Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Bill asks: I hope you’ll take a moment to answer this question for me. For many years I’ve been riding a liquid cooled V-Twin. Very dependable metric bike, never an overheating problem. Lately I’ve got the itch to get another bike. I’m looking at an H-D Fatboy and an Indian Scout, both early 2000s, both air-cooled. The last air cooled big bore I rode was a long time ago, up north. Charleston South Carolina is usually very hot and humid with really heavy traffic. I ride every day that it’s not pouring down rain. Is it a mistake to think about an air-cooled bike? Beside making an already hot ride even hotter, what issues could I expect? Is there anything within reason I could do to mitigate it? Thanks very much for any insight you can give.
My reply: This one’s easy! I’ve owned (and still own) several air-cooed bikes and there’s no issue to sweat – so to speak . . . as long as the bike is stock and well-maintained.
One of my bikes is a ’76 Kawasaki Kz900 – which in its day was the quickest and fastest production motorcycle available. Air-cooled and utterly bulletproof.
If modified for higher-horsepower (equals higher heat) then accommodations must be made, such as an external oil cooler and avoiding periods of prolonged idling in heavy traffic on hot days.
But if it’s stock, the bike was designed to be ridden – in traffic, on hot days. There should be no issues at all with the late-model bikes you are interested in. These probably have factory external oil coolers and run synthetic oil (much more resilient to extremes of temperature).
Aside from modding – and upgrading the engine’s ability to shed heat – the other caveat is maintenance. A poorly tuned engine will run hotter and whether it’s air/oil or water-cooled, may run hot. Keep up with tuneups and so on and you ought to have no problems at all.
As an aside: Air/oil-cooled bikes have some definite plusses, including simplicity (one less system to deal with; no radiator or water pump or thermostat or hoses, etc.) and ease of access because of the absence of the cooling system parts.
I think you’ll be fine!
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