Texas has a reputation for everything being bigger and badder. The rest of the U.S. tends toward similar thinking regarding motorcycles in general. Unfortunately, not everyone can (or should) handle a larger bike. So why is there such a stigma against smaller bikes? Can’t everyone just agree that two wheels are way cooler than four, and live and let live?
I’m not just talking about the physical size of bikes – although that plays a role. Currently, one of the largest-displacement production bikes is Triumph’s Rocket III, which boasts a 2,294 cc engine and weighs 704 lbs. – dry weight, of course. It’s a hefty beast, and definitely enough to strike fear in the hearts of the unwary.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s a nice bike. But it’s a nice bike that I’ll never ride, because I’m not comfortable riding a bike that I can’t pick up if something horrible happens. No one ever plans to drop their bike – but it DOES happen. Don’t you want to be ready if it does? I know I do. Sure, there are nice people who will sometimes come to your aid, but do you really want to rely on there being a willing (and able) person around at exactly the right time? What if you’re out in the middle of nowhere, enjoying some nice twisties and something goes wrong? Calling roadside assistance is fine if your bike won’t run. But it’s just embarrassing if the only problem is that you’re physically unable to pick your bike up off the road.
While the Suzuki Hayabusa and the Yamaha VMax are fine bikes, they’re no one’s first bike – or they shouldn’t be. Anyone who says that they want either of those as a first bike is either seriously misinformed, or really wants to die. Period. I don’t care what kind of motorcycle prodigy you are; you need to bulk up your learning on something smaller and more forgiving before you jump straight into the saddle of one of those. It’s like getting an F1 racer as your first car at the tender age of 15, when you get your first driving permit. (While F1 drivers are getting younger all the time, we still haven’t had one that young – yet. )
So why is there such a stigma on smaller displacement motorcycles? Is it simply because we’re able to ride larger displacement bikes in the U.S. ? In some countries, you either can’t ride larger displacement bikes at all, or you must pay a hefty tax in order to do so. U.S. motorcyclists who don’t pay attention to such things will give you a blank stare if you bring up this topic. That’s because here, such an idea is simply unheard-of.
The thing is, smaller displacement bikes can teach you a lot about fine maneuvering skills that you won’t learn with a larger bike. That’s why if you talk to professional motorcyclists, you’ll hear how they worked their way up from 50cc bikes to larger ones. They don’t just start on a 1,000cc bike.
If you’re genuinely interested in riding better, it pays to try to get to know as many bikes as you can. You’ll learn more about your own limits as you’re learning your bike’s limits. You’ll learn where your areas of strength are – as well as the areas where you could use improvement.
Just because a bike is small doesn’t mean it doesn’t have something to teach you. You may also find that it’s a blast to ride. It’s a bikes character, as well as how well-sorted it is, that makes it fun to ride – not its displacement. Always keep that in mind.