Finding Enthusiasm

UPDATE: I’m back working in the powersports business. But c’mon, you knew that would happen.

After taking approximately 16 months off from my previous gig at a local dealership I proceeded to haul RV’s around the country. Now I’m back doing what I thoroughly enjoy. After hitting a proverbial wall in the motorcycle business, which left me dazed and confused, I’ve found a new enthusiasm. I wondered if I’d ever get it back. It’s back.

We all know the struggles this motorcycle biz has had the last few years. The industry as a whole has been trying to figure out how to get previous customers to buy again and fresh blood into the sport. I’m positive there is no time being wasted or energy conserved to bring new models and ideas to fruition, while the experts are trying to get a grip on the secret recipe for growth. In spite of it all it’s really a great time to be a part of this. The flip side is getting that enthusiasm back to the dealer principles that have been feeling the weight of sluggish sales and fewer door swings.

But let’s face it, we have a generation or two not interested in smelling like exhaust, their hair styled by a helmet, or putting their disposable income on the counter of their local dealership for a new or gently used motorcycle. And of course, the internet has impacted every facet of this industry – just as it has every other brick and mortar business down the street. Let me be clear here, every business has its challenges – whether it’s competition moving into your territory, price wars or brighter/shinier objects for sale. That’s business. But the internet is open 24 hours a day and has an audience reach that can’t be rivaled. Don’t believe me? Look into the palm of my hand. Or your hand for that matter. That device we hold is our window to the world around us. Plus lower prices, free shipping and 24/7 phone support is pretty attractive, but not nearly as attractive as our friendly staff. Have you seen these faces? You would see them if you would just look up from your window to the world. Human interaction seems to be waning, would you agree?

That’s business. But the internet is open 24 hours a day and has an audience reach that can’t be rivaled. Don’t believe me? Look into the palm of my hand. Or your hand for that matter.

I can sit here and make excuses as to why inventory isn’t being moved, but do we have to make things harder than they really are? Are we truly so absorbed with the larger picture we forget the fundamentals of building a customer base and exceeding expectations during the customer buying experience?

I recently read an article online at Cycle World written by Seth Richards about his experience of trying to buy a used bike. I liked it so much I read it twice. And as a motojournalist, Seth knows bikes. As for me, someone in this business, it hit me square between the eyes. I get it. I know exactly where Seth is coming from. We as dealerships need to understand how important every customer is and how easy it is for a buyer to walk right down the information super-highway to find another bike. Oh, and with their cash in hand.

It’s true. As painful as it is for me to say, I too have walked into a dealership only to leave dumbfounded – and for a host of reasons. Not being greeted or acknowledged, a staff lacking knowledge (or even more so, a salesperson that has never ridden a motorcycle), and a retail space in disarray with faded and dusty merchandise. Attention to details? how about attention to your customers. There are also dealers that do a great job and it shows. These dealers are usually moving more merchandise because of it. I will admit, we all can do better each and every day.

I’ve wondered if the last few years of flat or negative numbers has had a larger impact on dealers than originally thought. With a combination of internet competition, lower profit margins and a switch in consumer interests from things mechanical to digital has dealers scratching their heads. But more importantly, the loss of enthusiasm and focus that pulled so many into starting a motorcycle shop in the first place. I’ve spoken with dealerships that are on the verge of closing if “this year” isn’t any better than the last. Little do they know, that may be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But more importantly, the loss of enthusiasm and focus that pulled so many into the business to begin with. I’ve spoken with dealerships that are on the verge of closing if “this year” isn’t any better than the last. Little do they know, that may be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I encourage you to read Seth’s article in the link above. He has a point – several things going wrong in the sales process cost the dealership not only a valuable sale, but also a more valuable customer. I don’t know Seth personally, but I do know folks that have had similar buying experiences with virtually the same result. The dealer maybe had a couple of opportunities to salvage the deal with Seth, but he left disappointed. I don’t blame him.

