The Motorcycle Market for 2019

The Motorcycle Market for 2019

Reader note #1: It has come to my attention that if you are reading this on a smart phone, my entire website does not display.  Among other horrors, this prevents you from clicking on and ordering any or all of my 8 books available from Amazon. You must go to www.davidpreston.biz on a computer to slake your thirst for essays and novels that feature (mostly) motorcycles.

Here is my every few years guess at what is coming for motorcycle enthusiasts in the coming year.  As usual, there are caveats.  Although I worked in the motorcycle business from 2000 to 2014, I was a mere customer service enthusiast sort and never made serious decisions about marketing or sales.  I have been riding on a frequent basis for over 51 years and have traversed several hundred thousand miles on two wheels, and yet I have the mechanical skills of a hamster (no disrespect intended to hamsters). I have read thousands of motorcycle magazines and been published in several., and yet I have no formal education in either business or motorcycles.

In other words, what follows is worth about what you are paying for it.

When I began cogitating on this topic a week ago I had some ideas. Now that I have done some research and interviewed motorcycle friends, I am mostly confused.  Ironically, that also sums up the state of the motorcycle business – confused.

All of the parameters that used to determine success in a limited market fueled by passion (mostly, in the United States anyway), seem to be up in the air or disappearing.

Motorcycle magazines, which ate up thousands of hours of my valuable time over the years, are disappearing. I subscribe (now) to only two, Motorcyclist and Cycle World. Sadly, each month I read through an issue and wonder why I bother. For one thing, it is not each month now, but every other month.  For another, a careful reading will find virtually no articles about new motorcycles. A recent issue has lovely pieces about fantastic people and motorcycles that became legends – 40 years ago.  There was a large article on tattoos.  Really?  Where has all the good stuff gone?

I realize I should probably subscribe to Motorcycle Consumer News again.  Does it still exist?

Trivia note: a long time ago it was Road Rider magazine and featured two of my early publishing successes. An article about a 5-day honeymoon ride in 1972 on a new Honda 500 4, titled “2 by 4” because I am that clever, and surely the worst poem ever published in a motorcycle magazine or anywhere else – possibly excepting “I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree.”  Gaack.

Turn to the internet.  Like many, my phone receives almost daily epistles from the motorcycle magazines, and some of these offerings are comparison tests or road tests of new machines.  This leaves me utterly cold, as I miss spending time reading articles and gazing at the pictures of motorcycles I might or might not want to purchase.  But my friends, who are younger and mostly tech types, seem to love this.  Magazines used to be a direct feed to sales of bikes, and now what magazines that remain are linking customers to the bikes through their phones.  Is that good?   (Did you note the clever use of “linking”?)

Racing on TV? Pretty much gone, in the case of MotoGP or Superbike, unless you pay for a subscription.  That is not mass-market appeal. 

A small ray of TV sunshine peeps through with American flat track racing, reborn from dead and buried status for two decades.  The shows are well produced and offer short races for today’s audience, which has the patience of a blow fly, and the racing is close and in your face.  Modern road race machines operate on courses designed with rider safety and enormous speeds in mind, so the tracks are wide and run-off areas acres wide. Thus, the TV camera is always a long way from the action. The Isle of Man races are a notable exception, and they have suffered an average of one rider death every year for over a century.

Flat track has also benefited from the dominance of the new Indian racers, and the desperate efforts of Harley-Davidson to ramp up to competitiveness in the only form of racing they have ever dominated. 

I think the flat track producers have taken a lot from how NHRA drag racing is presented in person and on TV.  Short races, lots of action, and incredible sounds – all of them very near the customer or TV camera.  Still, I miss the days of herculean battles all over the world in road racing on TV, including for a while the road race endurance events. All gone, and they may not be back.

TV ads for motorcycles?  Pretty much unicorns now.

Newspapers have never covered motorcycles very much, except for a juicy blood-soaked screed whenever some gang types decided to shoot each other.

So, the mass audience you want for your product is not going to see motorcycles all that much on TV, in the paper, or in a magazine.  Not good.

When we look at manufacturers the crystal ball continues to fill with smoke.

Harley-Davidson appears to have lost its way and is now reaching out in several directions at once. Or not.

A few months back they made a sizeable investment in an electric motorcycle firm, and then later backed out.  Their CEO recently gave an impassioned speech about all the exciting things they are going to do, but if you listened closely there was a dearth of any detail or hard dates for production of – what?

What do customers want?  Excellent question, and my guess is as good as yours.  I think smaller and less expensive bikes, which are selling, are going to be the future. Ironically, this would go back over 50 years to when the Japanese flooded America with hundreds of thousands of small and inexpensive bikes that were well made and offered surprisingly good performance. Every year they got better, and a little bigger, and a little more powerful, and expensive. That may happen again.

Another problem, and there is no shortage of them, is a road infrastructure that falls ever further behind machine capability, worsening traffic, and an aging traditional demographic.

A modern sport bike of 600cc or more can no longer be ridden anywhere near its massive capabilities on a public road. There is too much traffic, too many hazards, and a few seconds of throttle can write a check the rider’s talent probably cannot cash. They become toys to be used for track days, that that is a small sliver of a small market.  They are still fun to ride, even at sane speeds, and fun to look at, and good for the ego.  That is enough for some buyers, but again, large sales are probably not going to happen.

What about electric motorcycles?  Have you ridden one? Most of my friends are eager for them, but I rode one and it left me flat bored.  An excellent device for getting from point A to point B, and getting better rapidly, but getting from point A to B is not why I ride a motorcycle.  I have a car for that.  Motorcycles have traditionally offered romance, noise, beauty, vibration and yes, a dash of uncertainty. A flat black transportation module that happens to have only two wheels does not stir my juices.  But then again, I am not the new market, so this may prove to be the future.  …but I doubt it.

 Can you imagine the task of the marketing guru who designs the ad campaign for the new Harley electric bike, if and when it appears?  I have no idea how I would even start that concept.  Your traditional Harley buyer is probably out, and your new market person has a few images in his or her head about Harley – that you helped put there – that will get in the way. To put it mildly.

Harley-Davidson catered to Mom and Dad on a large cruiser for decades, but due to the cost of the machines, Mom and Dad eventually became Grandma and Grandad.  Those folks are now leaving the sport for the most inevitable of reasons, and they are not being replaced.

Ironically, Harley was the first manufacturer to target women as customers, but they have never offered much in the way of motorcycles for a broad range of women.  No, that was not a pun.  Women tend to be shorter of leg and arm than men.  Most do not want to take on a Road King, especially if they are new. The Sportster, yes, but what if the woman is interested in performance?  She can turn to the Ducati Monster, and some of the smaller sport bikes, if the seat is low enough, but again her choices are slim. The industry has spilled a lot of ink about their commitment to motorcycles and gear designed for women, but the reality has come nowhere near the hype.

