Inspired by Miss Mercedes’ post a while back about all of the bikes she’s ever ridden, I decided to do the same. I tried to keep the individual reviews somewhat short, but this post still got pretty long.
82 Yamaha XJ750 Maxim – Mine
This bike was my first bike and has nearly gone through more configurations than I can remember starting from a completely stock bike, to stock with a lower tracker style bar, to the cut frame, clip on handlebar, rear set café racer, to where it is now as more of a brat/tracker style.
I don’t remember it much in its first two configurations other than it being pretty comfortable but awkward/lazy to handle in stock form, improving slightly with the flatter bars. The clip ons and rear sets made it feel very low and sporty, but after a couple years I found it fairly uncomfortable and grew tired of it. I also ended up grabbing my toe on the ground a few times when turning due to my riding position. The way it sits now has been my favorite set up so far, the bike feels lighter and more flick-able. It feels very much like an old hot-rod bike should, loud, smelly, hot, fast enough to be scary, barely acceptable brakes, and handling that should really only be wielded by someone intimately familiar with the bike, but immensely fun. A better set of rear shocks, a fork rebuild at a minimum, and a set of braided brake lines would go a long way, but even as it sits I absolutely love this bike.
08 Harley Sportster 883 Low – Mine
My first Harley and my first V-twin. Compared to my XJ750 this thing handled like a dream, but in reality was lacking. The ride was very stiff, and I had little trouble bottoming the suspension, it didn’t help that it was a factory lowered bike. The little 883 certainly wasn’t fast, but in classic V-Twin fashion it had a nice flat torque curve and acceleration was extremely linear. Brakes were acceptable. I went through 3 different sets of bars on this bike as well, stock, clubmans, and mini-apes (chest height). The stock bars handled well but hunched me over, the clubmans were really fun but not comfortable on long rides, and the mini-apes were the best bars I’ve ever experienced on a bike. I also had both forward and mid controls on this bike, I preferred the mids, but the forwards were more comfortable. With a better seat I could have ridden that bike all day, but I ultimately sold it because the little 883 just wasn’t enough for the longer distance and interstate trips I was taking more and more frequently. This bike gave me that same hot-rod feeling I mentioned above, but in a newer more refined package. The thing I miss the most about it is not what you might expect, the hand controls. Say what you will about Harley, but they have the best hand controls I’ve ever used, the large smooth levers are crazy comfortable, the controls are compact and easy to use, and having a separate button (one right, one left) for each blinker should be the only way to use blinkers on a bike.
06 Yamaha Warrior 1700 – Mine
This was the replacement for the Sportster, and my first big displacement V-Twin. While obviously not sport bike fast, this thing is still properly fast. Hammer on the throttle and you’re breaking any speed limit before you even consider checking how fast you’re going. IMO this is the peak of the muscle cruiser design, cast aluminum frame, suspension heavily derived from the R1 of the period, and brakes directly off the R1, it has floating rotors and radial calipers for cripes sake, and a big ass air cooled V-twin. Needless to say, for such a big bike, this thing boogies. I rode it out to Sturgis this past year (first time going) and it handled everything without a sweat. Fast, smooth, stable and comfortable running 85mph, quick and confidence inspiring in the curves, and nimble and light (relatively) when negotiating the big crowds and parking lots. If you’re looking for a good used cruiser with some sporty feel, I couldn’t recommend these more.
82 Honda XR200R – Mine
I literally brought this bike back from the dead as it came from a scrap yard. It was a fun bike but its age was easily visible. It would have made a decent enduro/trail bike, but the small drum brakes on both ends were not confidence inspiring. Power was fine for 200lb me, not fast, not slow, but enough to putz around and have fun, and having a six speed was nice for cruising down gravel roads. I’m 6’ and the bike felt too short for me, I had to sit at the way back of the seat to get comfortable, which made the front end feel light. I don’t really have any dirt experience, and I know you need to be constantly shifting on a dirt bike, but personally the amount I had to move, and how often, felt excessive and unnatural. The bike likely just wasn’t sized right for me.
81 Honda CB900C – Dad’s
The big displacement UJM, 900cc inline 4, ten speed (5 w/ hi/low), shaft drive, air suspension, mid controls and highway pegs. All the makings for a big comfy cruiser one step short of a Goldwing, which is exactly what this bike is. The power curve hits like any four cylinder, but transitions very smoothly from lazy cruising to refined excitement like nearly every Honda ever. When it comes to brakes and handling age on these is noticeable as bikes have come a long way, but is still plenty acceptable, especially with a few refreshed parts. At 6’ I do feel a little cramped in the cockpit, but that is usually easily remedied.
8? Honda CM400T – Friend’s
This bike belonged to a friend in college and I’m not sure why she let me ride it as much as she did, but I’m glad she did. Typical UJM experience again, but in a smaller, lighter package. The definition of slow bike fast. Power isn’t even worth wasting words on, and this particular example had a clapped out exhaust that rattled like crazy and was louder than it needed to be. The perfect bike to ride around campus grabbing all the throttle you could at any opportunity, making more noise and ruckus than actual speed. The only bike I would look back on and not be ashamed of being that guy. Would make a fine city commuter bike I guess, but that’s just boring, find one of these, throw on a crappy exhaust, ride the piss out of it, regret nothing.
