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1984 Honda Magna (VF700C or V42)

It’s a play on George Orwell’s dystopian 1949 novel 1984 — where the world in 1984 is under control of Big Brother and the Thought Police who enforced the rules against individuality and original thinking — essentially praising society’s achievement on the “Unification of Thoughts.

Taking a page from Apple’s Super Bowl ad, my “1984 wasn’t like 1984,” — thumbing my nose at the roots of America, I purchased a little slice of freedom and original thinking in the form of a Honda VF700C or V42 Magna.

That shiny jet black Honda Magna (V42) had a liquid-cooled, double-overhead cam 90° V4 engine (displacement is 699cc or 42.7 ci) with four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 10.5:1.  Honda claimed it’s output was 82 crankshaft HP at 9,500 RPM.  The motorcycle had a smooth shifting 6-speed transmission, a wet multi-plate clutch that was hydraulically activated and shaft final drive with helical gearing in the rear-drive unit.  The motorcycle featured twin horns, coil rear springs, hydraulic clutch, air preload front fork with anti-dive valving, and an engine temperature gauge.

1984 Honda Magna (VF700C)Specs

Braking was delivered via a hydraulic activated double twin-piston disc brakes up front and a traditional non-ABS mechanical internal expanding drum brake in the rear. Great for leaving skid marks, but not so much for stopping!

The instrumentation was housed in chrome and included an analog speedometer, tachometer and engine coolant temperature gauge, along with lights for oil pressure, neutral, turn signals, tail light burn-out and a light that illuminated “OD” which let the rider know the transmission was in 6th gear.

As I reminisce on riding the Magna, I recall it having good power and a broad torque band.  Given its light weight and low center of gravity, the motorcycle was easy to ride in the city or a twisty two-lane country road. The Magna’s features were truly pushing the state-of-the-art for a production cruiser in its day.

From a historical viewpoint, only a few years had past since Harley-Davidson executed the epic buy back from AMF.  Their sales hadn’t reached the levels they envisioned, in part, because the AMF era was famous for shoddy quality, bikes requiring a lot of maintenance and the Milwaukee motor company was getting knocked down publicly and in need of some sunshine.

The poor quality and hi-maintenance requirements on Harley motorcycles was a key factor in my decision to purchase Honda.  In fact, a member of our posse also purchased a Honda, a V65 Magna (VF1100C) the same year.  Man, those V65 Magna’s (1,098 cc) were fast.  It was Honda’s initial entry in the “1/4 mile wars” between all the Japan manufacturers during the ’80s.

As Harley skidded toward bankruptcy, you might recall they petitioned and lobbied the Reagan administration in 1982 to raise tariffs on Japanese manufacturers because of “Dumping.”

“Dumping” in this context refers to exporting a product at a lower price than is charged in the home market, or selling at a price that is lower than the cost to produce it.  In April 1983, President Reagan signed into law an act that imposed draconian import tariffs for a five-year period on Japanese motorcycles with a displacement of greater than 700 cc.  This would give the sole American motorcycle maker some breathing room from intense competition to retool, get its act together and turn profitable.

However, Honda quickly responded to the retaliatory import duties and retooled the engines (what had been the 750cc class, VF750C V45 Magna) to displace just under 700cc; making them immune to the financial impact of the tariff.  One of the bikes that debuted as a “tariff buster” in 1984 was the V42 Magna.  Ironically and in a show of engineering superiority, it had three additional horsepower compared to the 750cc!

Harley was eventually able to turn a corner and the motor company ultimately requested that the tariff protection end early — essentially stating, they were now strong enough to take on the best competition in the world!

The 5-year tariff officially expired in 1988. That same year the Honda Magna reverted back to its original size of 748 cc.

Photos courtesy of Honda and Harley-Davidson Museum.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Let me start off by saying I like Indian motorcycles. I really do.  I’m digging the variety of styles and the attention to detail on each build.

But, my heart is with Harley…

In a previous post I discussed the Indian “Challenger Challenge,” a campaign that invites motorcyclists to test ride the Challenger and the Harley-Davidson Road Glide® Special back-to-back for a head-to-head comparison.

It’s brilliant.

