Day 48 – Yamaha Stratoliner vs BMW GS Adventure

What kind of a rider am I?

In this post, I’m going to talk about my initial thoughts about the bike swap that I did with Chuck, that resulted in me logging about 25 miles on a Yamaha Stratoliner.  Before we talk about the comparison, I’m going to spend a few lines talking about what kind of rider I am.

Simply put, I’m an adventure rider.  People have many ways of describing the essence of Adventure Riding, so I don’t claim to have the definitive answer, but I have an answer that is helpful, and sets the tone for this discussion.

An Adventure Rider is someone that rides their motorcycle for the sake of completing adventures.  Often times this means riding in foreign countries, or being unafraid to ride in dirt, and gravel.  Adventure riders sometimes cross streams or rivers, and they often ride in places that they’ve never ridden before.  That is the essence of Adventure Riding.

What is an adventure bike?

Adventure Riders usually ride Adventure Bikes.  Adventure Bikes are bikes that are designed to accomplish any of those types of riding without hesitation, and without difficulty.  It’s not uncommon to see Adventure Bikes kitted out with knobby tires (Front and Rear), lots of luggage, protective gear attached to almost every corner of the bike, and with a whole pile of technical gadgets.

Adventure bikes usually are quite tall, and the most common complaint about an adventure bike from a rider is that the bike is so tall, that it’s tough to mount the damn thing, just so that you can ride it.

What kind of Rider is Chuck?

Chuck is kind of an enigma.  He’s currently riding a cruiser bike, but he is by no means a cruiser rider.  Chuck is skilled in motocross, performance road riding, and of course, Cruising.  Chuck and I grew up together and at the age of about 12 or 13, I got my first bike, and we rode together in the woods.  When I went into the Air Force, I stopped riding bikes for about 35 years, but Chuck has continued over the years, so he’s got a whole lot of skill for just about any form of motorcycle.

What is a cruiser bike?

Cruiser bikes have a different geometry, where the front fork is more relaxed and the wheel extends further out in front.  They are lower to the ground, and the handlebars are usually high up, which, when combined with the fork geometry, tends to make the rider lean back, hanging on to the bars.

Sometimes, Cruiser bike owners replace the stock handlebars with bars that are even taller, which causes the rider to have to hold their arms up even higher.  This type of handlebars are sometimes called ape hangers, because the rider looks like an ape when riding.

The two bikes

Chucks bike is a Stratoliner, circa 2007 or so.  My bike is an adventure bike, model year 2015.  So, given the general differences between the bikes, you might already expect my bike to be much more advanced than Chuck’s  bike, and it is.  That said, the Stratoliner was designed for a completely different purpose.

Riding the BMW

Cliff’s Point of view

My bike has been adjusted so that it fits me.  I’ve raised the handlebars, lowered the foot pegs, and added numerous creature comforts that cause the bike to fit me perfectly while seated, and while standing.

the BMW GS Adventure is known for handling very well for a big bike, and it also has excellent brakes, and an engine called a boxer engine.  The Boxer engine has 2 cylinders, which are opposed and which stick out the Left and Right sides of the bike.  The Engine makes 125 horsepower, and about 90 foot pounds of torque.

This bike is capable of handling the Interstate, or a dirt/gravel road in a remote corner of the world.  There is almost no kind of terrain or road that the BMW GSA cannot handle.

I love my bike, as do most riders of almost any kind of bike.

Chuck’s Point of view

After riding my bike for about 5 miles, Chuck pulled over to the side of the road and he motioned for me to join him.  When I pulled along side, he shouted out “I cannot believe how much different these two motorcycles are”.  It was funny, but I was saying exactly the same thing to him, during this break.

Chuck made comments about how the engine will rev up into the 9000 RPM range, and that his bike will rev only to 4500 RPM.  He loved the power of the BMW, and the ability to adjust the attitude of the bike by simply twisting the throttle, adding more, or less throttle to manage a turn.

Riding the Stratoliner

Chuck’s Point of View

Chuck also really loves his bike.  His skill is very advanced, so he’s able to get the bike to handle very well, under almost any conditions.  Chuck did however comment on the fact that the bike is only 90 Horsepower, and the rev limiter is set at 4500 RPM.

These two limits are not bad, or negative, just different.  Every motorcycle has a set of limitations that create the operating zone in which it runs best.  For a big V-Twin motor, the engineers at Yamaha decided that a lower RPM limit, with 1900 CCs, will produce a very smooth and stable cruiser bike.

Cliff’s Point of view

I rode Chuck’s bike and at first I had a really hard time riding it.  Cruiser bikes are not known for their turning ability, so simply trying to turn the bike around in the rest area on the Blue Ridge Parkway was a handful.  But, once I got it turned around, and headed in the right direction, I was  able to start riding it.

I’m generally not a fan of Cruiser bikes.  I find them to be loud, and unsophisticated.  But, with this bike I began to see why people love Cruiser bikes.  Riding this bike on the straight sections of the BRP was a joy.  The bike is firmly planted on the ground, and it felt like that bike would ride in a straight line for 3000 miles, or until it ran out of gas.

On the other hand, turning one of these big cruiser bike takes a little getting used to.  It probably took me about 15 miles of riding the BRP until I started to get it, and to be able to control the bike in a more skilled fashion.  After these 15 miles of riding, I was able to anticipate how the bike would turn for the next corner, and I would time the lean-in, and turn initiation better and better, making the turns smoother, and safer with each mile.

Once I was able to gain some confidence in the turns, I began to enjoy the comfort of the Stratoliner.  This bike just simply goes along, getting it’s business done, riding down any (paved) road that you can dish up, with confidence and an unmistakable presence.

Summing it up

At last, I had learned why people ride Cruiser bikes.  These are people that enjoy riding on an Interstate, feeling the wind (often riding without helmets) and just working their way to the next destination.

Adventure Riders want to feel like each day is an adventure, and their weapon of choice is the Adventure Bike.  They are not afraid of dirt roads, but avoid Interstates when at all possible.

I’m certainly not going to sell the BMW and get a Cruiser bike, but I do have a new-found appreciation for what Cruiser bikes are good for, and how they satisfy the urge to ride.

 

About the Author

Cliff Musante

Cliff Musante is a technologist, business leader, motorcycle enthusiast, father, grandfather, and more. In June, 2013 his passion for motorcycles was revitalized, and he set out to ride across Patagonia. This 'Blog is the story of all of his adventures.

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