Vulcan 900 Classic or How I Embraced a Cruiser

I’ve complained about cruisers being boring and overall sub-optimal motorcycles. I don’t think that’s changed, but I’ve come to embrace that as another facet of motorcycling.

My first bike was a cruiser (a Vulcan as well, though very different), I’ve also ridden cruisers at Harley-Davidson and Victory demos. While neither of those won me over, I did find things that I enjoyed.

For Harley, it was the classic look of the Heritage Softail Classic (I’m not even trying to decode the model). It looked beautiful and felt substantial. It also drug floorboards on every turn and had a serious case of false-neutrals. Including one that required me to come to a complete stop to get it unstuck. Yeah it shook and rattled … but that was some of the charm.

The Victory felt smooth. The more modern motor and chassis were just more capable. I just couldn’t get behind the style of them. Yes, it’s unique and different, but it didn’t speak to me in the way a cruiser should. I think there was  a veil of performance cast on them which is not what a cruiser is about.

Why was I even looking? That’s a good question. My wife was talking to my friend’s wife about taking a short weekend trip. I was really excited, but then it sunk in that my Scrambler is not setup for this task. After sarcastically saying, “how big of a backpack do you plan on wearing.” We started talking about adding a bike with some more passenger and luggage capabilities.

My search was pretty casual. Look at those Softails, realize that I had no intention of spending that amount of money on a part time bike. Then move on. After a few weeks I opened up my criteria a bit and looked at some of the entry level Dynas. I’d have to change a lot to get the look and feel of what I wanted. While cheaper than the Softail, the Dynas were going to cost a lot in modifications. 

Eventually I ended up at Superstar Cycle Center’s website and was just scrolling through their cruiser inventory. While wading through the bikes with ape hangers or questionable taste in paint and accessories this white and grey bike jumped out at me. A quick message to my wife, was responded to with a “that’s really pretty.” Exactly what I thought.

I mulled it over a bit. I’ve been spoiled by premium motorcycles (Triumph, BMW, Harley). Japanese cruisers always seem like wannabes. It’s only a 900 cc motor. Wouldn’t the 1500 cc be better. It looks heavy. I bet it’s slow and handles like crap. 

Oh well, I went to test ride it anyway!

This is a super mellow bike, in a good way. The undersized motor is more than adequate to haul this thing around. There’s enough ground clearance that I haven’t put metal to pavement, yet. And, I’m not trying to make it anything other than what it is. A big, comfy cruiser that handles a passenger well, takes some luggage (already on it!), and looks really nice! 

While the allure for the Harley is still there, for the price difference, I’d rather buy another sport bike AND a supermoto to round out the stable. This bike hasn’t taken away from my Scrambler either. If anything, I appreciate the Scrambler more than I did and it’s opened up to make some of the modifications that I’d been wanting to make. A win in all directions.

 

 

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Modifications to my Scrambler

This video is a walkthrough of the modifications that I’ve made to my 2013 Triumph Scrambler.

  • British Customs Retro Blinkers (front and rear)
  • BC Front Signal Relocation
  • BC Rear Signal Relocation
  • BC Fender Eliminator
  • BC Retro Taillight
  • Biltwell Grips
  • Metzeler Lasertec Tires
  • BC O2 Sensor Removal
  • BC SAI Removal
  • Airbox Snorkel Removed
  • Airbox Baffle Removed
  • Airbox Cover Clearanced
  • VW Beetle Tailpipes (from Vee Village)
  • Tank Pad Removal
  • Standard Bonneville Shocks (1″ shorter)
  • Custom Tune with TuneECU

I’m pretty strapped for time so these have all been wonderfully quick and easy. Some of the pieces have been more costly than I would like (the O2 and AI removal kits), but the convenience of not having to track down the bolts and the finish of the pieces made the extra money worth it.

This bike makes me smile every time I get on it. It’s not as fast as my Speed Triple R was. It’s doesn’t have as much swagger as my Nightster did. It’s not nearly as versatile as the BMW G650GS was. But, I love this thing. These modifications have made the bike feel like mine, like an extension of me. I know that sounds silly, but it’s true.

If you have any questions about what I’ve done, please let me know in the comments!

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“I used to …”

I have a penchant for “used to” bikes.

A few weeks into owning my ’09 Nightster, I ran over a piece of metal left over from some construction and blew my bike tire out on I-70. Since the bike was new and had roadside assist, I used it! The tow truck driver “used to” have a Sportster.

It was some special model of the 900, but he was sure it was bigger than that, and that thing would run 200 mile-an-hour in 4th gear. He swore he never used 5th gear because 4th was all it needed.

