Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How To Survive A Felony Traffic Stop

Think it won't ever happen to you? Think again my friend. Chances are (in most cases thankfully slim), if you ride long enough, ride Harley's, and sport a maybe too authentic "bad ass biker persona", you will one day find yourself center stage, starring in your very own reality show; "The Felony Traffic Stop". Talk about victim of circumstance! But fear not fellow Chromies, just in time for the Laughlin River Run, we're gonna give you all the tools you need to come out the other side of your brush with the boys in blue with nothing more than a really cool tall tale.

So just what is a "felony traffic stop" anyway? Good question, and if you've ever watched an episode of Cops, you've most likely already seen one play out. Basically a felony or high risk traffic stop is executed when police (typically multiple units) stop a vehicle which they believe has a strong probability of containing a driver or passenger suspected of having committed a serious (read violent) crime, and that the suspects in question are most likely armed. Obviously not bueno.

In a typical felony stop, guns are drawn, use your head
If you remember our piece on the Sons of Anarchy replica Dyna, that bikes former owner got the "felony treatment" for merely wearing a hunting knife. Worse yet, it's fairly easy to imagine a scenario where you and your bike match the description of a rider/motorcycle combo that just committed some unspeakably vile crime. And there you are, riding along, merrily contemplating your next burger and brew stop when, BAM! Lights, siren, and a posse of adrenaline hyped cops are judge, jury, and well, you know, for the next 30 minutes of your life. We're gonna make sure your life span exceeds that 30 minutes, because you're armed (OK, poor choice of words, you got me) with the Asylum's very own, exclusive, never been tested, "Three C's" of felony traffic stop survival; "calm, comply, and communicate".

First off, let's get one thing straight, the only person even more terrified than you, is the cop. He or she may be well trained, but they are also keenly aware of the dangers involved when confronting a potentially armed criminal (many officers killed in the line of duty die in felony traffic stop situations) and that's gonna have them at DEFCON 1. While it won't be easy, you need to stay calm. Really, be chill. Part of the drill is that the officer is going to be yelling at you in an aggressive manner, it's how they control the situation and keep the suspect off balance. It's normal, don't freak. More importantly, do EXACTLY what they tell you to do, and no more. Now's not the time witty retorts and smart ass comments.

This is where "comply" comes into play. Whatever you do, don't "anticipate" what the officer is gonna ask you to do. In other words, don't get off the motorcycle unless they tell you to. Don't speak unless in response to a specific command or question (if you have to, ask permission to speak). And whatever you do, don't make any sudden or threatening moves, what may seem innocent to you, may get a barrage of 9mm lead grouped in your direction. That means no reaching for your wallet, even though you think you're just being helpful, after all, you know John Law's gonna want to inspect your license at some point. Yeah, he's likely to ask for it, but wait until he does. Same thing goes for cell phones, keys or saddle bags. Always await instructions and only do what's commanded. Move slowly and deliberately. Think, "...I will obey your every command",  keep repeating it in your noodle, it could very well save your sorry hide. And look at the bright side, face down in the dirt will nicely "age" that new leather vest. Talk about street cred.

Felony stops always involve significant "backup"
Lastly, there's "communicate", but as you might have guessed already, less is really more with this "C". What we're attempting to do here is avoid any surprises for the officer(s), which will more often than not result in a rather nasty corresponding surprise for you, like a rap on the noggin, or worse. If you know something that would be of interest to the officer, let them know. What "communicate" does not mean is argue. This is not the time to cop your best jailhouse lawyer 'tude and lambaste the lads with the PR-24's, they're really not interested in what you think of them, the law, or your "rights" at this particular moment in time. They might be interested, however, in the fact that you might be packing a gun (yes, yes, as uncivilized as it may seem, there are still states beyond the iron grip of the Peoples Republik of Kalifornia where the great unwashed are permitted to carry firearms, legally no less, oh the horror!) and where it is. Same goes for knives. Once the officers know you're armed, they'll instruct you as to how you will be disarmed. Again, don't take the initiative here, don't reach for said weapon, even after you've told them it's location. Common sense, they don't know you're not a bad guy, so they're not gonna let you play with knives and guns. Duh.

If you've followed the "Three C's", done exactly as you were told, chances are (assuming you truly are innocent, you are, right!?) you'll be on your way with nothing more than a great bar story and soiled undies. The key is to get safely beyond the "officers weapons drawn" portion of the show, there's no point in being "right" if it only gets you dead. There's plenty of time down the road to address such issues as unprofessional behavior on the part of the cops, physical violence, and damage to property, if any of that was part of your little pow-wow. That's what lawyers and courts are for, not the shoulder of the road. Got it? So let's be careful out there.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Where Stuff Is Made And When It Matters

OK, I think I've actually figured something out, something big. We're talking, you know, moment of clarity, mind numbing, trumpets blaring, life altering revelation, genuine epiphany kind of stuff. That huge. Maybe right up there with self awareness, independent free will, and the internalization of ones own mortality. It's that big a deal. Really. Or not. You decide.

American icon forever?
It's a simple question really; when does it matter where things are made, and when does it not? Let's be honest, we're all pretty selective about when the specific origins of a given widget rise to the level of even modest concern. Most of the time we're more than willing opt for the seductive combination of availability and low price and call it a day. Moving on, what's for dinner?

But there are those times, and you know exactly what I'm talking about, when it's pitchforks and torches at the castle gate when some cretin threatens to "off-shore" the production of a beloved brand, to violate its very heritage. OK. Why? Why did it matter to us in that particular instance where the damn thing was gonna be built?

Well here's a shocker, maybe because the manufacturer of that very same product told us that it mattered!! Yeah fellow Chromies, it's just that simple, when a company, through it's marketing and advertising strategies specifically tells us, the great unwashed, that where their product is made (and in some cases even how it's made) is an integral part of what makes that very product unique and special, then it matters. Case closed, moving on. We're merely following their lead as it were.

Would you buy a Duc built in Thailand?
Look, when Rolex tells us that their Swiss made watch is a superior timepiece, in large measure because of the fact that it was indeed built in Switzerland by genuine Swiss artisans, we buy the argument, and the watch. A Rolex built in, oh I dunno, Taiwan, is not only most certainly a fake, but it would be an affront to everything Rolex told us they stood for. Unless of course we're one of those cheesy bastards that buy fake crap and tries to pass it off as the real deal. Pathetic.

But it's more than just wistful notions of national pride or feel good sepia toned ads in some enthusiast magazine, we're paying a real premium, as in built into the retail price, for the privilege of purchasing  these finely crafted products. When "where it's made" becomes an integral part of "what it costs", then it bloody well matters, and the manufacturer had better stay true to the "narrative" that they themselves created. To do otherwise is a slight of hand bordering on fraud.

