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Archive for the ‘2013 Models’ Category

Can-Am Spyder

Can-Am Spyder

Hype, or is Bombardier taking a gamble?  But, lets start at the beginning.

U.S. safety regulators are investigating two reports of fires in the Can-Am Spyder three-wheeled motorcycles.

The motorcycles are made by Bombardier Recreational Products Inc.  (BRP) of Canada and the probe covers about 52,000 motorcycles from the 2008 through 2014 model years and they are looking into what is causing the fires.

Bombardier has had three recalls to date in 2012 and 2013, and all involved the risk of fires. Last year, the company recalled about 8,200 Spyders because brake fluid leaks could cause fires. In 2012 it recalled about 34,000 because fuel vapors could leak due to an ill-fitting gas cap. It also recalled 9,600 because fuel vapors could exit a vent hose in the engine compartment.

I don’t want to draw any similarities because these are very different situations, but many of you might recall the Ford Pinto.  It was one of the biggest continuing automotive news stories in the late 1970s with dramatic tales of exploding Fords on the highway and considerable awards from civil-court juries that were presented to victims of accidents involving the cars.

At the time, experts calculated the value of a human life at around $200,000, while a serious burn injury was worth about $67,000. Using an estimate of 180 deaths and 180 serious burns, someone at Ford put on paper that the cost to redesign and rework the Pinto’s gas tank would cost close to $137 million, while possible liability costs worked out to around $49 million.

Ford’s corporate legal machine went to work, however, when the memos regarding the liability assessments were leaked and entered into evidence, the cases were as good as over and Ford paid dearly in civil claims, public image and as a brand for product safety.

Former Ford exec Lee Iacocca reflecting on the Pinto incident and Ford’s attempts to control the damage, made this summation in his book Talking Straight“Clamming up is what we did at Ford in the late ’70s when we were bombarded with suits over the Pinto, which was involved in a lot of gas tank fires. The suits might have bankrupted the company, so we kept our mouths shut for fear of saying anything that just one jury might have construed as an admission of guilt. Winning in court was our top priority; nothing else mattered.”

BRP is a world leader in the design, manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of motorized recreational vehicles and powersports engines.

The term “transparency” means much more than the standard business definition and its my hope that the company will be candid with the motorcycle riding public beyond the narrow interpretation of legal compliance on the risk of fires.

Photo courtesy of BRP.

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Brake Line Failure on the 2013 CVO Road King

Brake Line Failure on the 2013 CVO Road King

Over dinner the previous night in Gillette one of the guys (JR) in the group was discussing how the rear brake wasn’t working correctly on his bike and that he hadn’t noticed it before, but the ABS light was always on.  After settling the tab (and much ribbing about pushing the correct pedal), we set off to look over the bike.

It’s a new, bone-stock 2013 CVO Road King that was purchased about 9 months ago.  The bike had about 3000 miles on the odometer.  And sure enough, the brake fluid line and the ABS electrical line had been incorrectly routed, were rubbing up against the rear tire and had completely worn through.   When pushing on the rear brake pedal the brake fluid would discharged onto the ground.  We re-routed the lines and taped up the wires thinking a front brake was good enough to get to the H-D dealer.

South Dakota view looking back

South Dakota view looking backward.

The next morning we stopped at the Black Hills H-D dealer in Rapid City, S.D.  They didn’t have the rear brake line parts and would need to order them from Milwaukee.  Since we were going that direction we elected to wait until we arrived and then get it repaired.  It turned out that no dealer in the Milwaukee area had the parts either and they would need to order it from the factory.  Just in time inventory really doesn’t work when you’re on the road.  Nice quality control H-D!

There’s no question about it… It’s extremely flat and a long ways across South Dakota!

Billboards are everywhere, lining the Interstate trying to distract drivers for hundreds of miles.  In fact, Wall Drug who spends over $300K annually on billboards must have the Guinness record because you can see their advertisements for more than two hundred miles.

South Dakota view looking forward.

