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Archive for May, 2008

Every year on Memorial Day, many of us pay tribute to all those who have died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day was first observed in May 30, 1868 as a way in which the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers would be decorated with flowers.  The holiday’s name was changed in 1971 and became a federal holiday.

The Oregon Veterans Motorcycle Association is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to Vets who ride motorcycles in Oregon.  There were many observances across the state from Eagle Point National Cemetery (Medford), to Willamette National Cemetery in Portland.  I spent some time there earlier and even with a mix of cool and not-so-nice weather, looking over the acreage and thousands of flags is a solemn reminder and incredible site.

I wanted to do a “shout-out” to all those in our Armed Forces serving in combat areas now and to those who have served to defend our country and our freedoms in the past.

Thank you seems hardly enough, but it’s one small way to remember and take pause for our Veterans.

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I don’t know if I’m feeling lost and listless due to the foul weather or that we’re without the Seacrest, Randy and gang for several  months opening up Tuesday nights to a new set of Discovery OCC/American Chopper re-runs?

The fact that two nights ago Amanda Overmeyer, the tattoo laden, biker, rocker, nurse, on American Idol sang her last “Idol” song with the troupe means the world of motorcycles will never be the same!  The Biker ‘hot-rod’ was booted off the show after making it to the top twelve women and seeing her perform again on Wednesday night only brought on more emotional outcry of the bias in American Idol fans about bikers.  Nursing might fill her days, but the gothic stylized Amanda is the “real deal”…she stands out in a crowd and even made Simon Cowell cower. 

Eight days short of June and we’ve seen a 4 day temperature swing of forty degrees (55-95-55)!  Today its even cooler with a high of 52 degrees and rain.  I guess bikers and Amanda fans have a couple choices and that is to watch the TV weatherman to see which of the Presidential candidates “blows”…or download the Idol “countdown” widget for next season.

Photo of Amanda courtesy of American Idol.

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Every time a U.S. President wants to demonstrate the benefits of free-trade, they hold up poster child Harley-Davidson, who was yanked from the Japanese jaws of death and a shrine for the ever faithful.

Today was no exception as Bush stumped on global trade and discussed how it “mostly helps” American workers during his speech on the Columbian Trade Agreement.  

The Wisconsin 6th District Congressman Petri was in attendance because he believes that Harley’s are a product that people around the world ought to be able to drive by making it more affordable.

Then pointing to the Motorcycle on the South lawn – Bush stated;

“…that motorcycle right there — 20 percent more expensive in Colombia, 8 percent more in Korea, and 15 percent more in Panama.  And so the purpose of a trade agreement is to reduce those tariffs; is to make the products less expensive.” He continued with “So if we get the deal done with Colombia, that motorcycle will be $4,000 less expensive,” Bush said. “The great quality of Harley will be the same. There will be no diminution of how cool one is when they drive a Harley. (Laughter.) But it’s going to be easier for somebody to buy it.” 

In his second year serving on the Bush appointed International Trade Advisory Board, Harley’s CEO Jim Ziemer must be feeling pretty special that his company is sharing the international presence spotlight!  All of this is like a perfect storm…Harley announced plans to reach out to customer groups that were not its traditional fans – women, young people, and minorities along with a shift from “pull” to “push” marketing. 

I would anticipate that South America has just as many mid-life testosterone driven, on their 3rd marriage buyers as the U.S. so why not push a policy of price parity?

 

Bush touring York, PA plant courtesy of USA Today – Eileen Blaas.

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If you own an antique motorcycle or always wanted too I’m sure you are familiar with “Concours d’Elegance” type events.  Similar to the high-end showcase for automobiles at Pebble Beach or auctions at Bonhams the Legend of the Motorcycle is a world-class concours exclusively for motorcycles.

Held a couple weeks ago the annual event was on the lawns of the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, CA and contained more than 150 of the best pre-1978 motorcycles from around the world.  These historic motorcycles were showcased and judged.  They were all there from Norton’s, Vincent’s, Excelsior, Harley, Crocker & Brough Superior including bikes from custom builders Jesse James, Shinya Kimura, Paul Cox, Roger Goldammer and Billy Lane.  Also on display were memorabilia from artworks, to racing photos and antique advertising as well as Steve McQueen’s 1940 Indian Scout.

A list of all the motorcycles at the event is HERE.  Or if you’re interested there are more than 100 photos of the event on the Sports Car Market (SCM) site.   I’d like to make it down to this event someday, but not sure where I packed my bowtie…

 

Advertising photo courtesy of Legend site and is Motoleggera Ducati 60 cc. gorgeous woman advertising poster, 1951

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Thirteen years ago in Seattle, 100 motorcycles gathered to participate in the first Children’s Ride. The event was a success raising $13,000 for Children’s Hospital.  Last year the Children’s Ride #12 raised more than $680,000 for Children’s Hospital. The ride has become one of the top five guild fundraisers for Children’s Hospital as well as one of the largest charity motorcycle events in the Pacific Northwest.

The Imagine Guild and Children’s Ride was founded in 1995 by Rick Baldwin. In 1974, Rick’s daughter Tessa was admitted to Children’s Hospital for treatment of third-degree burns when a coffee pot toppled on to her. Being a young father with limited financial resources, Rick benefited from the uncompensated care fund provided by Children’s Hospital. Always wanting to repay the hospital for the care his family received, Rick combined his love for motorcycles with his gratitude to Children’s Hospital and the idea for Children’s Ride was born.

