Yamaha Unleashes its Warrior

Heading into the shootout, the Yamaha Warrior was definitely a front runner for the performance cruiser crown. Almost everybody in our test crew had ridden Yamaha’s muscle cruiser prior to the test and was impressed with its overall performance. It’s quick, agile, and looks tougher than leather, especially in the blacked-out Midnight Edition we tested.

While the other bikes in the shootout have certain characteristics that are very performance-cruiserish, the Warrior was seemingly built to define the category. It’s clearly a cruiser with a bad attitude, but there’s much more to like about the Warrior than just the costume.

Nestled in a sick aluminum double-cradle frame (the only non-steel frame in the bunch) is an air-cooled, 102-cubic-inch, 48-degree V-Twin. Its twin-plug-per-cylinder design has a bore and stroke of 97mm x 113mm and a compression ratio of 8.3:1. The air/fuel mixture is fed to the cylinders via a twin-bore electronic fuel injection system with throttle position sensor. Interestingly, the potent Twin is an amalgamation of new technology and classic V-Twin engine theories, as evidenced by its old-fashioned air-cooling and pushrod valve actuation.

The Warrior doesn’t stand out because of its flashy nature, but because it looks so sinister. It’s so black and the engine is stuffed into the chassis so tightly, light seems to be drawn into this gravitational black hole.

Swing a leg over the Warrior and the most noticeable attribute is the second-tallest saddle of the quintet, rising 28.1 inches off the ground. The high seat feels un-cruiserish, but that’s what helps buy its extra cornering clearance, second only to the Street Rod. The position isn’t unnerving or awkward, just something to get used to, especially after swapping bikes all day. The reach to the bars requires that the rider lean forward a bit, which makes for a different yet decidedly cruiser-esque riding position. However, when speeds near triple digits, leaning forward in an aerodynamic position is much more comfortable than playing the role of human parachute.

Thumb the starter and the Warrior rumbles to life with the sweetest stock exhaust note of the bunch. Even though the gigantic emissions-compliant can was routinely slammed by some of our testers, it serves a purpose and that’s to send the Warrior into an acoustic frenzy when the speeds increase while letting the big-inch motor exhale easily.

Click the smooth five-speed transmission into first gear, actuate the easy-to-pull cable clutch lever, and the Warrior pulls away like a docile kitten. If you decide to hammer the throttle, the Warrior responds with a nasty disposition, pulling hard from the bottom of the powerband. It revs out quicker than the others in the competition, but this is a street fighting Twin and wasn’t designed to rev like an inline-Four.

The proof that Yamaha knows what it's doing is on the dyno, where the Warrior pumps 94.7 lb-ft. at 3,700 rpm, which is topped only by the potent VTX. It grunts out 74.4 hp at 4,600 rpm, which is nearly identical to the Hammer.

The Warrior was equally respectable during acceleration testing, sandwiched between the fastest machines (Street Rod and VTX) and the two slowest bikes (Mean Streak and Hammer). It took 4.04 seconds to get to 60 and 12.54 seconds to complete the quarter-mile at 106.6 mph.

On the road, the Warrior is a blade considering it is a cruiser. Its light, neutral handling really impresses in this group, and it’s second only to the Street Rod in terms of unraveling twisty roads. A rigid 41mm Kayaba inverted telescopic fork soaks up bumps and dips up front, but more importantly keeps the front end planted through sinuous sections of pavement while providing impressive feedback to the rider. Out back a single shock delivers outstanding performance and rounds out the Warrior’s streetbike-canted abilities.

“When attacking corners quickly, the chassis would object a bit with some flexing,” Becklin comments. “But the bike would get composed quickly and allow the rider to crank it over with a decent degree of confidence until hard parts started dragging.”

One of the true highlights of the Warrior is its R1-inspired brakes. A relative lightweight at 647 pounds, it’s brought to a stop with a set of 298mm discs up front and a single 282mm disc out back. Lever feel on the Warrior is good, but it could definitely use a beefier piece of hardware. Compared to the fat levers on the others, the Warrior’s were a bit on the wimpy side. However, once you get the lever pulled in the brakes function beautifully and earn a unanimous "best-of-the-bunch" vote from our testers.

As much as the Warrior impressed us, it wasn’t without its warts. The instrument cluster came under fire because it was difficult to see and didn’t seem to fit the Blade Runner feel of the bike, though it looks a lot sexier at night in its blue hue. An analog tach and speedo tilted at a 45-degree angle would go a long way toward enhancing the rider’s ability to see the information on the cluster.

Overall, the Warrior best defines the performance cruiser. It looks bad-ass, it hauls ass, and in the hands of the proper rider could chase down normal human sportbike riders through the canyons. It gave our test crew nearly everything we could want out of a performance cruiser.

From our tester’s notepads:

  • That sewer pipe muffler is a little extreme. God knows you’d have to swap it immediately after purchase.
  • Korf looked the best on this bike. He has that head down-and-forward with elbows up look that reminds me of something out of Road Warrior. Mel could have ridden this bike in that movie for sure.
  • Simplest to ride quickly.
  • This thing just works – no compromises other than its high seating position.