Torrance, California, June 26, 2002 — In cruisers, just as in stacks of money and the size of your house, bigger is always better. It’s an unfortunate place that non-behemoth-sized cruisers inhabit, then. There’s no respect given due to their comparative performance vacuum when placed alongside such monsters as Harley V-Rods and Honda VTXs. At least, that’s the way it has always been until now.
02volusia01tIf anybody was going to surprise us with a strong-running motor, the smart money was riding on Suzuki. They already make some of the most powerful engines in any given category, and their legacy with the Intruder line of cruisers is steeped in horsepower.
Suzuki introduced their Volusia 800 a year (or was it two?) ago, and aimed it at cruiser enthusiasts who wanted classic cruiser looks without the classic cruiser heft – a seemingly unshakable side-effect of cruiser manufacturing. And, of course, it had to have untraditional performance.
Technically speaking, the heart of the Volusia is an 805cc, eight-valve, liquid-cooled, 45° V-twin fed by a single 34mm carburetor. Suzuki claims to have installed a short-duration cam and, of course, the tuned dual exhaust system to help make even more power out of the relatively small motor. To keep vibes to an acceptable level, the crankshaft feature 45° offset crank pins to reduce engine vibration. And to keep things “green,” a pulsed-secondary air-injection system introduces air into the exhaust ports to ignite unburned hydrocarbons and reduce emissions for bike delivered to all markets.
02volusia04tFrom the rider’s seat, which is a comfortable bit in its own right, the Volusia’s vibes are nearly perfect for a cruiser. Hands just slightly rock and butt cheeks slightly bump up and down at idle. At speed on the road, there’s just that pleasant cruiser thrum that reminds a rider he’s on a motorcycle, not in a cage with a coffee cup holder, stereo, GPS and glovebox. Maybe it’s got to do with less mass bumping around inside the cases or the way the motor’s fastened to the hard chassis bit, but there’s a nice, connected feel there.
From the seat, just 27.6 inches from the ground, you see the fuel tank-mounted speedometer with LCD fuel gauge, clock and indicator lights. It’s your usual cruiser layout with nothing fancy and no terrible eye-sores to loose sleep over. The handlebars are wide and the foot controls are out front, though not stupidly so. Again, it’s standard take-no-chances cruiser fare pretty much across the board.
02volusia06tThe forks are set out at a 33° angle and the shock works through a link-type system to smooth the ride over the Volusia’s 65.2 inch wheelbase. Seven positions of preload adjustability are available out back, though there’s no concession made for either rebound or compression adjustments at either end.
The thing that so many of us like about the smaller-displacement cruisers is the way they rev, and this Suzuki will wail. There’s none of that rev-limiter cutting in seemingly right after you’ve released the clutch and get underway. The Volusia likes to run, and by the time you realize there’s no hard limiter to bump into (the Volusia uses a soft limiter) you’ve already grabbed another gear and are on your way.
02volusia05tIn fact, the motor feels quite a bit stronger than the dyno numbers suggest. Our Dynojet Model 250 measured out just 42 horsepower and 43.2 pound-feet of torque. And while we’re sure that’s correct, the bike feels quite a bit stronger. We were expecting to see more like 50-plus horsies and torquies. How else to explain the way Calvin was able to keep up with me and Lisa on Honda’s ST1300 during a recent flog on a beautiful afternoon? I know I wasn’t poking along since the ST was dragging some hard parts and Lisa was a bit tense, squeezing other not-so-rigid parts. But there was Calvin right behind us the whole time. Getting off of the bikes for a cold beverage at the Backwood’s Inn, Calvin was also enthused at the Volusia’s pace. He kept saying how well-connected the bike felt, and the rest of us have to agree. The chassis, with its cradle-type steel frame, is right up there with excellent big-bore bikes like Yamaha’s Warrior and Kawasaki’s Mean Streak. The biggest complaint with the bike is the too-soft suspension. It lets down the otherwise excellent chassis and impressive motor.
Keeping what appears to be an old-school bike current, a digital ignition system with 3-D timing maps and throttle position sensor make sure the fuel/air mixture gets lit off at the correct moment. The throttle response was excellent except for when the bike was cold. It takes a long time to get the motor up to temperature so you have to be patient before really enjoying the thing. But once warmed up, power spins from the five-speed transmission (featuring a high fifth gear ratio for relaxed highway cruising, Suzuki claims) through the shaft final-drive to the rear wheel smoothly every time the throttle is opened. Suzuki claims their shaft-drive system has “low torque reaction,” but I think all that means is that their shaft-drive system doesn’t suck. It is, in fact, pretty well-sorted out. Just like the rest of the bike.
02volusia02tFor the price of this Volusia, it’s more than just a bargain, it’s an absolute steal. It’s quite an impressive performer and something that Suzuki should be really proud of. It’s just a shame the bike will continue to go relatively unnoticed with all the current marketing hype that targets Power Cruisers.
This bike has us already preparing a few other bikes for a mid-size cruiser comparo. We’re anxious to see if there’s anything else out there that can rival this Volusia’s bang for the buck. So stay tuned, eh?
02volusiadynotThe motor is smooth, but too cold blooded. Takes a looong time to warm up, even with full choke. Bars felt wide, but wasn’t uncomfortable. I like the digital odometer and clock stuff. Brakes could be better, but modulated well. It has a solid transmission.
Suspension felt really soft, but that wasn’t surprising. Chassis feels solid (though it should considering it is made of metal.) The only thing not to like? The rather bland styling. It gets lost in the crowd.
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