You know, there are 3 main ways people get into motorcycles. You have the people who have been into dirt bikes since the could say the word “bike”. You have the 16, 17 year olds how want a fast sport bike because its a cheap way to get their speed kicks. and you have the guys who get into it through their mid-life crisis.
Today, I’m going to cover another group of bikes that really shouldn’t be your first. big cruisers.
First off, what is a “big” cruiser. This is always going to be an interesting topic. cruiser motors are definitely down on power compared to their sport-bike cousins, so you can start on a much bigger engined cruiser then sport bike. A 650cc cruiser? No problem. It is also a big plus for cruisers that they have such long wheel bases (which is also a down side, as we see later)
So, for our purposes, lets call sub 650CCs “small” cruisers, 650-1000 mid sized, and 1000cc + big cruisers.
Now I will admit that if I had to choose between a big 1000cc+ cruiser or a 600CC sport bike as a first bike, I would choose the cruiser. Its not without its disadvantages, but it certainly less deadly then a 600CC sportbike. That doesnt mean they dont have draw backs.
So, why WOULD you buy a cruiser as a first bike?
1: all cruisers have low seat heights. great for shorter riders
2: they are far less likely to wheelie or stoppie compared to a sportbike, which makes some people feel safer.
Now notice how both of those actually apply to ALL cruisers, not just the big ones. So why would you want a BIG cruiser as your first bike?
Honestly? I have absolutely no idea. Probably for the same reason squids buy 600s and 1000s for their first bikes. Showing off.
Now, why do I think big cruisers make bad beginner bikes?
A harley 883 is about 565 lbs. That’s 1/4 ton of bike. and the Harley a MEDIUM cruiser. While a lot of the more ‘naked’ cruisers tend to stay under 600lbs, once you start to add saddle bags and fairing, it adds up. A Suzuki C50? 651 lbs. A harley road king is 820lbs of bike. A fully loaded road glide electra CVO heritage etc etc etc weighs in at 882lbs. Add in fuel, some stuff in your bags, and you are left with a 900 pound bike your trying to manhandle around parking lots. That is a LOT of weight to be trying and muscle around, especially as a first bike.
For reference, a ninja 250 weights in at 375lbs wet, ready to ride.
While they dont have the outright speed of the super sports, big v-twins have a lot of torque. meaning if you twist the gas mid corner, that wheel WILL break traction and you WILL end up on your ass. Same thing if you just dump the clutch off the line, you may not wheelie, but that wheel will spin and you could be headed for a world of hurt VERY soon.
While this might not bother some people as much (especially if they are getting into this when they are a little older and have a bit more money in the bank) but big cruisers are not cheap to buy. And its not just the initial price that isn’t cheap. Insurance tends to be more expensive (because its a more expensive bike) and parts are...well, painful. I had a co-worker get lightly rear ended and dropped the bike on the side (person behind her took their foot off the brake and the car rolling into her). The parts were a total of FOUR THOUSAND dollars. For dropping the bike on its side. As a beginner, do you really want to be (literally) dropping 4k when you drop the bike? Because chances are you WILL drop your first bike.
This is probably the single biggest reason. They’re all wrong. Your feet are in front of you, when they should be directly under you. This puts more weight on your butt, and less on the footpegs. Now you’re less able to shift your weight around because your butt is “planted” on the seat. It also forces your body into a reclined position, which puts more pressure on the lower back. And that’s just the footpegs.
The seat sucks because it’s shaped like a comfy chair. Your butt is stuck in one place, making harder to shift your weight around.
The handlebars suck because they’re usually up at shoulder level. Because you’re leaned back, your not putting any real force into the bars, so less weight is on the front wheel. You’ll have less feel or “feedback” from the the front wheel. It’s also more fatiguing to have your arms raised like that... eventually the blood drains out of them.
(note this is more of an issue on the bigger cruisers, not so much on the smaller ones, which tend to have more neutral ergonomics)
The funny thing is, a new rider doesn’t know this. They sit on the bike in the middle of a showroom and think: yea, this is WAY more comfy then a ninja 300. They have no idea how much it meddles with the riding dynamics of the bike.
Also, bobbers and crazy raked out choppers. No. They just take the worst parts of a cruiser and exaggerate them for the sake of looks, and thus make the riding experience even more strange.
And as always, where the right gear! Doesnt matter if you are on a cruiser or a sport bike, the ground at 50 MPH feels the exact same way.
Ride safe, and keep the shiny side up!