Now that the chopper craze has come and gone, let’s take a look back at 2009 and one of the many players in the chopper game: Big Dog Motorcycles. Here, Fonzie takes the 2009 Big Dog Coyote for a spin, along with MO E-i-C Kevin Duke. Together, they boil down the main ingredients that spelled the end of the chopper fad: The bikes are great to look at and somewhat enjoyable in a straight line, but ultimately they are completely impractical motorcycles with mediocre performance at best. But since the Coyote is meant to be looked at, go to the photo gallery to see more pictures.
Owning a motorcycle says a lot of things about you. You might like speed or maybe cutting-edge technology, or perhaps you’re a poseur looking for friends or a fan of escapism and solitude, just to name a few. Simply wanting to own one says something different about you.
In Bill Zehme’s biography on Frank Sinatra, “The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin’,” it suggests the way you wear your hat speaks volumes to your character. In a biker’s mind, it’s in the way you walk, roll or glide to your destination that sets you apart – especially in the City of Angels. Wheels are king in Southern California and Big Dog Motorcycles has the pimpest catalog of production choppers on the block. For 2009, the Kansas-bred crew has even got a budget chopper in the catalog named the Coyote. And it howls.
There are times in your life when you think about doing something, and then there’s actually doing it. Often these two conditions don’t evolve or meet. The football star, baseball great or bad-ass mofo often outshines county clerk, bricklayer or telecom engineer as viable career paths. Who wouldn’t wanna shine? Big Dog is here to help break the mould with well-built, fully insurable, Blue Book-listed production choppers. Zed’s dead, baby…
Surrounded by life’s responsibilities – buried by invoices, emails and office demands – we often turn toward a way out, seeking alternative identifies to release built-up pressure. If MySpace and Facebook aren’t your cup of tea, perhaps a killer set of wheels is what you crave? Maybe you want both. We know Fonzie does. Have you seen his Tweets about the sound of the Supertrapp pipes? Tame enough to not alert the sound police, but still big and shiny; the 2-into-1 double-barrel pipes exit the wrinkle-black V-Twin with chrome-plated goodness.
Leading the way to a new you is a polished-billet spoked 21-inch front wheel, followed by a wider 18-inch billet rear wheel, creating a visual unity from tip to tail, typical of a pro-street chop. Overall the Coyote is 8.5 feet long, with a 6-inch backbone stretch. A 39-degree frame rake plus 3 more degrees in the tree, the trail pushes that Avon tire 4.74 inches towards the finishing line – as if you were racing. A bike like this is mean to cruise, meant for being seen.
A stretch like this is often thought to be unwieldy in the turns and parking lots. The Coyote is far from it. While the turning radius is bigger than your scooter, the ability to carve up the asphalt is a well-balanced ballet.
“The Coyote impresses when lifted off the swingarm-mounted sidestand, as it feels smaller and lighter than it appears,” said Motorcycle.com Editor in Chief Kevin Duke after his first spin.
With a balanced 700-pound stance (665 pounds dry), dodging last-minute potholes in the road ahead is a predictable breeze. As with cornering characteristics, there’s minimal fork flex and steering delay to speak of. I almost wish I had the time to take this girl up in the mountains. Alas, as cool as she and I are together, I can only take a few hours before I need a beer or a massage…or both.
Suspension on Big Dog’s softtail-framed chop is provided by a 41mm telescopic fork up front and a wired-for-aigbags A-style swingarm and rubber bumpers for rear suspension duties. The super-comfy saddle eats up the rest of the rugged road that slips past the minimalist rear suspension.
Swing your leg over the Coyote and settle into the 26-inch high saddle, or do you call that a low saddle? Depends on the market, I guess. Either way, you’re now eye level with the cagers out there. If they failed to hear you approaching before they pull out in front of you, giving them the stink-eye while you squeak by can be done on a level playing field. Provided you haven’t just gotten run over.
“Vibration dominates the Coyote’s riding experience,” Duke commented. “With no counterbalancer or rubber mounts, the 117-cubic-inch mill shakes its rider from idle to redline, rendering the mirrors useless. The vibes are so pervasive that they would shimmy my feet off the forward-mount pegs.”
