Horsepower

For quite some time the motorcycle industry has been engaged in the engine size race. Its very similar to the megapixel race of the photo industry. It is primarily a way to sell more motorcycles, to sell more product.

But when I think about it, what I’d really like is not the motorcycle that any of the major players have developed. Since my old 74 cu.in. Superglide would crank along at 100 mph for hours without complaint, it seems that a 80 cu. in. V-Twin is all I’d ever need. The additional displacement would be to slow the engine’s rpms a bit, to help promote longevity, because no one wants to rebuild a V-Twin every 50,000 miles.

That’s a dream machine. That machine would have classic V-Twin styling somewhere between an Indian Chief and a Harley shovelhead. It would have an extremely well-balanced 80 cu. in. engine and a six-speed transmission for those long hauls across North America. A kick starter would be in order, too. I always liked kicking over the Superglide. I’d choke it and electric start it in the morning, then kick it the rest of the time.

After a day’s first two hundred miles, I’m more than ready to kick the Road Star up into sixth gear. But sixth gear on a Road Star is a ghost gear. It doesn’t exist.

The six-speed is something the Japanese companies like Yamaha don’t get. They don’t yet realize that the United States is not Japan. We have room to breathe, and because of that room, particularly in the West, our day rides are typically hundreds of miles. And it is no big thing to fill the saddlebags, then ride for a week or two, putting a few thousand miles on the odometer.

Harley, Victory, and the custom builders in the USA get this. Americans get how Americans ride. There’s nothing mysterious about that.

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