Hooniverse Asks – No Replacement for Displacement?

Image courtesy IntellectualPoison.com

This is one of those Hooniverse Asks where I’m not going to try and hide my biases – cubic inches are fine for boulevarding with a half-ton of passenger heft on board, but I ride for fun. That means shifting your weight around a bit, and not just to reach the 128 oz. soda nested between the CB radio and the heated bedpan. Many of my dream bikes are in the sub-600cc class, which in the United States is usually relegated to dopey beginner bikes and a random assortment of scooters, Chinese Honda knock-offs, and invalid carriages. (I know the latter’s a UK term … but it really makes the joke.) Perhaps this is like a grown man walking past all of the carbon-fiber, disc-braked race bicycles and squealing like a pre-teen at the sight of a pink Huffy with training wheels, but dammit, I think that Huffy is hotter than Bieber! (For the record, I just threw up in my mouth … a lot.)


Including this one, perhaps the best example of the breed: the Honda VTR250 (training wheels are a dealer-installed option). Rather like a 2/3 scale Ducati Monster, sans desmodromic valvetrain, it combines a rev-happy 8-valve V-twin motor with a simple and rigid trellis frame, resulting in a light and exceptionally nimble bike. Making somewhere in the low- to mid-30HP range, and weighing 350 lbs wet, it’s a recipe for a damn good time. Do you really need another 1550cc to impress the local eye candy? While I’ve never ridden a VTR250 myself, I like the idea of having to wring the living hell out of it. I’ve spent some time on a Triumph Street Triple (a transcendental, marvelous bike by the way), and despite it being positively lovely, I doubt I ever used more than 75% of its power except for short straight-line sprints. Does this mean I’m a lousy rider? Probably, but trust me – if you’re hanging it all out to 9/10ths on the street on any modern high-performance sub-liter bike, you’re insane. Save it for the track, SQUID.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E88HEuwInno[/youtube]
This should smell roughly like blood in the water to the H-D crowd of shark-riders, so I propose we let him go you respond in the comments. You support me in my admiration of the 90-pound weaklings of the motorcycle world, or do you like your bikes chrome-y with a side of chrome, garnished with chrome, served on a bed of chrome, with a twist of Screaming Eagle?

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39 responses to “Hooniverse Asks – No Replacement for Displacement?”

  1. parkwood60 Avatar
    parkwood60

    I think you're right. Its one thing to actually ride fast, but its nearly as fun to ride something small and low powered as fast as possible. Getting somewhere on a 70cc Honda step-thru requires red line in all gears and stretching the throttle cable to its limit. A small bike makes 40mph feel fast.

  2. tonyola Avatar
    tonyola

    While my motorcycle experience is limited, I can say that it's generally more fun to drive a slow car at 90% than a fast car at 30%.

  3. IronBallsMcG Avatar
    IronBallsMcG

    I'm with you. The CBR250R coming to America is some of the best motorcycle news I've heard in a while. If it wasn't such a poor fit for my style of riding, I'd already be chasing one down.
    By the way, I do currently ride a 1200cc behemoth, but the lightweights catch my eye and I firmly believe that "chrome don't get you home."

    1. Black Steelies Avatar

      Plus one for a saying I will remember to use next time the situation calls for it.

    2. rocketrodeo Avatar
      rocketrodeo

      The CBR250R just ticks me off, when I look at this VTR250 and think that we could have had that. Sigh.
      On the other hand, the CBR is worlds better than the Nighthawk 250 it replaces. Seriously, Honda, a FRONT DRUM BRAKE in the 21st Century?

      1. IronBallsMcG Avatar
        IronBallsMcG

        Oh, I'd certainly much rather have the VTR, but I'm thrilled to see a bike from the big 4 with FI and ABS for $4500.

  4. oldcarjunkie Avatar
    oldcarjunkie

    Light weight is a much better replacement for displacement as you get handling and braking bonuses too.

