In case you missed it, Yamaha's 2006 MT-01 was a brilliant muscle bike, combining the humungous V-twin engine of the Royal Star cruiser in a stubby, agile-handling frame.
Sadly, most of the Kiwi bike market couldn't get their head around the MT's blurring of traditional bike segment boundaries.
A price positioned just five dollars south of $30,000 also ensured that the MT-01 was always going to be rare sight on our roads. But just try buying one of the handful of brawny MTs that were sold here in the second-hand market. These rare beasts have formed resilient bonds with their present owners, and the fact that there is still no other motorcycle available that is remotely similar in concept has helped cement those relationships.
However the spirit of the MT-01 still lives on, albeit in a mildly diluted form, in the form of the $23,995 Yamaha XV1700 Warrior. The latter packages the same engine in a bike that is more recognisable as a lower slung cruiser, and retains a further trace of MT-01 DNA in its aluminum frame construction and R1-derived front end, which features adjustable inverted telescopic forks and twin disc brakes and four-piston calipers that are capable of producing the nose bleed-inducing stopping power of the sportsbike.
The big Yamaha's three-spoke alloy wheels are another hint that this big beefcake of a bike offers a sportier ride than most cruisers; they're lighter than the cruiser norm and their only decorative touch is a bit of polishing on the outer edges of the rim.
Further statements of the Yamaha's individuality are made by the high-tech instrument displays and a riding position that's quite unlike that of any other cruisers'. As a result, the overall look of the bike is much more sci-fi than retro. I can imagine Ripley Scott ordering one when one of his films requires a prop that looks like the Harley Big Twin of the future.
Excuse the pun, but it is the 1670cc air-cooled engine that is the real star of this futuristic cruiser-bike show. It is a truly amazing piece of work, and deserves some ambitious accolade such as ''the best cruiser motorcycle engine ever''. That's quite a call given that there a number of other worthy cruise-cycle motors of similar capacity that have to be considered, including Triumph's Thunderbird parallel-twin, Harley's 1690cc slice of history, and Suzuki's 1783cc unit for the M109R mega-cruiser.
What makes the Yamaha powertrain so complete is that it provides the easy access to healthy bottom-end torque that is such an essential element of the cruiser riding experience, then caps it with a thumping top-end. The torque curve that the Warrior draws on the dyno graph is similar in shape to that of the hallowed Harley engine until 2000rpm, then rises another 20Nm over the ensuring 1000rpm. At this 3000rpm mark, where the all-American motor is starting to get a bit breathless and begins to wish that it didn't have breakfast at McDonalds, the Yamaha kicks harder like a 1500-metre runner hearing the bell that signifies the race's final lap.
The Suzuki and Triumph engines offer similar power characteristics, but deliver them without the same strength of character because of their reliance on liquid-cooling rather than good ol' air. It's nice not to have a radiator to block the front view of a cruiser engine, and Yamaha have made the most of the opportunity by finessing their impressive piece of engineering into a sculptural work of art.
The Warrior's engine also sounds as good as it looks, although the large, high-mounted muffler won't be viewed as eye-candy by everyone. A slick-shifting five-speed gearbox and a cushy belt drive complete the cruiser world's best powertrain nicely.
The Yamaha's massive powertrain overshadows the Warrior's chassis visually, but the latter still ensures that this is one of the most corner-ready of heavyweight cruisers. The limiting factor is still the reduced cornering clearance displayed by just about every bike in the sector, but there's still enough lean-ability provided to ensure that the 'chicken strips' of unused rubber left on the fat rear tyre of the XV are commendably thin ones.
Also there is praise the high-mounted two-into-one exhaust system for the way it enables the Warrior to lean further than most cruise-bikes into right-hook bends.
It's worth putting up with its questionable looks and the way it limits the leg room of pillions just for how it allows the well-suspended chassis to get on with business.
The Warrior is a bit of a veteran of the cruiser sales war, having first made an appearance in the 2003, wearing a $27,995 pricetag. Now more affordable by four grand, it still rates as one of the best heavyweight V-twins on the market.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 1670cc air-cooled 48-degree pushrod V-twin stoked by electronic fuel injection to develop 74bhp (55kW) at 4400rpm and 141Nm of torque at 3500rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed gearbox, belt final drive.
Frame: Dual-cradle frame created out of aluminum tubing and castings, cast-alloy rear swingarm.
Suspension: Front- 41mm inverted telescopic forks adjustable for spring preload; rear- preload-adjustable monoshock mounted beneath gearbox.
Hot: Brilliant engine goes and sounds as good as it looks; aluminum frame reduces weight; well-tuned suspension and brakes.
Not: Token accommodation only for pillions; spooky blue glow of the clocks at night might provoke recall of an alien abduction.
- © Fairfax NZ News