Can women become a major market for motorcycles?  It would take a massive investment in time and money to make this happen, and I do not see any manufacturer with the stones or the means to attempt it.  If you think the tech industry is male-dominated at the management end, name a woman in a position of decision-making authority at any major motorcycle manufacturer.  Mary Bara is the CEO of General Motors, after all. And in motorcycles?  Waiting…

“Retro” is a hot corner of the market now, as seen by the success of Triumph with the many Bonneville models.  I own one, so bias is inherent. The 900cc air-cooled Bonneville and later T120 1200cc (water cooled head) Bonneville have sold so well there are now an innumerable number of variants, and more on the way.  Your local dealer can offer a new Bonneville at a price point of abut $9,000 to $15,000.  That is a cost range of 60% for bikes that have the same name.  They are selling as fast as they can be made.

But I do not think buyers really want “retro” all that much. What they want is a great looking bike that is reliable and makes them smile every time they see it. My 2016 T120 Bonneville may look eerily similar to a 1969, (very intentionally), but also has heated grips, ride modes, ABS triple disc brakes, and 10,000-mile oil changes.  And a cell phone charge outlet under the seat – on a British motorcycle!  Joseph Lucas, Prince of Darkness, has left the building.

Jay Leno once said “A real motorcycle is one you can see through,” and I think he nailed it.  What buyers want is simplicity, with all the modern complexity hidden.  That will earn a bike the retro label, even if none of the parts are close to the model exemplified. 

One example – my 2016 T120 astonishes when parked next to my friend’s 1973.  The engines appear to be the same size. His is 650cc, and mine is 1200cc – the benefit derived from the hidden radiator that allows for much smaller cooling fins that may or may not even need to be there, surrounding an engine of almost twice the size.  And power.

Another factor that nobody mentions – color.  About 10 years ago the Japanese discovered an apparently limitless tank of black paint.  There were also tanks of dark gray, graphite, charcoal, matte black, etc. This has always puzzled me. Why would you try to lessen the visual impact of an exciting product? Are you trying to make it disappear?

For years Harley would come out with essentially the same bikes year after year, but they also had the best painting facility and some inspired palette choices. Every year when the new ones rolled in to the dealership where I worked, I was astonished at the glory of them, and had a pang or two of desire to buy. I did not need one, but still… gorgeous.

One way to boost sales (possibly) would be to ban all black paint schemes for a year or two.  Go back to “retro” colors even – various shades of in your face green for Kawasaki, blues for Suzuki and Yamaha, Hondas in red, white and blue, and Harleys in – everything. And get creative, too. How about a Ducati in blue?  A BMW in candy apple burgundy?  And how about going really wild and using – chrome? You get the idea

In America, motorcycles have historically been purchased, in the main, as toys.  That attitude needs to be re-embraced by the industry. With the current and coming onslaught of electric vehicles, Uber, Lyft, autonomous vehicles (ugh), motorcycles can either try to compete as rational transportation solutions, and good luck with that, or reverse course and make better and more attractive toys. I want my toy to be exciting, the light up my eyes when I see it.  I want to sun to bounce off the gorgeous paint and gleaming chrome, and I want each ride to be an experience, not transportation.  I want to experience joy, not the disaffected scowl of a post-modern anti-hero.

For 2019 I have no idea how it will all work out.  Sadly, I don’t think people in the industry do either. 

My guess is that customers want motorcycles that are fun to look at, fun to ride, dead solid reliable, and affordable.   I think the market is there, but there are questions about how to reach the market.

To do that I would go with smaller frames and engines, lots of bright colors, and chrome.  And, if you must, tout them all on social media.

 

Copyright 2018                       David Preston

 

Posted in Equipment, Marketing, Motorcycles | 2 Comments

Building a Motorcycle Dealership Community

Building a Motorcycle Dealership Community

Reader note #1: It has come to my attention that if you are reading this on a smart phone my entire website does not display.  Among other horrors, this prevents you from clicking on and ordering any or all of my 8 books available from Amazon. You must go to www.davidpreston.biz on a computer to slake your thirst for essays and novels that feature (mostly) motorcycles.

Reader note #2:  As ever, what you are about to peruse is worth exactly what you are paying for it.

Now then…

A motorcycle dealership is not at all like a car dealership.  A car emporium tries to vend lots of metal, the more expensive the better.  Once the proud owner leaves, she or he will probably not return often, unless for service, and the service intervals for cars grow ever lengthier, so you must make your money at the time of purchase.

A motorcycle dealer moves a much lower volume of vehicles, at much lower prices, but with each motorcycle comes the real or perceived need to purchase helmets, apparel, boots, maintenance equipment, and on and on.  In addition, this “secondary purchase” environment will last forever, if you manage to not screw it up.

What you want to do is to create a community of customers who enjoy coming to your shop and are offered many opportunities to do so.  Harley dealers for years offered a riding club (usually H.O.G,) and frequent barbecues, live music, and so on.  Other brands do it a little differently.

When I went to work in the motorcycle business in 2000, my job description (which I wrote) was aimed at building such a community. Cycle Barn was a gargantuan enterprise for the motorcycle business, with multiple facilities, brands, and related businesses. The downside was that a customer (which I was) could feel she or he was entering a department store.  You don’t feel a sense of community in a department store. I wanted to make the user experience a small store visit in a very large store.

I attempted this in several ways.  I reformed a customer sport bike club that was rife with mismanagement, hazardous riding experiences, and misfeasance, malfeasance, and others feances.  This proved to be very successful, and pretty soon the sales manager was signing up every customer to the sport bike club. When he entered a scooter customer the need for diversification was clear.  Soon we had the sport bike club, a Triumph group, a cruiser club, a dirt bike club, a women’s group, and so on. Members could, of course, “cross pollinate” events.  Each club member got a monthly newsletter and frequent e-mails.  I also did a lot of events with the dealership H.O.G. chapter

When Cycle Barn opened a new and elaborate dealership the problem got worse. The new one I referred to (only to myself) as the “glass palace,” and it was impressive to the point of being intimidating.

In 2008 the economy collapsed.  Customers up to then could get a home equity loan all too easily and purchase pretty much any motorcycle, and overnight those loans evaporated, leaving the dealership with several hundred (!) motorcycles nobody could purchase.

Over the next two years the business bled red ink – a lot of it. Some of the satellite businesses (the go-kart store, the custom paint shop, etc.) were closed or sold off, and employee lay-offs grew ever more severe.  Eventually, an employee count of over 250 shrank to about 80.  At the end of 2009 I was laid off.

To my great fortune, I was “head hunted” in a matter of days and moved to Ride West, at that time a BMW dealer. My career continued for another three years, but over time my job was fiddled with and altered until eventually I realized I did not want to do it any longer, and I retired.