Take Ducati for an example, their former CEO was once quoted as saying that "...the reason Ducati is such a special motorcycle is because of the fact that it was built in Bologna, by Italian craftsman that were passionate about the bikes". Fair enough, I want to believe that, so I do. And I know that the "specialness" of where Ducs are made is a component of the sky high MSRP (OK, that and unionized Italian workers), but I'm good with it. Ducati makes a fine motorcycle, and I can identify with the narrative. Every one's happy. But a Ducati built in Thailand? Is it the same bike, the same brand? I would argue no. Why? Because Ducati told me so.

Triumph, as Brit as a pint?
Globalization of manufacturing is a powerful and compelling force, much like gravity, and we are all subject to its command. Fellow Chromies know that mostly all the major motorcycle manufacturers are public companies, and as such exist for one, and one purpose only, to increase shareholder value (if you answered "build motorcycles" you're new to the Asylum, but stick around you just might learn something). This means they are all trapped on a relentless treadmill of increasing quarterly results, by any means necessary. And sometimes those "means" entail "taking costs out of the system" by reducing manufacturing overhead. And just how do we accomplish that nifty trick? Why we move it to where folks make a whopping five bucks a day and call it good. The math works, sort of.

I say "sort of" because, while product margins are generally increased by utilizing less expensive labor, there's seldom a corresponding reduction in the retail price to the consumer. And shouldn't there be? Take the case of Ducati. Given the words of their own former CEO, one would naturally expect that retails for a Thai built Duc would naturally be less than it's Italian born counterpart...yeah, right. Never happen. When Ducs begin to roll of the line in Thailand, and they're shipped to the US and Europe, which over time they most surely will, look for the retails to stay the same, even though the value proposition of "heritage" has been completely violated in the process. Shameful.

Victory's flirting with Mexican motors causes uproar
The sad fact is most companies will whore out their heritage for as long as they can, because they know that continuing the charade ensures sales and margin. Without it, the value proposition takes a big hit. They'd have to sell 'em cheap. Unfortunately for these companies, the heritage of a brand, its very essence, is a finite resource, and can actually be reduced to zero in the eyes of the consumer. It may take time, but it will happen. You see, we know something that they don't. We know that it really does matter where our motorcycles are made, and who makes them. We know that notions of craftsmanship, pride, passion and connection to a place and brand are very real concepts, and not just themes for a slick ad campaign. They are as real as the metal in the frame of the bike rolling down the assembly line. They make our machines what they are, it's as basic as that.

The fact is Harley Davidson, Victory, Triumph and Ducati have all made "where they're made" a fundamental part of the value of the machines they sell. It's up to them to stay true to the message they themselves crafted and communicated. It's up to us to hold them to it. Or not. We have the ultimate power, we can chose to continue to buy their products, even after a company continually violates its own heritage by reducing itself to nothing more than a licensing and marketing firm. Or we can hold them responsible, we can tell them that they can only go so far, before they go too far. There's a fine line, and it's up to us to let the companies know just where it is.

So can Harley for instance, remain a great American motorcycle company even if at some point those motorcycles are no longer made in America? The answer is an obvious no, at least to us. To us it very much matters that Harley's are US built, and will continue to be so. We willingly pay a premium for that aspect of the HD brand, and would be stupid to do so in the future if it were no longer a part of the value proposition. Harley for it's part continues to remind us that it's product's American heritage and history are what sets it apart from all the others, what makes HD "worth it". And even with Chinese made Harley jackets hanging in my closet, I wanna believe it's true.

I have a message for those iconic motorcycle brands, don't you dare let us down, or better yet, just be honest, when the "where it's made" card ceases to be of value to you, don't continue to tell us it should be of value to us. Deal? Deal.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Victory Buys Indian, What Does It Really Mean?

As you have no doubt heard by now, Polaris Industries, the parent company of Victory Motorcycles has purchased Indian Motorcycle Limited from Stellican Limited (investment banking firm) and Novator Partners LLP, UK (yet another investment banking firm). The details of the deal are undisclosed, as is Victory's norm in such matters. Well, well, well, seems Indian has a new owner, there's a shocker, but is it news? And more importantly is it a good deal for fans of the Indian and Victory brands? The view here at the Asylum is a rock solid, iron clad, "could be".

Indian Motorcycles, still iconic
At first, we kinda scratched our chins too, sort of a mild "WTF". OK, more like a "huh!?". Sure, Indian's had more partners than Lindsey Lohan, and they haven't made a quality machine since, well since, Indian was really "Indian", and I'm not sure when the hell that was, certainly before my time, and I predate color TV, faxes, and microwave ovens. But the more we mulled it over, the more it made sense, at least from a couple of perspectives.

So beyond making a bunch of bankers and lawyers a poo-load of cash, what's in it for Indian and Victory, and more importantly the rest of the great unwashed, we lowly riders? We'll attempt to break it down. First and foremost, Victory has bought itself an iconic American motorcycle brand. Make no mistake, despite all its mismanaged mis-steps in the past, the Indian name and logo still have an amazing (unwarranted maybe?) reserve of positive brand equity, and that folks, is a very valuable asset. Especially when that brand equity tends to dwell in a segment of the market where you (read Victory) have been traditionally weak. Stay with us.

Chrome Asylum has been a fan of Victory Motorcycles from day one, mostly because of the fact that they have never gone the "me too" route; building nearly carbon copies of Harley Davidson's and calling it good; as has sadly been the case with all of the Japanese manufacturers (check out "Victory Motorcycles - building a "There" there. 11/10/10 and "Victory's High Ball" 1/23/11 in the archives). But while Victory has done a commendable job staking a claim in the heavyweight cruiser market by designing and building distinctive "performance based" motorcycles, they've never really scaled the lofty walls of what Victory calls the "die hard segment" which consists of iconic brands possessing unique style and design. Ya know, kinda like, oh I don't know, Harley Davidson?

There's no mistaking a Victory for another brand
It's not that over time Victory couldn't chip away, year by year, at the "die hards", and there's no doubt that the Victory High Ball was a pretty big swing in that direction, but Wall Street hates "long term" (think toddler with ADHD that wants to go to the zoo, and your average investment banker isn't that patient), so a prolonged, drawn out strategy to "expand Victory's target customer base" wasn't gonna fly. Enter Indian Motorcycles. Just add water, stir, and viola! instant brand icon perfectly suited to compliment your strategy, and best of all, no waiting.

With the purchase of Indian, Victory essentially did an "end-around" in terms of acquiring the tools it needed to go after Harley's market share head on. And my guess (although Victory never discloses acquisition costs) is they got Indian on the cheap. Think about it, last years revenues for the "oldest" motorcycle brand in America was a whopping $11m. With an average retail price of one of their bikes pegged at, oh say $25,000 (which is pretty conservative), that means they sold about 440 units in 2010. Need some perspective? Harley sells more in a single day. Clearly Victory is buying a brand that they figure represents a huge upside in terms of future sales and market share growth, especially given the fact that Indian's actual earnings would represent little more than a rounding error on Polaris' balance sheet. Lets just say they ain't buying it for the money Indian is making at the moment.

