2009 Dirico Motorcycles Review

Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler behind new custom cruisers


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Motorcycles and rock 'n' roll have been linked together since the 1950s, and this connection is vividly made with the introduction of Dirico Motorcycles.

Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler lends his star power to the Dirico project, boasting a love of motorcycling that he says creates a sense of freedom he can’t find elsewhere.

Dirico Motorcycles is a collaboration between Tyler, his neighbor Mark Dirico, and his cousin Stephen Talarico.

“The talent and brains behind this is Mark Dirico,” says Talarico plainly. The man whose name is on the tank has an engineering background and specializes in machine design, a field in which he holds more than 20 patents. One of his other companies has the capacity to produce 4 million boxes a day!

Talarico’s role is in providing marketing savvy as well as the facilities to build the bikes out of his impressive Manchester Harley-Davidson dealership in New Hampshire. Three full-time builders work out of the shop, and the company says it takes about 10 days to build a bike from start to finish.

As for Tyler’s contributions, the rocker says it’s mostly in “tweaks and details,” adding, “It’s an ongoing process with Mark.”

It was back in September 2007 when the company first announced its debut under the Red Wing Motorcycles brand, a reference to Aerosmith’s winged logo. But Honda didn’t take kindly to another motorcycle company having ties to the red-wing theme that is part of its trademark. “It was a fiasco,” Talarico comments. “Honda came after us and they were relentless.”

And so the company’s name became the less imaginative Dirico Motorcycles (I personally think “Aerocycles” might’ve been more provocative…), launched at a time when boutique chopper brands aren’t really in step with a tanking economy.

“The V-Twin market is really constricting right now, and we’re carving out a little niche” says Talarico. “We’re not giving up.”

“We’re trying to have fun with the products we’re doing,” Tyler interjects.

To get the word out, Dirico brought out a group of motojournalists to sample its three-model lineup around the lovely New England area surrounding Boston. Prior to our ride day, I asked Talarico what makes Dirico’s bikes different from other limited-production cruisers, and he responded with a cowboy boot analogy: “Some are uncomfortable, but a Lucchese boot feels like slippers.”

To maximize reliability and meet emissions requirements, Dirico uses off-the-shelf Harley-Davidson engines, both standard lumps and also Screamin’ Eagle versions. They are said to be 49-state emissions-legal if the muffler baffles are installed, which they weren’t. Ease of servicing is also ensured by the fitment of H-D switchgear, gauges and various other bits. The frames, however, are proprietary pieces drawn up by Mark Dirico and built by Rolling Thunder in Canada.

Custom options are virtually unlimited, and nowhere else can you get a Steven Tyler-autographed electric guitar in the same shade as your bike (for an extra $250). Signed fenders are free if you want ’em. Each bike comes standard with a 2-year unlimited-miles warranty.

Flyer

The retro-themed Flyer is perhaps the most appealing bike in Dirico’s lineup, offering cool, throwback styling with company’s lowest price point. Now, $31,900 ain’t chump change, but it’s not outrageous in the custom bike world.

The Flyer is defined by three elements: the springer front end, large vintage-style steel fenders, and the spoked wheels with color-matched rims. It’s a tidy package with 61 inches between its axles, and that old-school springer fork is raked at a fairly modest 28 degrees. Together with reasonably sized Metzeler rubber (130/90-16, 150/80-16) and a 660-lb claimed dry weight, the Flyer is imbued with a charming deftness unlike most contemporary choppers.

A 26-inch seat height combined with a beach cruiser handlebar and well-placed floorboards keep a rider mellow, only becoming ungainly during U-turns when the wide bar will test your reach. The H-D high-mount speedo/odo is easy to see, and the bike ably fits riders of various sizes.

Ride and handling qualities are quite good, and the springer front end appears to have benefited from Mark Dirico’s “playing with the springs,” as it offered decent compliance and control. A weak front brake (Harley again) is disappointing but not entirely unexpected from a bike of this genre.

The Harley-sourced seat on the bike I rode was mismatched for this chassis, as the seat back rubbed obnoxiously on my tailbone. It turns out that Dirico is instead choosing another H-D seat for its production versions, and a quick test-sit revealed that it immediately feels much more hospitable.

To keep the Flyer’s price in the low-$30K zone, Dirico uses a stock Twin-Cam 88B Harley motor for power. As you’d expect from the 1450cc Harley lump, it’s very well behaved and offers great throttle response, even if it won’t yank your arms out of their sockets. Still, it feels sprightly enough for its intended purposes, and its counterbalancer keep unwanted vibes at bay. However, I was less appreciative of the two-into-one Thunderheader that had its baffles removed from its flat-black muffler. To my ears, the popping on the overrun sounds like firecrackers going off inside a trash can, but your ears may disagree.

