The Evolution of the Power Cruiser

Written by Tim Kessel, Courtesy of

There is a persistent perception that cruisers are an underpowered, ill-handling niche in the motorcycling world.  While it is true that a cruiser will never handle like a race replica sport-bike, there is an element of the cruiser market that is anything but underpowered.  I am referring to the muscle-bound world of the power cruiser.

In my humble opinion, the category of Power Cruiser was invented by Yamaha with the birth of the iconic V-Max.  In 1985, the V-Max rolled onto American soil packed with 145 tire-shredding horsepower.  The V-four engine with V-boost (an intake boost system) was the heart and soul of the raucous, rebel of the motorcycling world.  No one really cared that it didn’t turn that well because its straight-line magic was so intoxicating.  The V-max remained relatively unchanged until the introduction of the 2008 model with a new 1,679 cc power plant.  The newest V-Max puts out over 190 hp and 125 lb/ft of torque!


So the V-Max is the grizzled (and respected) veteran of the power cruiser world.  However, as of late, there has been a rapid proliferation in the genre’.  Take, for example, Harley Davidson’s entry into the game.  The VRSC (V-twin Racing Street Custom) was introduced in 2001.  Also know as the V-Rod, the first incarnation of the V-twin engine pumped out a respectable 115 horsepower at the crank.  That’s pretty impressive when you consider that a conventional 1200cc Harley put out about 65 hp.  The latest V-Rod puts out over 120 horsepower.


Maybe the most striking entry into the power cruiser market is the amazing Triumph Rocket III.  The Rocket III was introduced in late 2004 with a monstrous 2300cc three-cylinder engine.  As impressive as that first bike was, the newest incarnation is awe-inspiring.  The Rocket III Roadster puts out a solid 146 horsepower.  What sets the Triumph apart is its 163 lb/ft of torque at just 2,750rpm.  That is the kind of torque that will pull your shoulder out of joint. A nice bonus with the Rocket III is that it handles surprisingly well for a bike that weighs in at nearly 900 pounds full of fluids.


So there you have it.  All cruisers are not created equal.  If you want some muscle to go along with all that cruiser “cool”, you have some options.  In fact, these bikes may just be too fast to be accurately called “cruisers.”

Other contenders in the power cruiser market:

Honda VTX 1800

Kawasaki Vulcan 2000

Suzuki Boulevard M109R

Victory Hammer

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