Established 1994. You might recognize that as Motorcycle.com's latest motto. We’re in good company as Big Dog Motorcycles (BDM) uses it as well. And while MO was just inventing itself in 1994, Sheldon Coleman was rolling out “Old Smokey,” his own custom chopper and kernel for a successful business. Fifteen years later, Big Dog Motorcycles is the world’s largest producer of custom motorcycles and has come to produce over 25,000 rolling pieces of art in the process.
Raising motorcycle benchmarks with each model year, this coming annum they’ll introduce a wider spectrum to their lineup with the addition of three new models for a total of seven models in their catalog - six of which are available today. The seventh is slated to roll onto the showroom floor January 2009.
From pro-street to classic choppers to touring, Big Dog Motorcycles will soon have an award-winning motorcycle for you – if they don’t already. Their high-style high-performance motorcycle niche comes from within their 150,000 square foot factory in Wichita Kansas. BDM is proud of their engineering and craftsmanship, from the least expensive model to the top-of-the-line Wolf model. BDM also plans to soon grow out of its 100 national dealers and into the Canadian market with sights on the world market later in 2009. A slow but steady growth process, thanks in part to BDM Founder Sheldon Coleman's leadership, is responsible for growing the brand worldwide.
At Big Dog’s model introduction, held in their new factory store in Costa Mesa California, we got our paws on as many bikes as we could in one day. We also had yet another run-in with Johnny Law, but we’ll save that story for the Christmas party. Not having been on a Big Dog in nearly 5 years I didn’t hop on the headlining 2009 model right away - opting instead to experience the 117ci street rods with a ride on the rigid and retro-styled Pitbull. I have to admit it, the carnival flake paint scheme and stellar shining chrome grabbed my attention first. Surprisingly, the relatively short wheelbase (the shortest at 73-inches) pro-street cruiser was more comfortable than I could have expected with dual-mountain bike shocks stuffed under the saddle and a standard 41mm sleeved traditional fork.
Looking into the hearts of the machinery, we see the new tri-cam 121 cubic-inch OHV 56 degree X-Wedge engine, available only on the new top-of-the-line Wolf. That’s nearly a 2000cc EFI slap in the saddle – and it’s fully polished of course! The remaining five bikes come equipped with the 117 cubic-inch engine, and two models are available with an optional closed-loop EFI system. All are mated to the six-speed BDM Balance Drive introduced in 2005, bringing the final drive to the right side of the bike for better balance, cornering and maintenance.
Among the other notable cross-the-board features are a newly reduced-effort clutch, a smoother and quieter primary compensator sprocket, 41 mm telescopic forks in the front and hidden shocks in the rear (on some models), Performance Machine calipers and two-piece rotors, a speedometer with integrated LED tachometer, double barrel two into one exhaust and the famous super fat tires.
For the economic-minded rich kid that just bought a $40K chopper, BDM claims 42 mpg for all its motorcycles. For the record, we didn’t get to measure any of our own mileage reports. Although we did notice that the reserve allowance on the Pitbull will carry you much further than experienced on the 2004 Ridgeback. I learned that the hard way.
Despite being in the lineup for 10 years now, The Pitbull has had a complete overhaul in 2008 and returns again in 2009 for it’s 11th model year with not many changes. If it ain’t broke… Declared a best of the best by industry leading magazines, I had to get a taste of the rigid board-tracker for myself. The 20-inch/280mm rear-end matched with a 23-inch/130mm front tire sandwich a frame with 33 degrees of rake and 6-inches of trail.
After lunch at the biker friendly Cooks Corner, friend-of-MO Steve Bohn and I traded off a pair of bikes for the photo stops and remaining miles in our day. The too-cool-in-blue Wolf and Coyote models both shook our bones and filled our egos with admiring female onlookers along our ride.
As the “entry” level chopper and model replacement for the MY08 Mutt, the Coyote ain’t no joke. Upgrading the model and dropping the price a thousand bucks, the new Coyote swaps a spoked wheel for a billet one, includes modified shocks, an updated exhaust, a longer kickstand and softer seat. The Coyote comes with the same 117ci engine and 6-speed Baker tranny available on all the other Dogs in the kennel. Even the seat height is the same, yet it feels like a small bike when you compare it directly to the Wolf, which is 10-inches longer and one inch higher. The only thing small about the Coyote is the price, at the bottom of the spectrum at $23,900. “When we approached the Coyote, we had one goal,” explained Paul Hansen, BDM Marketing Director, “To build a motorcycle that would appeal to a broader range of riders, namely through a more attractive price, but not compromise the design, style, and performance that has been expected from Big Dog Motorcycles for fifteen years. At less than $24,000, the Coyote succeeds on all counts.”