Baggers: BMW Montana, Harley Road King, Kawasaki Nomad & Victory V92TC Deluxe

Pretty yet functional, simple yet plush, these four machines invite you to travel or simply have fun getting to work. With some old entries gone, the others packing improvements, and new entries showing up, it was time to search for the best seat on the Am

Some of us are drawn to them for their looks--that wide-flanked grace that's not fully duplicated in any other kind of motorcycle. Others choose them for their simple practicality--the ability to conveniently haul daily necessities in comfort and style. For others, these bikes are the epitome of the long-distance runner--touring comfort, carrying capacity and classic style without the wretched excess that seems to get shoveled onto full-dress touring machines. The classic bagger is a uniquely American style of motorcycle, one that can be traced back to the 1950s. Windshields were already common on big road bikes of the day, but in the middle of the century, hard fiberglass saddlebags began to replace the traditional leather or canvas bags that had previously been fitted to haul gear. Then, as now, the attraction of hard bags was that they could be locked to keep out sticky fingers, sealed to keep out dust and weather, and painted to complement the bike they were fitted to.

Gotta Ride
The make-or-break issue for a serious traveling machine is comfort. If a seat is a pain, the riding position is uncomfortable, or vibration grinds at you, you become fatigued. We went in with some clear expectations. We knew the Road King and Nomad were great travelers, and they hadn't changed. We had never traveled on a Victory TC, but we had ridden back and forth across the continent on an early V92C, which offered a great saddle and riding position but a harsh ride. We were frankly leery of the BMW, since the last R1200C we had all ridden had a saddle, riding position and windshield that left us all coming up with excuses for someone else to ride it.

The Road King fits most builds comfortably. The pretty studded saddle is a little soft, especially for larger riders, but smaller riders never seem to complain. The ride is slightly harsher and vibration a bit more apparent than we'd wish for, but not enough that anyone issues a real complaint. Most riders noted that the rear suspension now passes over bumps more fluidly, but rapped the fork for a less compliant performance. The windshield is a good height and shape for average and tall riders. The ability to quickly remove it for local riding (just pull two clips back and lift it off) is a great feature. Passengers echo similar comments about the seat, ride and vibration as the front-seaters, and some find the riding position a bit cramped.

With an uncanny absence of vibration created by the combination of counterbalancing and rubber mounting, a riding position that immediately suits almost everyone, a saddle that rivals a good aftermarket item, and effective suspension, the Nomad gets high marks from virtually everyone who rides it a long distance. The only common complaint regards some buffeting caused by the windshield when it's set so you can see over it. Shorter riders who cranked it up so they had to look through it reported smoother air, but also complained that the vision degradation caused a different sort of discomfort. Passengers rated the Nomad as acceptable on extended rides, but wished for a backrest.

Surprises started when we settled into the Victory's saddle and discovered that it was unexpectedly hard and narrow, a far cry from the V92C seat we were so fond of. However, the frame's extra length is also apparent in the seat's significant roominess, and more leg room than the other three baggers. We were pleasantly surprised that the harsh ride from the plain V92C's rear suspension has been smoothed out substantially on this machine. When you are riding solo, it's still somewhat taut, but with a passenger and luggage, it's just right.

Unfortunately, the front suspension hasn't been similarly tamed, and road irregularities come through quite forcefully. The TC also drew milder complaints about vibration at highway speeds. However, all of our riders bitched about the tall windshield. Though it parts the air effectively, and the "lowers" keep wind off your legs even better than the Nomad's, the fact that most couldn't see over it becomes an issue as soon as the first bug, raindrop or bit of dust hits it.

We believe that windshields you can't see over are a serious safety issue and a source of fatigue. One area that received top marks was the back seat, where the vast expanse of upholstery, a backrest, and a pleasing position drew undiluted praise. The TC has more front-to-rear room on its passenger saddle than any other cruiser, which passengers heartily commended. The one complaint from passengers, echoed by riders, was that engine heat became oppressive in stop-and-go traffic, making the side-panel area almost painfully hot.

The BMW is a great example of what a few simple changes can do. Where the last BMW bagger we brought on a comparison tortured our glutes, the Montana's saddle was wide and well padded. Combined with the new handlebar, the seat molds a riding position that received universally high marks, losing points only from tall riders for slightly limited leg room. The limitations of footpegs as opposed to the other bikes' floorboards were also noted. BMW's unique suspension does a generally good job smoothing the ride as well, though not quite to the standard of the Nomad. The last BMW windshield we tried was tall and thin, serving more to block vision than wind. This one is short and wide. Even our altitude-challenged riders could see over it, and if it lets a little air over to blow past your helmet, its width thoroughly blocks any blast to your torso.

