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Archive for April, 2010

Sporty Burnout

Stock price performance, not your motorcycle!

Harley-Davidson (HOG) shares have been on a smokin’ hot burnout of late.  We’re talking about a 2nd gear blowing the melted tire kind — as the stock price approaches a 52-week high.  Rumors of a merger or buyout floating around the web may have contributed.  Who knows.

The motor company is set to release its Q1’2010 earnings before the opening bell on Tuesday, April 20th.  Analysts expect revenues for the quarter to be in the $1B range down from the $1.29B in Q1, 2009.

As a predominate recreational luxury motorcycle, not used as a primary method of transport, you’d have to live on an island to be unaware of how the company has suffered during this ‘great recession.’  With contracting credit markets, the uncertainty of jobs, housing values in freefall, increases in state and federal taxes and despite a younger rebellious image in marketing campaigns the fact is that H-D’s average buying customer age is getting older at a rate of 6 months every year and has been for the last 20 years.  It seems a decline in the Harley culture is inevitable if not certain.

HOG Financial Snapshot

Harley competes more on image and getting customers to buy into the lifestyle (brand), and through “nostalgic design” and quality rather than price.  This helps keep margins high which were in the 31% range for 2009.  It will be interesting to learn next week if the company’s premium priced motorcycles have attracted buyers amid a weak spending environment or they’ve been successful in pulling in a fresh batch of younger riders.

If Toyota sales increased 40% last month amid the sticking pedals and trapped mats on more than 8M vehicles maybe it’s time for H-D to announce an unintended throttle acceleration recall too!  I’m hoping for good news next week.

Full Disclosure: None.

Photo courtesy H-D Financial Reports.

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A Motorcycle Film By Scott G. Toepfer

Sound familiar?  It’s a modified version of the above tag line, but that’s not the point.

It’s about a Portland transplant living in L.A.

Scott G. Toepfer, is an emerging editorial and documentary photographer with a love of motorcycles and adventure.  His posse is setting out across the Western U.S., to re-imagine the stories of previous generations, to experience the spaces between here and there, and to see what becomes of them on the road.  No escort vehicles.  Basically a couple $20 bills and a change of t-shirts.  More importantly he plans to photograph the entire process and its through his Red Letter Images company where he intends to release a documentary (still-photo) film that tells the story of their adventures.

Scott describes the documentary as:

“This project is a “visionary journey.” There is something very visceral to the riding of a motorcycle for long distances.  You are naked to the elements, forced to listen only to your own thoughts as the engine becomes white with the background.  The road is beneath you and you are one with the world that surrounds you.  The elements in your face remove you from your daily comforts, and you become alone within the group. The most important reflections in your life can happen here, and at the end of the day it is the group that will bring us to face the next”.

Most of us are on that “gainfully” employed treadmill — motoring along the track.  But, it’s one that discourages a seemingly outlandish and extremely open-ended adventure across this country.   It’s refreshing to know that there are people who can capture and share the essence of how “it’s better in the wind” and this is one film I’m looking forward to its release!

UPDATE: October 1, 2012 – Mr. Toepfer finally aggregated the content he captured from their rides over the last two years and release the short film (HERE – 17 min).

Poster photo courtesy of Scott G. Toepfer.

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There is no place more empty than the spot where your motorcycle used to be!

Motorcyclists often put a great deal of money and attention into customization of their cycles, from elaborate paint schemes, high-performance motor upgrades, exhaust systems to billet custom wheels.  It’s not uncommon for aftermarket parts to add thousands of dollars to the original cost of the motorcycle and the hard earned efforts also capture the attention of thieves.

According to a new report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), motorcycle thefts nationwide have declined at about the same percentage rate as motorcycle sales trends.  A total of 56,093 motorcycles nationwide were reported stolen to law enforcement in 2009, down from 64,492 reported in 2008 or a 13% drop.

The top five manufactures stolen last year and top five states were:

Manufacture Number Stolen Top 5 States (#Stolen)
Honda 13,688 California (6,273)
Yamaha 11,148 Texas (5,526)
Suzuki 9,154 Florida (5,009)
Kawasaki 5,911 North Carolina (3,045)
Harley-Davidson 3,529 Georgia (2,067)
Total 43,430 Total of 5 States (21,920)

The summer months of July (6,319); August (6,079); and June (5,672) saw the most theft activity while the fewest thefts were recorded during the winter months of December (2,927); January (3,570); and February (3,100).

