YAMAHA ROAD STAR WARRIOR

Yamaha Road Star Warrior, $11,999
(800) 962-7926 or www.yamaha-motor.com
Perhaps the best indication of the Warrior's intentions comes from its massive 200/50ZR17 rear tire, which is meaty enough to send most car treads scurrying back to their rubber tree. Of course, any manufacturer can hang a fat tire on a bike that's otherwise lean in performance; fortunately, Yamaha stuffed the Warrior with a 1,670cc V-twin engine that pumps out a healthy 70 horsepower. That might not sound terribly impressive, but horsepower is only one trick up Yamaha's exhaust pipe. The other is this machine's ultralight and stiff all-aluminum frame, which helps the Warrior maintain its svelte 606-pound weight and handle twisty tarmac better than a bike this big has any right to. Even the brakes, which are derived from Yamaha's race-honed R1, are designed to bring sheer performance to a market segment that's long fancied fashion over function.

SUZUKI 40TH ANNIVERSARY VOLUSIA 800

Suzuki 40th Anniversary Volusia 800, $6,799
(714) 572-1490 or www.suzukicycles.com
With all the hype surrounding "power cruisers" like the trio we've talked about earlier, smaller bikes have been feeling about as welcome as a chaperone on a prom date. And that's too bad, especially when a motorcycle as fun as Suzuki's 805cc Volusia comes around. Sure, the Volusia's horsepower numbers, which hover in the low 40s, aren't exactly gonna make John Wayne cry for his mommy. But the bike's lean weight (526 pounds) and cradle-type steel frame lend a nimble, willing riding personality that more brutish machines simply can't emulate. The Volusia is by far the best bike on these pages for new riders, but unlike many "newbie" bikes, it has plenty to offer even the most experienced motorhead. Still not convinced? Check the price tag. At $6,799 ($200 more than the standard edition, which lacks the chrome-studded saddle, pinstriping, and white-faced speedo), the 40th Anniversary Volusia is about half the dough of the most popular power cruisers. Hmm … half the price, 90 percent of the performance. You do the math. AW