trim levels to suit your styling and riding style. Suzuki rounds out the Japanese cruiser manufacturers with its comparable Boulevard lineup.
Ducati’s only cruiser, the Diavel, is its Italian spin on how a power cruiser should look and perform, with enough power to keep up with most sportbikes. Moto Guzzi’s MGX-21 is a proper Italian bagger featuring its unique transverse engine. The K 1600 B from BMW is the Bavarian take on a bagger with a slew of modern technology. Triumph’s Rocket 3 speaks for itself, sporting a 2294cc engine and 163 pound-feet of torque.
You’ve decided on buying a cruiser motorcycle, but don’t know what to look for. Just like with any motorcycle purchase, you want to buy a cruiser that you know you’ll ride. If you plan on riding across the country, you would want something that has a large-displacement engine and some kind of wind protection. If you are a new rider, you wouldn’t want to start off with a 600-plus-pound cruiser. You also wouldn’t want to opt for the 20-inch ape hangers accessory option.
Then, there are the looks of the cruiser. Do you want something that looks like a classic motorcycle, or maybe something more on the modern side? How about customization? Buying a cruiser with little aftermarket part support means that you have to make any customizations on your own. It makes the process harder, but not impossible.
It is going to be your bike, so why not make it your own? We’ve got some more buying tips, and our pick for the top cruisers of the past years below.