Metric Cruisers & Sport Bikes versus Harley-Davidson – Part I

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October 1, 2010 | By: J&P Cycles

Editor’s note: What we have here is Part 1 in a two-part series that’s intended to get perspectives from two types of riders from different generations, raised on different values. Anthony Todd writes about the new-age generation and how modern sport bikes and metric cruisers are the future of the motorcycle industry and have dominated the technology since their inception. Later today, Scott Holton will serve up arguments in support of the tradition and heritage behind Harley-Davidson and other American-manufactured motorcycles and how these values have been and will always be the foundation of American motorcycle enthusiasts today.

Reliability Trumps Retro Any Day of the Week

By Anthony Todd

Let me start off by introducing myself. Yes, I ride sport bikes and metric cruisers, but that doesn’t make me some young “crotch rocket” punk who drives down the street with no helmet, baggy shorts, a tank top and sandals. I respect the motorcycles I ride and always wear a helmet because I choose to. This doesn’t mean I haven’t driven recklessly on the street, rode wheelies down the highway or scared old ladies with burnouts. Of course, I’ve done these things in the past, but it doesn’t make me any more reckless than the guy you see every year at your typical motorcycle rally doing a burnout on his Harley-Davidson at the local campground in an attempt to impress the two biker chicks waiting for their turn in the port-o-john. We were both reckless and stupid.

What I’m saying is that any motorcycle enthusiast with an opportunity to drive a performance sport bike probably won’t be able to resist the fact they have a lightweight, high-horsepower, well-oiled machine underneath them. Just twist the throttle and ride a wheelie all the way to the engine’s redline. Or hop on a metric cruiser and ride hundreds of miles on a single tank of gas and not worry about the sticker price you paid to enjoy those miles.

I’ve personally ridden hundreds of motorcycles —everything from vintage European bikes to custom choppers to Harley baggers. There are a few reasons why I choose to ride metric cruisers and sport bikes. I already pointed out performance as a major plus. But consider this: The technology and engineering that goes into building these performance motorcycles is light years ahead of Harley-Davidson’s air-cooled V-Twin engineering. In most cases you have more than 100 horsepower crammed into a package that at times weighs half the weight of a typical Harley-Davidson. Power to weight ratio wins every time!

Another reason why I choose metric over Harley is reliability. For example, I owned a Suzuki GSX-R 750, which was a stunt bike. I starved the bike of oil riding long wheelies, popped multiple tires doing burnouts at stunt shows and put more than 20K miles on the engine prior to turning it into a stunt bike. Never once did the bike leave me on the side of the road or wouldn’t start because of an engine malfunction or electrical issue.  These are problems that, as a motorcycle mechanic, I have regularly diagnosed on brand new Harley-Davidsons.

One of the final reasons I ride metric is cost. For the price of one Harley-Davidson Touring Bike, I can purchase a metric cruiser and a sport bike, and still have money left over to customize the bikes or pay for insurance on both bikes for a year.

It sounds like I’m heartlessly bashing Harley-Davidson or American-made motorcycles, but the truth is, it’s extremely likely that at some point in my life I will own a used Harley. This will most likely be the day I can no longer lean over to grab the clip-ons on my sport bike due to back problems. Or the day my doctor orders me to settle for a cruiser because the adrenaline rush of a sport bike is counter-productive to my blood pressure medication.

OK. That was uncalled for. Funny, but inappropriate. The bottom line is, I love all motorcycles and will never turn down an opportunity to ride any make or model. My intention here is to point out the reasons why I personally choose metric over Harley.  In today’s economy and with continued advancements in technology, I don’t think heritage and tradition will last.

Let’s face facts: Old is getting older and if we don’t move forward, we might get left in the dust.

Comments: 45 Comments | Categorized Under: Announcements

Comments (45)

While agreeing with your reasonning, there is nothing like the sound and the feeling when you are riding the open road on a real bike. People don’t look at you the same on a metric bike as they do when you ride past on a Harley.

Luggage prices and accessories can be compared for both unless you are securing genuine accessories. So you can equip yourself without going broke.

