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

 

 

 

Posted in Education, Equipment | Leave a comment

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

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