Cruisers vs Sportbikes

Cruiser riders vs sportbike riders. The animosity is almost at the level of baymen vs townies. At the end of the day we’re all motorcyclists. Why can’t we all just get along???

Perhaps it’s because of a generation gap. Or maybe it’s because of stereotypes, which lead to exclusiveness and intolerance. Two prevailing stereotypes heard in the motorcycle community are:

Cruiser riders: “big fat middle-aged men in piss-pot helmets riding 5km to Tim Horton’s twice a week to drink coffee and look at their chrome”

Sportbike riders: “young punks with more money than brains riding around recklessly on their donor-cycles, driving up the cost of insurance for the rest of us”

Yes, this city does have riders that fit both of these descriptions. But like all stereotypes, they overgeneralize and don’t fully describe the majority. There are plenty of cruiser riders that are NOT in the grips of a mid-life crisis, who wrench on their own bikes and rack up thousands of kilometers each year touring the continent. Not all sportbike riders are twenty-somethings with a death wish, I can think of plenty that are very responsible riders, and many are 40+ or older. That being said, I admit that it would be a little weird to see a 20 year old on an Electraglide, or to pull up to a red light next to a guy on a GSX-R and have him flip up his visor showing his wrinkled, weathered face…”wanna drag, me ducky?”

I started out as a “cruiser girl”, and didn’t really understand the appeal of sportbikes . So they’re super-fast. Big deal. They looked uncomfortable and the plastics seemed much too delicate for a person who has been known to dump her bike at least once each season. By the way, when almost 700 lbs of motorcycle reaches the “topple over point”, the best thing to do is just get out of the way and let her go. Don’t try to catch it. It’s easier to buff out scratches and replace broken bits than it is to heal torn ligaments and sprained muscles!

I was introduced to the “other side” via BMW Motorad’s test ride day, where I fell in love with the F800R. It’s a “naked” bike, basically a sportbike minus the plastics, with higher handlebars and more comfortable ergonomics. Performance-oriented and very practical, naked bikes are a throw-back to the Universal Japanese Motorcycles (UJM’s) of the 1980’s, and truly a blast to ride.

Now that I own both a cruiser and a (naked) sportbike, I truly don’t understand the strong dislike that some riders have for other motorcycle genres. I feel that I have the best of both worlds. I really can’t decide which one I like more, and that’s why as long as my budget allows it I will have both.  Both bikes have their strengths and weaknesses, and they both appeal to me deeply on different levels.

If I’m going to be on the highway for longer than an hour, I take my Harley. That bike is extremely stable, and the wind doesn’t bother me at all (especially when I have my retro 80’s Maxim windshield on her, thank you NL Classifieds) The low-end torque is addictive, and the bike is so “picky” about gearing that I have to be in tune with it all the time. There’s no tachometer, so I have to “feel” what the engine is doing, which is pretty easy because the engine rattles like a paint shaker. It’s low-tech, it’s visceral, AND there’s that distinctive rumble. I’ve put over 22,000 kilometers on that bike since September 2009, including a round trip from St. John’s to St. Anthony last summer. Oh, and she’s seen more dirt roads than a lot of adventure-tourers. It’s no “coffee shop” bike!

I love my YZF600R for scooting around town, and taking a scattered ride up the Southern Shore or out the old Conception Bay highway. She’s incredibly light and maneuverable, very powerful and so responsive. With the fairing removed it’s easy to forget that this was Yamaha’s premier 600cc race bike in the late 1990’s, but the braking and handling is still there when you need it. I usually use this bike for commuting, because when you’re in rush hour on Kenmount Road and some idiot cuts you off, it’s nice to be able to stop on a dime. Contrary to what many people believe (and what insurance rates imply), sportbikes are inherently safer. It’s just that the manner in which they’re ridden gets some people in trouble.

If you’ve never experienced the “other side”, come out and take advantage of demo rides happening at most dealerships this summer. If you’re a cruiser rider, take out a sportbike with an upright seating position like the Yamaha FZ6R, or a big sport-tourer like the Kawasaki Concours.  To the performance junkies: try out a torque monster such as the Suzuki M109, with dual front disk brakes and inverted forks.

You never know, you may find something that really appeals to you. Or you may be reminded of exactly why you love YOUR bike. Either way, it’s fun. Isn’t that the reason we ALL ride?


Posted on July 5, 2013, in Behind the Visor and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Maureen finlay

    I cannot comment on riding a bike Krista because I never learned and I am too old now for adventure but you seem to know quite a lot.I must say I enjoyed reading your blog and I am much more informed.You have great writing skills.Stay safe and have a wonderful summer.

  2. I’ve read through some of your blog, I’m now in St John’s. I’ve had perfect riding weather for the past 11 days

  3. Interesting observations! I’m a cruiser girl based on a short inseam (26 in on a good day). That rules out my being able to tackle a sport or endure style. Either way, I’ve never had a problem with any other ‘type’ of motorcyclists that a “Nice bike!” doesn’t cure. 🙂
    Great read on your blog. I’ll be coming back for more.

    • Thanks for reading Marg, seems like we share a common passion! I enjoy your blog as well, looking forward to hearing about your adventures during your holidays 🙂

      • They will include ziplining, quading up a mountain and some wineries thrown in for good measure – all destinations I gave to get to on a bike 😉

  4. Haha I love your descriptions of the stereotypical sportbike and cruiser riders. Spot on 🙂 I’m a 20 year old girl with a V-star and as soon as I show people my bike, I know what they’re thinking: ” why would you get that, that’s an old man’s bike”… ugh stereotypes.

  5. Haha I love your descriptions of the stereotypical sportbike and cruiser riders. Spot on 🙂 I’m a 20 year old girl with a V-star and as soon as I show people my bike, I know what they’re thinking: ” why would you get that, that’s an old man’s bike”… ugh stereotypes.

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