Passengers had liked the last bike's riding position, though they didn't love its seat. This seat received positive comments from those who used it. They also liked the BMW's limited dive under braking, which moderated the awkwardness of hard stops. However, both passengers and riders complained mildly about the Montana's vibration level, which was the only buzz that actually intruded from any of these bikes. Of moderate magnitude, the vibration's frequency is increased by the BMW's comparatively short gearing. At highway speeds, it blurs the mirrors and reaches you through all contact points except the seat. Despite this, the BMW was a welcome surprise, and we all regard it as a bike that we could now tour on without suffering.

Pack It In
So all four bikes passed the blazing saddles test, but you need to be able to bring your stuff too. Even if it you buy one of these primarily as an around-town ride, you presumably want to be able to toss your daily essentials into a saddlebag. And if you and your sweetie are planning to see Alaska and camp out, you'll need to tote a substantial quantity of gear.

In terms of sheer volume, the Nomad and the V92TC saddlebags are the best. The Montana's bags are significantly smaller. "You'd be hard-pressed to fit more than a weekend's worth of stuff in its diminutive bags," observed one tester. Though they look large, the Road King's bags lose some volume to indentations for the rear suspension. The TC doesn't need to make room for shocks, since the rear suspension is in the frame, and the Nomad accommodates its air shocks without major concessions from the bags. As a result, the Nomad and TC have the preferred bags when you have a lot of gear. All of the bags have fairly low load limits, which sound pretty arbitrary--10-15 pounds per side for each bike. Too much weight certainly will cause handling problems and can overload and overheat the rear tire, but these limits appear a bit excessive. (But don't expect us to say that you shouldn't obey them. We have lawyers too.)

Picking a favorite big bag seemed to come down to whether you preferred the side-opening bags of the Kawasaki or the conventional top-opening design of the Victory (as well as the other two). The latter seemed to win a slight majority. Opening the Kawasaki's bags on the road risks having something tumble out, though you can pack, open and access them to minimize this problem. On the other hand, when you want something that's on the bottom, it is much easier to get at with the Nomad's panniers, which also offer a larger opening. The debate also involved whether you prefer the always-locked-when-closed bags on the Nomad, which require you to fish out the key for every access, or the lockable when you want to system of the others. Most riders preferred the option of locking. The best-bag title would have likely gone to the Victory with little debate if not for the fact that its left bag top fit loosely. We didn't hit any rain, but that loose lid on the TC and the BMW bags were the only ones to admit any water in our hose test.

One of the advantages of the Kawasaki's side-opening bags becomes apparent when you decide to strap a long bag or other large item across the rear seat. An item that projects past the sides of the seat blocks the lids of the top-opening bags, though the hingeless design of the Road King luggage may allow you to sidestep this problem.

When you do start lashing gear to the back seat, you may find another reason to appreciate the backrests of the BMW and Victory--they provide anchor points for bungee hooks and also a solid stop to prevent your bag from sliding off the seat. That backrest combines with the pretty grab rail running around the Montana passenger seat to offer the best selection of bungee hook points, but the fender rails and saddlebag guards of the Harley and Kawasaki also provide plenty of options. You have to be a bit more creative when strapping gear to the Victory, which has no rail and no guard bars in front of the saddlebags. You can use a tank bag on the BMW or Victory, but the tank-top instruments of the other two make a tank bag problematic.

A 12 Beats Three 15s
Once you have your worldly possessions and a friend wedged on your bike, you'll probably begin thinking about power. Once again, there are no dogs in this foursome. We knew from previous comparisons that the Road King will pull away from the Nomad when you open the throttles in top gear on the highway. And Victory was crowing that its powered-up engine would now dust the Harley Twin Cam. So when we paired off to see where the muscle was, we first matched the TC against the Road King and the Nomad against the little BMW 1200. The Victory backed up its maker's claims, slipping away from the Road King in every acceleration test we devised. In our top-gear contests, the Victory always ended up a few lengths in front of the Harley, whether we started at 35 mph or 70, whether uphill or down, and even if a heavier rider was on the Victory. At the lower speeds, the Harley could hang with the Victory for a moment or two, but as it built rpm, the Victory began to leave.

But there was a much bigger difference between the Nomad and the BMW. The BMW flat ran away from the 1500, so we paired the BMW against the Harley, which also got left behind. In the end, the smallest-displacement machine ended up in a face-off with the largest and emerged victorious. The underdog ruled because of its weight and low top gear, which gave it significantly more rpm at highway speeds. The BMW's top-gear acceleration advantage was restated at the dragstrip, where, starting from a measured 50 mph in top gear, it accelerated to 75.8 mph after 200 yards. The V92TC reached 73.1 mph, the Harley 71.9 mph, and the Nomad 70.0 mph.

