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Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 4.19.44 PMRiding in the wind or doing research on motorcycle insurance!  Insurance research is not something any of us look forward too, but is a necessity.

Getting unbiased information on products and services along with specific pricing can be a challenge.  And we know that motorcycle insurance is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, but should include liability coverage, collision coverage, comprehensive coverage, and uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.  That last item is key because it’s a well known fact that many riders are underinsured.

Every state requires motorists to carry some minimum level of insurance; this minimum level will vary from state to state. Regardless of the state, however, the minimum level of coverage is only sufficient to cover minor collisions; any collision that is serious enough to send you to the hospital will quickly run over the policy limits, typically within the first few minutes of the collision. Nevertheless, as long as a motorist carries this minimum level of coverage, the motorist is meeting their legal obligations. But the minimum level of insurance is insufficient to cover anything more than a minor collision and because of this motorists who do select this minimum level of coverage are termed “underinsured.”

And if you have the misfortune to be hit by an “underinsured” driver, the driver’s insurance policy will likely be insufficient to cover your injuries.  I’ve learned this first hand and in the last couple of months it was reinforced when Scootin’ America, who was raising money and awareness for the children of fallen soldiers by visiting Harley-Davidson dealers across N.A., was injured by an underinsured driver and life-flight to UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Pittsburgh.  He’s recovering well!

Most know that your motorcycle liability coverage provides financial protection in case you cause an accident. Comprehensive and collision coverage pay for damage to your motorcycle under various circumstances. But, the question to ask is: “Will you get protection if you are in a serious accident with a driver that has no coverage or is underinsured?”

A good policy can protect motorcycle riders and their families from potential financial disaster.

The good folks over at Reviews.com reached out to me with information they pulled together. They’ve spent six weeks creating a guide to walk riders through finding and choosing a policy, including how to decide how much coverage is necessary, which discounts to take advantage of, and how to stay safer on the road. They found three nationwide options that provided the best all-around coverage. You can see their full process and findings HERE and make your own decision about insurance needs. Their stated goal is to get the research into the hands of people who may find it helpful which I’ve offered to help re-post.

Full Disclosure: I have read through the web site, but have not used this service. I have no advertising relationship with Reviews.com.  I received no compensation from Reviews.com or an insurance provider for posting this information. I’m passing along the insurance advocacy information to help protect motorcycle riders and their families. Reviews.com does have an advertising relationship with some of the insurance offers included on their review page.

Photo courtesy of Reviews.com

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

Kaepernick Versus American Flag

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 11.50.13 AMI had someone ask me recently, “Are you going to vote, Mac?” I gave a flippant answer along the lines of, “Can felons vote?” Comically looking to avoid any follow-on political conversation. They responded that they were a democrat.

They missed my point.

Unless you live under a rock you know it’s Presidential election season and that means 24×7 politics. It’s become a favorite sport for the talking heads and something that at times is difficult to watch.  The two parties are worlds apart and each convention had one shameful, but perfectly legal thing in common. Both events and some follow on rallies included protesters burning American flags.

It’s always hard for me to watch that type of demonstration, let alone understand.

And speaking of Colin Kaepernick, who was spotted sitting during the national anthem before a pre-season game… who described in post-game interviews his decision to not stand as protest for what he feels is racial injustice.  Come on, who doesn’t expect there’s a camera everywhere these days? In fact, Kaepernick didn’t stand for the first two pre-season games of this year prior to last weeks display. He wasn’t in uniform, so no one including the media took notice. Or if they did, they didn’t care because Kaepernick is struggling to reclaim lost magic on the field.

Kaepernick is just an athlete, not my role model, but since the NFL has to sell advertising, the media and talking heads, get on the bandwagon and venerates these overpaid people so out of touch with the reality of middle-america.  True that they have pursued their sport for their entire lives, But the talking heads lead us to believe they’re better than us.

They’re not.

I’m not saying we have to like the work of those who make it, but you do have to admire their perseverance and all the hard work they put into making it.

