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?
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.
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 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 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.