OK, so you bought your ticket, now what ya gonna do? First off, expect Victory to "leverage their core competencies as they design cost out of the system, thereby accelerating the growth and profitability of both brands, all the while, enhancing shareholder value" (feel free to whip out your Business Buzzword Bingo cards, we might just have us a winner). Meaning? Well, other than as a brand, Indian doesn't have much else of value, so expect to see their production/design facilities in North Carolina close (yup, we're seeing some job loses, sucks). To the degree that Indian has any distribution assets, those will go bye-bye as well, as we're sure they are way too limited in capability and not scalable.

Next up Indian assembly will move to Spirit Lake, with powerplant production most likely heading to Osceola, no doubt Victory and Indian bikes will share all phases of design and manufacture. This is not to say that they will necessarily share components, although some level of "commonality" would certainly make sense, especially in those areas "invisible" to the customer (think engine management systems, wiring harnesses, suspension, etc). Remember, we have to design costs out of the system. Our guess is that signature elements, such as engines, tanks, fenders and the like would remain distinct. To do otherwise would dilute brand perception and defeat the original strategy. That's not to say it couldn't happen, the temptation to increase margin is relentless, even at the expense of the brand itself. It takes real leadership at the corporate level, and a clear understanding of the customer to avoid what is an all too common pitfall.

You see there actually is a limit to how far you can "leverage", as Victory found our quite recently. When it was announced that engine production would be moving to Monterrey Mexico ("leveraging" their newly built plant) the Victory faithful told the company to "Fuel It". The notion that the very heart of an "American" made motorcycle was gonna be assembled in Mexico was apparently too much to bear. Not long after the guano hit the blender a "correction" was offered up (interestingly enough the correction didn't contain any of the "biz-speak" jargon of the original, hmmm), order was restored to the universe, and Victory motors would continue to be made in the US, " we'd ever make the things in Mexico, really!?" They will trust us on that, just not right now, there is a limit.

Another pretty nifty aspect to the Victory/Indian deal is that Victory dealers will get a much needed boost in terms of the number of models on the showroom floor, which in turn ought to increase floor traffic. That can't be anything but good. Given that by its own admission Victory is "underrepresented in the top 100 MSA's (metropolitan statistical didn't put away those bingo cards did ya?), the addition of Indian to the line-up should help entice new dealers to the fold. Let's face it, it hasn't been exactly easy to make it as a Victory only dealer, if it wasn't for Polaris' amazing ATV line, who knows what the Victory dealer network would look like? Might be a lot smaller than it is now.

So in the end what is this deal gonna mean? For one, it means that perhaps more than at any other time in recent memory, Indian has a decent shot at making it as a legitimate motorcycle brand. No doubt with Victory's resources and management skill Indian's build quality, design, spare parts availability, and market exposure will improve dramatically. Future Indian customers will feel more comfortable about the long term health and future of the company, no small issue when one is about to drop twenty five large on a motorcycle. Finally, the "kit bike" stigma should be erased once and for all.

As a result of the transaction, Indian will find itself in showrooms in cities where it may have taken them years to penetrate, and that exposure will result in increased sales. Again, nothing but good. Are there "downside" issues? Of course, not the least of which is addressing the fact that Indian motorcycles are simply too expensive, expect Victory to demand lower priced offerings. If they don't, there could be real issues. Indian, despite being an iconic brand, has had too much negative history in the market in recent years to command excessive retails. The price/value relationship needs some repair, and that takes time and a realistic pricing strategy.

Finally the leadership at Victory must be cautious in its application of "leveraging its core competencies". The two brands must always appear to the consumer to be unique and distinct, "commonality" must stay well behind the curtain. A shared engine platform between Indian and Victory for instance, would be a disaster. Such a move would only confirm the worst fears and suspicions of the market. Our guess is the crew at Victory is way too smart to step in that one. For the most part this looks like a good deal all around; it ensures Indian's survival, while it provides Victory the tools it needs to move into a lucrative segment of the market. Smart move. Kinda makes you wonder what Victory will do next, is KTM for sale...... 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Asylum Rants; News, Views & Rumors

Asylum Rants is yet another bonus feature from the staff here at CA, all one of them. When we hear something tasty from outside the walls, we're not gonna keep it to ourselves, just like mom taught us, we're gonna share. While we think this stuff is as true as the government is honest, it's up to you to do your homework, and if we've blown it, or you can add to the story, let us know. It's called dialog, and it works pretty well for everything but dating. Eat your heart out Drudge, here we go.

First off, a "Bigfoot" sighting that just won't go away, while at the same time refusing to gain much traction with what passes for media in the motorcycle world either. Seems a couple of sharp eyed Harley fans in the Kansas City area have spotted what appears to them at least, to be a water cooled Road Glide Ultra roaming the streets of their idyllic berg. The mystery machine is sporting radiators, shrouds and hoses. Hmmmm. A water cooled Harley, now where have we heard that one? Might have been, oh I don't know, here?! Before you go one word further, scroll over to the archive nav bar and search out "Water Boarding Harley Style" for some background on the whys and wherefores of the marriage of H20 and Milwaukee metal.

So why would this bike(s) be plying the boulevards of KC anyway, they don't even build touring machines there? True enough, the Motor Company's big twin touring beasts are spawned in York PA, but really sharp Chromies will remember that Harley's only watercooled lump is cobbled together at its Kansas City plant as the heart of the V-Rod. Starting to make sense huh? We're thinking its completely plausible that H-D has thrown together some test mules at KC and has been running them around town as they shake down the water pumper. Harley knows, as we all do, that the enviro-fascists at the EPA will eventually tighten the noose of emission standards to such a ridiculous degree that our beloved air cooled power plants won't have a prayer. Adapt or die as they say, and the while some say (the cretins) that the dinosaurs pushed out by the Motor Company deserve to go the way of T-Rex, we don't believe HD has any intention of landing on the endangered species list anytime soon. That said, don't think we're gonna be seeing a wet Road Glide anytime soon, but count on the fact that the touring machines are the most logical candidates to be fitted with radiators in the near future. Stay tuned.

While we're on the subject of building a better Harley, if you ever get the chance to tour the assembly plants (Kansas City or York PA) do it. The factories are simply amazing! Your guide is usually a retired plant worker which means you'll get tons of bonus fun facts and the best part is you actually get to walk the factory floor. None of this standing on some balcony fifty feet above the action, looking down as the great unwashed assemble toil away. Nope, you're right there among 'em. So much so, that you just might catch a glimpse of one of the Motor Company's elves giving you the stink eye; sometimes the tour groups do get in their way. But that's what's so neat, you're right there as a giant press stamps out FLH front fenders, or as the pistons get dropped into a pristine V-Rod motor. So cool. If you're an HD fan, hell, even if you're not (which calls into question why you're reading this drivel in the first place) you owe it to yourself to take the tour. All tours are free, and you can check out individual schedules on Harley's website (which I would advise, since there are days when the lines are shut down for maintenance and model change overs). Oh, and when you see the final "function" test, as the bikes are fired up and run on a dyno for the first time, you'll never think of "break-in" the same way again, trust me on this.