There seems to be a revival of the Harley since you have written your article and it would be interesting to see your thoughts on re-sale values.
John

no arguement here , if you have a spare 19,000 to 35,000 after taxes , for the harley . dont for get youre insurence, helmets,boots, jackets, gloves,glasses,ect. nice for you if you can pay cash. the rest of you, that have to have that harley , if you qualify, you can get a loan and have a nice 300 to 500 a month bill for the next 6 years, thats cool , enjoy, the ” cool factor ” ive been rideing 40 yrs. grew up with a crazy uncle named joe lewis who rode full dress harleys off road like it was a dirt bike, influenced and impressed me, i will always love harleys. I have ridden both. i love all bikes. you can have all of that with a metric bike at half the price . steele and rubber new engine tecnology, big bikes big engines, very cool machines, new styleing ,companys trying way harder to produce a better product,with the highest reliability in the industry. because they are not harley. they shure do want some of harleys biz, working hard at it for a long time. buy what you like just have fun rideing safe not stupid p.s. why would anybody pay 15 or 20,000 for somebodys worn out 5 yr old or more harley , buy something big and bad customize it the way you like. brand new with a 5 yr. warranty and insurance for half the price. talk all the crap you want these days most people do not have 19 – 35,000 sitting around to spend on a motorcycle. luxury item/toy. every body stay weels down

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Those of you who choose to berate HD for the so called reliability issues should get your heads on straight. There are PLENTY of people with over 100k miles on their untouched engines.
If you can’t afford a harley, then don’t buy one. Simple as that-if your economy dictates that you buy a cheaper bike, great- buy that, but don’t bash another bike because it costs more.
Put a metric bike beside a HD, the metric bike looks cheap. Not knocking metric bikes- I’ve owned various models from Honda, Yamaha, and also euro machines such as Ducati, Triumph, BSA, and Laverda. You get what you pay for. They ALL had issues, just as much as any HD.
Those who say their metric has more power than the HD- This spring I ran my FLH in a roll on from 60 to 110 against a new Goldwing and we were dead even, we tried it in 4th, 5th, and 6th gears- same result. Stock Wing, mine had 2-1 exhaust and k&n ac.
Take a look at an old metric bike and see what you have- no resale value – as a matter of fact, after 10 yrs, you will have a hard time even finding parts for it.
Nuff said. Bash away.

I own a Harley well two I also own a couple of Jap bikes only because Harley donesn’t build a Dirt Bike.

i’ve been riding for 40 years and I’ve only owned a handful of Bikes they have all been harley’s I will not even touch a Jap bike, Only time I rode a Jap street bike was in the 70″s. They are Garbage I still carry rice in my pocket. Who cares about your weight to power to what ever ratio… Could give a damn about your one wheel stunts. As I’ve said for years it’s the journey the rush of having American made Union Steel it’s about American loyaly. Sure in the past (distant) harley’s broke down but not today. I ride 20,000 miles a season in Ohio year after year never a problem with wither my RoadGlide or my SuperGlide (100hp rear wheel). and if that doesn’t convince you. The Ladies will laugh at your Jap Bike but crawl on their knees to ride on a harley and when it’s all said and done it’s the harley Rider who wouldn’t be sleeping alone. and buy the way Helmets suck and will break your Jap loving neck someday thats way dirt riders where a collar. Go live in Japan if you want to give your American dollars to the Japs

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I have owned both over the years. Metric bikes are disposable…. Harleys are intended to be on the road far longer than their current owners. Jap bikes, not-so-much…Yea they are fun to rocket around on, but they are just toys – for a while. The author commented on the costs of ownership…try trading your used metric in, if you took a loan, you are way upside down,and like many on here have convinced themselves Harleys are overated and break down… I have put on some miles on my Harley(s) and they are in my opinion as good as anything out there when it comes to reliability. My Dyna eats valkaries for lunch, they are not worth the gas or rear tire wear…

My husband bought a vtx1300 a few years ago (he told his friends for me but trust me it was because his custom harley was in the garage more than on the road). Financial reasons last year we went down to 1 car,so for me to get around I had to learn to ride the vtx. It was scary in the beginning because it has alot of power and it’s really heavy for me only 5’3″ and 150 lbs. but I love it now and wouldn’t trade it.

if you dont buy american dont complain about your job being (outsorced) or downsized-buy american
harley or victory,both the best bikes money can buy,wonna go really fast–jump off a cliff save some money

This is a rather pointless argument…I’ve owned both metrics and harleys…loved ridin’ all of ‘em! I’m an old fart that has no business goin’ fast anymore. Love my ’94 FX Springer…60,000 plus trouble free miles….starts even at 5 below zero with out a hitch….Just as cold as a metric at 65 mph…..and just as much fun for me! For some unknown reason I do think I like it better every time I ride it! Just ride safe and enjoy!!!!!!!!!!!

