Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Truth About Motorcycle Accident Lawyers

Seems you can't thumb through a motorcycle rag these days without being subjected to the carefully stylized image of a leather clad attorney touting his or her nearly superhuman skills when it comes to defending "your rights". The more succinct of the ads get right to the bottom-line, "We freedom loving riders at Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe (not a real firm, or is it!?) will get you more money for your accident now!" Can't get more direct than the promise of free dough! And in the end, isn't that what we want? Isn't it? Even if we need the slithery skills of a sewer dwelling lawyer, someone has to's our right dammit!

Let's face it, all real Americans hate lawyers (their own attorney excluded of course), there are few professions viewed with such disdain........with the exception of perhaps investment bankers, and rightfully so. But why you ask? Simple, because almost without fail they ultimately destroy that which they proclaim to save. It's inevitable, like a democrat's opposition to tort reform, funny how that works.

If I get hit and crash, or even if I go down through no fault of anyone else, shouldn't I be entitled to recover some money? Maybe so, after all, we're "entitled" to just about everything else, so why not? But have you ever thought about where that huge settlement comes from? Wrong. This is one instance where the government isn't writing the check. Let's think it through Sparky.

The money comes from a number of sources, namely the motorcycle industry itself. But isn't that OK, I mean they have deep pockets right? Wrong again. The vast majority of both retailers and manufacturers in motorcycling are small businesses with hardly any pockets to speak of, let alone deep ones. In a typical claim, the lawyers go after (sue) every business, product, and person that ever had a transactional relationship with the victim (and in many cases even those that never had any dealings with the plaintiff at all).

No matter the nature of the accident, or even who's at fault, everyone gets sued, and I mean everyone. Aside from the all too obvious ethical issues this "strategy" conjures up; from a very practical perspective, what difference does it make if I sold you the pair of boots you were wearing on the day, after downing copious quantities of liquid courage, you attempted your very best Jason Britton imitation and slammed head first (uh-oh, forgot to wear a helmet....) into your neighbors parked minivan? The obvious answer, to anyone other than an attorney, is absolutely none. But I'll be named in the suit anyway, because that's the way its done.

What's even worse is, I'll probably pay, or at least my insurance company will, if for no other reason than to make the whole damn nuisance go away. And when you start adding up all those individuals and companys paying to make it "go away", that whole "sue 'em all, let a judge sort 'em out" strategy really begins to make a lot of sense....for the lawyers anyway.

The fact is, lawyers and the legal system they've created (remember, there's a good chance your favorite legislator is a damn lawyer too) drive good businesses under, and make every aspect of motorcycling more expensive. Think riding gear costs too much? Can't find a good local dealer that stocks actually stocks product? Wish there were cheaper motorcycles to buy? Wonder why your favorite riding area just closed down? Why is your insurance so expensive? Airbags on a motorcycle!? Thank your friendly neighborhood lawyer.

But you're a good American, you're not one of "them", what can you do end this cycle of economic and ethical madness? It's easy, first off , don't support the "motorcycle accident attorneys". If you're in the motorcycle industry, don't let them buy ads in your publications or sponsor your events. Whatever you do, don't let them attend your events (in my past life as the marketing head of the largest accessories retailer in motorcycling, we never took a dime from any law firm, although under the new regime I would wager that policy is sadly in danger), or support them in any fashion.  I know times are tough, but stand firm, sell ads to drug dealers, at least they're up front about their product.

As a rider, take some responsibility for your actions, every accident isn't a lottery ticket waiting to be cashed in. If you screw up, accept the consequences, and move on. Or better yet, pass up the opportunity to collect when you know you have no legitimate claim to do so, no matter what that ambulance chaser is telling you. In short, do the right thing, not the personally profitable one.

Lastly, push for common sense tort reform. The only way we can end this idiocy for good is too stop giving these bums and their clients license to game the system for their own profit. As long as folks can get something for nothing (no recourse contingency fees have to go), accident attorney's will be around to facilitate the process. The sad fact is, if we do nothing, greed enabling lawyers will eventually kill motorcycling for all of us.

Tips For Two-Up Touring

I have to confess right from the outset that most of my road riding motorcycle adventures have been of the "solo" variety; at least solo from the standpoint of me being alone in the saddle. Don't know exactly why; just always felt right. The reality is, I probably just didn't want to be responsible for another person. And trust me, when it comes to "responsibility", riding a motorcycle is on a whole different level. Everyone and their second cousin has a damn "coma story" involving a motorcycling mishap..... no way I was going to be part of that drama. Not me. I knew the risks......and was willing to take them, but to ask another to do the same?? Don't think so. Or maybe I just didn't want to buy lunch.....whatever.