It’s worth pausing for a moment to consider how this campaign would’ve worked out if Indian used any other motorcycle in their lineup vs. the Road Glide — one of Harley’s bagger cash cow.  It’s dangerous to make assertions about “might-have-beens,” or what analytic philosophers like to call “counterfactuals,” because no evidence can exist that fully demonstrates the falseness of such an assertion.

But, I’ve digressed.

A “bake-off” for the preeminent bagger, demonstrates a battle for supremacy in the public mind.  It’s also a battle for cultural supremacy, not a judgement about features, technical prowess or achievements.  It’s the subtlety of Indian craving the appeal of that, what makes a Harley, a Harley.  That ineffable something (that je ne sais quoi, if you need a phrase to go with your cappuccino).

So, in classic Harley fashion, and only 5-months in the role, Jon Bekefy (GM of Brand Marketing at Harley-Davidson) calls BS and snapped back at Indian.  Mr. Bekefy uploaded an agency polished Instagram post and in the process scorches Polaris. (Bekefy Twitter)

In other words, “Anything Polaris/Indian can do, Harley can do better.”  Clearly the General Manager of Brand Marketing at Harley-Davidson doesn’t want to get upstaged.

We all know that Harley-Davidson is not just a bike, it’s a choice.  An existential decision and the life that follows upon it.

Wait.  That statement may not be as defensible, since Harley is now promising to be another “transportation” manufacture delivering a Chinese 338cc bike where affordability remains paramount to the upscale EV future of two-wheel transportation and includes all bicycle types in between.

As Indian and Harley arm wrestle each other over boomer-centric models, it has a limited lifespan and is unlikely to generate a lot of new riders, but it’s pure theater and fun to watch!

Photo courtesy Instagram.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Indian Challenger vs Harley-Davidson Road Glide

Earlier this week, Indian announced the “Challenger Challenge,” a campaign that invites motorcyclists to test ride the Challenger and the Harley-Davidson Road Glide® Special back-to-back for a head-to-head comparison.

It’s not the typical, behind-the-scenes advertising effort by Indian to sell a product in its own time and in its own way.  Instead, it’s a high-visibility campaign marked with in-your-face marketing which proclaims — the Challenger will absolutely “smoke the competition.”

That’s a blue-collar craftsmen and beer-bellied “motor-head” inflammatory call to battle!

Will Harley-Davidson laugh and say, ‘Good try, bad result‘ expecting it to reinvigorate the Road Glide sales or will the Milwaukee gurus sit up and make a hard-eyed comparison of the competition’s strengths?

I’ve posted previously that motorcycle growth rates domestically are decelerating.  Wall Street is worried that the motor company has tapped out demand for their line-up as sales cool.

Challenger Challenge Stats

My initial reaction of the Indian campaign was, it being reminiscent of the 1980’s when commercials were a sign of the times — desperate, struggling times that car manufactures hoped would turn prosperous.  You might remember, “If You Can Find a Better Car, Buy It” ad campaign?  The face behind that familiar slogan was Ronald DeLuca — the advertising whiz hired by Chrysler Corporation chairman Lee Iacocca to turn around Chrysler’s late-1970s death plunge in a recession-weary America.

Indian has the not-so-simple task of convincing Americans that the motorcycling passion isn’t an archaic lifestyle teetering on the edge of the toilet bowl.  Or if Millennials are truly killing motorcycles, then why not ride it out in style with a new Indian Challenger!

Carey Hart and Big B

The Challenger Challenge is set to launch at Daytona Bike Week on Friday, March 6th.  The product demo tour will visit Indian Motorcycle dealers around the country, as well as select motorcycle rallies and events, including Sturgis in August. In addition to the national tour, select Indian Motorcycle dealers will have a Road Glide on hand to ensure that any customer who visits their dealership can take the Challenger Challenge.

Of course there will be a full-court press with social hashtags and digital media including a video series where Carey Hart and Bryan “Big B” Mahoney, pit the new Indian Challenger against the Road Glide Special in a series of rubber burning tests that showcase power, torque, braking and handling.

We will know soon enough if the campaign is more about finding new customers who don’t necessarily want to own a motorcycle or boosting the Indian public image and extending the brand’s good name.

Photos courtesy of Indian Motorcycle.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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1922 Spare Parts Directory

Harley-Davidson has been preserving its parts history for over 116 years.