While you’re shopping online for parts, gear or bikes, I ask that you give your local shop the opportunity to earn your business. The better your relationship with your dealer, the better things will get all around. Spend a little money locally but don’t be afraid to get online as well. We are quick to rate our online experience, but in the case of Seth’s personal experience I would recommend pulling the dealer principle (if possible) aside and explaining the reason for not buying. Either they will accept this as constructive criticism or they will reinforce your decision to buy elsewhere. Thanks for the article Seth!

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Shaking the Rug

 

20161010_154312_hdr1On this evening’s ride home I noticed my shadow, stretched long and thin, riding ahead of me as I headed east. It’s getting darker sooner and the temperature is dropping faster as the day quickly comes to an end. Or is it the evening is beginning sooner? We motorcyclists are bracing ourselves and preparing for cooler rides led by our headlights. I’m not sure if its my age or not but cool is now cold and cold is now really cold. It could be I’m just getting old.

I’m not sure if its my age or not but cool is now cold and cold is now really cold. It could be I’m just getting old.

But I still make my mind up to ride. Just since Sturgis I’ve racked up about 10,000 miles on my Ultra Classic and I felt it was time to trade. Coming in with just under 70,000 on the clock, it still had a lot of miles left on it but if I were to continue riding it by next summer it would have had around 85,000 to 90,000. I traded a Road King in on the Ultra and now as you can see, a Road King it is again. I’ve been asked why I would give up the trunk and stereo but honestly I’m a fan of the Road King. It fits me and it’s a kick in the pants to ride.

There will always be a slight transition when you move from one bike to another. I have a tendency to carry more than I need to and this gives me an opportunity to sort and whittle down what isn’t necessary. Much like the bikers of old, we should carry the bare minimum when we ride. I found stuff in my saddle bags that really shouldn’t even be on a motorcycle. Socks? Really? So it’s like spring cleaning for me but only in the fall. I’m sure it won’t take long to accumulate those random items all over again in the next couple of years, but once in a while you just need to shake the rug if you get my drift.

So if you follow along with this blog you see a different bike in the picture. The Road King will evolve a bit over time but for the most part what you see is what you get. Even I find it remarkable to the transitions from a Heritage to a Road King to an Ultra Classic and back again. There sure have been a lot of miles and memories on each and every one of these Harley-Davidsons and I can appreciate each one for taking me on their own unique journey. I can’t wait to see where this one takes me.

All the Cool Kids Are Doing It – Sturgis 2016


The month of August has been a whirlwind. With a ride to Sturgis and another to the East Coast I’ve racked up about 5500 miles between the two. I know…I say it all the time. I ride a motorcycle a lot. You get it, and you’ve heard it before. But one thing I’m not sure you know. Not every ride has the same effect on me. The usual ride to and from work is one thing and of course the ride to Sturgis has its moments, but the ride to the east coast was a lot crammed into a short period of time. With an average of about 600 miles a day there were times when it wasn’t fun. But it kinda was. Get it? Also a guy like me really doesn’t need that much time to think. Life, family, friends and where this is all heading at this stage of my life definitely kept my mind busy.

 

 

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The New Full Throttle Saloon

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The New Full Throttle Saloon

First the trip to Sturgis. Three guys on touring bikes, loaded with everything you need to camp for a few days. Of course some have better packing skills than others, and I am always confused with why I carry so much crap. As DJ, Gary and I headed out for our first leg to Enders Lake, we stopped in Beloit Kansas for gas. About halfway there we were passed by a little gal on her Dyna who looked to be in a bit of a hurry. Other than catching her braided hair coming from the back of her helmet and the tiny bag strapped to her back seat I didn’t get much of a look. That is, until we stopped for gas in Beloit. She pulled in behind us after we had moved our bikes to the parking spaces in front of the Casey’s General Store. As I walked over to her at the pump I asked where she was headed. Alliance Nebraska tonight, but ultimately Sturgis she says. Hmm. Where did you start your day? She replies Oklahoma City. It’s already 3:00 pm and we’re hoping to make it to Enders by dark and she has a bit further to go than we do. I asked if she needed anything, and with a “no” she was gone. Our next stop is about 30 miles away in Cawker City so Gary and DJ can wrap their arms around the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. Deja vu for me as it seems like just this past May I was standing there with three of my closest friends, the 3 Amigos. And who is stopped taking the obligatory picture of the current record-holder in the twine category? Our friend on her Dyna. Yep. After a formal introduction, I find out her name is Staci. I wish her safe travels and away she rolls. More about Staci later.