Ironically, the BMW also demonstrated the effect of gearing from the other side during standing-start quarter-mile trials at the dragstrip. Though its top gear is short, the R1200's first gear is quite tall, making it somewhat slow off the line. As a result, the BMW's 14.04-second, 92.3-mph quickest run was bested not only by the Victory, at 13.52 seconds and 94.2 mph, but also by the Harley, with 13.92 seconds and 92.2 mph. With 14.59 seconds and 88.1 mph, the Kawasaki brought up the rear in sprints as in other power contests. However, even though it is recognized as the slowest, no one ever says that the Kawasaki leaves them wanting for more acceleration out on the road.

On a bike built for traveling, fuel economy can be as important as power, or even more so on some empty roads out here in the west where you can travel 100 miles between gas stations. All of these bikes want premium fuel, but the Harley gets the most miles out of each gallon and can go 200 miles or more between fill-ups. The Kawasaki, on the other hand, often made its rider nervous by the 130 mile-mark with that unblinking low-fuel light. The Victory was the one that stranded us, however. The low fuel light is supposed to start blinking with less than 20 miles/one gallon remaining, but it ran dry late--and when refilled, held only 4.7 gallons of fuel, not the 5.0 the specs claim.

These bikes do a pretty good job of delivering power with a minimum of drama. With fuel injection all around, they start from cold and idle readily without choke adjustments or throttle manipulation. They carburet evenly at all altitudes and don't get cranky when hot. Throttle response is linear all around. The three big V-twins have more flywheel effect than the BMW, which is good or bad depending on your preferences. More flywheel effect means you need to match engine speed more carefully during shifts, but it makes it easier to get off the line too, and helps the engine chug along at minimal rpm without lugging or lurching.

The BMW's tall gear requires better clutch mastery when you are trying to get away from a stop in a hurry, and its clutch engages more abruptly than the others. Like the Kawasaki, the Beemer requires a lighter pull to disengage than the American bikes. All four bikes shift positively. Some riders prefer the footpeg-type single shift lever of the BMW, where others favor the heel-and-toe shifting of the bikes with floorboards. Victory has addressed the problem of loud gearboxes on its early bikes and has made a significant improvement. There is a substantial amount of lash in the BMW drivetrain, which is evident if you roll on and off the throttle abruptly and it lurches as that play is taken up. Finding neutral is easy enough on all of these machines, but especially so with the Kawasaki, which automatically stops in neutral when you upshift from first at a stop.

Handle This
One of the challenges with such big bikes, especially once you get them loaded up, is getting them to stop and change direction. Once again, there are no big disappointments in this group, although the Nomad's brakes are just slightly off the power levels of the others. Riders with small hands complained that it was tough to get a firm grip on the V92's front brake lever. Everyone remarked that the Victory's rear brake lever was slightly awkward to apply. The weight of the V92C was also apparent in hard stops.

The BMW had strong, controllable brakes. But what really stands out here is the BMW's anti-lock braking, which becomes a lot more than a cool gimmick when you have to panic-stop on a sandy, wet or greasy surface. Even on a road with great traction, ABS can make a life-saving difference when a car pulls out too close to avoid hitting. On other bikes even an expert rider will probably over-brake, lock up the front wheel, and crash, thereby assuring that he hits the car. With anti-lock, you are more likely to remain on your wheels, continue braking right until impact and thereby collide at a lower speed.

The BMW has another braking benefit in its Telelever front suspension design, which reduces dive under braking. This means greater stability and also reduces the force with which a passenger is thrown against the rider, both of which are significant issues in a panic stop.

What is most surprising about these bikes is how nimble and responsive they actually are. The lightweight BMW turns with the most immediacy of this group, but both the Nomad and Road King respond to steering as if they were smaller, lighter motorcycles. The V92C feels more like a bike of its size and weight might be expected to. It is the slowest to change direction , and at low speeds its weight is also more evident than the others. Its length and slow steering suggest that it should be very stable, but the V92TC wallows a bit in fast corners with gentle pavement irregularities, and its harsh front-end made it a bit tentative in turns with stutter bumps or sharp-edged irregularities. The Kawasaki was the most stable under a wide range of conditions, though when heavily loaded it will wallow a bit when cornering fast. The BMW got loose in fast corners occasionally, but not enough to upset anybody. We were startled at how unsettled the Harley was in slow corners with sharp bumps. Past Road Kings haven't become uneasy in these sections, so we attribute this to the new rear shock settings, which otherwise were an improvement.

