A country divided, a nation divided, hell maybe it’s even your workplace divided. How do we bring everyone back together? Can we? I can tell you this, I don’t know, nor do I truly care if I’m being honest. This is a blog on a motorcycle accessory dealer’s website, we aren’t here to find or establish world peace. For many of you, your motorcycle is an escape from all the serious crap that surrounds us, yet at the same time, so much of our culture is divided. None more so than the entire culture of American V-Twin Touring motorcycles.
Forget the whole Indian vs. Harley thing, that whole episode is far too difficult to navigate in the space I’m given here. I’m talking about the divide between the “new” trend of performance baggers which really only took hold less than 5 years ago, and the older, yet rejuvenated trend of “show” baggers. One, all show, the other, all go.
Since this blog does lend itself to the author’s opinion, I’ll inject a little. The American V-Twin touring motorcycle is designed for the exact thing that’s in its name: Touring. Long trips, comfort, convenience, reliability, and escape. I don’t own a touring motorcycle for the simple fact that I don’t enjoy touring on one. The owner of this business and I have been on several nearly cross-country adventures. We had fun, a lot of it. We still make jokes about it to this day, inside jokes that no one would understand unless they were there. “Are you bringing rain gear?” “Of course not, I don’t even own rain gear!” “Ok, I won’t bring any either.” Guess what happened on that trip? But alas, I prefer a nice weekend ride over a mile munching exodus.
Just because I don’t particularly enjoy going cross country on two wheels sure shouldn’t stop others from doing it. The entire motorcycle industry is built on the backs of those with Iron Butt Certifications and over 50,000 miles on their two or three year old motorcycles. Contrary to the name though, most touring bikes sold are never going to get too far from home. Sure, maybe there’s that bucket list trip to Sturgis (come see us at the Beaver Bar!) but outside of that, I’d be willing to say most touring bikes in garages across the country never see life outside of a 500 mile radius of the address their registration is mailed to.
You know what? That’s ok! That’s what makes motorcycles so appealing to myself and most others. They can be anything you need them to be. Maybe your passenger brow beat you into buying a touring bike after a few years on the back of your chopper. Perhaps you enjoy the protection from the elements, and a place to easily store and lock your belongings. Whatever it is, we are simply happy you’re a part of our culture. Where’s the division at this point? Where’s the point of contention that will leave you searching for an email address to send a nasty gram to? Here it is…there really isn’t one. We play both sides of this card.
In the red corner, red for redlines, are performance baggers. To those on the “other” side, this is an oxymoron. How are you going to turn a nearly 1,000 pound air cooled piece of Americana into what some consider a race bike? The motorcycle industry has you covered. While every touring bike rider can benefit from upgraded suspension (which is one of the first upgrades we recommend), a true performance bagger takes upgraded suspension to a level you may have not known existed unless you migrated to this side of the industry from the sport bike world. Inverted forks, clickers, remote reservoir shocks, if you can dream it, we can nearly promise that a vendor that we carry makes it. Crack into that motor and you can find another level of horsepower and torque. Just a little tip here though, don’t call it “stages”. Once you do that, everyone knows you’ve been brain washed by the counter jockey at your local stealership. Cams, big bore kits, high compression pistons and then all the reliability enhancing parts like upgraded oil pumps and cam plates are all available here. In the case of Twin Cam and M8 platforms these parts can have you in the realm of over double your stock machine’s horsepower and torque. When you have your bike handling and making big power, there are two other components that you can’t forget, stopping and tires. Big brakes rotors and upgraded calipers, more aggressive brake pads, high temperature brake fluid. All of it matters. You can only go as fast as you can stop. Lastly, once you’ve spent a small fortune to go fast, stop fast and handle fast, remember that only one thing connects your bike to the road. Your tires. I happen to know a thing or two about tires and I can tell you this, the tires your bike rolled off the showroom with are the opposite of performance. There are an endless supply of better performing options on the market right now. Metzeler literally developed their Cruisetec tire for performance V-twins. Michelin followed thereafter by making their Commander III tire more sport oriented and I believe it’s only a matter of time before Dunlop follows suit. Tires are such a hot topic in racing circles, so if you’re building your bike in the same fashion, they need to be on your list as well.
Now to the blue corner, blue for cool. The “Show bagger” segment has been alive and well for over a decade. Sure, the performance bagger bros may poo poo these beauty queens, but to be honest, without the show baggers twisting touring bikes from being “geezer glides” to cool, the whole performance bagger movement wouldn’t even exist. There I said it. Both sides need each other. The Show bagger movement got its start with the big wheel movement. Back when stock touring bikes featured 16” wheels front and rear, intrepid custom builders pushed the limits. First was the “custom” 17” wheel, and then quickly 21” became the norm, just like the custom choppers that came before them. From there, the sky was the limit. 23”, 26”, then the somewhat standard 30” even all the way to 32” wheels and the rubber band tires that wrapped them. These days wheel sizes have started to trending down, with the newest trend being wide front tires. When the standard 130mm wide front tire just won’t do, 180mm wide kits have become all the rage. Despite what most in my age group say, these “steam rollers” are pretty tough looking. Oh, a tip for you blue corner riders. Buy the matching rear wheel. You’ll say that “no one can see it when the bike is laid out.” Oh, we know. Raise that bike up to leave bike night, we see it. Don’t be that rider. Completing the typical show bike look are long, stretched saddlebags and gas tanks covered in eye catching paint. But much like the tires for the performance group, one thing remains to pull your entire show bike together. Audio.
Motorcycle audio upgrades have been around for quite some time. Most of the “industry standard” brands offer fantastic upgrades from the stock system. They easily mount into stock locations making their installation a breeze for most any weekend warrior. However, just like the performance brethren above who may spend all of their money for performance and skimp on the tires, a true show bagger won’t stand out in the crowd with plug and play aftermarket audio. One of our specialties at Direct Cycle Parts is our audio experience. We offer custom wiring harnesses, tech support and have built some of the loudest bikes in the country, all with very high quality sound. Remember that business owner we mentioned above? Yes, he’s a complete audiophile as well. If you want incredible audio quality that is hard to match anywhere else, we are literally your one stop shop.
I write all of that to say this: Enjoy your damn motorcycle. If you want to go fast, we know how to do it. If you want to stand out in a crowd and be heard, we are your specialist there too. Sure, the other “side” may snicker about what you’ve chosen to build but with a loud enough exhaust or audio system, who can hear them anyway? We are proud to be knowledgeable on both sides of the spectrum and to be honest, enjoy building and riding both styles of bikes. Maybe you’ll be the first one to blend both? Performance suspension and big power with a side of fat tires and ear-splitting audio? We can get you there! In the meantime, maybe we can work towards getting along?