 

We made it to Enders Lake in southeast Nebraska just about dark and it was a nice quiet (dry) evening of sleeping in the tent. The next day put us in about 100 miles of rain and of course that can be expected. I won’t bore you with much about the rally – nice weather, rain two nights and flooding in my tent. I did meet the Lebo’s at One Eyed Jacks for a beer or two and that was great. Did I take a few pictures? Regrettably no. I did meet a fascinating bartender from California and her name is Cecilia Fairchild. Not your typical bartender, but as I found out she is quite the writer and has a unique way with words. Unlike myself who…not has way. She and her boyfriend rode their Dyna from California to Sturgis to work the rally. I must be getting old. I ride a touring bike and all the cool kids are riding their Dyna’s.


By Tuesday I had enough and as I packed up, I decided it was time to head somewhere. I threw my tent (8 trips to Sturgis) in the trash and headed east to the Badlands. A hot and windy ride I eventually landed in Grand Island Nebraska for the night. An easy 250 mile ride from Grand Island with a stop in Belleville Kansas for a bite to eat and my Sturgis Rally is done. Repeat after me…I am skipping next year’s rally. But I say that every year.

Oh, and Staci? After about a week of being back from South Dakota, I found a picture of her on my Instagram feed. She quite the young lady. Website, blog and a photographer – she has ridden 100,000 miles on her three bikes in the last couple of years. I’m getting old…And I thought I put a lot of miles on. Who am I kidding?

I’ll follow up with my ride to Boston to round out my month of August. Stay tuned!

 

It’s Worth It

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Not every road tells the whole story. The thankless years of service while letting others run all over you, or the loneliness of never seeing a soul. The darkest of nights, the bitter cold and the constant beating of the sun can wear you down, but the road keeps on giving. It gives dreamers a place to go and it affords us a way out. For some, it’s a way of life and for others an escape. Either way, the door is open but it requires you to walk through it to get anywhere.

 It seems people want more down-hill avoiding the uphill climb. Just remember, it isn’t uphill both ways and the climb is worth it.

Sometimes the straight and narrow offers perspective, while the twists and turns keep us anticipating. The dirt and gravel will test your resolve but they are few and far between. It seems people want more down-hill avoiding the uphill climb. Just remember, it isn’t uphill both ways and the climb is always worth it.

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We often take the road for granted. We expect without fail it will take us where we are headed and then complain when we have to deal with bumps and depressions. Even when someone comes along to repair the damage, we find ways of going around it looking for our own solution to the problem. It’s during these detours we find that no matter how different the road, the obstacles are the same.

The road is what you make of it. If the glass is half full for you I can assure you your travels are mostly smooth sailing. If you complain about your glass never getting a refill, you will eventually find every pothole in the road.

Ride 50 at 50 Part 2: This Just Got Real

Hands will be raised just like the laughter that will follow, and the memories will be born.

Adrian David Andy SFAs so the journey begins. It’s a simple concept, really. Pack a few things, jump on a plane, fly to America and rent three Indian Motorcycles. Once you land, it’s three weeks of riding highway 50 across the country with three of the best friends imaginable. Lot’s of 3’s here.

Nobody said it would be easy. Hell, even friendships can be hard at times, but adding the stress of where to stop and sleep and eat can just put each of you on your last nerve. Just remember, no matter how hard it is, every moment will be looked at and smiled upon once this epic ride is over. Hands will be raised just like the laughter that follows and memories will be born.

