Gravel Road…King

The struggle is real. I can only imagine walking the hallowed halls of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company in 2019, the weight of a legacy built by Harley and Davidson brothers pressing down on you. With over 115 years of constructing this legendary icon and searching for the ways and means to continue this brand for another 115 years, must be stressful. A brand that has survived through literally generations is quite a feat, all-the-while forecasting the future wants and needs of their customers and trying to remain relevant in a ever changing landscape. It’s not easy living in the present and the pressure must be tremendous.

I have to hand it to The Motor Company. The last few years they have made a commitment to bring a plethora of new models to market and contrary to what we see about the LiveWire, not all of them are electric. The new Pan America and the Bronx are classic examples of a more forward thinking company. I, for one, have traded my off my Harley-Davidson Road King for a BMW GS. After logging several hundred-thousand miles on Harley’s tying to find myself, I’ve come to realize I may be hiding down some lonely gravel road or cow trail. And a Gravel Road King it was not.

I, for one, have traded my off my Harley-Davidson Road King for a BMW GS. After several hundred-thousand miles on Harley’s tying to find myself, I’ve come to realize I may be hiding down some lonely gravel road or cow trail. And a Gravel Road King it was not.

But these challenges aren’t exclusive to Harley-Davidson. This modern day dilemma finds a cell phone in every hand instead of a throttle. It’s easier to watch a few internet sensations on YouTube doing what we all should be doing – getting out and experiencing life the way it should be. I applaud Harley-Davidson for taking a leap into other segments, and the development of the Pan America and Bronx are a great start. Looking back, maybe the relationship between Buell and The MoCo came at the wrong time. And before you comment under your breath, the Buell Ulysses was a good motorcycle. And let’s not forget the Sportster XR1200. This is a classic example of Harley actually stepping up their game with a model and a market that wasn’t ready. With all the hoopla surrounding the Indian FTR1200, one would think the XR1200 would be a success on today’s showroom floors. We get excited about new models, but if customers don’t make the purchase, plugs get pulled. Another good bike lost to lack of sales.

Just as the Founding Fathers would never fully see the success of the motorcycles they built, they could truly see the effect their motorcycles had on riders of the day. Besides basic transportation, their motorcycles were a part of the social piece that Harley-Davidson is known for. Rides, races and gatherings brought those with this common bond together – and the sights, sounds and smells were the glue that kept it going. With all this social media we have now, I believe something is missing. Maybe it’s the social part.

their motorcycles were a part of the social piece that Harley-Davidson is known for. Rides, races and gatherings brought those with this common bond together – and the sights, sounds and smells were the glue that kept it going.

I consider myself an average guy. As a Harley-Davidson enthusiast maybe I’m part of the Motor Company’s problem. As I get older, I’m finding I still love all things motorcycle, but my interests are changing and my desire to see the same roads differently are high. Let’s throw in a random dirt road or trail in for good measure. My last three Harley’s were touring bikes and right now I don’t need another one. I need something that takes me back to when I first started riding and the joy I felt. A dirt bike? No. Because I still need to commute and have the ability to travel. When selling motorcycles over the years I’ve always said “any of these bikes will take you wherever you want to go, but is that how you want to get there?” And at this moment in my life, my Road King isn’t how I want to get there.

As I get older, I’m finding I still love all things motorcycle, but my interests are changing and my desire to see the same roads differently are high. Let’s throw in a random dirt track or trail in for good measure.

Had the Pan America’s release been a few years ago, I would have been riding one. I like it. I also like the direction Harley is going but with it comes the struggle of bringing it’s customers along for the ride. To build excitement for new and old riders alike can be difficult, but not impossible. It can be harder for a company like Harley as they are continuing their legacy. When rumors of the Rushmore Project came out for the 2014 model year, before the Twin-Cooling was introduced, I said in a previous blog post if they build a liquid-cooled bike the masses will buy it. I hope the same for the Pan America and the Bronx.

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!

Adventure of a Lifetime – Along for the Ride

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Writing a blog about motorcycles and my deep thoughts and perspectives about riding has opened up a whole new world for me. Within the last few years I’ve made several friends and contacts within this industry and I’ve had the opportunity to read some amazing blogs and articles written by these folks. When I started doing this there wasn’t any hope for me. I thought of this as more of a journal – a place to put what I’ve had stored up in my head just so I wouldn’t forget it all. But it has become so much more than that as its the inspiration of those who truly live their lives as an adventure. They take it beyond what I affectionately call the “city limit.” The city limit is an imaginary boundary I have put myself in growing up in a small town. Much like a dog with a collar and an invisible fence, I may feel a shock if I ever leave this small town.

The city limit is an imaginary boundary I have put myself in growing up in a small town. Much like a dog with a collar and an invisible fence, I may feel a shock if I ever leave this small town.

But for some of these riders and writers it has become a way of life. They have taken a dream and turned it into a reality of sorts – an adventure if you will. To create a world where words and roads meet can be a wonderful thing, and I have enjoyed following these people along their journey while they bring their experiences to life. It takes a lot to do this and the sacrifices are many. Time away from family and friends, living along the road or trail and pulling down some meager wages can add up to burnout and frustration at times, but they keep plugging away at it.

