It's significant that Hyosung's Aquila cruiser has more in common with the Harley-Davidson V-Rod and Yamaha Road Warrior than with "traditional" custom bikes, which seem to have been stuck in a time warp ever since Willie G Davidson styled the first Super Glide in 1970.
Korea's biggest motorcycle maker has its eye firmly on the future, learning from it own mistakes as well as those of other makes as it moves on to the world stage with a range of well-finished, midweight V-twins.
The Aquila shares its 647cc V-twin motor with the earlier Comet sport bike, slightly detuned in this application to deliver a claimed 52.4kW at 9000rpm, but with a muscular 61.6Nm of torque, peaking at 7500rpm and spread a cross a wide rev range.
It's difficult to quantify without a rev-counter, but the Korean Kruiser punches hard from about one-third throttle in any gear right through until the "soft" rev-limiter makes its presence felt somewhere north of 10 000rpm.
Give this thing a handful of revs and you'll get more than just a hard-edged blare from the big, flat air box under the wide fuel-tank. Despite its 210kg mass the Aquila will get up and go hard enough to upset an 883cc Harley Sportster, topping out close to 200km/h if you have the upper-body strength to hold "the pose" at that speed.
The clutch is light with a smooth, positive take-up, but the one on the test bike was showing signs of drag, making the gearshift action a little gritty.
Neutral was occasionally elusive and I soon got back into the old Ducati habit of finding neutral while the bike was still rolling.
To be fair, William Martin of Cumfy Motors pointed out this quirk when I collected the Aquila, demonstrating that it was confined to this example; in any case it could probably be adjusted out at the clutch pushrod - the problem is that this hugely popular demo model is in use all day, every day!
The shift action was much better at higher revs; seamless upshifts were no problem, thanks to the built-in cushioning action of the belt final drive.
The kicked-out 1665mm wheelbase, firm suspension and superb Bridgestone Battlax tyres combine to present reassuring stability with slowish but predictable handling - and road holding good enough to let even a moderate street rider touch down the hardware on both sides in spirited 'round-towning.
The front wheel is taken care of by a pair of upside-downies, adjustable for compression and rebound damping, that look like they straight off the Comet sportbike. Their action is firm and linear, with a little initial stiction that can cause a harsh ride on poor surfaces.
The extreme steering angle causes the front end to push rather than dive under hard braking and is probably the chassis' limiting factor - but thanks to the bike's sticky tyres you'll have to ride harder than most of us do on the street to find it.
Rear suspension is by dual hydraulic shocks adjustable for preload only, a little incongruous given the sophistication of the front end. Their travel is short and their action harsh, a shortcoming imposed by the low-slung chassis geometry and shared by all "custom" bikes no matter what their ancestry.
Braking is entrusted to the same low-tech TCTC twin-piston floating callipers that disappointed us on the Comet; to my surprise they work a lot better on the Aquila despite its extra weight, giving decent power with enough feedback to read what's going on at the rather remote front end - this is a very long bike.
Low-slung and rakish
Styling is pure Kalifornia Kitch, low-slung and rakish with lots of long smooth curves and enough chrome to upset the economy of a small country; the V-Rod influence shows in the large-diameter steel tube frame and curved instrument binnacle.
The binnacle houses the clearest LED digital display I've seen, neatly laid out with bar graphs for fuel level and engine temperature, the usual warning icons and numerical readouts for speed, time, distance and two trip meters.
The display is difficult to read in direct sunlight, as are all such readouts, but is otherwise superb of its type.
I know digital is more accurate, lighter and much cheaper than analogue instrumentation and that it's the way of the future; I just hope other makers take a leaf out of Hyosung's book on this one, using light emitting diodes rather than liquid-crystal displays.
Dark metallic blue
In the Aquila Hyosung has built a "power cruiser" with a punchy motor that shows its sports heritage every time you crack the throttle, in a surprisingly wieldy chassis.
The quality of the paintwork - which isn't black, by the way, it's a very dark metallic blue - is a big step above previous efforts from this company, as is the chroming. Just as well, actually, seeing how much there is of it.
All of which sells for R52 995 - which will have the established players twitching.
But don't look at this bike because of its price tag; check it out because it has a style all its own, and most of all, because it's fun to ride - and coming from a dedicated sportbike rider, that says a lot.
- Test bike from Cumfy Motors, Cape Town.