Photo courtesy of NICB.

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Launched in 1994, the “American Rider,” a bi-monthly magazine which targeted Harley-Davidson enthusiasts is folding.

The June issue will be its last.

Advertising is way down, newsstand sales are minimalistic and subscription rates are falling.  As a result the Affinity Group (Ventura, CA) reported their intention is to fold the content into the sister magazine “Rider” which reportedly has a monthly circulation of 140,000.  An on-line presence will continue, but three staff positions were eliminated due to the closure. Hopefully they’ll retain Clement Salvadori who is a contributing author with high quality and interesting articles.

The demise of American Rider has plenty of company.  According to this report there were 367 magazines which shutdown in 2009 and 67 went on-line only.  This number is much improved from the 526 magazines that closed in 2008 or the 573 magazines which closed in 2007.  According to this site which tracks magazine “death pools”, even the all powerful EasyRider and V-Twin publication were caught in combining their circulation numbers as “real” to advertisers and neglected to mention the blending.

It’s not just magazine publications.

One day I expect to open my front door and find a booklet with 4 tiny little pages.  This booklet will be known as The Oregonian.  It could well happen to the New York Times or Los Angeles Times.  They’ve all shrunk the height, the width…got rid of so much material that many question why newspapers are necessary.

The Rocky Mountain News is gone.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, gone.  In fact, since January 2008 at least 120 newspapers in the U.S. have shutdown.  More than 21,000 jobs evaporated.

Be it magazines or newspapers, part of having freedom of the press is the freedom to let whoever is producing the best information be heard.  If that is bloggers then so be it.  To narrow down the parameters of what counts as “the media,” is restricting the press.  There is nothing that states that the NYTimes or NBC are valid news sources and for example the Cyril Huze blog is not.  The validity of a news source is based on their reputation of having produced accurate and responsible results in the past.  Reputable bloggers know this and work hard to abide.

Publishers will either need to change and accommodate the way people want their news, or fail.  That is the way the market works.

Photo courtesy of American Rider/Affinity Group.

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It’s time to forget the finances and focus on the road!

Fortunately Washington and Oregon have partnered up to provide a unique riding opportunity for the 2010 H.O.G. Rally and this is a save-the-date notice.

Motorcyclists now have the opportunity to attend two rallies back-to-back and ride more than 1600 miles on some of the Pacific Northwest best roads.

The Washington State H.O.G. Rally starts in Vancouver, WA and edges its way up the Columbia River Gorge to Yakima and Wenatchee. The rally ride “edges” ever northward along the Columbia River, with a stop at Grand Coulee Dam then on to Spokane. The final day takes motorcyclists down the eastern “edge” of Washington State and into Lewiston, ID, then on to Kennewick for the closing ceremonies.

Then a day later and only a few miles from the end of the Washington Rally starts the Oregon Rally.

Pendleton is the start of Oregon’s Rally and you’ll ride the “edge” of the Cascade Mountain range to an overnight stay in Bend before “edging” along to Crater Lake and then an overnight in Medford. The final day puts motorcyclists on the “edge” of the Pacific Ocean with closing ceremony in Coos Bay.  Below are the dates, links for registering and additional information.

Washington State HOG Rally
August 20 -23, 2010

Oregon State HOG Rally
August 24 -27, 2010

Facebook fans can go to Oregon and Washington fan pages.

And if that wasn’t enough riding and fun… when the H.O.G. rally ends head over to Woodburn, OR. for the All-Harley Drag Races on Saturday, August 28th and Sunday, August 29th

Photo courtesy of H.O.G.

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Michael Jakscht

Two weeks ago a news flash zipped across my iMac screen about eight Phoenix-based motorcycle riders involved in an accident with a sanitation truck. Knowing that in about a month I planned to be riding in the same area of Arizona, the accident caught my attention.

