People will occasionally ask for our opinions. At times, we’ll produce our two cents even when no one has asked. Here, we offer indefensible points of view on a variety of topics. Please don’t hate us.
Q: I’m out of work because of COVID but still want to ride. Give me a basic, very traditional, no-frills cruiser with a light sticker.
A: Traction control, wheelie control, variable power modes, Bluetooth capability, Hill Start Assist—Yamaha’s V-Star 250 has none of the above. It’s carb-fed, carries classic spoke wheels, there are only two valves per cylinder and no liquid cooling to fuss with. The only thing “high-tech” about this lightweight V-Twin cruiser is the ability to overbore the cylinders if by some freak accident you somehow manage to blow up the motor. If you decide to customize your baby there’s a lot of steel construction to paint and mold. One of the few actual metric cruisers still on the market, the $5,299 sticker is manageable.
Q:I want a bike with really nice wheels.
A : Indian Larry famously once said he preferred spoked wheels because to him they felt “alive.” Wire wheels, billet wheels, carbon fibre, steel, powdercoat, paint, big, small—on the topic of wheels and what’s best, the debate continues to rage. Most will agree that decent wheels can immediately impact a motorcycle’s looks and performance—more so than practically any other single component. This is why riders willingly dig deep into their pockets for wheels they “really need.” Motives vary: power, performance, style, prestige. If you’re in the mood to spend large for performance and prestige, consider Roland Sands Tracker wheels for the Indian FTR 1200. $4,599/set. Yikes!
Q: I’m a gizmo guy. Impress me.
A: Drive chain maintenance was once considered an art form, practically its own Trade. Old-timers tell how they fussed over chains, soaked them with kerosene, then applied hot wax with the greatest of care. Then, there were others whose idea of maintenance was to squirt on a few drops of whatever if they actually happened to notice something squeaking. What maintenance slackers these days could use is BMW’s new M Endurance chain, which is said to be “maintenance free for life.” In its marketing material BMW doubles-down on its appeal to slackers by telling them, “Lubricating your chain was yesterday.” Apparently there’s a special “Industrial diamond coating” at work.
At long last, a new gizmo that’s actually useful.
Q: We can agree beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but this bike is flat-out gorgeous.
A: Factories these days tend to make motorcycles “functional” in their respective category and in that regard most are laser-focused. “Form” has largely taken a back seat. The exception of course is practically anything from Ducati or MV Agusta, bikes so ravishing people often lose their minds. Yet, there’s an “Other Italian” manufacturer that’s been in the business of building consistently elegant machines decade after decade. Consider the Vespa 946. Whaaaat?!? Yes, yes… we realize it’s “just a scooter,” but it’s high time Vespa gets props for what it does. See the 946’s lines? Behold the graceful curves and elegant arches. You can practically feel the lush paint. A thing of beauty!
Q: I really miss the days of the power cruiser wars. Who’s still fighting?
A: Back in 2006 when the Suzuki M109R was introduced, the heavyweight fight was still on with an entire field of contenders for the crown of Power Cruiser champ. There was the V-Rod, Mean Streak, VTX1800, Vulcan 2000, Triumph Rocket III, Victory Hammer S, and others. There was no replacement for displacement in those days and light-to-light performance was everything. All that mattered was how big, how fast? With Chevy 454-size pistons stuffed into its 108-cu.in. engine, the rough-and-ready M109R kicked out 120 hp at the wheel and 118 foot-pounds torque. A genuine battle-scarred survivor of the wars, it’s among the last of its breed.
Q: We can agree beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but this bike isn’t beautiful.
A: The internet is handy because it’s where we learn about “The Year’s Fattest Cat” or “The World’s Ugliest Dog”—so homely, it’s cute! And when we see the photos our hearts melt and we all say, “Awwwww.” The 2020 Triumph Rocket 3 R/GT is not like that. Let’s be honest. The original Rocket III of 2004 was never a looker: auto-engine lump, massive humped tank, and handlebars swept back like donkey ears. Whoa. For 2020, things got even stranger with a chopped tail section and pipes big as pie plates. Please put this thing out of our misery. It’s a spectacle to behold… not in a good way.
