Monday, October 14, 2013

Help me, Obi-Wan Intarwebz. You're my only hope.

While Princess Leia didn't ride a bike, I do.  And since the V-Strom is out, I'm looking around for something different.  I need something bigger than my Honda Rebel 250 (the kids will do a Cage Match to see who gets it; #1 Son is bigger, but #2 Son has that JROTC bayonet training, so it'll be close).  I want something that I can cruise several hundred miles in a day, so that Uncle Jay and I can go to watch the freaks at Key West, or go shoot up a range at Dallas or something.

I'm looking at baggers now, because a bunch of y'all left something like 800 comments saying I should look at them (and thank you for that!).  Currently what I'm seeing is sort of like this:

Honda Shadow 750.

Yamaha VStar 650.

Harley Sporter 883.

Suzuki Intruder.

Kawasaki Vulcan.

There must be other options, but the V-Star was WAY too tall for a bike that heavy.  I'm looking for something that a six foot guy can be flat footed when he stops.  I expect weight is less important than height, but that's a guess.

I doubt that I'd ever go more than 500 miles in a day, and likely half that.  Roswell GA to Myrtle Beach is a hair under 400 miles; Roswell to JAX to meet up with Uncle Jay is a bit less.

So what do you say?  Comment away.


Rusty Miller said...

Honda Magna - unquestionably the best cruiser ever built. V-4 engine, cruiser ergos, and a capable cornering machine. What's not to like?

Anonymous said...

ST1300. Or, if you can live with the lower HP, an old 900 - 1100cc BMW boxer twin, especially if you can find one with a Vetter fairing and detachable Krauser or Craven bags.

I do know someone who's selling a low mileage, extremely well maintained newer 1100 BMW if that's the direction you choose.

ASM826 said...


JROTC does bayonet training?

Glen Filthie said...

Any of those will do just fine BP, find one that fits you and go for it. I am on a Suzuki C90T and prefer the V twin bagger because I have back problems. I only have two minor issues with your list:

- the Harley: they are not junkers as many like to suggest; they are as well made as the metric bikes...but they ARE grossly overpriced for what they are. Unless you buy into the romance of the Harley mystique I wouldn't bother with them for that reason alone.

- the boys above are right. At highway speeds, with a passenger and a full load of luggage, the 750's are just working too hard. They will do it but that bike won't last nearly as long as a bigger one will.

Try the bigger cruisers out too. You will be shocked at how much better they handle on the road than the V-Strom. Bikes in the 1000cc range will allow you to do a little highway work and will still be pleasant to handle in the city.

libertyman said...

How about a Moto Guzzi V7 Stone? I know it is not on your list, but I have students who rave about theirs.

Otto Gass said...

Agree the Magna is a great bike, but now 25-30 years out so there's LTS to consider.

No experience on the 883 so no comment.

Intruder and Vulcan such a wide range of sizes (125-2000cc) - hard to say. I gather you are looking at 750 class generally. I'd guess from your list you might like the Yamaha 650 best against the Kaw/Zuk equivalents.

Bought a 2005 Shadow Aero for wife to ride but with her skills undeveloped she retreated to passenger only. I loved the sculpture and good fuel economy. Used it for commuting for a while but a half hour in the saddle was enough. I'm 5'-10" and while the foot plant was easy it didn't get much lean before the scraping footrests, and the handlebars hit the knees before reaching max throw. I cried when I sold it but it would have taken $1K in mods to make it fit me better so let it go.

If the VStrom was your target as a do it all, well you might now consider how much is compromised. If you want to play in the dirt get a little 250 anything and have fun on the side, but for most roads let me press towards the bigger baggers. Yes you have to respect the weight and they don't do well off road. Just look at what kind of road you really plan to ride.

I'm partial to shafties and rode a 1982 GS850 for a few years before happening upon the Valkyrie. Wish I had two so I'd always have at least one to ride. Stock seat on the Valk is very comfortable for me although we use Corbins for two-up touring. Best mpg 41 but typically low 30s with normally enthusiastic riding. Yes it is big but with low CG very stable and happy on mountain twisties, loves the big slab, just fine in the city and not nearly as scary in the parking lot compared to the VStrom. Goldwing chassis without the tupperware so it still looks like a bike and not half a Volkswagen. And there's something to be said for passing power in any speedband as a safety element. Nice ones can still be had and they'll go a million miles.

