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Archive for February, 2014

why-we-ride-graphicWith so much of the country in the grip of a Polar Vortex and with no letup in colder temperatures in sight, it might be timely to remind ourselves of why we ride.

No, this isn’t another post about wind chill, hypothermia, frostbite, loss of traction in freezing weather or impaired judgment due to cooling effects.  Nor is it about old grizzled guys on motorcycles making an excursion across the country as the Discovery Channel would like us to believe as reality.

I’m talking about the warmth of a roaring fire, and pulling out your favorite refreshment from the fridge and watching an inspiring film about a real motorcycle community.  Motorcyclists who live each day to the fullest on their two-wheeled machines.

But, I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

why-rideLike many of you, I’m often ask why I ride? 

It’s a difficult thing to describe.  It’s about the camaraderie of the friends and families who ride together.  It’s about the uniqueness of the people you meet when riding is an adventure.  The connection to their stories and backgrounds.

I think riding depends on the context.  There are times when I feel good just standing next to my Harley or just looking at it because I just did something to it that I thought was a little bit different that spoke to me.  So, in that context I don’t even have to ride it to have a great experience. 

But, when I get out on the road obviously the nature of where I’m going colors the experience a little bit; riding in a city at night, riding in mountains in the morning, hugging a mountain pass road without guard rails or riding through a desert rain storm. 

I don’t know how best to describe it in words, but I like the energy of it.  I like just hitting the road as the wind washes over me and letting the stress of work bleed out.  There are a lot of dimensions in riding a motorcycle from the passion of the riders to the soul of their bikes and I’m sure that is what keeps so many people interested.

Why We Ride, is a documentary film that brings together the motorcycle community in a celebration of what it means to be a rider.  It’s a great film and now you can download it on iTunes or Amazon and enjoy all it has to offer this winter from the warmth of your home.   

There is nothing else like it.  In fact, this study suggests that riding a motorcycle will make you a happier person than the average!

Photo courtesy of Kretz Media Holdings, LLC

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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CR-MotorcyclesThat is, according to Consumer Reports.

You know, the independent, consumer-oriented not-for-profit organization, replete with consumer activists.

Recognized as an automotive quality and value authority, Consumer Reports branched out and started reviewing motorcycles last year.  They published the first-ever report on the most reliable motorcycles from five of the biggest brands — Harley, BMW, Honda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha.  For some odd reason, Polaris’ Victory and Indian brands didn’t make enough of an impact in the market to attract Consumer Reports attention by the time of the survey.

percentage-of-bikes-with-problems_largeFrom its research Consumer Reports discovered that quality varies “significantly” among brands — and the best brand, Yamaha, is about six times more reliable than the worst, BMW.

Only about one Yamaha motorcycle in 10 has experienced a major problem or required a serious repair over the past four years, according to the 4,424 motorcycle owners surveyed by Consumer Reports. In contrast, about one BMW motorcycle in three has suffered from such a complaint — and one Harley in four.

Consumer Reports found that major, big-ticket repairs were few and far between in its research. Regardless of bike and regardless of brand, only about 3% of all problems reported to Consumer Reports involved a motorcycle’s engine, only 3% a transmission, and only 7% a clutch. More common were issues with a vehicle’s brakes or electrical or fuel system, and with the accessories.

Overall, Consumer Reports noted that about 75% of the repairs reported to it were performed for $200 or less.

Photo courtesy of Consumer Reports.

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joining metal exhaust line components

Joining metal exhaust line components

In the exhaust business there are tradeoffs between looks and performance.  

We all know that an exhaust system design has a big impact on engine performance.  Header pipe diameter, bend radius, pipe length, muffler volume and design of the baffle all effect performance.

We’re seeing a lot of innovation in fabricating from lightweight stainless steel, carbon steel, aluminum, chromoly along with coated high temperature ceramic exhaust systems.

There is a French based company (Faurecia) in the small town of Dexter, Missouri that specializes in emission control technology and manufactures exhaust systems for the auto industry.  Through-out the years they’ve also made exhaust components for Harley-Davidson.

Faurecia - Dexter, Missouri

Faurecia – Dexter, Missouri

According to this reportthe company recently won a contract to manufacture exhaust systems for the newly designed Harley-Davidson – 2017 “Slingshot” series – which is currently in the planning stage.  This is an exhaust system for the next generation of Harley-Davidson’s motorcycles and Faurecia works closely with the Harley new product teams to get them industrialized at the Dexter plant.

Faurecia is an innovative company and has developed what amounts to “noise-canceling headphones” for tail pipes.  It’s not clear if H-D is looking to implement this technology on the 2017 products?

