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Archive for May, 2012

The rumbling to life of a half-dozen V-Twins brings a collective smile.

We’ll pull out in formation, heading 300 miles East to the first night’s destination in famous Baker City.  You’ll understand why when you begin the adventure and travel the colorful history of the Oregon Trail and through the majestic Wallowa Mountains of Northeast Oregon. As always, it’ll be good to be on the road.

We call it the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally (HCMR). A two-wheeled tour with friends from various walks of American life with the single mission of enjoying the ride to a gold mine of geology, scenery, plants and wildlife.  Home of several scenic byways including the Elkhorn Drive National Scenic Byway that’s a dream to put your bike on one of the greatest motorcycle roads anywhere.

Our journey will begin in just a few days.  It’s a long enough ride for everyone to find their groove, yet sprinkled in with a few stops where conversations recount who we are, where we’ve been and what we’ve seen. That’s how road trips work.

It also gives this ever-fashionable blog editor a chance to swap the wingtips for a more suitable form of footgear.  Along the way we’ll find motorcycle friendly businesses that speak “two-wheel” and once we end at the “Queen City of the Mines” (Baker City) the Folkestad motorcycle rally ambience will take hold.

I’ve blogged about previous trips HERE for 2011, HERE for 2010 and in 2009 HERE.

Don’t miss this rally!

Photo courtesy of Baker City Chamber of Commerce

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At Willamette National Cemetery

I remember watching the Vietnam War as a kid and seeing shooting and blood and bodies—and people were serious.  Very serious!

Then years later on the first night of Desert Storm in 1991, while watching CNN the contrast was stunning.  I remember thinking, are they reporting on a war, or are they trying to sell me on it?  These days the media is problematic as they would rather be first than be right!  Endless commentary without much reporting.  I’ve always thought that people should get information to make themselves smarter, not just to make themselves feel good and reinforce their viewpoints, but I’ve digressed.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day which commemorates the men and women who died while in the military service.  It is set aside so that we might reflect on the honor and sacrifice of those who courageously gave their lives to safeguard us and our way of life. Freedom surrounds each of us everyday—as we openly speak our minds, ride motorcycles freely in any city, where worship is feely exercised and where ballots are freely cast to change who will govern this great county.

It is a great county, and let’s take a few minutes today to remind ourselves of the consequences of war and remember the families of our Fallen.

Photo taken by author at Willamette National Cemetery.

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Three-peat is a contraction of the words three and repeat, which has been trademarked for commercial use by retired basketball coach Pat Riley.

The Oregon motorcycle rally called Good Vibrations is set to “3 Peat” on July 13th.  It’s three days of motorcycle fun in and around Salem/Keizer including festivities at Riverfront Park and Salem Harley-Davidson.

Randy Burke, President of Road Shows Inc., (Reno Street Vibrations “fame”) is running at full throttle to make the third rendition of the motorcycle rally in Oregon the best. The  rally will have bike competitions, bike shows, entertainment, concerts, poker runs, wine country tours and is expected to attract hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts to the area.

I’ve provided shout outs in the past for Randy Burke HERE about his efforts to make Street Vibrations a major success.  His company, Roadshows Inc. is a private company categorized under Entertainment Promotion and located in Reno, NV. Online records indicate it was established in the ‘90’s and incorporated in Nevada. Current estimates indicate the company has an annual revenue of $500,000 to $1 million and they employ a staff of approximately 5 to 9.  They are also a fully licensed entertainment booking agency, licensed private event security and event management company.  In addition to Good & Street Vibrations, they produce events in Palm Springs, Lake Havasu, Mammoth Lakes, Myrtle Beach, SC and Milwaukee.

They know how to make magic at a motorcycle rally!

Photo courtesy of Road Shows Inc.

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Gipsy On The Devils Ride

It wasn’t all that long ago that most biker shows on TV were about building obscenely expensive and nearly un-ridable custom motorcycles.  Viewers of these shows could pretend that they were skilled enough to build a custom bike and somehow like magic become a rich and famous celebrity or join the elite club of A-listers who love to flaunt their fabulous machines.  I described it HERE as too much of nothing!

But, American infotainment marches on to find even more drama and action so now we have the Laffing Devils MC on a Discovery TV show called The Devils Ride, which is like watching the Wildhogs movie except they were funny!

