Big Dog Motorcycles celebrates 15 years in the biz by producing its 25,000th motorcycle and by releasing its largest lineup to date, including the X-Wedge-powered 2009 Wolf.
Pressing my face against the giant glass windows of Big Dog Motorcycles new Orange County store, I felt like Charlie waiting to get into the Chocolate Factory. Within sight but just out of reach sat Big Dog’s 2009 lineup, a cavalcade of chrome and custom paint on stretched-out frames with a monster V-Twin in the middle. I admire the symmetry of super-long forks and tall chrome wheels all slanted in the same direction with bated breath. Big Dog has six new models on hand for a quick ride around OC and I’ve got my eye on a stunning nine-and-a-half-foot long 2009 Wolf and am eager to ride my first motorcycle equipped with the X-Wedge engine.
It’s a big year for the factory-custom manufacturer out of Wichita. Big Dog is celebrating its 15-year anniversary and just produced its 25,000th motorcycle, a patriotic-themed
2009 Wolf hand-painted with plenty of red, white and blue stars and stripes. The company-owned Orange County store seeks to give Big Dog an increased presence in one of the largest potential markets for high style bikes, Southern California. Big Dog plans to increase its international presence too, with the launch of eight stores in Canada soon.
But how do you maintain your claim as “The World’s Largest Manufacturer of Custom Bikes” with competitors doing their damnedest to wrestle away that title? Releasing its largest lineup to date, seven models in all, three of them being all-new is a good start. Dropping prices on its gateway motorcycle and utilizing the newest technology available in the form of the EPA-friendly X-Wedge engine are sound business decisions as well. Using current trends in the industry, consumer feedback, and dealers’ input to steer the direction of your company are also keys to continued success.
During Marketing Director Paul Hansen’s intro to the 2009 lineup, I learn the Wolf is the second generation of the thinking process that brought us the 2008 Pitbull, which bodes well for the Wolf since the Pitbull was voted 2008 V-Twin Bike of the Year by Easyriders’ parent company, Paisano Publications. The immediate similarities are in the lines of the tank design and in the flow of the bikes. But where the sweep of the Pitbull is broken by its dual-spring seat, the Wolf keeps going as the 4.5-gallon tank, seat pan and steel rear fender run together seamlessly the length of the bike. And with a stance that’s 9.5-ft long, your lines had better be sharp and refined.
The Wolf attains its enviable attributes by virtue of a seven-inch stretch to the backbone, a backbone that’s claimed to be so over-built, so heavy duty that there’s no torsional twisting. The front end has a three-inch stretch on the fork, which is exaggerated by the motorcycle’s 45-degree rake – a combination of 40-degrees in the frame rake plus five-degrees in the triple trees. The seat sits almost even with the gargantuan 23-inch front wheel. I sit low and upright on the motorcycle, making it a straight reach to the 1.25-inch rubber-mounted pull-back handlebars.
Tall tires front and back make sure that the bike is proportional. The front wheel is about as big as you can get and still be functional. The rear is no slouch itself at 20-inches tall, and the 220mm width is enough to provide
Long and low with killer paint, tons of chrome, a monster V-Twin and better-than-expected handling – yes, indeed, the 2009 Wolf is one formidable pro-streeter.
the custom look that buyers require without totally sacrificing handling. The machined aluminum wheels give it a true custom look. They look so good that Big Dog went to the trouble of placing the rear brake caliper and rotor behind the drive to provide an uncluttered view of the chrome design. A single left-side disc on the front puts the lead wheel prominently on display as well.
And sitting in the middle of the 83.5-inch wheelbase is the heart of the 2009 Wolf, S&S Cycle’s 121 cubic-inch X-Wedge engine. What’s the big deal about the X-Wedge, you say? The air-cooled, pushrod V-Twin is the first 49-state certified lump that meets the 2010 US Environmental Protection Agency’s Tier II standards. According to S&S, the belt-driven, three-cam design has its valve train geometry aligned for maximum efficiency and minimal
The 121 cubic-inch X-Wedge is a tri-cam, square-bored V-Twin that provides a heart-pounding 1976cc of power.
noise. This adds up to a claimed 21% reduction in vibrations, 22% more fin area, and a 30% reduction in parts. The ’09 Wolf also has a new primary compensator sprocket to provide a smoother, quieter ride as more throttle is given.