Last evening, I attended a dealer event at Triumph of Seattle, and they have done an amazing job of creating a customer community in a totally different way.  What I did would not work at T of S, for a couple of reasons.  Being close to downtown Seattle, they are land locked.  Leading customer rides would not work very well, because it would take an hour to get to fun roads, if you could keep the group together.  In addition, parking is in short supply, so large store events ask the customer to walk several blocks, in some cases, to reach to store.

But hats off to them for their success, indicated by a recent announcement at Triumph Dealer of the Year.  How is this done?

Facility: T of S is clean and neat and organized, but also “edgy.” Lots of exposed concrete and wood and other surfaces.  It has a very industrial and to some extent gritty feeling to it, which is perfect for motorcycles.

Staff:  A lot of the staff have worked for T of S since it was part of the Cycle Barn empire. Customers like to see faces they have seen before.  I don’t have any inside knowledge, but the staff all seem very happy to be working there.  Some of that can be ascribed to strong sales, but credit must go to the owner, who has assembled talented and loyal people and is evidently committed to keeping them happy. This is VERY hard to do.

Last night’s event really pointed this out.  The occasion was meant to reveal the new Scrambler with the 1200cc engine with water cooled-heads. A last-minute snafu meant that the “star of the show” bike would not be there.  I felt a pang at this, as I remembered similar occasional disasters for events I managed.

But here’s the kicker. Nobody seemed all that concerned. A food truck was on hand, and a DJ for tunes, and a bar with both hard drinks and a selection of beers.  I was amused and impressed to see that Rainier beer in cans (a low budget brand) was one of the selections.  Not everyone is a beer snob.

The place was packed, and most of the people were wearing one or more articles of Triumph clothing, hats, jackets, etc. Conversational groups were all over the store.  Friendships were both renewed and formed.

What was presented with the removal of the drapes covering them were a mildly offered Street Twin for 2019, and the same for the 2019 900cc Scrambler.  Really nothing to crow about, but crow the customers did.  In his announcements leading up to the reveal, the owner acknowledged the recent honor of Dealer of the Year, and gave full credit to “you guys.”

Smart man.

Now there is a fine excuse to have another party, probably in January or February, when the new Scrambler is available. I am sure the community that has been created will respond.

Few dealers realize that the sale of a motorcycle is not the end, but should be the beginning. It is the best and usually only opportunity to welcome a new member to an ever-growing, and profitable, community.  The ones who grasp this tend to do well.

Copyright 2018                       David Preston

 

 

Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles | 3 Comments

Two Minor Motorcycle Safety Concepts

Two Minor Motorcycle Safety Concepts

Anyone interested in operating a motorcycle safely is certainly spoiled for choice. In most areas across the world there are now a plethora of available courses to take, in the classroom, on a controlled course, a race track, and even on the public roads in some areas. In addition, there’s now an Alexandrian library sized number of books and videos offered. I recommend all of them. What follows is merely a couple of footnotes you might want to add to your personal stash of safety information.

  1. No hits, runs, or errors. When I worked in the motorcycle industry a part of my job (the best part) was leading customers on rides that lasted for most of a day to three to four days to over a week.  In addition, there were the rides I took on my own free time.  I rode – a lot.  When I got home my wife would always ask how it went, and I got in the habit of saying “No hits, runs, or errors.”  Borrowed from baseball, of course, in my usage it referred to no speeding tickets, no accidents, and no situations where I scared myself.  I now use this as a daily goal for ride. 

Speeding tickets may happen, but they often do not need to. The areas where officialdom tends to seek speeders are determined by two factors, I believe. One is, obviously, areas of dense traffic where speeding can raise the danger for everyone and a modicum of reason is required.  The other, (again, in my opinion), are areas that are easy for officers to access and offer the greatest monetary reward for the officer’s time.  Speeding is often used as a revenue generator, whether or not it has much to do with safety.

The solution – Duh! Don’t speed in those areas!  In my area there is the I-5 freeway corridor, which almost always has state patrol cars scattered at regular intervals.   You probably have something like that near you. 

With a little patience you can get to back roads which have little traffic and little reason for officialdom to spend a valuable (in two senses) officer’s time sitting idle with a radar gun. On those roads you can usually ride to the road as opposed to the posted limit.  Always keeping fresh in your mind, the weather, the condition of the road, your mental state, and other factors. There is still some risk of a ticket, and your bear the cost of that

If you manage to scare yourself on a ride this is not a sign that you are really into it. It is a sign that you are riding too fast for the conditions, or that your skills are not sufficient for the task at hand. As the old adage goes, never write a check that your talent can’t cash.  Perhaps a cornering clinic or other course would help.  If you are riding a motorcycle specifically for the thrill of scaring yourself, you should stop.  Now.  Perhaps sky diving would be better.

As for no accidents, that seems obvious.

  1. When the helmet drops, the bullshit stops. I came up with this 20 years ago, or at least Wikipedia says I did. I THINK I invented it, but I will cede credit if I can determine if someone else said it first.  At any rate, it is a useful rubric.

We all have a lot of “stuff” going on in our head these days. Issues at work, the latest political horror show, what your husband said last night, your Facebook feed, the funny noise coming from the washing machine, and on and on.  When the helmet drops over my head, all of that is eliminated.  My helmet creates my happy place. It is just me and the motorcycle and the road, and all of that other stuff can wait. It will still be there later.

One ironic benefit of this is that on many occasions, if you manage to shut off your brain’s focus on a problem for a while, when you remove the helmet later and return full access to your life to your brain, the solution to the problem may pop up as if by magic.

Nobody is perfect, and occasionally outside thoughts will creep in.  At times I get a little angry at my lack of rigor and say “Ride the damn motorcycle” out loud in my helmet. That seems to help.

I strongly disagree with almost all of my friends who seem eager to adopt new technologies.  You can now access music, the internet, phone calls, GPS routing and a lot of other noise, piped to you, automatically, inside your helmet.  What a bad idea!

I compare riding a motorcycle to being a professional athlete.  In both cases you must perform at a high level, and a lapse in concentration or a physical error can have dire consequences resulting in a minor or major loss.

Imagine a pro athlete in your favorite sport listening to an ear bud or taking calls while participating. Ain’t gonna happen. For a professional athlete, every game is a chance to excel, but also a chance for a career to be put on hold or… ended.  Pro athletes tend to not drink alcohol before or during the game – also a sound regimen to emulate.

You are (probably) not a pro athlete, but riding a motorcycle puts you in a comparable situation. If a pro athlete with the benefits of a perfectly honed body and extreme physical abilities is not willing to risk diminishing focus or capability while playing, why would you do so on a motorcycle

When the helmet drops, the bullshit stops.

No hits, no runs, no errors.

Two ideas for today.

 

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often.

Copyright 2018                 David Preston

 

Posted in Education, Equipment, Motorcycles | 2 Comments

Fun With Guessing Weights

Fun With Guessing Weights

Imagine the summer of 1964. I was 17, working at my first job at the Excelsior Amusement Park, right on the shore of Lake Minnetonka outside of Minneapolis. The salary was a whopping $.69 an hour.

