Touring Southeastern Washington on the Triumph Rocket 3 GT

Triumph Rocket 3 GT touring – Southeastern Washington

First of all, if you live anywhere in the Northwest United States, days two and three of this trip, and part of day 4, will be well worth your time, in any order.

Day #1  

Ride to Clarkston in Washington, or Lewiston in Idaho, by a route of your choice. There are several motels in each of varying levels of expense and poshness. We chose the Motel 6 in Clarkston for this trip because, due to virus concerns, it has lots of nearby restaurants and a grocery store where we could obtain food.

Day #2       Clarkston to Elk City to Clarkston 

  1. Find US 12 going toward Lolo Pass.  If you have never ridden Lolo Pass it is sort of a “must ride” for motorcycles, so do that.  We have done it several times and have come up with something better.
  2. Turn right at Kooksia  (fuel?)

3. SLIGHT LEFT onto ID-14.                                

4. End at Elk City, ID  (fuel)                                  64.85 miles

5. Return on ID-14.                                                 41.0 miles

6. Slight LEFT on MT IDAHO GRADE ROAD     9.6 miles  

7. LEFT at STOP on Main Street

8. Grangeville, ID  (food and fuel)

9. RIGHT onto US-95 N.                                        43 miles or so

10. LEFT at “Winchester” sign                 

11.  Continue to WINCHESTER GRADE 

       (Careful – steep, hairpin corners, rough pavement, and no

        guard rails – in other words – awesome!)

12. LEFT at STOP (T) on US 95

13. LEFT at US 12

14. Return to motel                                               

Day #3       Clarkston to Enterprise and return

  1. South from Clarkston on SR 129
  2. Right at Asotin
  3. Pause at Boggan’s Oasis
  4. Into Oregon on Oregon 3
  5. Left at Joseph (fuel)
  6. Left out to Imnaha and return
  7. Return to motel
  8. Optional run up Old Spiral Highway

Day #4                 Clarkston to home

  1. Up and down Old Spiral Highway if you did not do that yesterday.
  2. Return home by your route of choice.  If it works for you, Green Hollow Road north from Colfax is awesome.

Touring on the 2020 Triumph Rocket 3 GT – again.

As in my last report (below a ways), my motorcycle is a totally stock 2020 Triumph Rocket 3 GT purchased from Triumph of Seattle in May of this year.  I added the Triumph accessory saddlebags, and a Viking round bag across the passenger seat for longer trips.  I also have an ancient magnetic tank bag.

Now that I have over 3,000 miles on the Rocket 3 GT, it continues to perform flawlessly.  The only issue, not the bikes fault, is that two of the six bolts holding on the front fender were evidently never installed.  This was taken care of by the dealer.  Should this have happened?  Of course not.  However, motorcycles are designed, built, and maintained by humans, and occasionally stuff happens.  Fixing the problem with a smile and no excuses is all I require, especially as this was not a safety item and caused no harm.

One interesting tidbit of learning is that the instrument will would occasionally flash an orange message that reads “Key fob out of range.”  This is alarming until you know why, and it took some research for me to learn the why.  The little computer widgets deep in the bike’s brain evidently do a search for the key fob every 60 seconds or so.  This is to help you if you leave the fob on a chair or whatever, so if you get that message you can turn around and correct your error easily.  If you stop fifty miles away without the fob, you will qualify for the Olympics as a power lifter by the time you push the bike back.

I would occasionally see this message, and it was alarming, since the fob was in the pocket of my riding pants.  The cure (I think), at least so far, is to make sure the fob is in your pocket toward the outside of your thigh.  You can make your own jokes about what might be obstructing it if stored to the inside of the thigh.

I also found that when the fuel runs low, you will be given about 50 miles to find a gas station. The instrument panel display will change to display your current real time mpg and how many miles to empty, which is a reassuring feature. You certainly have ample warning. This was handy on this trip because, again because of the virus, we could not be sure if gas stations in small towns would be open.  If you change the display in any way this message goes away, so I learned to leave it alone.

I am still not all that comfortable with low speed maneuvers, due to the weight of the bike, my age, and the fact that for over 50 years almost all of the motorcycles I have ridden have not been cruisers and not had the foot controls so far forward.  The Rocket is just fine – the problem is me. As I get more used to it this concern is easing, but bumpy parking lots with potholes and off-camber surfaces are still a concern.