South Dakota view looking forward.

On Interstate 90 between Wyoming and Minnesota the expansive view is mostly sunflowers with the occasional corn field thrown in to mix it up.  It was a 410 mile ride on silky smooth Interstate that was peppered with billboard adverts, across a hot and humid prairie with large juicy bugs!  Quite the pilgrimage across that state and when a rest stop did arrive you really do need to pull off, wet down your t-shirt and head band because the long hot road does get long and did I say hot?!

Pano of Clear Lake

Pano of Clear Lake, MN

As I rode along for hours on the flat concrete surface my mind had a tendency to wander.  I found myself thinking about the lack of radio stations or irrigation in S.D.  Over the entire day I never saw any irrigation being applied to a corn, wheat or sunflower field.  Coming from the Northwest where the farmers in the valley or in Eastern Oregon are always using water to irrigate their fields this seemed rather odd to me.

Crossing the Mississippi River

Crossing the Mississippi River

It had been a hot and high humidity riding day!  After what seemed like just shy of forever we finally arrived near the end of the state and overnighted at a Best Western in Sioux Falls.  Air conditioning never felt so nice.

The next morning one of the riders in our group peeled off to see family in Iowa as the rest of the group rolled quickly through Minnesota on I-90 hoping that the scenery would change.  However, the major change was how poor the road quality seemed to get with the cracks and ruts.  Did you know we sent a man to the moon?  Yes, we did!  They even shipped a little car with him and they drove it around on the planet.  You’d think we’d know how to fix a concrete Interstate!

At the Best Western in La Crosse, WI.

At the Best Western in La Crosse, WI.

It was a shorter riding day as we crossed the bridge over the Mississippi River and stayed at a Best Western Plus Riverfront Hotel in La Crosse, WI.  Unknown at the time, was we were staying on the Black River and this Best Western had a nice riverside resort feel with beach accommodations.  The hotel had a terrific acoustic band on the riverside deck where we had a casual dinner while enjoying the refreshments and entertainment.

Dinner at Jack's

Dinner at Jack’s – La Crosse, WI

Over the previous couple of days we were shadowed by a large group of riders from Brazil.  They flew into and rented motorcycles in Las Vegas and were riding to the 110th celebration.  For a couple nights in a row we happen to overnight at the same hotels.  The group of approximately 20 riders had rented a U-Haul truck to carry all their luggage and it was quite the chaotic scene at check-in/out!  We got to know a couple of them.  A nice group.

In La Crosse, there was a noticeable increase in the number of motorcycles traveling east.  Many more on the Interstate and by the time we arrived in Madison there was a constant flow of bikes.

Arrival at Brookfield Inn

Arrival at Brookfield Inn

We arrived in Milwaukee around 1pm and unloaded the bikes and checked in to the Brookfield Suites Hotel and Convention Center.  Another member of our group actually rode out several days early to MN to visit family and then met us at the Brookfield.

In 2008 for the 105th celebration, we stayed at the Hampton Inn Express in Delafield which was 20+ miles from downtown Milwaukee.  The Brookfield Suites Hotel was a much nicer place and about 7 miles to downtown.  We were within walking distance to Hal’s Harley-Davidson.  We liked this location much better and the hotel staff was awesome!

Arrived at the 110th Anniversary Celebration

Arrived at the 110th Anniversary Celebration

We had arrived on Thursday (August 29), the start of the celebrations and later that day we headed down to Summerfest/Maier Festival Park to take in the 30th Anniversary celebration of H.O.G.  We all wanted to get the unique pin for this event so we put on our 110th and H.O.G. identification and arrived in time to get a pin and watch Lynyrd Skynyrd headline the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse stage.

At the HOG 30th Anniversary Celebration

At the HOG 30th Anniversary Celebration

In what seemed like a bit of irony, there was Rickey Medlocke on guitar… he was rocking out and being displayed on the large jumbo-tron monitors which included his trademark “Indian” tat and custom guitar with inlaid “Indian” spelled out on the fret board.  It had nothing to do with Indian Motorcycles, but it would have made for an interesting photo given they were playing on the H-D main stage with bar and shield brand logos everywhere.

