Big Dog Motorcycles is marking its tenth anniversary by moving to set the company’s motorcycles apart from the rest of the pack. If you ever wondered from afar if that was a Big Dog flying down the highway, you’ll now have several very obvious ways to tell.
The first signature item is the air cleaner cover. Gone is the S&S teardrop shaped cleaner. In its place is a uniquely designed shape with laser etching on it that customers will come to know as Big Dog’s.
Other exclusive components are the unique split design handlebars that extend closer to the rider; new billet forward controls that have an integrated rear master cylinder helping to maintain the flowing look of the bike; new billet hand controls also help to keep the clean, fluid look as well.
Both the pegs and grips have a uniquely designed pattern of thick rubber that’s molded onto the controls to resist peeling. There’s a new coil cover that, again, has a unique Big Dog design. It positions the key out of the direction of the wind and away from where the rider may hit it with his knee. There’s also a heat shield inside the cover so the rider won’t burn his leg if it happens to come in contact with it.
One very noticeable difference on all six models this year is the position of the kickstand. Riders complained it would drag on turns because the bikes are so low. The new position moves the kickstand to the rear part of the bike, a position that resists dragging during low-sided left-hand turns. The only downside to this new kickstand position is that it is out of a rider’s relative line of sight so he may ride off forgetting to kick it up.
Big Dog president, Nick Messer, said, “Our exclusively designed components will bury the popular perception that custom cruiser manufacturers are not always custom once and for all. With this dramatic across the board facelift, we have refined custom bike design never seen in our 10-year history.”
Other items new for 2004 include vibration resistant mirrors that use heavier stems so the rider can see better. A new easy-pull clutch lives up to its name. Even this female rider found it a breeze to pull in the clutch considering the big motor it engages. Big Dog reworked the electronics to include more diagnostic features.
There are new struts on all the ’04 models. And a redundant neutral was added to make it easier to shift into neutral. I still had a hard time kicking the gear shifter into neutral on all three of the preproduction models I tested however.
As for the models themselves, the biggest news from the Wichita, Kansas, custom motorcycle manufacturer is the introduction of a hardtail chopper. Since the Chopper model was Big Dog’s number one seller in 2003, the company went one step further offering an even more rebellious looking chopper style bike in the form of the new Ridgeback. The nine-foot long machine sports a massive 250mm rear tire and an extremely low seat height of just 24 inches. It comes with the standard 107 cubic inch motor with the option of a 117 c.i. offered on all the bikes. In addition, a redesigned exhaust allows for the footpegs to be brought closer to the rider, a nice feature for those riders who find that long reach a barrier to them owning a bike like this. The Chopper and the Pitbull also feature the accommodating exhaust design. The Ridgeback sells for $24,900.
The highest priced dog in the kennel is the Bulldog at $28,900 with its right side drive train. It is the company’s third best selling machine and was my favorite of the pack.
The Chopper at $26,500 received a front end upgrade. It is available in the choice of two frames, the standard Rolling Thunder Frame or a frame from Daytec, a $400 option. The Daytec allows for a narrower seat and the motor mount is billet aluminum.
The Mastiff, introduced in 2001 along with the Boxer, continues to be a solid seller for Big Dog. Changes include an all-new rear fender exposing much of the 240 rear. It’s priced at $25,900. The Boxer is Big Dog’s only rubber mounted bike priced at $24,900. A smaller wheel in the back retains the ease of handling. Messer admits the Boxer makes up a small percentage of the company’s sales but is needed in the lineup for those who absolutely have to have a rubber mount. This bike can be dressed up easily with a windshield, saddlebags and a two-up seat.
The lowest priced Big Dog breed is the Pitbull at $23,900. This rigid machine used to be the number one seller, but sales were down in 2003 with the introduction of the Chopper. The wheels, like on most of the other models, have been redesigned to give the bike a more aggressive look.
Big Dog introduced a whole line of accessories to dress up the ’04s. The company anticipates it will produce 4,800 machines in model year 2004.
Copyright 2004 Powersports Business