Over the years I grew to respect the American flag more than I ever had as a child.  It wasn’t that I had become more patriotic; it was brought about in later years seeing military honor guard and flag-draped caskets of veteran relatives and friends.  I gained a better appreciation of their patriotism and the artifact of the family pride in how each had served their country which resonated.  I believe you should stand during the national anthem and take your HAT OFF.

People died for that flag, but I’m not here to give Kaepernick a lesson in patriotic etiquette. I’ll sit that one out.

My relationship to the national anthem and what the American flag means reminds me of another philosophical orientation related to the outlaw motorcycle club patch.  A creed of love, loyalty and respect for what a club patch represents to it’s members. It’s the same throughout the motorcycle club world.  There are basic rules to follow, which are really just common sense. You never let it hit the ground, you don’t conduct yourself in a unbecoming manner, never let it be disrespected and never let it be taken from you.

I’m not a member of an outlaw motorcycle club or have a patch to defend, but I hope to God I will always have that American flag!

Photo taken at Northwest HOG Rally – Spokane, WA.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

Brace

News about Harley-Davidson during the month of August has been a bit of a wild ride.

There was the consent decree and $15M settlement with the EPA. Then the announcement that Harley expanded the list of bikes on recall that may have been built with defective hydraulic clutch systems.  Then the biggest engine-product launch for the company since 1988, when the Twin Cam made its debut.

And now today, the day before the Milwaukee Rally kicks off, Harley-Davidson announced that approximately 200 employees will face layoffs starting in October as the company adjusts motorcycle production due to slower sales.

According to various news reports including Rick Barrett, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the union stated many of the layoffs will take place at Harley’s assembly plant in York, Pa., and some will occur at the engine plant in Menomonee Falls, where the company employs approximately 1,000 people, as well as in Tomahawk.

Given that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally attendance was down roughly 40% from a year ago (some of which was expected), suggest that some riders are busy doing other things than throttling down rural America’s roads to a rally which makes the launch of its Milwaukee-Eight engine motorcycles key to amp up any new motorcycle sales.

Photo courtesy of Sturgill Simpson Video.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog
"M-8" top view showing tubular rockers

“M-8” top view showing tubular rockers

It happens every year and often it’s big news.

This year the launch of the Harley-Davidson 2017 motorcycle line-up is anchored by the new Milwaukee-Eight™107 and Milwaukee-Eight™114 power plants.

A couple weeks ago I posted about a new eight-valve Big Twin and now we know the rumors are true.  The displacement of the standard version is 107ci (1,750cc) or in the CVO version it’s 114ci (1,870cc). The 2017 touring models get these engines first and may waterfall down to other models later in the year.  The 107 uses precision oil-cooled cylinder heads and will be in the Street Glides, Road Glides, the Electra Glide Ultra Classic, and Freewheeler trikes.  A Twin-Cooled version with liquid-cooled cylinder heads and radiators will be in the Ultra Limited models, the Road Glide Ultra, and Tri Glide models.  The CVO Limited and CVO Street Glide models will have the Twin-Cooled Milwaukee-Eight 114.

M-8: Four-valve combustion chamber and the dual spark plugs

M-8: Four-valve combustion chamber and the dual spark plugs

You might recall that the last major design evolution of the Twin Cam — and a significant part of the Project RUSHMORE and marketing campaign — was anchored on improving power plant cooling.  This took the form of circulating liquid coolant in tubes around each cylinder head’s hot exhaust valve seat and then to external radiators.  Many riders neglected to notice much in the way of decreased heat from this method of trying to get more power out of the 103.

So let’s talk details of the new eight-valve “M-8”.
ksksksksk

M-8:  Cutaway shows cooling areas of circulating liquid (Blue)

The 107 (3.937 x 4.375-inch bore and stroke) is cooled by pumping oil through it and then through a “chin radiator” ahead of the crankcase. In the 107 and 114 Twin-Cooled models (the 114 has 4.016 x 4.500-inch cylinder dimen­sions), water/antifreeze coolant is circulated through a cored heart-shaped passage that encircles the exhaust valves and then through radiators mounted forward to either side of the engine, as we’ve seen.  The new engine uses a nearly flat chamber of minimum surface area with four valves and abandons the large surface area of the traditional deep, modified hemi two-valve combustion chamber found in the old design.  The new engine operates at high compression ratios (as high as 10.5:1).  As a result, the 2017 Touring motorcycles will provide 10 percent more torque.  Harley states that will translate into two to three bike lengths faster from 0–60 mph, and one to two lengths quicker in top-gear 60–80-mph roll-ons along with improved fuel economy.