Our next tantalizing tidbit of truth wrapped in a blanket of speculation involves the 2012 touring line-up. Looks like the big guns are gonna lose the 96cu in. motors in favor of the 103cu in. unit as standard motive power. If true, and we think it is, we're stoked. As you know we tested a 2011 Road Glide Ultra equipped with the 103 power plant and were quite impressed at the improvement over the standard 96. Honestly, anything the Motor Company can do to increase the absolutely anemic horsepower numbers put up by their motors is good by us (it's no mystery why Harley never publishes HP data, Vespa might seriously consider getting into the big bike racket!). It's shameful really, you spend $25k+ on a shiny new Harley that couldn't beat a Subaru Forrester on its worst day in the quarter mile, only to discover that you're gonna have to drop another five to ten thousand to bring the beasts performance up to par with stock machines from the "competition". We think that's gotta stop. And maybe, just maybe, the 103 is the first step on the road to ending the nightmare of horsepower envy that so many of us Harley lovers have had to endure. Dare to dream...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Uh Oh, Harley's Built In India To Be Sold In The US? Yes, And Sooner Than You Think

You'd think this would be a big deal, a really big deal as a matter of fact, but so far it's little more than a third rate story languishing in the backwaters of the web. Given that what's at stake is nothing short of Harley Davidson's standing in America as a "Made in the USA" cultural icon you'd think the press would be taking just a tad more interest. Maybe they're having trouble connecting the dots, or maybe they don't want to snoop, lest an objective review of the facts might jeopardise future ad revenues. Harley Davidson buys a lot of ad space don't you know? Fortunately for you, Chrome Asylum being as it is a defacto NFP, we have zero/zip/nada to lose by bombing you with the facts.

First, some background; Buell and Brazil. Let's start with Brazil. It's been over ten years now that Harley Davidson, in conjunction with its Brazilian partner, have been building motorcycles for local consumption. The operation is call CKD (complete knock down) assembly, a process where components are shipped from the US to be assembled at the local (in this case Brazilian) factory. The most obvious advantage to this arrangement is the avoidance of outrageous tariffs slapped on imports (US built Harley's in this case), and the utilization of extremely cheap domestic labor. Double bonus, the bikes are more affordable for the Brazilian locals, and the company retains greater margin dollars because of the labor savings. It's enough to warm what passes for a heart in any CEO worth his weight in wingtips. Win, win baby!

The late, not so great Blast
Given its decade of CKD success in Brazil, the Motor Company felt the time was right to expand it's foreign assembly strategy, and what better place to put its second CKD facility than India? With it's explosive middle class growth rate, an insatiable demand for all things western, especially Harley-Davidsons, and a stupidly exorbitant tariff on imported motorcycles, India was literally the perfect choice. As you read this the plant in Haryana will be nearing operation, and you can bet that Indian fans of Milwaukee iron are counting the days until the bikes hit the showrooms. Another win, right?

For the most part yes. Harley expands it's customer base, gains much needed unit sales, and the locals finally have an opportunity to purchased relatively affordable Harleys. The fact that the bikes are not actually built in the US appears to matter very little to the Indian (or Brazilian) consumer. It seems that it's enough that the major components and sub-assemblies originate in the US, to them it's still a Harley at the end of the day, its standing as an American icon is not diminished in the slightest. Fair enough.

Enter Buell, or should I say the demise of Buell, and more importantly the Buell Blast. Some of you may remember the Blast, most of you, thankfully will not. But the Blast had a very unique and vital function back here in the good old U.S. of A., it was the foundation of Riders Edge, Harley Davidson's new rider training program. As any businessman can tell you, new customers are vital to the long term survival of any business, and Harley's no exception. HD's Riders Edge program offers a safe, controlled environment for first timers to experience motorcycling, the hope being that that positive introduction will lead to sales. And the Buell Blast, with its nimble handling, small engine and frame was the perfect beginner bike. There's only one small problem, there aren't any more Blasts being built, and their useful service life will be up by the end of this year. And don't think the Motor Company's gonna replace the fading Blast with the 883 Sporty, no way. It's too heavy, and it's handling isn't suited for a newbie. Uh oh.

Starting to see where we're going with all this? Not yet? No worries, let's hop back over to the land of curry and call centers. As we mentioned, sales of small displacement motorcycles is booming in India, great news right? There's only one small problem, seems that there's a ban on the importation of motorcycles into India that are under 800cc in displacement. And even if there wasn't, what does the Motor Company have in its line-up to offer that "small bike" customer? Answer, nothing. Bummer. Or is it? According to sources in both India and Italy, the folks at HD are busy developing "an all new, small displacement v-twin platform that will be manufactured at HD's purpose built, 70,000sq ft factory outside Delhi". Looks like this "mini-twin" is just what the doctor, or should I say bean counter, ordered. It sidesteps India's ban on the importation of small displacement machines, while at the same time giving the Motor Company a viable replacement for the Blast in the US. Riders Edge is saved, but at what cost?

To say that the importation of an Indian built Harley to the US poses some "challenges" to the crew in Milwaukee is an understatement to bitch slap all understatements. But rest assured fellow Chromies, where there's enhanced profit margins, there's a way. Whether the Indian built Harley's will be rebadged as some yet unknown brand, promoted as "designed" by Harley Davidson, or brought in with an entirely new identity, they will be imported. It has to happen, the business dynamic demands it, and once that train has sailed, the brand itself stands in potential peril. It's now a much shorter step to begin importing big twins built in India or Brazil.

Impossible! Harley Davidson's an American icon, a brand that literally epitomizes the very essence of our culture; freedom, individuality, and rebellion. To build them anywhere but the United States would be a blasphemy that would never be forgiven by the American rider. It would literally kill the brand, the company would never even consider such a thing, as it would surely be the beginning of the end for the firm. Golly Wally, that sure would all be great, if only it were true.

You see, the folks that actually Harley Davidson, the "C" level guys, the stiffs on the board of directors, don't think in those emotional terms, they can't. And truth be told, they shouldn't. They are pulling the levers and twisting the knobs for one reason, and one reason only, to raise shareholder value. And to this end, there is no "enough", the quest for profits is relentless and never ending. That's why you're not likely to ever hear an HD board member say, "...hey, the stock is up to record levels, so let's kill that plan to build bikes overseas and add another 20% to the bottom line, we're making enough as it is. And it might make some of our loyal customers pretty pissed off, and we don't want that!". He'd be booted quicker than you can say, "...left to spend more time with his family".

