The single (thumper) motorcycle motor. Why would anyone buy a single powered bike? Well for many darn good reasons, such as reliability, simplicity, affordability and tons of torque per horsepower just to mention a few reasons.
Singles were used to power the very first motorcycles, such as Triumph, Harley Davidson and of all other icons of the modern motorcycle. So they are at least 116 years old as a motorcycle motor. That means they have heritage. Which also means they have a rich history powering motorcycles. The thumper is such a good motorcycle motor design it’s still in use today. Why is that? Well let’s discuss that. The majority of motorcycles produced today are small and mid-size single cylinder machines. They are cheap, light and economical. Not to mention they can achieve staggering gas mileage numbers compared to their larger counterparts. Which unintentionally makes them eco smart as well. Even this ancient form of motorcycle propulsion fits into today’s cleaner air, greener seeking society. A hundred years ago who would have thought that was going to happen?
The single comes in many shapes and sizes today from a vertical 650cc to a horizontal 49cc scooter motor. They are used on off road bikes and road going bikes. One might say they are the most widely used motorcycle motor design ever made. Which brings me to this question. Why do Americans prefer big gas sucking V-twins over a good old trusty thumper? Well the largest thumper produced today I believe is 650cc. It is used primarily in Adventure bikes, cross overs and dirt bikes. To my knowledge no one has ever attempted to produce anything larger than 650cc, none that ever went into production that is. I’m certain there is some sort of engineering reasoning for this.
Why do some insist on having at least one thumper powered bike in their collection? Thumpers have been a part of motorcycling since there were motorcycles. They are great fun to ride. They vibrate, cough and spit sometimes but they just keep thumping along. They have a personality all of their own. They also provide a motorcycle with thin profile. The Yamaha SR500, One of the most beloved thumpers in modern history, is highly sought after these days for its drop dead gorgeous looks and its ability to be customized into a café style bike brat bike, chopper or bobber.
In my mind the pinnacle for thumpers is the 500cc motor. It’s perfect for most applications. All but touring. However there are those that do tour on 500cc powered bikes. So it’s not like it can’t be done on one. I believe anyone that is new to riding and is looking for a road bike they should start with a 500cc thumper. Unfortunately not many companies produce a 500cc single for the street these days. This makes selection a bit slim. Some examples are the Suzuki s40 650cc, Royal Enfield 500cc bullet, and the Yamaha SR 400. Of course only one of those choices is 500cc but that’s how few in this class that are produced. The good news is a new comer to the motorcycle manufacturing arena has plans to release an entire line of 500cc thumpers. That company would be none other than Cleveland CycleWerks. This means choices will get much better and that has me both excited and happy. However there are many used thumpers out there as well. The Honda Ascot 500 comes to mind. Learning how to ride on a thumper is like learning how to shoot with a .22 rifle. Once you are a pro at the 22 anything else is easy.
Me I have a large displacement twin but I also have my trusty thumper. I think it will always be that way. I take long trips once a year, as in on the road for 2 or more weeks straight but for the most part I just scoot around, Back and forth to work, markets and just riding. One cannot beat a thumper for every day use. They are like a beloved tool, like a favorite old pocket knife. They are the best at what they are intended to do. I recommend that all riders have at least one thumper in their collection, they are really that good.
The addiction to customizing. First I want to put out there that I own a CCW Heist. I have never ridden or owned any other CCW product therefore my rantings are about my Heist and my Heist alone.
Yep some of us that own CCW motorcycles can’t seem to stop messing with them. It’s either cosmetic upgrades, ergonomic upgrades or performance upgrades. Sadly we are hooked and I’ll admit that description fits me. For me it all started with removal of the evap system. From there, the seat and springs, then the bars and on and on. I’ve been going non-stop every year since 2011 and this year, 2015 is no different. I have to ask myself why do I take a perfectly good motorcycle and mess with it. The answer is simple, or is it. To create a look with no help that I can be proud of. Yet even when I’m proud of my work I seem to change it all again. Maybe it’s the thrill of learning new things and doing something I’ve never done before. I don’t know but what I do know is I keep on doing it.
The exhaust for example, if I can remember correctly has been changed 5 times. Im on my 3rd carb. And third shade of paint. 3rd set of bars, 2nd head light and 3rd set of turn signals and tail light. I’ve gone from a bare bones bobber to a bobber bagger and now in between. It has a hand fitted new rear fender and I'm on my second gas tank and 3rd filler cap. I’ve changed my seat twice, the only thing I have only changed once is the seat springs. I got that one right the first time. I added some handlebar risers and have changed out all the switches on the handle bars. My start button has been relocated and I’ve replaced my horn many times. I’ve upgraded the chain and sprockets and on and on. There always seems to be something I want to do. I gave up a lot of my ideas by buying a bike that can be ridden on a cross country trip realistically and comfortably and can do the “ton” no problem. I have come to realize that my wee bike is designed well for what it’s meant for and nothing more. It’s not a distance cruiser though all day rides are easily done thanks to my springs and seat. It’s a 229cc motorcycle and if one can accept that for what it is, it’s much easier to enjoy what the bike has to offer.
What does the bike have to offer for me? Well I consider myself a self-proclaimed bike nerd when it comes to classics and modern classics. Like most of us we ogle at photos of old Indian chiefs, Scouts and Harley pan heads and knuckles. However, overwhelmingly my favorite classics are the British bikes from post and pre WW2. Anyway my point is I will never be able to afford one of those bikes but I can simulate the experience of owning an old bike like those by owning a Heist. It has a rigid frame, around the same power and around the same top speed. Just for giving me that nostalgic feel is mostly why I enjoy riding her so much. Yes a rigid frame requires some getting used to but once one does come to terms with one it’s a magical experience. One of the other and maybe the biggest reason I keep my Heist is because of the loyal following of these bikes and the close nit group of riders it has introduced me to. The truest bikers I’ve met ride these little bikes. Sure most of us ride other bikes as well but they are not our Heists.
Back to the point, why do we change our bikes so much, because we love them that’s why. CCW made a bold and very brave move back in 2009 and I for one am damn glad they did. CCW for life says it all. So for those that scoff at the small displacement and the fact they are made in China, bugger off. If you don’t like them don’t buy one. So in short I really don’t care why I keep customizing my Heist, it makes me happy and I’m all for happy. So why would I question that?
*CCW tha Riders has no affiliation with Cleveland CycleWerks and/or their counterparts. All views and/or opinions expressed on this site are that of CCW tha Riders only.
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