The Flyer – with the new seat – is an enjoyable place to watch the scenery go by as you rumble through. The production versions of the Flyer will have pan-style heads, a kickstarter and body-color frames. Though a list of options wasn’t available to peruse, there’s a veritable cornucopia of accessories for the Flyer, everything from chrome fork springs, fender lights and bolt-on windshields.

Speedster

Although built in the same vintage style as the Flyer, the Speedster is the hot-rod in Dirico’s lineup, as it boasts the 110-cubic-inch Screamin’ Eagle motor. It’s safe to assume that it has a much bigger kick than the TC88B in the Flyer, but assume is all I can do since another journo hogged the only one on our ride! It lists for a spendy $39,900.

Pro Street

There’s nothing vintage about this low, stretched-out chop, throwing out a 36-degree rake with a 71-inch wheelbase to create a stylish contemporary cruiser. A nice line extends from the headlight through the tank and over the 25.5-inch seat height. Dual frame downtubes bend inward in a stylish flourish, while the rear is punctuated by a fat chunk of 240mm Metzeler that rides on a Softail-style rear suspension.

The Pro Street is comprehensively slathered with deep chrome from the headlight housing and Marzocchi inverted fork to the wheels, motor and Samson Big Guns 3 exhaust. Braided cables add some more bling, while H-D switchgear and gauges don’t look out of place and function well. It even uses the H-D fuel gauge incorporated into the faux filler cap. Turn signals are nicely integrated into the mirrors and the brake light for a clean look.

The Pro Street isn’t the only one with a good stance, as the rider layout is accommodating for a bike of this ilk. The stock bar position puts a rider into a slight reach for the grips, creating a curved spine that is good at counteracting big bumps. I also got the chance to ride Tyler’s personal Pro Street,

and it was equipped with taller bar risers which also provided a comfortable position. Grips are chrome jobbies with rubber inserts that were more comfortable than expected, and I was happy to feel forward controls that weren’t much of a stretch for a 32-inch inseam. The only comfort caveat is a scooped Corbin seat that rubbed me and my lower back the wrong way.

Despite the 21-inch front wheel residing in the next zip code, the 680-lb (claimed, dry) Pro Street isn’t overly cantankerous in its slow-speed handling. Metzeler has done a fine job producing a wide rear tire (240/40-18) that doesn’t radically spoil a bike’s handling. Not that the BG3 exhaust system allows much lean angle in right-hand turns. Also earning demerits was the frame of one bike that suffered a cracking effect in the  powder-coating, but Dirico assures us this was the result of an improper finishing process that has since been rectified.

The Pro Street’s suspension works surprisingly well for a fat-tire bike, aided by the long wheelbase and a well-damped fork. But the massive weight of the rear wheel and tire makes it impossible for the rear to smoothly follow bumps in the road. Although the brakes are just standard Harley items, they offer decent power and feel though braided-steel lines.

Unlike the more docile Flyer, the Pro Street uses a 103 c.i. Screamin’ Eagle motor that produces bigger bangs which can be easily felt on the butt dyno. The 1690cc V-Twin feels vigorous when the throttle is pinned, yet it also reacts coolly when just puttering around thanks to H-D fuel injection.

A revelation was found when I experienced a Baker Drivetrain 6-speed transmission for the first time. It shifts with much more precision than the 5-speed Harley tranny in the Flyer, a ka-click rather than a ka-clunk, and is a pleasure to use. Harley, call Burt Baker!

The Pro Street is a nicely finished, bad-ass-attractive scoot that will appeal to anyone in the market for such a machine. But at a list price of $38,900, it’s hard to figure out why it costs $14K more than the similar-themed Big Dog Coyote we recently tested, even though that Dog is more of a chopper than the hunkered-down Dirico Pro Street.

And this high-end price tag is what will hurt Dirico the most in these trying times. The days of a quick re-fi to fund a chopper fascination are behind us.

“In some respects we may have missed the bus,” says Talarico, “but we don’t care. We never designed this business to make money. This is a passion for all three of us.”

That passion, and presumably some deep pockets, are hitting a certain market. Dirico has already put 47 of its bikes in the hands of well-to-do riders, and one of its current customers is the wife of Russia’s Minster of Fisheries, a six-foot-one model. A custom Boston Bruins theme bike is also in progress, and a distributor has been set up in Japan.

We’ll leave you with a statement from Dirico about the positioning of the company: “Designed and hand-built for seamless function, Dirico motorcycles are statements of craftsmanship, style, detail, and innovation, expressed through modern-age components yet assembled with old-world skill. Clearly not for everyone, Dirico motorcycles are designed to resonate with the more experienced rider who wants to be distinctive but not entirely different.”

The lingering question only you can answer is, how much is that (and a Steven Tyler autograph) worth to you?

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