Dharma Anchor is a great example. I always enjoy reading Vallaree’s blog and looking at her amazing photography as it puts me right there in the moment as if I’m standing next to my motorcycle seeing it with my own eyes. Traveling by motorcycle, her view and descriptions are spot on and this is obviously pure talent as I know how difficult it is to convey. I love this blog.

Sharon Faith is and adventurer and writer from Florida, traveling on her Suzuki V-Strom and writing about her travels. She’s finally found her way to Alaska and from what I can tell she is loving every minute of it.

Dannell Lynn is currently hitting all 50 states and Canada in a year’s time on her Triumph motorcycle and writing about it on her blog Black Tie to Black Top. She has traveled the world and touched many lives along the way. To make this kind of commitment is an amazing thing for sure but I know the true reward is the people she meets along the way. Let’s face it, we ride motorcycles but it is the places and people who make the trip an adventure. Safe travels my friend.

Alisa Clickenger is proof that life isn’t always headed in the direction we think it is. Many years ago, she changed the direction of her life and it somehow involved motorcycles. Looking back I’m sure she would agree this was a good thing. Living in California, she has pursued her dream of being involved in the motorcycle industry by speaking at events encouraging others to ride and representing tours for women riders. Also a world traveler on a motorcycle, she only has more great things planned for the future. I can’t wait.

Shawn Thomas currently works for Rawhyde Adventures and makes his living doing what he loves to do. I know he’s not writing a blog about his adventures, but his enthusiasm is contagious. A family man making the sacrifices to follow a dream.

If you like following my blog, check out the people I like to follow. There are so many more I could mention They are doing what can be difficult to do: Writing about their riding adventures and making it interesting enough to keep you coming back for more. Thank you all for allowing me into your adventure and keep it coming!

An Amazing Machine for a Simple Guy

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The long old road of truth awaits those who ride motorcycles. We somehow find our way to places we think we’ve been only to find this time it’s different. It isn’t always about what we see, but more of what we find. Finding the truth about myself and giving validation to everything that goes on inside this pretty little head of mine is exactly what I need when the moment is right. Sure, sometimes those moments are few and oh, so far between. Winter can be longer and harder for a motorcyclist as we need the constant motion and the tilting of horizons to be plumb again. The less vertical we get our bikes, the more true we feel. It’s all about calibration.

“The less vertical we get our bikes, the more true we feel. It’s all about calibration.”

When we finally find answers to questions we never asked, it becomes apparent there is more to us than meets the eye. We ride to not only lose ourselves, but also to get an understanding of why we desire to get lost in the first place. Having ridden motorcycles for so many years it has proven itself as a vehicle for answers. What’s over the next hill and around the next curve? My motorcycle will answer that question. How cold is it and how hard is it raining two miles down the road? Yep, you got it. How far is the next gas station and will I make it? I’m confident my motorcycle will let me know the answer to that one. Not every answer is something we want to hear or see for that matter.

Those answers to life’s questions come to me in the form of reflection and contemplation. I’ve often said my motorcycle is where I do my best thinking and this remains true. The longer the ride, the further I reflect. Reflection seems to put me on the road to find what I search for internally. I don’t know if we are designed to find all the answers to life’s questions as I think it is the search for these answers that keeps us moving. As long as I’m moving, I’m good.

You have your own reasons for riding as I do. Our motorcycles provide us with the stimulation for all our senses and it’s hard to give just one reason. Transportation, recreation, motion and emotion is a lot to expect from our bikes but they handle it well. I can do my best thinking when I’m not thinking about much at all, and I often see more of my surroundings without even looking. An amazing machine for such a simple guy like me.

Indian Motorcycles – Every Story Needs A Hero

 

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I love a great story, one that takes me back to a world before my time. And as you know every great story has a beginning, a middle and some even have an end. But this story hasn’t ended yet. In fact, I think this may be just the beginning.

Indian Motorcycles is a great story, and as the story goes right now, it has me sitting on the edge of my chair. I’ve been a motorcycle guy for over 40 years. Growing up, my world revolved around everything I could get my hands on that could give me any information to what was going on out in the world of motorcycling. Living in the Midwest in the ’70s, information was a little slow to arrive, but when it did I hung onto each picture and every word. Yes, as in the printed word. We didn’t live in some futuristic world of instant information, video on a whim or hand-held telecommunication devices that kept us current with the media…you know, like socially. Magazines told us of what in the world was going on, and we liked it so much we saved them in stacks. For you folks living in the future, that means we didn’t “delete” them.

We are living in a period where we can witness the Indian Motorcycle story as it unfolds. We already know how the story began, and much like those folks living around 1901 when George Hendee and Carl Hedstrom put their collective heads together and started it all, those who followed it through the local newspapers watched it unfold in real-time. They were living through the era of racing board track, the beginning of the Isle of Man TT, World War I, and “Cannonball” Baker as the Indian story progressed through the ’20s. I’m sure around 1915 they weren’t sitting on the edge of their seats, but as news goes people will follow. No one thought they would ever see the end of the story in their lifetime. We often live our lives not thinking like this, but it’s still true today. What has happened in your lifetime that we take for granted, not thinking how many more chapters there will be?