If you like to lean, the Victory permits the greatest change of attitude before something begins to drag. The BMW matches it in right-handers, but has the least clearance in left-handers, when the sidestand starts scratching loudly with little lean. The Harley leans slightly deeper than the Nomad before dragging its floorboards.

We had no real complaints about straight-line stability on any of the baggers. The BMW wiggled in rain grooves, most likely due to its tires, but none of the others had troubles with rain grooves, side winds or tracking in a straight line.

Sweat the Small Stuff
Everyone talks about the instruments, of course. All those functions in the Victory's LCD window always get a thumbs-up, and occasionally help the miles go by on a long ride. However, more than one rider felt that the window was too small and the display hard to read. This is likely to be an issue especially for older riders. The most vital features of the LCD are the clock, an essential item if you use the bike for commuting, and the fuel gauge, both of which you also get with the Nomad. However, the Victory is the only bike here with a tachometer, which we appreciated on the V92C and missed the most on the BMW, which needs accurate shifting. The Harley speedometer was the most accurate--within one mph at 50--while the BMW's was the most optimistic, about 4 mph off at that speed. The BMW and Victory instruments are up where the warning lights are most likely to catch your eye before it's too late.

Our list of annoying minor stuff is topped by the BMW's turn signal switch system. We fail to understand why BMW needs three buttons to do what most others accomplish with one switch and Harley does with a slightly more reasonable two buttons. Harley's unwillingness to supply even a simple toolkit oozes skinflintedness. The BMW's combined ignition and fork lock is convenient, both for the rider and the thief who only has to slide-hammer a single point, as opposed to two separate locks on the other three. The Kawasaki ignition lock, under the left front of the tank, is the least convenient. We like the Harley tank-top location and the dashboard positioning of the BMW's ignition lock. We also like the Harley's design that enables you to remove the key once it's unlocked.

We prefer cast wheels for their easy cleaning, but if you have to have wire wheels, they should be like the BMW's, which offer the security of tubeless tires. Tube-type tires, such as those on the V92TC, blow out when punctured, which can get way too exciting for our tastes. We appreciate that the Harley's oil can be checked on the sidestand; using a sight window to check oil on a bike that only has a sidestand but must be held upright for the check is just asking for trouble. Harley's sidestand itself also deserves some praise, because it won't retract and dump the bike if the bike gets pushed forward while leaning on it. We like spotlights for their style and their ability to help traffic judge your distance, especially at night. Having running lights in the front turn signals is a close way to get some of the same benefits, but the BMW doesn't even offer them.

In terms of appearance several items got repeated compliments, including the shapes of the Nomad's bags, the turn signals inset in the saddlebag lids in the V92TC, and the blacked-out studs on the Road King's saddle. The interesting, elegant use of textures on the BMW's metal parts also impressed many. Several riders were impressed at how much Victory has improved its finishes, especially on the engine. The Nomad's elegant black-and-red paint scheme and tasteful ivory of the BMW were the top-rated paint schemes. There are also some ugly touches, like the excessive stickers plastered all over the Nomad. We also wish that Kawasaki did a better job of routing the wiring around the engine, especially on the right front down tube. Victory also has some eye-catching wiring issues, especially around the handlebar. Some of the crude-looking fasteners on the Road King also seem out of place on a motorcycle priced at this level. The BMW is generally blemish-free.

We didn't find any quality-control issues on the Kawasaki, but the BMW shed its left grip when the set screw backed out. The Montana has a nice tool kit, but there was no allen wrench in the required size to reinstall the grip. The most glaring QC problem on the four bikes was the Harley's right muffler, which blued large sections along its front half. We are told that the mufflers were revised this year, and this may be a teething problem. It would certainly be a warranty issue. The loose saddlebag lid on the Victory should likewise be adjusted or replaced under warranty in our view. The rusted fasteners on the V92TC's windshield are also a gray area.

No Wrong Choice
If you already have your heart set on one of these baggers, we didn't find anything in our travels to make us warn you off any one of them. However, if you are reading this test to help you make a choice, we are happy to do that, too. Overall, our last choice is the Victory V92TC, but it might top our list if most of our traveling was going to be done with a passenger, if we couldn't bear the sound of metal dragging in corners, or if we just liked extra power. The things that dragged it down were minor, and some, like the dangerously tall windshield, the hard seat, and loose saddlebag lid could be easily remedied. No one here would bat an eye if assigned to ride a V92TC across the country tomorrow.

Our top choice, and that of all but one of the riders, is the Kawasaki Nomad FI. We suspect that its somewhat limited range or the fact that it makes less power than the others will eliminate it from some shopping lists. However, all who rode it for any distance exclaimed at its comfort. The Nomad's ability to comfortably run up a lot of miles is complimented by commodious luggage. And its 2002 paint scheme enhances what are arguably the prettiest lines of all the baggers.

