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Thread: Fat tires vs skinny cruiser vs super

  1. #1

    Fat tires vs skinny cruiser vs super

    Hello everyone! It is a pleasure to reach out to you all as I have learned a tremendous amount about biking just by reading the questions and responses from so many experienced riders. As a new licensed rider I have two remedial questions. I should point out my only riding experience has been through taking the stadard riding course on Honda Rebels in August and that's about the limit to my riding;

    Question #1: I have read through the fantastic article Superbikers are not Beginner Bikes and I am curious if the same logic applies to touring/cruiser bikes since the COG, riding position and weight ae extremly different. I have my eye on the Honda Shadow 750 and the Suzuki M50 which is a 800. Is this too much bike?? I have sat on both and thet "feel" great and I can handle the weight (in a showroom)

    Question #2: How does the size of the front tire effect the steering? While attracted to the larger front tires on an aesthetic level I am curious if they are more difficult in reaction situations. Physically more tire touches the road so is there better traction?

    Can anyone shed some light on these questions for me?
    Once again thank you all in advance for your time. I hope to see you out on the road soon.

  2. #2
    That question has a lot of "if" answers. If you did OK in the MFS... If you're willing to really take 'er easy to begin with and get in plenty of parking lot practice... If you're willing to accept the likelihood of dropping/repairing... If you're a larger person and find the smaller bikes uncomfortable... If you're comfortable with the additional risk...

    My first motorcycle was a Suzuki Volusia 800 (renamed C50, similar to the M50), and I had never ridden a motorcycle before. It was slow going in the beginning, especially the low-speed manuevers. And yep, I dropped it. Twice. When something that weighs 500lbs is falling over, it's best to not hurt yourself trying to stop it.

    I have ridden both small-tire and fat-tire cruisers. It's really a matter of preferences and trade-offs. The skinny-tire bikes are easier to manuever. The fat-tire bikes are smoother, especially on unpaved roads and on rough pavement.

    Personally, I prefer the fat-tire 'classic'-style cruisers because of the aesthetics of full fenders.

    If you like the fat tires and full fenders, some bikes to check out are the Suzuki C50, Honda Aero 750, Yamaha V-Star 650 Classic, and Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic (the 800 Classic is discontinued).

    If you like the aesthetics and handling of the skinny tires and bobbed fenders, your sit-on-at-dealers list would include the Kawasaki Vulcan 500, V-Star 650 Custom, Suzuki S50 and M50, and the Honda Spirit 750.

    It might be easier to recommend a particular bike if you gave an idea of your size and what style of riding you have in mind. For example, the Vulcan 500 is an incredible machine but it's not comfortable for larger people or on longer rides. The Suzuki Savage (S40) is just right for someone the size of a pre-teen girl who only intends to ride around town. The C50 is difficult for a very short person to flatfoot....

    Good Luck, and Welcome!!

  3. #3
    RiderCoach We've stopped counting... LoDownSinner's Avatar
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    Question #1 -- Can't answer that without more information, or seeing you ride.

    Question #2 -- Not that you'd notice after a couple of miles. I've gone back and forth between FL and FX series Harleys, and the differences in front tire size, while notable, was hardly noticable once you got rolling.
    Quote Originally Posted by OBX-RIDER View Post
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  4. #4
    Regarding question #1 both of those can be reasonable choices as a beginner motorcycle depending on a variety of factors about the person doing the riding. Still, my personal opinion would not be too negative for either of those choices. They are not overly heavy or overpowered, from what I understand about them and they have enough power that you won't feel a need to go bigger for some time or maybe never. See answer by Bobthearch above...DITTO!

    My main caution would be to buy used instead of new. There is no reason to buy new if you can find reasonably newer and in decent condition slightly used but much cheaper choices for sale. Strongly recommend not buying new, take it easy, do lots of practice and read this forum and Proficient Motorcycling among other publications. Chance of dropping one in the first year...good! Keep that in mind at all times.
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  5. #5
    Senior Moderator We've stopped counting... subvetSSN606's Avatar
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    Question 1: I'd personally put those bikes in the gray area. They will work just fine for a lot of people, but might be too much for some. Take a course and see what your aptitude and comfort level is.

    Question 2: Thinner tires will generaly feel more reactive and like it takes less input to turn it.
    On the traction thing... there's a lot of complicated stuff going on, the larger tires will in the real world have a little bit more traction, but not as much more as you might think and negligible, nor for the reasons you might think. In the ideal world traction is related to force (weight) per square inch. If you increase the number of square inches of contact patch with a larger tire, the amount of force applied to each square inch reduces proportionally and you actually have no better traction than you had before. In other words 500 lbs on 1 square inch= 500lbs/square inch X 1... ergo 500 "units" of traction. 500 lbs on 2 square inches= 250lbs/square inch x 2, which still equals 500 "units" of traction!