The Rocket 3 is never going to be the comfort cocoon of a Goldwing or other large luxo-tourer with a plush seat and large and adjustable windshield.  It is not meant to be. However, our route home this trip involved about 250 miles of freeway with a 70mph limit that is casually enforced.  With the cruise control set at about 82, I discovered I could lean forward from the waist and my upper body would essentially float on the airflow coming past the windshield, and it was very comfortable.

The handling in both sharp corners and freeway bends is remarkable, and the brakes do a great job.

It is easy to rave about this bike.  In some ways it is utterly ridiculous, and that becomes part of its charm. As long as you do not mind spending time with strangers whenever you are standing next to it, you will love it.

However, I do wonder how long that massive rear tire with last, and how much of a drain on my retirement investments will be required to replace it.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!

Copyright 2020                                        David Preston

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Elk River and Boggan’s Oasis Ride

July 10th-13th – 2020 – Return to Elk River and Boggan’s Oasis

I realize that most of my friends will not be able to go on this ride due to work, other obligations, or virus concerns. BUT! If you live in Washington, Idaho, or Oregon, you really should retain the Day 2 and Day 3 rides for future reference, because they are two of my favorite rides ever.

Day #1   7:15am brekkie 8:45am start

1.         I-405 to I-90 to Indian John Hill… pause

2.         Ellensburg – fuel                            110 miles

3.         East on I-90 to Vantage                30 miles

4.         Right after bridge and Left on 26

6.         Right at Washtucna (lunch at Sonny’s)          

7.         South on SR 261 and LEFT (still SR 261)

8.         LEFT on US 12 (East) to Lewiston

                        Cedar’s Inn (208) 743-9526

                        1716 Main Street, Lewiston, ID $138.24 (3 nights total!)

Day #2 Clarkston to Elk River to Clarkston  7am brekkie  8am depart

1.  NORTH on 5TH ST toward DIAGONAL ST/WA-129        0.1 mile

2.  SLIGHT RIGHT onto DIAGONAL ST/WA-129                    0.3 mile

3.  DIAGONAL ST/WA-129 becomes US-12 (into IDAHO)   0.4 mile

4.  RIGHT onto SNAKE RIVER AVE                                          0.1 mile

5.  RIGHT onto DIKE BYP.                                                           1.9 miles

6.  LEFT onto MAIN ST/US-12 E. US-12 E.                              72.3 miles

7.  Pause for fuel. 

8.  Continue to follow ID-13.                                                       15.1 miles

9.  SLIGHT LEFT onto ID-14.                                                       49.6 miles

10. End at Elk City, ID  (fuel)                                                       64.85 miles

11. Return on ID-14.                                                                      41.0 miles

12. Slight LEFT on MT IDAHO GRADE ROAD                        9.6 miles      

13. LEFT at STOP on Main Street

14. Grangeville, ID  Bishop’s Bistro  (food / fuel)                  51.41 miles

15. Through Grangeville to

16. RIGHT onto US-95 N.                                                             37.2 miles or so

17. LEFT at “Winchester” sign –  gas station also               (fuel)              

18. Continue on small road to WINCHESTER GRADE

19. LEFT at STOP (T) on US 95

20. LEFT at US 12

21. Return to Clarkston                                                                50 miles

Day #3 Clarkston to Enterprise and return

  1. 8am depart
  2. South from Clarkston on SR 129 through Anatone
  3. Pause at Boggan’s Oasis
  4. Into Oregon on Oregon 3
  5. U-turn at ENTERPRISE  (fuel)  
  6.  Return
  7. Optional run up Old Spiral Highway

Day #4           Home Depart 8am

  1. Reverse of Day #1
  2. West on 12 to RIGHT on 261 
  3. RIGHT on 261 to Washtucna (fuel)
  4. LEFT on 26
  5. LEFT at Vantage on I-90 (fuel)
  6. Ellensburg  (fuel? food?)
  7. Home

Copyright 2020 David Preston

For more fascinating stuff, please visit my web site at

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Touring the Rocket 3 GT with a Viking Bag

Setting Up the Rocket 3 GT for Touring

Actually, you can tour on any motorcycle you own. It comes down to what you have and what accommodations you are willing to make.  I took a ride from Minneapolis to Seattle and back on a 1965 Yamaha YDS-3 250cc two stroke motorcycle in 1968 – camping. I rode a Honda 450 Street Scrambler from Seattle to Florida in 1971.

