A Curious Hobby For Motorcyclists

A Curious Hobby for Triumph (and other) Motorcyclists

 If you own a Triumph, it is presumed that you enjoy riding it, as with most other brands of motorcycle.  Sometimes you have the thrill of a lengthy ride, and probably more often an all-day adventure.  But sometimes a shorter ride beckons.  Perhaps you do not have the time for a lengthy journey, or just want to clear your head of the daily clutter that life can create.

Where to?  If you have lived in the same area for decades, as I have, this can present a challenge. So many of the likely destinations have that faint odor of “been there, done that” about them. I have solved this issue for myself, and you are free to borrow.

I look through real estate ads and find a couple of homes for sale that I could never afford unless (until?) I win a large lottery.  I look at the location, and then type and print the address of one or two of them.  Then I cut up the print-out into a smaller piece of paper that goes in the clear map pocket of my tank bag, and I’m off on a quest.

Of course, if you tried this you could use a GPS and navigation program on your motorcycle or phone, but that would miss the point. What you want to do is engage mind, body and motorcycle in the thrill of the hunt.

A Triumph Bonneville is ideal for this sort of thing.  There’s enough power to get to your destination at a goodly speed on the main roads, but also the capability of easy handling in low speed corners and the ability to do U-turns with ease – and you will probably do a lot of U-turns.  Being a home of great value, you are either going to be out in the country where not all roads are marked clearly, or in an upscale housing area with multiple dead-end roads. The steel fuel tank makes the use of a magnetic tank bag easy, and the seating position is comfy at all speeds.

One of the things you will discover is that most of the expensive homes you find will not make the cut for your taste.  The real estate ad might not show the steep driveway you do not like, or the fact that the home sits at the bottom of a valley on two sides and is rarely if ever blessed with sunshine. Or a dozen other factors that pertain to your personal criteria.  Just today I eliminated a $4 million house and a $2 million house!

But the houses are not the point. What you get is a nice ride, and better yet, on roads you have never ridden. Best of all, you will probably discover a few winding and empty back roads that have been there all this time and have escaped your notice. Most of the off the driven path roads that I lead friends on have been discovered with this method.

Give it a shot.  For added spice – always own a current lottery ticket.  You never know when your hunts could turn serious.

Copyright 2019                             David Preston

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In Defense of Donald Trump

In Defense of Donald Trump

I know- what a strange title for an article from me.  But there is an explanation.

Let me be clear about my opinion of Donald Trump.   The man is not only the worst President in United States history but also heads up the most corrupt administration in our history, which is saying quite a bit.  He is also a liar, a tax cheat, a serial abuser of women, and a business person with decades of history of cheating almost everyone he has done business with.  He is a disgrace not only to the office he holds, but to humanity.

But…  Tuesday the news broke that a friendly podiatrist had diagnosed him with bone spurs in the 1960’s, which kept him out of the draft and well away from the Viet Nam war.  The physician had evidently done this as a favor to Donald Trump’s father, who also happened to be his landlord. And so another scandal begins to play out.

And that is where I have to squeak a bit of reality.  It is hard for people to grasp today just how unpopular the Viet Nam war was with many Americans.  Those who did serve came home to shameful treatment.  They were unfortunately abuse targets that were accessible, whereas what people really objected to was a long pattern of exaggeration and outright deceit carried out by top military brass and the U.S. government.  The reputation of the military was so different from what it is today.

This was the time of the awakening sexual revolution, civil rights upheavals, rock and roll, and greater availability of “recreational drugs.” A war in a far away place that seemed to offer no threat to us had little chance of gaining favor with people occupied with other pursuits, whether ill or good.

There were all sorts of ways to try and evade the draft, and some people, like Donald Trump, squeaked through by the intervention of a physician.

So did I.  It is likely Donald Trump never questioned the doctor’s decision, and he may have been ignorant enough to believe it. In any case, there was little cause for him to dispute it.  Same for me.

