I just got my March 2013 Cycle Canada, and the controversy started by Michael Uhlarik in the January 2013 issue is growing. In January, Michael stated
"Not for them the land yachts of the cruiser ilk. The influence and relevance of the cruiser, in world terms, is fading - and not a moment too soon."
Apparently, some sharp eyed readers spotted this barbed comment, and now Cycle Canada is getting letters starting off with variations of "You, sir are an idiot." By the way, Michael has also expressed interest in electric motorcycles, so he will be no stranger to controversy.
This month, the editor, Neil Graham, has waded into the fray:
"Uhlarik's quip that the cruiser style can't die 'a moment too soon' reflects a surprisingly common view within the motorcycle industry.'
"no one who writes about them [cruisers] wants to own one."
"even the companies that make cruisers find no enthusiasm for them. At cruiser press launches, long after the rhetoric of the PR people has faded, company staffers often lament the necessity of making cruisers at all. 'The bike works OK for a cruiser' they say"
"The cruiser's flaws as a dynamic work of engineering are more pronounced than those on other styles of motorcycles. That's just a fact."
"Simply put it's hard to go back to a type of motorcycle that doesn't handle, brake, or cover the miles as effortlessly as another type of bike."
First, I applaud Cycle Canada for carrying on the tradition of annoying their readers. Second, I think this is a worth while controversy, because far too many people choose to buy a cruiser without even considering any other type of motorcycle. But in the end, I do ride a cruiser (A Kawasaki Vulcan 900), so I feel the urge to defend my choice.
In defence of cruisers, strangely enough, I would start by conceding that Neil and Michael may be right. Other types of bike may have better performance (braking, steering, accelerating, top speed, suspension), and other types of bike may be more comfortable on a test ride. So objectively, they are better. Furthermore, the non-cruisers are more innovative, and thus more interesting to people who know bikes and the motorcycle business in and out.
But I own a cruiser, and there are reasons for my choice. Sure, one reason is that there are lots of them for sale - and that's exactly what Neil and Michael are arguing against. So maybe another point for them. But now here is the thing. I don't want to go fast any more, and with my Vulcan I am not really tempted to get any more speeding tickets. So that's one point in favour of cruisers, and other people are free to have different opinions on that.
At first, cruisers may not be comfortable, but I have found with time that I have adjusted to riding a cruiser with a low seat and the feet placed forward. The low seat has the advantage that you can pile cushions on top of it. And the feet forward has the advantage in comfort when you have a backrest. I don't have a proper accessory backrest, but when I'm travelling long distances without a passenger, I can use my duffel bag.
So far my arguments only really apply to people who typically like to drive slower, and like to rest their aching backs. And people who don't really care about all the new technology that makes it possible to go even faster, in even greater discomfort. (i.e. old people)
Now here's another argument. Cruisers come with back fenders that stop the spray. Most other bikes seem to be designed to see just how much spray they can direct up the rider's back off a wet road. I have no idea why they do that, but I don't like it.
Cruisers don't corner fast because they don't have enough ground clearance. But on the up side, cruisers don't need super-sticky tires that cost $400 and wear out every 8,000 kilometers. Long lasting tires may not appeal to magazine editors, (they don't pay for tires) or the motorcycle industry (they get paid for tires), but as an owner, I like it. And at lower speeds, it corners and brakes fast enough to stay safe on those tires.
Maybe if the designers and manufacturers concentrated on innovations that made motorcycles more comfortable, and safer, and cheaper, and easier to maintain, I would consider a new style bike. So far I'm not seeing it.
Picture: I love pictures of cats, if Mary Ann allowed, I would make all my blog pictures cats. What I am illustrating here is that bikes must be made to fit the life forms that ride them.