But you want to know the best part? The X-Wedge puts almost 2000cc of power in your right hand. Twist the throttle with authority on this baby and you’d better be holding on. Big Dog claims the big pro-streeter will hit 60 mph in less than four seconds, and I believe them. You’ll find most of the torque early, between 2000-3000rpm. Throttle response isn’t instantaneous, but fuel delivery to the 4.25-inch cylinders is even as the closed-loop EFI constantly checks air temp, engine temp and speed, throttle position and exhaust oxygen levels. It makes power similar to the 117 cubic-inch S&S mill we dynoed in our review of the 2008 Pitbull, where max torque came on around 3300rpm.
On the freeway I cruise along with the engine rumbling efficiently at 2650rpm in sixth gear. The combination of under-molded rubber grips and footpegs, rubber-mounted handlebars and the efficiency of the engine itself temper down vibrations and keeps heat coming off the air-cooled engine tolerable, but the air-filter cover toasted the inside of my right thigh pretty good while sitting in stop-and-go traffic.
Climbing on one of the longest motorcycles I’ve ever ridden, I anticipated executing a turn would be a chore. With 45-
Big Dog’s Sheldon Coleman provided a little insight on BDM’s future while we lunched at Cook’s Corner.
degrees of rake, a wheelbase almost seven-feet long, and tires that damn near come up to my waist, wouldn’t you? But that’s where the Wolf surprised me. The bike is much more manageable than anticipated. When Big Dog designed a new swingarm for the 2009 Wolf, it aimed to provide a smoother, more comfortable ride, and after my time in the saddle I have to commend them on the job they’ve done. Of course, having full suspension helps as well. The rear shocks are tucked neatly out of sight and are adjustable, which will come in handy because even though there’s no pillion, detachable saddlebags for the Wolf is an option that will be available come spring. Big Dog’s decision to run only a 220mm rear also contributes to its rider-friendliness.
Jumping onto Highway 405 and running through the gears of the Baker 6-speed transmission, shifting feels a little dry and the gears have that new-tranny notchiness. It also resists going into Neutral easily, despite BDM’s Neutral Detent System that’s supposed to simplify the process. When traffic clogs up ahead and it’s time to get on the brakes hard, stopping action relies heavily on the 4-piston Performance Machine calipers on the rear’s racing-style floating rotor as the larger disc on the front is a little soft for a bike that boasts a 770-lb dry weight.
While Big Dog has amended its 2009 marketing strategies to appeal to a larger consumer base by offering its most affordable motorcycle yet, the Wolf’s $35,900 MRSP means it is still tailored toward the high-end rider. Amongst the movie stars and moguls of California’s Orange County, it fits right in. It is the type of motorcycle that will give you instant celebrity status.
The Coyote is the lightest, most agile of the 2009 Big Dog lineup and gets the most out of its 117 c.i. S&S engine.
After spending time behind the handlebars of the big, bad Wolf, I opt for the other end of the BDM spectrum next, the 2009 Coyote. The Coyote replaces last year’s Mutt, and Big Dog dealers were said to be very excited about the potential of the bike at the recent dealer meeting. With its $23,900 MSRP, it rings in a cool grand cheaper than last year. The fact that it isn’t as visually intimidating as the Wolf is another strong selling point.
The pro-street style Coyote shares many of the same traits as the Wolf, only in smaller portions. A torque-filled S&S 117 cubic-inch engine provides the punch to the 6-speed Baker tranny. The backbone sports a six-inch stretch while the 21-inch front tire sits at the end of 39-degrees of frame rake on a two-inch over -standard stretched fork. Both roll on hidden rear shocks, with the Coyote’s suspension receiving a few tweaks to soften it up. Crawling off the ultra-long Wolf, the 8.5-ft-long, 665-lb Coyote almost feels small.
“With the Coyote, we aimed 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 15 years,” said Paul Hansen.
