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Sam 10-21-2009 07:56 PM

Motorcycle: How big is enough?
So I decide to give myself a birthday gift, a brand spanking new motorcycle. Price is range is very flexible (it's a toy after all.) I have been doing researches, going to the dealers to sit on bikes, test driving as many as I can. I pretty much knew what I want. Then I talk to other bikers, telling them about the bike (different bike to different bikers) I had my eyes on. It virtually makes no difference which bike I mentioned (unless the bike I'm talking about is bigger or bigger and heavier than the biker's current bike,) the most common suggestion/recommendation is this: "Get the next bigger bike (engine, weight), it will be better for you. You won't need to upgrade as soon due to lack of power, and the heavier bike is safer on the highway. You won't be affected by cross winds or pushed out / sucked in by trucks."

In short, they see 2 issues:

1) Lack of power. The weakest bike I talked about can do 0-60mph in 5.75sec. That's faster than at least 95% of all cars, trucks, sport utilities in existence. The strongest bike I talked about will perform the same task in less than 4sec, or 99.9% faster than all 4-wheel vehicles. What am I missing? Or are they talking about something that's totally over my head?

2) Heavier for stability sake. This one I can understand. Of course, the lighter the bike, the more it is affected by wind forces, all other things being equal. But all things are not equal. A cruiser is definitely not as aerodynamic as a sport bike. Tire design and suspension are major players in the stability equation. Here's an extreme comparison which I experienced last week while testing. A tiny 2009 Ninja 250R (340 lbs wet) versus a 2007 S50/Intruder800 (440 lbs wet). The Ninja feel faster, quicker, and more stable at highway speed. I accelerated them both from 60 to 85 to pass other cars, and I always felt more secure on the minuscule Ninja. Then I went one step further and tested its bigger brother, a Ninja 500R (400 lbs wet, still 40 lbs less than the Intruder 800). As expected, the Ninja 500R is much faster, much quicker, much more stable than its little brother. Comparison with the Intruder 800 is simply not worth mentioning. So for me, the Ninja 250R was very acceptable, but I played safe and kept it to myself. Discussing the Ninja 500R with another biker, I still get the same response: "You might want to consider the Ninja 650R, it has more power and is more stable." (He didn't know that the 650R is within a few pounds of the 500R.)

What's your take?


bbbamI 10-21-2009 08:01 PM

Will you always be riding alone or do you think you'll have a passenger? How much riding do you think you'll do? Will you be riding flat lanes or will you want to ride in the mountains?

We've got a 1450 HD....I feel very comfortable riding one-up.

Sam 10-21-2009 08:05 PM

I anticipate riding alone 99% of the time.

Rich_by_the_Bay 10-21-2009 08:08 PM

I've owned 4 over the years. There is no right answer for everyone. You need to determine how you enjoy riding. I found out that I enjoyed long distance touring in reasonable comfort, lots of space for stuff and high reliabity. Performance was fun but secondary. My BMW R1100 RT fit the bill. My Gold Wing was also great at what it does, but a little too cumbersome for my taste. I finished off with a BMW K1200LT.

If you are not sure, something in the range of a less expensive hybrid like a Concourse would be a good bike to own until you figure out how you like to ride. One size does NOT fit all.

The good news is that they're all a lot of fun. Drive safely.

Dranoel 10-21-2009 08:24 PM

My wife and I had cruisers for a number of years. Mine was a Yamaha Venture 1300 cc four - 900 lbs give or take a few. It was great on the interstate but very heavy around town.

Two years ago we traded for Suzuki VStrom 650s. We upgraded for touring and have loved them. They handle light off-road, accelerate quickly and can cruise all day at 80. How fast do you want to go? We spent 10 days and 2500 miles this summer on at trip to the Black Hills and the backroads of the Badlands. Last year we circled Lake Michigan. I think these bikes are rock solid and a terrific bang for your buck. Check out www.stromtroopers.com if you'd like more information.

By the way, we met a group of 150 from that site with the same bike in South Dakota. I'm 60 and my wife is 50. And what a surprise - we were among the youngest there!

bbbamI 10-21-2009 08:35 PM

If you're going to be riding on the interstate for several hours, a more powerful bike will be your best bet, IMO. The motor won't have to strain as much. Even though our bike is big, we still get 40 to 45 mpg.

Martha 10-21-2009 08:57 PM

I had the Ninja 250 for a while. I liked the little lightweight thing. Very responsive and It as great tooling around town and even more so, for doing the twisties on the paved roads in my neck of the woods. Plenty of power for that purpose. It is not so great for long distance riding freeway driving. I road it 150 miles one day and yuck. It does get knocked around by crosswinds a bit and it isn't the best thing to ride on a busy freeway.

But that isn't the place to ride a cycle anyway.

I have never tried the bigger Ninja, but the 500 might be a great choice.

Never tried the Suzuki either, but I did have a Virago for a while. I found it to be a PITA. I didn't like the riding position.

