Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Betty's Cruiser Quest

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.


lemmiwinks said...

Wow! I'll be watching this space with interest Sue. Have you sat on a Yamaha V Star 650? I've had an excellent run with Yamaha's in the past and the 650 should be a reasonable tradeoff.

G-S said...

883... you know you want to :)

Sue said...

That was the first one I sat on - oops, second - I tried a Triumph Rocket first, just because it was there - bwahahahaha! What a laugh THAT was! It felt more solid than my house! I liked the size/height/feel of the XVS650, apart from the feet-forward thing. Then my mechanic told me about problems they have with their shaft drive (a spline thingy), and how slow they are, which put me off a bit. Will revisit though, and test ride when I'm able...(May as well try out everything I can). My current front-runner's a Harley Sportster 883 Superlow - it has central pegs!

Sue said...

G-S - yeah, you know, I'm having a huge laugh at myself, thinking about me on a Harley. Could be great fun... If I have to have a cruiser, I may as well 'go the whole hog', if you'll pardon the terrible pun :-)

Anonymous said...

Sue, have you tried something from the Triumph range such as the Speedmaster? Not a lot of chrome, footpegs, sit up straight riding position, plenty of torque? Sounds nicer than a Harley IMHO too.

Geoff James said...


You'll need to take a cruiser for a decent haul to truly assess comfort and the performance trade-off. Don't forget to look with both your head and your heart.

I think andrewm makes a valid point too. Fellow blogger Sonja is currently looking at a Bonneville. The Street Triple is a serious consideration too. Very light, lots of torque and an ergonomically superb riding position. Leaves my old Blackbird for dead in the comfort stakes.

Anonymous said...

@Geoff James: the Striple has a head forward feet back riding position, putting all of her weight on the pubic bone, which the doctor said was a no-no. Also it has a 800mm high seat, which is a bit tall for Sue, I think.

Mind you, your point about taking the machine for a decent haul is spot on - the feet forward spine straight position most cruisers make you adopt puts all your weight on your coccyx, which becomes tiresome after about 150k no matter how good the seat.

Geoff James said...

I'm 5'8" in old money and the load is taken more rearward through the ischial bones on my Triple, even if I don't have female anatomy!

The Triple seat height is almost identical to the SV 650. The narrow rider part of the seat doesn't splay the legs out, allowing me to get my feet dead flat with a slight knee bend.

In addition to extensive testing and finding a bike which meets "fitness for purpose" specifications, I hope the final decision is based as much on the heart as the head!



Sue said...

Disastrous day :-( Well, not disastrous as much as disappointing. It's official - my bones are glued, but the glue's not set. i.e., mended but not hardened. That's the good bit. Sat on a Triumph America - seemed way too big and imposing. Tried a Bonnie - a little teeny bit high, but nice ride position. The pegs are in a terrible spot, though, right where I want to put my feet down. Trying to paddle-walk it would be night on impossible. Back to the Harley dealer I went, to test ride the 883 Superlow - and I was paralysed with fear - couldn't do it! I was so embarrassed. Must give myself a good talking to when I've finished sooking :-(

G-S said...

Sue, which Bonnie did you sit on? The one with the 17 inch front mag wheel has a lower seat than the one with the larger spoked front wheel.

Sue said...

@G-S: both of them! The one with the spoked wheel was way too tall. The one with the mag was tallish, but it was the position of the pegs that made it untenable, ratgher than the seat height. :-( Damned shame, coz I liked the feel of it!

Anonymous said...

@Geoff: After examining several photos of people riding a Striple, I conclude that notwithstanding what you say, the riding position is head forward, feet back. Here is a picture of a 5'8" woman riding a Striple in traffic:

@Sue: one of the first bikes I rode after a long period of 4 wheels was a Honda ST1300. I was terrified - it was enormous and weighed 350kg or more. The minute I got rolling all my fears vanished. You might experience something similar.