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Archive for March, 2012

The Changing Faces Of Harley-Davidson Owners

Don’t you just like that word?!

You’re either out of the inner circle or working hard to remain firmly in the trusted seat.

Maybe you’re that guy who is tired of missing out on his friends’ weekend motorcycle trip because he doesn’t ride. Or maybe she’s the woman who has been a passenger for years and wants to ride her own ride. Maybe you’re that middle-aged guy who sees a kid on a dirt bike and remembers the happy riding days of his youth, and suddenly can’t recall why he ever stopped riding. Or the young woman who spots a sleek new “72” in the local Mall and suddenly decides, with absolute certainty and no warning, that she simply must have it and learn to ride it.

There are many different ways or reasons to get into motorcycling, but the common riding experience is inclusive for everyone.

And speaking of inclusion, last month I read how more and more businesses are looking to make sure they get their fair share of the black dollar and how H-D is no exception in making sure that this community is appreciated for helping strengthen their bottom line.  In fact,  there were reports of African-American reporters who were completely immersed (read wined and dined in Milwaukee on H-D’s dime) into the biker culture with the motor company for three days and pitched on the company attributes in hopes of them writing about the experience and then even more African-Americans coming over to participate in the H-D lifestyle.

If nothing else, Harley-Davidson, is showing how serious it is about broadening its reach.

I’ve often blogged, that if the motorcycle industry is to be reborn — and even the quickest scan of sales statistics is enough to know a rebirth is necessary — it will come from expansion into long-ignored niches, such as youth, women and minorities. We Boomers are quickly approaching our doddering years and will soon be trading up to trikes if we’re lucky or for walking sticks if not.

These days if you meander into any Harley dealer you’ll likely find: a pink-haired twenty-something white woman who could be a student to a bandana-ed Hispanic man that is a police officer and all nondescript types in between who ride. Oh sure there is the occasional tatted up true blue stereotype white male rock star trying to look gritty and the ever present old time long haired grey bearded biker.  But, Harley’s message is simple: They are no longer a niche brand. They are no longer focused on Boomers who hijacked the brand during the last decade. They are for everyone.

The claim is that no stereotypical Harley-Davidson rider exists anymore.  I say welcome to the family and a trusted seat in the inner circle!

Photo courtesy of Flickr

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Water Damage House

This isn’t about reaching blogging nirvana.  Or is it about blogging more although I was fairly distracted in January and February which did impact the number of posts.

It’s not even about the loud and proud motorcycle type pipe either.  It’s a story about my house pipes…  a broken water pipe to be exact!

It all started when I returned home after the holidays.  I set the luggage down in the family room and noticed that sections of the hardwood floor were warped.  Not what I remember and when you ran a hand across the floor it was obvious the wood slats were curved vs. being flat.  A sure sign of water seeping into the floor.  Nothing was obvious on the main floor as to the cause and doing a quick scan toward the garage I spied a side wall that was “weeping” water.  The exploration ended when I opened the crawl space door to see and hear what could only be described as a rushing waterfall.

Crap!  No one had been home in over a week.  I tried to remember if the weather ever hit freezing and hoped it hadn’t leaked the entire time, but it turned out not to matter.

Now remind you this house doesn’t have cast-iron pipes like those used for water from the WWII era.  It doesn’t even have copper piping which has been around for decades.   It’s a newer home which has what is called PEX plumbing.  And if you are like most of us non-plumbers, then there is a good chance you don’t know what I’m talking about.

PEX is a cross-linked polyethylene pipe.  Essentially a PLASTIC pipe.  After going through several processes, the material becomes durable for extreme temperatures (hot or cold), creep deformation which happens from long-term exposure to stress, and chemical attack from acids, alkalies and the like. All of this makes PEX what builders think of as an excellent piping substance for hot and cold water systems, especially since PEX is flexible and well adapted for temperatures below freezing all the way up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

I’ll spare you the suspense… it turned out not to be a broken pipe, but the result of a wall board installer who during initial construction shot a nail at an angle into a 2×4 stud.  The nail which did its job stopped, but not until about a half-inch of it went into the PEX pipe.  I’m told that a nail will typically seal itself in flexible pipe… for a while at least.  In this case the water pipe was the HOT water line to the 2nd floor and after a few years the nail rusted away leaving a small hole which then sprayed hot water and wrecked most of the first floor.

As a result I spent all of January and some of February in hotels while repairs and re-construction were taking place.

It wasn’t fun!  Unfortunately I store some of the Harley accessories in the crawl space and they were were damaged and needed replacement.  My home insurance is Farmers and they have been great to work with so a major shout-out to that company.  Looking back I feel rather fortunate with the exception of the hassle factor which wasn’t trivial.