If you’re unaware of the incident; on Thursday, March 25th a group of motorcyclists who were taking advantage of the nice weather, were literally run down by a Blue Sky Sanitation truck driven by Michael Jakscht, 46.  The truck ran into the group of motorcyclists on Carefree Highway who were stopped at a stoplight, killing four of them and injuring five others.  Photos from the scene are disturbing due to some motorcycles bursting into flames under the truck while others scattered flaming wreckage across the intersection.

Sure it’s true that motorcycles can’t be made as objectively safe (crush zones, front and side air bags, etc.) as cars—however, no motorist (in a car or on a motorcycle) expects to be run down while sitting idle at a stop light!  Blue Sky Sanitation is a very small, limited liability company headquartered in Fountain Hills, AZ which employs about four people.  At the time of the accident witnesses reported that there were no outwardly signs the truck driver being impaired.  In fact, one witnessed stated that the driver commented how he was distracted doing paperwork.  Within hours it was reported that Mr. Jakscht had a string of prior speeding and over-weight traffic violations.

Blue Sky Sanitation Truck

But, there is even more to the story.  On April 6th police arrested Mr. Jakscht on suspicion of being under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the crash, and booked him on four counts of manslaughter, five counts of aggravated assault and seven counts of endangerment. According to police, the initial toxicology tests on blood drawn from Mr. Jakscht on the day of the crash show he had the illegal drug methamphetamine in his system.  He is currently being held in the 4th Avenue jail on a $1M bond and his initial hearing is set for April 13th.

Motorcyclists who died as a result of the crash were Daniel Butler, 35; Clyde Nachand, 67; Stephen Punch, 52; and Dale Downs-Totonchi, 47.  Phoenix Fire Capt. Ernie Lizarraga, 52, who was part of the riding group remains hospitalized suffering from injuries sustained in the crash.  In addition, Jason Anania, 48, is recovering at home from a shattered leg and bruised back.

When people get behind the wheel of a vehicle, they take on a responsibility to ensure their action does not put other people in danger.  So we have a “tweeked” truck driver who ignored his responsibility and innocent motorcyclists were in my view murdered.  The families of those victims can and will likely file a wrongful death lawsuit, but I’m sure Blue Sky Sanitation and Mr. Jakscht will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid accepting responsibility.  While it’s how our litigious society works I do hope these people are brought to justice.

The death of a family member in an accident like this has to be a horrible experience.  I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the families and hope for a full recovery of those injured.

Additional news reports HERE, and video coverage by ABC HERE.  I’ve previously written about “trucker bombs” HERE.

Photo’s courtesy of Associated Press/NPR and ABC.

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It started as whispers, but lately we’ve heard more and more about the “R” word.

Recovery of the economy.

Economists are starting to down play the recession and clearly chatter from our D.C. representatives is all about a turning point as retail sales beat forecasts and for the first time in 10 years 160K jobs were created in the month of March.  However, the unemployment rate remains steady at 9.7% nationally and it really looks like the pace of growth won’t drive rapid improvement in the labor market.

And speaking of job growth, Harley-Davidson has taken some of the oxygen out any recovery in Milwaukee.  According to the Biz Journal the motor company filed a mass layoff notice this week with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development informing the agency that it was undergoing a permanent reduction in force and will lay off 94 employees at its distribution center in Franklin beginning June 7.  Unemployment remains steady at 8.7% in Wisconsin.  This news was not unexpected as the motor company announced more than a year ago that it was closing the distribution center as part of a major reduction in operations, with a third-party company picking up parts, accessories and general merchandise distribution.

Clearly the labor market distress remains high and I’m not making light of hard working folks difficulties.   But, if it’s any consolation – plus the fact that this week Tiger returned to the Masters, launched a new 3D PGA Online Game and Nike’s greedy geniu$ made us feel CREEPY for the multimillionaire after rolling out a new ad featuring his dead father’s voice – Wisconsin is ranked among the top states for its ratio of golfers to courses and during this most distressful time, might I suggest a round of golf to reduce stress?  Better yet, maybe you could snag a 4-some in the middle of the day with Mr. Keith Wandell (H-D CEO) who according to a number of press reports is an avid golfer and discuss etiquette or share tips!

Photo courtesy of GoGo Caddy and H-D.


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