My philosophy is to always seek to improve your riding skills. This does not necessarily mean that the goal is to go faster, but that your riding skill is significantly higher than the speeds you travel at while riding.
The idea is that safety is not only taking care to avoid hazardous situations, but to have so much "skill in reserve" that when an emergency situation does occur, you can competently handle it. Experienced and skilled riders wouldn't think twice about some situations that would give a less experienced or skilled rider major "pucker up" time.
Here are some major differences between cruisers and sport bikes and my riding suggestions:
There are various "limitations" to a cruiser style bike as far as cornering goes. These include:
- Ground clearance
- Suspension Quality and Travel
- Seating position
- Pegs or Floor Board position
First of all, any limitation presented by the mechanaics or design of a motorcycle isn't necessarily bad, because it will bring out and expose deficiencies in your riding techniques sooner than a modern sport bike would. I've seen many riders over the years make numberous mistakes riding a sport bike that would have gotten them into plenty of trouble had they been on a cruiser bike.
This is where the fun begins.
1. Ground Clearance Problems
Let's say you're riding along, cornering your cruiser and you complain because you scrape floor boards or other hard parts cornering. Now...you can of course blame the bike design, poor shocks, etc.... While this is justified, chances are your riding skills is not maximizing what mechanical capability you do have. The mechanical limitations of the bike are just exposing your riding errors sooner as compared with being on a sport bike.
Reposition your body to the inside of the bike. This will cause your bike to corner at a less severe angle thus giving you more cornering clearance. You can even slide your butt over a few inches to maximize this effect.
Unlike a sport bike where you want to go deep into a corner and "Quick-Flick" it into the turn, you'll have to counter steer a bit slower and smoother. Quick turning in most cases will overload the suspension, compressing it and due to limited ground clearance you'll bottom out.
Stay very loose on the handle bars. Hanging onto the bars will cause the bike to be unstable, thus demanding more of the suspension (which you don't have much of).
Grip the bike with your lower body....make the lower part of your body the foundation or anchor point for riding and NOT hanging onto the bars. This is by far the most common riding error, sport bike or not. Handle bars are only for turning input and not for balancing your body or hanging onto, etc.
Of couse all of the other usual riding technqiues apply here.
2. Suspension Quality and Travel
I suggest setting up the preload of your shocks and forks properly to maximize the effectiveness of what suspension you do have. If you're in the N. California area, I do offer free Basic Suspansion Clinics on how to do this. I also suggest upgrading the valving of the front forks and better shocks.
If you like that low-to-the-ground cruiser look, know that this will also be an added physical limitation to the cornering ability of your bike and you'll have to ride accordingly.
See #1 above for suggestions that will maximize the potential of your suspension no matter what it's limitations.
If you have poor brakes, you have to ride slower since it takes more time to stop. I'm for maximizing the front and rear brake's capabilities. On a cruiser the rear brake also plays a significant role in stopping the bike since it's so much heavier than a sport bike. Hitting the rear brake will help since it does stay on the ground (the rear wheel) under hard braking. Seventy-five percent of your braking ability comes from the front assuming you have a front disc brake.
On older bikes with drum brakes....what can I say? It's not very effective compared to disc brakes. Looks cooler though! ;-)
Steel braided brake lines offer an immediate improvement and using softer brake pads will stop the bike better. I even went so far as to replace my front master brake cylinder to increase my braking power.
4. Seating position
Of course you're sitting in an upright position with your arms higher in the air due to the handlebar position. Key here in cornering is to use the bottom half of your body to grip onto anything you can thus freeing your upper body to be "light" on the bars. You shouldn't be using the handlebars for anything other than turning.
Unfortunately, the sitting position of a cruiser puts more stress on the low back and can cause low back pain if you have a pre-existing problem. See my low back exercises on my web page for a good set of exercises for the spine. This is in contrast to a sport bike that has an opposite effect of lessening the pressure on the back due to the leaned over position. This is however, at the expense of bringout out neck problems due to the extended neck position. Again the neck exercises on my web page can be helpful here.
Back to the Street Clinic Page
5. Pegs or Floor Board position
If you have Floor Boards, there's usually not a whole lot of grip (as compared to good pges), so be sure to wear boots with good rubber on them to maximize your grip. I have Floor Boards on my Eldorado and it took me a little getting used to.
As far as Highway pegs go, they may be comfortable criusing on the highway with, however they will not offer much support while cornering. Hey, it's not a sport bike anyway, however to maximize cornering you're going to have to rely on using your theighs and seat to stabalize yourself on the bike.
That's about it. I'd appreciate any feedback you may have on these riding techniques.
Doc Wong's Guzzi Page
Modifications I've done to my '74 Eldorado