After several days of being on the road with just the motorcycle, the festival was a bit of a sensory overload.  There was a lot going on at Summerfest and it took awhile to absorb and sync up with all the Harley “noisemakers.”  Riders and enthusiasts literally travelled from all over the globe to attend the festivities and over the next few days of the birthday celebration there would be more than 66-band performances.

I was starting to wondered if that rumbling coming down the road might be the roar of music vs. a V-twin!

The 110th Anniversary Homecoming – Part 3 (HERE) or Part 1 (HERE)

Photos taken by author

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HOG-StockNeil Young wrote the song Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World in 1989.

Neil and a member of his band, Pancho Sampedro, were glancing at newspaper photographs on the funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran as the angry mob set America flags on fire and chanted death to America.  Sampedro commented, “Whatever we do, we shouldn’t go near the Mideast.  It’s probably better that we just keep on rockin’ the free world.”

And speaking of rockin’… listening in on the HOG Q2’13 financial call today felt upbeat with a positive vibe.  Sure there was plenty of financial mumbo jumbo, but every profession has its buzzwords to create the illusion that things are more complex than they really are.

Here are the Q2’13 financial highlights:

  1. Consolidated revenue of $1.79 Billion
  2. Net income was $271.7 Million
  3. Diluted earnings per share were $1.21
  4. Added 104 dealerships outside the U.S. since late 2009; the latest was Salvador, Brazil.
  5. With nearly 1500 dealers worldwide H-D sold 90,193 motorcycles
  6. U.S., dealers sold 58,241 motorcycles
  7. In international markets, dealers sold 31,952 motorcycles
  8. Through 6-months, net income was $495.9 Million on consolidated revenue of $3.37 Billion
  9. U.S. (Heavyweight) market share increased to 53.0%
  10. Completed its first year of seasonal surge production at its plant in Springettsbury Township
  11. For the 1H, H-D mostly attributes cool, damp weather — not the economy — to a 2.7 percent drop in U.S. bike sales.
  12. Supply and demand are back in balance… read that as an opportunity to raise model prices again!
  13. First corporate confirmation there will be no Road Glide models in the new 2014 model year as they retool and refresh the model
  14. 60 bands over 3-days at the 110th Anniversary celebration in Milwaukee

The most interesting question?

It came from Craig Kennison (Baird & Co.) – “Did you ask the Pope to pray for better weather?”  I liked the snarky question which was in reference to the fact that H-D attributes cool, damp weather — not the economy — to a 2.7 percent drop in U.S. bike sales and being somewhat of a drag on H-D parts and accessories.  If you don’t ride you don’t need to do much motorcycle service or buy parts.

In conclusion and more important to all the riders, the company remains on track to announce its 2014 model year bikes in the 3rd week of August.

Photo courtesy of H-D/Google.

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110-PostereditedSlicing open champagne bottles with a giant sword is an unlikely refinement that we’ll see during the 110th Anniversary.  That is unless you have a need for a new-motorcycle christening and want to get your hard-partying samurai going.

We’re about 50 days out from the big celebration where the Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary team (marketing, general merchandising, communication, legal, etc.) have been negotiating rights to feed photos and sound to television stations for broadcast.  Not to mention all the work in venue agreements, performance contracts, vendor contracts, photographic rights, recording issues, publishing deals, leases and the list goes on and on.  Add to that the trademark team that’s traveled around to make sure the H-D marks are properly used and not infringed, and that when folks like me arrive (“customers”) we’re not buying counterfeit merchandise thinking H-D is selling inferior gear!  Yeah, there will be some tired H-D employees who will be looking forward to taking some time off after Labor Day!

I want to thank the H-D employees in advance.

