Whether you are a certified Iron Butt member or a Bike Night regular, there is no doubt you’ve earned some wisdom and respect behind the saddle of your cruiser. We can all appreciate the fresh morning rumble of a v-twin powerhouse followed by miles of smooth torque and comfort.
At the end of the day, as the saying goes, “four wheels move the body, and two wheels move the soul”.
However, after many years and many miles on some of the most iconic cruisers to ever hit the market (HD Softail Deluxe, Moto Guzzi California, and a Kawasaki Vulcan to name a few) through some of the most beautiful roads in the great U.S. of A., I’ve come to appreciate another saying.
Maybe you’ve heard it before in its original form, but we can all agree: “This is my cruiser. There are many like it, but this one is mine.”
Your Cruiser, Your Style
There is no doubting the comfort, style, and power that comes factory-standard with our cruisers. This is what has made cruisers a class of their own throughout motorcycle history. With today’s buffet of selections available from every major manufacturer, there is bound to be a cruiser to fit just about any rider out there.
But cruisers aren’t just about big displacement engines with gobs of low-end torque and thunderous speed. No. Cruisers can represent a rider’s commitment to their own style and personality.
Whether you’re a Friday night bar-hopping hooligan or a Sunday morning early-rising chrome buster, your cruiser reflects who you are as a rider. If you value comfort and usability, your cruiser can become luxury on wheels. If you prefer more speed and performance, your cruiser can deliver the power to the asphalt.
And even if you prefer barebones practicality, your cruiser can provide all the utility you require. All you need to transform your cruiser into your perfect ride is a little creativity and a few upgrades.
With all my years of riding experience on a long list of cruisers, with an even longer list of cruiser die-hard riding buddies, I’ve come up with a standard list of upgrades that every cruiser owner should consider.
Regardless of your style and machine, these upgrades are guaranteed to have you saying “but this one is mine!”
1. Aftermarket Exhaust
This category of upgrades is hardly a surprise to anyone that has ever been within earshot distance of civilization. Most people will hear you coming before they see you riding. Nothing can compare to the feeling you get when you see the crowd’s necks turn, the moment they hear you, with their eyes wide open as you ride towards them.
Sure, our cruisers come factory stock with a decent sound, but it’s up to you to unleash the v-twin rumble that matches your style. There are few exhaust systems I have personally come to appreciate throughout the years due to their tone, build quality, and amazing styling.
Performance exhausts made by Vance & Hines, Cobra, and TAB performance are amongst my favorite. They all offer a wide range of tones and grunts that definitely give a cruiser a distinct bit of special character.
As an added bonus, aftermarket exhausts are also engineered to improve your cruiser’s performance by optimizing engine exhaust air-flow. An aftermarket exhaust is the single most powerful upgrade you can invest in to enhance your cruiser and to personalize your riding experience.
2. Lighting Accessories
You’ve heard it before; loud pipes save lives. While I don’t disagree that a good sounding cruiser can definitely get you noticed on the road, that’s not all we should rely on as cruiser riders.
I’ve lost count of how many drivers I’ve encountered with headphones in their ears or with their in-car entertainment systems cranked up to 11. And don’t get me started on the nightmare that can be riding at night in a neon-lit city or even in pitch-black backwoods.
With so much noise & light pollution and road distractions now in every car on the road, additional lighting is a necessary upgrade for every cruiser. Lighting upgrades can provide improved road safety and an improved style to your cruiser. Lights can save lives (too)!
Lighting accessories are available for the rear, front, and sides of most cruisers. I always highly recommend upgrading rear-end lighting with accessories such as a Dynamic BackOff module or aftermarket license plate frame light.
These upgrades will allow drivers to see you better and will prevent a nasty rear-end collision. Front lighting upgrades can give you better visibility and even differentiate you from a car with a busted headlight. Additional LED lighting upgrades for turn signals, accents, and displays can also make your cruiser stand out on the road and at bike night!
3. Seat & Saddles
If there’s one thing that most new cruiser riders tend to overlook, it’s their cruiser’s seat. Manufacturers’ main focus is to provide a powerful engine on a reliable platform with the unique stylings of their brand.
And while many brands value comfort, building a one-size-fits-all seat is near impossible. Regardless of distance, a one (1) mile ride or a one thousand (1,000) mile ride can feel like heaven or hell with the wrong or right seat.
An aftermarket seat can unleash your cruiser in ways you haven’t even considered. Beyond comfort, the right saddle can transform a cruiser that may have previously been “un-ridable”, into one that fits you like a glove.
Sometimes a simple bit of widening, shortening, or padding of a seat can stabilize your riding posture, provide a more relaxed (or aggressive) riding position, and relieve any back pain while on the road. Most seat upgrades are a direct fit and take no more than five minutes to install but their benefits can last a lifetime.
Now before I lose some of you to black & white thoughts of clunky sail-looking motorcycles sputtering down the road, let me remind you of the improvements in the style and construction of windshield assemblies from the past few decades.
With improved materials and sleek assemblies, new windshields are lighter and more streamlined than ever before.
No matter if you’re a highway king or a city slicker, wind management is an important upgrade to consider. Even if your cruiser has a factory-issued windshield, a new tinted option or additional deflectors can go a long way to ensuring you get the best riding experience from your cruiser.
Find the right balance between wind & debris protection versus air-flow & style, and you’ll be set.
5. Riding Gear
This category is technically not specific to cruisers only, but nonetheless, it’s on my top five (5) list. Whether you’re trying to keep up with the weather for different riding seasons or just looking to change up your style and look, high-quality gear is always the perfect upgrade to invest in.
If you’ve ever stubbed your toe on a chair or skinned your knee on the carpet, you know that even the slightest bit of protection can mean the difference between a little bruise and being out of commission only to be off your cruiser for weeks.
My recommendation for quality gear goes beyond safety. If you’ve ever worn an over-sized helmet, undersized glove, or even just the wrong style of jacket, you know how distracting and miserable a ride can become.
With the right set of gear, you can be confident that you’ll be comfortable from point A to point B while being protected in the event of a crash.
Ride On or Stay Home
In addition to all the upgrades I’ve recommended, I would also recommend you upgrade your cruiser now, before you regret not having these enhancements.
There is no worse feeling than embarking on a trip or even a short ride down the road only to realize you wish you had upgraded your exhaust, seat, lights, windshields, or whatever else. And finally, ride long and ride well.
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