Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: My day with Barney the Cruiser


My day with Barney the Cruiser

I jumped into the world of cruisers today with an interesting companion.

Meet "Barney," a 2005 Honda VTX1300S that I borrowed from work for the weekend until Eleanor is ready to hit the road again. This bike earned this name because of its custom paint job of purple with silver flames. But it's no dinosaur by any means; Honda, along with the other Japanese and European bike makers, has been making cruisers that still possess the styling cues of a classic bike while using modern technology such as water cooling and shaft drive to allow for a smoother ride and extended reliability.

Since I started riding bikes seven years ago I have never spent this much time on large cruiser motorcycle until now. It's been a very interesting experience to say the least...for the first time in my riding career I'm on a bike that's "just like everyone else's."

Here in Ohio (and this part of the country for that matter) cruiser/classic style motorcycles make up the vast majority of the bikes on the road. With Ohio's proximity to Milwaukee, WI, the home of Harley-Davidson, and the demographics of the population out here it's not surprising that the classic American look and style is very popular. In contrast to CA where sportbikes and sport touring machines are far more common for the purpose of weaving in and out of traffic with precision, the Midwest is where the cruiser is king.

Being a sport touring motorcycle rider and an unusually young one at that, I've always found myself as an outsider among the throngs of machines at any given bike night or other related event. When I would ride with Eleanor down the street, the only riders that would wave to me would be touring bikes, sportbikes, and cruisers that felt no need to discriminate against my style of ride. I'm "just another random motorcycle" until I come to a complete stop, either at a gas station or some place on the open road, where curious eyes finally notice me and Eleanor in our strange getup and traveling equipment. (I did try to stand out a little bit from the normal cruiser bike crowd by being one of the very few riders that wore a fully padded jacket, long gauntlet gloves with titanium knuckles, a full face helmet, and riding pants.)

In contrast to my normal motorcycle situation, after being on that Honda VTX1300S and riding through the thoroughfares of Columbus I don't think that I've been waved at while I was on a motorcycle that many times in a single day in my entire life, as if being on this cruiser instantly made me look super cool or someone worth acknowledging. From a distance I was just one of the thousands of cruisers that were on the road on this unusually warm Sunday afternoon in April, and with that paint job I turned heads by what I rode, not where I rode from. The image of me on a cruiser and attracting that much attention by my appearance is one that I can't seem to adopt for myself, but it was fun to spend a day in another rider's shoes and be that "badass" that I can never be on my FJR1300.

This week I am hoping to get Eleanor back on the road again so we can go back to business as usual and throw some more miles on the odometer. I am fortunate to be able to delve into so many avenues of the motorcycle culture. We riders are social case studies in ourselves!