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Archive for November, 2012

Harley announced that tickets for the Milwaukee 110th anniversary will go on sale to the general public on Dec. 17th.

You might recall that Harley began its year-long, worldwide celebration about 3-months ago.  The motor company is holding events across 11 countries, and the final celebration happens over Labor Day weekend in 2013.  The tickets are located at:  www.H-D.com/110tickets and HOG members can buy tickets beginning Dec. 10th.

Harley is selling a “celebration ticket” for $95, which includes access to the Summerfest grounds, an opportunity to purchase tickets for the headlining concerts at Marcus Amphitheater before they go on sale, a link to download the official event app for a mobile device or smartphone, a map of historic Harley-Davidson sites in Milwaukee, and automatic entry to win a parade pass.

They will also offer a $102.50 commemorative ticket which includes a photo frame holder, commemorative laminated ticket and lanyard, a Milwaukee 110th Anniversary pocket guide, a limited edition poker chip, a guitar pick keepsake and a collapsible koozie for refreshments.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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If only you could truly erase the past…

I was flipping channels during the Thanksgiving holiday when an ad with Marlo Thomas as the spokesperson for St. Jude Children’s Hospital blasted the airwaves.

It’s a good cause, but I was struck by the fact that despite having lots of money and access to the best medical professionals, celebrities like Cher, Joan Rivers, Kenny Rodgers and especially Marlo Thomas had tighter skin… and they looked…different.  Almost unrecognizable.  I’m not sure where this obsession for lifting, tucking, smoothing, sucking out or puffing up with plastic surgery began.

And according to this report December is the busiest plastic surgery month.

I’m not sure what happened with the folks above because all the latest studies say older people are happier. They understand the game. They’re not happy their lives are going to end, but they know what to fret over and what not too.  And despite all the collectables or financial investments, one of the amazing things about aging is you truly realize you can’t take it with you. That those items you cherish so much will probably be tossed by your heirs. That all you have is your relationships and your experiences. What’s in your head as opposed to what’s in your driveway.

And speaking of the driveway… I wonder about a similar obsession to extract the best ride and performance out of our Harley-Davidson motorcycles through continuous transformations and enhancements.  Is the perpetual winter project any different from the obsessive plastic surgery?  Once a motorcycle leaves the motor company are any changes really needed?  Yet,  as December arrives in a few days don’t we look to upgrade the exhaust, change the colors, add pin stripes, change the suspension, upgrade the wheels, change the floorboards, ratchet up the engine performance, add chrome or replace components with blacked-out billet versions?

If we are being intellectually honest isn’t this similar to the recycling “hips to the lips” crowd… who at some point declared non-moving foreheads as attractive?  I’m not saying that a beautiful custom built motorcycle doesn’t have an advantage, but if you’ve ever been around someone that has a trophy-looking motorcycle you know it comes with a cost.

Why can’t we just be satisfied that it’s… stock.  Uniquely showroom stock!

If our only problem is the bike is getting older, isn’t it best to just embrace and own it.  Is life truly about changing out or trading up as opposed to being satisfied with what you’ve already got?  It’s the road stories and depth that counts.  The history. And like plastic surgery, no matter what we do to the exterior, it will still be that age on the inside, with creaky springs and the inability to perform at the same athletic high-level as brand new.

Chasing an ideal that can never be finished – why?  The truth is that despite what Harley-Davidson youth marketing is trying to make us feel, most of us are not buying in to it.

I’m not lobbying for a lack of motorcycle grooming, but have we lost the plot?

Full Disclosure:  I’m guilty of motorcycle windshield lifts, billet augmentation, altered metal, chiseled wheels, sculpted fuel-tanks, and whittled lights along with determinedly un-wrinkled fenders.  Yes, I’m seeking help and plan to go on TV to deny having performed any “surgery” on the ‘Glide’.

Photos take by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Milwaukee LIGHTNING

It’s too expensive.

I’m talking about the iPhone 5.

Sure they advertise it for $199, but the basic version has such limited storage most buy the 32 gig model for $299.  And then there’s $131.72 for AppleCare and you’ll need a case.  If you haven’t dropped a phone in water then you don’t own one.