The only job benefit was that I could go on the rides for free, and I rode the roller coaster enough times to attain boredom with it. I am still not a fan today, as you cannot steer! A motorcycle is much better. Anyway, it was the ancient type, and was ancient itself, with spindly white supports reaching high in the sky. It looked rickety because…it was.  It was safe as long as you stayed in the car and had the safety bar locked down. Every few years someone would manage to fall out, and die.  That happened once while I worked there but the boy “only” suffered several broken bones.

My first gig was to work at a long shed with many games you passed as you walked in.  Most of the games looked easy but were not.  The ring toss seemed pretty simple, but the spikes were close together and deceptively thick, making a score less likely.  We were all stunned one day when a defensive lineman for the Vikings (Carl Eller?) showed up with arms so long he could merely reach out and drop the rings where he wanted. I think they changed the rules after that episode.

One of my colleagues was older, and had the most amazing ability to engage pretty girls in conversation.  Since this was not in my limited skill set, I paid close attention.  He had a variety of lines, and his favorite was “Wait – haven’t we had trouble with you before?”  I have no idea why that worked, but it did. Sadly, his skills did not transfer to me.

After a bit I was “promoted” to the bottle toss, where I worked alone. Here the idea was to throw the three balls you were given at a table with a pyramid of wooden bottles.  If you got all the bottles to roll off the table you won.  The trick was that the bottles all had lead shafts inserted from the bottom, so they were heavier than they looked. If you hit the base of the bottles you might succeed, but most people threw as hard as possible and screwed up their aim. Picking up the bottles and retrieving the balls was hard work, and added frustration came from most of the customers asking how much it cost, while standing under several large $.25 signs.

Trouble arose one hot and sticky night when a large and drunken crowd gathered, and decided it would be more fun to throw the balls at…me. Once I figured out to not give the balls back they dispersed, and I think that was the only time in my life I ever actually yelled at a boss (Not to be confused with the many times a boss yelled at me).  I read her the riot act. She had sat across the way smoking a cigarette and watching, choosing to do nothing. I threatened to quit if she ever let that happen again, surely the definition of an empty threat. Instead of firing me, I was moved to the guess your weight game.

I loved this!  This was also a $.25 investment for the customer, and I think it was a loss leader, even though the prizes were not much – small stuffed animals and such.  The scales were honest, and it was not rigged in any way, and the bosses did not care if I won or not.

But I did care.  I soon got pretty good at this, and could “win” about 80% of the time if I wanted to. A lot of people thought their child would be difficult, but that was not the case. I had to get within minus or plus 3 pounds – a 6-pound range.  For a 60 pound child that is a margin of 10%.   Much harder were women, especially “full figured” women. A “foundation garment” can hide 20 or 30 pounds.  Men rarely chose to be weighed, and I do not know why women did.  I recall a sailor who appeared to have had a few beers and sported the appearance of someone who could dismantle me with his bare hands. His girlfriend was well-padded, and I underestimated her weight by about 50 pounds, which delighted them both.  I may have been good at this, but I was not stupid.

Fast forward 13 years to 1977.  I am now the president of the Lake Washington Education Association, at that time the 4th largest teacher union in the state (now the 3rd largest).  This was a full-time release position, so instead of classes I had an office and three support staff. The acting superintendent was a fine man that was well-respected and admired by the public and the teachers, which is probably why the school board shocked everyone and hired someone else. This led to a bizarre situation where many of the teachers wanted to mount a wildcat strike and I had to talk them out of it, aided by the pleas of the departing superintendent to let it go.

Anyway, one of his many fine ideas was that the union head and the superintendent should have lunch once a month to keep in touch.  I looked forward to these as a fine opportunity to use the expense account I rarely touched.  I always had prime rib, a baked potato, and two glasses of rose, which made me mentally useless for the rest of the day, but the conversations were very useful and important in the grand scheme of things.

At one such lunch we were chatting about the jobs we had in high school and college. He had a beautiful voice, and made money singing for many years.  I had done a lot of odd things, and as I was telling him the secrets of guessing weights the attractive waitress overheard me and asked me to guess her weight.  She walked back and forth and spun around, and I guessed her weight perfectly. To the pound! She was astonished by this, and soon all the other waitresses came over for their turns.  Imagine if a local reporter was in the restaurant, or imagine this happening today. Here you have the superintendent and the union president drinking alcohol in the middle of the day while a bevy of attractive women sashay back and forth in front of them and everyone is laughing.

I hope I left a good tip.

Copyright 2018          David Preston

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Motorcycle Safety – Luck versus Everything Else

Motorcycle Safety – Luck versus Everything Else 

An interesting response to the last essay came over the Facebook transom.  The author, (I think – it was not all that clear) felt that motorcycle safety was a matter of luck.  He managed to denigrate my ability to think, write, and use logic in an impressive paucity of words.

He does have a point, which should have been mentioned.  All motorcyclists who have ridden for years can recount an instance or (usually) several, where disaster was avoided primarily by luck. I have twice lost the front end of the bike in a pile of gravel in a corner and did not crash when I probably should have. Skill?  No.  I could fill many pages with similar stories.

And yet there is more to it than that. This is not the first time I have received this criticism, an experience surely shared by others.  There seems to be a human tendency to reduce the apparent success of others to luck, perhaps as a way to bolster our own self-view.  The success of Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos?  Luck.  The successful brain surgeon or attorney or any other job or activity category?  Luck.  It ain’t that simple.

A number of years ago my wife and I were invited to a dinner in Seattle that featured Andrea and Barry Coleman from England, the founders of Riders for Health – now Riders for Life. I received a call from a woman I did not know and she said she was hosting the Colemans.  She asked them who to invite and they said Susan and I.  I had been raising money for RfH for a few years with some success, but this was a great honor.

Most of the people who attended this dinner listed “philanthropist” as their job title. The dinner was held in a grand older home in an exclusive area of Seattle, and the dinner was prepared by the house staff. I had never attended such an event in such a home.

One of the guests was the head of PATH, another charity in Seattle (he later moved on to the Gates Foundation). I had worked with him before on charitable efforts and considered him to be the smartest person I had ever met.  We really enjoyed chatting with him in a social setting.

One of the guests was a prominent brain surgeon who overheard our conversation, which was about (surprise!) motorcycles.  He asked me how long I had been riding, and I replied “48 years.”   He then asked, with a condescending smirk, when I had last crashed a motorcycle.  “1969.”

He did not like that answer at all, and responded with a sneer, “You must be very lucky.”

At this point Andrea jumped in to the conversation.  She may look like the loving grandmother she is, but in her youth Andrea was a successful professional road racer.  Her family has motorcycle road racing history going back to literally the first ever motorcycle road race held in England. She launched into a passionate rebuttal, getting into rider training and experience and equipment, and more.  In a short time her husband changed the subject, as Andrea warmed to her topic and the brain surgeon grew ever more comfortable. Putting potential donors in their place is not sound business practice for a charity.