The Ninja is one of many bikes I have had and sold and wish I still had.

CyclingInvestor 10-21-2009 09:41 PM

My starter motorcycle (Honda 200 Custom) was great for street riding - plenty of power, and I am a big guy - but a little light on freeway power. My later motorcycles were Honda 650 Nighthawks and a 700 Maxim. They had way more power than I ever needed, and felt very stable on the freeway. I liked the shaft drives for their zero maintainance.

Ed_The_Gypsy 10-21-2009 09:44 PM




Sam 10-22-2009 12:01 AM

Thanks all for your response.

I have owned more than 10 motorcycles since my first one when I was 13 years old. My smallest one the Honda Cub, 50cc. My fastest bike is a Honda CB400. In between, I have owned cruiser, standard, and hybrid (street/off-road) bike. The most humongous one I have tried is my friend's monster Honda VTX1800. Try as I might, I could not find a single nice thing to say about it. Same with my other friend's Virago 1100, same with my own Virago 535. My favorite type has always been the standard motorcycle (CB400, GN250, Scrambler 125). May be it's just nostalgia. But those 70's, 80's standard are no longer produced/sold in the USA. Instead we now have the semi-standard type such as the Ninja 500R, the Suzuki SV650, the BMW F650CS, etc... Truth is these new semi-standard bikes are head and shoulder above the traditional standard in performance. I'll just have to learn to love leaning a bit forward.

Of all the bikes I have tried in the past few weeks, the smallest, lightest, cheapest Ninja 250R left the most favorable impression on me. I will not buy it because I already have a 250 Suzuki in my garage, but I'm still in awe with Kawasaki's ability to come up with such a product. Anyway, I will be picking up my blue Ninja 500R toy tomorrow.


Trek 10-22-2009 02:05 AM

Ride something unique. They sell the Russian Ural motorcycle in the U.S. these days. Very cool bike with the sidecar.

Ural | Russian Motorcycles

Interesting history to the bike. Originally was a reverse-engineered BMW R71.

IMZ-Ural - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

frayne 10-22-2009 06:38 AM

First, take a MSF course. Then look at used bikes, many out there. I would suggest nothing smaller than 600 cc. I started with a Honda Magna 750 and now ride an Yama FJR 1300, which I really enjoy. Also what kind of riding, straight flat roads, twisties, interstae, long trips, etc. ?

edsahara 10-22-2009 10:42 AM

Buy yourself a Harley
Sam, Since you don't yet have a Harley on your list, I'd suggest you buy one. I have nothing but good things to say about the other bikes I've owned, but made the switch to Harley about 10 years ago and am glad I did. There are many more activities to take part in that have been a lot of fun. You can always keep a Ninja on the side if you want a change of pace.

calmloki 10-22-2009 01:06 PM

Maybe get the #1 motorcycle in the world:

Greatest Motorcycle In History Goes Electric | Autopia | Wired.com

Now coming in all electric!

Sam 10-22-2009 01:18 PM

What a coincidence. I read that article last night with great anticipation and nostalgia. The modern rendition is so nice and elegant.

73ss454 10-22-2009 01:44 PM

Not me, I like doors myself.

Texas Proud 10-22-2009 04:12 PM

From a non bike rider... but has a BIL who has 5 in his garage... some not working...

He liked his gold wing, but it was 'big'... I think his daily driver is a Suzuki or Yamaha 600 or 650 sport bike... he an my nephew it seems has settled in on the 'mid' sized bike... has the power and the handling...

My BIL said that my nephew can do laps on a racetrack on his mid bike faster than a number of people can with 1000s and 1200s...

IF I had to choose, I would go for handling over the bigger motor.... handling for me is #1... then power... because if you can not handle the power, it is wasted... (or can kill you)...

cantlogin 10-22-2009 04:23 PM


Originally Posted by Sam (Post 867756)
... I will be picking up my blue Ninja 500R toy tomorrow.


Excellent choice

Martha 10-22-2009 04:31 PM


Originally Posted by calmloki (Post 867880)
Maybe get the #1 motorcycle in the world:

Greatest Motorcycle In History Goes Electric | Autopia | Wired.com

Now coming in all electric!

Oh mama, gimme one.

NW-Bound 10-22-2009 06:52 PM

Well, I do have a 1982 Honda Passport C70. I have had it for 27 years, and put 2,000 mi on it just riding it in the neighborhood looking at yard sales in the 1980s. Have not ridden it much since, but wouldn't sell it for anything.

It is a variation of the Cub, but made for US import, and has a 70cc engine. It's up at my 2nd home, and I do not have a picture of it, but it is blue and looks just like the linked picture.

By the way, its suspension is too soft and it does not have enough clearance to be a trail bike. However, it carries two - lightweight ones anyway, like ourselves - see fold-up footrests - and would look great mounted behind an RV. Perhaps I can carry it along with the recently acquired CT70 trail bike also. Heck, they are small enough one can carry inside a class C motorhome.


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