Overall airflow capacity of the “M-8” is 50 percent greater versus previous Big Twin engines, and the throttle body now has a 55mm bore.  Each cylinder has an acceleration-type knock sensor along with ECM control which protects the engine from detonation.  The new system is an improvement over the previous ion-sensing knock detection.  The exhaust components, including the catalyst, have been relocated to help move engine heat away from rider and the new engines have a single four-lobe camshaft with automatic hydraulic tensioner in place of the Twin Cam’s pair which will help reduced mechanical noise.

And in a first for the rubber-mounted Big Twin is a single counter-rotating internal balancer.  It’s meant to eliminate 75 percent of the engine’s primary shaking force.  In addition, idle rpm has been cut from 1,000 to 850 rpm all in a effort to give riders improved engine smoothness.  Other engine items of note is a new higher capacity alternator along with a new 1.6 kW (2.14 hp) starter that replaces the previous 1.2 kW (1.6 hp) units.  There is a self-torque-boosting clutch with Brembo hydraulic actuation for a lighter lever pull and the engine ECM has been changed from a mapped system to torque-based which will be interpreted as a call for a specific torque level, not a specific throttle angle.

On the motorcycle side, the front and rear suspension is new.  The new 49mm fork contains “dual bending valve fork technology” and uses cartridge-style variable-orifice damping valves, which Harley claims will deliver improved control at low speed without harshness over sharper bumps.  This wasn’t achievable with the old system of fixed damping.  Touring fork travel is 4.6 inches on standard models and 3.9 inches on low models.

After doing a quick H-D web site scan on the CVO Street Glide and CVO Limited models — it looks like the MSRP price went up $1K from 2016 ($36,799) to 2017 ($37,799).  The same $1K increase is also shown for the CVO Limited ($39,999 to $40,999).

Only you can decide if the new 117 engine, the new suspension along with the radio power adjustment warrants the price increase.

Photos courtesy of H-D.  Engine detail/stats courtesy of Cycle World.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 11.26.49 AMThe “spin” is that Harley-Davidson reached a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the sale of its Pro Super Tuner — an aftermarket tuning product used to calibrate motorcycles intended for off-road and closed-course competition.

The 411 is:  Harley-Davidson agreed to no longer sell its competition-only tuner in the U.S.  They also agreed to pay a $12 million civil penalty and spend $3 million on an air pollution mitigation project.  In addition, Harley-Davidson will also have to buy back and destroy the roughly 340,000 “illegal” devices that it sold.  As part of the mitigation of air pollution under the settlement, the motor company agreed to work with an independent third party to replace conventional wood-stoves with cleaner-burning stoves in designated communities, thereby improving future air quality.

Important to note is that the settlement is not an admission of liability by Harley-Davidson.

The EPA took legal action and alleged that by selling the Harley-Davidson Pro Super Tuner through its U.S. dealer network, the motor company enabled dealers and customers to tamper with motorcycles used on public roads. Harley-Davidson disagreed with the EPA’s position, noting that the tuner was designed and sold as an after-market, competition-only product used to adapt engine parameters for use with Harley-Davidson after-market equipment.  The product was sold for more than two decades, under an accepted regulatory approach that permitted the sale of competition-only parts.

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 11.28.51 AMIs this government overreach or the administrations regulatory process/approach to public protection in the race/competition-only arena?

Ed Moreland, Harley-Davidson’s Government Affairs Director contends that it was legal to use the Pro Super Tuner in race conditions in the U.S., however, “concern for our U.S. customers and dealers weighed heavily in reaching this compromise with the EPA…”by settling this matter, we can focus our future attention and resources on product innovation rather than a prolonged legal battle with the EPA.”

