Posts Tagged ‘Baxter Cycle’

I fired up my little Honda and set out westbound to turn in the remainder of my military gear, and then take a detour to Baxter Cycle in Marne, IA. I had only planned on talking to a salesman and drooling on various bikes. But the very nice fellow (Jeremy) let me test ride a 2012 Bonneville and a 2012 Scrambler. In short, they were a blast.

I took the Bonneville out first. It was gloss black and bog-standard. The Bonneville has a 360 degree firing interval, whereas the Scrambler (and Speedmaster and America) has a 270 degree crank. The first thing that struck me was that the Bonneville felt absolutely weightless. I mean it felt like a Huffy more than a Harley. The grips and controls are significantly smaller than my Honda’s, and that struck me second. Then there’s the motor. It revs freely and happily, though I wish they hadn’t put such effective silencers on the exhaust.

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I ran the Bonnie down Highway 83 about 3 miles, managing to hit some big sweepers and a number of straights. The bike doesn’t have the rip-your-face-off acceleration of a superbike, but it is very nippy. 0-60 is a two-gear affair that I would guess to be around 5 seconds. The acceleration is very whooshy and smooth. A sort of dignified speed. Speed with class. In fact, I was having such a good time thrashing the motor that I whizzed right by 90mph before slowing a bit since it was a borrowed bike. It handles magnificently. I tipped the Bonnie into a big left and right hand sweeper at significantly above the posted speed limit and it felt like I could have chucked it in even faster. Handling at low speed is utterly easy. Steering is very light, and again, it really feels like you’re steering a bicycle. It’s a hoot. Oh, and while I’m at it, the seat was very comfortable and the position, while unfamiliar to me, was very comfortable as well. The ride was slightly firm, but still very enjoyable.

I came back and Jeremy offered to let me ride the Scrambler, and I couldn’t say no to such hospitality. The Scrambler was anti-social matte black and had Triumph kneepads on the tank. I was a bit unsure of the Scrambler’s semi-knobby tires, but they proved nearly as capable as the Bonneville’s street tires. Riding down the same stretch of IA83, the Scrambler was even more fun. On paper, it has 10hp less than the Bonnie, but I really couldn’t tell. What I could tell was the ride was smoother than the Bonnie, thanks to the chunkier tires and taller suspension. Surprisingly, handling was very close to the Bonnie. Turn-in at speed and it just grips and grips. In town, it’s like a very light dirtbike. The seat was slightly hard, but the riding position was even better. I could honestly see myself taking the Scrambler on some decent road trips. Oh, and the exhaust. That wonderful exhaust. The factory 2 into 2 grunts and grumbles like a beefy dirtbike. It has charm and character, whereas the Bonnie’s exhaust is a gentle hum like a Trappist monk.

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But which would I have? Well, gun to my head, I’d say the Scrambler. The Bonneville has so many things going for it, but the Scrambler is a Swiss Army knife to the Bonneville’s stiletto switchblade. The exhaust note on the Scrambler is very pleasing. The seat position is like an off-roader. The engine is nippy and rev-happy. The knobby tires and modestly sized wheels make for an unmatched capability on pavement or gravel. The Chuck Norris flat black paint and blacked out engine look rugged and vaguely anti-social. The Scrambler has all the good genetics of the Bonneville and gives them character. Makes them come alive. Throw in the fact that it gets an estimated 60mpg highway and still has a 4.2 gallon tank (that’s a 240 mile range, for those of you in Rio Linda), and you have the ultimate go-anywhere do-anything road warrior.

A WARNING FOR SPORTSTER BUYERS

So these two bikes cost under $9000. The Bonneville in its lowest-end incarnation is $7600, while the Scrambler adds up to $8500. So if you’re about to drop similar money on a Harley Sportster, please don’t. Go test ride these bikes first. You still get a big name, you still get a good looking bike, and best of all, you get a better value.