The show’s executive producer, Jason Hervey told Realscreen, a webzine about the global business of factual entertainment that “They are not a gang, but I will tell you they are a fierce group of individuals.”  Hervey also told Realscreen that the Laffing Devils initially scoffed at his invitation to become celebrities. They reportedly told him, “We aren’t the Kardashians, brother – we’re the real deal.”  “They take a lot of pride in their club,” Hervey said. “There is a lot of respect and protocol that goes into interacting with them. Essentially there was a big process about trust, because they didn’t want to look silly or do a ‘typical reality show.’”

Well on the respect front they over promised and under delivered.  I feel disrespected for having watched 2 episodes thinking the show would develop into something of interest, but now all I want is my time back!

To prove the point about it being faux at every turn just go to the sweepstakes or Facebook page and you’ll notice that they’ve reversed most or photoshopped the photos of Gipsy’s motorcycle.  I guess the devil head shifter just looks too cool on the wrong side!

Shame on Discovery producers of The Devil’s Ride for trying to cash in on the biker niche market.  This  is about as big a dud as the Facebook IPO!

Photo courtesy of Discovery Channel

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The 21st annual motorcycle Ride to Work Day is June 18th.

Our current culture largely considers motorcycles as “toys” which is unfortunate as they deserve a much larger status as a legitimate mode of personal transportation.

The third Monday in June is an opportunity to highlight motorcycles as a viable, fun and fuel-efficient mode of transportation.  It’s expected that over a million commuters will participate, demonstrating the positive benefits of riding.

Last year the City of Portland, and Mayor Sam Adams proclaimed the third Monday of June as Ride to Work Day, so I encourage you to participate and use the day as a reminder to get involved in the motorcycle community.

Photo courtesy of Ride to Work.

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Trends come on go.  A few weeks back I ran across a Swiss company called Paper.li… a content curation service.

Huh?

Yeah, that’s what I thought too!  It’s a service that allows people to publish electronic newspapers base on topics they like and has the ability to treat their readers to fresh news daily.

Every day from around the internet there are hundreds if not thousands of articles that are written for the motorcycle community.  More than most of us can ever read or assimilate in any single day be it by email or an RSS feed.

So how can a person keep up on this ever increasing pile of motorcycle content?  I’ll spare you the technical details, but basically this service fetches articles from everywhere and semantically analyzes them for relevance to the community and publishes a daily paper on my behalf.  I don’t mind trying out new things especially if it’s not heavy lifting to get started.

And this was rather simple if your active on Twitter to set up the “paper” which aggregates the information and delivers curated news to a single well-defined target audience.  I’m not running a blogger business, but I could see and appreciate how this type service might benefit inbound/outbound marketing strategies.

I like scanning what others are writing about and it sometimes provides me ideas of future articles to explore.

If interested check out the motorcycle news at The Northwest Harley Blog Daily.  Is there any wonder why newspapers are going extinct?!

Photo courtesy of Paper.li

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Dan Lyons wrote a terrific analysis of Facebook’s purchase of Instagram in Newsweek.

Bottom line, we live in a mobile world.  Zuckerberg recognized that we’re moving to an access world and rather than try to convince everyone to go back to the past, to keep surfing on PCs, he bought Instagram for a billion dollars, which has a great app (even though no profits) because he didn’t want to be left out of the future.

We live in an attention economy.  Where the most important element is access.  If you’re not available to everybody at a very low price, if not free, your destined for the scrapheap.  And in an era where we’re on information overload, only the incredible takes hold and survives.

Speaking of incredible…

Summertime will be here before you know it and many of us have started planning our annual motorcycle road trip/vacations.  But, before you head out I suggest you download National Parks.  Developed by National Geographic it’s a new travel app highlighted by lush photographs from the vast National Geographic archives.

The application content spans from Maine’s Acadia to Utah’s Zion, National Parks and features information on thousands of points of interest, all tagged with GPS coordinates and complemented by recommendations from National Geographic editors.  It includes global and interactive maps enable filtering by activity and seasonality, and travelers can share experiences via Facebook, Twitter and email while collecting custom-designed stamps for each park they visit.

Best of all its FREE and available for iOS.

We all know that National Geographic projects are separated from rival efforts by the incredible photography and this app doesn’t disappoint.  Information on each park is accompanied by a photo gallery including both contemporary and vintage shots, and the images are stunning, especially on the iPad.

And if you’re like me,  you’ll want to snap some photos of your own and, National Parks also offers tips and tricks from National Geographic staff photographers to help make that motorcycle adventure a picture-perfect experience.

