Large engined cruisers make perfect sense. Well, sort of.
I’m not a hardened biker, never have been, never will be. However, I really enjoy riding bikes be they motorized or non-motorized. I’m also a bit a of ‘petrol (gear) head’ so, I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to visit the Vancouver Motorcycle Show to take in the what’s hot on two-wheels.
The show checks all the usual exhibition boxes, dealers, accessories, clothing, special events etc so anyone that’s remotely interested in biking from ‘noob’ to expert, young to old, female and male will likely find something of interest.This annual bike fest is held at the Abbortsford Tradex, a swift 30 minutes down Highway 1 from Port Coquitlam. The site offers easy (if somewhat muddy at this time of year) parking and the show itself fills the halls.
I ride a retro styled Ducati, the GT 1000, and of all the bikes I could have bought I chose the Ducati because it really doesn’t quite fit in. It’s not a sports bike and it’s not a cruiser. It’s lightweight, handles well and looks stunning. I can ride it about town, I can tour on it; and it’s the touring aspect that I wanted to explore whilst at the show.
The GT 1000 to me is every inch a European bike, made for twisty roads and I find it easy to visualize riding the mountain ranges of northern Italy – think the opening of the Italian Job, just on a bike. As mountainous as BC is, the roads here are different. North and south of border there’s a lot of straight to the horizon paving and of course this continent is humongous. Long distance riding is almost a given and it seems that bikes here have evolved with that in mind.
As I made my way around the show, cruisers were everywhere. I guess North American biking has been defined by Harley Davidson and their mile munching high end Glide series (Street, Road and Electra). Needless to say the Hogs were very well represented. However, fifteen years ago, Victory arrived and their bikes must surely give Harley serious competition. The heritage may be missing, but the size and style of the continent crossing cruiser is certainly there. Needless to say Japanese manufacturers, with their own take on the large touring bike, were all represented as well.
When it comes to the compare and contrast, the North Amercian approach to long distance riding appears, at least to me, to be very different to my more conservative tastes. Like the continent, ‘big’ rules the roost. Long and heavy bikes with large capacity engines are the name of the game. It wasn’t until I tackled my first road trip that I really started to appreciate the point of the large cruiser. Hitting the interstate highways I became acutely aware that my own ride was tiny in comparison to the armchair on wheels low riders that ambled past me. Don’t get me wrong, the Ducati is no slouch and offers pretty relaxed riding. It’s just that these interstate journeys look so much more effortless on the cruiser. On these roads the large engined cruisers make perfect sense. Well, sort of. Although great for the long straight open road, part of the fun of riding is to take advantage of the curves and I’m not convinced that cruisers excel on curves. So although my riding position is more compact, I get to enjoy the thrill of the lean.
Taking another look at the cruisers on display at the show I was reminded that with great size comes great carrying capacity. The panniers and top boxes are immense. True kitchen sink capacity for the rebel with many material needs. Now I have to admit that I chose to add the Ducati side bags to my GT 1000 which at 10 litres each aren’t exactly roomy, however it does force me in to travelling light which has its advantages. A certain amount of style over substance leading to a simpler approach to touring. The other part of carrying capacity, the human cargo is likely to be offered a far more comfortable experience on a cruiser. As much as I’d like to tour with my wife, she’s not too interested in riding a bike and the Ducati isn’t physically large enough for anything more than a day trip. I wouldn’t even think of tackling hundreds of miles two-up. However, on a cruiser I have a suspicion that a ride from Vancouver to San Francisco for example with a passenger would be rather effortless.
Casting my eyes over the cruisers for a final time I remembered another reason for not really hitting it off with these bikes. Studs. Even though my Ducati is styled after the 1970′s GT 750, I don’t consider the bike to be old fashioned in the looks department. I like to think of it as a timeless classic. The cruiser also has a timeless style about it, it’s just that sometimes manufacturers go a little too ‘pony express’ for my liking, metal studs decorating saddles and saddle bags. I suppose not originating from this continent, it really is a case of no studs please I’m British. I just find them too garish, detracting from the actual lines of the bike. Even though I’m a BC Brit, years of old world influence cannot be replaced overnight, and to be honest I doubt there will be a wholesale overwriting of my personal taste.
I enjoyed my time at the Vancouver Motorcycle Show. It’s a great place to catch up on what’s new or even have that opening conversation about bike ownership with an exhibitor. The show is a safe place to browse and dream as well as research the next purchase. Talking of which, am I likely to go cruiser in the future? I can’t honestly say no as I want to take on more road trip challenges which means either a second bike or a larger replacement for the GT 1000. Whatever bike materializes in the future, I can guarantee that it’ll be a stud free zone.