I enjoyed it immensely, of course, and even more (I can be small-minded) the hostile glares directed at me by the brain surgeon for the rest of the evening.

So yes, luck can and does play a role in the safe operation of a motorcycle, but it is not the most significant role and it is fatuous to write off the success of others to mere luck.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often.

Copyright 2018          David Preston

Posted in Education, Motorcycles | 1 Comment

Why Motorcycles are Safe

Why Motorcycles are Safe

Short version: because everything is relative.

I came of age in the 1960’s, which was, for those of you too young to be there (most of you), a time of tremendous social, political and philosophical upheaval in society.  The availability of birth control pills altered sex from an act of procreation to the possibility of a mutually enjoyed intense experience. An explosion of drug awareness and availability made marijuana and a vast array of many other drugs common and easy to obtain.  The Vietnam War brought massive protests everywhere.  I missed out on all of it.

Why? Because my main focus (other than career and family) has been motorcycles from 1962 to today. For the first five years I did not own a motorcycle and got by with occasional rides from fortunate friends.  I spent every moment available reading about motorcycles and thinking about motorcycles. The benefit of this, which I did not realize at the time, was that by the time I FINALLY purchased my first motorcycle at the age of 20 I already knew a fair bit about riding techniques and safety gear. Keep in mind there were no rider courses in existence at that time, at least that I’d heard of.

This all ramped up when I obtained my first motorcycle in 1967 – a 1965 Yamaha YDS3 250cc two-stroke street bike.  For the next few years my leisure time and focus and spare money went toward better equipment, better motorcycles, fuel, and more frequent and longer rides.

Of course, the wise people counseled me that motorcycles were dangerous.  All of those people are now dead.

How dangerous were motorcycles compared to having sex with a multitude of partners, many of whom you might not know that well?  How dangerous were motorcycles compared to using illegal drugs purchased from someone you did not know at all, and you had only their assurance of what you were purchasing and what the effects might be.

I had a short-term romance with a beautiful young woman that ended over her assertion that LSD was harmless. She was wrong.

Cautionary tale: Len Bias.  Len Bias was a wonderful young man who aced college while starring in basketball. He graduated and signed a huge contract with the Boston Celtics. At a party to celebrate he accepted the offer of a snort of cocaine. What could go wrong?  He had a heart attack and died.

Many took part in massive demonstrations.  The riots at the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968 featured thousands of people as well as tear gas, riot police, and dogs. At the time I was enjoying my first long distance motorcycle trip.

And there was the Viet Nam war. Several of my high school classmates spent time there, and some did not come back.  In 1969 I went into debt and purchased an (almost) new Honda 450 Street Scrambler.  The logic was that I had just been declared 1A, and the local school district’s appeal had been denied.  I had slid through college on a medical deferment due to two University of Minnesota doctors fibbing and declaring that I had a heart murmur.  The Army eventually demanded a second opinion, and the doctor the Army paid for found me fit for duty.  The school district appeal was based on a second fib, that I was the only person they could find that could teach junior high English and be the head tennis coach. Not too surprising that a draft board 1300 miles away was not swayed. So, I was about to be drafted, and logic dictated that I purchase a new motorcycle.  It would seem likely that the Army would allow me to finish my first year of teaching, and then I would be off to basic training. Then I would be sent to Viet Nam.

Then I would die.

In a 45-minute-long phone conversation, my father used every argument he could think of, fair and foul, logical and emotional. At the end, he said “But I have never been in your situation, so maybe you should buy a motorcycle.”

The next month Richard Nixon held the first draft lottery. Men from 18 to whatever would be drafted in the order that their birthdays were drawn.  Mine came up # 334. The war was over for me.  I would not die in Viet Nam and was free to return to the risks of motorcycles.

When it comes to motorcycles, I prefer to think of risk rather than danger.  The difference is that risk, in any endeavor, can be reduced with training, experience, focus, and equipment.  That is true of sex and drug use as well, I suppose, but seldom applied.

I am one of the very few politically liberal people of my age who has never smoked marijuana.  I’ve inhaled secondary smoke from others who were indulging (legally), but it did not seem to affect me.  I’ve also been drunk a time or two, and decided the hangover was not worth the high.  I don’t think I am missing out on much.

Not that I was perfect. A pretty good crash in 1969 that was totally my fault that destroyed the Yamaha and broke my shoulder. It taught me the perils of unchecked testosterone and arrogance. All in all, a cheap lesson that has served me well ever since.

When my children were teens they were not all that interested in motorcycles, although my son had one for a couple of years as an adult.  They did enjoy rides on the back of mine, and I made sure they had a helmet that fit, a sturdy jacket, boots, and gloves.

If I were a parent of a teen today who wanted to get into motorcycles, I would make sure he or she had good gear, took at least one rider course, and started out on a smaller sized street bike.  After a year or two there might be a progression to a larger and faster street bike or a dual sport if interest in dirt riding had arisen.

That would make sense, because in a world of random violence, ecological disasters, unchecked gun mania, disease, drugs, and more – motorcycles are safe.

 

Ride fast, ride safe, and ride often.

 

David Preston   Copyright 2018

 

Posted in Education, Motorcycles | Leave a comment

How Good People End Up With Trump

How Good People Get Sucked into The Trump Swamp

When I was in 9th grade I made a new friend. He sat next to me in a very poorly taught science class, and he was a “bad boy.”  He hung out with the “wrong” people and was on the way to doing all sorts of things I would never dream of.

Nevertheless, we bonded for a time, probably over my sense of humor, and I think he realized he had made a friend who was one of the “good” clique.  I had lots of friends, and they were all good students, athletes, active in Scouts, band, etc.

Over time my wise mother noticed that I was spending time with Rick, and she expressed her concern. I explained that my intent was to draw him into my circle of friends and away from the perils of the road he was on.

My mother complimented me on my efforts, but used an analogy that stuck.

“When you place a good apple next to a rotten one, the rotten apple does not turn into a good one. In fact…”

I think that is what is happening now at the highest levels of government.  Not all of these people are lying crooks, although many of them certainly are.

Some of them are well-meaning conservative politicians and successful business people with a long record of success in their professional endeavors.  I think they get sucked in by the lure of a powerful position in the government, and are positive, based on their long experience, that they can use reason and personal examples to set the President on a better path.

In time they all learn the truth of my mother’s analogy, and then they either leave with sorrow and anger or become another rotten apple.