  5. skitter Avatar
    skitter

    Having something really slow keeps you from getting complacent with your faster vehicles. Regular 250 use would probably help riders better appreciate and enjoy big-bore superbikes, and think less about upgrades and new models that are whole tenths faster.

  6. Deartháir Avatar
    Deartháir

    I sit somewhere in the middle on this. I like the larger end of the small bikes, if that makes any sense. The 600-900cc range are a perfect size to me. Get bigger than that — no matter how much I may lust for a Valkyrie from time to time — and you're really just getting into the realm of silliness. Too much smaller and in my personal opinion they cease to be a solid option for a long road trip. It might also be because I have one that I have such a bias… but probably not.

  7. muthalovin Avatar

    I am of the opinion that smaller bikes are more fun. I do not need to have 1000+cc's to increase my fun-on-a-bike quotient, I just need some twisty roads and my 696.
    I started out on a YSR-50 back in my youth. I think managed to move on to a 250 Ninja for a while in my teens, and then in my late teens, my dad let me ride (and crash) his NSR-250. Since then, I have ridden a 916 powered ST-4, and my current 696 Monster. I really love the Monster. It is light, maneuverable and has all the torques I could possibly need. If I ever have the budget for another bike, I would probably pick up a Honda 250 in a heart beat.

    1. Black Steelies Avatar

      I have indeed lusted over the Monster for awhile, since I started looking at bikes seriously a few years ago. It's a beautiful machine and definitely too much for me in just about every regard… but someday.

      1. muthalovin Avatar

        I was fortunate to get mine. It was my dads, and he bought it salvage title, and fixed it up really well. Then he moved onto turbo 'Busas and street-fighter ZX-10s. At the time, I was living with my parents, working part time after graduation from college. It was a sad state of affairs, so my dad made me a deal: if I move out, get a real job and get on with my life, my parents would let me have the Monster. Many years after I got my shit together, I got it. No complaints at all. I fucking love it.
        <img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/_ervUcqKHvtk/TPKrBTZVCxI/AAAAAAAAE8I/0p_WQUHWeow/s720/DSC_0210.jpg&quot; width=500>

        1. Black Steelies Avatar

          Used Monsters aren't hard to find and for decent prices. I don't know if it would be my next bike as I'm pretty interested in KTM street offerings as well. It's just a matter of finding one that's cared for and having the ability to take care of it yourself. But then, most things are like that.

          1. muthalovin Avatar

            I know I said above that I would take a Honda 250, but, in reality, I would much rather have a KTM Duke 125. If the Monsters valves ever go, I will honestly look at a Duke 690. They are damn nice.

          2. Black Steelies Avatar

            My thoughts exactly!! I'm just keeping with the thumper habit I suppose.
            Such great bikes and I've never seen one of their street bikes in the flesh on the road, only dirt bikes in the back of pickups.

          3. muthalovin Avatar

            I have not seen one on the road, either. I did see a Super Duke last year at the KTM dealer in Austin, and I was thoroughly impressed. Too big a bike for me, but it was still damn impressive. I should go by KTM this weekend…

          4. Black Steelies Avatar

            Yes the Superduke is a beautiful motorcycle on par with the Monster on my list of dream bikes. One popped up on the local craigslist for just under $5k with pictures a few months ago, but still never seen one move.

          5. muthalovin Avatar

            Well, if you have the means, and have taken a motorcycle safety class, then I highly encourage you to pick one up. It has really brought a lot of enjoyment to my life. More than I thought it would. Plus, better than a Prius MPGs.

          6. Black Steelies Avatar

            Yes, true that on the MSF course. I'm looking to sign up for a session this summer.
            And that's good to hear that it bests the Prius. It's really been a tossup between the two hahah.

          7. muthalovin Avatar

            Last thing, check out this blog if you get a chance:
            http://blog.derestricted.com/
            The writer has a Duke, and takes some great shots of it.

