Having ridden various motorcycles over the past several decades, beginning on a 2-1/2 horsepower Briggs & Stratton powered mini bike, I have my own, peculiar perspective on what it takes to have fun on two wheels. Basically, I never thought that horsepower was all that important.
In addition to riding virtually every significant motorcycle introduced in the last 15 years, I also have the unique perspective of having read countless email and comments posted by MD readers. It still strikes me when a reader has a very strong opinion about the type of machine necessary (whether it’s horsepower, weight, or some other factor) to have a good time on a motorcycle. I don’t have a strong opinion about that subject. If anything, my experience has taught me that almost every type of motorcycle can be a blast to ride, under the right circumstances.
You have probably heard the old saying: “It is more fun to go fast on a slow motorcycle, than to go slow on a fast motorcycle.” Wringing the neck of an under-powered bike, finding the most efficient line, and carrying speed wherever possible, is one of the most enjoyable things I have ever experienced on two wheels. It is decidedly different from the experience of drag racing a Kawasaki ZX-14R, and I suppose the nature of the enjoyment is different, but you can have just as much fun doing either in my opinion.
Sure, I enjoy pulling a wheelie now and then on a powerful bike, and that is a special feeling. I enjoy flying through the air on a dirt bike (although I haven’t done much of this lately), and sliding in the dirt. Nevertheless, one of the most grin-inducing activities is racing mini bikes in the dirt against your friends (or other journalists). Mini bikes with much less than 10 horsepower.
Cruisers, sport bikes, adventure tourers, luxury tourers, and dual sports all have their unique appeal. Before I had ridden some of these, I genuinely wondered where the fun factor was with some of them. Now I think I know. People buy all of these different types of motorcycles, and people genuinely enjoy all of these types of motorcycles. People have different backgrounds and experiences and different skill levels on two wheels. An important task for a journalist is to enter the mindset of the target consumer of a given class of motorcycle when you test a bike.
Corny as it might sound, motorcycling brings joy in large part through a sense of freedom. Freedom coupled with intense concentration (a form of meditation, even). Riding a motorcycle requires you to focus. Generally, your life, or at least your well being, depends on it. When you focus, the rest of the world, and your troubles, melt away. Together with the freedom to choose where you go, and how you get there on your motorcycle, there are few things that can match the joy of riding.