Mild, Spicy, Or Just Totally Random Non-Sequiturs

Main Jet

I love spicy food. Mexican, Thai, Indian, Indonesian; bring it on! I know, it's not for everybody, especially if you've got the acid reflux thing going on. But I also like the rich, subtle flavors of French food, or hearty English pub food, variety is the spice as much as the spice is the spice, right?

Cruisers, for me, are similar. You have the strong, smooth and ultimately very un-spicy Road Star on one hand (we just picked one up for a long-term project, see page 84), and on the complete other side, practically so hot-rodded out that you need special gloves to handle them are our musclebikes (page 28). After our December '08 cover featuring a VMAX blowing a thick, acrid cloud of tire smoke, we got some angry letters. They accused us of straying from our mission, of going to the dark side, and worst yet...being sportbike guys.

Look, people by and large, (even Cruiser folks) love performance. Many long for the good ol' days when having a fast bike didn't necessarily mean you have to straddle it like a jockey. Especially those of us not built like jockeys. All the musclebikes are just a Jalapeno away from being cruisers. Heck, most cruisers are just some engine work away from being musclebikes...or tourers for that matter. The neat part of an old-school elemental design (like most cruisers possess) is that it is inherently multi-purpose, just like bikes in the 60's were.

Riding a muscular bike just takes a little more input and concentration, and the rewards are a more visceral, exciting ride. On the other end of the scale, you've got a very relaxed traditional cruiser which glides along, steers easily, and doesn't intrude too much on the riding experience...unless you call a hearty rumble intrusive. In either case, we're not talking about competition motorcycles, just something to ride socially or soulfully down a strip of asphalt.

And in any case, even the most underpowered, ill-handling, uncomfortable cruiser is more thrilling (or calming) than driving a car. A reader was disappointed that his Honda Shadow ACE only got 50mpg, while barely outrunning cars, and weighing quite a bit less. We sicced Tech Guru Mark Zimmerman on the issue to find out the truth (page 76). Personally, I think the guy either needs a tune-up or a little more throttle, anything down to about 250cc can outrun a car, provided it has a clutch and rider with some confidence. Despite the fact that a motorcycle gets miserable mileage per pound on the open road, they more than make up for it in quality.

That said, there are exceptions to every rule. Check out our mileage ratings for the musclebikes if you want to see some serious excess (most weren't even good for a midsize car). Like they say, all engineering is a compromise. And not everyone can be good at everything.

I have a few slipups to apologize for. I've been editing magazines for awhile, and if I have one thing that I've been uniformly bad at it's predicting the future in magazines. My predictions of what was coming next issue became almost a running joke of inaccuracy in the pages of ATV Rider when I was the editor. Last issue I promised a trio of new long-term bikes, of which only one showed (Star's Road Star), while one I never mentioned (Honda's Aero) stuck around from our Budget Baggers shootout last issue. But if there was one thing I could reliably predict it would be the continuing death and reincarnation of Indian Motorcycles.

Yea, somehow the comings and goings of America's other great old brand (the other other one would be America's great new brand) have caused us to become immune to the constant press releases "Indian's back! This time its for real!" Crap, did we actually miss a whole new line of very cruiser motorcycles?! Somehow, we failed to get them in the February Buyers Guide. To make up for it, we have a full-line introduction to the new new new Indian in Between the Lines.

Here I'll say farewell to our former Editorial Director Alex Hearn. Former editor of Performance Bikes and Two Wheels Only (T.W.O.) in the UK. Despite a sportbike background, he actually knew a thing or two about cruising. After all we met riding a pair of baggers out to Sturgis three years ago, and have been pretty tight ever since. Our conversations during that ride, led to the creation of our sister mag, Hot Bike Baggers. While he was very much a behind-the-scenes guy here at Motorcycle Cruiser, he was also a huge influence as well. That big VMAX burnout on the cover of the December Issue that caused so much anger was actually his idea. Nothing like throwing the old boss under the bus, right?
-Billy Bartels

Contact Billy at cruiser@sourceinterlink.com