Lost in the snow on a 672lbs chopper

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Last Sunday, I was in sore need of a motorcycle ride. All I had in my garage was a 672lbs chopper. I heard there was snow in the San Bernadino mountains. Good combination?

The Bike

I’ve never really understood the cruiser thing. All show and no go is just the antithesis of what a motorcycle means to me, a young guy that lives in a city and does virtually all his miles on two wheels. Which is why I wanted to ride the Honda Stateline. If I’m going to write about bikes, I need to understand why over 50 percent of ‘Merica likes to go all feet-forward.

Based on the Fury, the Stateline blacks out a bunch of its components, fits a smaller, 17-inch front tire, a narrower rear tire and some lower bars. That actually sounds like a combination of changes that should add up to increased safety, better handling and improved manners.

Power comes from a liquid (the horror!) cooled 1312cc v-twin that hides its radiator between the frame rails and wears mock fins so it looks air-cooled. With a fairly low 9.2:1 compression ratio, power isn’t huge. 57bhp is behind most 650cc twins. Torque is stronger at 79lb/ft, but that’s still well behind the output of more performance oriented air-cooled twins like that found in the BMW R1200RT, which makes 89lb/ft.

Probably more appropriate for the segment, the engine looks great, does a good job of replicating the ornery air-cooled, big-twin feel while actually fueling smoothely and producing a linear spread of power and torque and shifts gears positively, even if doing so requires significant effort. All the character, just with user friendliness.

Like the Fury, rear suspension is hidden and is via a monoshock with 3.9 inches of travel. This leads to a clean look, but civil, safe road manners. You still don’t want to hit a big bump at speed or while leaned over, but now doing so won’t result in you sliding down the road on your ass.

Rake is a relatively conservative (again, for a beast such as this) 33 degrees. That’s also a happy compromise between replicating a certain style and achieving actual function. The front brake on the Stateline is capable of achieving deceleration without locking the front wheel and corners are indeed possible.

The Road

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39 from Azusa up to Crystal Lake is my favorite road in the LA Area. Since it dead ends at the top, it doesn’t seem to attract as many recreational drivers, so in turn there’s fewer minivans on your side of the road, virtually no squids and cops are a rare sight. The first half of its 25 miles is composed of flowing sweepers (2nd and 3rd gear on a sportsbike, then a faster, more open section, then a tight, twisty, technical section on which most dedicated sportsbikes really start to struggle.

As such, it’s a great ride on virtually anything, offering unique challenges without the usual traffic, crashing motorcyclists or overwhelming police presence. Up at the top, there’s a little café/store run by a guy named Adam. He’s always super friendly and welcoming, try his homemade banana bread or tuna sandwich.

The Snow

The road was utterly dry and clear until the turn off for Crystal Lake (which is at the very top), then the last two miles was covered in a varying mix of slush, compacted snow and clear sections with just a few patches of ice between the melt water.

It wasn’t an enormous challenge, but I mostly just wanted to come see snow in the mountains, drink a cup of hot cocoa and do some two-wheeled slipping and sliding.

The Ride

The hardest part of the whole day was just getting out of rainy LA. Like anytime the sun disappears here, the 101 was utterly gridlocked. Splitting it on a big, heavy bike is never fun, particularly so on one where the front wheel is unusually far in front of you.

Brakes on the Honda are adequate, if not performance bike in their ability to warp time and space and bring you to a STOP. The biggest challenge, for me at least, was just remembering that the bike didn’t end where my hands were, but continued on for what felt like 10 feet out in front of them. It’s like ghost riding an extra bike in front of you, meaning you need to be responsible for that much more real estate on the road. A challenge as cars changed lines with no warning or just throw on their brakes or whatever it they do to make our lives dangerous.

Once out of that and onto the open road, the Stateline is much more in its element, so long as you keep speeds south of 80mph. Above that, expansion joints upset the chassis and rain grooves really get it wandering. I’ll never get used to being strung out in the wind with my hands and feet ahead of me, it just feels utterly unnatural.

After filling up with a tank of gas — 46mpg is very reasonable for such a big engine — it was time to relax and just enjoy the good road.

On a typical day, I’d be all full throttle, late brake and knee on the ground. Cars more chicanes than anything else. This day, on this bike, I was content just cruising along at 40 or so following a car or two. I thought this might add up to being able to enjoy the views, but corners still take intense concentration at this speed on this bike. Hazards to be negotiated rather than opportunities to find your limit.