When the motor company incorporated in 1907, Arthur Davidson acted as secretary and general sales manager. He traveled the world recruiting new dealers and establishing the dealer network. He knew the importance of a strong dealer network, but also understood the importance of having skilled mechanics to take care of the customer and thus he also oversaw the development of the Service School.

Harley-Davidson first instituted teaching courses in 1917. Production in 1917 was devoted to the military and the motor company developed the Quartermasters School to teach military personnel how to fix their machines in the field. Recognizing the value of the classes, they continued the classes, which were referred to as the Harley-Davidson Service School. The Service School was a success and adjusted to needs of the company throughout years, even including managerial and sales classes.

1922 Exploded View of Parts

During WWII the focus again turned to military training. Harley-Davidson produced approximately 60,000 WLA models for the military and converted the Service School into the Quartermaster School to train military mechanics.  From 1941-1946, motorcycle models did not change and, due to the many shortages brought on by the war, even paint was hard to come by.

The name “Service School” lasted into the late 1990s when training efforts were consolidated into the Harley-Davidson University (HDU).

Photos taken by author of the nostalgic November 1, 1922 — Directory of Spare Parts

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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2020 CVO™ Road Glide®

Mid-way through the motor company 2020 model year — Harley re-introduces a CVO™ Road Glide®.

Similar to the 2019 model, the re-launched 2020 CVO (Custom Vehicle Operations) motorcycle is packed with aesthetic and performance features.  Of course, there’s the 117-cubic-inch Milwaukee-Eight Big Twin (includes color accented Rocker Box Lowers), a heavy breather air cleaner with a factory rating of 128 lb.-ft. of torque which is five percent more than 114-inch engine.

The CVO Road Glide’s sub-27-inch seat height will provide a wide variety of riders a solid feel in the saddle.  There is a high-output BOOM!™ GTS infotainment system, as well as a 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels, finished in Gloss Black and Contrast Smoked Satin.  New for several 2020 touring models and now included on the CVO Road Glide is the subscription-based cellular connectivity, where you can connect to your bike through a smart phone using the Harley-Davidson® App and check the bike’s vitals including fuel level, get tamper alerts and stolen-vehicle tracking, and more.  The motorcycle is complemented with the “phat” heated Kahuna™ collection hand grips and controls.

CVO™ Road Glide® Heavy Breather

What might be behind this un-typical launch?

It’s called twelve consecutive quarters of U.S. sales decline. As previously reported, Harley-Davidson motorcycle sales slipped again in 2019 despite new models and expanded overseas operations.

In addition, it’s part of their “More Roads to Harley-Davidsonaccelerated resuscitation plan for growth and part of the 2017-2027 Objectives — Launch 100 new high-impact Harley-Davidson® motorcycles — which allows management to check a box for investors on a “new product.”

The good news is that if you want a 2020 CVO (only available in Sand Dune) parked in your garage, it’s going to cost you LESS!  Yes, less. The MSRP is $40,999.00, a reduction of $1,340.00 than last year.  The MSRP on the 2019 CVO Road Glide was $42,339.00 and for comparison the 2018 CVO Road Glide was $42,949.00

CVO’s are the badge-and-shield brand’s shining beacon on the hill!

It’s a borrowed analogy from John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts who, upon setting sail for New England in 1630, wrote that, “We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.”

The eyes of motorcycle enthusiasts are upon Harley-Davidson…

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Harley-Davidson LiveWire

The Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle was officially unveiled in January 2019 at CES.  A lot of marketing hype surrounded the unveiling of the motorcycle with claims of it being the start of “a new focus for the brand that would inspire the next generation of riders.”

Then yesterday, Reuters broke the news that Harley-Davidson had stopped production and delivery (temporarily) of the LiveWire electric motorcycles, after discovering an issue related to the vehicle’s charging equipment. It was reported that the company discovered a “non-standard” condition during the final quality checks of LiveWire, which it already started shipping to dealers in late September.  There were glitches found in the product which has prompted additional testing and analysis.

Interestingly, Webster defines glitches “as a sudden, usually temporary malfunction or irregularity of equipment.”  A glitch like this is not something riders want in a $30,000 purchase!