The fact is, it's truly liberating never having to worry if the person "in the back" noticed that clunky shift, or how you damn near stuffed the back of that Tahoe while staring at some "Real Housewives" wannabe exiting the Safeway parking lot, or if your penchant for consuming cheeseburgers at nearly every "gas stop" was bordering on the excessive. No one's damn business! My bike never ratted me out. Adding a third to the party was just awkward, in a "this is a threesome that's never making the Forum letters column", kind of way. Just wasn't natural. This isn't to say I don't like riding with other people, I do. Sort of. Maybe I have trust issues??? No matter, we have motorcycling wisdom to inflict.........

Are you experienced? That's not just a cool Jimi Hendrix line, it's a real "no BS" assessment you need to make about both yourself and your passenger. Here's the deal, your motorcycle is gonna respond and handle in potentially unnerving ways when you've got your baby on board. At the very least, braking distances will be longer, acceleration will be slower, and low speed maneuvers that much more tricky.......all because of the extra weight (a point best not mentioned to your significant other, no matter how well intentioned). If you're not ready for a some two-up fun, say so.

While we're at it, ask your potential adventure buddy if they've actually been on a motorcycle before. Sounds like an obvious thing to do, but trust me, most bikers don't bother to enquire. If the closest thing to motorcycle riding little Betty has experienced is season two of Sons of Anarchy, you probably don't want to discover this little tidbit as you tear into a decreasing radius corner on Highway 88. Can't you just see it? You leaning in as God intended, while your terror stricken passenger using all her eighth grade gymnastic skills, throws her body in the exact opposite direction you're leaning in a heroic effort to save you both from whatever idiocy possessed you in the first place..........oh yeah, now that's fun.

While you're telling her that it's OK for bikes to lean over, let her know that she's gonna be moving backward and forward on her perch as well, maybe even clunking noodles now and then. And this too is OK. When the machine brakes, she scoots forward, when you take off from a light, she'll be sliding rearward. How much is going to be determined by your right hand and her weight (as we know, that last factoid is better left unsaid). As for you, when in doubt, remember you can't go wrong with a "smooth application of the controls".

Don't forget to clue your potential ridemate into the fact that motorcycles get hot. Really hot. Show her the areas they should avoid touching at all times. You want the ride to be memorable, but not for the third degree burns she'll be sporting on her calf for the next fifty years. And let her know the best way to "enter" and "exit" the vehicle while avoiding the aforementioned hot zones, and only when you say you're ready....parking lot tip-overs can spoil a ride every bit as much a scorched limb.

Lastly, and this one's pretty important, make sure that your passengers safety stuff is at least every bit as good as yours. Just because she's not holding the bars doesn't mean she's not gonna slam the ground just as hard as you........crashing is an equal opportunity crap storm. Make sure she's got the right gear, no paper mache' helmets and flip-flops......this is where you really get to show you care, and avoid a nasty liability lawsuit in the process. Nothing says "I love you" like a Snell rating.

So get out there, share the ride, show those close to you what it is that we love to do.........and with any luck, after a few rides, they'll buy their own bike. Is that bad? Maybe it's a sharing thing..........

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Driven to Distraction.....How The Cult Of "Busy" Is Killing Us

Sadly the carnage caused everyday on our roads by distracted drivers is starting to lose its shock value, if for no other reason than it's just all too common........seems we can't go even a day without something in the news about a hapless mother of three being obliterated at a four way stop by some idiot checking his email, or a motorcyclist being literally punted off the highway while another clueless driver fumbles with their nav system.

As motorcyclists, we're particularly at risk from distracted drivers............for all the obvious reasons. After over 30 years on the road I can tell you that in the best of circumstances motorcycles are all but invisible to the average cage pilot........and that's when they're actually looking for us! With all the stimulus at their fingertips we're lucky if today's driver can manage to divert a sliver of his precious brainpower to actually driving the vehicle. They've simply got other things to do........they're busy.

In the good old, bad old days, when you eyeballed some yahoo weaving back and forth in his lane, you naturally assumed he was drunk, or high, or both. You kept a wary eye on him, and rode on. Not any more.........what with nav systems, i-pods, smart phones, video entertainment systems, 1,000 watt stereos, and the occasional partied out waste-case, your odds at winning the bone-crusher biker lotto have gone up exponentially.

Honestly, when's the last time you rode up to a light, looked over at the car next to you and the driver wasn't texting, emailing, checking the nav, fumbling with an i-pod or just chatting on the phone. You can't remember, can you? And do you know why that is? The cult of busy, that's why.