Different times, different needs and wants, and different financial resources.  I’m just back from a four-day tour that covered 900 miles.  Not much in terms of mileage, but we’re after the quality of the miles, not the quantity.  This excursion covered a clockwise loop from Seattle over the Cascades on SR20 (referred to as the Swiss Alps of the Northwest), South to Yakima, West to Raymond, and then up and around the Olympic Peninsula.  Almost all of it two-lane winding roads through fantastic scenery. Most of the rides I do are four days in length and average 1100-1400 miles. This one was shorter, because that is how long the route was!

This was my first longer ride on the GT – the second one begins July 10th.  Here’s what I did to make the trip a wonderful experience.


Optional Triumph Rocket GT saddlebags. 

         These are terrific. I especially like the little slots the zipper pulls notch into to keep them from flapping.  The bags also have combination locks which I have not bothered to set up.  They also hold more than you would think from looking at them.

Magnetic tank bag owned for many years. 

Viking Bags Axwell Sissy Bar Bag. 

       Fabulous product.  What I like about this bag is the amazing versatility. You can mount it to a sissy bar, as the name implies, or also across the passenger seat, as I did. It comes with various straps and options for mounting.  The side portions expand. A clever idea is to pack it with stuff and then zip the sides back in for a narrower and neater appearance.  A large semi-circular opening in the top allows easy access. There’s also a rain cover I did not use.  I packed everything in plastic bags, and from the slight rain I did encounter the bag appears to be at least water resistant, as are the saddlebags.

There are two male-female plug connections that run under the bag in my application, through the opening in the backrest, and into the rear of the bag on each side. I added a strong bungie cord around the sides as an extra precaution that was not really necessary.

Viking sells all manner of luggage and other motorcycle products.  For more info, go to

Viking Bags:

Viking Cycle:

And tell them I sent you, as they say!  Sorry for the need to tilt your head. I am not savvy enough to rotate the pictures!

Overall:  You now have a magnificent steed on which to tour.  Do you have as much carrying capacity as a Honda Goldwing, BMW 1600 GT or other large tourer with saddlebags and perhaps a top box?  Not at all. How much room do you need?  Here’s what I packed:

4-day summer trip packing list -2020


Triumph pants            Boots / socks   

Gloves                          Underwear

Underarmor top          Neck scarf

T-shirt                           Rev’It jacket      


In saddlebags and Axwell bag:

Socks        2                 Jeans/belt         

Undies      3                 Sweatshirt

Swimsuit                     Tee-shirts   3              

Sunblock                     Toiletries kit

Vans shoes                 Tire repair kit    

Phone charger            Spare gloves   2

First aid kit                  Compressor/tools                                  

Tobacco kit                  Rain pants                  

In Tank Bag:

Water                            Registration, etc.       

Sunglasses                 Maps/ route sheets

Phone                          Visor cleaner

Hearing aids                Hat


Better yet, with the Axwell bag I was able to stash everything I would need in the evening and to prepare for the next day, and everything I would not need in the saddlebags.  This made motel arrival easy. Off with the tank bag and Axwell bag and I am done for the day,

This would also work well for a longer trips I hope to get to. I have a mostly blind cat my neighbor cares for, and I do not want to be gone for weeks at a time while the cat is still with me. Awwww.  Anyway, for longer trips I would ride for four days and then take a day of rest to recharge and wash clothes.

Trip Highlights:

The North Cascades Hiway is a treat, especially on a nice day and with virus-reduced traffic.  Swooping along at 70mph or so, a park ranger went by in the other direction. His brake lights came on and he slowed to turn around.  Uh oh.  This surprised me, because if I was speeding it was not by much. As he turned around along came my friend – catching up to me.  The ranger chose the fatter fish and my friend got a ticket for 81mph in a 60 zone!  I paid for all of the motel room we shared in Wenatchee as partial recompense.