I spent a few days in the hospital in December of my senior year of high school after walking home across a frozen lake after several hours of hockey, my clothes soaked with sweat.  I got seriously ill, and the hospital determined that I had an inflamed pericardium (the outer lining of the heart), possible pneumonia, and other ills.  They finally called it rheumatic fever and sent me home for two weeks of enforced bed rest.

In college I needed a physical as part of the draft process.  Doctors at the University of Minnesota told the Army that I had a heart murmur, and that got me a medical deferment that lasted all the way to my senior year.  At that time the Army called for a second opinion, and the 2nd doctor scoffed and declared that I had a slightly unusual heartbeat, but not a heart murmur, and that there was no reason not to declare me perfectly fit for duty.  True, that doctor’s time was paid for by the Army, but it did not really surprise me, as I had always thought the heart murmur story sounded a bit off.

What had happened?  The two doctors who had seen me at the University of Minnesota were both women, which was unusual at that time.  They had been to medical school with the man who had been my family doctor my whole life.  They revered him because in medical school he had treated them as actual people and fellow medical students, not the “female freaks” that most others did. So, they exaggerated my condition as mark of respect and as favor to him!

Do I feel guilty? To an extent, yes. I have been to the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington D.C. and wept as I ran my fingers over the names of high school classmates. Some were friends, and some not. I remember one who had disgusted me by getting caught cheating on a test in our Advanced Math class.  Now he was dead, and I was not. So were all the others.  I have never watched any of the movies spawned by the Viet Nam war as a very small token of respect for those lost.

I had housemates in college who were drafted.  Most came from rural communities. If you were from a well to do suburb that valued a college education (like me) you were far more likely to be granted a deferment.  None of this was fair.  Women did not need to register and none was drafted.  So flawed a system. None of it was right. These issues comprised a small corner of the tower of animosity toward the war at the time.

Although I had little involvement in the civil rights movement, and none at all with the sexual and drug revolutions, I still benefited from the prevailing sentiments of the time, as did thousands and thousands of others.

Later, after I had graduated and moved to Kirkland, Washington to begin my teaching career, I was declared 1A (prime meat).  I had just broken my shoulder while destroying my first motorcycle.  The school district appealed, using the argument that I was the only person the school district could find that could teach English and coach tennis.  This went absolutely nowhere with a draft board in Minnesota, and the appeal was denied. The next month Richard Nixon held the first draft lottery, my birthday came up #334, and it was over.

It is interesting that the story of Donald Trump’s fake bone spurs broke yesterday, and there was no mention of it in the newspaper today.  Perhaps the editors, who are older, remember how many people evaded the war in any way that came along.

In any case, I can’t castigate Donald Trump for this one.   That leaves only several hundred other reasons why he should be removed from office.

Copyright 2018                              David Preston

Posted in Rants and Raves | Leave a comment

A Christmas Condom Story

A Christmas Condom Story

This is a tale where you get to provide any of several back stories and explanations.  Sort of a choose you own adventure, except it does not (most likely) include you.

I work out casually at the local YMCA four days a week.  I was there Monday at 7am and again today. They were, of course, closed yesterday, as it was Christmas day.  I always park in pretty much the same spot.

This morning, as I left my car, I could not help but notice an unwrapped condom sitting on the damp paving of the parking lot.  I am sure it was not there Monday morning. Questions began to fill my head.

The YMCA closed at 3pm or so Christmas Eve, and was closed Tuesday, so the event that concluded with a discarded condom took place between late Monday afternoon and this early Wednesday morning.

The YMCA sits in the middle of a large business park area, full of offices and small businesses, with the Seattle Times main building, a couple of residence motels, and so on. If you wanted to park with privacy, there are dozens of options, particularly in this time frame, when most of the businesses are closed. 

The YMCA parking lot has lots of lighting, much more than I would think desired for the presumed activity.  By driving around, you could easily find a place that was totally dark or had only as much illumination as desired.  The YMCA seemed like an odd choice.