The LiveWire motorcycle uses a Combined Charging System (CCS), which is a single connector pattern that offers enough space for a Type 1 or Type 2 connector, along with space for a two-pin DC connector allowing charging at up to 200 Amps.  As part of the announcement, the motor company informed current owners to NOT charge the motorcycles through standard home outlets and use only ChargePoint (direct-current stations) charging stations at authorized Harley dealerships to reload the battery.

Well isn’t that “a jolt” of inconvenience?!

For most riders, you’d like to start your day fully charged!  Meaning home charging is normally done at night while you eat, play with the kids, watch TV, and sleep!  There are two Harley-Davidson dealers in the Portland, Oregon metro area that have installed ChargePoint stations.  Finding an alternative direct-current charging station to reload the motorcycle battery on the way to work and then waiting for a couple hours is certainly not ideal.

Charge Locations – Portland, Or. Metro

There are couple of things to know about public charging: the 3 different levels of charging, the difference between connectors and the charging networks.  Riders can go directly to a dealer or try and locate charging stations using ChargeHub.

Knowing your motorcycle’s capabilities is very important and consult the dealer if not understood!

Public Chargers Levels:
Level 1 is the standard wall outlet of 120 volts. It is the slowest charge level and requires tens of hours to fully charge a 100% electric vehicle.
Level 2 is the typical EV plug found in homes and garages. Most public charging stations are level 2.
Level 3 chargers, also known as DCFC or DC Fast Chargers are the quickest way to charge a vehicle. Not every electric vehicle can charge at level 3 chargers.

In general, electric motorcycles are in a phase of adoption known as “the chasm,” (See: Geoffrey Moore’s technology adoption curve) a gulf separating early adopters from the majority of consumers.  It’s a treacherous position in the life of new technology/products, and often determines their success or failure.  One could debate that Harley-Davidson is targeting a market that does not really exist: young, “green” and affluent first-time motorcyclists.

This unattractive “glitch” will be over soon enough, but it does little to promote value creation and owning a Harley-Davidson electric motorcycle.

UPDATE:  October 16, 2019 — An unidentified H-D source tells Forbes:  “This is an issue with the 120v [charging] system, which includes an on-board charger, so it could be a vendor issue with that charger, a wiring harness issue, etc. The point I’d make is that the QC [Quality Control] process worked…there’s an issue, it was discovered before the bikes were shipped to dealers and customers, and I assume it will be fixed.”

UPDATE: October 18, 2019 — TechCrunch reported that Harley-Davidson has resumed LiveWire production.  “After completing rigorous analysis this week, we have resumed LiveWire production and deliveries,” Harley-Davidson said in a comment emailed to TechCrunch. “Customers may continue riding their LiveWire motorcycle and are able to charge the motorcycle through all methods. Temporarily stopping LiveWire production allowed us to confirm that the non-standard condition identified on one motorcycle was a singular occurrence.”

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson and ChargeHub

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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The number of businesses investing in the Internet of Things (IoT) technology continues to grow.  Harley-Davidson is one company that recognizes the benefits and has started to leverage IoT both internally as part of their manufacturing process and externally with the new H-D™ Connect service.

WTF?  Isn’t this a motorcycle blog Mac?  You lost me at that inter-web-thingy!

First off, lets set some context with a bit of IoT background:

The Internet of Things (IoT) is used across industries such as manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, agriculture, automotive and industrial markets.  Think connected cars, smart buildings, smart homes and smart city grids.  You’ve likely interacted already with internet-enabled appliances (refrigerators, washer/dryer, garage door openers), there are smart TV’s, there are wearable health trackers.  Need more specifics?  Think RING doorbells, NEST  thermostats or Philips Hue lightbulbs.  Just a few product examples that highlight IoT-based value creation.

The key point here is VALUE creation.  It involves performing activities that increase the value of a company’s offering and encourage customer willingness to pay.  That is the heart of any business model.  Simply connecting a “thing” to the Internet isn’t enough—you must be able to ensure that the data generated by that thing can be leveraged to enable new business benefits.  Whether that benefit is reducing your business’ costs or enhancing your customers’ experiences with new services, the systems chosen to power an IoT deployment must work reliably, be easy to manage, and help you get to real business.

That’s enough context.  Let’s circle the discussion back to motorcycles.