 

Copyright 2018          David Preston

Posted in Rants and Raves | 3 Comments

Touring on a Bonneville in Oregon Heat

A Triumph Bonneville In the Heat of Oregon

I’ve become a real fan of the four-day motorcycle trip. The logic of it goes like this: most of my friends are, unlike me, not retired. A four-day journey that begins on a Friday and ends on a Monday consumes only two days of vacation, leaving whatever is left for those other people – families and relatives and such. Of course, this is the second trip of the year, so the logic begins to weaken. In addition, a motorcycle trip can be wearying, particularly if your choice of motorcycle is not a “touring” rig and if your chosen routes include as many corners as possible.  Four days allows for a pretty rapid resumption of normal energy levels when you return,

Distance per day is also a factor of choice.  If you’re on a Goldwing or other luxo-tourer, I am sure you can consume 500-600 miles of freeway on the trot, and be ready for more the next day.  That does not appeal to me. In fact, I’ve begun to reduce the mileage for each day to allow more time for photo stops, a gander at an interesting site or three, and a total lack of stress when we come to a delay of 5 to 25 minutes for road construction or whatever.  I’m now down to a planned 250 – 300 miles a day, as much of it as possible on remote and curvaceous back roads in spectacular scenery. We like to have a lot of time in the evening to sit around and discuss – whatever, while enjoying beverages of choice, pipes, cigars, etc.  The trip just completed took four days and consumed 1143 miles. Paltry by most standards, but perfect for us.

My 2016 Bonneville is equipped for “touring” with a flyscreen, tank bag, and Cortech saddlebags and top bag.  That’s it, and that’s all I want. Your own choices may, and probably will, differ.

From years of leading motorcycle rides for customers when it was part of my job, I have the luxury of a great many friends who are experienced riders with good equipment and a refreshing ability to adapt to route and schedule changes on the fly. Each time I cook up a ride concept, I send out the concept to my friends, and a motley assemblage of fine folk decide to go – usually 4 to 7 or so.  All are naturally pleasant people, and all come from different backgrounds and sport a wild variety of motorcycles.  This time we had my Bonneville, a BMW R1200R, a BMW R1200GT, a Ducati Multistrada, and a Honda CFX 700 cruiser.  Can such a disparate group of motorcycles tour together?  Most definitely, with the right attitude.

The first day began with breakfast, and then the sacrifice of 200 miles down I-5 to Oregon.  This slabbing was accepted as the best way to get to experience Oregon on a diagonal slash from Portland to Sisters on some truly epic roads that take in Estacada and Detroit and other towns you’ve never heard of.

We stayed at the Sisters Inn and Suites, because we had enjoyed it last year.  Unfortunately, this time was not as charming.  It seemed the place had been left to rot for the past year, and the air conditioner in the room Brian and I shared put out some asthmatic cold air for about two minutes and then subsided to a warm trickle of air that was almost liquid.  No biggie, but we paid for better than that.

Instead of partaking of the motel breakfast offering, which was also far below last year, we stopped in town at the Gallery Restaurant, and had the best meal of the trip.  Highly recommended.

We’d been concerned about heat, because the previous week had seen temps over 100 on our route, but for us it was usually in the low 80’s, and since all of us have vented gear it was pretty much perfect. No rain for the entire trip, and few bugs, which I do not understand.

In any case, you need to select your gear with heat in mind.  I have a Fieldsheer jacket for fall and winter, and a Rev’It Jacket for summer heat.  It has all sorts of vents, and with the liner removed and all of the vents open it keeps me cool up to well over 90 degrees. In fact, when it is fully adjusted for heat it actually gets too cold at less than 85 degrees! I also have some Rev’It “dirt” gloves which are light and yet have padding on the knuckles and also flow air.  My riding pants are Triumph “mostly” waterproof pants, and Rev’It boots and an Arai helmet complete my ensemble. Of course there are a myriad of gear choices for heat, as long as you realize that you need to be prepared and geared for it. And water!  Drink a lot of water. If need be, I take out the throat sock that I carry and soak it in water.  In really extreme heat, every time you stop for fuel, place your helmet in the large cooler outside that holds the bags of ice they sell.  By the time you have fueled the bike, gone to the bathroom, and enjoyed a cold drink, your helmet will be ready to go again.

Many people ask about seat comfort on a long ride, or (more often) complain about it.  The Bonneville is a perfect example, as the seat is fine for around town on an hour or two, but it not really designed for long haul comfort.  You have many choices of course. You can have a custom seat made to your own specification and individual derriere shape and size. If you live in England, I would recommend Trimfix, operated by my name twin David Preston.  Or you can purchase fir covers or beaded thingies or air bag thingies – the list is endless.

But what if you like the look of the standard seat?  (Yes, I am that vain) Now your choices are fewer and simpler.  The easiest is simply to get your own butt in better shape. A visit or three per week to the local gym and moderate exercise will do wonders.  And then there are padded shorts.

Here my thinking is diverging. For years I had two pairs of padded undies made for bicycle riders.  The first pair were cheap and worked well.  That pair has disappeared. The second pair were expensive and came from REI, and never really worked all that well.  Lately I have begun to think that it is not the padding that is the issue, but heat. I find that merely standing up for a few seconds whenever the mood strikes (on a straight or nearly so section of road) works much better.  Simply wear underwear that is thin, and stand up once in awhile and I think you will be better off.  Here again, limiting the mileage to less than 400 miles a day also helps.

This only works if you can stand up easily on the pegs. A Bonneville is great for this. I could stand up on my Speed Triple, but it was awkward.  Donna is so short and the pegs so far forward on her Honda cruiser that she cannot stand up at all, which is just not ideal at all, but if you have any of the many Bonneville variants you should be fine.

In the little town of Heppner we had our only close encounter with deer.  Four of them, who were polite enough to cross the road in front of us in a pedestrian crosswalk – much appreciated.  From Heppner we discovered 53, which runs Southeast to our destination of Ukiah, and it is a treat.

Our stop was at the Stage Stop Motel and RV camp, which we had enjoyed mightily last year. Alas, the charming owners had sold out and moved away. The new owners were pleasant, but had brought in a whole slew of RVs and trucks, which killed the ambience of just a smattering of small cabins.  When I made the reservations, I was told they only had one cabin available for that night, so that went to Donna. The four guys would stay in the “bunkhouse.”  OK.  The bunkhouse turned out to be one of the small cabins with everything removed, including the bathroom, except for two sets of bunkbeds. Fortunately, they also had a “barn” with 7 beds, and a bathroom, shower, fridge, etc.  More money but much better, except the beds turned out to be sagging springs with little support.  The rat droppings on the window sill were also not a charming touch.  A second disappointment, but oh well.

One thing to note that you may want to add to your own group trips. Different people may wish to travel at different paces at different times, and this is to be expected with such a variety of bikes.  In our group, everyone wants me to lead because I laid out the trip and it is more fun not to lead. 

Except once in while…

There are times when the roads demanded of some of my friends a higher rate of speed, and this is fine. Just request that they pass on the left and you can listen and watch as they disappear up ahead.  Donna rides the slowest bike and is the slowest rider, and always wants to be the caboose. Again, not a problem. Every once in a while, we pull over and wait for her – usually for less than 30 seconds.  How big a sacrifice is that to have a wonderful person enjoy the trip with you?