So, what happened?  One friend pointed out that just because the condom was not in a wrapper does not mean it was used, which raises further plot possibilities.

Perhaps a young couple were celebrating their first large successful family gathering, and were so carried away with glee that could not wait to get to their home?   Or a couple were staying with parents for the holidays and wanted to find privacy somewhere?  Except the YMCA lot is not very private…

Or…   what do you think?

I thought it was hilarious, although the YMCA staff I reported it to did not seem amused.  The evidence had been disposed of by the time I left for home.

Your opportunity to fill in the blanks.  As it were…

Next way will bring the same schedule.  The YMCA will close Monday afternoon and be closed Tuesday, New Year’s Day. Will there be a repeat?  Stay tuned!

Copyright 2018                      David Preston

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Value of Facebook, and Teaching is Forever

The Value of Facebook, and Teaching is Forever

Facebook is often criticized, at times justifiably. My experience, however, has been extremely positive. 

This year has been “challenging,” to understate. In a period of a couple of months both of my children disowned me, for reasons that are not at all clear, and my wife filed for divorce, between my birthday and our 46th wedding anniversary.  None of this made or makes any sense to me.

In the blink of an eye my entire life was shattered. I went from an extended family of two children, their spouses, two grandchildren, one older brother, and (on my wife’s side), about 20 adults and children – to being able to communicate with one older brother.  All of the rest of these people simply erased me from their lives.  As the divorce crawls slowly toward a resolution and the sale of the home we have lived in for 41 years, probably in the spring, I am sort of camping out in a spare bedroom downstairs.

All of this was shattering, and I could have easily fallen into a very deep depression, or much worse.  I did not, and it is because of close friends, Facebook friends, and former students.

The first few friends I opened up to all had the same reaction to what my family had done and what was being said about me: “This is nonsense.”  A couple of them had “been there and done that” and provided me with excellent advice I have followed. I received a ton of support from Facebook friends, including former students, colleagues, and friends from my youth going back more than 50 years.  I needed all of it.

Of course, our lives are not complete without irony. For years I was overly smug about my reliance on a flip phone and a contrarian refusal to get a smart phone. My rationale, beyond my capricious ego, was that everyone else had one and I was usually not alone. This changed in 2016 on a solo motorcycle trip to California where I found myself in a situation where I really needed a smart phone with internet access and did not have one.  Now I use that new phone all the time to keep in touch with people I rely on.

What is the secret of comedy?  Timing.

You remember the line “teaching is forever?” Thanks to Facebook, it is more true than ever. Over the past few years I have received moving statements from former students thanking me for something I did, almost always not related at all to what I was teaching.  In one case I had written a long letter to a girl whose life was falling apart. Her life trajectory continued downward until she was about to commit suicide.  She pulled out my letter, read it again, and changed her mind. Four times. Years later she was in a much better place and wrote to thank me for what I had done.  I was in tears by the time I finished her letter. I have received at least a half a dozen of these. 

On the first day of each class I would tell my students that in return for their efforts I would be there for them for the rest of their lives.  It never occurred to me that the reverse could be true. Now I am wiser and so grateful.

Not that all students adored me or even liked me.  Some of them despised me, and in some cases I would agree that they should.  Teaching involves making several decisions an hour. Unlike other jobs, the decisions involve the best technique to work with in dealing with a child, and children can be difficult to assess from moment to moment.   At times I made the wrong choice, but I don’t get to hear from those students.

Today I received another warm message from a student of over 20 years ago, detailing how I helped in what today would be called a “Me Too” incident. Like many of these stories, I do not remember the incident, but hearing that I did the right thing really bolsters my confidence and self-concept.

I don’t mean for this to be about me, or a pity party palaver. (I like that).  My intent is to show the positive power of Facebook, and the rewards of teaching.