Faurecia engineering veteran, Phil LeBeau was quoted in the report saying; “The current series that we’ve been manufacturing for Harley-Davidson in Dexter has remained the same for about seven years,” he explains. “They just went through a re-design. What’s coming is the replacement for Harley’s FL series. 

I’ve seen reports in 2013 about Polaris developing a (side-by-side) trike called the “Slingshot,” but have no more information on the Harley-Davdison 2017 “Slingshot” series.  If I get additional data I’ll update this post.

Photos courtesy of Faurecia. 

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Sons of Anarchy co-star Mark Boone Junior, (Bobby)

Sons of Anarchy co-star Mark Boone Junior (Bobby)

It would seem that AOL CEO, Tim Armstrong, isn’t the only person making inexcusable blunders that goes far beyond foolish.

Huh?

Let me provide some context.  

You might recall how the AOL CEO whined last week  that two “distressed babies” had cost his company a million dollars each. That pronouncement was widely criticized, especially because it seemed Armstrong (who was paid over $12M last year) was trying to shift the baby care costs onto the Internet company’s employees. Armstrong cited it as a reason AOL had decided to change, but later reinstated, its 401(k) match.  One of the “distressed babies” mothers spoke out (HERE). 

And speaking about gaffes and foolishness… we now have the Sons of Anarchy co-star Mark Boone Junior, (Bobby) taking credit for and stating that the TV show “basically saved Harley” to Susan Carpenter of The Hollywood Reporter.

"Sons" co-star Mark Boone Junior, (Bobby) Rides?

“Sons” co-star Mark Boone Junior (Bobby) Rides?

By any measure, “Sons” is a disturbingly violent TV show  that includes a theme of rape, torture, brutal assaults, and bath tubs full of human excrement.  It’s about a 1% motorcycle club — which creator Kurt Sutter readily admits has always traded in “blood and guts” – with “actors,” many of which don’t know how to ride a motorcycle – now proclaiming that he (Boone Junior) and his fellow cast members are the reason that Harley-Davidson recovered from the financial collapse and economic meltdown.

Only in the make believe world of Charming, California.

Let’s get real here. Saved Harley-Davidson?  That is ridiculous!  It’s more than just a bit of a stretch and goes far beyond foolish.  It’s almost as out of touch with reality as the “distressed babies” claim.

Hey Bobby, I’ve got news for you.  Get ready, because it’s an emotional gut punch. The faux outlaw motorcycle gang drama that you co-star and “ACT” in didn’t save Harley!

However, I do wonder how Harley-Davidson management reconciles profiting off violence  as they cozy up and work to be affiliated with an uber-violent TV show.  Basically a TV gang, most of whom are governed by violent criminals.  Sure it’s an imaginary world, but seems out of step.  And, Jennifer Hoyer, (Harley-Davidson Media Relations Manager) explains it well:  “Our relationship with SOA has been mostly beneficial from our side, as we have enjoyed getting many of the cast members all to be real riders — showing them the freedom that Harley-Davidson motorcycles bring to their lives.”

Real riders!  We got the point already. 

Note: To be fair, the Harley-Davidson Foundation does a significant amount of community outreach.  For example, working with the Sojourner Family Peace Center to break the cycle of family violence in Milwaukee, Disabled Vets, Big Brothers Big Sisters, MDA and YMCA to name just a few.

In the spirit of the SOA outlaw I copied the photos from FX Networks without permission.

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Abbey Road - TankPrior to the rise of the Beatles, the biggest music acts were the Beach Boys and the Four Seasons.

By ’64, Elvis was fading in bad movies. Doo-wop was being retired, and the creativity limits were being tested on radio for something new.

Sure, President Kennedy had died. It’s an event in the minds of all baby boomers. But it wasn’t the older Freedom Riders who built the Beatles, it wasn’t college students or intellectual pipe smokers, it was the adolescents who saddled up to the new sound the way today’s kids jump onto Snapchat.

Nor was it a cultural turnaround based on a needed pick me up after the assassination, but instead a middle of the winter, unforeseen left field assault, that drove us all to the radio and the record store.

This was a new breed of rebel in 1964

This was a new breed of rebel in 1964

And similar to the Harley-Davidson riding experience of meeting people and the connections to their stories and backgrounds — what the Beatles did — was bring us together, our bond with their music connected us.

The Beatles.  50 years since the iconic Ed Sullivan show on February 9, 1964.

We’d been infected by “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”  Not because of media manipulation, but because the music had energy and they were cool.  Some people got it and some didn’t but in a matter of days, it was Beatlemania.

It was also a time when the roar of Harleys and the sight of long-haired bikers was still new and – for the average law-abiding citizen – unfathomable.  The day-to-day existence of these leather-clad rebels was as foreign as the Beatles arriving from the UK.  The bikers didn’t have jobs and despised most everything that Americans valued – stability and security.  They rode their bikes, hung out in bars for days on end and brawled with anyone who messed with them.