The second day we ran into some wet roads, but no actual rain, until ten minutes after we had checked into the motel in Raymond. Good timing!  The third morning featured roads that were drying, and I looked like a road racer with “wet tires” on a drying track as I swooped back and forth to find dry patches – an effort to keep the bike a little cleaner.  That worked well.

One thing to plan for on a tour on a Rocket 3, or anywhere for that manner, is that when you are stopped anyone walking by who knows anything about motorcycles, and some who don’t, will want to talk to you about the Rocket 3 GT, or the Axwell bag, etc. Since I used to do this for a living, I find this really enjoyable, and end up promoting Triumph, Viking bags, etc.

Most curious are long-time Harley riders.  Most of them, in my experience, are “real” riders who’ve been riding for decades. They are all curious about the Triumph Rocket 3, and I can feel the gears in their head grinding away as I reel off the specs and they begin to realize that the Triumph weighs 100 pounds less, has twice the horsepower, twice the torque, better brakes, better handling, better reliability, better fuel mileage, AND costs thousands less!  Then, if prompted further, I reel off the list of tech toys such as tire pressure monitors, heated grips, traction control, ABS brakes, variable instrument displays, ride modes, and on and on, and now their minds are really thinking.

I was also surprised that everyone who spoke to me LOVED the looks of the bike.  Everyone.  I thought the looks, described by one owner as a cross between the USS Missouri and Flash Gordon’s space ship, would be rejected by some. Evidently not.

If you are a shy person you’ll need to adjust!

And how did the Rocket 3 do?  Brilliantly, as I expected, with some welcome surprises.  My previous bike was a 2016 Triumph Bonneville T 120 with a Triumph fly screen added. At the end of a long day I could feel the strain in my biceps.  Not so with the Rocket, which looks to have less of a windscreen.  You know how the wind blast from a big truck on a two-lane road will rock your bike and knock you in the chest?  Not on a Rocket 3.  Sidewinds a concern?  Not on a Rocket 3.  Are you worried by expanded metal bridge gratings?  Don’t be.

Downsides? Yes, it is awkward and the weight is an issue at very low speeds, but anyone considering a purchase must be aware of that.  I am still not comfortable with sloping and uneven pavement at low speeds, but I’ve only been riding it for a month.

MPG was 38-42, depending on what I was doing, but I did not pay much attention to that.

 Between the lessened wind pressure and the presence of the Viking Axwell bag, which functioned as a very nice lower back rest, this is the most comfortable bike to ride all day I’ve ever experienced.  Are there bikes that are more comfy?  I’m sure.  Are they as exciting and fun and rewarding to ride?  I doubt it.

I liked the low fuel warning system, which gives you at least 50 miles of warning, and counts down the remaining range for you.

At the end of the trip I was home, relaxed, and planning the route for the next one.  In ten days.                                    

Ride Safe, Ride Fast, and Ride Often!

Copyright 2020                     David PrestonFor more, please visit

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First multi-day ride of 2020!

And you are invited! If interested in joining in, e-mail me at

East to Tour the Olympic Peninsula – 4 days  (June 26-29)


7am Brekkie and then leave at 8:15am

I-405 to I-5 to Smokey Point Rest stop            30 miles

I-5 to 530 to Arlington to Rockport                   70 miles

SR 20 to Marblemount (fuel)                               15 miles

SR 20 to Winthrop, Twisp, (fuel, lunch)          100 miles

SR 20 to 153 to 97 to US 2 to motel                  80 miles        295 miles

                        Super 8 Wenatchee

                        1401 N. Miller Street, Wenatchee

                        509-293-7336           2 bed room costs               $80.63


South to 12                                                              90 miles

West on 12 to Morton                                           105 miles

West on 12 to Chehalis                                        35 miles

North on I-50 to 6 West                                         10 miles

6 to Raymond                                                         45 miles         280 miles

Golden Lion Motel  

524 3rd St. Raymond, WA

360-942-5571           2 bed room costs               $98


North on 101 to Hoquiam                                    25 miles

West on 109 and North to Moclips                    45 miles

East to 101                                                               40 miles

North on 101 to Port Angeles                             100 miles      210 miles

                        Super 8 Port Angeles

                        2104 East 1st Street,  Port Angeles 98362

360-504-0362           2 bed room costs               $120


South to Hurricane Ridge, return to 101         50 miles

East to Edmonds ferry and then home            120 miles                  170 miles

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An idea for an advanced degree

An Idea for a Master’s Thesis

Or maybe a doctorate – probably in Sociology.