Falling into the rather tight space between these two are the BMW Montana and the Harley Road King. These two are probably the ones most likely to be chosen emotionally. The BMW should whet the appetites of buyers who eat to a different beat, but won't get a second thought from those who order what everyone else gets. But we think many of its differences are real assets. Anti-lock brakes top the list, but the front suspension and the excellent finish ably justify the highest MSRP here. It also fits shorter riders quite neatly, and half our testers picked it as their second choice. With less vibration and more luggage capacity, the Montana could have walked off with the whole thing.

For those who believe that the only votes that count are those cast with your wallet, the Harley Road King is the winner. It sells more than the rest of these bikes put together, and it is literally the prototype bagger. Besides any attraction of the Harley nameplate, it can claim functional advantages like the quick-detach windshield, commendable range, and a huge accessory selection. It isn't the best in any general category, but it wasn't the worst either. We're always pleased when one shows up in our test fleet.

So, in the end, we may have done nothing more for readers than confirm their existing preferences, but we got to spend several days and many miles reacquainting ourselves with one of our favorite classes in cruising. Even when had to come into the office, we always had a great way to carry our briefcases.

BMW R1200C Montana

The German bagger isn't for those who need to run with the herd. Sure, the R1200C Montana has the windshield and bags that define this class. And it has two wheels and an engine. Little else about it falls in line with cruiser convention, however.

Look at that chassis and find anything that fits the standard formula. Up front, BMW's Telelever arrangement melds telescopic legs with a swingarm suspended by a single damper and spring. The front swingarm pivots on the top on the engine cases. The engine is a primary chassis member, with a tubular latticework behind it and large extrusions supporting the steering head area. The rear of this structure supports the two-piece saddle, rear fender, saddlebags and passenger pegs, and ties in the pivot for the rear suspension's single-sided swingarm, which also houses the final drive shaft. A single spring and damper under the saddle control the action of the rear suspension.

The windshield on the Montana is lower and broader than shields fitted to its predecessors. It is neither quick-detachable nor adjustable, and it does not fit the mold of the other shields here. Instead of large chrome strips across its front, the Montana windshield is a single piece of uncluttered plastic supported by chromed, thin tubular stalks from the fork crown.

The saddle gives the rider more room and padding as well as offering a much more enticing perch for passengers than other R1200Cs. The passenger also gets a unique two-position adjustable backrest.

Though it's traditional for BMW, the air/oil-cooled 1170cc opposed twin is far from the norm for cruisers. However, the design permits reciprocating masses to balances each other out, so no counterbalancers or rubber mounts are used. Even BMW's saddlebags are unique, and not just because they are covered with a deep blue (black with other paint colors) leather to match the saddle upholstery. Though their lids open with a lockable push-button latch like the Victory V92TC's and are hinged on the outboard sides like the Road King and V92TC, a little red lever inside sets them apart from the others. Flip the lever, and the bags can be slid from their mounts and carried away using the handles on the lids.

Those who wish to break away from the crowd are often made to pay for it. In the case of the BMW Montana, it will cost you $15,990.

BMW Montana
Designation: R1200CM
Suggested base price: $15,990
Standard colors: Black, gray, ivory
Extra-cost colors: N/A
Standard warranty: 36 months, unlimited miles
Engine & Drivetrain
Type: Air/oil-cooled opposed twin
Valve arrangement: OHC; 2 intake, 2 exhaust valves, operated by pushrods, screw-type adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1170cc, 101 x 73mm
Compression ratio: 10.0:1
Carburetion: Electronic fuel injection
Lubrication: Wet sump, 4.0 qt.
Minimum fuel grade: {{{90}}} octane
Transmission: Dry single-plate clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: Shaft, 2.54:1
Wheels: Wire-spoke, 18 x 2.5 in. front, 15 x 4.0 in. rear
Front tire: 100/90-18 Michelin Tarmac, tubeless
Rear tire: 170/{{{80}}}-15 Michelin Tarmac, tubeless
Front brake: Two, 2-piston calipers, 12.0 in. discs, anti-lock
Rear brake: 2-piston caliper, 11.2 in. disc, anti-lock
Front suspension: BMW Telelever, 3.5 in. travel
Rear suspension: Single damper, 3.9 in. travel, adjustment for preload.
Fuel capacity: 4.5 gal.
Handlebar: 31.5 in. wide, 7/8 in. diameter
Inseam equivalent: 34.0 in.
Electrical & Instrumentation
Charging output: 700 watts
Battery: 12v, 19 AH
Forward lighting: 7.5 in. 55/60 watt headlight
Taillight: Single bulb
Instruments: Speedometer, odometer, tripmeter; warning lights for neutral, high beam, low oil pressure, low fuel level, charging failure, ABS failure and turn signals
Fuel mileage: 33 to 50 mpg, 39.4 mpg average
Average range: 177 miles
RPM at 60mph, top gear: 2960 rpm
200 yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 75.8 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 14.04 sec., 92.3 mph
High Points
Front suspension improves
Stability and comfort
Top ergonomic choice for smaller rider
Anti-lock braking
Best passing performance
Quick-detachable bags
Low Points
Too much vibration
Awkward turn-signal
Saddlebags too small
Limited leg room for tall rider
First Change
Install a luggage rack for greater carrying capacity
Handlebar width: 31.5 in.
Inseam equivalent: 34.0 in.
Wet weight: 608 lb.
GVWR: 990 lb.
Seat height: 29.3 in.
Wheelbase: 65.0 in.
Overall length: 92.1 in.
Trail: 3.38 in.
Rake: 29.2*

