The new chopper on the block, the 2010 Honda Fury, meets one of the factory-custom champions, Big Dog Motorcycles and its 2009 Coyote in Motorcycle USA’s Chopper Comparo.
Big Dog Motorcycles hasn’t been the leading factory-custom motorcycle manufacturer for 15 years by chance. It has reached this echelon by offering the next best thing to a ground-up custom build, stretched out super choppers with incredible lines and big engines rolling on a fat patch of black rubber. To maintain its status, Big Dog reinterprets its lineup yearly, offering a mix of pro street and chopper motorcycles with everything from traditional to boardtracker-influenced styling. This year was the Wichita-based manufacturers most ambitious to date, with seven new motorcycles in the lineup. And while Big Dog bikes don’t cost as much as a full-on custom build, their average price point around $30K still placed them beyond the means of many. In order to reach more of the masses this year, BDM released its 2009 Coyote, the most affordable Big Dog to date at $23,900. But don’t think this is a toned-down Dog. The Coyote has the same killer paint and graphics, shiny chrome, and monster motor Big Dog bikes are known for.
Given Big Dog’s status in the factory-custom realm, it was a natural choice to pit against the new kid on the block, the 2010 Honda Fury. For a company that’s better known for performance-driven, technologically-advanced motorcycles, the Japanese manufacturer surprised many with the introduction of its chopper this year. The Fury taps into a previously unexplored market for Honda and attempts to help shed some of its conservative image. To achieve this, Honda raised up the steering head, raked out the front end 38-degrees, and stretched the Fury’s wheelbase to 71.2 inches, dimensions no other Honda before it has gone. It chose the vaunted V-Twin configuration for its engine, a direct appeal to its targeted market, American riders. Top it off with a modestly-wide rear tire, chrome pipes, and wide bars, and you’ve got a viable entry into the factory-custom chopper arena. But to be the best, you’ve got to slug it out against the best, so to borrow a line from the great Mills Lane, “Let’s get it on.”
Maybe these aren’t touring bikes, but what better way to find out what these choppers are made of than to take them on a road trip and ride ‘em hard.
Motorcycle USA had one week to flog the duo, logging 1145 miles in that time span. We rode across the Mojave Desert during a record heat spell, cruised the Vegas Strip, dragged down to Laughlin for the River Run, then boogied back across the desert and over the San Gabriel Mountains to L.A. We removed these motorcycles from their comfort zone, spending a generous amount of time in top gear at high revs, riding over 6000-ft ranges and roads just north of Oatman, Arizona, that are more suitable for sportbikes. But what better way to find out what a motorcycle is capable of than to ride it long and hard?
The tale of the tape demonstrates that the choppers are cut from different cloth. On one hand, you’ve got a 1312cc liquid-cooled, fuel-injected motorcycle with a five-speed transmission and shaft drive in the form of the Honda versus a 1917cc air-cooled, carb-fed bike with belt drive in the Big Dog. Chassis dimensions are also disparate, with the Honda registering 38-degrees of rake, 71.2-inches of wheelbase, and sporting a 200mm rear tire, while the Big Dog measures in at 42-degrees of rake, 77.5-inches of wheelbase, and rolls on a 250mm-wide rear tire. But both target the same segment, so despite the big gap in displacement and the differences in chassis arrangement, both were judged based on the same criteria.
One of the main criteria for a chopper is its fit and finish. Let’s be realistic – with these bikes, it’s all about attitude and attention. They’re made for posturing, not performance. So the sum of its shiny bits and pieces is paramount and fit and finish is something that Big Dog has perfected in its 15 years of producing high-end motorcycles.
The Coyote is long and low, courtesy of a six-inch stretch on the frame’s backbone and a fork with a two-inch-over-standard stretch stuck out at a 39-degree rake angle. A tall, thin 21-inch, 12-spoke billet wheel leads the way for the Coyote, with a tire-hugging metal front fender draped in the same Midnight Sapphire paint with custom ghost flames as
With 15 years under its belt and over 25,000 motorcycles produced, Big Dog has perfected the art of eye-catching styling.
the gas tank, oil tank and rear fender. A chrome 41mm telescopic fork leads up to shiny 1.25-inch rubber-mounted handlebars that pullback to the rider. Steel-braided brake lines, chrome control housings, and a tidy round dial speedo keeps the view from the cockpit clean. The powder-coated wrinkle black engine is spiffed up with diamond-cut cylinder heads, the shine magnified by Big Dog’s easily-identifiable air filter cover and chrome covers everywhere. Small details, like machining the rotor carriers on the rear brake to match the design of the billet wheels, add to the symmetry and curb appeal of the bike.
The Fury has its own striking countenance, with your eyes immediately captured by its tall steering head and sculpted tear-drop tank mounted high on the backbone. The thin tank tapers down the frame and disappears beneath the black leather padded seat. It has a pronounced rake of 38-degrees with a slim 21-inch, nine spoke wheel and a tire-hugging, color-matched front fender. The tall steering head reduces the space between the frame and fork, cutting slightly into its chopper stance. On the other hand, it opens up the space between the triangulated steering head and engine, putting more focus on the beauty of the tank. Chrome, one-inch wide pullback handlebars arch over that tank and sweep cleanly back, but the control housings look like carryovers from the VTX and the throttle cables, brake lines, and electrical wiring are a little busy.
The engine is balanced between the tubular twin spars of the color-matched frame. The powerplant is sourced straight out of the VTX 1300, the chromed heads of the 52-degree V-Twin a focal point of the motorcycle thanks to the Fury’s lack of graphics or badging. A mondo air filter cover between the heads provides a mirror-like shine, and looks billet but is plastic. This is one of the few liquid-cooled choppers around, and Honda did an admirable job tucking the Fury’s radiator unobtrusively between the frame’s dual downtubes and concealing the radiator hose that leads to the forward cylinder. The Honda’s backside is tidy but not overdone, with the shaft drive cleanly integrated so that it doesn’t detract from the rear end. Straight-shooting, chrome 2-1-2 pipes streak down the right side.
The 2010 Fury runs a monochromatic scheme, with a color-matched front fender, frame, fuel tank and rear fender. The fenders, like many of the engine covers, are plastic, but sport almost the same cut as the Coyote’s. The Fury’s rear fender does sit a little higher and covers more of the 200mm rear tire, but the emphasis isn’t supposed to be on the bike’s fat backside. If it was, the only Fury badging that you’ll find on the bike stamped on the back fender would have been in big bold letters instead of the succinct script that it’s in.