Finally reaching the snow/slush/ice/whatever, I just lined things up square, kept the bike in 2nd gear, stayed off the front brake and dabbed a foot or two when it was really necessary.

Got to the café, walked inside and Adam was literally incredulous that I’d ridden in. Cup of cocoa in hand, I zipped off the Roadcrafter, sat in front of the fire and read a couple chapters of a book while I warmed up.

The Stateline might not be my idea of an exciting ride, but it still got me out of town, into the mountains, through the snow, and out of day-to-day life for a morning. In that, it gave me everything I need a motorcycle to give.

  • http://twitter.com/JackNorton8064 Jack Norton

    No-one here likes the tuna

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=591941643 Paul Steven


    • http://www.facebook.com/OMG.Awesome Clint Keener

      haha! Wish I would have gotten to that first.

    • Heatsoak

      Did you just make a Fast and the Spurious reference?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ken-Lindsay/715654562 Ken Lindsay

    When I switched from a cruiser to a dual sport, it couldn’t feel more foreign! I went from sitting “in” to on top of the bike, the dual sport felt like a sneeze could blow me off the highway. It just takes some time in the saddle to make you appreciate a different ride. 8 years later and I can zip my WR450 down the freeway!
    Spend time on almost any bike and you’ll find something you love about it. There isn’ ta perfect bike, but some fit better than others…

  • http://www.facebook.com/davidyarica.freire DavidyArica Freire

    That is pretty epic!

  • alex

    I wonder if wes like cruisers…..lol man time to find a writer into that segment.

    The last cruiser trip I took a few people loaded them up and went camping in Joshua tree which was pretty fun and not something I would do on the gixxer.

  • http://www.joelpm.com/ JoelPM

    Kudos for writing an article about a bike that’s not your cup of tea and still managing to admit that it gives what many of us turn to motorcycles to get. That being said, I still hold you and HFL fully responsible for the fact that I have this nagging urge to trade in my Road King for a 990 Adventure Baja.

  • Scott Jameson

    Fresh & easy read, too, Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hugh.simons.9 Hugh Simons

    A nice read. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jordan.jones.56481 Jordan Jones

    I think this should be the next bike you guys take to Hill Billy Hill Climb.

    Also, I think that engine would probably run forever given how understressed it is, and after forever just change the oil and it will run another forever. I can appreciate that in the same way my dad likes to restore vintage tractors.

  • Ben Wipperman

    File this article either under, “Things I never expected from Wes,” or “Things Wes would only do because of Honda.” Either way, it’s nice to see a bit of expansion.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tom.zipprian Tommy Zipprian


  • BillG

    Fun article about the simple pleasures of going for a motorcycle ride. Please keep them coming.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tomwito Tom Witoshynsky

    I was in Virginia for a wedding and we didn’t bring our bikes up like we usually do. My new father-in-law let me use his Harley low rider for the day. My wifes cousin and I cruised Skyline Drive and it was a good time. I’d have rather been on my Daytona 675 but it was way more fun than sitting on the couch.

  • carbon

    Wes, I’m impressed with the evenness, and, I dare say, the sanguine tone of this article. Not all motorcycles need to be Ferraris; you need something other than Lincoln Town Cars, mini-vans, and RV’s to pass.

  • HoldenL

    Wes, do you have one of those Stealth Roadcrafters?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Yeah, custom fitted with the competition back protector, chest protector, knee pucks etc. Best thing ever.

  • Mark Desrosiers

    I like the comparison between cruiser riders and recumbent riders. Everytime I see a guy trying to look “hard” on a Harley, I’m going just going to picture a guy in a Mormon-suit on a recumbent with one of those hi-viz flags sticking up from the rear. And laugh.

  • nightscout13

    672lbs? I don’t think my 1K weights that much with me on it……

  • http://profiles.google.com/mugget mugget man

    I’m wondering how the comfort was…

    I am used to riding sportbikes everywhere, first time I rode a feet-forward bike (it was a loaner from the shop while my bike was getting a service) my lower back was starting to really hurt after just 15 minutes or so. I’d hate to do long distance like that…

    I think it’s because I’m used to using my legs to absorb a lot of the bumps on the road, can’t do that on a cruiser – all the weight is right on your butt/tailbone.

    For me the only good thing about a cruiser is that it’s easier to get off when your back is hurting, because of the low seat.