You may not know, but Zero Motorcycles produced a prototype of its first electric motorcycle in 2006 and began marketing them in 2008. In 2013 the company produced a mobile app enabling communication with the motorcycle using Bluetooth; effectively using the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect owner, motorcycle, and service facility.  The app allowed the rider to configure their motorcycle in a number of different ways. For example, it can be configured for a more energy efficient ride or for a higher performance ride using only the app. One of the rider benefits is that the app can also inform you of your current battery capacity as well as an estimation of how far you can travel on the charge.

In addition, the Zero Motorcycles can communicate directly to the manufacturer, dealer, or repair shop. Most vehicles today can communicate with the mechanic by being plugged into a computer, but it requires a trip to the garage. The Zero Motorcycle app allows the motorcycle to send that diagnostic information directly to the mechanic over the internet no matter where you are.  If a rider experiences mechanical problems with the motorcycle, all they need do is to tap the help button located in the app. The information is transmitted and the rider can get troubleshooting advice on location as well as having the company schedule a service appointment if desired. Rather than taking days to get your motorcycle into a mechanic for diagnosis, it is all done in minutes.

Now lets chat about the new H-D™ Connect service; a cellular telematics control unit (TCU) that functions as an (LTE) enabled modem connecting the 2020 LiveWire™ and select 2020 Touring models to the cloud.  It’s built on the IBM Cloud and launched earlier this week.  The H-D Connect (a $12/month fee-based service – FREE 1st year) service remotely connects you to your motorcycle through the Harley-Davidson App on your smart phone.  The fact that Harley-Davidson marketing boldly claims they “will lead the electrification of motorcycling”, is a stunning statement-of-hype when they basically imitated a 6-year old service from Zero Motorcycles!

H-D Connect uses built-in cellular (LTE) connectivity with the IBM Cloud, IBM artificial intelligence (AI), analytics and IoT to enhance the rider’s experience as well as keep the rider in the know with motorcycle status, notifications and alerts.  The rider is always “plugged in”.  Riders can check the battery charge status or the fuel level, available range, tire pressure (on TPMS-equipped models), ride mode (on equipped models), odometer, Infotainment software updates where applicable, and riding statistics.  There is even a GPS-enabled stolen vehicle tracking feature that lets riders share the motorcycle location with law enforcement.

It’s been reported that Harley-Davidson used IoT sensors as far back as 2013 along with other applications to keep track of production on its manufacturing facility in York, Pa., and can complete a new motorcycle every 86 seconds.  But, clearly Harley-Davidson’s desire to make money in the internet-connected space is not limited to physical motorcycle sales; other revenue streams become possible after the initial product sale, including value-added services, subscriptions, and apps, which over time might even exceed the initial purchase price of the motorcycle.

As more and more of our daily life is internet-connected and “recorded” by computers communicating with other computers, riders (myself included) have a legitimate concern about security.  There’s been very little information made available from Harley-Davidson in regards to how they will ensure the privacy of both rider, their riding data and the motorcycle stats.  How often are data logs taken from the motorcycle, streamed to the cloud and then reviewed, stored and archived?  Is the data encoded in a proprietary format, is it encrypted and who can review the data?  Does it require a double-top secret decoder?  The LTE cellular link is ideal to connect the motorcycle and it’s sensors to the dealer and motor company, but it also seems fairly simple to obtain or review that data for evidence that might be used later against the rider.

Any new technology hooked up to the web has the potential to become a surveillance device, even if it’s original purpose was benign.  Law enforcement “cartapping” or using “things” for surveillance has been possible for years, but maybe we should dwell on the benefits that we as a society can reap from this technology.  The new H-D Connect service and Harley-Davidson’s Internet of Things (IoT) platform may provide a reduction in motorcycle fatalities, provide increased benefits of predictive driving in real-time and a more energy efficient future once we’re all inter-connected to smart city grids.

We’ll know soon enough if Harley-Davidson’s internet-connected motorcycles and services actually increase the value of the company’s offering and encourage customer willingness to pay more.

Additional Information:

How Many Turns in a Screw? Big Data Knows — WSJ Paywall
IoT Makes Motorcycles, Helmets Safer, Smarter — Information Week
Harley-Davidson to Redefine Riding with IBM Cloud — IBM PR
How Smart Connected Products Are Transforming Companies — Harvard Business Review

Photos courtesy of Bosch and Deloitte

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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