Everything other than the end result of building shareholder wealth; including quaint notions of customer passion and loyalty, the iconic nature of the brand, the machines themselves, and Harley's heritage are merely means to an end. And quantifiable means at that. It's as simple as this, if at some point building Harleys in India and importing them to the states, all things being equal, is more profitable for the company overall (thereby increasing share value), bikes will be built there, and not here. Believe this, the moment that Harley's "Made in the USA" metric is less profitable than a "Made in India" metric, the lines in York and Kansas City would go dark.

But wouldn't a lot of people be furious at the Motor Company and refuse to buy these "imported impostors"? No doubt they would, but one thing the crew in Milwaukee is not, is stupid. Over time countless studies would be conducted, focus groups convened (does anyone actually still use focus groups!?), and surveys analyzed...Bain would have permanent offices on Juneau Ave. Before the first Faux-LH even hit our shores, the HD brain trust would know exactly how many customers they'd be likely to shed verses how many they'd gain (one would have to assume that the company would pass on some of the cost savings of foreign manufacturing in the form of reduced retail pricing). I think you know where this is going by now, more sales on the import side means bye-bye to "American made".

So how close are we to that critical tipping point? Thankfully not that close, at least not from our vantage point. For the moment the consumers desire for an "American made" machine would seem to outweigh the benefit of offering a less expensive bike built overseas. Indeed Harley's been counting on the fact that consumers would be willing to buy what is by any objective measure an average motorcycle (I love 'em too, but you know it's true) at an inflated price mostly because it was built here. But that could easily change over time, and the importation of the Blast replacement is the first tentative step in a potentially new direction. The fact is there are many riders and potential riders that don't necessarily care where a motorcycle is made, and if there are enough of them that want to buy Harley's, and Harley gives them what they want, at a price they demand, then that is what will ultimately determine where your next hog is born. Sleep tight...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rolling On A Sons Of Anarchy "Replica" Dyna

Probable cause in steel and rubber
Come on now, you know you watch it, you do. As a matter of fact, I'll bet it's even programmed into your DVR as insurance that you don't miss even a minute of a single episode; back up just in case you're actually out riding with your bros, lookin' tough and scaring stupid the innocent citizens of your very own version of "Charming". It's Sons of Anarchy baby, and we're all bikers now; Jax, Clay, Gemma, Tig, you, and me.

To say that the show is a hit would be a little like saying Michael Moore has a slow metabolism, Sons has been a monster on cable from year one. As a matter of fact, last year it was the number one rated drama on cable. And why not? The producers of SOA have gone to great lengths to ensure "genre' integrity", even going so far as hiring actual "One Percenters" as technical advisers for the show (OK, so the characters still never buckle their chinstraps, good catch R.M., but at least they're not bombing through Charming on VTX's, it could be much worse). Sons of Anarchy is gritty, tough, sexy, and cool; although one can only drool at the possibilities had the show been produced by HBO. Oh yeah, think Soprano's meets Hell Ride!! Machiavellian scheming, fight club gore and plenty of sex, how's that for real biker drama!? Until that magical day guess we'll have to continue to enjoy SOA's biker beat-downs and porn stars in PG-13. Damn.

Looks like more than a 10" rise on Jax's bars
Another by-product of the show; other than proving yet again there's no family like a hard drinking, substance abusing, gun running, dysfunctional one, has been the mainstreaming of "club style" bikes. It's not that there's anything particularly new going on here, it's just that now it's in our face on a weekly basis. SOA has showcased and influenced motorcycle style to such an extent that you're apt as not to see a Sons "replica" down at your local dealer. Just sign the papers and you're good to go, criminal defense attorney not included. SOA has legitimized "the look", a design/accessory formula for instant bad ass street cred, at least as far as your bike is concerned. With the right machine, and the right combination of bolt ons (got you thinking HBO again, huh!?) any one of us could make 'em quiver down at the local Starbucks.

The stock pipes look and sound good, but you might think about a Thunderheader
Luckily for me, finding that "right machine" was cake, the good folks at McGuire Harley-Davidson ( just happened to have one sitting on the showroom floor, a very sinister 2010 Street Bob in vivid black (hint, there really is no other color choice, so don't blow it, OK). Think this bikes "club style" and whole bad ass image thing is just all that, image? Think again my fellow Chromies. Sharp eyed readers have no doubt noticed that the aforementioned Dyna is a 2010 model, not a newer 2011 version, which means it's probably already done some road duty. True enough. This SOA replica saw time on the street, and unfortunately, it's owner saw some time behind bars, not much, but enough to convince him that maybe this whole "club look" was a little too real, at least for him. More on that later.

So what exactly goes into crafting a machine worthy of doing stand-in duty on the Sons of Anarchy set? While any number of Harley models will do (sorry metric minions, better off giving this project a pass and spend the weekend at the comic con), there's one that's especially suited for club duty, the "dirty Dyna" (so called because many of their owners never seem to get around washing their machines, too busy riding). Dyna's have been a favorite of actual club members for years for their more than adequate power, solid handling, and style. It's an obvious choice.
The West Coast T-Bars are rigid beyond belief

With our vivid black Street Bob as the foundation, the crew at McGuire's added a Screamin' Eagle Heavy Breather air filter with a stage one update. Coupled with the already potent 96" motor this will give your scoot plenty of beans when it comes time to put the slip on old John Law. One of the key, if not the key elements to any SOA replica is the bars, get it right and you're there, blow it, and you've added another year added to your prospecting chores.

Fortunately, McGuire's got it perfect, starting with a set of West Coast T-Bars sporting a 10" rise, in black of course (I shouldn't have to tell you this, but chrome, any chrome, is to be minimized when building a club replica). These particular bars are extremely stout and offer up a kind of flat-track style and bend. Next a stock Harley 1/4 fairing was bolted onto the bars, as was a standard tach. Finishing off the front end was a Screamin' Eagle fork brace. Harley highway pegs were installed as a less expensive alternative to forward controls, and it's a pretty nifty option. The set-up gives you a choice of either stretching out when you feel like, or sticking with the more conventional riding position for those times when a more aggressive approach is called for, and I think you know what I mean. Out back is a Rigid Solo Rack from HD, perfect for bungeeing your stash, or if you're feeling lucky, you can always snap on the detachable passenger pillion, for that short jaunt to the motel.

No doubt about it, choice of exhaust system, and more importantly, its sound, are of massive importance. The squares have got to hear you coming; EPA enforced, politically correct "silence" simply isn't an option here. It's squealing car alarms and crying babies people. Well, at least in theory. On our machine, rather than opt for say, a Thunderheader (in black, remember?), which while Saturn V loud, do have a tendency to be less than shall we say "reliable", the gang chose instead to re-baffle the stock pipes. Result? Surprisingly effective, satisfying rumble, with more than enough volume for a credible wheel spinning exit from your favorite watering hole. But if you really want to go 100% on the 1% vibe, the Thunderheader is still the only real choice, I'm just saying.