Harley-Davidson Road King

Harley built the Road King around the firm's touring chassis, which uses rubber engine mounting on a shorter but wider chassis than its other big twins. Standard amenities with this frame include the big 5.0-gallon fuel tank with tank-top instrumentation, floorboards, air-adjustable dual rear shocks (revised for '02), and covered front fork legs to go with the wide look. This year the swingarm has been beefed up, the rear suspension's rates were revised, the brakes got minor changes, and a new petcock was fitted. There are two Road King models. We tested the standard version, with cast wheels and hard painted bags. The Road King Classic uses wire-spoke wheels and leather bags.

The Road King uses the 1450cc Twin Cam 88 engine which, because it's set in rubber mounts, does not use a counterbalancer system.

For '02, all Harley's fuel-injected touring models get a more sophisticated fuel-injection system, which has individual intake throats for each cylinder. However, this system measures density of air in the intake manifold and throttle position to set mixture. A knock sensor handles problems like poor-quality fuel or high temperatures.

Two-piston-caliper disc brakes stop the 16-inch cast wheels. The front wheel gets dual brakes. Deeply valenced fenders wrap around the whitewall tires. The fenders have small "bumpers" at their outboard ends. They also have running lights at their tips.

One of the most distinctive components of the Road King is its huge headlight nacelle, bracketed by two 4-inch spotlights. The windshield's mounts are also on the outsides of the upper fork legs and offer instant detachability simply by pressing a clip on each side. A fuel gauge lives in the dummy left fuel cap. The ignition lock dwells in the tank-top console with the other instruments. It's designed so that you unlock it with the barrel-style key and then remove the key before you ride the bike. The same key operates the fork lock atop the fork crown and the saddlebags.

Studs with black inserts decorate the two-piece saddle. The saddlebags have unique and effective locking latches that also serve as hinges and retainers for the tops. You unlatch them and then swing the lids outboard.

Though it is about $1200 less than the Road King Classic, this Road King is still plenty pricey, with a suggest cost that starts at $15,790.

Harley-Davidson Road King **
Designation: FLHRI
Suggested base price: $15,790
Standard colors: Black
Extra-cost colors: Teal red, teal or purple add $265; red/black, green/black, red/silver add $660
Standard warranty: 12 months, unlimited miles
Engine & Drivetrain
Type: Air-cooled, 45-degree tandem V-twin
Valve arrangement: OHV; 1 intake, 1 exhaust valve, operated by hydraulic adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1450cc, 92 x 102mm
Compression ratio: 8.8:1
Carburetion: Electronic fuel injection
Lubrication: Dry sump, 4.0 qt.
Minimum fuel grade: 87 octane
Transmission: Wet clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: Belt, 70/32
Wheels: Cast alloy, 16 x 3.0 in.
Front tire: MT90B16 Dunlop D402F tubeless
Rear tire: MT90B16 Dunop D402, tubeless
Front brake: Two, 4-piston calipers, 11.5 in. disc
Rear brake: 4-piston caliper, 11.5 in. disc
Front suspension: 39mm stanchions, 4.6 in. travel
Rear suspension: Dual dampers, 3.0 in. travel.
Fuel capacity: 5.0 gal.
Handlebar: 34.1 in. wide, 1.0 in. diameter
Inseam equivalent: 33.6 in.
Electrical & Instrumentation
Charging output: 507 watts
Battery: 12v, 30 AH
Forward lighting: 7.0 in. 55/60 watt headlight, two 30 watt passing lights, position lights, fender-tip marker light
Taillight: Single bulb, rear fender marker light
Instruments: Speedometer, LCD odometer/tripmeter; warning lights for neutral, high beam, turn signals, low oil pressure, low fuel, engine malfunction
Fuel mileage: 31 to 48 mpg, 37.9 mpg average
Average range: 190 miles
RPM at 60mph, top gear: 2560 rpm
200 yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 71.9 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 13.92 sec., 92.2 mph
Handlebar width: 34.1 in.
Inseam equivalent: 33.6 in.
Wet weight: 763 lb.
GVWR: 1179 lb.
Seat height: 30.7 in.
Wheelbase: 63.5 in.
Overall length: 94.4 in.
Trail: 6.2 in.
High Points
Ergonomics fit a wide rangeof riders
Maximum aftermarket selection
Quick-detachable windshield
Great fuel mileage and range
Strong all-around package
Low Points
Muffler shouldn't blue on a bike in this price range
Where's the tool bag?
First Changes
Replace some of those ugly fasteners
Buy a tool kit

Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 Nomad Fi

Kawasaki was among the first to recognize that cruiser success demanded a special American styling influence, which it addressed in 1996 with the Vulcan 1500 Classic. The first departure was the Nomad, a classic bagger, rolled out in 1998.

The chassis of the Nomad is the most conventional design here, a standard twin-shock design. Its most exotic feature is that the shocks are adjustable for air pressure. The shocks also have four rebound-damping settings to choose from. Like the other bikes here, the Nomad has triple disc brakes, a pair of two-piston calipers up front and a single-piston design on the rear.

All of the Nomad's instrumentation lives in the chrome console atop the 5,0-gallon fuel tank (which no longer has visible bottom seams). Both rider and passenger have folding floorboards.

The saddlebags are one of the few designs that really look like they were built to fit the bike. Their curves match those of the rear fender. Instead of conventional lids, the Nomad bags open to the side, so doors are perhaps a better descriptor than lids. There are elastic retaining straps for the contents.

Kawasaki has always liquid-cooled its V-twins. Among the changes made to create the current generation of cruisers were some that gave the engine more finning and masked the thin radiator between the frame's front downtubes. Liquid-cooling allows the 1470cc 50-degree V-twin to maintain more even temperatures. The only remaining version of the Nomad is fuel-injected, one of a series of power enhancing changes made along the way. The exhaust gets away through a system that features a big collector/balance tube and mufflers under each saddlebag. To keep the bike smooth, Kawasaki employs both a gear-driven counterbalancer system and rubber engine mounts.

With its $12,999 suggested price tag, the Nomad is by far the most affordable of these touring cruisers.

Kawasaki Nomad FI
Designation: VN1500-FI
Suggested base price: $12,999
Standard colors: Beige/beige, red/black
Extra-cost colors: N/A
Standard warranty: 12 months, unlimited miles
Engine & Drivetrain
Type: Liquid-cooled, 50-degree tandem V-twin
Valve arrangement: SOHC; 2 intake, 2 exhaust valves, operated by hydraulic adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1470cc, 102 x 90mm
Compression ratio: 8.6:1
Carburetion: Electronic fuel injection
Lubrication: Wet sump, 3.7 qt.
Minimum fuel grade: 90 octane
Transmission: Wet clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: Shaft, 2.619:1
Wheels: Cast alloy, 16 x 3.0 in. front, 16 x 3.5 in. rear
Front tire: 150/80-16 Bridgestone G703, tubeless radial
Rear tire: 150/80B16 Bridgestone G702, tubeless radial
Front brake: Two, 2-piston calipers, 11.0 in. disc
Rear brake: Single-piston caliper, 12.5 in. disc
Front suspension: 41mm stanchions, 5.9 in. travel
Rear suspension: Dual dampers, 3.9 in. travel.
Fuel capacity: 5.0 gal.
Handlebar: 33.9 in. wide, 1.0 in. diameter
Inseam equivalent: 32.5 in.
Electrical & Instrumentation
Charging output: 588 watts
Battery: 12v, 14 AH
Forward lighting: 7.0 in. 55/60 watt headlight, position lights
Taillight: Single bulb
Instruments: Speedometer, fuel gauge, LCD odometer/tripmeter/clock; warning lights for neutral, high beam, turn signals, oil pressure, coolant temperaturel
Fuel mileage: 28 to 41 mpg, 34.1 mpg average
Average range: 171 miles
RPM at 60mph, top gear: 2550 rpm
200 yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 70.0 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 14.59 sec., 88.1 mph
High Points
Comfortable for almost allriders
Vibration thoroughly banished
Unique, roomy saddlebags
Great all-around package
Most affordable
Low Points
Some windshield buffeting
Slowest bike here
First Changes
Clean up some of the visiblewiring
Remove all those ugly stickers

Victory V92tc Deluxe

Though hardly a radical departure from previous Victory models, the new TC series introduces a fresh frame layout and incorporates Victory's revised for 2002 engine. In addition, the Deluxe includes features that put it at the top of the four-bike Victory line-up and gives the company an entry in the bagger category.

