Ugh. This should be easier than it is. This weekend, I took a much-needed break from the office, took off the “motorcycle accident lawyer” hat, and strapped on a helmet. No legal nonsense. No insurance adjusters. Just a biker looking for a new ride.
Those of you who keep up with my blog know that I’m searching for a new cruiser. To recap, my Harley Sportster (which was really more of a cafe racer than a cruiser, anyway) is out of commission for the foreseeable future. My daily ride now is an old-but-cool flat black 1991 Suzuki GSX1100g — basically a stripped-down, naked Katana. She’s fun to ride, but not great for long-distance travel. And the mere prospect of riding her from Los Angeles to San Francisco does not appeal to my girl one bit.
So I’m looking for a cruiser, but I really don’t want to break the bank. I hate financing toys — or anything for that matter — so I want to pay cash. But I also don’t relish the idea of dropping twenty grand or more.
With that in mind, I thought I would check out some of the “middle-weight” cruisers — 750cc-1000cc. I don’t want another Sportster, I don’t think. They are more of a standard than a cruiser, anyway, and therefore is not terribly well suited for long-distance rides. (I know, I know, some of you will argue that with a good seat and a windshield you’ve ridden four thousand miles uphill through snow, blah blah blah. Either way, I think Sporties are great, but best for short jaunts.)
So I first checked out a bike that caught my eye a couple of years ago. The Triumph America. I had heard that it handled great but was underpowered. Nonetheless, I always liked the look of it — and the fact that it was not a Japanese Harley wannabe. Specifically, it sports the old air-cooled Bonneville 800cc vertical twin engine. Unusual for its class. Climbing into the saddle, I was half convinced. Riding it, well, not so much.
The Good: I will admit that the America’s comfort level was impressive, as was the handling. She felt great going around turns, and I was even ok with the forward foot controls. (My girl even thought I looked good on it, but she took some pics, and all I could see from them was that I need to spend less time at the office and more time at the gym. Ugh.) I really believe I could sit on this thing for hours of riding. And just as importantly, the looks are sharp enough that I could see her sitting in my garage or driveway for months or years without getting sick at the sight of her. (It’s happened with other bikes.)
The Bad: First and foremost, this bike is definitely underpowered. In my old age, I’m no longer the speed freak I once was. I like riding slow and taking it easy. (Most of the time, anyway.) But when I rolled on the throttle of the America, I felt like this old girl was dragging cinder blocks behind her. No real umph. The freeway experience was even worse. She was fine getting up to about 75, but any more than that and I felt like I had to coax her. This is not to suggest a top speed of 75 — but I would call that her top comfortable speed. I pictured myself riding with a group of thundering hogs from one “poker run” stop to the next, and rolling in dead last every time. Or worse, just plain getting left behind.
So it pains me to say it, because the price on this beauty was right. And she looked very cool, easy to work on, and all the things I look for in a bike. But at the end of the day, how useful is a motorcycle in Southern California if you can’t let her scream through the desert? So the search continues. I’ll keep you posted.
(And I guess I should add here, as a responsible motorcycle accident attorney, please ride safely, don’t speed, etc. As my old man use to tell me, do as I say, not as I blog.)