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What Is “American Feel” In A Motorcycle?

© Provided by Bonnier Corporation   Cycle World

By Kevin Cameron, Cycle World

Every day we are reminded that the way to get a lot of "clicks" is to write about matters in which people hold strong and conflicting opinions. Having written recently about Indian's new liquid-cooled V-twin, designed to embody "American feel," I now want to understand just what that is. What is American motorcycle feel?

One element is surely the availability of strong torque from low rpm. Like the bulging power in the hindquarters of a horse, driving forward. All the power, right now.

Another would be the syncopated, sometimes V-8-like rumble of a big-inch V-twin.

And when it comes to rumble, two other things come to mind. One is that large predatory animals roar or growl. They do not whine or screech. Another was a description of the sound of a large rocket booster, lifting off. The deep sounds that cause men to be afraid, sounds of thunder, of rushing water, of tempest storms of wind.

Getting more into detail is the feeling of powerful momentum that is felt when you close the throttle on an engine with a massive flywheel. This is a locomotive!

Bill Dutcher, who runs the annual Americade motorcycle rally near Glens Falls, New York, spoke of turning the throttle on a big-inch engine at 2,000 revs and feeling its substantial power pulses thrusting him forward.

Another aspect of this was discussed by Earl Werner, a Harley-Davidson chief engineer in the 1990s. He said the proper job of engineering was not to seek extremes but to give people what they actually want. That being so, he wanted to give Big Twin riders enough low-frequency vibration to make the bars shake while idling at stoplights yet not enough to tire rider and passenger over a long day’s ride.

Not to be left out of the discussion is a seat height low enough to allow all riders to plant both feet flat on the pavement when stopped. You are in the bike, not on it. That is a lot less than the 34 inches that offended so many loyal Triumph riders in 1971. As in, about 10 inches less than that.

A related aspect of feel is also to concentrate weight low in the chassis so that the rider never believes that the vehicle’s not-inconsiderable mass is about to get away from him or her. An essential aspect of American feel has to be confident control.

And when it comes to controls, many feel they shouldn't be too easy. I've noticed that power-steering boost in large SUVs is reduced to make their steering more, well, for want of a better term, manly. Could that be a part of American feel? That this sword is made, not for everyone, but for those who sit at the Round Table?

Maybe I’m way off the mark here and should stick to safe techy stuff like deflagration of monodisperse sprays or carbide segregation in the intergranular zones. Let me know.

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