    So I wouldn't worry too much about tire size as a safety factor for traction.

    Where in the real world it does come into play is anamolies in the road that are significant compared to the conact patch.
    Hit a rock or a small slick spot, if that is as big as your contact patch... you have a problem. If it's half the size of your tire the other half of the tire will help make up for it.

    My take on it bottom line is... bigger tires take a little more oomph to get it to turn in. And the difference in traction is negligible to non-existent.

    In the end, regrets rarely come from things done, but from things not even tried.

  6. #6
    Flirting With The Redline 10,000 Posts! Shadow Shack's Avatar
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    The newer 750 Shadow line is slower and heavier than their predecessor models. The slower part makes them better for beginners, the heavier part does not make them better for beginners. How well you fare inteh MSF will determine if you're ready to expand those skills with something like the 750. On that note, the M50 is both heavier and faster than the 750 Shadow line, so it gets tossed into the grey area.

    The only thing I would add to the above tire comments is attention to the rake/trail figures and handlebar width of the bike in question. A bike with a shorter trail will be easier to negotiate maneuvers with, thus offsetting the additional resistance of a wider contact patch. A wider bar will offer more leverage, which can also offset the resistance of a fatter front tire. So if a bike has a fat front tire, long rake/trail, and a narrow bar it's going to feel like an intoxicated pig in the parking lot maneuvers. Shorter trail, wider bar, and skinny tire will be uber responsive by comparison.

    So a Suzuki GZ250, with a fatter front tire than the other 250cc bikes yet shorter trail, is going to feel more nimble than something like a 750 Aero with more trail when negotiating those maneuvers...but a Rebel or 250 Virago with the skinnier front tire will feel even more nimble than the GZ250.
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  7. #7
    Thank you all. To answer your questions for me:

    I am 5'10 185 lbs. 38 years old. I did pass the MFS class in August and only had a few points taken for not braking enough going into a turn, but corrected appropriately.
    I would not be honest if I didn't say that I was feeling very very comfortable on the Rebel by the end of the class and was having fun exploring what the bike could do. In essence I was starting to challenge my skills, by going a little faster (30 mph), pressing the brake harder, and leaning more into a curve, "feeling" the press of the handlebars, etc.

    Driving style: Still scared to leave the confins of a parking lot, but unfortunately there are no dealers there so I'm going to have to face the open road at some point. NON-aggressive car driver and safety conscious. I normally drive a mini van if that says anything.
    Why I want a bike: 1. Always wanted one, 2. save on gas. I drive approx 30 miles to work on straight highway. 3. Social reasons. 4. I took a class it seems like a waste not to follow through. 5. I live along the Eastern shoreline (Maryland) and I "hear" there are some wonderful rides.
    Lastly: Everyone mentions dropping the bike, but no one ever tells you how to right one. How does one pick up 500+ lbs of dead weight???

  8. #8
    Great write-up and pics about picking up a dropped bike here:

    Good video here: (I think that's the one I watched; I got the link off of Google, as YouTube is blocked at work.)

    The quick answer, though, is "carefully, so you don't hurt yourself." you can ride if you blow out a disc in your back.

    That being said, I can pick up my 300 lb GZ250 easily, just using the handlebars. I'm 5'5", 38, and female. I'm a bit of a bruiser, though, and adrenaline counts for a lot.
    2004 Kawasaki Vulcan 500 -- Boudicca
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  9. #9
    My first bike was also the Volusia 800 (C50). I had never ridden before the MFS either. When I did find the used bike I wanted, I had the dealer deliver it so I could go directly to the parking lot for hours of practice before riding on the streets(other than to get to the parking lot). I put highway bars on and wrapped them in foam insulation to protect them in case I dropped it. I did. No damage. I love that bike-still have it. I think this size and weight is ok for you; but I suggest you spend a lot of time in the parking lot before you hit the roads. Also, get the DVD of Ride Like a Pro or some other source that shows you the correct way to pick up a downed bike. With the correct process, a 100# person can pick up a fully loaded Gold Wing weighing in at approx 1,000#s. Ride Like a Pro is also a great reminder as to how to do those slow manuevers. Good luck, have fun.
    2004 Suzuki Volusia 800
    2008 Honda Goldwing

  10. #10
    I think given your stated attitude, size, and comfort level, you'll probably be fine on any of the "gray area" 650-800cc cruisers.

    Just for fun, sit on the Vulcan 500 if you get a chance. Compared to my 800 Volusia, that little Vulcan is faster, smoother-running, easier to manuever, and lighter weight. I think it would be an excellent first bike as long as it's not too cramped.

    but unfortunately there are no dealers there so I'm going to have to face the open road at some point.
    I bought some tie-down straps and rented a trailer. U-Haul has some motorcycle-specific trailers, and some other ramped trailers that work fine also.


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