Cruisers are the epitome of the relaxed motorcycle riding experience. It’s all in the name: they are bikes meant to cruise long distances, without upsetting their rider’s comfort. Cruisers are also a very important market sector for all manufacturers, as they constantly trade back and forth with sportbikes year to year on having the most sales and registrations in North America.
However, there are multiple sub-models of cruisers, including the touring cruiser, the muscle cruiser, the sport cruiser, and the one that most people are familiar with, the continental touring cruiser. More often than not, all types of cruisers have big engines and a bit of an intimidating air about them, especially from the viewpoint of a new rider.
Yet, there are six cruisers you can buy in 2020 that are extremely new rider friendly. They may not be “traditional” cruisers, but they will get you up and going as a motorcyclist without a) breaking the bank or b) breaking you… ride an aggressive sportbike for a couple of hours and tell us how your lower back feels!
2020 Yamaha V-Star 250
The 2020 Yamaha V-Star 250 is a great beginner cruiser for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it does have the staple engine of a cruiser, a v-twin. That engine may only be 249cc, but it is a true 60 degree V, which gives good HP and torque. It also weighs only 326 lbs wet, with a 27-inch seat height. As the saying goes, “if you can’t lift the bike from a drop, you shouldn’t be riding it.”
The brakes on the V-Star are also extremely good, giving great lever and pedal feel for the new rider to learn progressive braking. The throttle is very linear, and power comes on smoothly, without jerking the bike around. As well, you get the rough and rowdy exhaust note of a V-twin, the classic burble that’ll put a smile on your face.
2020 Indian Scout Sixty
If you are wanting to start on cruisers and your iron steed absolutely must be an American made cruiser with a V-twin, then the 2020 Indian Scout Sixty is your bike. A 999cc 60 degree V-twin pushes out 78 HP and 65 lbs-ft of torque may sound intimidating, but remember that cruisers aim to have their power delivery smooth and low down.
For a heavier beginner, such as someone over 200 lbs and a bit on the tall side, the Scout Sixty makes a fine choice. It’s seat height is quite low at 25.5 inches, but it also has forward controls, so your legs aren’t scrunched up tight to you like on a sport bike. You can get into trouble on this bike if you expect to be able to hop on and rip open the throttle, but if you approach with a mature attitude and grow into it, this is a bike that you could keep for years and never tire of.
2020 Honda Rebel 500
The 2020 Honda Rebel 500 is the quintessential beginner cruiser. Designed from the ground up to be a friendly, comfortable, and not-at-all-scary sport cruiser, the 471cc parallel twin powered bike may not sound like a cruiser, but 46 HP and 32 lbs-ft of torque are smack dab in the middle of beginner friendly power.
The Rebel 500 is meant to handle better than most cruisers as well, with mid-mount pegs and slightly swept back handlebars. For taller riders, the mid-mount position of the pegs makes it a bit of a squeeze, but with the fun, friendly engine and great shocks front and back, you’ll enjoy turning some corners and cruising down main street in no time.
2020 Suzuki Boulevard C50
The 2020 Suzuki Boulevard C50 is a great bike for the big and tall beginner. A seat height of 28 inches, 600 lbs wet weight, and a torquey but super friendly 805cc 45 degree V-twin will make any ride enjoyable. Where the C50 really enters into the beginner motorcycle territory is that it is extremely forgiving.
The brakes are superb, the bike is solid and planted beneath you, and the handling is responsive. You won’t be attacking corners like you would on a sport bike, you’ll be flowing through them while learning how a cruiser in the middleweight category moves about. Also, the 45 degree bank angle of the v-twin gives it a lovely, sharper bark than 60 degree v-twins.
2020 Yamaha Bolt
The 2020 Yamaha Bolt is a very well placed bike for the American beginner cruiser market. One of the classic styles of cruisers is the bobber, and the Bolt raises its handlebars and angles its fuel tank to give it a modern bobber styling. The 942cc air-cooled v-twin, while sounding massive, is very friendly with 65 HP and around 55 lbs-ft of torque, and a lot of that torque is delivered smoothly up to 3,000 RPM.
The biggest thing about the Bolt in terms of beginner friendliness is that despite its bobbed looks and aggressive engine note, it features mid-mount pegs for a much more relaxed standard riding position. It also moves the center of gravity to right under the rider’s butt, meaning handling is direct and communicative, and the beginner rider will feel what it means for a bike to “rotate around the rider” without needing to be on a sport bike to feel it.
2020 Kawasaki Vulcan S
The 2020 Kawasaki Vulcan S is the beginner bike for those looking for muscle cruiser looks, but don’t want to particularly have to deal with a muscle cruiser power. With the 649cc parallel twin found in both the Z650 and Ninja 650 sport bikes, the engine produces 54 HP and 46 lbs-ft of torque, moving a wet weight of almost dead on 500 lbs.
What makes the Vulcan S so beginner friendly is that if you buy it new, you can customize it with Kawasaki’s ergo-fit system to fit you. This guarantees the most comfortable riding position, and with a 28 inch seat height, that is important. The bike also features a really nice rear suspension setup that somehow absorbs every major bump, but lets your butt know what’s going on with the road beneath you.
2020 Harley-Davidson Street 750
The quintessential cruiser makers, Harley-Davidson bikes are generally not what one would call beginner-friendly. Most of their bikes have huge engines, massive torque, horsepower for days, and are heavier than the sun. That is what makes the 2020 Harley-Davidson Street 750 so different.
After realizing that they needed an entry-level bike, Harley-Davidson developed the Street model range, with the Street 750 as the beginner bike in the range. It is powered by a 753cc v-twin that is liquid-cooled, so it does not have the same bark as other H-D bikes, but you still get the unmistakable rumble. It produces 64 HP and 47 lbs-ft of torque, which is plenty to start learning with, and it weighs under 500 lbs, making it a middleweight.