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20 years of 'cruisers' - a personal journey pt2

January 31, 2017

Performance cruisers are almost a contradiction - laid back riding position but with a huge punch in terms of performance. This is the genre where design and imagination has gone fairly wild - so these bikes are NOT clones of each other. This makes ownership and riding even more rewarding - each bike brings a completely different experience.


In 2004 Triumph released the modern Rocket 3. An in-line 2.3 litre liquid cooled triple. There had been nothing like it before. With a frame loosely based on the Valkyrie and with Triumph's sports bike heritage, this bike was not only huge and fast (140 mph and 140 bhp) but also went around corners, braked well and was even nimble in its own way. It was clearly targeted at the US cruiser market - but it was not American, was very different and was liquid cooled - each of which was a major negative in the US. So the bike did achieve some success but probably nowhere near what Triumph had hoped for. Hence it is being discontinued in favour of the 1.7 litre Thunderbird - with no further engine development taking place and hence pending emission control challenges. Of course I had to have one and it turned out to be a fantastic bike to tour on. I have done Europe, UK and even the Isle of Man track on it. However, never under estimate the size if forced to brake in a corner - as I did and paid the price. This of course lead to the great black and white Rocket 3 custom built by 2WheelsMiklos.




Having tasted raw power I was ultimately keen to explore further. I also did a spell of track days and Super Bike School on an R6 Yamaha and this hooked me further in terms of speed and handling. So what better than a modern 1.7 litre, 200 bhp, V-Four V-Max? In 2010 I went through the bespoke V-Max ordering system and eventually got my bike delivered via Woking Yamaha. What an experience. So much more than the original V-Max (and with a price to go with it). This bike did everything a bike was meant to do, just much better. Great power, gearbox, handling, brakes etc. So even though it is a big  and tall bike it exudes confidence. High speed cruising is its forte - Land's End and back in well less than a day etc etc. Stunningly built with what seems like many exotic metals. Incredible air scoops and exhausts, unique instruments and beautiful leather seats. Many put a bigger rear tyre on - personally I would not - in my opinion Yamaha got the balance pretty perfect on the stock bike. Ultimately not as comfortable as a standard cruiser so I found I was riding it less - and hence eventually sold it after some 7,000 great miles!




Having sampled the V-Max I of course also had to try its soul brother - the Ducati Diavel (loosely aimed at the original V-Max). My first taste of the Diavel was when being comprehensively passed whilst riding the V-Max pretty hard from Southampton to Brighton. I was impressed. So in 2012 I bought a brand new Diavel Carbon Red in Johannesburg. Well this is barely a cruiser. With full on sports bike electronics and riding modes and some 220 lbs lighter than the V-Max (which more than compensates for the 'only' 1.2 litre engine), this bike flies, stops, turns and anything else you want. It is also, in its own way, beautiful and sexy to look at. I also proved it was a great tourer on two long trips through the escarpment on the eastern side of South Africa. Very hard to keep disciplined whist riding it - ended up at + 140 mph on many an occasion - without even realising it. Ultimately that is part of the reason why after some 4,000 miles it came time to sell it. Self preservation !




A good friend introduced me to something completely different in 2013 - the 2.5 litre air/oil cooled Viper Diamondback. He was the European marketing man for this tiny US manufacturer and had imported, MSVAd and UK registered a demo bike. Knowing my love of big cruisers, he invited me for a test ride at his place in Poole. I was smitten and bought the demo bike. The Viper is built around a 152 cubic inch Ilmor designed and built (machined from billet) engine, with a 6 speed Baker gearbox, oil in the frame air shock, upside down forks etc etc. With almost 160 ft-lb torque it is a wild beast - but it can be ridden like a real bike - I even did Hogsback Chapter's Midnight Madness run through central London a couple of years ago on it. Visual (long, low and aggressive) and audio impact is huge - always gets a crowd of admirers. In 2014 it won 'Best New Chopper' at the National Chopper Club's Diamond day at the Ace Cafe as a ride in bike. The era post the financial crash has not been kind to these specialist and high cost builders. So this Viper may well be the first and last to make it to the UK. With the Vanquish on its way I decided to sell the Viper.




Phil and Jayne and the Riff-Raff club have been good supporters of 2WheelsMiklos since we opened. Phil is also the unofficial leader of a small band of Surrey V-8 motorcyclists. He eventually convinced me that these are great and possibly even practical rides. He also suggested Mike Kelly's (Marco Island, Florida) Vanquish as being the best of the lot. So in early 2015 I contacted Mike and commissioned a new build. This would be the 25th Vanquish built, but the first for some 3 or 4 years (again the consequence of the financial crash - the Vanquish costs some 60% more than a Boss Hoss or a V-8 Chopper). There is a standard frame, engine/transmission (2 forward, 1 reverse) configuration and bodywork - and the rest is pretty much up to the owner. I chose a 427 cubic inch (7 litre) all polished aluminium Dart small block engine (which ultimately topped 600 bhp on the Dyno), my own paint scheme (inspired by the colours of the Hungarian flag), ostrich leather seat etc. Given there had not been a build for some years it was not all plain sailing. However by Q2 2016 the bike was ready to ship, with 200 miles of shake-down riding completed. I had visited Marco Island in Feb 2016 and rode a Vanquish for the first time. Scary but exhilarating. Mid 2016 it arrived in Guildford. Then we had to MSVA it and UK register it. Despite preparing for this there were still a lot of mods to do - new and quieter exhaust system with Super Trapps, move ignition switch, change indicators, fabricate belt cover, redo battery and charging connections, re-position foot-pegs, lean out carburettor etc. Eventually we got the MSVA done in Watford (at first attempt - what an achievement by Alan!) and got the bike UK registered. Then to ride it. What a blast. Once the slow speed nerves are overcome it is not difficult and the reverse gear helps a lot. 350 miles ridden and then the winter. So now preparing for the 2017 riding season. We have now installed a 900 Kg ramp in the workshop to ensure we can manage these monsters.





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