          8. Black Steelies Avatar

            Oh man, thank you!
            Aw, you can't link to pictures. Still, it gets bookmarked.

  8. Black Steelies Avatar

    I'm of the same mindset and hearing Tanshanomi tell of his old MB-5 instantly comes to mind.
    Like I mention just about every Tuesday, the Ascot ain't much in the realm of modern motorcycles but is plenty for my riding level and style. Meanwhile my friend loves his R6 but knows that he can only ride at a certain level of its abilities to remain within legal/safe limits.
    A small bike feels spirited when you flog it, even if you have to just to go the speed limit. A big bike feels slow going the speed limit because you're only in second and you know you must show restraint. Some people lack that ability like a co-worker who rode to work on a '78 XL500 most of last summer. I remember him saying something along the lines of "I'm smart enough to know I would do something really dumb if I rode a crotch rocket all the time."

    1. Alex Kierstein Avatar
      Alex Kierstein

      Yeah, I agree … I'd do something pretty stupid if I had a Gixxer, eventually.
      That being said, at least sportbikes have great brakes and good "accident-avoidance" characteristics – throttle your way out of a jam, or stop before you get to it. A lot of the older small-displacement bikes I lust after don't have the handling and braking to do that well. Of course, if you hiccup they won't turn you into a pink stain on the pavement. I think the new Ninja 250R, and the new CB250 are going to be good compromises – big boy brakes and suspension, lightweight package.

  9. rocketrodeo Avatar
    rocketrodeo

    While I love a small, nimble bike for local scratching (my late Hawk GT comes to mind), I also like a bike that I can use in lieu of an airline ticket. My real preference is liter-plus bikes of 100-130hp that are comfortable, ergonomically correct, and can cover 600-800-1,000 miles a day and still have enough ground clearance and suspension to handle decently in the twisties once you get to where you're going. There is a lot of ground between the noisy chrome behemoths and the mini class that usually gets written off as beginner bikes.

  10. citroen67 Avatar

    I think that I have to go against the grain a bit. I like my Harley, not because of the name, or because I think I'm a 1%er, or because I have a lust for chrome(mine is actually a Night Train…mostly black), but for the simple fact that I like a big, loud, sled of a bike to be under me. I'm not exactly a thin guy, so the everyday strains of a smaller bike would just be amplified with me riding it. I have ridden a few Cafe bikes, and while I can respect the want for something that will beat a bottle-rocket off the line, I felt out of place trying to cruise through city streets, trying to go 25mph with my butt in the air.
    Of course, I go against the grain in many facets, because I don't discriminate against anyone that is a rider. I will ride with a pack of hogs, or a group of rockets, or a flock of metric cruisers! I say if you like smaller bikes…so be it! Grab a helmet and let's go ridin'!!!

  11. P161911 Avatar
    P161911

    Here ya go a Chevy 572 powered Boss Hoss:
    <img src="http://v8astro.homestead.com/files/572_Boss_Hoss.JPG"width=500&gt;
    Personally I don't ride, but if I did, I would want to start with something in the sub 600cc class. I'm not sure how these bikes would deal with my Homer Simpsonesque size though.

  12. johnnymac09 Avatar
    johnnymac09

    I am a fan of the smaller bikes as well. It is a lot fun when you can toss them around like a feather. Only problem is finding one that my 6'4" frame can fit on.

    1. ptschett Avatar
      ptschett

      You might fit the taller 650 dual-sports, like a Honda XR650L, Kawasaki KLR650 or Suzuki DR650. They're still fairly light at 400 lbs.-ish and with the long handlebars there's lots of leverage to toss them around. I'm 6' even and actually put raising links on my KLR because its suspension was designed for someone lighter than me.

  13. Smells_Homeless Avatar
    Smells_Homeless

    That first picture explains my VTX pretty succinctly. I'd love a Thunderhawk or a TL1100, but I'd look like a teddybear humping a football on one of those things.