110th Anniversary Commemorative Ticket + Museum Pass

110th Anniversary Commemorative Ticket, “Koochie” + Museum Pass

I received the 110th Anniversary tickets over the weekend.  I opted for the higher priced commemorative package thinking what was coming was gift-worthy or an elegant picture stand.  The package was small enough and arrived via the mailbox.

Unfortunately, the Harley-Davidson Anniversary team neglected to take a page from Apple and pay close attention to the unboxing experience.  When it arrived did it make me smile?  Sure.  Did it create a long-lasting positive experience?  No.  Hey, why sweat the small stuff, right… it was only $118!  And the aroma discharge from that “Koochie” thing is like having a set of motorcycle tires stored in your living room.  Nothing says your awesome like the smell of tire rubber in the house!

110th Anniversary Celebration Schedule Guide

110th Anniversary Celebration Schedule Guide

I’m not sure who from Harley-Davidson sat in a conference room, doing the most mundane task of simply opening an Anniversary sample package to see what the emotional response would be by customers.  But, I’ve digressed.

The 110th “ride home” is just around the corner and starting feel real.  Earlier this week Harley-Davidson announced a NEW two-day party ($79) pass.  It gets you into the Summerfest Grounds any two of the 3-days.  The music headliners (Aerosmith, Toby Keith, Kid Rock (each sold separately)) are an incremental $24.50 purchase.  There is a $95 three day pass and the upsell commemorative package.  I’ve also seen a Chrome Ticket Package online at $522.15 which must pay for a lake-front rental given that unobtanium price.  To be candid, I’m a little overwhelmed with all these pricing options being tossed around on the web, but it does eliminate potential negative feedback for not having enough pricing options.

And how about that “official” Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary Mobile App (HERE).  Yeah, I’ve allowed H-D to use some memory space on the iPhone to buzz and blink me with updates over the next 50+ days.  Even if you’re not attending the anniversary event, I suggest downloading the app because H-D will be talking to your phone (via the app) and you can enjoy the festivity updates from the couch and avoid “social envy” while tweeting about all the $$ you’ve saved.

Ever wonder what’s it like when motorcyclists take over a town?   Noisy!

Poster photo courtesy of H-D and colorized by author.  Photos taken by author.

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New Castalloy workers Martin Parker, Edward Fern and managing director Michael Tamasi celebrate the Harley-Davidson news.

New Castalloy workers Martin Parker, Edward Fern and Michael Tamasi celebrate the news.

I blogged back in December 2011 (HERE) that Harley-Davidson made a decision to shift wheel and hub manufacturing from Adelaide-based New Castalloy to China.

The plant was set for closure by mid-2013.

This news hit the Australian Workers Union State Secretary and union workers just prior to the Christmas holiday and resulted in some name calling and bad blood with the motor company.

Jump ahead a 1.5 years and New Castalloy had shed approximately 90 of the 212 workers, but there was some good news this week!  Harley-Davidson reversed the decision to shutter the plant and struck a 4-year deal, on both an extension to the plant’s lease and a new wage-agreement were obtained.

It would seem logical to assume that New Castalloy greatly improved its cost structure as they are now viewed as competitive at producing low-volume, high finish wheels.  The Australian government, which owns the Mooringe Ave. plant waived rent at the site to help secure the deal.

Congrats!  I’m sure the nice folks in Adaelaid feel good knowing they’ll continue to help H-D riders around the world express their own style of freedom.

Photo courtesy of Dylan Coker.

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Gypsy’ed up ride...

Gypsy’ed up ride…

Are you all about bagger bling?

The “bling” refers to any unnecessary accumulation of shiny and glimmering metal.

There is a place for those who can’t stop called the chrome asylum because of bagger bling gone wrong!  Like the rider in this photo…

In my view it’s an example of too much chrome swag.  Some might even think it’s hideous and wholly unnecessary, but as we know there is no accounting for good taste with all the riders out there.

We know that straight off the shop floor most Harleys shine more than your average foreign made motorcycle, and for those that like their ride to blind the onlookers, there’s a seriously fat accessory catalogue full of go-fast bits, chrome doo-dads and custom add-on’s.  Not to mention all the 3rd party catalogs and online part suppliers.