Cherish your friends on Facebook.  There may come a time when you really need them. If you are a teacher, know that you make a difference. When your students are older and reflect back on their school years, they will remember the positive impact you had on their lives, and thanks to Facebook, may reach out to tell you about it.  If you have a favorite teacher in your past, take the time to find them and thank them. I did this by phone in 2000 when I realized I had been copying virtually all of the teaching techniques of my favorite English teacher in high school. For 31 years. We had a wonderful conversation.  So please do this. It will mean a lot – to both of you.

Now go out there and do good things!

Copyright 2018                      David Preston

 

 

 

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The Slow Death of Driver Involvement

The Slow Death of Driver Involvement

Reader note: 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 my essays and novels that feature (mostly) motorcycles.

When I was a child, the idea of driving a car as personal entertainment was engrained in anyone with a sliver of interest.  I had more like a 2×4 of interest than a sliver, and eagerly devoured each new issue of Road and Track and any other car magazine I could get my hands on. A few years later motorcycles attracted my attention, and soon outpaced cars in terms of rabid enthusiasm.

How things have changed!  And the future…

The other evening, I accompanied a female friend (and a student of mine – in 1970!) in search of a newer used car. We met at a car dealer, and a couple of things were obvious almost immediately.  For one, she had done a lot of research and was really knowledgeable about the cars she was interested in.  That really impressed me. Secondly, her criteria for a car purchase were radically different from mine.  It gradually dawned on me that her thinking was in line with the majority of car buyers today, where I am now an outlier in the most fragmented of small percentages.

When I am looking for a new or used car, I want the model with the most horsepower, the largest tires and brakes available as options, and relatively few techno or luxury additions.

That is no longer the case for most buyers, methinks.

For the majority of cars sold today, from any manufacturer, the engine is an inline 4 cylinder, probably with a turbocharger. The amount of horsepower can vary wildly, but is almost of no concern to the buyer. It is what it is.  Even me. I never asked how much power the engine in the two cars we looked at produced, and in fact I would have to look up the available power in the VW Tiguan I purchased almost two years ago. The only reason I know that my Fiat has 105 horsepower is that I think it is funny. 

Patty was interested in a used Hyundai, primarily because Hyundai’s come with an amazing warranty that stays with the car when it is resold.  That is important to most people, whereas I, six years ago, purchased a Fiat!  To be fair, my Fiat has been completely reliable.

Her other major criteria left me gob smacked.  A sunroof?  Yes, I agree with that.  But… a rear-view camera as a priority?  What happened to the concept of turning your head?  She also prefers a sedan to a hatchback, which I am not wired to understand, and in that she is out of step with the masses, Small SUVs are all the rage, and she is sort of “meh” on them. At the end of the day, she wants a 30k car and has a 15k budget, so this may take some time.

Today I noticed some ads for new cars in the paper, as from now to December 31st is the best time to purchase a new car.  The later you wait the better. Car dealers are awarded for their success by quarter and by year, and December 31st offers both incentives.  We purchased both our new Honda CRV in 2004 and new Tiguan in 2016 in the week after Christmas.   The Fiat was a summer purchase, but the dealer was eager to get the then new model sales flowing, so it was OK.

I am not about to purchase a new car, but my interest is always churning, even if my finances are at idle. In addition to the “low, low, low prices (!!!),” the new car ads also tout all sorts of technology – most of which I do not want.  Rear-view cameras are boasted of, even though they are now a legal requirement, but also self-parking, automatic following adjustments for the cruise control, lane departure warnings, and on and on.

What is happening, I think, is that all new cars are now so mechanically reliable and similar that “farkles” become the only thing left to differentiate. More cup holders. More social media, phone, and music interface capabilities.  Not only have we accepted the idea that many drivers are not paying attention and/or inept, but we have begun to reduce the need for any concept of what the car is doing, where it is, or how it can be controlled. Let the computer(s) do it.  The driver is ever less relevant.