How about you.  Ever been involved in a plumbing leak caused by a nail or sheetrock screw?  It seems to happen more and more these days.

Photos taken by author.

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Doobie Brothers performing at the 2003 Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary

Rain. Snow. Rain. Wind. Rain. Hail.

That pretty much sums up the local weather Sunday.  A blast of winter brought a mix of odd weather to the area, with temperatures in the 40s and rain turning into snow turning to hail throughout the day.

So it’s Sunday afternoon with a couple hard weeks of work under the belt and I’m thinking about better weather and motorcycle riding.  I’m running errands and pushing the XM buttons in the automobile.  I settled in on a little gem from the Doobie Brothers fourth album “What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits” and I crank the volume on the song “Another Park, Another Sunday.”

Wow, it’s a flashback.

I suddenly remember buying the album on cassette (remember those?) and was instantly transported back in time to that moment of driving the stereo speakers in a ’76 Toyota Celica to the point of distortion, listening to music that energized and soothed the soul at the same time.  Hearing Tom Johnston again reminded me that the Doobie Brothers opened at the 100th Anniversary celebration in Milwaukee in 2003. The Doobies were solid rock along with Kid Rock, but it was also the year that an intern who ran a focus group at the motor company mistook the leathers of Elton John as a motorcycle enthusiast and completely missed the mark on the Milwaukee demographic.   People left the venue in droves wondering how Harley-Davidson could have made such a mistake.  I also remember crashing an event a few years back in Las Vegas where Pat Simmons was playing in an intimate bar across the street from the LVCC for a Kingston Memory private party.  Pat along with a terrific band played some rockin’ down the highway tunes for several hours.

And speaking of Nevada, we’re about a month away from the Laughlin River Run.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Laughlin, NV rally then it’s a must add to your riding “bucket list.”  It’s four days of wall-to-wall bikes, exhibits, vendors and entertainment. The rally is distinctive with 10 major casino resorts along a two-mile stretch on Casino Drive and everything is literally at your hotel doorstep.   The desert makes a great backdrop and riding bonus for the event.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that long-time Doobie Brothers drummer Michael Hossack passed away last week after a long battle with cancer.  Hossack helped give the band its distinctive sound with two drummers and was critical to a number of hit albums. Michael played on the “Another Park, Another Sunday” as well as the rest of the “Vices” album, “The Captain And Me” and “Toulouse Street.”  They all make great Sunday riding music.  Listening back on some of the tracks you can’t help but think what a great musical drummer he was especially the killer fill at the beginning of “China Grove.”  He will live on in those tunes because they have stood the test of time.

Photo courtesy Doobie Brothers performing at the Harley-Davidson closing party in downtown Milwaukee August 31, 2003. REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson

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“Redux” is often used in literature and film with the meaning of “brought back or restored.”

This time it applies to a motorcycle ride which took place back in 2008 under some clouds of controversy.  I won’t bore you with details of the past because it’s been 3+ years since that ride which had record attendance on a bright sunny fall day in the northwest.

Just mark your calendar as the Free The Colors ride is being resurrected from the ride “tool box” and planned for April 15th.

The ride is not about rules of engagement.  Rather it’s about a journey and it seems to me that the best trips in life invariably involve some detours and improvisation to smooth out the bumps in the road.  Sometimes when we’re lucky, they also involve motorcycles and meeting new friends.

And speaking of friends, the Oregon Veterans Motorcycle Association (OVMA) will be celebrating 22 years of service to Veterans, their families and the Community on Saturday, April 14th. The current State President, Stefan Dudley ‘Taz’ (HDE, Bend area), asked that the West Valley Chapter plan and run the Free The Colors ride on Sunday April 15, which will result in a full weekend for OVMA.

The ride route (see map) will start out at 12 noon (sharp) from the VFW Post #584 on 1469 Timber St, SE, Albany.  From there they will be going to Lebanon, visiting the site where a new Veterans Home will be built. Then on to Scio, visiting a Veterans Memorial, then to Jefferson, from there to I-5 N, they will be stopping at Rest Lawn Cemetery in W. Salem, (OVMA has a Memorial there), and from there to the Independence Veterans Memorial.  They plan to fit in a lunch and/or rest stop somewhere on the ride, and from there back to 99W down to Albany, and to the Legion.

There will also be a breakfast at the VFW from 9-11:45am

Hear that sound?  It’s time to ride and let the sun shine in on April 15th!

Poster photo and map courtesy of OVMA

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Fritz Clapp Letter to H-D

It takes muscle to avoid.  Not strained, forced muscle; but strength that’s supple, agile, free-flowing: that’s the tone of a healthy brand.

