Magazine Review Big Dog’s 2010 Ridgeback

As far back as I can recall, I remember people referring to me as a chubby kid. As I got older, those comments turned harsher, and I was called fat, especially by other children. So it’s no wonder that I have grown up to be thick skinned. Over the years, I have also gathered a plethora of knowledge on how to hide my size when possible and how to use it to my benefit when needed. For example, wearing black or horizontal stripped shirts has advantages when trying to conceal my 18-pack abs. Or pounding someone into the ground quickly shuts him up and stops any teasing.

Over the years I have mastered many of these techniques, but while at Daytona Bike Week this past March, I discovered what might be the ultimate trick for a big guy trying to hide his size, and, no, it doesn’t involve beating people up. It’s simply riding a bike with a 330 rear tire. This one act may be the most slimming thing I have ever done. Well, besides actually shedding some pounds, but that’s a different story.

I stumbled upon this latest technique while test riding one of Big Dog Motorcycles’ (BDM) Ridgeback models. The combination of massive rear tire and long rigid frame created the deception, or let’s say optical illusion, that I was actually smaller in stature than I really am. Being a rigid, this could have been a painful lesson, but it wasn’t, thanks to the fine BDM engineers doing a great job designing this bike. Amazingly, this bike has a surprisingly smooth ride for a rigid. This is partially due to that freight train-like overall 107″ length that was achieved by stretching the frame’s backbone 4″ and down tubes 8″. Mix in the 42-degree total rake (39 in the frame and 3 in the trees) and the 41mm telescopic forks being lengthened 12″, and this bike almost flexes over bumps and uneven road surfaces. But not to worry; there is 4-1/2″ of ground clearance, so bottoming out is not a problem, and I know this is one of those rare situations where my nearly 300-pound mass comes in handy since it flexes almost any frame.

A carbureted, Big Dog exclusive 117″ S&S engine easily powers the Ridgeback up to scary speeds and the compact, slick-shifting six-speed BDM balance drive primary and BAKER transmission easily handles it all. The whole shebang rolls on a 21″ front wheel and 17″ rear wheel. The 82-1/2″ wheelbase gives the bike Cruise Missile-like stability in straight lines. As you can imagine, having 330mm of meat out back makes taking turns an exercise in leaning, correcting, and leaning again, but, once more, this motorcycle surprised me since the turning process quickly became second nature after a day or so.

Even with a seat height of 24-1/4″ this bike didn’t seem to cramp me like so many other machines with low-slung cockpits. The seat itself is plush and comfortable and helps you forget that you have no rear suspension. Considering the overall size of the Ridgeback, it’s surprising the gas tank only holds 4.4 gallons. But to be honest, even though the Ridgeback is one of the most comfortable rigids I’ve ever ridden, I was ready to get off and stretch by the time I flipped to the 0.4 gallon reserve.

Stopping the combined weight of the bike (it weighs in at 680 pounds dry) and me is no simple task, but the combination single Performance Machine four-piston differential bore front brake and a regular PM four-piston rear brake handled the task with ease. Vibrations going through the bike were nominal so long as I rode in the lower rpm ranges, which is easy to do thanks to the torque put out by the 117. Rubber inserts in the grips and forward foot controls also helped in this department.

In my opinion, all Big Dog Motorcycles have a built-in street presence. The Ridgeback takes that to another level thanks to its length and size. Each model comes with a two-year manufacturer’s factory warranty. The Ridgeback has a base price of $27,900 and you can customize up from there. The bike I rode featured SuperTrapp Mean Mother exhausts with slash tips which gave this dog a mean bark. That, combined with the custom paint job, increased the list price for this specific dog to $31,255.
In my mind, Big Dog Motorcycles produces some of the best-value motorcycles on the market. With the Ridgeback, not only are you getting a factory-produced, killer chopper that you would be hard pressed to build yourself for that same amount of money, but you also get all the R&D and American craftsmanship that comes along from this US-based motorcycle manufacturer. That said, I just heard someone tell a fat joke so I’ve got to go pound him into the ground. AIM

New Bike Test: by Joe Knezevic

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