It all started in the late 90's when for some reason being "busy" (I'll leave it to cultural anthropologists to give a proper definition) became a sort of status symbol. The busier you were, the hipper, smarter and generally cooler you were. People went out of their way to tell each other just how busy they were, that alone could keep one fairly busy. Not busy? Loser. Hell, Starbucks flourished, not because of the mediocre, overpriced coffee, but because it has become a sort "Our Lady of the Perpetually Busy", where a generation of self-absorbed Crackberry addicts could gather to confess their allegiance to all things busy.

And the worst thing??? The cult of busy has become so pervasive, that it actually does feel somehow "wrong" just to sit at a light and not check your email.........or at least Tweet your nights movie plans. I mean drivings so easy, right? There's all that down time; at lights, on the freeway, at night when there's nothing to look at.....and we're all so very busy, it just makes sense to be "productive"

Alas, we bikers are not only victims, we're becoming perpetrators as well. Touring motorcycles with nav systems, bluetooth equipped helmets, and more are just a click or glance away......soon we will be mowing down luckless pedestrians with the same gleeful abandon as our cage driving brothers. Now there's progress for you.

Unfortunately that busy train has sailed.........we've all drank the Kool-Aide, we're all busy now. The simple act of driving a car, or riding a motorcycle (let alone doing it well) will never hold the allure it once did, it's old news, so yesterday. So be wary fellow riders, the busy are all around us......they might even be us.......let's just try not to be too busy to stay alive.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sarah's My Homegirl

I love "Sarah Palin's Alaska".............there I said it, get over it, move on. I read that its debut was seen by over five million viewers (some even had college educations analysts say, though none thankfully were ivy league), a record for cable, and it's expected to be a major boost to Alaskan tourism. Whatever. Stunning mountain ranges, pristine waterfalls, float planes, and wildlife......this show's got it all. Or so I've been told.............I haven't noticed. You see, Sarah's my homegirl.

 It started at the RNC in 2008 and it's been growing faster than the Obama fueled national love affair with Mrs. P. Watching that speech I couldn't help but be reminded of that other uber sex symbol of  all things "right"..........Ronald Reagan. The wit, the warmth, the humor, the was all right there. OK, maybe she wasn't quite as sexy as the Gipper; but her ability to propel the loonie left, especially their lapdogs in the shamestream media, into fits of apoplectic, spittle producing tantrums, sealed the deal for me. Or maybe it was the photo of my lovely Sarah cradling an AR-15 like she'd been there before..........ah, no matter. My heart was hers.

Oh, I know. She's stupid. After all, haven't the "best and the brightest" from Harvard to Wall Street, to PBS, been beating on that bongo from day one? The same "best and brightest" we might want to remember, responsible for the mortgage meltdown, the financial meltdown, the auto industry takeover, titanically idiotic levels of debit, and my favorite "health care" (whatever the hell that means). Let's ponder for a moment the "she's stupid", I'm ashamed to admit is not limited to the nitwits on the left, a few of my pals on the right that should know better have slammed my girl too. Proving yet again that elitism and sycophantic snobbery is an equal opportunity parlor game.

Stupid. OK. Let's see. Born into an average family, father's a teacher of all things. No wealth or privilege........sorry Kennedy's, no trust fund to be found anywhere. She's an average student, and an above average I'm told, no cheer leading cliche's here. Damn.

Sarah goes of to college, alright, a couple of colleges if you must know. Unfortunately none of these institutions were of the ivy variety......horrors! You know the rest, marriage, kids, mayor of a small Alaskan town, Governor of the state (I know, Alaska's not a "real" state, so being Governor hardly counts). I could be wrong here, but does this seem the  life trajectory of a moron? As a matter of fact, I would submit that had this resume been that of anyone BUT Sarah Palin it would have been hailed as the American success story of the century.

Doesn't Sarah's success as a mom, small business person, and politician stand as confirmation of the ideals of the woman's movement in particular, and civil rights in general? So why the hate? I'll tell you why (aside from her unforgivable sin of not claiming Pro Choice status), the simple fact is the left has no equivalent narrative.

They have no self-made woman, no true American success stories of their own.........think about it for a minute. Nancy Pelosi, married a powerful man. Dianne Feinstein, married a powerful man. Barbara Boxer, married a powerful man. Hillary Clinton...........well, you get the idea. Seems like behind every darling Dem is.........egad, a man! More to the point, a man with a bankroll. Not exactly a vision of female empowerment.