It occurred to me several months ago (when wearing a mask for virus protection was still debatable), that my motorcycle friends seemed to all have adopted wearing a mask at all times out in public. Now the concept seems to be entering the skulls of even the most obtuse (but not all of them) and wearing a mask while shopping is pretty universal.  At least where I shop.  Your results may differ.

It got me to thinking about motorcycling and other activities like mountain climbing or scuba diving or sport parachuting, activities that most people consider to be dangerous. Are such people different?


First, a bit of a sidetrack.  I make a distinction between “danger” and “risk.”  To me danger is danger, whereas risk can be reduced by attention to training, experience, gear, and focus on detail and situation. Decades ago, a friend told me he thought that what I enjoyed about motorcycle riding was the taking of an activity with inherent risks and working to reduce the risk as much as practicable.  That was not the totality of my fascination with all things motorcycle, but I could not disagree with his statement.

For my proposed thesis I would use a control group of people who do not partake in hobbies with risk.  I would limit the test group to men and women who have been involved in the activity for at least ten years and always go out for the day prepared.  In the motorcycle world this is usually referred to as “ATGATT,” an acronym that stands for All the Gear All the Time.

The survey used would go back in time to March of 2020, and ask respondents when, by approximate date, they began to use a mask. How often they use it, where they use it, etc.

My thesis is that people in my test group long ago became acquainted with the concepts of risk and risk reduction.  To a motorcyclist who always wears a quality helmet, gloves, sturdy footwear and motorcycle jacket, and perhaps motorcycle riding pants (I am willing to be a bit lax on the last one – jeans are so popular – but some sort of pants are a must!), the idea of wearing a mask seems like a simple and practical add-on.  It is not more of an imposition that wearing the gear they are always wearing anyway. If you ever look down at the asphalt whirring underneath you at 60mph the need for quality gear should be obvious. 

People who choose activities that involve risk either accept the dictates of preparation and care, or they do not stay with the activity for long.  One way or another.

It would be interesting to see the reasoning (loose use of that word) of people who are adamant that wearing a mask somehow diminishes their freedom or puts them under the control of the state of some other rationale.

I think some of those people are the ones who lecture me on how dangerous riding a motorcycle is.

I don’t need a masters or doctoral degree, and I am too lazy to do the research, but I would love to see the results of the research.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!

Copyright 2020                     David Preston

For more, please visit

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The 2020 Triumph Rocket 3 GT – in the rain

Riding the 2020 Triumph Rocket 3 GT in the rain

I live outside of Seattle, Washington, USA. There’s a saying among motorcyclists around here that if you don’t like riding in the rain, you don’t ride.  This is a bit of an exaggeration, one of many locals use in an attempt to deter more people from moving here, but it does rain for sure.

Last week I enjoyed a 200-mile ride on back roads North to Bellingham on my 2020 Triumph Rocket 3 GT, which had 800 miles on it when I left my home.  There was a light rain falling, really more of a mist, that I thought would clear up. 

Wrong!  The rain picked up and continued off and on for most of the day.  I learned that my new Arai helmet did well in the rain, and my TCX boots are waterproof.  That’s the good news.  As an experienced rider in this area, or course I had my rain gloves with me… in the saddlebags.  My Rev’It jacket had not been re-waterproofed lately, and quickly gave up the ghost, as did my Triumph “waterproof” armored jeans.  In fairness, the jeans are at least 15 years old and have been ridden for probably 30,000 miles in all weathers.  I mention that because, even soaked on a 60-degree day, the heated handgrips on the GT kept me pretty comfortable – on the low setting!

As for the bike itself, I had concerns about how the 240mm rear tire, which looks like it could be used as a roller for asphalt paving projects, would do in the wet.  Same for the front tire. I don’t recall how wide it is, but it looks like it was stolen from a Mack truck.

