Blimey, was that a Red Kite? Bird watching on the move is one thing, but what comes next demands a little more concentration. Philosophical question no 19: Cruiser, is it a noun to describe a type of motorcycle; or an adjective to describe a state of mind? I prefer the latter.
You can cruise on any motorcycle in the same way that you can be as focussed and mischievous on a Harley as you can on a Ducati. Obviously this question doesn’t work with all bikes (nakeds for example, let’s not think about that one) and I’m rambling already, but that’s sort of the point. Knocking a few mph off your typical riding speed allows you to enjoy motorcycling in a very different way. Thousands of former sports bike riders have already discovered this as the fast-swelling ranks of the Harley Owners’ Group will testify, but in recent times the Japanese manufacturers have offered their own credible alternatives too.
Tell me about the engine.
The v-twin air-cooled motor is a close Harley tribute built in the Yamaha way. Which means the materials are slightly more space age, but the electrickery is a generation behind (you’d be surprised to know just how advanced Harley’s electronics are these days). It’s a lazy motor… ignore the quoted power and torque figures – as a means of comparison anyway – they are meaningless as a reference point. The big XV accelerates slowly no matter how quickly you snap open the throttle.
The dry sump (like an old-school Harley) engine is simply there to provide motion and character. And heat. Riding through town on a warm spring day, it doesn’t take long to get uncomfortable.
Five gears are adequate and the ratios are well chosen. A belt final drive does its best to smooth out the transmission.
The frame is aluminium – usually used on sports bikes to save weight, but that few kgs of saving is offset and overwhelmed by everything else here. Unlike Yamaha’s new XVS1300, the bigger bike has an old-school chassis and the single rear shock absorber, without a linkage has a lot of work to do managing rider comfort and controlling 360kg in corners.
The styling works well – OTT teardrop indicators with a hint of Cadillac and a tank-mounted instrument console with ’50s American fonts on the speedo do a passable impression of a Yankee designer’s doodle. The fairing adds motorway speed comfort without the buffeting of some of the touring Harleys and the built-in luggage is useful if a little flimsy.
Involving, but rewarding. You’re always aware of the bulk and the length. Moving the CFD around at a standstill needs care and consideration. Press the starter and you can hear the effort required to spin two enormous pistons before the big motor fires. The clutch is light, but gearbox clunks to remind you of just how much metal is moving around down there. A heel-and-toe gearshift would make life easier and keep your boots looking smarter for longer too.
Throttle response is smooth and the power builds gently. There’s a lot of weight to shift and the XV is plenty quick enough to keep you ahead of the traffic.
Surprisingly easy to pootle about on and filter through traffic, comfy and composed on sweeping A-roads and better through the corners than you’d imagine too. The only niggle is a bumpy ride on bumpy roads as the suspension and fat tyres struggle to keep composure as this immovable objects generates irresistible forces.
Should I buy one?
If you are asking the question then the answer is probably no. You’ll know if you want one and at £15,999, you’ll also know why it’s this and not a Harley for very similar money. The hardest thing is getting a test ride. The XV1900CFD may well be the most exclusive motorcycle in the UK. Yamaha don’t even bring in enough for every dealer to have one, so your chances of getting a test ride are small. If you can find one though, grab a test ride – you will be pleasantly surprised.
Engine; 1854cc, air-cooled, SOHC, eight valve v-twin
Power: 90.3bhp @ 4750rpm
Torque: 114 lb-ft @ 2500rpm
Kerb weight: 360kg
Seat height: 705mm
Tank capacity: 16 litres
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