We all know it’s either a recession or the entire demise of the free world economy. In either case, cautious motorcycle manufacturers have been recycling their existing lines for 2009. Adding fancy paint jobs, 2-up passenger seating or 3 wheels, its all just sheep in wolf’s clothing. We haven’t seen a truly new design by any major motorcycle manufacturer…except one. Even though they too have felt an economic bite, Big DogMotorcycles is bold enough to release entirely new motorcycle designs for ‘09.
Another bold Big Dog stance is opening a brand new 12,000 foot location in the heart of the OC. Not your typical dealership because it’s actually a Big Dog Company store. Sheldon Coleman was in attendance at the grand opening and I was able to glean some industry insight from the Big Dog himself. Sheldon founded this American made motorcycle company in 1994 in Wichita Kansas. He kept adding pooches to the pound and watched his Litter growto become “The Big Dog,” the world’s largest manufacturer of premium bikes. His business acumen (Coleman Camping was founded by his grandfather nearly 100 years ago) taught him to keep a tight leash. “I knew the economy was changing,” Sheldon states, “we were surprised at just how quickly.We quickly outgrew two factories and have been in our current location for nearly ten years. Through the moves and expansions of both the factory infrastructure and dealer base, I’ve successfully managed our overhead, unlike so many others.” Sheldon continues “The time to aggressively invest in new design and technology is when the market is slow. Keep the momentum of new products and the company story in the marketplace. If you wait and then react to a good economy, it’s too late. The truth is there will always be customers for innovative design and quality craftsmanship, we have over 25,000 so far.”
Meet Your New Leader
The 2009 Wolf’s demeanor demands attention.
Aerodynamically perfect, just add wings.
In keeping his eye on the prize and customer expectations the Wolf was reborn. Originally bred in 2001 and retired only a year later the Wolf is a spectacular reincarnation of the BDM pedigree. In fact the 2009 Wolf also has the honorable distinction of being BDM’s 25,000th motorcycle built. The seamless aerodynamics of this lupine bike are stunning. Pro-Street in posture, its stance is visually impressive and it’s130/60R front tire demands attention. The burly front end is complemented by 41mm telescopic sleeved forks with thick triple trees. The rear drive side brake allows an uncluttered view of the dazzling chrome wheel. Powered by the all new S&S 121ci X-Wedge and housed in a BDM tubular 1½ inch thick frame with a single down tube. With electronic fuel injection, a Baker 6-Speed transmission and the proprietary BDM Balance Drive system it’s ready to pounce. A six-piston caliper puts the bite on the front tire, while the 220/50R-20 rear tire rolls in an all-new “radical swing arm.” Fat tires look really cool but in reality only a few inches of rubber contacts the road at any given moment. A larger front tire and the smaller 220 rear create better balance, control and an integrated look. The Drive Side Brake design keeps the left side of the motorcycle just as visually stunning as the right without obstructing the gorgeous chrome rim.
The Wolf looks perfect from any angle. This is a new body design, a new motor and I’ve only just begun. The Wolf has a hard saddle bag option which turns a lone Wolf into a pack animal. With an aftermarket 2-up gunfighter seat and integrated sissy bar the Wolf goes from boulevard bike to that elusive cool touring machine. Nobody has successfully bridged that gap between both until now. It’s downright bad ass. I know because I rode this bike, and rode, and rode this bike.
The Wolf Runs Free
To the surprise of everyone at the Big Dog Motorcycles Orange County grand opening, Sheldon handed me the keys to Wolf # 3. I was now in command of the only BDM Wolf prowling planet earth as we speak, and it’s awesome. It has just 40 miles on the odometer, but that’s gonna change real fast. The Wolf deserved to be seen and I wanted to be seen with it. A first impression on the freeway ride home is a sense of confidence. The massive 130/23 front tire and front forks mash right over those annoying freeway grooves; these big paws grab the road. The S&S 121ci (exclusive to BDM) X-Wedge rocks (see XWedge: future of American V-Twin in this issue). It’s dusk and the speedo emanates a futuristic blue glow, all the dials are clearly visible. A very efficient (and stylish) all-new halogen headlamp cleared my path home only to dream of tomorrow’s travels. 9:00 am and I’m gone to Original Mikes on South Main Street in Anaheim. They host a Hot Bike Revue every other Sunday. They don’t open until 11 …I’m a little overanxious. This place is real lively, full of antique cars, vintage motorcycles and has live music every night of the week. As suspected, by the time the Hot Bikes appear, the BDM Wolf steals the show. “Is this a one-off custom? Who makes this beast? What size is the front tire? What is that motor? Where’s the rear brake?” I’m lovin’ this.