HD quarter fairing does the job, and looks good doing it
So how do all these mods work out on the road? Pretty damn well as it turns out, which given that we have chosen a Dyna as the basic platform shouldn't be a surprise at all. The machine is a flat blast to ride, just point and shoot. Plenty of power, great exhaust note, and handling unlike any of its other big twin brothers. What was a surprise, at least to me, was how quickly you forget about the ten inch rise on the bars. After the first few minutes, it didn't even register. No flex in the bars at all, and a very comfortable riding position (think bench press as far as where your hands land on the grips and you've got the picture) that didn't produce any hand or arm fatigue. Crazy. The HD 1/4 fairing was equally up to the job, effectively routing air flow up and over the rider at speeds that would find you surrendering your driving privileges should "the man" be anywhere in the vicinity.

And what, you ask, ever happened to our project bikes original owner, the man for whom this particular "SOA replica" was built in the first place? Well, the story goes that while cruising the Dyna out on an innocent putt, he was pulled over by a local cop. No big deal, minor traffic infraction. Until that is, John Law eagle eyes a knife on our hero's belt, partially hidden by a sweatshirt. On the ground! Hands behind your head! It's felony stop time. That's right, arrested and hauled off to the clink, while the Dyna endures the humiliation of the hook and a trip to the impound yard. Once at the lock-up, cooler heads prevail; older, wiser cops recognize the "perp" for who he is, a law abiding citizen with no prior record, no "gang" affiliations, and a legally possessed knife (sweatshirt not withstanding). He was released without further incident, no charges filed.

HD's Heavy Breather doesn't get in the way...ever
The end of the story? Not really, see our man was thoroughly shakin', and who can blame him? Staring down the business end of a gat is no party, even if it's being wielded by one of our boys in blue, doesn't matter, shot is shot. And just what tipped the cop that this particular rider posed such a grave threat? Could it have been the Dyna, in all it's SOA glory, sinister, black, and menacing? I can tell you one man that's convinced that it was....its former owner!

Here's the deal, as you read this, that very machine is sitting in McGuire Harley-Davidson's showroom. What are you waiting for? Time to man up, throw down some cash, and prove to the world that you've got stones enough to live the one percenter life, or if that's a little beyond your comfort zone, at least make it as an extra on Sons of Anarchy, your choice.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Stuff That Works

We thought it might be cool to feature products or services that you just might find handy. There's really no criteria, or formula, or even a posting schedule really. If we roll over something nifty, something that does what it says it will, we'll tell you about it.............if not, well, you won't have anything to read will you? Oh, and one last thing.........we're not pluggin anything here for swag or profit, as a matter of fact, chances are I had to buy the crap retail no less!! Jeez. But that's how we play it, just for you brother, one of Chrome Asylum's countless sacrifices for the good of the biker community (yeah, I threw up a little bit in my mouth too)......... At least you know you're getting the straight dope.

Have you looked at rider footwear lately, or more to the point what people are wearing when they ride? Nah, I didn't think so.........but as an "industry insider", it was part of my gig, so I did. And here's the deal, the days of the square toed harness boot are fading, same for the lineman or construction boot. The trend today, at least in the biker community (if you have to ask what that is, you're probably not in it, so don't fret) is toward "Tac boots", or modern military style tactical boots. OK, the real truth is more folks are sporting sneakers, but I'll be damned if I'm gonna do a piece on the sickest Jordan kicks to pimp when you're cruisin' your Sporty........not on my watch mister!

Back to boots. Tac boots actually have tons of advantages when it comes to riding........not the least of which is while they offer good support and protection, they are really comfortable off the know, when you have to hoof it from the parking lot to the watering hole.......and we know, sometimes that can be quite a hike! There are literally hundreds of brands and styles to choose from at prices starting around $49 up to, and well beyond $200. But for our dough, there's no better choice than Converse's Military/Tactical boots..........which might be why I have not one, but two pair poised for riding duty at all times.

 Converse boots feature a full grain leather/1000 denier nylon upper (you can get a completely waterproof version if you'd like) with a removable insert, something they call a "Shock Eliminator System and SureGrip Plus Trail Outsole"........whatever, the thing is you can walk all day in the damn things without so much as a hint of a blister. They are that comfy.......really. They are also 100% non-metallic, (their "steel toe" is actually a composit box, works just as well) which means you won't be setting off any airport detectors or roadside IED's, and it also helps to keep the overall weight down.

Black or desert tan, those are your color are six and eight inch lengths. I prefer the taller of the two, just a bit more protection and the side zip (super cool) makes getting in and out of them a snap (sounds like an info-mercial huh, watch out "Anton-E" Sullivan!). The soles seem to be anti-slip, at least I haven't found myself on my ass at a gas station or toll booth yet......but who knows.

Prices vary quite a bit on-line so shop around, depending on the version you select (and there are a few) expect to part with between $79 on the low side to about $139 on the high. You won't be disappointed no matter which one you select..........although I am bummed by the fact that this great American brand, as have so many others, has opted to build their product in the Peoples Republic of China (ironic that some of our cops and soldiers are defending our liberties in boots manufactured in one of the most oppressive and morally bankrupt countries on the planet.......alas). But we want 'em cheap, damn the consequences right?

But on a positive note, apparently Converse is offering our service members an incredible "Word of Honor Guarantee", if the boot fails for any reason, they can get a new pair shipped to them entirely FOC to any theater of that's cool!! Obviously this is available to active military serving in combat don't even think about it. Oh, one last thing, damn.......the profile of the Converse boot is just a tad high, so you might have to adjust your shifter, it's no big deal, maybe a notch or two. Go ahead and check 'em out.......they make great kicks for the range too.

Monday, April 4, 2011

2011 Triumph Thunderbird....Cool As McQueen

It took long enough, but finally I have something in common with the King of Cool, the man for whom the entire planet was his "monster garage", a gritty competitor, and pretty fair actor, with 110 octane in his veins that would flog anything with motor, and usually come out on top. The only guy with the sack to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated (August, 1971) shirtless, on a skyward bound Husky (yeah, you try to pull that one off and not look like you've got more Liza Minnelli than Metallica on your can't, so don't). That's right, I'm talking about Steve McQueen.......Hollywood legend and certifiable gearhead.

The man, the machine, it doesn't get any cooler
And just what is it that we two moto-icons share? Why, we're both Triumph riders of course. OK, to be fair, McQueen rode them often and well........alright, he raced the damn things, and more times than not came away a winner. And me? I just took my first ever jaunt on one of Hinckley's finest, a 2011 Triumph Thunderbird, better late than never as they say.

For those not sufficiently grounded in moto-history, you should know that Britain's Triumph has a long and storied history, these guys have street cred by the ton.........for starters, in 1903 when the Motor Company was bolting together it's first machines, Triumph produced just over 500 motorcycles, and by 1905 were manufacturing one hundred percent "own design" bikes. Triumph's proudly served their country in a couple of World Wars, and during the 50's, 60's and early 70's (motorcycling's "golden age") were the performance bikes of choice. If you weren't on a Triumph you weren't winning.....and worse yet, you weren't cool.