I ride an 04 Vstar 1100 that runs better now than it did when i bought it 3 years ago. Haven’t had one single maintenance problem. I love my bike, and I’d trade it for a Road King in a heart beat.

Here’s an interesting factoid not all you “technology empowered” slant bikers want to accept . . . in 2001, Harley overtook all other brands as the leading seller of “heavy” motorcycles (700 cc or more) . . . . . . . in JAPAN ! ! ! ! ! and the motor co. hasn’t looked back since . . . . Harley OWNS the market share and WROTE THE BOOK on brand loyalty, which translates into demand, which translates into high sales and resale values. So, if you’re into disposable rides, go ahead and flick your bic . . . . and toss it when you’re on empty. . . .

Been riding since I was 8 years old, nearly 40 years. If your a motorcycle rider, your a rider. I have owned several Harley’s and several metrics, still do. Several friends would ride my Harley and sell their metrics and buy a Harley,mostly for the feel and the ride. They said it just feels more solid, more put together. Me, I just like to ride, so I do. Twist the throttle and stay safe!

This is a ridiculous argument, because there are no winners. I ride with an all brands family friendly club and we’ve had our share of breakdowns and problems, last season it was mainly with the harley’s this season it was mainly with the metric bikes. With all the miles we put on our bikes we’re all gonna experience some problems, just fix them and enjoy whatever it is you ride. By the way my 98 harley has 69,000 “almost” problem free miles…

I grew up on hondas.A cub 50 when I was 10,Trail 90 at 13, and a bunch of other folks dirt bikes/street bikes till I finally bought my own Honda ascot 500 as a cheap daily driver. The heads leaked oil, the clutch seal bled a qt wherever I parked it till I finally figured out how to shave the new seal and tap it in..took five seals to learn this. I drove through the winter to a construction job and the honda always started,I cussed every time the temp went below 35 degrees and it fired up like it was a sunny day. I now own a 1977 Harley sportster 1000, and a 2007 Yamaha 1100 classic cruiser. The Harley would sometimes break down on the road, but a wire or poptop found alongside the road would fix her.The yamaha hasnt broke yet but every maintainance is expensive or time consuming..like valve adjustments every 4000 mi. the carb needs to be synchronized every time. And no modification to improve performance is under 300.00. Any motorcycle that has been owned and the bugs worked out is a good deal. How it feels when you ride it is the most important.Thats where the soul comes from.

To start with still have every harley i have ever owned A 1962 , Paid 500.00 for it running , a1968 that i got in a deal with a lot of parts redoing it right now , a 1973 in a basket 250.00 a 1974 that i run the hell out of for 20 years paid 1,200.00 for it When i got my first new bike in SEP. 2000 i went out the door to buy a new harley , However the dealers in the Houston area all tried to screw me like a bitch , I came home with a 2001 road star striped off the things that were not needed two years later i dumped about 4,000.00 in the motor in go fast from patrick racing and never looked back . I ride it like i stole it even with all the motor work it never let me down . I well never even sit on a bike that was built by the new Motor Co and well never own one . when AMF sold H D that Was the end of H D for me . I am 59 years old and a old school hard ass . but H D died with the motor Co . now its the ride of yuppies with colored lites around the motor . Greek from new caney tx sead it .

I have owned 9 bikes since i started riding in 1965. my first was a 1947 Harley 165. Everything in between was metric, mostly Honda. All i’ve though about while riding my metric bikes was, someday i want to have another Hog. I have enjoyed all my metric bikes especially the 1996 Honda ACE. The ACE is what finally made me turn the page and buy my last bike a 07 Harley Streetglide. Now i have the best of both worlds. I’m as happy as a pig in sloop!!!!

I Have a kawi. Vulcan 2053 cc It runs. Ita an 06, when i went to trade it in,they sais $4,500. Kawi,s have no trade in value like a Harley. I paid $14,800. 3 years later its worth 1/3 of what i paid for it. a 14 k Harley would be aroun 10 to 12 k same year,Don,t get me wrong i love my Vulcan.

My son recently looked into spending $35,000 for a used H1 Hummer. I asked him “Do you realize how impractical something like that is”. His answer was “Sure about the only thing more impractical is my Ducati, my Spotrster, and my Road King. But I have a good job, I make good money and I want something I like”.