Riders taller than our jockey-light EIC will have no problem fitting the bikes ergos and keeping their hands and feet comfortably perched on the rubber wrapped chrome grips and pegs.
Very few motorcycles provoke me to just ride anymore. When it’s your job to evaluate every mile you ride, the pleasure of riding fades. That is until you’ve got of these bad boys parked in your garage. It’s rare, but when I’ve got a chrome horse like this, I find myself cruising the boulevard whether or not I need or want to. One word of warning: The Sunset strip in Hollywood isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. It’s worse than a patch job on interstate 81 freeway in Pennsylvania. Ba-dump. Ba-dump. Ba-dump.
“The suspension feels a tad out of balance,” Duke whined, “as the front and rear ends don’t always work in harmony, likely due to the Kansas-wide 77.5-inch wheelbase.”
The bike made me do it! Rumbling back and forth across LA, east to west and back again, criss-crossing the city looking for that next adventure. BDM’s designers know how to put on a good show. Shining billet wheels are placed a huge 77.5 inches apart, and a fat back tire and long sexy fork tubes complete the look. Cruisers are cool, but choppers are the dreams born of long winters and American manpower. Every Big Dog motorcycle is hand-built deep in the heart of America: Wichita, Kansas.
The Coyote is energized by a 117c.i. S&S 45-degree V-Twin mated to a six-speed BDM Balance Drive. Introduced in 2005, the Balance Drive delivers a surprisingly sprightly ride. With the final drive now on the right side of bike, the word “balanced” can also be used to describe the ride. Baker trannies are stock on this and all the other Dogs in the kennel. A 1.125-inch belt final-drive coaxes the Avon 250mm rear wheel with untold power – sorry, but the lengthy Coyote wouldn’t fit on our vendor’s dyno.
Commanding attention from onlookers, the Coyote is your passkey to 4-way intersections. Having the right-of-way, or not, many envious cage drivers will let you cross first in order to eyeball your motorcycle. You did want recognition and freedom on easy street, didn’t you? Soon, you’ll be searching for restaurants and bars with big front windows, so as to be seen arriving. Believe me, it will cross your mind.
With just a flick of the bars, one-handed or two, avoiding holes in the road is easy, predictable and without that flexy-flier frame sway that reveals itself on lesser choppers. The Coyote has very impressive handling with a understandable center of gravity that lends itself to very smooth corner-to-corner transitioning. BDM’s designers again have created a pleasingly solid ride. A pullback-type handlebar guides this looker, but I often found my hands at the outer ends of the bars, as if the grip-span of 28 inches wasn’t enough.
“The puppy Dog works best in straight lines,” said Duke. “In [slow speed] corners, it takes some effort to overcome the large radius of the 250mm back tire, and the right-side pipes drag ridiculously early.” In the hands of a seasoned cruising rider, scraping isn’t a problem despite the seemingly low ground clearance of 4.5 inches. Controlling the pace in either situation is a pair of 4-piston Performance Machine calipers chomping down on one two-piece rotor per wheel.
When you need to know how fast you were going when the light bar sparks atop the police cruiser behind you, there is a very cool speedometer with integrated LED tachometer front and center. At night, the instrument glows with a cool blue light causing you to think – if you ride other motorcycles – that you’re running with the high beams turned on. The feeling fades in time.
Being a carbureted machine, you can expect the occasional cough and less-than-snappy throttle response when punching the throttle for roll-on acceleration If you haven’t primed the revs first, add one beat to your accident-avoidance reaction time. Some exhaust popping under decel indicates some additional tuning might be in order. Some riders enjoy that, however.
On average, you’ll cruise for 90-100 miles before you switch the petcock to the reserve tank position. We experienced about 30 mpg for those counting their pennies after plunking down 24 large for the Coyote.
Manly and tough, heavy and chrome, an hour’s troll through town is all it’ll take to gather some digits. Just park outside the club and babes flock to the Coyote like flies.