And cool they were..........Elvis, Brando, Ekin's, Eastwood and more all threw a leg over the legendary Brit cycles. Wanna pocket some easy beer money? Riddle your pals as to what brand of bike Brando was sporting in The Wild One, the biker flick that built a'll score almost every time. Modern day stars are not immune to Triumph's tractorbeam of class either........from Pam Anderson to Tom Cruise and George Clooney, Triumphs are Hollywood's mount of choice, by a ton. But let's be honest, McQueen's cigarette ashes were cooler than most of these modern day pretenders........nice try Brad.

Thunderbird style, Triumph heritage, nice combo
So we know Triumph's are cool, but how does this new interpretation of the classic Thunderbird stack up against its contemporary cruiser competition (once again, thanks to Jim and the good folks at Ace Motorsports; , I would finally get my chance to be just like McQueen, OK maybe not just like McQueen.....)?  The answer as it turns out is, "....very well, very well indeed", at least I think that's how the Brits would say it. For starters, the Hinckley crew crafted a machine that is both functional in that it doesn't ask for any sacrifices on the part of the rider; it starts every time, and goes where you want it to go, is comfortable along the way, and stops when you get there.........and looks damn good doing it, like a proper Triumph should.

The Thunderbird is no cruiser clone, it is its own machine.........and central to that fact is the iconic 98cu inch vertical twin motor, or parallel twin if you will. It's a hallmark design that really makes a Triumph a Triumph. With 85hp (at the crank) and 108ft. lbs. of torque (also at the crank) the motor is more than capable of propelling the 746lb machine along at a decent clip. From a dead stop, just feed out the clutch, twist the stick and this thing flat gets on poser here, the generous reserves of torque are more than evident. The big 'Bird revs easy and willingly, with it's natural shift points somewhere around 3,500rpm, wringing it out to the 6500rpm redline is an exercise in diminishing returns, more sound than fury. You don't need to row the gears with this torquey beast. My ride had the optional "Hi Flow" short mufflers, which had a more than acceptable note, and bonus "pop, pop" on decel......I've always liked that. wouldn't hurt of the pipes produced a few more "db's", nothing annoying, just something to drown out that damn cooling fan at idle, and road noise at speed. Let's rattle a few cages OK? You know damn well McQueen would......

Aggressive, modern, yet all Triumph from the ground up
Out on the road the Thunderbird is a rider's machine, it's handling is journeyman like, with no surprises. And that my friends is a very good thing, for both the rookies; as well as, grizzled old vets that might decide to give this new Triumph a go. To be honest, it corners better than about 90% of its cruiser competition. This machine is solid, feeling planted in the twisty bits, with no sign of frame flex, shimmies or shakes. The brakes are way beyond what you might expect from the average "cruiser", hauling the 'Bird from extra-legal speeds to naught without a hint of and powerful, just what you want (we expect the optional ABS to be every bit as confidence inspiring). Ground clearance is sufficient for all but the most "MotoGP inspired" cornering can scrape, but you'll have to work for it. The rear shocks are adjustable for preload, but that's about it.........and one other thing, don't expect a plush ride.....all those nifty handling traits we just talked about........yeah, well there's no free lunch, so expect a more sportbike like feel, don't say I didn't warn ya.

Nifty optional floorboards and heel/toe shifter
Bars and controls are about what you'd expect, again no real drama, all is as it should be. OK, did we have to put the horn button exactly where the left turn signal switch is on every Harley made??? And while we're on the subject, making them self cancelling would be nifty. My ride came equipped with an optional shorty windscreen which did a great job of redirecting the wind flow.......I'd consider it a must for long trips, and this from a guy that hates bar mounted fairings and screens (never liked the idea of mounting a sail on my handlebars). Think I've used my Road King's windscreen exactly twice. The combo speedo/tach is well positioned on the tank and easy to read. The rear brake pedal was a bit too close to the optional floor boards, boot stuck! Not fun trying to dislodge ones foot in an attempt to apply the brakes.......I know, it's the rear, so who cares!?

Clean and simple does it every time
When it comes to throwing down some serious original classic cruiser style, the Thunderbird doesn't disappoint. The key word here is "original"......and it's more than applicable when describing this machine. The signature vertical twin and gas tank set the tone for all the other elements. A quick word about the 5.8 gallon tank, it ain't tall, but it's wide. Same goes for the seat, it's PBR bull broad, I'm thinking if your inseam is shorter than the legal length of a shotgun in California you might look to a different saddle, if one can be found. I'm just might be wearing the paint off that tank.

The rear of the bike is aggressive without being over the top.......nice wide meat says serious bar hopper (what, you think McQueen would be caught dead putting down to Jamba Juice for an Orange Dream Machine!? For the last time, it's Jack, Luckies, and steak!! Oh just hand over your man-card..........jeez, you're not worthy), as do the beefy shocks and nicely sculpted fender (OK, the fender is straight up Softail Duece.........and the mounts are, well.....same story). The tailend of this machine flat works though.......especially with the shorty mufflers.

Triumphs iconic vertical twin does the job and then some
Up front we've got a very well concealed radiator (are we listening Milwaukee?? Still some work needed on that V-Rod, but why rush?) that does a credible Houdini from just about any angle. The forks are stout and the fender wraps tight around the front skin for a very convincing custom stance. Again, the package works, hats off to the left coast design crew. You guys fired a shot across the Motor Companies bow........more like dead straight at the Dyna family, and I'd have to say "nice grouping!" Everyone knows that the Dyna line is the one with the most appeal to "real riders" (whatever that's supposed to mean), and the Triumph bests it in almost every category. Whether or not it's enough to peal customers away from the cult of HD remains to be seen....but for those that want a credible alternative, one with nearly as much street cred, this is the real deal.

So what's the story?? Cool enough for McQueen? It might be Sparky, it just might be. Let's see, we've got cool Brit built heritage........well, sort of. (To say the topic is "murky" is an insult to muddy water, suffice to say there's an issue among some of the "faithful" regarding the fact that many of the sub assemblies are manufactured in Thailand, as are some models of bikes, but as far as I can tell, the Thunderbird is a genuine "built in the UK" model; although I couldn't find evidence of that fact on the one I rode). For some people this will be an issue, for most, I would suspect it will not. We all know that Harley and Victory both bolt on components from sucks, but it is what it is. Like it or not, global sourcing is an economic imperative (you don't see that phrase in biker blogs everyday do ya!?) and one that is not going away anytime soon........certainly not as long as Wall Street types call the shots. When it comes to recovering unrealized margin, these guys are as relentless as head lice, and just about as charming. Trust me on that one.