Is Sarah Palin smart? Was Ronald Reagan smart? What is smart? Unfortunately, that's a question best left to.............ah, smart people I suppose. But what I can say is that Sarah Palin is real, she's authentic and the American people get that. She has a vision that the average person can relate to, and she can articulate that vision with a clarity not seen since..........well, since Reagan. The more the left tries to demonize and trivialize her, the more powerful she becomes. Sarah Palin is "stupid" because liberals are scared spitless, and they have no counter for her force of character.

Sarah's my homegirl not because she'd be the hottest leader in the free world, or that she loves guns and the outdoors (can you see her on a Harley.......oh mama!), or that she could kick the living crap out of any of her left leaning, concave chested, girlie-men detractors. No, Sarah's my homegirl because she's regular folks............and it's regular folks that made this country great. And that ain't stupid........

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Voices From The Asylum...... a two wheel perspective on life

I'm stoked to report that this humble jumble of words known to the world as "Chrome Asylum"  has its first official "follower".......from relative obscurity, to a "must link" in only a week......thanks mom! We here at CA promise to remain grounded regardless..........

In celebration of our one week anniversary we'd thought we'd introduce what, depending on audience response (you listening mom?),will become a regular monthly "op ed" column if you like. Generally speaking, it will speak generally on any and all matter of issues, people, products, events, trends, regulations, rumors, half truths and downright lies.........just as long as it has some remote connection to motorcycles and the whacko's that ride them, and most importantly, it interests me....ah, the staff here at CA.

So just who the *&%$ am I to be so P Diddy presumptuous as to think my observations onto all things motoland deserve your thoughtful review? Good question. Damn. For the last twenty or so years my role as marketing, e-commerce, and product guy for the "largest and fastest growing apparel and accessories retailer" (yeah, "that" company) in the motorcycle industry required that I stay on top of where the market was going, and why. It was my job, after all, to determine what Johnny Speed wanted, or thought he wanted, get it, let him know we had it, and sell him the damn thing. It's been an education to say the least, customers and the market can be brutal.....but if you just listen, well, you get the gist.

So how are we gonna kickstart this lump anyway? I really don't have a clue.......thought about a "top ten" list, and might do it down the road......apologies to Letterman and the millions that have ripped him off, but for now, I thought we'd try something a little simpler. Here goes.....

We're gonna be OK. That's it, that's all I wanted to say. Really. We're gonna be OK because despite the Great Recession, unit sales lower than a Chilean mineshaft, "it's all over" fat lady laments from the nitwits on Wall Street, and a scared spitless are still cool. Always have been, always will be. Few objects are as iconic as a motorcycle; it's real, it's dangerous, it's sex on wheels in a way unmatched in American how cool is your I-phone now!? And better yet, folks still want them.

People didn't "fall out of love with motorcycling", the youth weren't seduced away by the siren song of a Wii or Play Station (as just about every analyst would have you believe), or a hundred other "virtual" stand-ins for an actual life. We didn't wake up one morning shivering in our boxers at the inherent stupidity of sharing the roads with, well, idiots, and swear off motorcycles right then and there. So what did happen?

We ran out of dough, simple as that. Want proof? A local dealer of a certain American brand of motorcycle told me that he never realized how many bikes were purchased using home equity lines of credit, he estimated at least 25%. No wonder sales are off,  house values are at record lows too.......kinda makes sense doesn't it? And if we still had a couple of dollars in the coffee can buried in the yard we sure as hell weren't digging it up to buy a new R-1. No sir, we're hanging on to that coin like grim death because rumor has it cardboard houses lack certain weatherproofing characteristics. We simply had new and more pressing food, and bullets. Motorcycles would have to wait their turn. And that's where we are now.........waiting.

But they will be back, and back big. Yes, but back to the numbers of 2006/2007? Eventually, I have no doubt. Motorcycles have not lost their inherent desirability. If anything, because they offer an increasingly rare and unique experience....that being a visceral dose reality, not sanitized for your protection; I'd bet that as an activity (sounds so third grade recess) motorcycling will be in even greater demand in the future.

The more disconnected and unreal our world becomes the more pursuits like motorcycling make us feel grounded, part of something genuine.The best days of motorcycling done and gone? Not a chance's just getting good!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Loud Pipes Complicate Lives......and piss off the neighbors

If you happen to reside in the Peoples Republic of Kalifornia you're no doubt already painfully aware that on September 28 our lame duck governor (finally, truth in labeling), A. Schwarzenegger signed into law Senate Bill 435 which when it goes in effect January 1, 2013 will make it a crime, that's right my fellow scofflaws, a flippin' crime, " operate any motorcycle registered in the state that was built on or after Jan. 1, 2013 that doesn't have a Federal Environmental Protection Agency exhaust system sound emissions label." (American Motorcyclist, Dec. 2010).

