Several years ago I was roaring across America on my motorcycle, which I’ve previously defined as a cruiser. I was contentedly climbing the western side of the Rocky Mountains on a winding two lane blacktop. I was bound for the Continental Divide. I was happy.
Over the last several days I’d had a great trip. A “perfect cruise” if you will. I’d crossed several states, taken a suitable break, and then started again by riding out of (fleeing from?) the stilted nanny state of political navel gazing and air pollution that is California’s San Joaquin Valley. Once I’d escaped the dirty heart of America’s straight jacketed left coast I skirted the southern tip of the Sierras, wandered through the blistering heat of Death Valley, charged through the libertarian emptiness of Nevada, and enjoyed a few indulgent side trips swooping among the canyons and vistas home to Utah’s Mormons. America is a great nation. The best way to see it is on a motorcycle.
I was enjoying every minute on my machine. A cruiser is perfect for me. A Goldilocks mean. It’s not svelte like a “crotch rocket” and it’s not “huge” like a touring motorcycle (think Goldwing). I have great gobs of torque at my command but less engine than the biggest machines. This suits me fine. I have all the displacement I need and plenty left over and prefer extended fuel range over showy power. I bump into the rev limiter at just under triple digits but it keeps me from melting the engine in some remote desert backwater. Even the carburetors, which are technically inferior to fuel injection, are bulletproof simple and I never fret about fuel quality.
It was the thirteenth day of a two week road trip. My cruiser looks nothing like a shiny “weekend warrior”. You’ve seen them, waxed and clean and lined up on at parade rest on a sunny Saturday at a bar six miles from their suburban lair. Mine is a “desert ratbike”. It was coated with dust and reeked of adventure. It had no excess chrome but I’d mounted a small windshield, saddlebags, and my beloved axillary fuel tank (very handy!). A backpack and spare jacket were strapped down on the rear seat. A small weathered backpacking GPS clamped to the handlebars was my only electronic luxury. It’s a dirt simple, mostly stock, motorcycle; slightly shabby but tough and eager to travel.
Despite my pleasure, gear on a long trip always deserves careful consideration. I started thinking about cruisers and how most people don’t use them like I use mine.
A tourer (think Goldwing) will carry vastly more luggage than I’d managed to strap to my ratbike. I’d run out of clean underwear two days ago. Did I need to switch to a tourer? Certainly clean clothes are a plus.
I’d just rumbled straight through Death Valley. You know how many cruisers I’d seen out there? None. The true desert is a machine killing environment. Rolling long miles out there is not without risk; especially on a motorcycle. When you see a motorcycle out there it’s not a cruiser. Nor will it be grandpa on his massive Goldwing tourer. The only bikes out there are sport tourers.
For my kind of riding, sport tourers are mechanically superior to both cruisers and tourers. They’ve got fairings, more luggage capacity, and more speed, but without the bloat of a tourer. Indeed, I was riding where a sport tourer belonged. Wouldn’t it be wise to upgrade to a machine designed specifically for such trips?
In my next post I’ll explain why the Ric Ocasek bike was the logical alternative.