Is it possible to have too much chrome swag?

Clearly!  You’ll know it when kids point, dogs bark and other riders do a double-take.  It’s often described as: “They sure Gypsy’ed up that ride”…

A reference to the bright and flashy which is often associated with folks exoticising voyeruism or wearing Esmeralda-like headscarves, or running psychic healing parlors.  I realize that’s a less than positive cliché, and mean no disrespect.  The Gypsies are fascinating people with an incredible story.

But, creative enhancements and all that chrome is so addictive.  Rainy weekends can be spent pouring over the parts book, matching gas tanks with seats and sissy bars, and tossing up whether to splurge on the chrome rocker covers to match the new floor boards or save up for the titanium lifters.  For those with both a hunger for lots of shiny things and the means to satiate that need, Harley-Davidson is there for you and the endless fun.  They are single-handedly responsible for promoting, propagating, passively approving and ironically being amused by all aspects of the ‘bling’ culture.

I suffer from what’s called the chrome cooling effect – most often called “Bling Delete” and has only increased the flat black or black anodized popularity.  It used to be done by ‘rattle can’, but now manufactures have combined billet aluminum with black anodized finishes to provide riders the perfect mix of function and aesthetics.  There are as many if not more flat-black or deep-cut, black anodized billet accessories as chrome, so if you’re into the less is more glamour, you have lots of choices.

Clearly motorcycle enthusiasts have become “creators”, in which motorcycles are the canvas.

Stay shiny my friends.

Photo courtesy of HOG Asia. Gypsy’ed term courtesy of Hal.

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Mark Hans-Richer presents leather jacket to Pope Francis

Mark-Hans Richer (H-D CMO) presents a leather jacket to Pope Francis

Getting “rubbed” by the pickpockets is common and expected in the city of “amore” where looking up at an artist masterpiece means your wallet just got lifted.  In fact, the Vatican tourist guides recently threatened to strike due to the inundation of pickpockets.

But, I’m talking about the Harley-Davidson 110th  Anniversary Celebration in Rome.  Unlike the U.S. celebration – where ticket prices range from $95 to over $500 for the unobtanium “Chrome” package – the entry fee in Rome is FREE of charge!  Free is a very good price and unexpected.

Information is starting to flow in about Harley-Davidson enthusiasts from across Europe who are flocking to the heart of Rome this week.   The celebration is occupying multiple sites in Central Rome, Vatican City and the Port of Ostia.  The entire length of Via Della Conciliazione, leading from St Peter’s Basilica to the River Tiber has been turned into a giant Harley-Davidson motorcycle park.  Yesterday’s start of the four-day event includes celebrations from the touristic Port of Ostia to a special motorcycle blessing inside St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City.

David Uhl's, Pope Francis and the Chance Encounter painting

David Uhl, Pope Francis and the “Chance Encounter” painting

Event photos are starting to appear on the web.  One is of David Uhl who painted the “Chance Encounter” canvas which depicts a 1948 Harley-Davidson FL Panhead bike parked in the San Pietro square, with a priest admiring it.  David Uhl presented it to Pope Francis during the weekly audience in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican on June 12, 2013.  According to a number of reports, the “Chance Encounter” will be available in postcard format, printed in a limited run of copies (in various sizes) and for collectors, three hand-signed and numbered canvas Fine Art sizes.

In addition, Harley Davidson has given Pope Francis two of its current motorcycles to mark the brand’s 110th anniversary.  On Sunday June 16th, hundreds will be allowed to park along the road leading to St Peter’s Square while the pontiff recites the Angelus prayer.  Between 1-2 thousand motorcyclists are expected to fill St Peter’s Square for the Pope’s blessing.

Just beware of Rome’s tiny thieves.

Photos taken at Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican June 12, 2013 and courtesy of REUTERS/Osservatore Romano.

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