Call it the cruiser for people who don’t really like cruisers. Not the overweight, underpowered, ill-handling variety anyway. Introduced as a Yamaha in 2002 before becoming part of the Star lineup, the 102 cubic-inch Warrior is a potent if unlikely mix of tradition and technology. Its 48-degree V-twin is air-cooled, cuing four valves atop each 3.8-inch bore via pushrods. That comparatively orthodox cruiser engine lives in a distinctly unorthodox aluminum frame, and exhales through a suspiciously sporty-looking exhaust can. Speaking of sporty, those four-pot front brake calipers and that 41mm inverted cartridge fork are retired YZF-R1 bits, and the finished product undercut Honda’s original VTX1800 by a full 100 lbs. All of which means this 658-lb. package is much more fun to ride than the average neo/retro chrome mastodon. Yamaha’s broad, oddly angled handlebar makes for light steering around town, but unfurls you like a spinnaker on the freeway. Otherwise, upright ergonomics, abundant legroom and a comfy seat keep the rider happy. Passenger accommodations, however, are tight.
Throttle response is surprisingly enthusiastic considering the king-sized internals. Putting 98 lb.-ft. of torque on the pavement at 3500 rpm along with 76 peak horsepower 1000 revs later, our ’02 Warrior testbike lunged from 0-60 mph in a respectable 4.3 seconds, covering the quarter-mile in 12.5 seconds at 105 mph.
Leaving every green light like a human cannonball is easy, but why stop there? The Warrior’s easy, accurate steering, firm, well-damped suspension and excellent brakes make any twisty road something to enjoy, not just endure. Cornering clearance is adequate if you remember this isn’t an R1. The sound of asphalt eating aluminum reminds anyone who can’t. Less aggressive pursuits are largely vibration-free up to 3000 rpm, where the solidly mounted twin begins to buzz. Settle into an easier freeway cadence and the two-barrel throttle body meters out a gallon of unleaded every 37 miles or so. A full tank lasts 140 miles if you’re careful or 120 if you’re not.
Hydraulic lifters and belt final-drive help minimize maintenance, and given its due, the Warrior is a loyal soldier. Yamaha recalled some ’03 models for a faulty transmission cog, so make sure that’s been handled. The fuel tank can leak around the rear mount, and the low-fuel light can come on prematurely. Fault #12 from the onboard diagnostics means the crankshaft position sensor has gone south. Check the stator and the starter before you buy, and look for corrosion around the brake-lever pivot. Heavily hot-rodded examples warrant extra scrutiny.
So if you can’t choose between big-twin style and sporting function, don’t. A clean, unmolested Warrior delivers both.
Power, honest handling and street-rod style.
Awkward bar, high-rpm vibration, tach illegible in the sun.
Leaky fuel tank, bad electrical/fuel connections, worn belt pulleys.
A fashion statement that goes, stops and turns.
2002 | $5250
As Milwaukee’s first street engine with a radiator, four cams and eight valves, the 1250cc Revolution 60-degree V-twin was just that. Wielding 109 peak horsepower and capable of low 11-second quarter-miles in ’02, few cruisers can catch it today.
2002 | $3375
If bigger were better, Honda’s 758-lb. cruiser could have been the best. But despite its 105 lb.-ft. of torque and 4.1-second 0-60 time, all that heft and an upsetting driveshaft reaction make the VTX less capable in the corners than its smaller, lighter peers.
Kawasaki Mean Streak
2003 | $3100
The only trouble with Kawasaki’s Mean Streak is it’s not all that mean. Six-piston ZX-9R front calipers are excellent. Steering is light. The riding position is comfy and the seat is great … assuming you can live with 63.7 rear-wheel horsepower.