Yet, Harley-Davidson is using all its muscle and threatening people… all disguised as protecting brand equity.  It can only lead to more legal costs and is often the case, bad press.

So what’s the background?  It seems that H-D is fresh off a boot butt kicking contest with the Marlon Brando estate — Brando Enterprises LP — along with Wolverine Worldwide Inc., and agreed to settle a suit over the unlicensed use of the Brando name on a Harley-branded boot that resembled the ones Brando wore when he played Johnny Strabler in the 1953 movie “The Wild One.”  That whole gig had to have cost the company some pocket change just to run it through the court system process only to get to the point of where all parties mutually decided to “agree” that there wasn’t any infringement.

It’s no secret, the motor company has an extensive licensing business, and last year it generated $43.2M selling the rights to use its name on products ranging from jewelry to cake decorations.

Not satisfied with their “boot win” the trademark bloodhounds at H-D decided that a 6-week old forum web site called HarleySpace.com was threatening one of the world’s most recognized brands and told the owner to “cease and desist” using the name because it’s a trademark infringement.  Huh?  Doesn’t this show just how far they’ll go in pursuing the exclusivity of a famous trademark?

In my view this has the markings of a Susan G. Komen for the cure public relations fiasco written all over it.

Mr. Fritz Clapp

The owner of the site, James Coulbourne did what most of us would do and hired an attorney.  Not just any lawyer, but Fritz Clapp, who is most often known for representing the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) in intellectual property cases and goes by the name “lawyer from Hell” on his website.  Having sued the Walt Disney Co., Marvel Comics, and the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen to protect the HAMC name, Mr. Clapp knows a little bit about trademark law/infringement and enthusiastically took on the case at no charge!

If you do a Google search you’ll find that there are many, many other motorcycle blogs and social media sites with the name Harley in them.  They are clearly noncommercial and are easily and immediately distinguishable from the commercial merchandise offered and sold bearing the Harley brand.  So what’s their beef?  It seems that Mr. Coulbourne sent emails to Harley-Davidson dealerships promoting his 6-week-old website and that sent the trademark boys over the abyss. 

As educated consumers we know that great brands have a core clarity to them.  Enthusiasm spreads the message.  It also unburdens the company from having to force-feed passion for the brand and they should no longer be focused on convincing. Instead, their goal should be revealing. Others testify to H-D attributes and for this to happen, they need to give up some control because the core H-D brand identity is firmly in hand.

UPDATE: April 25, 2012 – Last week (April 20th), Mr. Coulbourne changed the name of his biker social-networking site from HarleySpace.com to IronRides.com. 

Photo courtesy of Fritz Clapp, IP Magazine and James Coulbourne.

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A classic Yamaha ad said it all in 1978

Do you remember when the last time you ask yourself… “What was I thinking…?”

I’m sure everyone reading this post right now will immediately jump to a time in their life or place where they can remember an incident created by some questionable judgment.

I can remember an instance on my trusty Yamaha YZ400 that I often referred to as “Ol Yeller” – that bike really helped me perfect the art of sliding on gravel after failing to negotiate a bend in the road at high speed.  At the time I was thinking in slow motion how this isn’t so bad… I’ll just slide toward the right into that nice green pasture.  No fence, no worries.  Just then the motorcycle (which was out in front of me) flipped up in the air and changed directions mid-stream while I dropped several feet into a creek bed with a thud.   I remember staring up at the blue sky and hearing the quiet sounds of nature — birds chirping and the sounds of a bubbling brook that was shortly followed with a wet sensation in my pants.  It wasn’t what you think!

The "'Ol Yeller" - 1978 Yamaha YZ400

The world came to a standstill and other than suffering from a severely bruised ego I only noticed a little trouble breathing.  I sat up (helped by a fair amount of adrenalin) in time for my buddy to arrive and ask “Dude, what were you thinking?”  I should have ask myself that question just before gunning the YZ throttle and I did ask it a number of times daily when later I learned and suffered through the recovery of a couple cracked ribs.

I picked myself up and sloshed out of the ice cold creek (remember that wet sensation?), checked that everything seemed to be in place, located the Yamaha and rode with a bent handlebar and warped front wheel back to Lee’s Camp on the OR coast range where we started the day.   It was a painful ride and ended an otherwise rather good riding day.  It’s provided some good camp fire stories over the years.

Had the anti-OHV group, Wildlands CPR been in the area I’m sure they would have used my incident  as a poster-child example for off-road harassing of wildlife and destroying vegetation.

How about you?  Do you have a “What was I thinking” experience?

Photo courtesy of Yamaha.