Q: Style isn’t everything. I want a “Sleeper” bike.
A: Ease into any of the so-called Maxi scooters and prepare to gloat when you catch the showoffs next to you with their midrange down. Before asking why there are two scooters featured on these pages, first give the Maxi scooter class a whirl. Armed with CV transmissions for “twist-and-go” operation, and with torquey mills in the 500cc and up range, scooters such as Suzuki’s Burgman Executive 650 seem targeted to the suit-and-tie crowd but it kicks out 54 horses. Work through the offerings in the category and you’ll soon find BMW’s 60-hp C650GT with 112-mph top end. Bet you’ll catch ‘em sleeping with this one.
Q: I’m not picky but I want a bike no one else will have where I show up, one that won’t cost a fortune and is really cool and also fairly easy to find.
A: Oh, that isn’t asking a lot! Rare, stylish, affordable and locatable. A bike you will never see going the other way and is extremely cool often rules out the other two criteria but we think we have something that will fit the bill—a not-so-little black dresser, the Moto Guzzi MGX-21. Moto Guzzi re-entered the cruiser market just in time to jump on the big wheel bagger train. There is no denying the MGX-21 is stylish: ominously black with carbon fibre and a blend of Italian and American styling. It’s too bad the powerful bagger didn’t light the world on fire but maybe that’s because no one knew where to find one.
Q: Will the Zero-Polaris partnership really not result in a electric bike?
A: The tinkering types have messed with electric motorcycle concepts for decades. Until recently, the results have been hideous; essentially just giant battery stacks where the engine should be. The early exception was Zero Motorcycles, which has made slick bikes since 2006, though what has been missing is a lights-out market hit. Expect that to change now that Polaris has entered the picture. Polaris is all about success stories with the creative energy and deep pockets to help Zero create the first true showroom hero in the e-motorcycle category. Is that the sound of an electric Zero-Indian Scout we hear somewhere in the future? It only makes sense.
Q: Frost heaves, potholes, cracked pavement, poorly maintained: the roads in my town are trash. Do I actually need to spend large on an ADV just to run errands!?
A: No, you don’t need a GoFundMe page to survive your Post Apocalyptic reality. Not when there are so many great choices in the small displacement (read: small price tag) dualsport category. The mighty KLR650 was once the gold standard for affordable dualsports but is no longer a new-bike option since being yanked from the lineup. However there is the 2020 Kawasaki KLX230! Tall suspension, light weight, plenty of fuel and power for in-town and country roads “adventure.” MSRP: $5,299. Nice!
Q: I have a need for self-expression, so don’t try to fit me into your box. Give me something different.
A: Dude, you can relax, we have just the thing for you. How about the Husqvarna Svartpilen 701. Was it inspired by a dirt bike, street bike, or a Swedish film from the 1950s? Whatever the answer may be, the Svartpilen lives life its own way and doesn’t even try to colour between the lines. Husqvarna, famous for its enduros, knew it wouldn’t work for a small manufacturer to build just another mid-displacement streetbike to fit within the norms of the class—so they designed what they wanted to design as if to say: “Here it is, make up your own mind.
Q: I just won some lottery bucks and wanna treat myself to something fine. Which got me wondering: “Factory custom.” Is that still a thing?
A: So now you want to blow the winnings on a bling ride?! Mister, we salute your style! The cruiser class is where the term Factory Custom mainly applies. Long gone though are the Valkyrie Runes of the world: the extravagant revisions of stock production models, loaded with pricey chrome and choice accessories. They live on now only in memories of the golden age of the cruiser era. Not all is lost. There’s still the hotdamn CVO bikes from Harley-Davidson. Harley’s annual Factory Customs come fully loaded. Good example: a lousy $53,799 drops you into the saddle of the 2020 CVO Limited touring bike. Pocket change for you Big Timer!
• Canadian Biker Issue #350