Great, we've got houses that aren't worth as much as the cars parked in the driveway, unemployment levels higher than the backers of Prop 19, and a state government as effective as a paper condom, but the golden state's gonna make sure your i-pod induced buzz won't be disturbed by some obnoxious biker. Really..........

Yet, as forward leaning libertarian, the idea of another mindless Big Brother edict really frosts my Lily's, but we saw this one coming right..........right!? You do remember that little tussle our off-roading brothers went through in the late 80's and early 90's, those Sierra Club Nazi's were gunning (yeah, I said gunning) for anyone treading the backwoods on anything but a Vibram soled boot. And so was hatched, "less sound equals more ground", or some such slogan. And for the most part, they were right.........but here's the deal, off-road ain't the street, and on the street, sound can be the difference between life and death. Could be the reason just about every vehicle on the road comes with a handy device called a horn. Think about it. But I wander.

The fact is, there is something to that old "loud pipes save lives" cliche', as is the case with most cliche's and everything your mother ever told you. Anyone that has ever split lanes can tell you that a quick blip of the throttle can jolt that cage jockey off her phone and back into her lane quicker than you can say "Real Housewives". No doubt about it. Being heard is often a key factor in being seen, a first step in a process if you will. A process that might just keep your hind-parts out of the local OR, and that's always a good thing.

Need more proof? Wouldn't you agree that there's probably no more experienced and skilled warriors on the road than motor cops? Then how is it that a majority of local Five-O's retrofit their Harley's with aftermarket (read illegal) mufflers? Ask the officer that rides one, and they'll enlighten you, " drivers can hear me, duh!?" The fact is, lame "Doppler effect" arguments aside, louder pipes are indeed heard by drivers, at least those not blasting their ear buds at 110db's, while a silent exhaust note, on the other hand, can be deadly.

But what about those idiots that blast through Sleepy Hollow at three in the morning rapping their straight pipes like, well, idiots. Good point, and I make no excuses, it's stupid, and one of the chief reasons we're now staring down the barrel of Senate Bill 435. We weren't able to keep it together, like reasonably sober adults should. Now dad (Arnie and his mindless minions in Sacramento) has to tell us kids (riders, I mean suspects) to keep the damn racket down or we're all grounded. Should have never cranked BTO to the max on the old Pioneer..............and definitely should have been a little more judicious with the right hand. And for the record, straight pipes just don't sound good, at any volume. Sorry bro's......

But that train has sailed, and we're most likely stuck with another idiotic law that's gonna make just about everyone in the cruiser community a criminal, which come to think of it isn't such a bad thing for all those lamewad wannabe patch know who you are, with your Sons of Anarchy least now you'll have some street cred, sort of.

The obvious solution, at least to your humble scribe, is that motorcycle sound standards should be re-evaluated with an eye to a greater level of allowable db's. The current EPA standards are simply far too silent, and I don't know what the standard ought to be, that'll take some work on both sides. But the fact is we need to be heard so we can stay alive (sorry AMA but it's true). On the flip side, John Q commuter shouldn't suffer brain damage if he's stuck sitting next to one of us at a light. All I ask is little more sound, so we can maintain our ground....and not piss off the neighbors. Should be easy, right!?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sucker Punch Sally's Rocks It For Real

As we all know, there hasn't been a whole lot to cheer about in the motorbike biz over the last few years. Really good company's have disappeared taking countless jobs and dreams with them, and those that have managed to hang on have had to cut to the marrow just to stay solvent.......but we're all survivors, and there's no doubt that better days lie ahead.

One company that's managed to not only hang on,  but thrive is Sucker Punch Sallys. I gotta tell you, I really dig this company. They are the real deal. I had a chance to meet the crew in Sturgis a few years back, and they are all genuinely good people. They just flat love bikes and it shows.

But what really sets them apart are their motorcycles............the coolest, stripped down, old school, tough as nails bobbers and choppers you've ever seen. It's rock-a-billy on wheels, a bar fight waiting to happen........if you're looking for an OCC wannabe, look elsewhere, these are machines made to be and hard. The vibe is one of a kind in a world of shameless clones. And the best part? These rolling testaments to greased back hair and switchblades are totally's that for blue collar cred!?