I have a 1976 Gold Wing, a 1973 Moto Guzzi, and a 2010 Harley Road Glide. If we are fortunate enough to afford our big boy toys, we should all have what we like. At this point in my life I like my Harley. I do wish I had owned or could get a nice Valkyrie, I think I would also like that toy. Also that nut did not fall far from the tree.

I bought an 2006 Sportster 1200 R new and have loved every one of the 20,000 miles I put on it. I have had zero reliability or maintenance issues. I have taken it to the dealer once for a reset button on the trip meter (that I broke) and the dealer fixed it no charge. On our last road trip there were 4 Harleys (sportster, dyna,softail,electra glide) and one Honda VTX 1800, no one had any problems but the Honda got less gas mileage than the Harleys- the trip was 1500 miles.Ride what you want.

I recently went on a 3 day ride to CO with 2 buddies that ride Triumphs. (I have a 2009 FLHR with some performance mods) The both had issues with their bikes like parts falling off and the BRAND NEW Triumph Thunderbird’s speedo was jumping around then stopped working all together.

I’ll take my Harley ANY day over a foreign made bike!

So you ride wheelies down the interstate at redline and compare that version of reckless with doing a burnout at a bar in Daytona? And completely ignore any other factor in choosing a bike, other than horsepower, price, and (in your opinion) reliability. I’ve got over 105K miles on my ’98 Road Glide and been coast to coast, border to border. There are cycle-snobs on both sides of the aisle, but you anti-Harley types spend SO much time and energy ranting about why nobody should ride a Harley. We Harley riders might even agree with some of your viewpoints, but we really couldn’t give a sh*t what YOU ride or why. So why do you protest so loudly about what WE choose to ride? Please, get over yourselves.

My 8 year old Harley has never left me stranded nor demanded anything more than normal maintenance. The “poor reliability” reputation is no longer deserved. Rather it is preserved by metric riders who feel they have to justify the garish, day-glo, buzz-bombs they ride. If I ever buy a metric it will be a Ducati; at least it has a soul.

My 8 year old Harley has never left me stranded nor ever demanded more than normal maintenance. The “poor reliability” reputation is no longer deserved. Rather it is preserved by metric riders who feel they need to justify that garish, day-glo colored buzz-bomb they ride. If I ever purchase a metric, it would be a Ducati; at least it has a soul.

This is an old argument and neither side is really going to win. I ride a Harley bagger and enjoy it very much. I have friends with metric bikes and they like them too. If we all liked the same things this world would be very boring. Just twist the throttle on whatever you ride.

From a current owner of a Victory Kingpin, AIH Chopper with a 111 SnS, Harley Street glide and a Honda CBR and after many years (3O) of riding and owning everything from dirt bikes to cruisers and all in between I can honestly say that Id never buy another Harley again unless its a real steal. The cost of the maintenance, the lack of realiability, high cost for old technology if you wanna call it that , plus the major lack of perfromance puts the over rated HDs to shame. I find myself doing more regular interval maintenance and repairs on my chopper and Street Glide than my Vic and Honda which I beat like a red headed step childed without any worries of a breakdown. Onthe other hand the HD and Chopper always leave me wondering when will it break down again? Theres a reason why you see tool bags on so many HDs thats because youll need them. Heritage and tradition is no reason to be a sucker or to settle for less with your hard earned dollars.

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[...] Metric Cruisers & Sport Bikes versus Harley-Davidson – Part I … [...]

I have a HD 113ci,Baker6,primary belt etc. and a Yamaha RZ-350. I like them both.

What an asinine idea. Maybe no one has tried to take the lane from Arnie because they didn’t see or hear him. Oh that’s right he gets escorted wherever he goes, so he doesn’t have that problem. Wake up A.S._hole the rest of us riding don’t have that luxury. If you’re heard, you have a greater chance to be seen, therefore a better chance to get back safely from your ride. This nonsense law needs to be repealed and the bikers in Cali need to united and fight for their rights.