In group rides it is much more about the attitudes of the riders than the capabilities of the machines.  Flexibility and a relaxed mind make the day better for everyone.

The third day was the short one, mostly because I had planned to take two or three hours for a hot rod show in LaGrange. Somehow, I had messed up the dates, and discovered a couple of weeks before the trip that the hot rod show was…last month. No matter.  More time for photo stops and other sundry diversions.  We enjoyed riding the famous Rattlesnake Grade up to Lewiston, a fine lunch at the café in Anatone, and stayed at the Cedars Inn in Clarkston, Idaho.  Another cheap motel, but this one was fabulous.  A pool for one important perc, and my favorite, one of those do it yourself waffle makers for breakfast in the morning!

Two friends drove all the way from Walla Walla to join us for dinner, and a festive and hilarious time was had by all.  After dinner we went back to the motel to sit and chat.  I wanted to smoke my pipe, and Brian wanted to enjoy a fine cigar, but there was a “No Smoking in The Pool Area” sign.  Wanting to be polite, I checked with the motel manager, standing in the parking lot with cigarette in hand. His definition of “pool area” was “in the pool.”  Fine then!

During the evening discussions we chucked my intended route for Monday in favor of jogging north of Wenatchee and coming home via Highway 2 instead of the mind-numbing slog that is I-90.  A very worthwhile improvement over what I had planned.  The day was spent in a smoky haze due to massive forest fires all over the Northwest, but perhaps that also kept the temperature reasonable.

Not much exciting here, but there are two things I will share with you that might make the last few minutes of your life worthwhile.

  1. Again, you can “tour” on any motorcycle that is street legal and can maintain speeds of 70mph (or a tad more here and there – wink wink). You do need to make sure the bike is in sound mechanical condition, and you do need enough capacity to carry spare clothes and gear for a wide-ranging span of temperatures – although we hardly needed it this trip.  Among our group we had air compressors, tire repair kits, tools, cell phones with GPS, first aid items, etc.  Make your plans and go.
  2. For this type of touring a Triumph Bonneville is a fine choice. It took everything in stride – comfortable, fast enough, and also turned in over 50mpg.  It did not use any oil, or need air in the tires, or any of the stuff we used to need to keep an eye on.  On the one brisk morning the heated grips were lovely.
  3. It was also, I must say, the only bike that strangers wanted to ask questions about, if that is important to you.
  4. An excellent idea that is not mine was shared with us via Pat’s wife. In the evening we would play “Roses and Thorns.” Each person relates things from the day that were high or low lights. This is fabulous. You learn how other people view the day, and it may change your perception of things. It also spurs a lot of great stories.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!

 

Copyright 2018                      David Preston

 

 

 

Posted in Equipment, Motorcycles, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Harley-Davidson’s Self-Inflicted Wounds

Harley-Davidson’s Self-Inflicted Wounds

Well, they certainly can’t say they were not warned. Ardent motorcyclists have been worried about the future of Harley-Davidson since about 1998 or so and have been talking and writing about it in magazines and blogs and every emerging social commentary outlet.  Now they are in a world of trouble and seem to be stumbling around blindly looking for salvation. How did this happen?

Ironically, the root of the problem is mired in their unprecedented success in the 1990s. Shortly after the Harley Board of Directors pooled all their individual personal assets and (barely) managed to purchase the company back from sports equipment giant AMF, which had been bleeding the company dry, Harleys became the “in” thing.  By the mid-1990s Harleys had a classic supply and demand gold mine. People paid over list price, sometimes a lot over, simply to be the next in line.  When your bike came in you could purchase it or not, and the color it was became the color you wanted, because that was what you got.  Salesmen did not really sell, but spent their time writing up orders and adding as many extra doo-dads as the customer wanted. Sales people made money, the dealers (who had hung in during the awful years) got rich, and Harley went from success to success as prices were raised to keep the buyer’s lust at a sustainable boil.

When I first went to work at a Harley (and many other brands) dealer in 2000, I was amazed to hear Harley riders bragging to each other about how much they had spent.   The more the better. I had never heard of such a thing. One of the best mechanics spent almost all his time bolting on chrome accessories to new bikes – sometimes to the tune of $5,000 worth – in the year 2000.

Even then you could see the storm clouds coming.  The first time I rode an Ultra Classic I was appalled that such a crude device could be sold as a new motorcycle, especially at such an exorbitant price. I rode one in a Seafair parade and literally gave myself a painful burn on the inside of my right leg from the exhaust. True, Ultra Classics as not designed to be ridden at 5mph in 85-degree heat, but really, it was ridiculous.

A year or two later I assisted some high school marketing students with a project. They had sent a survey to 16-25-year-old people all over the USA asking them what came to mind when the heard the words “Harley-Davidson.”  The response ratio was impressive and the results crystal clear.  Only two responses totally dominated the results. One was ‘”my grandparents” and the other was “thugs and criminals.” All the other responses, added together, were statistically irrelevant.  The school district set up a video conference at the admin center for the students and the Harley marketing people in Milwaukee.  At the time, the technology was cutting edge.  I thought then, as I had many times before, that it is woefully predictable that the finest technology in the school district is reserved for the top administrators – and not available to students or teachers unless it is a special occasion.

In any case, the students made a fine presentation of their work – the methodology, the assessment of the data, and the conclusions.  Clearly this was a dire situation.  Grandparents have a regrettable and well-known tendency to ride off to the next plane of existence, and how many new bikes would they purchase before then?  How sustainable is a legitimate business with a demographic of criminals?  The Harley marketing mavens did not actually yawn, but it was close.  I remember the statement “That does not agree with what we are seeing here.”  One student rose to her feet and with perfect poise and a polite tone, absolutely gave them what for and predicted the future for them if they chose to ignore the obvious. Which of course, they did. Her words were prescient.

A few years later Harley tried out a new engine and style of bike in the V-Rod.  Still a V-twin, but with such modern accoutrements as water cooling and… horsepower. Rumored to have been designed with (a lot of) help from Porsche, the engine was a gem, albeit heavy.  The first time I rode a V-Rod, which had forward controls, I dragged my heel in the first left hand corner, and I knew there was a problem.  The engine, however, was a treat, especially if you used elevated rpms. Most of the customers never did. It was sort of like a traditional Harley V-twin had burbled off to college and earned a PhD in mechanical engineering’   The next step was to make the “Roadster” if I remember correctly, with the pegs moved back and the bars lowered.  This had real potential, but the price was far too high and almost all Harley dealers and their sales people had little interest in sport bikes and did not try very hard to promote any of the V-Rod models.