For a second/alternate ride I'm now looking at the ST1300 though the stock bags are a bit small and changing them out would ruin the lines. An FJR1300 might be better most ways but the chain drive always stops me. The 750 class now seems tiny to me.

Anonymous said...

I'd also point you toward Beemers since it sounds like you're willing spend a bit to get a good, long distance and long term ride. They go forever, and parts are available forever. I can still order for my 35 year old airhead.

If you can snag a ride on somebody's boxer twin take it.

Daddy Hawk said...

My only experience with the options mentioned is the Harley. The Sporsters are not long range bikes in my opinion. They do not handle very well either. Unless you get an after market seat, your passenger will hate you. Having said that, older ones can be had at reasonable prices. I concur with the others suggesting a look at the bigger cruisers. There is nothing to be scared of in the liter class Or bigger range. Find the bike that fits you and handles best for you. That's what's important.

Eagle said...

Say what you will about Harleys, but modern (e.g. post-1984) Harleys are definitely built well, built to last, designed to be maintained by the owner... and Harley carries parts for them FOREVER. You can still get OEM parts for bikes made in the '80s from Harley directly. Show me a Japanese company that still sells parts for its bikes. I owned a Suzuki Intruder for 11 years... and, when the front brake caliper froze up, I couldn't get a replacement from Suzuki.

I admit I didn't check for aftermarket parts for the Suzuki. BUT, Suzuki stopped carrying parts for my bike. So the question is whether the mfr supports its bikes beyond 10 years. Either the mfr cares about what it builds after the sale is done and the bike is out the dealership door, or it doesn't. Harley... does. (I don't know for sure, but I would bet that BMW does as well.)

My current ride is a 2009 Heritage Softail, which Harley classifies as a "bagger" (it comes from the factory equipped with bags). No, it isn't a touring frame, but it IS a "bagger" and I have put 400-mile days on it quite comfortably.

After years of owning older Harleys in my youth (my earliest was a used Pan), and working my way through various other brands (mostly Japanese) in mid-years, I came back to Harley. And I'm really impressed at their current build quality. It's easily as good as the competition.

(I toured the York VA HD facility back in May 2013, and lost count of the number of QA tests conducted on the various parts of the bikes. Most of the factory uses automation with both machine and human inspection of each part, and humans to make sure that any flaws are corrected before a part - like a frame - goes to the next assembly stage. Impressive. And more impressive that Harley allows you to WATCH HOW THEY BUILD A BIKE. They must have confidence in their methods...)

BTW: at 900lbs, that VStrom is heavier than my Softail. Check the specs: you'll be surprised.

Eagle said...

Oh, and skip the Sporty. Even with aftermarket shocks, it just isn't a bike made for long-distance touring if you're more than 23 years old.

You want at least a Dyna. Look at the Switchback....

Atom Smasher said...

I still have my starter bike I bought in 2005 - a 2003 Yamaha VStar Classic, and although it's a reluctant starter, especially when it's cold, I think it's great street bike and limited cruiser and has everything I wanted as a starter.

I didn't believe my buddy or the salesguy when they said this thing that seemed so gigantic to me would start feeling small, and as of a couple of years ago, it really did. I've never gotten around to it but I will be trading up to a bigger model (probably sticking with the VStar line).

But for a starter bike, I sing high praises for the Vstar Classic 650.

The Old Man said...

I own a 2006 800 Vulcan Kaw Classic. I am a fat old man. This scoot works for me. Not a lot of horses, but will keep you out of trouble, as opposed to talking you into it. Been there, done that. Being a fat old man, it works for me. This is my 5th bike and second new scoot.
Dunno how it handles with 2-up: she quit riding with me at my H1B Kaw 500 phase.
Just a suggestion...

The Redactor said...

Addressing the shortcomings of the V-Strom, you should look at a Triumph Tiger 800. I think the stock height is about the same as the DL650, but the Tiger is MUCH narrower in the saddle, leading it to seem not quite so tall. The seat is adjustable for high/low. If you really want it shorter, the Tiger is much easier to lower than the V-Strom.