The BMW G650GS was a little different. It was such a weird looking bike that people gawked at it just because. Then the noticed the little blue and white BMW Roundel.

“I didn’t know BMW made motorcycles.” Being a pedant, I would inform them that the Bavarians had been making motorbikes since 1923. I should have kept my mouth shut, because the next thing was always, “Oh yeah, those flat motors! I used to have one of those. Those would run forever.”

The next two bikes were Triumphs. The first, a Street Triple R which is a sport bike with regular handle bars and the second a Scrambler.

The Street Triple was a looker, bass boat metal flake black with gold wheels and logos. “I used to have a Triumph … ”

The Scrambler even more so since you don’t even have to read to tell it’s a Triumph. “Hey, is that a Triumph. I didn’t know they still made those. I used to have a ’75 … drunken slurs“.

Even other guys on bikes will pull up to me and say something. Yesterday and old guy on a Harley-Davidson FLH-STFU pulled up and said, “Nice bike! I used to have a Triumph. Those are great bikes.”

Well man, if it’s so great, why aren’t you on one?

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Victory Demo

I’ll say right up front, I don’t like cruisers. The way I like to ride and the ergonomics that I like are anathema to the way cruisers are designed. But, I love bikes and will take any opportunity to ride something new or different.

This demo was on a Tuesday so attendance was pretty light, which made getting the bike you wanted easier. Other demos made you sign up for a certain bike at a certain time. Here, you put your helmet on a bike to claim it.

This is the only demo I’ve been on that hit the interstate. It made for some interesting problems trying to stay in a group of 10-15 bikes while avoiding the other interstate traffic.

victory - 1The first bike I rode was the Gunner. Once I sat down, I was immediately reminded of a Honda VTX 1300. Everything was very nicely put together and felt well built, but it was not really exciting. The motor sounded really nice and had the typical V-twin cadence. Everything felt oversized, the grips, the lever the pegs the pedals. Even the throw of the shifter was big and heavy.

Like all low cruisers, I would change a few key things. First, get the ass in the air. This is just too low. I’ll happily give up “flat-footing” at a stop for better handling and visibility. Second, I like the pegs under me. The foot forward position kills my back makes me feel like I have less control.

The motor felt nice. It’s not a paint shaker like a Harley (good and bad) but it’s got a familiar laid back gallop. Power was surprisingly good, it really reminded me the V-rod. A good, powerful motor that needs a chassis.

victory - 3Next up was the Hammer 8-Ball. Basically the same bike as the Gunner, but dressed up a little different. Especially at the back with a ridiculous 250 mm tire.

I’d never ridden one of the super wide rear tires. I don’t like the look and I couldn’t imagine they would handle well. I was right. By the time you’re leaned enough to get to the radius of the shoulder, boots or pegs are dragging. It’s like wrestling a bear to get off the center of the tire … and then it get light and loose feeling once it gets over. I about tapped out after the first few turns as I didn’t feel like I had control over this thing. I stuck it out, but I didn’t like it at all.

Somewhere deep down, I want to like cruisers. It’s what I grew up around and some of them seem pretty cool. I just can’t seem to find one that works the way I think a bike works. This is my hangup as there are plenty of people that ride these bikes and love it. Maybe I’ll slow down and relax as I get older. But for now, I’ll pass on this class of bike.

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Silly Motorcycle Dealers

Every day that I commute I drive past a Victory dealer. I’ve been slightly intrigued by some of their bikes, but never serious enough to waste a sales person’s time with a test ride.

Last week, I drove by Austin’s Trailers and Motorsports and saw the Victory demo truck. I gave them a call and was informed that the truck was packed up and heading out. There wasn’t any indication that there was going to be a demo event prior to me actually seeing the trailer.

I love demoing new bikes, so I looked at the next Victory event, which is farther away, but still reasonably close. I hit up the Shawnee Cycle Plaza website and … see absolutely NO MENTION of the Victory demo truck.

As a consumer, the test ride is the most important part of purchasing a motorcycle. The stats are out there. The wonderful images of how cool a bike is or what dress up parts can be added are there. But getting butts in seats is important.

I’m shocked at how terrible dealers (and manufacturers) are about getting the word out about demo events like this. This lack of marketing ability is just another thing that makes motorcycling a hobby and not a valid form of transportation.

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The Hidden Costs of Motorcycling

“I bet that’s great on gas!”

No, it’s not and, no it’s not cheap in any other way either. Other than a low sticker price, motorcycling is expensive in a lot of ways people don’t prepare for.