To settle or not to settle a case often comes down to a corporation’s litigation culture. Harley-Davidson likely determined that legal fees and the possibility of liability/payouts at the end of a losing legal battle meant it was more cost effective to capitulate, remove the product for sale — settle for $15 million and move on.

Harley-Davidson, is one of many suppliers in the aftermarket race/performance parts industry and the legal tactics of the EPA, along with the potential consequences of prolonged legal action with manufactures will have a chilling effect on the performance parts market.

It should be noted that Harley-Davidson’s corporate stance is and has been committed to meeting or exceeding all emissions requirements for its motorcycles in every market it serves.  They have always included clear product labeling of competition-only products and detail on what performance enhancements are considered street legal and for competition-use only, and called out the legal consequences of tampering with emission controls and components, and what enhancements would void the vehicle warranty.

Photos courtesy of H-D.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog
H-D new engine -- “Milwaukee-Eight”

H-D new engine — “Milwaukee-Eight”

According to the rumor mill, Harley-Davidson is set to release a new engine in certain touring models for 2017.

The new engine is called the “Milwaukee-Eight”.

The engine will have four valves per cylinder and be increased to 107 cubic inches, or 1753cc.There have been seven distinct engine designs from the motor company since 1914, and Harley-Davidson has been consistent with air-cooled, pushrod driven, two valve per cylinder designs.  The new engine is the eighth in the line and may explain the naming convention. The new engine will be air cooled, but the increase in the number of valves will help make the new engine compliant with increasingly more stringent emissions laws.

The official unveiling is reportedly to occur in a couple of weeks when Harley-Davidson rolls out the new 2017 models.

Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson and motorcyclelife.com.au

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 11.42.14 AMI’m a bit late getting this information out, but you can read the company press release HERE.

From my experience you know it’s going to be a long day when the financial perspective includes statements about how we’re in challenging times…  “Political, economic and cultural forces working against the confidence and security for people everywhere in the world” — whoa, roll the eerie and scary sound effects!

Here is a quick synopsis:

The Bad:

  • Worldwide sales for the quarter were down due to significant declines in the U.S. industry which was a surprise and far weaker than expected. Worldwide retail sales of new Harley-Davidson motorcycles in Q2 were down 1.9%.  U.S. retail sales were lower than expected on surprisingly weak industry results.  Q2 retail sales in the U.S. were down 5.2% versus prior year, behind weak U.S. industry sales.
  • U.S. retail inventory was up at the end of the second quarter.
  • Manufacturing expenses were higher than expected, driven by startup costs related to the implementation of a new ERP system in Kansas City, and costs associated with plant retooling.  In addition, plant efficiencies were lower than expected due to lower production given soft sales in Q2.  This is an overly simple statement because in reality it’s complex planning and execution, including numerous down days, inventory bridges and careful new model ramp plans.
  • The motor company stated they are taking steps to lower expected 2016 shipments which is largely due to continued pressure on industry growth in the U.S.  Third quarter shipments are expected to be approximately flat to down 9% versus 2015 third quarter.

The Good:

  • Revenue was up slightly.  Net income was $280.4 million on consolidated revenue of $1.86 billion compared to net income of $299.8 million on consolidated revenue of $1.82 billion in last year’s second quarter.
  • Q2 market share of 49.5% in the U.S., was up a strong 2.0 percentage points. The gains came in all segments, Touring, Cruisers and the Street/Sportster segment size of motorcycles. And it came from all seven sales regions in the U.S. The market share gains were over double the nearest competitor and came largely at the expense of Japanese competitors.
  • Retail sales in international markets were up in Q2 in all regions except Latin America (Brazil).
  • The company added six new international dealerships in the second quarter and has a goal to add 150+ international dealers over the next 4 years.

Given this current environment one could wonder if Harley-Davidson is positioned appropriately for the flat/declining industry which seemed to surprise them in Q2 — management states they are prepared.

Full Disclosure:  I have NO personal stock holdings in HOG or plans to procure any.

Some parts of the above text are attributable to the Seeking Alpha transcript on July 28, 2016.  Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog
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