And there is the saga of Buell. Eric Buell was an engineer who wanted to go road racing with an American engine. His early specials had potentials, and then came production sport bikes powered by modified Sportster 1200 engines.  With some success, Harley bought out Eric and his acumen and brought Buell into the corporate garage.  What he needed was a “real” engine, and he never got it.  The Buells were fine bikes (I rode a Buell sport tourer for almost a year) but always hampered by that paint shaker of an antique engine.  Buell never made a profit in 20 years of trying and eventually was tossed into the corporate trash can. If they had spent some money on an engine…

In 2008 or so Harley tried a new tack – the Ulysses adventure bike. I was tasked with riding the new demo to a sport bike northwest rally and quite enjoyed it.  A bit tall, but lots of suspension travel.  Again, hampered by the engine.  I led a group of about a dozen sport bikes down the twisty and badly rutted road from Randall south and marveled at the suspension compliance. At times I had both wheels off the ground, and each time I spared a thought for the riders behind me on sport bikes as they repeatedly rammed parts of your body that are tender into the backs of their fuel tanks. Toward the end I scraped the toes of my right boot in a hairpin, and that was alarming, as the foot peg is a long way off the ground.  I explained this away in my head, as I felt I always cornered harder to the right. The next corner was a left, and I did it again, so I chose to slow down. The Ulysses had about 45 horsepower and the bikes behind me all had at least double that, but the road was so rough nobody could pass me.  Again, alas, neither Harley or the dealers understood the market the bike was aiming for and the bike eventually tottered off to oblivion.

And now what?  Harley sales are falling, and Trump the Bully’s nutso trade policies have encouraged them to seek manufacturing facilities in other countries.  This has been done previously (by Triumph and others), but nobody else has been flogging the all-American horse for so long.  Recently they have been trotting out some electric bike concepts, and have just announced a new adventure bike, which to my eyes is a spectacularly ugly machine.  Many noticed that the promo shots have the bikes photoshopped into an off-road location, which does not amp up confidence.

Another problem is the revived and popular American flat track racing series.  Harley has dominated dirt flat track racing for decades, but they are now getting well and truly stomped on by Indian.  V-twin engines have always done well on dirt ovals, but Indian’s new technology V-twin is handing Harley their butt on a platter.  Not good, and the timing could not be worse.

The real problem, to my mind, is that both the parent company and the dealers are used to large and heavy cruiser and touring models, powered by large and air-cooled, or mostly air-cooled, engines.  They certainly have the engineering prowess to create truly modern motorcycles, but I see no signs that the company or the dealers have any interest in the types of riders and riding that are now leading the way.

Could there be a way forward?  I think so.  Triumph came out with a new Bonneville a few years ago deliberately styled to look like a late 1960’s model.  It has all the current norms, but they are all hidden.  ABS brakes, heated grips, fuel injection, traction modes, etc., and a radiator for the water-cooled cylinder heads that visually disappears between the frame down tubes.  They have been flying out of the dealerships for a few years now, and there are now so many models with the same basic design brief that I cannot name them all.

Harley COULD create cruisers with a similar design brief that would resemble the good old days, and I think would sell well, but I am not sure the company executive culture can adapt to the need.

In an odd way it reminds me of my current situation.  Going through a divorce that you did not see coming for 46 years means that a lot of what you “knew” to be true for decades is no longer true, and perhaps has not been true for some time.  Most people, and there are more of them than you would expect, seem to deal with this on one of two ways. The first is to stay true to yourself and keep going ahead as the person others know you to be, even though your core family support has been yanked away.  The second way is to seek radical change in how you dress and how you relate to others, often embarking on a fruitless quest for love and affection in areas previously foreign to you.  I have been fortunate to receive excellent advice from close friends who have endured similar agonies, and the first method, which they all urged, is serving me well.

For Harley, salvation lies in sticking to the types of motorcycles they do well, but committing to the new dictates of less weight, (a lot less), fuel injection, water cooling, and electronic technology galore, in a package that resembles the Harleys of yore.  Chasing technologies they do not actually like (electronic bikes) and markets they do not understand (adventure and sport bikes) will not work.

I hope Harley gets sound advice equal to what has been offered to me, but I am not sure they will take it.

And that is sad.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!

Copyright 2018                                David Preston

 

Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles | 6 Comments

Motorcycles Looking for Ghosts Backwards 2018

Here is the final version

Motorcycles Looking for Ghosts Backwards            2018

Pat Cordell, Donna Gaross, Rick Panneman, Brian Hardy, me

Day #1 to Sisters.  7am Brekkie  8:30am start   Friday,  August 10th

  1. I-405 and then I-5 to Portland to I 205                                  200 miles
  2. (fuel) 26 to Estacada to 224  Breitenbush Road
  3. 224 becomes NFS 46 to Detroit (fuel / lunch)                       83 miles
  4. South on 22 35 miles
  5. Right on 20 to Left on 226                                                         25 miles
  6. Left on 226 to Lava Fields (pause)                                           22 miles
  7. East to Sisters (fuel)                                                               15 miles

Sisters Inn and Suites   605 N Arrowhead Trail, Sisters OR 97759

(541) 549 – 7829     $159.63 per room confirm # 60589                    380 mile

Day #2                       Sisters to Ukiah                  Saturday, August 11th

  1. EAST on 20 to Redmond                                                             20 miles
  2. NORTH on 97 to Shaniko                                                             65 miles
  3. SOUTH on 218 to Antelope                                                         10 miles
  4. EAST on 218 to Fossil      (fuel)                                                   20 miles
  5. NORTH on 19 to Condon                                                             46 miles
  6. EAST on 206 to Heppner                                                             70 miles
  7. EAST on 74 to 395                                                                         40 miles
  8. SOUTH on 395 to Ukiah                                                               30 miles

Stage Stop Motel  503 Main St, Ukiah, OR 97880

$65 for Donna  $65 for 4 guys in a bunkhouse!

Phone:(541) 427-3352   $65?      301 miles

Day #3           Ukiah to Lewiston                          Sunday, August 12th

  1. EAST on 244 to US 30 to LaGrande 60 miles
  2. 82 to Enterprise (fuel)                                                   70 miles
  3. NORTH on 3 to Boggin’s Oasis Pause?                                 41 miles
  4. NORTH on 129 to Clarkston 40 miles

EAST to Cedars Inn 208 743-9526  1716 Main Street

$57.24 x 2 and $43.20                                                                    210 mile

Day #4                       Lewiston to home              Monday, August 13th

  1. WEST on US 12 to 261 to Starbuck             52 miles
  2. 261 to LEFT on 260                                                                      30 miles
  3. 260 to Connell (fuel)                                                              25 miles
  4. WEST on 260 to RIGHT on 17 to LEFT on 26 25 miles
  5. WEST on 26 to I-90 45 miles
  6. VANTAGE (lunch)  to I-90 to Ellensburg        (fuel)               35 miles
  7. I-90 home                                                                         120 miles

337 miles

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