Stuff

There’s just a lot of stuff you need. If you’re a safety junkie, you’re going to spend a ton on safety gear. Helmets, jackets, dedicated boots, pants, that nerdy-but-handy Aerostich suit, gloves.

Ooooh, I need an outlet to charge my phone!

That billet brake reservoir cover sure looks better than that plastic thing that came on it.

Surely a different seat will be more comfortable.

And on and on … there’s a reason there are hundreds of motorcycle accessories dealers, motorcyclists can’t leave shit alone. You’ll get the bug too.

Maintenance

No one goes in expecting to have no maintenance, but a lot of people aren’t prepared for the cost or work (which costs time) that these vehicles need. Some are easier than others, but the shop bill for yearly valve inspections on a high-strung motor isn’t cheap.

The drive line sucks a lot of cash too. Everyone knows chains wear out, but when a belt breaks (and they do, trust me) you’ve got to pull the swingarm off. Time or money on that one … your choice.

Brake pads seem to not last as long. Maybe that’s in the way I ride, but I can roast a set of pads in a year of regular street riding.

The big one is tires. All the tires. All the time. And they aren’t cheap. I had a shop put tires and brakes on my Nissan and that’s cheaper than just purchasing my preferred tires. The tires let you know too, they get squared off, or greasy feeling, or you cheaped out on tires and you HATE the ones you bought. Tires will put you into debt quick.

Events

Bike nights, trips with your buddies, bike shows, track days, MSF courses all add up. Sure it might be $10 or $20 bucks buying drinks at a bike night, but if you do that every week you’ll feel it. And you’ll start making up reason to take rides burning extra gas, rushing towards that next oil change. It’s fun, but be prepared.

It’s a real vehicle

This one really gets people. It seems like a fun toy, a diversion from daily life. It’s not, it’s a real, honest to goodness vehicle in the eyes of the state and county and they want their tax money. Property taxes, license plates, title fees, sales tax. Just like a car. I’m in the odd situation where my motorcycle is worth more and therefore costs more in taxes than either of my cars. I really felt it when I was writing “Jackson County Collector” on a check a few hours ago.

It’s for love

That’s the only reason I can really come up with to justify motorcycling. It’s impractical. It’s costly. It takes away time from other things in my life that may be more important. It’s hurt me. I’ve been in the back of an ambulance strapped to a back board thinking, “I hope I can ride soon.”

And that’s why it’s worth it.

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First Photos of Spring

This is by not, by far, the first ride of the year. I ride year round. But these are the first photos I stopped to take.

Hiatuses happen. This one was a good one. A new baby, a new job, a new … damn near a whole new life. It’s been slow to get to the point that I can write or take photos or engage in these less “important” pursuits. I’m lucky to have people around me that support me and make sure I do the things that make a richer life.

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Found Sportster

I’m always on the lookout for interesting bikes that are actually used. This ratty Sportster is a perfect example of that.

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I Love the Idea of a Scrambler R

Bike EXIF is a wonderful site for “bike porn.” Wonderful photography, lots of information, and good stories about the bikes. The Tramontana Scrambler really caught my eye!

The idea of an “R” version of the Scrambler is posed at the end of this article, especially if it were even remotely close to this beautiful machine.

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Motogeo: Ducati Scrambler Unveiling – Will Triumph Fire Back?

I could listen to Jamie Robinson of MotGeo talk about bikes all day long. (I have a similar man crush on Guy Martin, but that’s another post). This bike, the Ducati Scrambler is the one that I’ve been the most excited to hear about. Watch the video for the full specs.

I currently ride a Triumph Scrambler and love it. I love street bikes that have some mild off road capability. They are fantastic around the city and give a feeling of freedom that I don’t get on other bikes.

My insight … what’s Triumph going to do? While I have a bias towards the Brits, they are facing new challenges in markets they had been owning. MV and Yamaha fired at the 675 Triples. The Panigale 899 is likely cross shopped with the Daytona 675 more than any other bike. Now the Italians are firing at the Scrambler, a class with one bike right now.

On forums, there’s always been a call for the whole Bonneville series to lose weight and add power. I agree. The Triumph is a hundred pounds heavier and down by early 20 horsepower. That’s massive. I’d like to see Triumph drop about 50 lbs and get the motor up into the high 60s in horsepower and add a 6th gear since it would be able to pull it then.

But maybe not, I’d cross-shop these, but right now, I’d still pick the Triumph for the looks.

I do hope there’s a Ducati Demo Day soon!

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