For years now, the number-one selling motorcycle in the United States has been a bagger. Harley-Davidson’s Street Glide is a powerful, 1,750cc v-twin cruiser with a sleek, batwing-style fairing that protects its rider from the elements and roomy, hard shell saddlebags that provide plenty of luggage space. Thanks to its comfort, performance, passenger accommodations, and creature comforts like a windscreen, stereo, and GPS, it’s a great bike for most any purpose, whether you’re cruising the boardwalk, tooling around the mountains, or eating up interstate miles.
Still, standing out from the crowd is a big part of the reason we ride in the first place. So if you’re after bagger style and comfort and aren’t beholden to the church of Harley, there are a lot of baggers out there that are fully capable. One of these might be the right one for you.
Kawasaki’s Vulcan 1700 Vaquero ABS
Kawasaki’s 1700 Vaquero ABS is a good-looking V-twin bagger that offers most of the same creature comforts as the Street Glide: fairing, lockable hard saddlebags, a powerful engine, cruise control, and a stereo. It doesn’t, however, boast an infotainment system, so there’s no full-color touchscreen, no GPS, and no wireless Bluetooth connectivity. And bear in mind Kawi hasn’t announced its 2019 models yet, so we’re not certain the Vaq will even be part of the lineup going forward (or if a forthcoming model will get upgrades). Still, the 2018 rolls off the showroom floor for about $17,000 brand new, and if you can do without all the high-tech toys, that’s a pretty sweet deal on a powerful, full-size bagger.
Yamaha V Star 1300 Deluxe
Yamaha’s V Star 1300 Deluxe offers most of the same features in a V-twin that provides plenty of power—but thanks to its smaller engine weighs around 100 pounds less than a Street Glide or Vaquero. Despite the middleweight engine and lighter curb weight, the 1300 Deluxe carries about the same overall size dimensions as a Street Glide, so this shouldn’t be confused for an entry-level bagger. Indeed, it’s got floorboards, a stereo, roomy saddlebags, and a cush passenger seat. We tested this bike when it first came out and while we had our quibbles—mainly no cruise control or ABS—we found it a nice divergence from the typical bagger. The power was sufficient, the storage and wind protection were great, and the seat was comfortable. And that 100 pounds makes a big difference, especially toward the end of a long day’s ride. The best part? A sticker price of just $14,299.
Despite its spot on the Star website, though, Yamaha hasn’t put out a new 1300 Deluxe since 2017, so we’d bet that if you find this bagger at your local Yami dealer, he’d be open to negotiation.
Victory Cross Country and Magnum
Speaking of reasonable price points, don’t sleep on the baggers from Victory Motorcycles. Sure, Polaris made enemies of a huge swath of motorcyclists when it pulled the plug on its upstart American V-twin brand, but there’s no denying that its Cross Country and big-wheel Magnum baggers were fantastic machines, with great handling, strong motors, and a comfortable ride. And Polaris has committed to servicing, selling parts, and honoring warranties on Victory bikes through 2027. Is it worth the trouble to purchase a used one? We can’t answer that for you—but no doubt, there are some great bagger values sitting in dealerships all over America.
2019 Indian Chieftain
Now, if money’s not a consideration (lucky you), there are a few baggers around whose price point competes with the Street Glide’s. The newly redesigned 2019 Indian Chieftain shuns the company’s signature neo-retro styling for a sleeker, more modern countenance. It offers all the requisite bagger amenities, including an in-dash, touchscreen infotainment system, but raises the stakes with a stylish 19-inch front wheel and 100-watt audio system. Other features new to the 2019 Chieftain ($21,999) are three selectable ride modes and rear cylinder deactivation – aka “parade mode,” in which the rear cylinder shuts down to keep its rider cooler while sitting in traffic.
Moto Guzzi MGX-21
When Moto Guzzi’s MGX-21 was launched at Sturgis back in ’17 we loved everything about it—and as it hasn’t changed much (if it all) since then, we see no reason to change our minds now. It’s a visually stunning bike, with red component highlights and a swooping, voluptuous figure unlike any other bagger on the market. Noting its impeccable balance, our Morgan Gales called it the fastest bagger he’d ever ridden, saying it could “lean deeper into a turn, rev higher, weighs less, and has better brakes than any dresser on the market.” It wasn’t perfect—the stereo was weak at speed, and saddlebag access was wonky—but he felt the Guzzi bagger was an “amazing machine” nonetheless. We wouldn’t be surprised to see an upgraded version of the MGX-21 ($21,990) sooner than later.
Honda Gold Wing
Guzzi isn’t the only company redefining what a bagger can be. Consider the new Honda Gold Wing. Honda completely redesigned its indomitable touring behemoth for 2018 by ditching the top case, trimming nearly a foot off its girth, and shaving almost 100 pounds off its weight. It named the new bagger simply “Gold Wing.” (The Gold Wing Tour retains the top case, if you’re interested.) Now, anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of gunning the Wing’s powerful 1,833cc, liquid-cooled flat-six has only imagined how that marvelous mill could perform in a lighter, skinnier, less ponderous motorcycle, and Honda has delivered. For $23,800, you can have a bagger unlike most any other, replete with all the high-tech accoutrements—full-color display, cruise control, ABS, stereo, etc.—and an incredibly responsive powerband with crisp handling, excellent braking, and phenomenal suspension. And get this: for only $1,200 more—that’s $25K flat, a full $2,000 less than a new Street Glide Special—you can have it with DCT, Honda’s groundbreaking automatic transmission. That’s a bagger bargain.
Also propelled by a powerful, smooth, horizontally opposed six, the BMW K1600B isn’t fully automatic, but once down in first gear, simply roll off the throttle and BMW’s Shift Assist allows you to upshift all the way to sixth gear, no clutch required. It works great, particularly in slow-moving traffic. At $19,995, this bagger costs far less than you’d think a full-size Beemer would. However, there’s no in-dash display, no standard navigation, and the stereo is weedy. Which is fine; the Beemer Bee still offers cruise and traction control, Electronic Suspension Adjustment, an electric windshield, and a zillion other high-tech features. And of course the handling, performance (an astounding 160 hp), and fit and finish are what you expect from BMW—that is to say, excellent. Still, while foregoing a killer stereo and in-dash nav/comm system in an effort to keep the sticker price under $20K is admirable, this bagger is technologically underwhelming considering the quality of the competition—and the iconic roundel on the fairing. We’re guessing it’s only a matter of time until we see the K1600B with all the luxury bells and whistles you’d expect from a BMW.
So if you’re in the market for the top-selling style of motorcycle in America, there’s no need to end up looking like every other bagger out there. Harley-Davidsons are fantastic bikes, but they’re far from the only bagger in town.