Facebook Mobile illustration courtesy of Kelsey Dake.  Photos courtesy of National Geographic.

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By now you’ve likely read the Q1’12 financial report about how Harley-Davidson Inc. blew away the key financial metrics for the quarter.

You know – Financial Reports – the documents and records pulled together by the motor company to track and review how much money the business is making (or not) with the purpose to update the lenders and shareholders.  These reports are not very friendly or helpful explanations.  More often they require an accounting degree because of the use of financial derivatives, contracts and instruments.

At any rate, not only did H-D report strong gains in earnings for the first quarter of 2012, but motorcycle and related products revenue for the quarter jumped to $1.27 billion, compared with $1.06 billion for the year-ago period.  Consolidated revenue for the quarter, which includes revenue from H-D’s financial services unit, rose to $1.43 billion for the quarter, compared with $1.22 billion in the year-ago quarter.  Most important was the fact that retail sales of new motorcycles grew 20.3 percent worldwide in the quarter compared with the prior-year period and it was led by a strong 25.5 percent increase in the U.S.

Is Harley-Davidson becoming cool to work for again?

It’s a big place and I’m sure some would say yes its cool.  However, what they’ve been through the last couple years has been painful and the process of getting rid of a lot of old bad habits has some maybe thinking no.  The Harley-Davidson chairman, president and CEO, Keith Wandell’s willingness to take on the risks took a lot of courage and it now seems to be paying off.

In other words, it takes 10,000 hours to become world class.  This is a key point in Malcolm Gladwell’s book called “Outliers” which has popularized the theory of 10,000 hours to excellence.  Clearly Mr. Wandell has put in his 10,000 hours, but that doesn’t mean anyone will notice.  Many will just shrug their shoulders at his accomplishments, or they might not even care.

I’ve taken notice and wonder if Harley-Davidson is ahead of its time or is the outlook less optimistic because they’re very good at setting targets that they are confident of being able to hit?

I would suggest that their success this quarter has been largely dependent on “baggers” and the discretionary spending situation improving versus bold new designs.  Meaning the whole motorcycle industry is running on conventional wisdom. People keep doing it the way everybody else is doing it, not expecting a different result so much as being desirous of converting people over to their brand or getting the few remaining conventional buyers left in the business.

You might disagree, but from my vantage Harley-Davidson hasn’t busted out a new “hit” (model) with worldwide success in long time despite the daily onslaught of promotions and publicity.  I’m talking about a stand in the line type of hit!  The conventional orthodoxy of the motorcycle industry is that H-D’s are styled conservatively.  This is typical market research talking.  It’s conventional wisdom saying don’t take a risk on design.  Just accept safe.  A blacked-out bolt here and a new red glitter color there.

Independent of this most recent financial report, the issue is that “safe” doesn’t consistently move the needle in terms of sales.

John Krafcik, President and CEO of Hyundai Motor America

If that were true then Hyundai sales wouldn’t be burgeoning or would they be the most feared major car company in the U.S.  Do you remember when Hyundai’s used to be a joke? Jay Leno said you could double a Hyundai’s value by filling it up with gas.  No one’s laughing now as Hyundai’s John Krafcik steered it from joke to contender. It took a risk.

So, when will we see some of that product “risk” that Harley-Davidson refers to in the quarterly financial reports?  Or has it all come down to being safe and going after the number of “likes” on social networking sites?  Hey, Harley… 1999 called and said they want the true-to-self artistry back!  We can smell the hype.  We know when you’re working it.  What’s sup with all the emphasis on tweeting and hyper-vomiting facebook “fans” over everyone’s networking profiles.  It all adds to the dissonant fray of self promotion and it’s hard to hear when everyone is yelling.

If you have a hot product, people want it.  We know when something impacts us, when we believe it’s great.  And when we find something good, we want to get closer, we want to tell everybody we know.  You don’t have to tweet, you don’t have to Facebook, you don’t even need a website. But it’s got to be different, it’s got to challenge conventional wisdom, it’s got to appeal to people’s hearts more than their pocket books.

Harley-Davidson is at a point where they can make the transformation from the perennial also-ran to a motorcycle industry jauggernaut that pushes the envelope in its designs while other companies try to catch up.  Or the Hyundai equivalent will…

Photos courtesy of H-D and Richard Drew/AP.

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