Adrian, Andrew and David are wheels-up on their way to America, and it’s about time. All of the anticipation and planning, logistics and doubts have all met in the intersection. This just got real. But soon you will find the rhythm of the road and I know the places and people you meet will bring it all together. Remember to breathe, but more importantly remember to put yourself smack-dab in the moment. Slow down and let this ride unfold into everything you want it will be.

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Please follow along on this ride of a lifetime. Three Amigos on Indian Motorcycles riding east to west on Route 50. It doesn’t get any better than that.

 

From the Ground Up

It isn’t always blue sky and rainbows. Sometimes our day consists of grinding it out only to look up at the clock and see its been 10 minutes since the last time we looked. I’m not sure how many clocks have been replaced over the years by people who are convinced theirs have stopped working. It must be either a time warp or a clock manufacturer’s conspiracy to keep us guessing. Well, maybe not.

Weekends? Right now that’s too far off to think about. After all, it’s only 7:30 a.m. Thursday. That’s like an eternity in work hours.

We’ve all had days like this, where our work life and our personal life collide. A day when The Man won’t leave you alone and you swear he’s the one tampering with the clocks in the office to get more out of you. All I know is our bills show up in the mail every day convincing us we have to pack a lunch and ride to work, but the beer in the fridge and the flip flops we mistakenly put on our feet as we started out the door remind us that there is a life after 5 p.m. Weekends? Right now that’s too far off to think about. After all, it’s only 7:30 a.m. Thursday. That’s like an eternity in work hours.

So, about this grind. It’s necessary. It’s what puts food on the table and affords us all the bad habits we can acquire. It fills the gas tank and allows us a roof over our heads and puts flip flops on our feet. Oh, and work clothes and stuff like that. And when the grind becomes too much, we slip in a vacation to put it all behind us. Before we know it, the vacation is over before what seems it ever started. Good times. Forget the pizza and chips because it’s back to Lunchables and a Diet Coke and a date with a time-clock. At what point during the week does it turn from the grind to ground-up for you?

There is no cure for this. Work and be happy. Find a balance and put your priorities at the top of the list instead of in the sidebar. Take a minute and do what makes you happy, even if it’s between the Lunchable and punching your card. Make friends with The Man and maybe you’ll find some common ground where you both can sit and share a Diet Coke and a smile. Okay, I went a little far with that.

Blipping the Throttle

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Things haven’t change much in my 45+ years of riding motorcycles. Or have they? When I first got my start riding these crazy things, it was a much simpler time. Long, endless days of riding beneath the blue skies and hot sun in the pastures and back roads of rural Morris County. Our bikes were pure and uncomplicated and they did it all. A direct reflection of who we were and of course a mirror to who we are today.

Our bikes were pure and uncomplicated and they did it all. A direct reflection of who we were and of course a mirror to who we are today.

Little did I know that what I was actually experiencing in my little corner of the world was a culture not only defined by two wheels but whatever it was that bounced around in my head at the time. The same head that wore a helmet with a bubble shield much like the one I have today. Change? Some things will never change. I was becoming a product that was built from ideas of what I wanted it to be. In essence, I was creating a definition based on my perception of a culture that is ever evolving. And it still is. Now, within this culture of motorcycles is another underlying sub-culture of riders finding their own way and setting their own standards. The only rule is to be unique. Easier said than done, in a world of it’s all been done before.

I was creating a definition based on my perception of a culture that is ever evolving. And it still is.

This brings me to Ian Davis. The owner of a Kansas City coffee house in the West Bottoms called Blip Roasters. Ian is bringing two of his passions together whilst bringing us all together. From his vintage coffee equipment he succeeds in pulling in a mix of retro and custom hand-built motorcycles and an equal mix of riders that find that no matter how different we all are, there is always that mix of brew and bikes putting us on common grounds. How fitting to be in the industrial part of town.

I have to hand it to Ian. Both of his passions reflect a timeless tradition and will do so long after we’re gone. My only hope for Ian is his continued success in the Kansas City area and beyond. And thanks for promoting a lifestyle that has changed so little but changed so many lives, mine included. Follow along with Ian on Facebook and Instagram and check out their upcoming events if you’re in the Kansas City area.