When I wasn’t stopped at red lights, blipping the throttle, I was cruising along at a casual pace, seeking no best lap time. As Ludacris raps, “Two Miles an Hour, so everybody sees you.” It’s hard to win a slow race in the City of Angels; everyone else is in a hurry to get where they’re going. But not this guy! The Coyote ain’t no commuter bike. It’s pure recreation and honest expression.
Big Dog’s top-of-the-line chop, the $35,900 Wolf, is 10 inches longer and an inch lower in the saddle. Yet the only thing small about the Coyote is its price, a reasonable $23,900.
“When we approached the Coyote, we had one goal,” explained Paul Hansen, BDM Marketing Director. “To build a motorcycle that would appeal to a broader range of riders, namely through a more attractive price, but not compromise the design, style, and performance that has been expected from Big Dog Motorcycles for 15 years. At less than $24,000, the Coyote succeeds on all counts.”
They say you can’t have everything, and who am I to argue? Live fast, die young. Eat right, stay fit, die anyway. How about a “light” 900-pound tourer? The Coyote might not be your choice for riding across state lines, but you sure could own your neighborhood in style with one.
As just one of seven models in BDM’s lineup – and one of three new models for 2009 – the Coyote can be your first production chop or the sweetest pro-street cruiser in your stable. Good luck keeping all that chrome and aluminum polished! That’s what kids are for, right?
New to Shift Racing’s catalog are a couple of sweet and simple items that appeal to the minimalist in me. These two items don’t necessarily sell together as a set, but they do work well together thanks to their basic black designs. No flashy brand names splashed across the chest, just subtle yet easy to read embroidered logos in the usual locations.
The Shift Havoc hybrid pants are super comfortable to wear and are constructed of 1.0-1.2mm leather in the prime abrasion zones and a stretch fabric where flexibility is more important. It’s no longer a wonder why Pete and Kevin appear to wear these pants during every single street test we do. Feeling just slightly stiffer than a pair of 12-oz. Arborwear canvas pants, they wear just below my belly – oof, that was hard to type – and are adjustable with an elastic and Velcro “tunnel” strap crossing the back. A spot-on fit for the waist size ordered: a 36 is a 36.
Making the Havoc pants highly usable are three pockets. There is the typical pair of hand pockets, zippered for security, but the coup de grace is a third pocket placed midway down the left thigh. Not only highly accessible while seated on the bike, this location can help prevent “knuckle-puncture” from items you typically keep in your hand pocket while riding.
“I love this convenient pocket,” says Duke. “It’s the perfect place for a wallet, and its snap closure means it’s a simple flick to get out the credit card for another tank of gas. It also has a zipper for maximum security, but I’ve yet to zip it up and haven’t lost a thing yet.”
Shift Racing also includes a pair of removable CE-approved knee pads in the Havoc pants. Reflective piping along the full length of each leg is a nice visibility add-on for night riding, and the dark material blends with the black leather and nylon construction to remain nearly invisible in daylight.
The Havoc Pant retails for $199.95 and comes in waist sizes 32 to 38. Available in one cool color, black.
As a standard, short-collared, two-pocket basic black leather jacket, the Primer jacket is constructed of 1.2-1.4mm premium grain leather, has the usual CE-approved removable shoulder and elbow pads, foam back pad and a removable quilted vest liner. And I make it look good!
Lightly perforated leather panels behind the knee pit of the pants and beneath the arms of the jacket help air out the otherwise fully-enclosed products. For additional airflow, the jacket also includes a pair of seam-sealed zippered upper-arm vents.
Where the leather meets the saddle, there’s one more common-yet-useful goodie included in both these products – the adjoining zipper – helping to keep the pants on your body if you go sliding down the road. Nobody wants to be “pants’ed” by the asphalt.
The Primer jacket retails for $299.95 and comes in two simple color schemes; all black or a dashing black and white combo. The latter you’ve seen Pete wearing in a few MO tests, including the Triumph Thruxton review, and it makes him look good too. Truly an amazing jacket! Should we be blaming Shift for two-thirds of the MO staff being married?
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