03 Yamaha R6 – Friend’s
Hopped on this and rode it in the same manner as I would my XJ750, doubled the highway speed limit by the time I came out of third gear. With the added wind protection and how quickly and smoothly this bike made power it would almost be boring if not for how terrifyingly easy it is to reach triple digit speeds. Miserably uncomfortable after five miles. Likely a hoot on curvy roads, which we do not have in eastern South Dakota. How my friend rode this for a 500 mile trip on the interstate I will never understand.
80 Yamaha XS650 – Friend’s
My favorite UJM, a surprising amount of low end, and an also surprising amount of top end. Pretty comfortable in stock form with a very light, narrow and nimble feeling.
78 Yamaha XS750 – Friend’s
Again, typical UJM experience, the three cylinder engine is exactly how everyone describes these, %95 of the low end of a big twin, %95 of the top end of an I4. The sound these make though, especially with an aftermarket exhaust is orgasmic.
2000 Victory V92C – Friend’s
01? Victory V92C – Different Friend’s
Victory’s first bike and attempt at a big twin cruiser, and it feels like it. Big comfortable bike with a good amount of power, but lacking just a little bit basically everywhere. It could use a little more power, a little less weight, the shifter could be a little easier to use, the clutch a little lighter, the suspension a little softer, the handling a little better, a bit more reliable, the styling fixed just a hair, the brakes however are fantastic.
?? Yamaha QT50 – Friend’s
I have to push off with my feet to even begin to move, but what a blast this thing was. Like the fun you had when you were a kid riding a bicycle that was comically too small for you, but this one has an angry little two stroke attached to it so you don’t have to pedal and goes 25mph all day long.
?? Yamaha Vino 50cc – Friend’s/Friend’s wife’s
My first scooter experience, being a motorcycle guy I hated on scooters for the longest time and I’m ashamed of myself because scooters are so much fun. Just grab all of the throttle all of the time and blast around town until you realize you haven’t eaten in two days, because that’s how long the fuel will probably last. The Vino was really fun, very light and nimble, and more powerful than one would expect for a 50cc four stroke. Just the right amount of Italian Vespa flair to not care that you’re not actually on a Vespa.
07 Yamaha Roadstar Roadliner 1900 – Freind’s
Gorgeous bikes, in any color, but especially in black. Incredibly comfortable standard cruiser, with a 1900cc air cooled V-twin that makes incredibly large hills of torque. This doesn’t make mountains of torque because mountains are jagged and rough, and this bike is not. Frame and engine from the same family as my Warrior above, just smoothed out, and more tailored to comfort cruising and less towards carving curves, but more than capable of holding its own.
08? Suzuki GSRX1000 – Friend’s/co-worker
I never took this bike above 45mph, was too scared. This was my first sport bike experience and I was still fairly new to riding in general. The clutch was very touchy.
18 Harley Sportster 1200 – Demo Ride
Brought back all of the fond memories of my 883. Just as terrible as I remember. I was disappointed in the lack of power that I expected the 1200 to have compared to my 883, apparently the two are geared differently which would explain that. The throwback AMF graphics were bitching and brought on a wave of nostalgia to a time before I was even born.
18 Harley Street Bob – Demo Ride
The new Harley I expected to like the most, but the one I liked the least. Ergonomics were terrible for me and even though those are easy to change it turned me off of the bike. The new Milwaukee 8 was good, but nothing to write home about, my 12 year old Yamaha feels livelier. That compact dash however should be on every motorcycle ever, it should be a law, I will vote for anyone who can make that happen.
18 Harley Softtail Deluxe – Demo Ride
Never have I ever done such a hard 180 on how I feel about something. Always my least favorite style of Harley, to the point that I nearly hated them, I decided to try one because I was at that demo day to try something new, not experience the same type of bikes I’ve always ridden, and I Fell. In. Love. The gorgeous blue paint sparkled even in the overcast day, and the perfect amount of old school feel blended perfectly with modern touches. Like the Sportster above I felt like I was transported to a time decades before I was born and enjoyed every minute of it. The perfect bike to meander down curvy back roads, pulling over to let faster bikes go by because you’re there to take it all in and not hunt down the next corner. A bike that will make you happy to ride slow.
18 Harley Fat Bob – Demo Ride
A lot of fanfare around this bike when it debuted. It certainly felt more sporty than your average Harley in handling, power, and riding position, but overall fairly unremarkable. The kind of bike you have to want, not the kind that happens to be exactly what you were looking for.
18 Harley Street Glide – Demo Ride
Baggers have never been my type of bikes, I’ve always related to the phrase “If I wanted a windshield and a radio I would have driven my car”, but this bike changed that. While it wasn’t a fast bike it was still quick enough to have plenty of fun, and where this bike lacked in performance, it made up for in comfort. The seat was big and soft, the handlebars right where I wanted them, the windshield made riding feel smooth and effortless. I could have spent all day on this bike if they let me, and I now see the appeal in touring style bikes.