Both TC (Touring Cruiser) models are built around the same new 65.5 inch wheelbase chassis. The TCs wear windshields, spotlights and lockable hard saddlebags. The new frame is 2.2 inches longer that those of other V92 models and has a smidgeon more front-wheel trail. It has the same single-shock, triangulated-swingarm design as other V92 frames and rides on the same beefy 45mm fork stanchions up front.

All V92s carry their instrumentation in the top of the headlight shell. The single instrument face includes an inset tachometer, all warning lights and a small LCD display that includes the usual odometer and tripmeter, but adds a host of additional functions. A low-fuel light flashes when you are down to your last gallon.

Victory's solidly mounted 1507cc engine has been revised this year to improve power and appearance. Victory recast the cylinders, creating more fin area and greatly improving their appearance. Compression was boosted from 8.5:1 to 9.2:1 and the camshaft profiles were juggled. The new Visteon engine-management system also contributes to a power boost (Victory claims a 25 percent increase) and improved fuel mileage.

A gear-driven counterbalancer squelches the engine's shakes, and a torque compensator on the geared primary drive absorbs some of the shock of each power stroke. The five-speed transmission feeds power to the right-side belt final drive.

The Deluxe differs from the standard TC in having laced, wire-spoke wheels instead of cast wheels. Of course, that also means that the Deluxe has tube-type tires, which are more susceptible to blow-outs than the tubeless tires used with the cast wheels. The Deluxe also gets chrome fender-tip trim, fork-mounted "lowers" for its windshield, the passenger backrest and two additional two-tone color choices--beige/white and black/silver. The added bits raise the price by $200 to $15,199 and add about seven pounds.

Victory V92TC Deluxe
Designation: V92TC D
Suggested base price: $15,599
Standard colors: Black
Extra-cost colors: Red/silver, blue/silver, black/silver, champagne/white add ${{{600}}}
Standard warranty: 12 months, unlimited miles
Engine & Drivetrain
Type: Air/oil-cooled, 50-degree tandem V-twin
Valve arrangement: SOHC; 2 intake, 4 exhaust valves, operated by hydraulic adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1507cc, 89 x 102mm
Compression ratio: 9.2:1
Carburetion: Electronic fuel injection
Lubrication: Wet sump, 6.0 qt.
Minimum fuel grade: 90 octane
Transmission: Wet clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: Belt, 64/30
Wheels: Wire-spoked, 16 x 3.0 in. front, 16 x 3.5 in. rear
Front tire: MT90B16 Dunlop Elite II, tubetype
Rear tire: 160/80B16 Dunlop D417, tubetype
Front brake: Two, 4-piston calipers, 11.8 in. disc
Rear brake: Two-piston caliper, 11.8 in. disc
Front suspension: 45mm stanchionsr, 5.1 in. travel
Rear suspension: Single damper, 4.0 in. travel.
Fuel capacity: 5.0 gal.
Handlebar: 34.2 in. wide, 1.0 in. diameter
Inseam equivalent: 34.0 in.
Electrical & Instrumention
Charging output: 500 watts
Battery: 12v, 14 AH
Forward lighting: 7.0 in. 55/60 watt headlight
Taillight: Single bulb
Instruments: Speedometer, tachometer, LCD with functions for odometer, tripmeter, clock, fuel level, high-beam-indicator light intensity, engine monitor, charge/volt level; warning lights for neutral, high beam, turn signals, low oil pressure, low fuel level
Fuel mileage: 29 to 47 mpg, 35.8 mpg average
Average range: 179 miles
RPM at 60mph, top gear: 2530 rpm
200 yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 73.1 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 13.52 sec., 94.2 mph
High Points
Roomiest seating, especiallyfor passenger
Good cornering clearance
Large saddlebag capacity
Best instrumentation
Excellent power
Low Points
Rider's saddle too thin and hard
Heaviest and largest bike here
Harsh ride through fork
Less vibration, please
Windshield too tall
First Changes
Cut down the windshield forsafety
Get an aftermarket saddle
Handlebar width: 34.2 in.
Inseam equivalent: 34.0 in.
Wet weight: 771 lb.
GVWR: 1210 lb.
Seat height: 28.3 in.
Wheelbase: 65.5 in.
Overall length: 94.6 in.
Trail: 4.76 in.
Rake: 30.0*

[ Riding Positions]( /escape/motorcycles/123_0206_baggers02)