Choppers and Cruisers - Infinitely Tweakable

Main Jet

With the release (and our first ride) of Honda's Fury, the debate of what is a cruiser or a chopper and where the line is will only increase. Here's where we sit: it's a cruiser. Choppers are supposed to be daring, handbuilt, innovative machines built to test the limits of geometry, engineering, art and good taste. The Fury is a conventional, production motorcycle. While we salute it for taking some steps that neither Honda, nor the mainstream high-volume motorcycle industry has ever taken before, the fact remains that it's a just a product, not a lovingly hand-built bike for one guy and one guy (or gal) only.

However, that brings us back to the question what is a chopper and what is a cruiser? Let's just say for now that like the famous definition for pornography: I know it when I see it. Some obvious cues for a cruiser are that there is more metal than plastic, and upright or laid-back riding position, and there is usually a good amount of potential to tweak it. There are going to be things we cover that are out on the edge, like some more rideable small-volume manufacturer stuff (like Big Bear Choppers GTX in the April issue), or Harley-Davidson and Triumph's classic sport bikes, or a completely ground-up built metric bike (arguably more of a chopper, but I digress) but the center of it all with be the mainline cruisers that are the staple food in these parts. A true chopper is a handbuilt work of art.

Magazines that cover a subject tend to reflect the subject matter they cover. A quilting magazine will make you feel cozy and warm, crack a machinists rag and you can practically smell the burning metal, and Motorcycle Cruiser is no different. Like the bikes we cover, it's infinitely tweakable.

When I took over the magazine eight months ago I thought I'd leave well enough alone. With a few exceptions to some things, I've always been a fan of this magazine. But if you do things that don't spring from you, that you don't do naturally, it will not ring true. So I'm doing some customizing. I learned an important lesson from one of my mentors, Frank Kaisler, you don't have to do (what we call in the magazine world) a 'complete re-design,' just change it like you'd change pieces on your bike. You should have a grand plan so the pieces will work well together (apes and windshields, for instance), keep your eyes on the prize, but accept that what you want and what you're going to get may change, and the target will only continue to move.

For one thing there's the section names. I can't remember them to save my life, so expect them to change at some point. I asked Editor at Large Andy Cherney about how attached he was to BTL (Between the Lines), and his answer was something to the effect of "I have no idea how we came up with that."

Speaking of making things your own, we're also revamping the Long Term Bikes section. You learn a lot more about a bike when you're living with it for months or years, and I'd like to give you a little more insight into what we do to the bikes, as well as the big and small problems we run into. Our old format cut some short shrift to the mods we made, forcing this significant part of the ownership experience into a box a half-page big. Look to see this section expand significantly, especially with some of the things we've got planned for the bikes in coming issues.

Shootouts are another area that needs addressing. I've never been a fan of categorizing bikes by displacement, at least in a strict sense. It's far more relevant (if you're not a racer) to slice up bikes by intent and price, so starting in this issue that's what we did. Ten G's seems to be the breaking point in the motorcycle world these days, bikes under this figure are selling strong, while ones on the topside are slowing dramatically. So we gathered four that straddle the line and pointed them at the open road.

Blogs and online news sources are savaging the print world with their loads of immediate and free content. Well there are a few things that print does better, and one is tell a story with pictures. In that vein, we corralled travel blogger Bill Sanders into translating his epic 35-day tour into a two-installment piece for the magazine. While I try constantly to come up with an epic piece that I can do in 2-3 days, he put me to shame with his month of Sundays on the road. He's done quite a few more tours as well, which you can check out at his blog:sitein.com/blog/ Despite the tweaks, its still the same Cruiser, covering the same bikes, eight times a year, and bringing you the testing and touring you so richly deserve.Billy Bartels

Contact Billy at cruiser@sorc.com