Top Alternatives To Harley-Davidson Cruisers

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By Jon Langston, Motorcycle Cruiser

So you want to buy a Harley-Davidson but you can’t afford one. Or perhaps you want a cruiser-style motorcycle and don’t care which brand. Or maybe you just like the idea of tooling around town or hitting the open road in a relaxed position, exuding casual style and laid-back cool, but you aren’t beholden to any preconceived notions of what “cool” is supposed to be. Regardless of your motivation, there are plenty of other motorcycles on the market that offer style, comfort, and street cred that don’t have the baggage—or the price tag—of a Harley. Lean back and settle in; we’ve got you covered.


Honda Rebel 300 ABS

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Harley offers a few entry-level bikes that are great for new and beginning riders. But there are plenty of other lightweight and affordable cruisers out there perfect for those just starting out. Yamaha’s V Star 250 ($4,349), Suzuki’s Boulevard S40 ($5,749), and Honda’s Rebel 500 ($6,199) are all great beginner bikes, and the stripped-down Rebel is a solid urban bomber that’s ideal for aspiring two-wheel hipsters (it also comes in a 300cc version for just $4,499).


Kawasaki Vulcan S

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If you’re looking for affordability, power, and versatility, the 805cc Suzuki C50 offers classic cruiser style for $8,249. Kawasaki’s 650cc Vulcan S platform offers Sport, CafĂ©, and base versions with an average price below $8,000, which is a pretty great value for an ABS-equipped small cruiser. (The larger 900cc Vulcan 900 platform costs a shade more, but doesn’t have ABS.) Honda’s Shadow Aero ($7,699) has traditional cruiser styling with plenty of chrome, while the blacked-out Phantom ($7,899) sports the same 745cc V-twin engine but wears a bit more attitude.


Yamaha Star Bolt R

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If you dig the raw, industrial attitude of the H-D Sportster Iron 883 or Forty-Eight, you really ought to check out the Star Bolt ($7,999). This 942cc bike and its sportier brother, the R-Spec ($8,399), boost the swagger and power beyond the typical lightweight cruiser, and the R-Spec has a piggyback rear suspension that blows away the Iron’s gut-puncher. The Bolt might be the ideal bar-hopping city bike.


Triumph Bobber

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Another fantastic around-town bike that compares favorably to the 1,200cc Sportsters–particularly the hot new H-D Roadster—is the sexy $11,900 Triumph Bonneville Bobber. The 1,200cc parallel-twin engine is stronger than Harley’s Evolution 1,200 V-twin, and the bobber styling is spot-on. For a midsize cruiser that’s more function than form, the Bonneville Speedmaster ($13,190) shares the 1,200cc parallel-twin mill but offers two-up seating and a more relaxed riding position. And while it doesn’t technically qualify as a “cruiser,” we can’t forget the iconic Bonneville T120 ($11,500), with its classic, clean—and distinctively British—styling. Not many motorcycle brands can compete with Harley-Davidson’s heritage and “cool factor.” Triumph is one.


Indian Scout Sixty

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Indian is another. The reborn Scout ($11,499) has proven to be not only comparable to the Sportster 1200 but, quite frankly, superior. The Indian Scout’s handling and suspension are better than a Sportster’s, and when it comes to power and performance it’s not a fair battle. Cranking out 100 hp from just over 1,100cc of displacement, its liquid-cooled V-twin doesn’t even reach peak torque until the tach rolls all the way up to 6,000 rpm. At 1,000cc, the Scout Sixty ($8,999) is a smaller version of Indian’s midsize cruiser that’s an excellent choice for riders who have outgrown entry-level bikes but still want to avoid the heft—and the cost—of a Big Twin cruiser.


Suzuki C90T

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With new motorcycle sales staying flat the last few years, the Big Four Japanese manufacturers have all but given up trying to replicate Harley’s Big Twins, such as the Fat Boy and Low Rider. Suzuki still makes the 1,450cc Boulevard C90T and the sportier M90; both bikes can be had for around $13K, and the stripped-down, blacked-out B.O.S.S. package on both bikes costs even less. We have no doubt the used motorcycle market is flush with decent values on full-size cruisers like the Star Roadliner, Honda VTX, and Kawasaki Vulcan. Another tip: We’re confident you can find excellent bargain on a used Victory. They were great cruisers that met an unfortunate fate, but Polaris has vowed to supply Victory parts and service, and honor warranties accordingly, through 2027.


Victory Octane

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So with Japan putting the brakes on big-bore cruisers, let’s look to Europe. Of course, there’s the Triumph Rocket III Roadster ($15,700) and its massive, 2,294cc three-cylinder powerplant. Moto Guzzi made waves a few years back when it released its sexy California 1400, a phenomenal cruiser with style, performance, and handling that rivaled most anything on Harley’s showroom floor—and everyone else’s. That cruiser has evolved into four distinct models: the classic Eldorado ($16,490), the touring California ($18,490), the blacked-out Audace ($16,390), and the sporty MGX-21 bagger ($21,990). As long as we’re in Italy, we’d be remiss not to mention Ducati’s ridiculously awesome power cruiser, the Diavel (from $19,195). If you’re in the market for a bruiser like Harley-Davidson’s dear, departed V-Rod, look no further.


Moto Guzzi MGX-21

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For a brand-new big-bore cruiser that’s not named Harley-Davidson, don’t overlook that other American motorcycle company. The Indian Chief Dark Horse ($17,999) and Springfield Dark Horse ($21,499) are excellent full-size cruisers. We prefer the Dark Horse versions because they eschew Indian’s trademark faux-retro stylings for a more contemporary look. But if you dig the nostalgic touches, Indian has a full line of big cruisers and baggers that are right up your alley.


BMW K1600GTL

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If you want to go on the long haul, you need a full dresser—essentially, a bagger with a windshield or fairing and a rear top case. Sure, you could spend up to $25,000–$30,000 for one of Harley’s phenomenal Ultra tourers, but there are definitely options to consider. In the same price range, Indian’s Roadmaster ($28,999) is a capable, totally comparable, and extremely competitive Ultra alternative. The new Yamaha Star Venture ($24,999) is another top-of-the-line dresser, with a distinctive nose and all the high-tech accoutrements a touring motorcycle should have. Alternatively, both Honda’s Gold Wing Tour ($27,000) and BMW’s K1600 Grand America ($23,195) are full-luxe touring dressers; heck, for $31,800 you can get that Gold Wing Tour with Honda’s DCT automatic transmission and an airbag because, why not?


Kawasaki Voyager

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But there’s no need to take out a second mortgage just to travel the country. Most of the cruisers mentioned here are highway-ready if you score aftermarket windshields and saddlebags. Want a new and affordable turn-key dresser? Kawasaki’s Voyager takes the stripped-down Vaquero bagger and adds a top case and windshield; at $17,499 it’s a fantastic value.

Harley-Davidson is a legendary name. But if you’re not a zealot of the bar-and-shield cult, motorcycle showrooms are full of cruisers that are just as powerful, good-looking, and efficient—often for far less coin. The choice is yours.

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