Long Way Anywhere

After spending the last 15 years or so on Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, I decided to make a switch to the Adventure-Touring segment. I purchased an older BMW GS and honestly, couldn’t be happier at the moment. There are many great bikes out on the market, and I realize that it isn’t so much the BMW GS itself but more so I just needed a change. After my trip to the Sturgis Rally this year, I made up my mind that when I got home I was going to do it.

I’ve been a big fan of the GS series and as a matter of fact, I like the Harley-Davidson Pan America due to be release in the near future. But thanks to Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, I’ve wanted a BMW GS for many years. This is one step in the process of getting back to exploring the backroads that are hidden away – much like I did when I first discovered motorcycles. Of course I’m not riding the Road of Bones in Russia like Ewan and Charley, the back-roads of Morris county will have to do.

Of course I’m not riding the Road of Bones in Russia like Ewan and Charley, the back-roads of Morris county will have to do.

But there is a larger point I’m trying to make. Sometimes we need to go back to our roots and find that ember that lit the passion of motorcycling within us. We need to see where we came from to understand where we might be headed – not only as motorcyclists, but also as a industry. It has been reported Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are filming Long Way Up, number three in a series of traveling the globe, while riding the Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric bike. When this hit the internet, you could hear a collective groan from the masses. How can you do a Long Way Anywhere on a electric motorcycle with a range of 100 miles? How will you cross streams and climb Yak trails on a street bike with a design more akin to traveling the Road of Potholes?

How can you do a Long Way Anywhere on a electric motorcycle with a range of 100 miles? How will you cross streams and climb Yak trails on a street bike with a design more akin to travel the Road of Potholes?

Unless these Yak trails are in your neighborhood, it might be difficult to do so in the wild without the electrical grid required to get you back home. But here we are – making an adventure from what you might least expect. Putting the excitement into riding and making the adventure about man and machine. Wait, this sounds eerily similar to what Ewan and Charley have done in each of the Long Way series riding their BMW GS’s.

So back to my point. No matter where we’ve been, the roads we traveled or where they may lead us today, we will continue to ride. We evolve – not only as riders but also in what we ride. The adventure is what you make it, whether you are a beginner or have a million miles under your seat. Let’s support the industry we’re involved in and let’s support each other. Let’s see where this crazy ride takes us, but more importantly let’s remember how we got here and how much fun it was. If E-Bikes are the future then I believe the manufacturers will make them the most badass bikes we’ve ever seen. Kind of like we have now? Why not? At least I know I’ve come a long way.

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

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!