  14. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    <img src="http://www.tanshanomi.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/sdr200-3qtrview.jpg"&gt;
    From my blog post last week: proof that 200cc can be an almighty handful.
    WANT! (Can't have, sigh!)

  15. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar
    BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ

    I've had mine from 49.9 up to 1137 cc, and have riden bikes (cruisers) up to 1600 cc.
    A 50 cc Kreidler 2-stroke can be as much fun as a Honda CBR 1100 XX SuperBlackbird.
    My current bike, a 2010 Honda CB 600 F Hornet can do more than the rider's skills, it can handle twisties, high speeds, 500+ miles trips, smooth and little rougher roads, plus can take a pillion.

    1. CptSevere Avatar

      The classic UJM, a rare bird these days but really, the ultimate bike. Something that can do all that, reliably, with no drama, is a good machine.

  16. Alff Avatar
    Alff

    I'm not sure big boy on the Softtail would disagree, seeing as how him on that bike is roughly the equivalent of me on a 500.

    1. Black Steelies Avatar

      There is something to be said for the comfort of bigger bikes. I never appreciated a newer Goldwing until I started riding. It's a LaZ-Boy on two wheels!

  17. ZomBee Racer Avatar

    The largest bikes I've ever owned are a pair of 1st gen GL1000 Goldwings (arguably the original superbikes) and the XLCH Ironhead that now resides in my garage. Most everything else has been less than 550cc. And in fact, growing up in the mountains and on dirt, the smaller the bike, the more fun it was.
    500 thumper, 250 enduro, 120 2-stroke, Trail 110, Trail 90, YZ80, Honda "Super Cub" 50, Briggs & Stratton powered scooter-bike.
    Yeah, you see where I'm going with this…

  18. ptschett Avatar
    ptschett

    In bikes and within certain limits, technology does provide a replacement for displacement.
    For example, people say "don't start on something with more than a 125 / 250 / 500 / 600 / 883 / 1100 / etc." cc engine. But it has to be considered what kind of bike it is. A 650cc cruiser or dual sport makes maybe 40 HP and 40 lb-ft, but if it's a 600cc race-replica the output is more like 140 HP and 40 lb-ft thanks to the engine being able to wind out to 15,000 RPM or so.

  19. CptSevere Avatar

    I'm into old pickup trucks these days, but back when I was into bikes I never had anything that was not a vertical twin or a two stroke triple. I like the fact that I could ride my old bikes to their limits, other than my Norton Commando. That one, I had a healthy respect for, and never approached its limits other than in a straight line, which was about 105 flat out. Not too impressive these days, but I'll guarantee you going that fast on a bike built in 1974 is an experience. Ever ridden a Honda 350 twin at 80? Or a Suzuki 550 triple at 90, with all your camping gear on the back, going east on I-80 from Wendover trying to get to Salt Lake to hit last call at your favorite bar, dueling with diesels the whole way? That's riding a bike, not just driving it while adjusting the stereo in the fairing. Hell, riding a Motobecane moped at redline, at its absolute limit (which comes at 30 MPH) is more fun than putting around on a 25 grand bloated modern "chopper."

  20. Rod Avatar
    Rod

    I had the exact same conversation with 2 of my good friends last night. We all have a decent amount of experience on bikes. They want to go bigger but I really don't see the need or fun in it. I've ridden a plethora of weird and wonderful bikes in my short 26 years from rare Cagivas to liter dick darts. But you know what? Probably the best fun I have ever had on the road was when I had my hands on a shagged to pieces CBF 125. when you reach the point where you are trying to follow a sport bike through a big sweeping left hander as you drag the center stand all the way around it, the throttle cable stretched like a rubber band, your wrist bent to an unimaginably un-ergonomic position. If your not grinning from ear to ear you should give up and get yourself a car.
    Moral of the story, there is so much more cheeky fun to be had on a smaller capacity bike while your mates are spending all there time trying not to loose there licence and looking like twats.

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