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A Japanese made cruiser, theÂ Yamaha Virago XV1100 was in production from 1986 to 2000. It has an air cooled, v-twin 1,063cc engine and a top speed of 117 mph (188 km/h).
It was unique in being one of the few cruiser-style motorcycles available with a shaft drive instead of a chain or belt final drive system, as well as a V-twin engine of that size. Its heavily chromed body styling was also distinctive. The XV1100 was an improvement on its previous models the 535, 700, 750 and the 920 all of which had flawed starter systems.
Before the first Virago hit U.S. stores in 1981, Japanese motorcycle companies had followed an unspoken agreement that the big V-twin niche was reserved for America's own manufacturer. Yamaha responded by making the Virago a different sort of machine, one that nicked rather than blew away the Harley Davidson. It was an immediate success. But once Yamaha's toe was in the door, there was no closing it. Other Japanese factories started flowing into America's garages with their own V-twin customs. By 1984, Yamaha marketing experts couldn't help noticing the success of Honda's Magna and Shadow 750s-far closer Harley clones than the Virago. Buyers responded to the additional flash, and to the more traditional Yankee look.
With more competition from other Japanese companies, Yamaha released the 1,063 cc engine of the XV1100 at a starting price of $5,500 in 1986. The Virago XV1100 is the lightest and quickest steering of its big-twin competitors. At 537 pounds wet, it's also the shortest, with a wheelbase of 60 inches in a class where the norm is 4 or 5 inches more. The smallness of the bike once cramped taller riders, but the next model year's revisions included a handlebar bend that moved hand position forward 1.6 inches and upward 1.3, and foot pegs were pushed almost 2 inches forward.
While Yamaha may have reacted to complaints about the cramped riding position, it had a problem with its rear shock absorbers. The springs are stiff for riders under 150 pounds. The shocks are adjustable for dampening, but riders found it difficult to tell if twisting the collars really has any effect other than to satisfy the rider's need to tinker. The result caused Virago's rear end to spend a lot of time in the air over rough roads with speed.
Though the market share for Japanese customs had dwindled in the late 80's, the demand showed no sign of vanishing and neither did the Virago, as it was a popular sell all the way to 2000.