The day is young and full of surprises; it’s time to hit PCH and the Swallows Inn at San Juan Capistrano. I’m taking full advantage of being this cool. A gang of bikes followed me just to watch the Wolf grace the tarmac. This bike has a sense of agility not normally associated with a 9½ ft long motorcycle with a 45 degree total rake. It’s serious heavy metal, 770 lbs dry but with its lower center of gravity and tire configuration, it handles like a.. well…motorcycle! Finally able to open up the 121ci X- Wedge and slam through all six gears and it is truly impressive. This 6-speed Baker tranny and clutch have got to be the smoothest I have ever used. Fifth and sixth are helical cut. The proprietary, award-winning BDM primary design provides better balance. The BDM staff on hand at the grand opening was raving about its unbelievable balance and handling. On the open toll road to San Juan, I took my hands off the bars at freeway speed (do not try this at home). Unfreakin’ believable, by God, she flew steady and straight.
The Swallows Inn is a great hang and the men’s room reads like no other but impatient to show off to the next hoard of bikers its over to Cook’s Corner. Not to sound snooty, but when you roll in with a bike that looks like this, you stand out from the crowd.
I can’t tell you how many Harley owners said that they had 36K (the base price of the Wolf ) invested in customizing their own bikes, and it will never look like this. The sheer grace of form, elegance in design yet muscular demeanor of this motorcycle is seriously commanding.
Even Road Kings look like runts of the litter next to the Wolf.
The Hunt Is On
OK, enough of the how cool I look; crap, is she a runner. Oak Ridge Road splits off at Cook’s Corner into six miles of reasonable twisties with some corners posted at 30 mph. First pass, I get a real feel of how she handles, I am impressed. Second pass, as stated, the low profile and center of balance allow for much more aggressive handling for such a long bike. Third pass, the 35 mph corners are hit at 55. Fourth pass, I am following two sport bikes and keeping up with them. I am tossing this thing into the corners real fast, real hard and real low. I think they’re a little peeved that I’m even still around and they push harder. Sheldon…you’ll be happy to know your bike performed beyond my wildest expectations. I just don’t look at motorcycles the same way anymore, all other rides in the posse look tame. The Wolf, without a doubt, stands out as the leader of the pack. The bar’s been raised and I need a drink.
It’s a Dog’s life
Sometimes we ponder the possibilities, other times we live them. For one week I lived in the Wolf’s den, soared free in the wind, and I want to run with this pack, but who wouldn’t. It’s a rider’s bike, even though it looks like a show bike. The adjustable rear suspension provides comfort and style for a long haul (it’s also pre-wired for an aftermarket air-ride suspension). Personally, I would purchase a really plush cushy gel seat for my fat ass. I like the look of the stock double barrel pipes; they just need a little adjustment so that X-Wedge can growl. Other than that I have only praise. CD the Editor is the voice of reason here because he actually owns a Big Dog Chopper. In fact the only reason I am on this beauty is because he couldn’t make the Grand Opening. I know that tomorrow I hand the Wolf’s leash to QT’s “big dog.” If he wasn’t the boss I’d be on my way to Vegas. But I do so with the pride of riding the mighty Wolf first and knowing most if its 400 miles were all mine.
Editor’s Two Cents
Well, I just spent a day on this Wolf, and I can’t say enough about it. Last month I thought that my own Big Dog Chopper should be hearing foot steps from the BBC Paradox we tested, but man, this Wolf makes it a 3-way race. Aw, hell, who am I kidding, this bike is so much better than my chopper. The new 121 inch X-Wedge is just amazing. Throaty growl, smooth power band, ample torque and no annoying cam chain noise. And the handling of this bike is astounding. The front and rear tire combo must be a major factor, but I’ll be honest, I’d like more meat back there. The 220 looks good, but I still want that fender filled out a bit. I asked if they could squeeze in a 250 for me, but no can do. That said, I think I’m in the minority as everyone seems to love the look, and there’s no denying the performance it delivers. In fact, when I saw others ride “my” bike (I was beginning to get a bit territorial) I noticed that the back looks plenty fat with someone on board. Hell, even Koz looks good on this bike! It’s so damn long, and mean, yet the ride handling is, in the words of one H-D tech guy, “better than the V-Rod.” Seriously, I have never seen a bike that looks this good, ride so well! It’s usually a compromise, but not this time. Best of all, it’s a fun ride every time. It’s the kind that delivers thrills each time you throw a leg over. Slap some pipes on there, and the thicker seat Koz mentioned, and you are truly good to go.
By the time you read this another new Big Dog will grace the pound. The Bulldog, he is a full on Bagger, faring and all. That should be available in December 08.
Special Thanks to Paul Hansen and Sheldon Coleman of Big Dog and Kevin Shrive, photographer http://kevinshrivephotography.com/
Gary (Koz) Mraz