2009 Big Dog Motorcycles Review - First Ride - Motorcycle.com

Alfonse Palaima
by Alfonse Palaima

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Established 1994. You might recognize that as Motorcycle.com's latest motto. We’re in good company as Big Dog Motorcycles (BDM) uses it as well. And while MO was just inventing itself in 1994, Sheldon Coleman was rolling out “Old Smokey,” his own custom chopper and kernel for a successful business. Fifteen years later, Big Dog Motorcycles is the world’s largest producer of custom motorcycles and has come to produce over 25,000 rolling pieces of art in the process.

Raising motorcycle benchmarks with each model year, this coming annum they’ll introduce a wider spectrum to their lineup with the addition of three new models for a total of seven models in their catalog - six of which are available today. The seventh is slated to roll onto the showroom floor January 2009.

From pro-street to classic choppers to touring, Big Dog Motorcycles will soon have an award-winning motorcycle for you – if they don’t already. Their high-style high-performance motorcycle niche comes from within their 150,000 square foot factory in Wichita Kansas. BDM is proud of their engineering and craftsmanship, from the least expensive model to the top-of-the-line Wolf model. BDM also plans to soon grow out of its 100 national dealers and into the Canadian market with sights on the world market later in 2009. A slow but steady growth process, thanks in part to BDM Founder Sheldon Coleman's leadership, is responsible for growing the brand worldwide.

At Big Dog’s model introduction, held in their new factory store in Costa Mesa California, we got our paws on as many bikes as we could in one day. We also had yet another run-in with Johnny Law, but we’ll save that story for the Christmas party. Not having been on a Big Dog in nearly 5 years I didn’t hop on the headlining 2009 model right away - opting instead to experience the 117ci street rods with a ride on the rigid and retro-styled Pitbull. I have to admit it, the carnival flake paint scheme and stellar shining chrome grabbed my attention first. Surprisingly, the relatively short wheelbase (the shortest at 73-inches) pro-street cruiser was more comfortable than I could have expected with dual-mountain bike shocks stuffed under the saddle and a standard 41mm sleeved traditional fork.

Looking into the hearts of the machinery, we see the new tri-cam 121 cubic-inch OHV 56 degree X-Wedge engine, available only on the new top-of-the-line Wolf. That’s nearly a 2000cc EFI slap in the saddle – and it’s fully polished of course! The remaining five bikes come equipped with the 117 cubic-inch engine, and two models are available with an optional closed-loop EFI system. All are mated to the six-speed BDM Balance Drive introduced in 2005, bringing the final drive to the right side of the bike for better balance, cornering and maintenance.

Board tracker style and dripping with candied green paint, the 2009 BDM Pitbull is a rigid yet friendly street rod.

After lunch at the biker friendly Cooks Corner, friend-of-MO Steve Bohn and I traded off a pair of bikes for the photo stops and remaining miles in our day. The too-cool-in-blue Wolf and Coyote models both shook our bones and filled our egos with admiring female onlookers along our ride.

As the “entry” level chopper and model replacement for the MY08 Mutt, the Coyote ain’t no joke. Upgrading the model and dropping the price a thousand bucks, the new Coyote swaps a spoked wheel for a billet one, includes modified shocks, an updated exhaust, a longer kickstand and softer seat. The Coyote comes with the same 117ci engine and 6-speed Baker tranny available on all the other Dogs in the kennel. Even the seat height is the same, yet it feels like a small bike when you compare it directly to the Wolf, which is 10-inches longer and one inch higher. The only thing small about the Coyote is the price, at the bottom of the spectrum at $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 fifteen years. At less than $24,000, the Coyote succeeds on all counts.”

Happier than a clam in a hot butter bath at the Chart House restaurant….