18 Indian Chieftain high output – Demo Ride
If the Harley changed my opinion on baggers, the Chieftain solidified it. The high output motor really made this thing a mover and the bike was supremely comfortable. The big infotainment screen, which should feel wrong on a motorcycle IMO, felt right at home, was easy to read, and easy to use. Compared to the Street Glide the Indian felt a little more upscale with the diamond stitched seat, a few more pieces of chrome trim, and the infotainment center that was much nicer than they Harley. There was however a fairly minor thing I didn’t like, the controls felt bulky and hard to use, reaching the blinker switch and other frequently used buttons required more stretching and reaching than was necessary. Again, I strongly believe Harley makes the best hand controls on the market. The other thing that stood out about the Chieftain was that it felt heavy, even on the road you could feel this bike’s weight, for long highway rides it makes for a nice stable ride, but I wouldn’t want to lug this thing around a lot of curves or slow maneuvers. Given a choice between the Street Glide and the Chieftain, I’d have to go with the Indian, but only just.
18 Indian Classic – Demo Ride
Indian’s most basic big cruiser. Without the high output engine this bike felt downright slow, and the throttle response, especially off idle was atrocious. Apart from that the bike was comfortable enough but not very memorable. If you want a super retro basic motorcycle the HD Softtail Heritage is the way to go. The Indian did have cruise control however, which I’m not sure is offered on the HD.
7? Honda CB750F (SOHC) – Friend’s
A friend of mine was looking to buy this bike but had never ridden at that point so I offered to test ride it for him. I don’t remember much about it apart from being your typical UJM experience. At the time the SOHC CB750 was the big thing (as if it isn’t still), and while I think they’re great looking bikes, my short ride didn’t fill me with rabid enthusiasm these bikes seem to garner.
74 DT175 – Mine
Got this bike for free from the seller of the CB750 in total basket case condition. I spent most of my money on parts non-essential to make a running bike before I realized that what it needed was a new piston and only very expensive new old stock ones were available. The cost of the piston and machining was more than double what I already had in the bike, and I’d still have a basket case in the end. I ended up selling the bike for a $150 loss because I had other projects at the time and didn’t want to mess with it. Looking back I wish I’d held on to this one and slowly put it back together over the years.
Yamaha Roadstar Raider 1900 – Co-Worker’s
One term appropriately sums up this bike, Freight Train. All of the torque you ever want always on tap, confident, stable, planted, takes two miles to turn around. The handling wasn’t bad per-se, but with the raked out front end and long wheelbase turning this thing around took some effort. A great bike for long straight roads, a handful when things get twisty.
82 Honda Shadow 750 (VT750) – Friend’s
The heyday of Japanese American style cruisers, tall front end, swoopy tank, and a factory king and queen seat. Ground clearance was super low and lean angle was the worst I’ve ever experienced, handling is best described as being on the wrong side of questionable, the ergonomics were terrible for me, making me super cramped in the saddle, and the vibrations this thing made were horrible, you might as well remove the mirrors because they never did you any good. Objectively this is by all means a terrible bike, but a 750cc V-twin that screams all the way to 9k and comes with a tall overdrive 6 speed? Yes please. Not a bike I’d want to spend a lot of time with stock, but it would make an awesome custom.
0? Honda Shadow 750 – Friend’s
Despite sharing a model number, name, and engine, the newer Honda Shadows are nothing like the Shadows of old. The styling and comfort of the newer bike has changed to be less chopper and more standard cruiser which makes for a more comfortable bike. The positive change for the comfort, nearly doubles in the negative for the engine. Despite being based on the same engine platform, the newer bike felt much slower and less powerful than the 82. I’m not sure what changed between the two years, but it’s a very noticeable change. The 750 Shadow makes for a decent starter cruiser, easy to ride in town and able to handle highway runs, and while my friend has taken long interstate trips on it, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Yamaha YZ85? – Cousin’s
I think this was the first motorcycle I ever rode. I remember it taking me quite a while to figure out the clutch and I didn’t ride it long. I don’t really remember anything about the bike.
17 Harley Lowrider S – Test Ride
Waiting for a friend I decided to kill some time and went into the HD dealership. A few salesmen started talking to me and even after I made it very clear that I was only there to kill some time, they offered to let me ride the new Lowrider S. The last hurrah of the Dyna platform this bike performed really well considering what it is. It’s still no sportbike, but even as a cruiser based bike it pulled hard, cornered with a surprising amount of confidence, and stopped on a dime.
Honda Rebel 250 (previous generation) – MSF bike
The go to MSF bike, after learning to ride in my yard on my XJ750 the Rebel felt like a toy. Light, low to the ground, laughable power, and cruiser ergonomics it’s a whole lot of good mixed with a whole lot of bad. I remember the clutch being very easy to modulate, and having to peg the throttle in order to hit the speeds required for the test maneuvers. I managed to scrape peg during my test, which after having more riding experience isn’t that remarkable on a 250 Rebel, but at the time it was the coolest feeling ever.
If you made it this far thanks for reading, this got a lot longer than I anticipated.