Bikers are a clannish lot. If you ride a sportsbike, it’s the only sort of bike worth riding. Cruisers are for fat old men or outlaw bikie gangs, and don’t get me started on girly scooters! And then there’s the marque loyalty and stereotyping. BMWs are for old people and accountants, Harleys are for outlaws or weekend warrior accountants, Ducatis are for poseurs and speed freaks with too much money (but probably not accountants).
I’ve always ridden Jap bikes, mostly Suzukis of the sporty type. I’ve never wanted to ride anything else. And I'm just as prejudiced and clannish as the next sportsbike rider.
There was something a bit karmic, then, in my doctor’s suggestion that I get a cruiser. I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. You need to be sitting on your arse (that’s a medical term), and not your pubic bone, he said. The bottom line, then: cruiser or nothing, for the foreseeable future. It’s surprising how attractive the concept of a cruiser suddenly became.
And then I sat on some.
Japanese cruisers have taken the essence of the cruiser motorcycle and vamped it up to make it more muscular than its American inspiration, and that, I think, was a mistake. Even on Suzuki’s entry-level M50 (with chrome-painted plastic!) I felt like a pimple on a pumpkin. If motorcycles were horses, sportsbikes would be thoroughbreds and cruisers would be Clydesdales. (I suppose that would make scooters those little Shetland ponies you ride at school fetes. Ooh-er, slap my wrist, tee hee!)
My latest quest, then, is to find the perfect Betty-sized cruiser. After sitting on (but not test-riding – yet!) millions of the things, I have refined my wish-list.
It can’t be a 250cc jobbie. Tiny tank, no guts – and they feel like a postie bike (which is fine if you’re a postie). I want a bit more road-presence than that. And a decent-sized fuel tank.
It can’t have footboards – I find them uncomfortable. Let’s face it, I find that whole feet-forward thing weird anyway – and what I’ve noticed is that the bikes with footboards tend to be the biggest, most muscular cruisers, made for people with feet the size of New Zealand. Footpegs for me, thanks.
And while we’re on the subject of footpegs, I’d like them not too far forward. The long wheelbase of a cruiser and the shortness of me means that in order to sit with legs stretched forward to reach the pegs, and arms stretched out to reach the bars, I’m not going to cruise comfortably – I’m going to be bent like a paperclip.
No chrome! Okay okay, we're talking cruisers, and that's going too far. How about 'as little chrome as I can get away with'?
Is anybody else hearing the strains of The Impossible Dream right now?
My quest has taken me to just about every bike dealership in Canberra, whenever I could steal out of Marking Hell for an hour. What an adventure. Even being a pimple on a pumpkin is preferable to huddling over piles of exams. Sitting on a motorcycle, even one that doesn’t fit, puts a grin on my face like nothing else can.
Watch this space.