As it turns out – no worries.  I could not tell that the bike even noticed the sheets of water running across the road, or the soaked pine needles, or piles of sodden leaves, or strands of mud stretching across the road from someone in a car using all the road, and a bit more.  The GT simply got on with the job of transporting me at whatever pace I wished.  To be sure, I was not trying that hard.

There is a downside.  That fat rear tire does throw an amazing amount of muck all over the back of the bike, your jacket, and even your helmet.

The upside is that because the Rocket 3 GT uses a lot of stainless parts and has a drive shaft, all of the grunge pretty much rinses off in less than five minutes.  My previous bike was a 2016 Bonneville T120, and with chain drive and a lot of chrome, a ride like this would have entailed a lot of cleaning time.

So, if you have a new Rocket 3, either the GT or the R model, and that rear tire or the overall heft gives you pause when contemplating an adventure in the rain – relax, go forth, and enjoy!

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!

Copyright 2020                     David Preston

For more, please visit

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East to go West Tour – June 26th – 29th

East to Tour the Olympic Peninsula – 4 days  (June 26-29)


7am Brekkie and then leave at 8:15am

I-405 to I-5 to Smokey Point Rest stop            30 miles

I-5 to 530 to Arlington to Rockport                   70 miles

SR 20 to Marblemount (fuel)                               15 miles

SR 20 to Winthrop, Twisp, (fuel, lunch)          100 miles

SR 20 to 153 to 97 to US 2 to motel                  80 miles        295 miles

                        Super 8 Wenatchee

                        1401 N. Miller Street, Wenatchee

                        509-293-7336           2 bed room costs               $80.63


South to 12                                                              90 miles

West on 12 to Morton                                           105 miles

West on 12 to Chehalis                                        35 miles

North on I-50 to 6 West                                         10 miles

6 to Raymond                                                         45 miles         280 miles

Golden Lion Motel  

524 3rd St. Raymond, WA

360-942-5571           2 bed room costs               $98


North on 101 to Hoquiam                                    25 miles

West on 109 and North to Moclips                    45 miles

East to 101                                                               40 miles

North on 101 to Port Angeles                             100 miles      210 miles

                        Super 8 Port Angeles

                        2104 East 1st Street,  Port Angeles 98362

360-504-0362           2 bed room costs               $120


South to Hurricane Ridge, return to 101         50 miles

East to Edmonds ferry and then home            120 miles                  170 miles

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Life As A Product Tester

Life As A Product Tester

Due to my 53 years of experience riding motorcycles, including the 14 years in the motorcycle business where the job I invented encouraged me to ride every different motorcycle I could (and I took full advantage of that), and the years I have been posting essays on this web site, I have been invited to be a product tester/evaluator for  Viking Bags.

They will be shipping me one product at a time, and I will be using it on my new 2020 Triumph Rocket 3 GT.  Check out the links to their products, and let me know of things you would like me to evaluate!

Viking Bags:

Viking Cycle:

I think this could be really fun, exciting, and informative – for all of us!

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!

David Preston

For more, please visit

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How to Save Harley-Davidson

How to Save Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson is important to all motorcyclists.  Even if you’ve never owned one, or ridden one, or wanted to do either, H-D is still important.  As the owner of a competing dealership shared with me, the end of Harley as a company would be a disaster for all brands and all motorcycle enthusiasts.

And yet, following a decades long compilation of unforced errors and organizational deafness, that may occur.  What can be done?  Here is an idea.

I’ve never owned a Harley, but in the ten years I worked for a Harley dealer in customer relations I rode about 80 of them – several of every model.  I particularly liked the Road King, and rode one every time I had an excuse.

The roots of the current debacle go back well over 35 years.  Following the purchase of the company by its own management from AMF in 1983, Harley blossomed into a must-have lifestyle accessory for a booming class of the newly monied. Soon, Harleys were selling for over MSRP.  Eager customers put down a healthy deposit and were called when a model came in. If they did not like the color, on to the next in line.  Most customers added expensive trinkets to their new bike before delivery, and it was common for customers to brag about how much they had paid. It was a different world.

From the late 1980’s until past 2000 Harley profits were enormous. Cracks began to appear in the early years of this century.  The bikes received small improvements each year, but most of the changes were what was termed “BNG,” which stood for Bold New Graphics.

