It 2008 and I’m in Thermopolis Wyoming on my way to Reno for the air races. I’m here for two reasons. One it’s home to the Wyoming Dinosaur center, one of the largest continuously active digs in North America and you know me I’m mad about fossils and rocks and two it has one of the largest mineral water pool formations in North America as well. But you can look further back in this blog to read all about that. I want to rehash a discussion I had with the owner of a Harley Davidson Custom Soft tail that I had the first evening I was there. So first off let me state I’ve got nothing against Harleys. They’re not my cup of tea but to each their own. I go pretty much everywhere I can with my bike on road or off road but I can see the appeal of well appointed Fatboy and just stooging down the road. But the majority of Harley riders do amuse me with their comments sometimes.
So we’re just hanging out looking over our bikes and he asks me,” How much was yours?”
“About $6800, tax in,” I reply, “But add another six hundred for the Cee Bailey Tall shield and the luggage. How about you?”
“$40,000.” I almost asked him where it was because there wasn’t a custom paint job or as far as I could tell shit loads of custom chrome on his bike. I mean for $40G, I could have had two fully decked out Ducatti Monsters sitting in my garage. He took my shocked silence for acknowledgement of his purchasing prowess in regards to American Iron. “How big is your engine?” was his next question.
“It’s a 650 cc V Twin. Same engine as the SV 650 but it’s been detuned to give it better torque value.” I know it sounds like a sales pitch but as any Strom owner will tell you, this is the pitch damn near word for word for the 04 to 11 versions. I can’t even do the math conversion for CC’s into Cubic Inches. I know Harley has an 88, 96, and 108 Cubic inch engine respectively but I can’t tell you equivalent CC without pulling out my calculator. But for comparisons sake, 650cc is about 40 Cui. 88Cui is about 1450cc, 96 is about 1600 cc and 108 is just under 1800 cc. For the record, Triumph makes the Rocket III at a staggering 2600 cc.
Now you’d think that Engine size and Horsepower would have a direct correlation and they do to a point but the big factor in output is rpm.
So he does the math in his head and comes out with a number about half the size of his bike’s engine, so his reply is, “And you made it over the mountains on that? I tried to educate him.
“Your bike,” I pointed to his expensive mid life crisis, weighs about 800 pounds and produces around 54 horsepower at peak rpm (say 2200 for arguments sake) and it’s carbed. My bike,” I nod in the direction of the Strom, “Is 550 pounds and produces sixty three horsepower at peak rpm. It’s also fuel injected so it doesn’t care about what altitude it’s at, the computer compensates the fuel delivery to match. Not only did it carry me over and through the mountains, it did it at 70 mph.”
But of course, he wasn’t going to be swayed by the facts.
I’ve always preferred a smaller displacement lighter bike to a big heavy cruiser type, the same way I’ve always preferred straight bars to dropped bars or the semi ape hanger style a lot of the cruisers enjoy. Why do I like lighter bikes? Because I ride off road enough that at some point, I’m going to need to pick the bike up and I’d rather it not weigh as much as a small car. 650 cc is more than enough for me and more than enough to get me into trouble. In fact thanks to insurance issues and the fact that they’re just plain fun, a lot of guys are switching over to smaller displacement sport bikes and Motard style bikes because they can ride them a little closer to the line than a fully decked out supersport. What good is a bike with a top speed of over 300kph, if you can’t go over the speed limit by 50 kmh and risk losing your bike to the cops? While you can wring the neck of a 250 Sport and still have crap loads of fun in the corners.
Sure, maybe you don’t want to spend hours and hours on a bike like that touring but you can pretty much kit out any decent frame in the lower CC band to be the perfect bike for you and not break the bank. It’s a simple equation of what you want vs, what you need and what will get the job done.
And the side benefit from having a smaller lighter bike, is there’s not as much chrome to polish or in my case… none.