At the opposite end of the spectrum for Big Dog is the 2009 Wolf. Taking up $35,900 on your credit card statement, this shining masterpiece is a surprisingly well-balanced pro-street dream at over 9 feet long. Long and low, with a ground clearance of 3.8 inches, the Wolf packs the BDM exclusive S&S 121-inch X-Wedge engine. The 56-degree, tri-cam engine, with its 4.25 square bore & stroke, boasts a 21-percent reduction in vibration and 30-percent fewer parts. This makes for a stronger, quieter and smoother V-Twin for a killer overall package. “This is a particularly agile bike, even by Big Dog Motorcycles’ standards,” Hansen explained. “With the Wolf’s narrower tire and purposeful frame design, when you get behind the handlebars, it’s almost impossible to believe that you’re riding a bike that is over 9-feet long and tips the scales at over 800 lbs. It is unlike any other Big Dog out there.”

Surrounding the massive powerhouse is a new single downtube 45-degree raked frame and a shallower, more radical swing arm design meant to compliment the sleek long and low overall design.

Not yet available, but meant to expand the touring capabilities of the Wolf, are detachable hard saddlebags which you can see in the CAD drawings in the gallery. Of the three bikes I’d ridden that day, the saddle of the Wolf had been the hardest on the tailbone. You might be interested in the accessory saddles right from the get-go.

The soon-to-be-released 2009 BDM Bulldog will be the factory’s first full-time touring motorcycle complete with a rubber-mount engine, fairing, hard bags, driver floorboards, and passenger seat and foot pegs.

Also returning for 2009 are the top-selling K-9 and Mastiff chops, both available as either a carbed or EFI version and the fattest tire bike, the Ridgeback. The 2009 Ridgeback sports a short 17-inch rear wheel with Big Dog's widest available tire, a big fat 330. That's a 1-foot wide rear tire trailing a hidden shock suspension to provide a beefy chopper style.

In the end, we only had time to check out the ProStreet lineup but we’ll get back in the saddle later this year and bring you a report on the newest tourer when Big Dog gets the Bulldog ready for the market in the spring of 2009.

The 2009 Bulldog will bring back a rubber mounted engine after a nine year hiatus – packing the 117ci six-speed engine with BDM Balance drive. It will be BDM’s full-time touring bagger with paramount design and comfort. From an iPod/satellite radio-ready dash, minimal gauge fairing and lockable hard luggage large enough for a half-sized helmet, the Bulldog is meant to go the distance. Completing the package with floorboards, chin fairing, a 5-gallon gas tank, smooth and controllable 250mm rear tire and a passenger-ready design with a price estimated at $37,900.

ProStreet Coyote $23,900
Mastiff $27,900
Pitbull $26,900
Wolf $35,900

Ridgeback $27,500
K-9 $28,900

Touring Bulldog $37,900 (estimated)

For those sugar-momma’s out there, hint hint. Christmas is just around the corner!

To make your Big Dog more eye-catching, or blinding in the noonday sun, BD offers a chrome upgrade package for $2,000 that comes standard on the ’09 Wolf. Also standard on the Wolf, an option for the other models, is the electronic fuel injection for another $2,000. California buyers will need to add yet another package for emissions: $750 for EFI or $1000 for the carburetion kit.

Big Dog also offers more than twenty color packages that range form $400 to $550 to take your dream bike further into fantasy land.

In The Company DNA

The family enterprise that created the Coleman lantern began with a pressurized-gas personal lantern, moving into the electric age when the world changed around the market. Now-a-days, Coleman lanterns burn more than one fuel in order to keep up with the ever-changing market. Bobbing and weaving with the public demand is one trait Sheldon Coleman has carried from his childhood into building this modern day luxury item. Just as sleeping out of the home was an unusual-come-commonplace occurrence over the second half of the last decade, today’s dispensable cash is spent on what has grown up within a tighter arc of publicly accepted (and now publicly wanted) chopper motorcycles.

Diversity helped Sheldon Coleman’s father save the family business through the first national depression by creating and changing his product portfolio and catalog to reach out to world markets. The founder and CEO of Big Dog Motorcycles, Sheldon Coleman, carries out the same diversification lesson and continues to successfully operate the world’s first and largest production chopper outfit in today’s tumultuous world market.

Alfonse Palaima
Alfonse Palaima

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