Some night when you're channeling your inner bad-ass, key over to and marvel at the utter cool dripping off your screen.....rolling chassis, or complete machines, it's all there. But trust me on this, you best be strong're gonna want one, or two. I know my biker bucket list won't be complete until there's a Sucker Punch Sally bobber in the garage.........way to go guys!

Victory Motorcycles - Building a "There" There

If you're a current rider, and more to the point, a cruiser rider of the usual demographic, you've most likely heard of Victory Motorcycles........they're that "other" American made bike (apologies up front to Indian, but honestly, can you blame me?). From all accounts in the press, and your humble correspondent's personal experience riding the product, they build a very fine machine. As a matter of fact, "on paper" their motorcycles best the bikes from Milwaukee in almost every category; all the while delivering a styling package that is distinctive and for the most part unique, bordering on cool.

So what's the problem? Simple, there's no "there" there. What is a Victory? What does a Victory represent? Who is a Victory rider......what is unique about him or her? I'm not sure we know, and worse yet for Victory, I'm not sure they know either. It's almost as if the line of thinking in some long since forgotten marketing strategy meeting went something like this; 1) Built in the US .2) It's not a Harley. 3) It's better than a Harley. 4) Buy it. Let's break for lunch.

That's just not gonna cut it, not in the motorcycle business in general, and the cruiser segment in particular. These brands are sold mostly on emotion, not specifications (whether we want to admit it or not). Is a Harley necessarily a "better" machine, probably not. But it's certainly a better brand......and not just because it's had about a 95 year head start.

Think for just a moment of what Harley Davidson represents. It's pure Americana, iconic and cool, but why? Well, mostly because of all those positive associations with the brand over time; its history, the imagery of the product in the context of historical events like World War II, movie stars and athletes, outlaw bikers and industrial titans. It's the sheer volume of that emotional input that emphatically stamped the Harley brand into our collective subconscious. From early on the Motor Company knew that the brand was far more than the machines, and that it was the brand itself that was the prime driver when it came to selling the motorcycles, not the other way around. If a brand does not engage us on an emotional level it will not succeed in the long's a simple as that.

So what does this mean for Victory Motorcycles, are they doomed? Of course not, as a matter of fact, one could argue that there's a particularly bright potential future in store for the brand if the leadership embraces the fact that it's simply not enough to build a better mouse trap and wait for the world to beat a path to the showroom (sorry, I normally try to avoid cliche's like the plague). They have to develop and nurture the brand. Find out what Victory is and nurture to customers, better yet talk to folks that aren't, non-riders as well, you don't have to ride to know what's cool. And make no mistake......being "cool" is an imperative, not being "better". Cool will always be better.

Is there unique ground for Victory to plant the flag and say, "this is who and what we are"? Can they convey that identity in a consistent and impactful way? To both these questions, I'd say absolutely! After all, the good people at Victory have a solid platform upon which to build. The bikes are good, they are distinctive, and yes, they're built here......that's not too bad a starting point. And you've got that "spec sheet"......put that extra displacement and handling to use. The machines are hot rods.....and Americans, especially American males "get" hot's in our DNA. And it appears to be in Victory's as well.........and that's where they could make their stand. An American built muscle machine; fast, beautiful, iconic in its own right..........and best yet, cool.

Once the "hot rod" strategy is embraced, every ounce of communication effort; whether conventional advertising, promotions, PR, trade shows, product placement, rally's, etc. must relentlessly reinforce that message. Victory is a hot rod. "American. Performance."

Will they do it? Will Victory become the brand that their motorcycles so desperately need them to be? Maybe. The leadership might argue that they are already there. I would hope not. It's tough to say, change is never easy. I'll leave you with this observation, which I think is pretty telling. Search the "careers" section of the Motor Company's website and the number of postings in marketing generally exceeds all the rest. On Victory's site the most numerous postings are for engineers.........Guess we'll just have to see how it plays out.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Water Boarding Harley Style

Come on now, you know it's bound to happen, it's just a question of when.......whether it's Uncle Sam's demand for ever stealthier sound standards, or The Peoples Republic of Kalifornia's environmental commissars ever tightening noose of allowable emissions.......we're gonna be riding water cooled Harley Davidson's. And sooner, rather than later. (note - yes, I know the V-Rod is water cooled, but as most Harley riders will tell just doesn't count, end of debate.)

The simple math is, for HD's of the future to meet standards, your grandads era air-cooled V-Twin ain't gonna make the cut. No way...........fact is, the Motor Company has been pushing and tweaking the Twin Cam Evo lump for all it's worth just to keep it certified in here on the Left Coast. But my motorcycle industry insiders (not at Harley Davidson it must be noted) tell me that unless the regs are rolled back, there's not many more rabbits to be pulled out of the fedora.