The Beatles changed music forever and the ‘romance’ of the open road was an illuminating time in 1964.  If you were there, you remember it.

Biker photo courtesy of Bill Ray.  H-D tank photo courtesy of Beatlesbike.com

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The Devils Ride - Season 3

The Devils Ride – Season 3

This is the most important thing you’ll read today!  It’s like a twist of color on the tweed surface of life.

Yeah, I’m talking about The Devils Ride.  You know… the “reality” TV show about a couple San Diego motorcycle clubs who are sightseers on a mission.

Season 3 started last week and here I thought the Biker Club ‘rode through the pearly gates’ and was buried, but somehow the show was resesitated for another season.

Discovery-HustleSure every time I mention the show I get hits.  But, I’m not looking for Google pennies because I don’t run ads!  I’ve been consistent.  About the show’s producers, the reality TV “actors” and how the show leaves many of us feeling embarrassed.

For the uninitiated here is a quick recap:
The Devils Ride is a “reality” TV show about “outlaw” motorcycle clubs centered in San Diego.   Spoiler Alert:  In case you didn’t know, reality TV employs screenwriters whose job is to feed the character dialogue.  Viewers get to watch The Laffing Devils and the Sinister Mob Sindicate, two faux enemy clubs battle for the right to dominate the ‘Dago’ turf they call home.  It seems these clubs can’t have a conversation unless they literally breathe on each other.

While most of the club members have blown their chances at any Father of the Year award, they’ve assured themselves placement in the annals of reality-TV history thanks to their affinity for odd behavior and outrage as a form of communication.

For Season 3, viewers will witness even more stink eye stares, and name calling. It’s just some of the many incendiary moments on tap by the producer’s that are staples of this riveting reality TV show.  And don’t forget that male announcer with a deep bass voice employed every 7 minutes from a commercial break — the booming phrase, “in a world where…

I remember when The Discovery Channel started out as an educational media format and was more polished than PBS.  These days they have put a lot of time and effort into insuring that its credibility is no greater than that of a tabloid seen at the supermarket checkout.

Previous rants on this “reality” show are HERE.

Photos courtesy of The Discovery Channel.  The “Hustle” photo created by editor.

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Sturgis-SuveyThe results are in from a survey which the City of Sturgis commissioned during the 2013 rally.

The survey teams circulated at Loud American Inn, Knuckle Saloon and Easy Riders Saloon.  Some of the information is pretty much what you’d expect,  but there were some findings that were not obvious. Here are some of the findings:

  • The age breakdown was 40% of rallygoers are between the ages of 54 and 65, and 36% fall into the 41 to 53 age range
  • 9% of rally registrants said they were over 66 years old — up from 2 percent in 2004
  • 56% of rally attendees are male and 44% female
  • 25% have taken some college courses; 19% have an Associates or vocational degree and 18% of those surveyed have a Bachelors degree
  • Majority came to the rally on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle
  • Have a household income of more than $75,000
  • More than 25% planned to stay for eight days or more.  The next highest numbers were four days and seven days.
  • More than 20% of respondents came from western states (i.e., states located west of the Mississippi River); about 20% came from east of the Mississippi River. About 6% are not from the U.S.
  • Most tend to travel to the rally on a motorcycle, though a significant percentage travel in an automobile or truck. About 50% come to the rally on their motorcycle and about 37% said they travel by car or truck.

The full survey findings can be found HERE.

Photo courtesy of City of Sturgis

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A Mid-Year 2014 Road Glide?

A Mid-Year 2014 Road Glide?

The Harley-Davidson Road Glide is different.  

Different design, different ride and the motorcycle has incredibly loyal customers.

Customers who appreciate the wind control and handling that comes with a frame mounted fairing are not typically going to switch to another model.  However, the Road Glide does take people off competitive brands and without it in the H-D line up dealers are missing an opportunity or worse, will see erosion of market segment share.

Sales numbers do talk and during the last earnings call, CFO John Olin stated that the Road Glide represented approximately 9% sales volume and would be back from its temporary hiatus.

And now in the buzzfeed there is more speculation about what the 2015 Road Glide fairing may look like.  Thanks to Worth Harley-Davidson, the Kansas City, MO., dealer posted photo’s on a Facebook page.  

Why wait for the 2015.  This nice custom fairing could hold all your aftermarket Project RUSHMORE electronic purchases?!

UPDATE:  July 8, 2014 – “Official” spy photos of the 2015 Road Glide are HERE.

UPDATED: August 1, 2014 – Harley-Davidson officially reveals the 2015 Road Glide.

Photo courtesy of Worth H-D.

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