I'm 5'6" with about a 27" instep. I lowered my Tiger 800 by 20 mm with a pair of rear links. I still can't stand flat-footed, but I'm shorter than most and flat-footed is over-rated anyway.

Compared to my older BMW F650-GS, the Tiger is way more comfortable to ride and has a much smoother engine. It is an awesome all-arounder.

9vMojo said...

I have a 2008 Suzuki boulevard C90T (1500cc). Can ride all day. Ride to work as long as no rain. I'm 5'10" and can sit with both feet on the ground. I've had smaller cruisers that got uncomfortable after an hour. If I were in the market, I'd look at a used BMW. For playing off road, I have a '74 kaw F9! :) Don't be intimidated by 1000cc+ cruisers. Ride many and find one that fits. Good luck!

Six said...

The Sporty has a tiny tank and a rubber frame. I'd give it a pass.

The guys above have an excellent point. If you're really ready to upgrade widen your search a little and try out the liter bikes. If you go with a middle weight I really, really think you'll be looking again in a scant few years. Maybe sooner. The liter bike baggers aren't a lot heavier that the middies but their performance and comfort are light years ahead. You said it, it seems to be seat height as opposed to pure weight. If you can find something bigger you like and are comfortable on you may end up with a lifetime motorcycle. Look at brakes, seat height, tank capacity, MPG, pure performance numbers and accessory availability/cost. And remember, what feels unwieldy today will feel perfect tomorrow. Experience cures many motorcycle ills.

Anonymous said...

Get a VStar 1100. It was a buddy of mine's first street bike and he loves it. Great balance and smooth as glass, makes my softtail look and feel like crap. Anything less than 1000cc is for kids and you want the torque for long rides

Wolfman said...

I'm still riding my old 93 CB750, and it still has enough juice to get me in trouble, and plenty enough for two-up, and its an older bike, significantly detuned from the factory. The CB750 is gone, of course, even the Nighthawk model, but they are showing brand new CB1100s on their website- classic styling with modern gear, plus if you wanted to go really retro, you could bolt a Vetter on it. One I haven't ridden, but I'd love to try out, is Honda's Interceptor. I'm not seeing it on their lineup right now, though. You see a lot of cops riding them- which speaks volumes to me, as those guys spend ALL day on their bikes.

Unknown said...

My R1200 GS is factory lowered and I can get my feet flat - I'm 5'9' barely. It came with the low seat - which I had rebuilt by Rich's Custom Seats.

I don't think I'd go smaller than 1000 cc if you can swing it.

I'm going to sell the BMW, and I suspect I'll replace it with either a Triumph Thunderbird, or a Harley. If I had the extra $$ I'd look seriously at the Moto Guzzi California Touring - damn that's a pretty bike.

The Redactor said...

Oh, and you definitely want something with ABS.

John said...

The Stars are great machines and surprisingly reliable.

As a VStar pilot for the last eight years, I can say this: flat-footing will not be a problem. I'm 5'-8" and can get both feet on the ground just fine.

That said, it will be nowhere nearly as powerful as, say, the 'Zuki V-Strom 650, which at the same displacement has nearly twice the horsepower. I think the Star puts something like 35 ponies on the pavement.

That's not to say that she can't run if she needs to -- I scrape floorboards on highways and interstate onramps pretty regularly. Mine has even done a few cross-country trips. Just saying that remember that it's only an air-cooled 650 so keep expectations realistic. said...

My Honda Shadow 1100, water-cooled, shaft-driven. About 500lbs. Not bad. I'm 200 and had no trouble picking it up off of the ground the only time I dropped it.

Will said...

Don't ignore the Italian bikes.

The Moto Guzzi models probably have the lowest seat height for a big bike, and the handling will be very good. Shaft drive.

Ducati has some sport touring types (bags and fairings) also. A bit heavier with their liquid cooling, than the Guzzis, but more power. Chain drive, but chains are much better lasting than years ago. Best handling bikes in their class.

Both brands make marvelous exhaust sounds. They are pricy, but you can find good used ones.