I must be getting older. It wasn’t that long ago I remember telling myself that cruisers weren’t my thing. Heavy and slow with limited cornering clearance, 20-something me really didn’t get the appeal. “If I wanted to go slowly,” I would say to myself, “then I’d just drive my truck.” And for the record, yes, I do drive my truck like a grandma. Mainly because gas is expensive around these parts, but also because I’ve learned to mentally compartmentalize my different modes of transportation. Two wheels means I’m free to be a little aggressive and wick it up a little (within reason, of course), four wheels means I’m either driving my truck or my wife’s Acura. And while the latter can be fun when the revs climb, my better half isn’t exactly impressed when I show her when the V-TEC kicks in, yo!
Now that I’ve entered my fourth decade of existence, my stance isn’t quite the same as it used to be. During our recent photo shoot with the Kawasaki Vulcan 900 LT and Star V Star 950 Tourer, John Burns and I were the main riders, but photographer extraordinaire Evans Brasfield was also on hand to snap pics, riding the Suzuki Bandit 1250 S and swapping bikes with us on occasion. A highly underrated motorcycle in my opinion, the Bandito is a great everyday commuter bike. But when I found myself hopping off the Vulcan and onto the Bandit, a strange thing happened… I wanted back on the Kawi!
No dig against the Bandit, but I was really enjoying my time with the (mostly) analog Vulcan. I think it comes down to a couple things. First, the simplicity. No computers are interpreting the amount my wrist is twisting, or how much braking power I’m trying to summon. With less than 50 horses and over 660 pounds, the algorithm for power and brakes is simple: give me all of it!
Second, the ergos – the Vulcan simply “fits” me, which isn’t something I can say about most cruisers, big or small, including the Star we had alongside it. I loved the huge windscreen, especially as we were riding on a chilly day, the ride was comfy, and the V-Twin pulses were pleasing to my ears. And in the odd event there was someone traveling even slower than I was, twisting the throttle was met with linear acceleration, not neck-snapping power.
You know, the more I think about it, the more I realize the Vulcan is a lot like the two-wheeled version of my 10-year-old Toyota Tundra; wholly competent if not a little underwhelming. The Tundra is a little smaller than its competition, it isn’t the fastest, nor does it have the biggest payload, but I didn’t buy it because of its spec sheet. I bought it because it fits me and it fits my lifestyle. And it has a V-8 engine. I love V-8 engines…
As a whole, it’s safe to say cruisers are the slice of the motorcycling pie I least look forward to riding, but maybe that’s because I haven’t taken a moment to enjoy what cruisers have to offer. I’ve always liked the torquey nature of V-Twin engines, but cruiser dimensions have rarely been comfortable to me. When decked out with the right amenities and favorable proportions, cruiserdom is no longer about enjoying the virtues of V-Twin engines, but really enjoying the experience as well. There’s a certain calmness about riding a notch slower than normal and soaking up the sights, sounds, and smells the open road has to offer. And there’s no denying that riding a cruiser still beats being stuck in traffic in a car.
That’s one of the little surprises I like about this job. I’ve spent time aboard a variety of bikes, but every now and again a motorcycle will come into my hands that I expected little from, and then it comes around and surprises the hell out of me. Sure there are faster, lighter, and all-around better motorcycles, and no, I don’t actually want to own this Vulcan, but could this be a sign I’m becoming more, gulp, mature?
Quick! I think it’s time to rocket a literbike around a trackday to get me back to my senses!