A lot of people are into this cell phone for nearly five hundred dollars.   FIVE HUNDRED!

And then there’s the case. Gotta have a case. You’ll want that investment protected.

Then there’s the cables… people have a plethora of the old 30 pin jobs lying around, but … now you’ll need LIGHTNING.  And they’re $29 apiece!

And speaking of LIGHTNING…  Next to the YMCA in Ann Arbor, Michigan there is a rather nondescript building which is the HQ for Harley-Davidson intellectual property holding company called H-D Michigan, LLC.

On Thanksgiving day Apple purchased and secured use of the European trademark for LIGHTNING from Harley-Davidson.  The “LIGHTNING” term, which Apple uses to reference the connector for the new iPhone 5, was partially-transferred to Apple, according to the Trade Marks and Design Office of the European Union. TMDO documents show that the Harley-Davidson-owned trademark No. 003469541 was partially transferred to Apple under trademark No. 011399862.

The TMDO defines a partial transfer as a transfer of the term for use in a limited number of goods or services, which suggests that Harley-Davidson will still be able to use the term. Harley-Davidson’s trademark lists clothing and outerwear as the goods and services for its trademark, while Apple’s trademark lists a variety of “games and playthings.”  Terms of the transfer were not revealed.

The EU trademark won’t apply in the U.S., and ownership of the U.S. trademark appears to be in limbo. A U.S. trademark application for Lightning was submitted by the Lightning Car Company in January 2011, however the March 2012 notice for allowance of the application was canceled on September 13.

Photo courtesy of Darren Hauck — http://www.dhauckphoto.com

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Another year of cupcakes and candles is an acute reminder that I’m just an aging blogger.

And, there are some readers out there who actually believe I fly on the Harley-Davidson corporate jet, that Mark-Hans Richer (CMO) writes me a personal check every month for the magical posts I throw down about the motor company and that the kind words about Keith Wandell (CEO) were because he sent me a case of chrome Road Glide parts to fence on the black market.

I am in the middle of a blacked-out billet phase on the Road Glide with no chrome parts for sale, but the point is about aging and obsolescence.

For example, I was watching the Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)) documentary on Palladia a couple weeks back.  I’d like to recommend that you watch it, but it’s just not that good so don’t waste your time.  But if you were under the age of twenty and watched this documentary you’d think Jeff Lynne was the most skilled rock star of the seventies.  It’s just not true. But there was a moment early on, when they played Jeff’s first single with the Idle Race… when they dropped the needle on the 45 and…

You’ve got to know, turntables did not become the rage until the very late sixties, in some cases the seventies. Audiophiles might have had an AR or a Thorens, or if you really had some money you’d purchase a Duals, but before that… there were only record players.  The tone-arms were about as sleek as a Ford F-350 truck. Heavy, and they were rarely automatic.  In fact, you’d often need to tape a dime on top to ensure they did not skip.

But what brought me back in time was that little arm, the little piece of plastic on the side… It was the lever you used to flip the needle from 33 to 45. And when you thought the music was getting a bit distorted, a bit scratchy, you’d go to your local electronics shop, which was just like an auto parts store, but with more dust, and you’d hold the needle in front of the guy behind the counter and he’d go back and retrieve a new one.  It came encased in a tiny plastic jewel box, sitting on a piece of foam rubber.  You’d go back home, pop it in, and listen once again through that all-in-one unit with the single speaker.

This was the way it was done. It was a routine and as familiar as dialing a rotary phone. But, it’s been lost to the sands of time.  It’s one thing to look at pictures on the internet of stuff that happened long before you were born. It’s quite another to be jolted into a past that you were extremely familiar with which has completely disappeared.

Things change and technology accelerates the pace.

We heard for a decade that digital photography was going to kill film and that Kodak wasn’t prepared.  Yet it seemed to never happen, then almost overnight everyone had a digital camera and Kodak filed for bankruptcy. Just because the future isn’t here yet it doesn’t mean it’s not coming.