An aside that is completely off the topic, but that I find fascinating. Do you know the difference between an acronym and an initialism?  An initialism is a series of letters that pronounced as a word, with each letter pronounced separately.  Examples would be FBI, STP, CIA, and BNG.  An acronym is a series of letters pronounced as a word where each letter stands for a complete word. Examples would include NASCAR, NASA, WHO, etc.  Ignore for a second that NASCAR stands for North American Stock Car Auto Racing, and that NASCAR has not raced anything remotely close to stock for 50 years.

Harleys were all, in those days, heavier and slower than most of the competition. They did not handle or brake as well, and were not as reliable, and yet were more to far more expensive than rivals.

The handwriting was on the wall, and Harley management chose to not look up. They were warned of what was coming by scores of people, from amateurs like the high school marketing students I worked with in 2003 who had a video conference with the Harley marketing people, to semi-professionals and enthusiasts like me, to all sorts of media and motorcycle experts of long standing. Harley chose to ignore all of those not ensconced in their snug bunker.

They did make some grudging attempts to modernize, but did not really commit to any of them.  The purchased the talent and company of Eric Buell, and then never gave him the resources to develop the “real” engine his design, chassis, and suspension acumen deserved. He was forced to carry on with mostly Harley Sportster engines, which were designed literally a half a century before.  After 20 years, Harley folded the Buell tent they had never fully erected, without every making a profit.

The introduced the V-Rod, a modern power cruiser. The engine, reportedly designed with assistance from Porsche, was fabulous, albeit heavy.  However, most customers were not informed it was not a traditional Harley engine and tootled around at under 3,000 rpm, never unleashing the performance and enjoyment to be had above 5,000rpm. I thought it to be on the verge of awesome, although dragging my left heel in the first corner was a first, and a warning. They made a sport bike, which had tremendous potential, and then failed to tell anyone about it and stopped after one year.

They made a sort of adventure bike under the auspices of Buell, and the Ulysses was pretty impressive in the 1200 miles I put on one, particularly on rough and rutted pavement.

In recent years, things have gotten worse. Much worse. They trotted out at least two concept “adventure bikes,” and have produced neither.  They purchased a leading company in the burgeoning field of electric bikes, and sold it within a year.  Most recently they introduced the “Live Wire,” their own completely electric model. A friend who is an early adopter of all technologies was ready to buy, expecting a $20,000 price and 300 miles of range.  Harley reversed those numbers, and he was out, as were, evidently, almost everyone else.

With their stock price crashing due to political back-stabbing by the Trump administration, their traditional customer base “aging out,” (politically correct way to say ‘becoming dead’), and a line of bikes that are beautiful but woefully out of date,  things are rapidly turning from bad to much worse.

What to do?  Take a lesson from the car industry, and do some corporate raiding!   Have you noticed that the reliable and economical cars and trucks flooding our shores from Korea have suddenly begun to be much better looking?  That is because Hyundai saw a weakness and solved it – by throwing a lot of money at exalted designers from Europe and putting them in charge of handling and, most importantly, styling.  When Ford purchased Jaguar a couple of decades or more ago, they also got access to Ian Callum, famed designer of many Aston Martins and Jaguars.  That is why the nose of my 2016 Ford Focus, and many other Ford models, looks like it took a detour through a factory in England.

I received in the mail the other day a full color many pages brochure from Indian, touting seven different Indian motorcycle models.  As I looked through it, I wanted to ride all of them!   The new BMW 1200 roadster, with the nose now taking styling cues from the S1000RR sport bike, is lust provoking. 

The suite of high-tech fripperies on both the BMWs and my Triumph Rocket 3 were designed by men and women.   Cannibalizing the design talent from a competitor is a long-established path to success in many industries.  It is time for Harley to abandon the old guard who refuse to change or listen, and go get some fresh talent.

If you were a talented designer, would you want to take on the challenge of making Harley relevant again?  It would be the opportunity of a career. IF you were given the authority to make real change.

Here’s hoping, that in their desperation they reach out and snag a bright designer or two and save the motor company. For all of us.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!

Copyright 2020                     David Preston

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Motorcycle Safety Is in Your Head

Motorcycle Safety Is in Your Head

Not all of it, of course. Or even most of it. Still, here are three ideas you might consider adding to your riding equipment.  It won’t cost you anything to read about them, or to implement them, because they are all inside your brain.