I can hear the wallet chains of the black clad purist rattling in rage at the very thought of a Softail sporting a radiator, or an Ultra Classic with Prestone in its veins. But would it really be that bad? Think about it. We all know the advantages of liquid cooling; higher horsepower, longer engine life, etc. Other than a nostalgic nod to "cool", there's not many technological advantages to the current finned beast. The key is that Harley do it right. And always give us a choice......air or water.

First off........the radiator. If it resembles even remotely that sail affixed to business end of a V-Rod, all bets are off. The radiator from a UPS truck would look's that bad. Don't even think about it Milwaukee........I mean it, don't. At the risk of really pissing off the true believers, I would advise looking east, to the Japanese. These folks know how to disguise unsightly plumbing better than anyone. Ever notice how you don't notice the radiators on any of their cruiser clones?? Very clever.

Or perhaps the Motor Company might consider an oil/air cooled design not unlike the original GSX-R. Worked pretty well, and didn't look half bad........and that was with 80's technology. Something tells me, it could be much more sano today.

The key is how the Milwaukee Mafia eases us into the water, one toe at a time, or bag over the face,strapped down and pouring it on. My guess is the former, they might start with the touring line (makes the most sense in terms of actual mechanical benefit), and with that maybe only one limited edition model. From there, depending on sales, "water boarding" versions could be introduced within each of the distinct model lines.

Who knows, maybe they'll even find a way to keep air cooled models chugging along as well, for those of us that still prefer our "paint shakers" as God intended, tempered only by the atmosphere. And Keith, just because we're making a potentially historical change here, I'm not thinking this is the time to make that move to those Chinese assembly lines that make your Wall Street buddies all moist (screw the brand, there's fatter margins to be had!)..... some things we just won't tolerate. Beat on the unions, but don't build our sleds anywhere but here........agreed?

So what's gonna be worth more? The first wet Ultra Classic, or the last air soothed Dyna? That's a quandary for the collecting set.......but mark this well my motorbiking minions, you will see the day when there will be yet on more way to singe your digits on a Harley........the radiator cap!

Neutral Is Cool If You're Switzerland, Not So Much On A Motorcycle

Ah gentle readers, I have to start with a bit of a confession. And as with most confessions, I'm nagged by a faint sense of shame, of that little smug voice in my cranium; ".....told you so, you shouldn't have looked!"

But I did look, and look the traffic counter for this very blog. Hmmmm. It would appear that I should change the name of this blog to "Table for One"! Hey, Snookie's career wasn't built in a day, nor most likely was her chest I'll soldier on, if only for that one, mom are you there??? Dammit.......

On task now. I've been riding motorcycles for over 32 years, all kinds of bikes; sportbikes, enduro and motocross machines, even those lead sleds from Milwaukee. Spoiler alert, I'm a relatively late convert to the cult of Harley Davidson, but I do like the machines, own two, and am pretty fond of riding the piles. Say what you will, but nothing in the motorcycling world is as good at being a Harley as a Harley. I've never raced (unless you consider an enduro a race, which no self-respecting racer would), but I've run professional AMA road race teams; I'm not a designer, but I've helped design and market all manner of parts, accessories and clothing for my fellow motorcyclists; I'm not an "Iron Butt" guy, but I've got more miles on two wheels than I can count; I'm not a writer, but..........well, you get the idea. And my point would be?

Sound question, you're paying attention, good. The aforementioned shameless promotion of my motorcycling bona fidis, was merely my way of illustrating that while I may be an old windsack, I'm a windsack with a lot of seat time........

Which brings me conveniently to the thrust of this already too lengthy missive; taking a neutral stance while loitering about an intersection.........or more accurately, slipping the bike into neutral while waiting for the signal to change. Just the other day while terrorizing, as only a middle aged guy can, the back roads of east Contra Costa county on "Paint Shaker", the mighty '06 FLHRCI (for those that don't speak Harley, translation; 2006 Road King Classic) I came to a light as I entered town, pulling up behind a fellow on a late model BMW know, an adventure bike. We waited.

As the light switched to green, I spied my fellow riders left foot retract gracefully up from the ground, and with a gentle downward "snick", he clicked into first gear and accelerated off into the distance. Which I have to confess is a pretty common occurrence when you ride a Harley, most everything accelerates off into the distance.......personally I draw the line at Kia's. The point being, the entire period of time my new found friend was sitting at the light, he was in neutral, and just one social networking, type A, soccer mom away from being a decidedly reluctant recipient of an SUV enema.