Is Harley-Davidson the Kodak of the future?  They believe they’re in the memories and shared experience business when they really produce motorcycles!

Tell me which H-D touring model has a highly advanced semi-active suspension system which is capable of automatically adapting calibration to the type of path, asphalt and riding style the rider adopted?  Do any H-D cruisers have a multi-map ride-by-wire accelerator, traction control adjustable to multiple levels with multi-channel ABS (which can both be disengaged)?  What key features were developed from all the years of racing experience and applied to the product?  Are touring V-twin engines a jewel of technology and capable of producing power and torque above the closest competition?

It’s like they’re standing on ceremony, waiting for the past to return when nothing of the sort is ever going to happen.

It’s my viewpoint that the motor company needs to better COMMUNICATE the changes being considered for future products.  A product roadmap if you will.  We hear a lot about manufacturing optimization process changes, but when you put the bottom line first, you head straight towards obsolescence.

Harley-Davidson needs to get in the river and swim alongside its audience.  For example; I know a half dozen riders who have purchased 2-3 H-D motorcycles each over the past 10 years.  Not once has the motor company contacted these riders requesting feedback or soliciting ideas for product improvements.  Why?  If you want to be relevant in the future, you’ve got to innovate and lead.  When you get the motorcycle public embracing your plans, people will do your marketing if they believe in your product.

Here are a few ideas that H-D should consider:

  1. Provide more access to H-D experts/employees along with technical information via social media.
  2. Provide more do-it-yourself customization and/or how-to maintenance info; webcasts H-D TV or on a H-D Education Channel.
  3. Sponsor an educational program such as a “Tech Tuesday” video chat with experts to help consumers get more familiar with the technology and motorcycle culture.
  4. Invite independent bloggers to cover pre-launch and launch activity.  Provide bloggers similar access granted to the trade magazines to the factory. We understand press embargoes and know the drill.
  5. Provide bloggers limited access to your corporate sponsored dealer events.

You stay relevant by continuing to play. By taking chances. Innovating. Once you rely on your greatest hits, you’re toast.

Photo courtesy of H-D and Adalgisa Lira Santos

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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President Barack Obama has been re-elected for 4 more years and we remain a collection of polarized red and blue states.

The first instinct of some will be to blame the voters — to say they just don’t “get” it — or to imply the “takers” simply outnumber the “makers.”

To my way of thinking, Americans should have been outraged by what happened in Benghazi. Or outraged by the increasing debt — or by the fact that the unemployment rate actually rose during Obama’s first term.  But it’s the job of the political spin “machine” and party movements to persuade Americans to buy into their “reality distortion field” — vision.  And clearly they aren’t buying what Republicans are selling.

So while most will focus today on Obama’s reelection victory and mandate this or mandate that, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the hard work and sacrifice of Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and their families.

I’ll admit it — Mitt wasn’t my guy in the primaries.  But when he got the nomination, I put a few of my differences aside to join him in supporting the many other things we have in common from a business background.  As the campaign went on, he grew on me — especially after he chose Ryan to help confront some serious spending issues.   They ran a good and dignified campaign.  Many of you may disagree, but I felt President Obama lowered himself and the office of the president with mudslinging class warfare and immature name-calling.  It’s debatable, but I felt Romney kept his eye on the bigger picture.

At the end of the day, I respect Mitt Romney.  As one of the 48%, the loss is a disappointment, but I’m proud to have been represented in this election by a man who carried himself with dignity, even when he faced vicious & narrow-minded attacks on his personal character, his work ethics and his faith.

As he stated in his gracious concession speech, that he “left everything on the field” and for that, I wanted to provide him a sincere shout out.

To Mr. Obama: The campaigning and election are over. It’s time for governing and making things happen.  Please do it!

Full disclosure:  I have a major distrust of government that wants to manage every aspect of my life.  I believe in balanced budgets and that private enterprise creates wealth, but I also know that some of Wall Street bankers and corporate executives are so overpaid you’d think they solved world peace and don’t get a pass.

Photo courtesy of Scripps Media.

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