Yamaha XVS1300 Road Test

Author: Bike Social Reporter Posted: 17 Apr 2014

Yamaha's 2014 cruiser, doing what it does best; cruising.

Due to their general phobia of corners and love of straight lines, the cruiser market over in America is simply huge. Around 80% of all bikes sold are cruisers, and of that a massive majority carry the Harley-Davidson branding. However a few brave souls do stray away from the old ‘bar and shield’, which is why each Japanese manufacturer has a fairly substantial cruiser line up. It’s all about figures. A small slice of a big (apple) pie is worth having in the long run. Which is where the Yamaha XVS1300 Custom comes in.

Although it is called Stryker in America and not XVS1300 Custom, this Yamaha chopper has proved a resounding success. So much so in fact that Yamaha Europe, who weren’t initially planning on importing the bike, have decided to give it a go over here. So what makes the Custom so special?

For a start there is the look. Unlike the more traditional chrome-led styling, the XVS keeps Yamaha’s current ‘dark side of Japan’ theme with matt black exhausts, a black engine and fairly minimal chrome. The stretched out forks and 21-inch front wheel contrast nicely with the chunky 210-section rear while the water-cooled V-twin has all its various pipes and radiators hidden neatly away. Overall the XVS looks good in a thoroughly modern cruiser way. But it feels even better to ride.

Hardly a Marquez-style 60 degree lean angle

Cruisers aren’t really about performance, they are far more about looking and feeling good and the XVS ticks both boxes on this score. The riding position puts you very much ‘in’ the bike and the high bars with their uncluttered look are set perfectly for relaxed cruising. And the motor is equally suited to this laid-back life style.

On the go the V-twin engine has bags of character without being irritating. The gearbox is pleasingly clunky and although each change can be heard from the road side, that’s no bad thing on a cruiser as it feels right on a bike of this style.

Although super smooth and refined at a constant throttle thanks to twin balancer shafts, open the V-twin up and the two huge pistons cause a satisfying pulse and shake as the bike accelerates. It’s not a vibration, it’s the feeling of two pistons blatting up and down the cylinders and is just what I want to feel on a cruiser. I like the work Yamaha have done with the XVS’s engine in creating a spirited and characterful V-twin that has the usual refinements such as good fuel economy and sorted fuel injection, yet still thumps along like a proper cruiser should. But it could have done with a bit more ground clearance…

Twin exhausts = growly

Where Harley models tend to suffer from fairly poor handling, the Yamaha is actually pretty good in the bends and as a result the dire ground clearance is quickly highlighted. Even the smallest of bends results in a lot of scraping and although I know you aren’t meant to rush a cruiser, it was a bit annoying as each scrape equals a few quid of missing metal… Personally, and I know it’s a cruiser styling thing, I’d rather have a more cluttered front wheel with twin discs rather than the slightly poor braking performance that the single front disc the XVS comes with provides. Although the rear brake backs it up well enough, I’d like a touch more stopping power at my finger tips.

The red XVS stopped off for a burger

While some riders would shudder at the thought of a Japanese cruiser, personally I’m warming to them. I’ve got nothing against Harleys, but I quite like the mean and moody Japanese cruiser look and also their feeling of refinement when compared to the American machines. With a price tag a few quid shy of the Sportster 1200, the Yamaha XVS1300 Custom is a genuine alternative to the Harley for those wanting something laid back and stylish. Personally I reckon it’s a bit of a shame that despite creating such a cool machine, Yamaha have to bend to the market’s perceptions by hiding most of their branding and pretending it isn’t made in Japan, which is why it is called a Stryker in America. But I suppose that’s fashion for you…

+ points: Looks, feel, handling

-  points: Brakes, lack of ground clearance

2014 Yamaha XVS1300 Custom


1304cc sohc V-twin, 4v 


71bhp@ 5,500rpm


76lbft@ 3,000rpm

Top speed:

115mph (est)


293kg (wet)


56mpg (est)




XVS - a close up look