Concept One:    To be used every time you don your helmet.  For this to work, or course, you must be a motorcyclist who wears a helmet.  If you don’t, you’re probably not reading this anyway.

The phrase that pays is “when the helmet drops, the bullshit stops.” I began using this about thirty years ago, and I must have repeated it often to many people, because one kind soul (not me) added it to the Wikipedia section on motorcycle safety.  So, it must be important!

What it means is that when you ride your motorcycle, you ride your motorcycle. Period.  You do not assign parts of your brain the task of worrying about the bills, or what to say when you finally decide to tell off that person who so surely needs a talking to, what chores await you, when you will find the time to mow the lawn or paint the house, etc.  You just focus on – riding the motorcycle.

For me this also means not listening to music, or wiring my helmet to accept e-mails or calls. I think the actual idea may have been spurred by my (now) ex-wife. When the first two-way helmet communicator devices came out, I asked if she wanted me to get a set.  She replied in the negative, reasoning that she did not want me to be concentrating on anything but riding. Made sense.

Some of you will insist on listening to music anyway.  I used to have a colleague who’d been a major league baseball player.  He liked to listen to music in his helmet when riding.  One day I asked him if he ever wore ear buds when going up to bat against a pro baseball pitcher. He did not, of course.  So, if you need all of your faculties working well to hit a baseball, are your needs less when riding a motorcycle?  I am a reasonably good athlete, but I am not willing to give away any sensory input that could help.

A corollary to this concept is used if I find myself, no matter my best intentions, wandering off into thoughts of other things.  I try to yank myself back to attention by stating out loud “Just ride the motorcycle,” sometimes with an inappropriate word added for spice.

Concept Two:  Dealing with deer.  Deer are now a serious threat to motorcycles and cars in many parts of the world. Increasing human density, wildlife legislation, and development have reduced the number of natural predators for deer, and one of things that now keeps their population in check is – cars, trucks, and motorcycles. It used to be that you were most likely to see deer in the early morning daylight hours or in the evening.  Not now. The other day three of them trotted across the road in front of me… at noon.

To help with this, any time you are in an area where there might be deer present, say the word “deer!” inside your helmet. This will cause you to focus, even for just a second, at the road ahead on either side. On several occasions this little tidbit has helped spot a deer or two sooner than otherwise.  There is no guarantee with this, for sure, as deer are extremely unpredictable.

Concept Three:  Where is the threat? A number of years ago I was assisting in the development of an on-street rider safety course. One rider reaction was discovered by viewing a slide on a screen showing the road ahead from the rider’s perspective on a motorcycle. Pretty much with every slide displayed, experienced riders and safety instructors could point out six to eight things that might prove to be a problem, while new riders often could not see any.

For example, imagine that the slide shows a sunny day and an asphalt road curving up ahead to the left.  What threats could there be?  If you look carefully, there is a dirt road coming in from the right. There could be gravel or sand from that road on your highway, where you are turning.  There is a car waiting there that might pull out in front of you because the driver “didn’t see you.”  There is a car coming toward you just visible around the corner, and it looks to be close to the centerline.  Up ahead around the curve it looks like the trees end, which probably means an intersection, which might mean there is a stop sign on the far side of the curve you are about to enjoy.  That sort of thing.

I just thought of this third concept month ago, and it is rapidly becoming my favorite.  As I scan the road ahead, I look for anything that looks a little off, like the clues in the paragraph above, or a car that looks to be in bad repair or is being badly driven, etc.

When I say anything that looks “off,” I say the word “threat” out loud in my helmet.   Because the word is not specific, this provided a subtle push for me to study the potential threat to see if it is actually a threat and if so, make a plan to avoid the threat and execute the plan.

Decades ago, there was an acronym mentioned often in safe riding materials that was SIPDE.  It stood for See, Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute.  I believe it has now been replaced by other acronyms used for the same purpose by various safety classes.  The verbal word in your helmet is merely a simple, and effective, call to action,

I hope these concepts help a few people. They work for me.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!

Copyright 2020           David Preston

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Posted in Education, Motorcycles | 1 Comment