Here's the deal kids.........NEVER, and I mean NEVER sit at a light, stop sign, or lemonade stand with your motorcycle in neutral.........ever!! Should bad things happen, the extra time it takes for you to recognize the threat, click it into gear, and begin to accelerate out of Dangerville, means you're likely to get an up close and personal glimpse of Obama-care in action. Not good.

It's all about reaction time, being in gear at a stop means you'll be able to scoot should the situation call for it just that much quicker. And that fraction is likely to be the difference. It has been for me, on more than one occasion. And while we're at it, give your passenger a heads up that when you're at a light, stay frosty, and be ready for a quick acceleration even if the light is still red......remember, leave no one behind!

And so endith the, your thoughts??? If anyone else happened to stumble upon this blurb and managed to struggle to the I whack? Got another angle, topic, or whatever......let me know........

Monday, November 8, 2010

Youth Movement......when will Milwaukee get it right?

Admittedly this is not an issue that's going to rally the great unwashed to take up pitchforks and torches, but it really gnaws at the intestines all the same. Seems I can't go a week without reading some Wall Street twerp spouting off about how Harley Davidson needs to capture a greater portion of the "18 to 35" segment of potential and current riders. Youth or death.

 OK, makes sense, the Motor Company needs some fresh meat to replace those of us that are calcifying as we speak. Seems strangely enough like common sense. You might even ask yourself, well why aren't those young whippersnappers loitering at the local HD shop o' goodies eyeing the shiny stuff with lust in their hearts?? And this is where it gets good..........Milwaukee, in lockstep with their masters in Manhattan, dutifully set out to woo said youngsters; who by the way, are apparently the only group of people on the planet blissfully unaware of Harley's existence.

All manner of strategies are employed, UFC sponsorships, supermodel spokespersons (whatever that is), product placement on hip TV shows, blah, blah, blah........insert cliche laden advertising gimmick here. All of which sadly miss the point, as is so often the case with "analysts" analysis....did any of these "best and the brightest" think to ask these wayward youth the root cause of their gross lack of interest? Judging by HD's strategy, I'm thinking no........

It would have taken just a couple afternoons at a rally, or a local dealership, any local dealership for that matter to determine that HD's "youth problem" was a product/price issue, not a lack of awareness of the brand, or a lack of desire for the brand. Younger folks simply can't afford the models they want. Boring I know, but facts is facts.

Milwaukee doesn't need to spend millions to spoon feed Gen X that Harley's are cool. News flash, they get it, they already know. What they don't get is why the only model in their affordability window is a puney 883 Sportster, you know, Harley's "girls bike". Yeah, nothing gets a testosterone fueled twenty-something stoked about your product like having his buddies refer to it as his sisters ride......a winner every time.

What the Motor Company needs to do is offer more "real rider" models at prices the segment they're drooling  over can actual afford to buy. Hey, how about a $9,500 Dyna for starters? Think I'm nuts on this.........try asking actual HD dealers what they think, after all they're the ones that have to turn these young bucks away. And trust me, when it's your meal ticket, that hurts.

So there it is, the analyst are screaming that Harley is becoming an irrelevant brand unless saved by a huge influx of youth, the Motor Company takes up the challenge, pours tons of dough into reaching out to the young buggers........yet no one thought to develop product these rebels without an AARP card would actually want to buy! All HD's managed to do is make even more people aware of the fact that they don't have the product they want..........better to have spent it on the old codgers that still have a couple of nickles.

Look, it's a given that any company needs to develop new (in this case younger) customers if they are to survive, but they need to look holistically at the issue, and not fall into the trap of serving the analysis rather than the individuals that make up the analyzed. Are you listening Milwaukee????

Why Not.......Everyone Else Does It

After reading countless musings on hundreds of topics it just seemed like the time was right to inflict my random thoughts and views on unsuspecting blog-o-philes. No real agenda, just my thoughts (and hopefully yours as well) on whatever topic seems to move the needle on any given day.

Luckily, I'll try to stick with what I the list will be by necessity pretty darn short. Motorcycles, politics, guns (I see the face your making), DLS football, and stuff that just needs to be called out.

Honestly, the whole thing seems a bit family doesn't even care what I think, so why in the hell should you? Drum shouldn't. But maybe, every once and a while, we'll strike a common cord, one of those, ".....yeah, that really frosts my preserves too!" moment, and something interesting will happen. Or not.

At any rate, release the hounds and let the hunt begin..............

Posted by Hank Desjardins, copyright Chrome Asylum Productions