The Coyote, like the Wolf, is long, low and classy. Killer paint decorates the gas tank, fenders, and oil cover. You can easily catch your reflection in the copious amounts of chrome, and the big S&S not only provides plenty of punch but looks sharp with its diamond-cut heads. The Coyote gets new 2-into-1 double barrel exhaust that run low down the right side. The black leather seat is also new and situates riders slightly more forward than the Wolf even though the reach to the bars and foot controls are about the same.
The Coyote boasts a six-inch shorter wheelbase, three-degree tighter rake, and a two-inch shorter front tire than the Wolf. Team that with a low center of gravity and you’ve got the best-handling Big Dog that I’ve ridden. And this despite the ’09 Coyote having a hefty 250mm rear tire. The motorcycle is well balanced, benefitting from its BDM balance drive technology that places the final drive on the right side of the bike. Being the lightest motorcycle amongst the 2009 Big Dogs, it also gets the most out of its 1917cc engine.
The 2009 Big Dog Bulldog is the company’s first bagger. It will come with a fiberglass front fairing and windscreen to go along with its hard saddlebags.
The third new motorcycle in Big Dog’s 2009 contingency, the 2009 Bulldog Bagger, came about as a direct result of dealer and owner requests.
“Last year dealers told us that they wanted a bagger. They told us they wanted rubber mount, they told us what tire size, and they wanted it to be a full bagger,” Hansen said.
And as eager as our throttle-happy group of motojournalists were to christen the new motorcycle, Big Dog’s first factory bagger won’t be ready until late December. What we do know about it is that it will be powered by the 117 cubic-inch S&S mill with three rubber mounts. Suspension duties will be provided by gas shocks and an inverted fork. It appears to be outfitted with a single disc up front with 4-piston PM calipers to go along with a single disc out back. I’ll wager that the front tire is 21-inches tall, and I know the rear is 250mm wide. You can bet it will be in the nine-foot range with a low seat height of 25.25-inches. The touring package includes a front windscreen, a fiberglass front fairing and hard saddlebags. Both rider and passenger get floorboards, and Sirius satellite standard completes what we know about the $37,900 package.
The 2009 Mastiff and Pitbull fill in Big Dog’s ‘09 pro-street line. The Mastiff has the widest rear tire among the pro-street Dogs at 300mm wide. It continues to be a best-seller for the Kansas-based manufacturer, so BDM didn’t muck much with its styling. It does come with the choice of a Super G carb or EFI to deliver fuel to its 117 cubic-inch engine, and stickers for $27,900.
The Pitbull got totally revamped last year, and its boardtracker-inspired design won so many awards in 2008 that Big Dog kept the same styling cues for 2009. The Pitbull is easily identifiable by its sweeping, contoured one-piece fuel tank, its leather seat with dual Works Performance shocks, and its tall wheel combo. The small shocks underneath the seat are all the rear suspension you’re going to find on this otherwise rigid ride. The most noticeable difference between the ’08 and ’09 models is the price – the 2009 Pitbull rings in $600 cheaper than last year, with an MSRP of $26,900.
Also back for another run are Big Dog’s nine-foot-long choppers, the 2009 Ridgeback and K-9. Frame dimensions are the same for both – 1.5-inch tubing with an eight-inch stretch to the backbone, four-inches on the downtubes, and a 12-inch over-standard fork. The
Ridgeback boasts the bigger tire of the two at a whopping 330mm and is a rigid while the top-selling K-9 gets its own beefy 300mm backside but has the luxury of hidden shock suspension. The smoother-riding K-9 costs a little more with a MSRP of $28,900, while the classic-styled Ridgeback sells for $27,500.
Though the motorcycles share many common bonds, “Each bike has a purpose” according to Big Dog’s head honcho, Sheldon Coleman. Their main purpose at the moment will be to maintain the claimed 50-60% market share for factory-custom production bikes that Big Dog owns. Their secondary purpose will be to bring riders the exhilaration of finding a golden ticket and being given the keys to the kingdom. Twenty-five thousand motorcyclists confirm that Big Dog’s got a good thing going, so who are we to argue?