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The Devil's Tail

It’s about 90 days out until HCMR, but if you wait much longer to ride the dream in historic Baker City be prepared to camp out on the High School football field.  Not that there is anything wrong with that as the posse tried this a couple years back.

There’s truly something about Baker City, Oregon.

It’s a city that rolls out the red carpet for bikers and welcomes them like they are veterans returning home from a war.  Local residents volunteer their homes and when ask provide updates on what’s new in their fine city.  It’s a friendly atmosphere, warm outgoing residents, great food with refreshments, and this year a Main Street that will be closed to traffic where the vendors will hawk their wares in the street along with the motorcycle show.

And that’s just Baker City. Add to this the awesome motorcycle roads that intersect at Baker, I-84, Hwy 30, Hwy 7, Hwy 203, Hwy 245 and Hwy 86. Also nearby are Hwy 244, Hwy 237, Hwy 26 Hwy 82 and the Hells Canyon, Blue Mountain and Elkhorn Scenic Byways. And don’t forget the more important road — The Devil’s Tail — a 22 mile road from Oxbow to Hells Canyon Dam is the signature ride of the rally. It could be the most inspiring 44 miles you’ve ridden on a motorcycle!

There’s a lot more and if you’re looking for a narrative taste I’ve blogged about previous trips HERE, 2010 HERE and 2009 HERE.

You wake up in the morning and the beauty surrounds bikers on all sides. The Blue Mountains, the Elkhorn Ridge, the Seven Devils, the Wallowa Mountains and the Strawberry Mountains. More natural landscape in your first breath than many people get to experience in a lifetime.

I’ll see you there.

Photo taken by author.

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“Once you start something, finish it!”

Words to live by from Wisconsin’s custom builder Mike Rabideau who designs and builds his own motorcycles at Majik Mike’s Designs.  If interested you can see a day in the life video HERE.

Custom bike builders are always looking to make their bikes stand out amongst a sea of wild paint and chrome.  Majik Mike’s Designs are clean and isn’t it funny how minimalistic designs will stand out in a crowd these days.

Matt Binetti created this short documentary.  He reached out to me to share the story of his friend and a dedicated artist and his shop.

I was happy to do so.  Take a few minutes out of your day and enjoy the story of a rising star.

Photo courtesy of Matt Binetti and Mike Rabideau.

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This past weekend I rolled the bike out of the garage to enjoy the blue sky and 59 degree weather.  Wow, it doesn’t get much better in the northwest for an early spring day!  Never mind that it snowed the very next day!

I headed to the local Shell station and as I topped off the gas tank I tried to recall which of the political candidates detailed how the oversupply in natural gas had caused its price to crash, and then, just when you thought they were about to blame Obama for destroying the income of all those poor natural gas folks, pivoted on a dime and used it as a supporting argument for why $2.50 a gallon gas is very do-able… right, just as the average price of gasoline has increased by 42 cents, from $3.36 to $3.78 per gallon since the beginning of the year.  And that’s from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and it’s an average of all grades, all formulations, across all regions of the country.

Yet, somehow, the politicians know where there’s enough oil to cause a world oversupply, or something to drive the price down.   Huh?  All I know is that $4 a gallon “creates some very real challenges” for average American families and their household budgets.

The “drill baby drill” makes for a nice bumper sticker. But, the real answer, is there’s no quick fix.  Gasoline prices are linked very tightly to crude oil prices.  The rule of thumb is that a $1 increase in the price of crude produces a 2½-cent increase in the price of gasoline. Lately, gasoline prices have been linked most closely to the price of Brent crude, and since the beginning of the year Brent has gone up from $107 to $123, a $16 increase.   Clearly some of the price difference is also related to oil speculators on Wall Street. Sanctions on Iran may be hurting their ability to ship crude. Additionally, some analysts think that some of the price increase is driven by fear that Iran might cut off oil shipments entirely, or else slow or close the Strait of Hormuz. In other words, some of the pricing might be driven by fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD).

Clearly demand for oil is pushing up against supply limits, and that’s a permanent condition.  And when supply and demand are tightly constrained, any small bump in demand or disruption in supply causes a big swing in prices for you and I. Last year it was the war in Libya that caused a price spike. This month it’s Iran. But it’s always something and it doesn’t take much anymore to produce a $30 swing in oil prices.

We need to change the conversation.

Yeah, I’ve read about the new shale oil finds in North Dakota too.  It might increase global supplies a bit, but probably not enough to make up for increasing demand from China and other emerging economies. Basically, prices are going to stay high for the foreseeable future.  Like it or not, this is our future.

I recommend buying a motorcycle!

Photo courtesy of Shell

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