Motorcycle Cruiser Lover - Exhaust Notes

Confessions Of A Closet Cruiser Lover

When it comes to motorcycles, I'm a sportbike guy to the core. I've got race take-off tires stacked like cordwood in my garage and a WERA Expert roadracing license burning a hole in my pocket. The last four bikes I purchased have all had at least one "R" in their name, and not a one made less than 100 hp. When I ordered a Roadcrafter touring suit from Aerostich a few years back, I even made sure they added knee sliders "just in case."

But I've got a confession to make: Deep down, where no one else can see, I've got the vilest yearning for a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide. I've even succumbed to this base temptation. This past summer I racked up a few thousand miles (twice as many as I put on my own Suzuki GSX-R750, I'm embarrassed to say) on what could quite possibly be the least-sporty motorcycle ever conceived: a Harley-Davidson FLHTCU Electra Glide Ultra Classic Limited (even the name is ponderous!), a bagger of the highest order, complete with Tour-Pak, CD stereo and cruise control. And I loved every last single mile. I'm certain there's now a special spot in knee-draggers' hell reserved just for me.

Harley-Davidson's press pool has always been my guilty pleasure, but I was ever careful to stick to the "sportier" side of the H-D spectrum. Past indiscretions included a four-week fling with the now-discontinued FXDX Dyna Super Glide T-Sport, or, more recently, a torrid, two-month affair with a VRSCR Street Rod (code name: S.S. Squidkiller, because it was so capable at chasing down unsuspecting sportbike riders). But with the Ultra Classic, there was no pretending-it looked like something straight from the Graceland garage (Elvis, the fat years), and with it weighing in at 840 pounds and only 70 hp on tap, I didn't need a lap timer to tell me this wasn't a sportbike.

On the other hand, I didn't need more than two miles on Mr. Alpha Hog to know I was done for. Anyone who has ever sat on an FL-based Harley knows exactly what I'm talking about. Just like when you sit on a Ducati 999 and your brain immediately accelerates to 160 mph, the moment you settle into the FL's bucket saddle and grasp the perfectly positioned "Easy Reach" touring bar, another switch flips in your brain and you're instantly reprogrammed to inhale an obscene number of miles at an almost narcotically pleasant pace.

It's no mystery to me why Harley-Davidson sells so many touring cruisers, despite their outrageous prices and often-laughable performance. For a certain type of uniquely American travel on a certain type of uniquely American roadway, there simply is no more perfect mode of transport. And for my first day on the E-Glide, winding along the lazy, farm-flecked back roads stretching from H-D's headquarters in Milwaukee 350 miles northwest to that other American motorcycle manufacturer's home base, I was smack in the heart of it. Ten miles in, I stopped at a Flying J truck stop for a John Prine Greatest Hits CD and stuffed my jacket into a saddlebag so the delicious, late-summer sun could bounce off my forearms, feeling for all the world like a junior Steve McQueen. I don't think I exceeded 70 mph (a speed most of my own bikes can hit in first gear) once that whole ride, and it was one of the most pleasant days I ever spent on a bike.

What really surprised me, though, was how much I continued to ride the Glide after that first weekend. It was just such a pleasant, easy, relaxing, non-demanding motorcycle-everything my sportbikes are not. Sure, the hulk was a hassle to get out of the garage, but once under way, an ultra-low center of gravity and surprisingly competent slow-speed handling made it a joy for commuting around town-not to mention I could easily hide six bags of groceries in the saddlebags and Tour-Pak. And, as the temperature dropped in fall, that bat-wing fairing and leg shields did an admirable job of keeping the chill at bay. Yeah, I could definitely get used to this.

I still haven't come all the way out of the closet yet. I'm shopping for a new ride right now, and for the first time I'm looking beyond sportbikes. I'm currently trending toward an adventure tourer, but if I run across an Electra Glide for the right price...who knows. I'm sure someone makes stiffer brake lines and grippy pads, maybe a freer breathing exhaust and some intake mods, and if I stiffened up the fork springs a little bit