Like any good book there are chapters where the reading gets a little dry. Around 1953 all production was halted and the company went bankrupt. With several attempts over the years to revive the Indian brand it was discovered to be harder than one would think. Deep pockets and big dreams can get you far but it takes more than that. It takes a hero to come in and save the day and that hero is Polaris Industries. A company with the know-how and the wherewithal to make it happen. The secret ingredient? I believe it’s the people. Just as George and Carl were the guys to kick it off, the people behind Polaris Industries have the passion and desire and more importantly – a track record to make it happen. The Indian Motorcycle brand is a story within itself, but the real story is its success. Polaris, quietly building Victory Motorcycles for years, shakes the industry up with the new Indian Brand. Not only did it garner worldwide attention, but as a side benefit, it pulls Victory Motorcycles into an even brighter spotlight. This story can only get better.

The Indian Motorcycle Brand has found a good, permanent home with Polaris. A rough and rocky road for many years, Indian can now be the Brand it so deserves to be. When you are passionate about something it’s easy to get excited about it. I’ve been a passionate motorcyclist for many years and it isn’t hard to spot the kind of enthusiasm building behind Indian Motorcycles. I know there is so much more to come and it’s happening in real-time for us.

A Perfect Combination – Why We Ride

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

It’s a contagious kind of passion, not the quiet kind we keep to ourselves. We ride motorcycles, and our enthusiasm shows from the expressions on our faces all the way down to the mark on our left boot. I just watched the film Why We Ride and I am honored as an average motorcyclist to be included in a like-minded and emotional, devoted and fun-loving community. The connection we have is easier to explain to those who already ride, but to those who don’t – you should watch this film. Why We Ride hits the mark and it shines through in the real people featured along the way. Mert Lawwill, you are one of those people who had a direct impact on why I ride. Real people, real stories and true words spoken.

How do you make a film that explains who we are without telling the stories of those who paved the way before us? A beautiful transition from our past to the present looking through a window to how the more things change in motorcycles, it will always be the people and the reasons we ride that remains the same. History, speed, danger and gasoline make for a perfect combination. What better way to express ourselves than with the sounds and smells of a machine that is the extension of our own heart and soul? Just add spark.

We have our own personal reasons for riding and no matter the age of the hand that twists the throttle, the reaction will always be the same. That motion our throttle hand creates tells “our” stories – of who we are and how life changing motorcycles can be. Our lives are so intertwined with the mechanics of the motorcycle that for some it is one and the same. Life changing and life in general all rolled into one.

The language spoken throughout the film is universal and the feelings are mutual. We ride motorcycles by choice but the camaraderie, competition and connection is a direct reflection of what these amazing machines are capable of. Even as a rider, Why We Ride inspires me. It made me proud to be a part of where we’ve been and where we’re going as a sport. It shows the side of motorcycling that is often overlooked by non-riders. Family, in both the immediate and extended sense of the word.

I may not compete at the highest levels of competition or travel around the world as Ted Simon has, and that’s okay. Others ride to share those experiences and that’s all a part of the bigger picture. We are writing the history of motorcycling with every revolution of our wheels and we are making our own memories and participating in the memories of those we ride with. WE are the reason we ride!

A thank you to the makers of Why We Ride and thanks to all who had a part. YOU are the reason I ride.

Good Place to Start

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Why do we always need a place to go and is it possible to not pick a direction? When it comes to riding our motorcycles, we need to start somewhere, just anywhere to get this ride underway. Our desire is to go places we’ve never been, but it takes traveling down roads we’ve already ridden on to find them. A little known feature built into all motorcycles is a GPS. It doesn’t matter how old your bike is, or what kind of bike you ride, it is mounted right behind your headlight. This system of navigation has been around since the early days of motorcycling, it’s easy to use and a very effective way of either finding yourself or getting lost. You choose.

This form of GPS is also known as a Good Place to Start – you have to start somewhere, and this is as good a place as any. It doesn’t matter if you are a new rider on an entry-level bike or a seasoned rider plagued with miles of experience, you have to hit the starter button and go. Every ride begins exactly where you are, so what are you waiting for? Once underway, you’ll find it easy to follow your headlight wherever it leads you. Don’t put a lot of thought into it and stop fighting the urge to turn the other way – your headlight is never wrong. Sometimes it’s the pressure we put on ourselves to make the ride amazing we forget to “just ride.”

When you are so focused on “where” to go, keep reminding yourself to “just” go. Relax and take it all in even if the road is so familiar you can tell where you are just by the feel of the surface as you ride over it. I can’t remember regretting a ride, but I can remember regretting to not ride at all. Do not let the opportunity pass you by because of indecision on where to go, as every ride should be based on why you go, and instead of a gadget determining your global position, you should determine where you are and where you are going in this world.

We have to remind ourselves that it’s the simplicity of the motorcycle that draws us in. We ride for various reasons, with the most important of those reasons being the motorcycle’s ability of taking us anywhere. It can take us to any destination imaginable, and it’s capable of getting us lost at the same time. This is a Good Place to Start.