I noticed this in 2010, when I had the opportunity to drive a Mercedes Benz AMG convertible around Pacific International Raceway at some speed.  The car had so many safety-nannies wired into it that it constantly wanted to argue with me.  Trail braking into a corner made the car try to correct my “error,” and trying to rotate the car on its axis mid-corner was not allowed.  None of these features could be turned off. I wondered at the time if crashing this $100,000 car was even possible.

A brother-in-law gets a new car every few years as a perk of his job. The most recent one will parallel park itself and automatically alter speed when in cruise control to keep a safe distance.  He noticed almost immediately that his ability to parallel park was atrophying.  Even worse, when driving his other car on the freeway in cruise control he would wait for it to slow down as traffic slowed, and it did not.

Remember the driver’s license test you took?  For many teens, the parallel parking section created paranoid fear.  And now? I envision a driver’s test in the future that consists of only three diagrams.  Correctly circle the gas pedal, shift lever, and steering wheel, and you have passed.  When you enter the car, you will tell it where you want to go, and the car will calculate the route, and turn its turn signals on and off.

It is not that we will want autonomous cars. By the time they become widely available, most people will have to have them, as they will have lost whatever driving skills they ever had.

And don’t get me started on the demise of the stick shift…

Sigh.

 

Copyright 2018                      David Preston

Posted in Cars, Rants and Raves | 1 Comment

Confessions of an Inappropriate Man – a Book Proposal

Confessions of an Inappropriate Man – A Book Proposa

Reader note: 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 my essays and novels that feature (mostly) motorcycles.

Now then… At my little breakfast group, a couple of weeks ago, one of my friends (I think it was Pat), used the phrase “confessions of an inappropriate man.”  This has stuck with me ever since as a stroke of genius. Almost immediately it sounded like a grand title for a book.  A book that should be written.  A book that could be written…by me.

Men in general have come under attack on all sides in recent years, and much of it (but not all) is deserved. The attacks seem particularly aggressive when aimed at white men of a certain age – let’s posit past 60 years or so.  All of them (us) are evidently swinish beasts who are racists, sexists, and guilty of all sorts of horrid actions, statements, and thoughts going back decades.  I hate this sort of mob mentality thinking and action, which although despicable is an entirely predictable manifestation of human behavior.

It would be nice to see a book that presented a different view.   It would not defend the actions of the men, many of them rich and famous, who have justifiably come under attack for their actions.  Rather, the book would present the story of men who have been considered to be inappropriate in thought or deeds or action who either do not think what they did was inappropriate or were the victim of selective memory and context manipulation.  Or just flat out lies.

Next point to ponder: what sort of book? It could be a semi-comic novel, where the main character keeps creating or being dipped into situations where he says or does the wrong thing – usually inadvertently. Sort of a Walter Mitty of the mouth.

Perhaps it could be a series of essays or short stories recounting misadventures of the mouth or expression or action that are now comic in retrospect.   I already have enough of those from my own life to fill many pages.  Stories of good deeds gone horribly wrong, innocent statements that were incendiary, wrong place wrong time scenarios, and so forth.

But the best concept, in my humble opinion, would be a collaborative effort.  Stories of men who are not inappropriate by nature but found themselves in a situation where the approbation of others was probably inevitable.   I would edit the stories, if and where needed, and the names of the guilty could be used or withheld – original author’s choice.  Those I wanted to use I would return to the sender after my efforts for approval, perhaps a few times. If I chose not to use a submission, I would respond with a (hopefully) polite reason for the rejection. An inappropriate response (as a person who used to submit work to magazines, I have received a couple), would be funnier, but perhaps too ironic.

If you have a story to share, please consider sending it to me at davidpreston4718@gmail.com. Note that this is not my web site e-mail address.  And your recompense for your efforts?  Nada, nil, zilch, which will probably pretty much equal my profits from the book. If I am wrong and the book becomes a break-out mega-hit – we’ll talk.   But… this book must be written. And it will be fun.  (I think)

Copyright 2018                     David Preston

Posted in Education, Rants and Raves, Services | Leave a comment

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