I have owned many “metric” bikes, had a lot of fun on them, but never got attached to any of them – they were just a “bike”. The closest I became attached to one was the Kaw 500 in the early to mid 70′s – no one could touch me!?!?. At 48 years old, I broke down and bought a Harley – took 12 weeks to get it. Upon driving it out of the dealership, my first thought was, why in the world did I do this?? It was awkward, unbalanced, and vibrated!?!? But, my wife and I took off on it that day and rode 600 miles – I got used to it, then attached to it, and still have it 14 years later. It would take a lot to make me give it up – It is now part of me, something I could never say about any of the “metric” bikes. Also, it has been just as dependable as any of the “metric” bikes I have owned – ( I have been on cross country trips by myself at least 10 times). The only problems I have had so far has been due to dealer negligence, same as the metric bikes. I respect both types of bikes – have enjoyed both, but at my age, the ole HD is for me. By the way, my son has both a “metric” and a Harley clone chopper – he loves them both!!!

only because the general population has been brainwashed. They sold their souls to Willy G and his “cult”. Its ok tho. nobody is perfect. how old is your wideglide?? and a 2009 with 15,000 miles…I guess that is an accomplishment. my 12 year old honda valkyrie has 124,000 miles of unrestricted twister eating harley smoking miles on her and I wouldnt trade either of my valkyries for any other bike.

To build something timeless is more than materials. It has heart, a soul and breathes with the rider. Mine breathes fire…how about your harley??

Left behind? Not hardly. I do not accept the premise of the term retro because it is not retro. It is our past, present and future because we love it. To be retro, it would have to have passed away at some point which it never did and likely never will.

We American steel cruisers are not interested is stupid pet tricks, plastic parts or crotch rocket gimmicks, but rather desire a solidly build piece of machinery that stands the test of time. My Wide Glide has over 50K and is running strongly without being babied. Its steel and chrome do just what I want. Ride in style.

It is fun to watch the other bike owners squirm and try to justify why their bikes are better, but when a line of each bikes go by – watch which group gets the drooling looks and ahhs from the crowds or even other bikers.

Ladies and gentlemen, the defense rests.

I whole heartedly agree. I love Harleys but the performance and mph that I get from my VTX1300 seems to me to be better than my fathers Road King.

The fact still remains that Harley’s are the most “motorcycly” motorcycles on the road. My 2009 has over 15K mile on it and I’ve never once had a reliability issue with it.

I ride a Harley because it FEELS like a motorcycle, looks like a motorcycle and sounds like a motorcycle. To me, it is what a motorcycle is. To me a bike is like a custom car. I own it because I like the look, feel, sound and experience, not for practicality. I don’t analyze it like an engineer. Sport bike buyers, metric cruiser buyers, BMW buyers have nothing on those who buy Harleys when it comes to image. They all buy for image, looks and brand as well as performance.

I’m glad others like sport bikes and metric cruisers and analyze their purchase like they were buying stock. I don’t. For heritage and tradition not being important, it is interesting that every major manufacturer copies the Harley design.

Hey Anthony – great article.

This is the exact point I tell people who ask me why I don’t own a Harley. “The technology and engineering that goes into building these (Metric) performance motorcycles is light years ahead of Harley-Davidson’s air-cooled V-Twin engineering.”

I just bought a new to me metric ride. It has disc brakes (front and rear), shaft drive, real gauges (not just lights) and is a solid ride. What is it? 1978 Honda GoldWing.

It just proves the point – Harley has made some great sides in the last 5 years…but the fact is companies like Honda have been working on this stuff for decades. And it shows in today’s models.

Thanks again – keep up the good work and work on getting more metric stuff in those catalogs!

It is and always has been about the rider. I ride a harley bagger because I like harley baggers. Why does it matter what you ride? Go twist the throttle and enjoy whatever bike you want. Just don’t do anything stupid if you are riding with me lol.

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All I have to say is I love my Harley, and in this economy we should all buy AMERICAN to suport our econamy not another countries.

While I peronally ride a metric bike, and can come to the same conclusions as you, I must say, that for a major Harley parts retailer, you are certainly not very optomistic about the longevity of your business. What a bummer for all of those poor employees that read this and wonder, “If our own employees don’t think it’s going to last, should I look for another job, maybe one at a company that does more with Metric Cruiser and Sportbike parts?”
But keep up the great writings, we enjoy multiple points of view.

I couldn’t agree more Anthony – and just to back-up your point “The technology and engineering that goes into building these performance motorcycles is light years ahead of Harley-Davidson’s air-cooled V-Twin engineering.”

I just purchased a new to me bike…it has disc brakes (front and back), shaft drive, multiple actual gauges (not just dummy lights), it has after market bags and fairing – which I will take off…but it has them and killer seat which you could ride for miles.

Its not fuel injection – but starts and drives just fine…did I mention it is a 1978 Honda?

It just supports the fact that Harley has made some great strides int he last 56 years…but you have to evolve if they seriously want to sell to a younger demographic.

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