This year the Imagine Guild will expand the Children’s Ride event to include a concert.  Not just local bands, but top talent from the likes of: Marshall Tucker Band, Kenny Wayne Shepherd , Spike and the Impalers, Starship and Foghat.

There are three registration levels this year:

  • Basic Ride Package = $70 per person – includes a concert ticket at the 200 level on the White River Amphitheater (WRA) Venue Map
  • Enhanced Ride Package = $90 per person – includes a concert ticket at the 100 level on the WRA Venue Map
  • Enhanced Plus Ride Package = $130 per person – includes a concert ticket in the Floor Level on the WRA Venue Map

The Friday night before the concert is a Children’s Ride Gala and Auction. This festive affair will feature silent and live auctions, dinner and entertainment. Bid on a Harley-Davidson custom motorcycle by Brian Klock.  Brian makes some awesome baggers!

What better way to party (biker style) and raise money for Children’s Hospital.

 

Poster picture courtesy of Hawgtide.

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Driving to work, whether at a factory, an office or a retail outlet, happens 10 times a week…assuming you drive home after ward.  Let’s say your commute is 20 miles, 200 miles a week, 50 weeks a year, for a total of 10,000 miles.  Now let’s do the math. Your trusty Chevy SUV delivers a snappy V8 performance of 16 mpg, which means you pumped 625 gallons into the tank over the last year. At $3.65 a gallon, that equals $2,281 ($190/month). If your motorcycle is getting 40 mpg, that means 250 gallons, or $912 ($76/month).

In the Northwest the cold and rain limits the number of months a person can drive unless you’re really into wet weather riding.  So, the above numbers are not an exact apple to apple comparison, but you get the point.  A motorcycle can save you money while putting a smile on your face!

On July 16th it’s the annual Ride to Work sponsored by the organization with the same name.  This ride is to demonstrate to elected officials and the public that the motorcycle community represents a significant percentage of the population, that riders are from all occupations and walks of life, that motorcycle styles may vary from “blinged-out” choppers to fuel efficient scooters, that riding on two-wheels helps reduce traffic and we ride for transportation as well as recreation.

See you out there!

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I’m not from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the California Air Resources Board (CARB).  I know very little about the Federal Clean Air Act emission standards.  But, I do know enough about marketing to be suspicious when I see “spin” coming from Harley about noise abatement and that “good” mufflers absorb and attenuate noise levels from the motor.  Now I’m being told how I should drive while in my neighborhood or further risk increased regulatory measures to control motorcycle noise.

This all started a while ago, but I started to be suspicious a couple years ago when Harley discontinued manufacturing ‘Screamin’ Eagle’, non street-legal exhaust pipes and then started the subtle campaign against loud exhaust pipes. The first effort was directed at/through dealers, with posters and literature that attempted to educate dealers and riders about the negative consequences of loud pipes.

For me the Harley riding experience is the sum total of the Harley `Look,’ ‘Sound’ and ‘Feel.’  And one of the biggest parts of the riding experience is the classic sound of the bike.  Harley’s challenges related to noise and emissions regulations may seem inconsequential to you as a rider, but more stringent European (EEC) noise limits and the development of future motorcycles need to meet lower future regulations and the end result of this debate, however, will directly affect how you shop or what you buy.  Whatever technology manufacturers use to reduce noise emissions, it is likely to affect the power and price of equipment you will purchase in the coming years.  The cost of compliance is high and in order to comply, all riders may have to sacrifice something in power and should be aware that the new regulations will inevitably lead to tradeoffs.

The primary business of the Harley Motorcycles segment is to design, produce and sell premium heavyweight motorcycles.  Most all of the recent 96/96B motor displacement and transmission redesigns have been to maintain regulatory compliance in ALL markets.   That’s a big deal as approximately a third of all new motorcycle sales are outside the U.S., with Japan, Germany, and Canada, in that order, representing the Company’s largest export markets and account for approximately 51% of export sales.

The U.S. allows higher noise levels for motorcycles than in other regions and countries.  As a result, the ever so subtle marketing campaign Harley initiated about riders being “courteous” in neighborhoods and down playing the significance of 3rd party exhaust pipes.  In fact they are discouraging 3rd party exhaust pipes.  Are they doing this because they care about your neighborhood?  No!  They know government regulations have a materially adverse impact on their capital expenditures, earnings, or competitive position.  Harley will have to make the lowest common denominator bike.  Meaning they will have to comply with the most stringent noise emissions and sale that across the U.S.  For example, last year Denver, CO passed legislation using label match-up enforcement.  The police can ticket a motorcyclist if a bike made after 1982 has a muffler lacking a mandatory factory U.S. Environmental Protection Agency noise certification stamp.

Do you think Harley is really monitoring the growth of anti-noise ordinances that target motorcyclists or is this another way of gaining market segment share in the $2.8 Billion after market muffler, accessories and riding apparel market?  The day is coming my friends where an enjoyable ride will sound like an idling Toyota Prius and people wondering if it’s running.

Exhaust photo courtesy of West Coast Choppers

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