Cool as McQueen? Alas, not even close
But back to the machine dammit, f'n suits!........Cool heritage, check. Original, aggressive style? Got it in spades. Plenty of power with handling and braking enough to take care of business? Again, that's a Roger. Chrome goodies and hop-up parts to satisfy the inner hot rodder lurking in all of us? On this score, I have to give Triumph major props........they're busting butt to offer their customers a wide array (certainly for a niche builder) of go-fast accessories. They could have left it up to the aftermarket, that would have been the easy route........but they didn't, good on 'em.

The Triumph Thunderbird.......power, handling, and original style, sounds like just the machine for the King of Cool.........yeah, cool enough for McQueen, no doubt about it. And while we're waxing on the subject of cool........hats off to the folks at Ace Motorsports , they're all hardcore enthusiasts that really "get it". It's a great dealership (longtime readers already know that) with an awesome vibe, and an ample supply of demo bikes to test. Sweet. So if I were you I'd scurry on down to Ace, find Jim and hit him up for a test ride........right the $#@! now!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ducati Diavel.........Satan's Scoot

The Ducati in black, no?
Fair warning fellow Chromies; when piloting the Ducati Diavel, failure to flip the "grown-up switch" to the on position (you know the one, it activates that annoying buzzing in the back of your head, relentlessly nagging you about work, family, responsibilities, blah, blah, blah....), will most assuredly guarantee that you will be dialing up not only your lawyer, but Swifty the bail bondsman within the first 30 minutes of stabbing the starter button on this hell spawn. Oh yeah my friends, believe it, the Diavel is that %#$&'n fast!! I had no idea............

 After I got the call last week from Jim McLaughlin at Ace Motorsports ( asking me if I'd like to take a Diavel out for an afternoon test (how long do you think it took me to stammer out "hell yes!"?) I started doing my homework. And that's when it actually began to sink in.......

The Termi slip-ons are works of art
 Uh oh, you've really done it now sunshine! You just might have gotten yourself over your head, shoulders and ass on this deal. Cool. Over a 160hp and 94lbs of torque at the rear wheel (on a machine that only weighs 441 the math), zero to sixty quicker than you can say "not guilty", and brakes that hit harder than a Chuck Liddell front kick. More perspective? It has twice the horsepower and half the heft of my Road King.....and that's after I added the big bore kit and pipes!! The Diavel literally defies description......cruiser, sportbike, drag machine, what the hell is it? Answer, whatever it wants to be's the Diavel's world, we're all just hang-arounds. Once you throw a leg over this beast all that "categorization" mental masturbation is history. It is what it either get it, or you don't.

The Diavel is muscular in the extreme, from its broad shouldered silhouette and flat snout, to the uber fat 240mm rear rubber, this machine is all red meat; aggressive, menacing, capable........ if you're not careful, it just might take your lunch money and your girl. From the single sided swing arm, to the amazingly crafted wheels and the Brembo monoblock anti-lock brakes (see the folks at Ducati are looking out for your hide) the Diavel demands your undivided, or else........lets just say you've been warned.

Yeah the rear meat's that wide
And right when you think you're starting to figure it out, that's when this crazy "Jekyll and Hyde" thing hits........the first thing I notice as I slide onto the seat is how comfortable and nearly perfect the riding position is.....WTF!?! No contorting, no pressure on the wrists, no crazy anatomic compromises. The bikes bars and my hands meet just where God intended, sweet. The pegs are just about right, not always the case when you're 6'2". Instrumentation is all digital, very easy to read and well thought out. Nice job Luigi. I stab the starter, and the Testastretta 11 degree motor stirs willingly. My particular machine was equipped with  Termignoni slip-ons, high performance air filter, and electronic control unit......good for about another 10 horsepower. Yeah, just what this bike really needs.........more horsepower. Yikes. But the "all business" exhaust note alone is worth the upgrade (think throaty, high reving, big displacement dohc V-8). Consider it a must.

The digital panel is fully visible even in direct sunlight
Keeping all this grunt and go in check is no mean feat, but Ducati manages it with a trick system that allows you to choose from three "power" settings; sport, touring, and urban. Pick urban, and the motor is limited to 100hp output (ponder that for a moment, when did 100hp at the rear wheel become the "novice safe setting"!?) with maximum traction control. Thoughtful. Touring and sport both have max horsepower (over 160hp stock, remember?) available, the difference being that the sport setting offers up minimum traction control. I chose touring........

Signature Ducati design
And we're riding.........hold the phone, where did all that heft go? Can this muscle-bound missile really be this light and nimble!? Short answer.......hell yes! At the risk of sounding like some "in the tank" Ducati hack, the Diavel is one of the best handling, most balanced, and comfortable street bikes your humble scribe has ever ridden. It's nothing short of amazing. It's a blast, point it in a direction and it goes, right where you want it........think Hypermotard meets 1198, sort of. But you get the idea.........On my favorite bendy road, with it's 41 degrees of available lean, the Diavel does a more than passable imitation of a sportbike. Try that on a V-Rod and you're tearing stuff up.

We put a little over a hundred miles on the Diavel; twisty roads, freeway and in town stuff. When you need it to be, the Duc is Dr. Jekyll, well mannered, a gentleman.......but whack the go stick, and you had better be ready my friend. Seriously, the beast is stupid quick. Light to light, nothing's gonna touch it, end of story. In fourth or fifth gear on the freeway, doesn't matter which, roll the throttle on from say 70, and you're clocking triple digits in a heartbeat. Best be workin those arms out Sparky! Luckily the Diavel has a deeply dished seat........or yours would be on the asphalt. To say that the Diavel's acceleration is rabid dog crazy is like saying Megan Fox is a "handful", while both statements are true, they don't do either justice........Trust me, you will not be able to observe the posted speed limit, ever.  At some point there's a good chance you will be arrested.........just keep that in mind when budgeting for the bike, and keep the lawyer on speed-dial.

I suppose an obvious question after testing the beast (taming is out of the question) is, would I ever buy one? To be honest, before I road the Diavel the answer would most likely be no. The steroid mutant styling cues would probably have kept me from signing on the dotted line........ this bike demands to be seen, and will be seen, you have no choice in the matter.....and I'm not a "look at me" kinda guy. I can't count the number of double takes I witnessed on my little test jaunt. If you want to blend, this ain't the rig for you. Oh, and if  (when) you're in the throttle constantly, the Duc's mileage suffers mightily......did I just mention "gas mileage"!? Shoot me.........if you're thinking EPA ratings at this point, we're both lost!

You gotta love that profile
But here's the story, the damn thing is so much fun, so over the top, so freakin' fast, that you just gotta have it. And after only a couple of hours, what seemed "over the top" design at first glance, started looking pretty damn good, as only Satan's scoot should. The fact that it's a felony waiting to happen only sweetens the for me, yeah, I'd buy one. I'd buy one today as a matter of fact...........because now I know. Make mine black please........