2002 Yamaha Warrior vs 2002 Harley V-Rod

That’s all basic hot rod stuff, but the revelation among cruisers is the use of an aluminum frame. At just 38.5 pounds, the 2002 Yamaha Warrior’s frame is 23 pounds lighter than the Road Star’s steel chassis, while being 41% more rigid.

“As we were thinking to reduce weight, the suggestion of an aluminum frame came up almost as a joke at first,” said Tatsuya Watanabe, the bike’s project leader. “But after a few days of studying, members of the development team were convinced, 'Hey, this will really work.'”

Watanabe and team made several other changes to reduce weight, incorporating several components from Yammie’s YZF-R1 sportbike. An R1-based aluminum swingarm and 41mm inverted fork carry R1-looking cast aluminum wheels that shave a massive 25 pounds of unsprung weight compared to the standard Road Star’s wheels. All totaled, the Warrior at 655 pounds full of fuel is 88 pounds lighter than its older brother.

The weight reduction efforts on the Warrior, however comprehensive, still can’t match the 540cc-smaller 2002 Harley V-Rod’s wet weight of 620 lbs. The Warrior’s much larger engine parts, including a 45-lb. crankshaft, are to blame here.

Ride Me

Though both motorcycles' fuel-injection systems sort out cold starts without the need of a choke lever, the Warrior is easier to fire up. Why? Because it has the ignition and fork lock located where it should, in the triple-clamp area. H-D is a slave to its established conventions, putting the barrel-type ignition switch below and to the right side of the seat. Securing the fork requires the key to be inserted into a separate lock on the steering head.

Once ignited, the V-Rod sounds not unlike an Aprilia Mille at idle, as they both have a 60-degree vee between their cylinders. Grab the narrow handlebars, twist the go-grip, and the V-Rod revs unlike any Harley you’ve ever heard except maybe the recently-retired VR1000 Superbike racer that loaned its engine architecture.

Clutch actuation is a bit grabby, but all the controls function with a surprising amount of grace. Shifting is way light for a cruiser, and the engine response is smooth, with none of the abruptness that plagues many injected bikes during re-application of throttle.

The heavily-overdriven top gear of the Warrior that saps its power in roll-ons is a blessing for highway travel. The engine is turning just 3,500 rpm at 80 mph, and a rider’s butt gets gentle love taps from the coffee-can-sized pistons throbbing below. Speeds are most comfortable below 75 mph because of noticeable vibration above 3,000 rpm and the effects of the wind. The wide bars that make the bike a bit awkward in parking-lot maneuvers also open a rider’s arms to a shape approximating a parachute. Some testers liked the canted-forward riding position forced by the handlebars because it seems more sporting, while others thought it unbecoming of a cruiser. Alternative bars from Yamaha’s extensive accessory catalog (that also includes comfier seats, trick billet pieces, and stylish mirrors) can fix this shortcoming.

2002 Yamaha Warrior 

We didn’t try the bars, but in an effort to transform our test bike into a more versatile Road Warrior, we tried out a sporty looking mini-fairing from the catalog. Its small size and cool design doesn’t spoil the bike’s bad-boy image, and the $325, color-matched deflector greatly expands its riding envelope by allowing comfortable 80-mph cruising. Even at 90 mph the rider is fairly protected, and cruising speeds above 100 mph are tolerable if you’re courageous or stupid, take your pick. Can’t be more highly recommended (the fairing, not the speeding).

Though the Warrior’s suspension is significantly better than the V-Rod’s, large rounded bumps in the road do cause a rider’s butt to come off the seat under bump extension; a bit more rebound damping would help. Still, the lighter wheels make easier work for the limited suspension, something of importance because jolts are transferred through the spine thanks to the La-Z-Boy, feet-up riding position.

Fuel range, while not a big selling point of a performance cruiser, is a bit of a nuisance on both bikes. The Warrior’s slightly larger fuel capacity of 4.0 gallons can deliver a reasonable 150-mile range at the 38-mpg rate of consumption we averaged. The V-Rod, with its 3.7-gallon tank placed under the seat, averaged just 36 mpg in our throttle-happy hands. That works out to a cruising range of just 120 miles. You can almost watch the fuel gauge descend like you were driving a big-block V-8! V-Rod loyalists will point out that you’d want to pull in for a fuel stop at about 100 miles anyway, because of its less comfortable seat and riding position. An aggressive right wrist will have the low-fuel lights on both bikes blazing before the trip is 70 miles long.