Change Is The Only Constant

Main Jet

Scanning the masthead of your faithful Motorcycle Cruiser, will swiftly inform you that times, they are a changin'. Evan Kay (Associate Editor sidekick to myself and Andy Cherney, the prior editor), has left the building to thunderous applause. Andy himself, while not into the day-to-day grind of running the magazine is far from gone, and we've coaxed him back in an advisory role. We haven't settled on a title yet, but rest assured, it'll be good. In fact, check out his review of Harley's 21-century take on a road going flattracker, the XR1200. As for the rest of the staff there's still Mark Zimmerman and I. Guys who've never met face-to-face, living on opposite coasts, attempting to craft a coherent look at cruising motorcycles.

Besides these personnel changes, we're in the middle of our yearly test bike renewal. We finally say goodbye (really, this time) to the Kawasaki Vulcan 900 that Evan so proudly rode for the last year. But switching up from the obnoxiously loud aftermarket pipes on the Vulcan to riding the 'Baby Baggers' for this month's shootout was an exercise in extremes. The first two bikes to hit our garage were Honda's Aero and Harley-Davidson's 883L, both of which have whisper-quiet exhaust notes (mostly drowned out by engine noise) with all the character of a sewing machine. What a difference. I'd hazard a guess that exhaust like those two might prompt people to go to even louder afrtermarket setups just to compensate for the fact that they ever rode something that sounded so wimpy! There has got to be a middle ground.

"Loud Pipes Saves Lives" is a crappy excuse to ride an obnoxious bike, but there is plenty of room (and plenty of pipes) between some versions of "stock" and absolutely evil overkill. A good pipe should be mellow when not in the powerband, and only really honk when you crack the throttle.

Cruiserdom itself (along with the rest of motorcycling) is undergoing some significant changes as well. Motorcycles are finally becoming recognized as the efficient mode of transportation that they are and beginning to be embraced by a larger audience again. While our core (hardcore) motorcyclists are (for the most part) putting off buying their next ride, satisfied with adding some aftermarket pizzaz to keep their old rides fresh, new riders are flocking to the sport in droves. The resulting demographics are making the hottest segments smaller displacement bikes and (continuing an older trend) baggers. So we thought it very fitting that we have our first shootout of '09 be based on both segments with our Baby Bagger comparison (on page 34). Some small-displacement bikes handle the switch from runabout to mini-tourer better than others and that's what we set out to find out.

Since half of the reason for the re-emergence of the small-displacement market was gas prices, and new riders are shy (quite rightly) of inclement weather, it remains to be seen if the trend continues this year (I'm writing this in December).

Despite all this change (whether or not it is, in fact, the kind you can believe in) I'm really trying to keep this essentially the same magazine its always been. However, as the last cruiser-specific publication in the USA, we're going to become a little more all inclusive all the way out to the fringes of cruiserdom, as articles like our report of Big Bear Choppers will attest. You might also say the test of the XR1200 is a stretch for us as well. We got a couple of angry letters (reproduced in Rumblings page 12) about our December cover with the VMAX in all of its tire-shredding glory. Well, as the last cruiser mag, there's going to be some genre-bending. Ask ten people what their definition of a cruiser is and you'll get ten answers. No matter what your specific definition is, I guarantee you'll continue to get all the testing, touring, and general snarkiness that this magazine is known for, though some of the bikes might be outside of your particular definition.

Personally, I'm just glad the criticism of me after 13 years of writing about all kinds of motorcycles (and ATVs for that matter) has changed from outraged cries of "Your dad's a Harley dealer!" (see page 18) to outraged cries of "You're a sportbike guy!" I find that far more enlightened
Billy Bartels

Contact Billy at cruiser@sourceinterlink.com