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Archive for July, 2015

Bridge of the Gods

Bridge of the Gods

On a cool summer morning it all started on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway with the wind at our backs looking east.

I’m talking about Interstate 84 and the 378 miles which stretches from Portland, Oregon to the Idaho border.  Senate Bill 461 took effect in January 2014 which required the use of private funds to be used in the purchase, installation and maintenance of the large brown signs which designates the route to honor all veterans who served and those who became casualties** during the Vietnam war.

There are approximately 20 signs installed to-date and our riding group passed a couple as we headed toward the base of the Blue Mountains to the Wild West city of Pendleton for the Pendleton Bike Week (PBW).  We took the Cascade Locks exit and rode across the cantilever bridge that spans the Columbia River called the “Bridge of The Gods.”

Maryville Winery

Maryville Winery

There we picked up another rider in our group and headed east on highway 14.  We stopped in Stevenson, WA at the Venus Café for a bit of breakfast then made our way winding along through the Columbia Gorge through the forest and up steep bluffs.  We did a quick stop at the Maryhill winery, traveled past the largely dismantled aluminum smelter plant and then after a short stop in Umatilla we arrived in Pendleton.

This was the inaugural year of the PBW and based on my observations it looks to have sowed the seeds for the start of a recurring big event.  Bikers flooded the convention center, took in vendor booths, relaxed with musical entertainment, cruised around town and spent money which was an economic boost for the city!

Helmley's

Hamley’s “Old West” Saloon

Some key highlights were:

  • There is power in the wheat field and power in the rain because the Rogue Brewery Ale House officially launched the Pendleton Pilsner.  They grow their own hops, malting barley, rye, pumpkins, honey and other ingredients for refreshments.  The new Pendleton Pilsner is brewed at the Rogues HQ in Newport, Oregon and I’m reminded of that movie… where Frank the Tank states: “Once it hits your lips, it’s so good!
  • Pendleton’s legendary hospitality continues in fine style.  The local food was 1st class, the staff at restaurants were most personable and everywhere folks seemed genuinely friendly and appreciative of the motorcycle enthusiasts being in town.
  • PMR Registration

    PMR Registration

    The 100-year old mahogany bar at Hamley’s.  We spent a fair amount of time enjoying Pendleton’s iconic “old-west” saloon and taking in the towns ambiance.

  • Wildhorse Resort & Casino was most entertaining.  Operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the 10-story hotel and resort pulls in the people and the gaming revenue seemed brisk during my short time there. Yes, I contributed to their next expansion project!
  • Attendance of Rattlesnake Mountain H-D from Kennewick, WA at the rally celebration added icing to the cake.  The dealer brought over a bunch of motorcycles and there was a rather large assortment of accessories, parts and t-shirts for attendees to load up on.
Rally Crowds

Rally Crowds

Eric Folkestad, event partners and business leaders are likely making plans for 2016.   I chatted briefly with Eric and he deserves a big shout out from the riding community in taking on the risk and pulling together this quality event.  Motorcycle rallies are a huge gamble and you have to bring your “big girl panties” to the party because it’s not easy.  Note: That is a biker saying and apologies if I offended anyone wearing panties!  Granted he’s had practice being the co-owner of the Hells Canyon Rally and then selling his stake to his brother, but for any motorcycle event to be successful you need to bring large groups of riders together, offer up great entertainment, get biker vendors to support the event, cover the civic (OSP, police, 1st responders etc.) duties and hope that you don’t suffer financial ruin in the end.

Motorcycle Show Trophy's

Motorcycle Show Trophy’s

I’m happy to have participated in the “First PBW!”  Congrats on a most successful rally Eric!

Lastly, I wish I could report that there were no accidents, but Mr. Jason Anteau, 43-years-old, sadly died Friday night in a motorcycle accident at the west end of Pendleton.  Mr. Anteau worked for the Oregon Department of Transportation, was a Hermiston volunteer firefighter and was attending the rally.

Motorcycle Show

Motorcycle Show Entry

The preliminary investigation revealed speed and distraction were not factors, nor were any of the drivers impaired.  More information reported HERE.   Obituary HERE.  Rally’s can be a recipe for danger, but PBW is very small compared to other high profile events (i.e. Sturgis, Laughlin River Run etc.) where thousands of riders are packed into a congested area.  It’s an unfortunate blemish this occurred during the rally and we’re reminded once again how important safety awareness is to the motorcycle community, and how precious life really is.  My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Anteau’s family and friends!

UPDATED: July 29, 2015 – added link to Mr. Anteau obituary.  Also adding that Mr. Anteau was on the Oregon State HazMat Team and was the vice president of the East Desert Diamondbacks chapter of the Iron Order motorcycle club.

UPDATED: July 29, 2015 – The 2016 Pendleton Bike Week will take place from July 22 to July 26th. According to this report co-founder Eric Folkestad said the event met attendance and revenue goals and was able to break even. PBW brought in a total of 5,740 people over the five day event. The event peaked on Saturday, when 2,150 motorcycle enthusiasts arrived at the Pendleton Convention Center.

Photos taken by author.

**Approximately 57,000 Oregonians served “in country” during the Vietnam War with 719 killed in action.  Another 5,000 were wounded in action.  39 remain missing in action after 40 years.  Of the 333,000 veterans living in Oregon, approximately a third served during the Vietnam conflict. Interstate 205 (I-205) is also known as the War Veterans Memorial Highway and Highway 97 is known as the WWII Veterans Memorial Highway.  Thirty-three other states have officially designated highways in honor of Vietnam vets.

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Saddlebag Drawing

Saddlebag Sketch

This is more than a simple saddle bag retaining clip that takes less than 10 minutes to replace.

Harley-Davidson is facing steep competition.  Not only from less expensive motorcycles imported from Asia, but electric motorcycles from Zero, Brammo (now owned by Polaris) and also from core customers who look for a mainstream gasoline cruiser from Indian and Victory.  Polaris will undoubtedly be first to market with a chrome-plated electric cruiser given the previous discussion by CEO Matt Levatich.

In addition, it’s not clear that Harley-Davidson is getting much of a sales bump from the decision to double-down on support of outlaw biker gangs as part of their marketing pitch.  The hard-edge reference is NOT about the one-percent patches, rather licensing support of TV shows like Sons of Anarchy (SOA) and other Hollywood fluff.  Trying to appeal to people who don’t have much adventure in their lives with a TV show prescribing on the road escapism… well it escapes me!   Meanwhile they try so hard to alienate and re-write the Baby Boomer chapter!

But I’ve digressed.

Harley-Davidson reported slipping revenues for Q2 2015.  U.S. market share is below 50% for the first time ever!  The company is betting on its name recognition and motorcycle quality.  They even choose to muster up some brash swagger and declined slashing prices as a subtle way of saying “our bikes are better!”

And on that quality topic, Harley recently issued a saddlebag recall – campaign number 15V-427.  The motor company is the poster child for the “land of recalls” sans Chevy.  So many, that owners find it difficult to recall when their bikes didn’t!

Snarky comments aside, all manufactures have issues, but Harley-Davidson is unique in acknowledging and using quality as a key differentiator and strategy for increasing sales.  I’m not sure how well that will work for them.

Meanwhile the Dealers are replacing the 4 (2 on each side) saddle bag pin retaining clips free of charge. The motor company issued a recall stating that the saddlebag mounting receptacle, P/N 10900009 on some model year 2014 and 2015 Touring family vehicles (see drawing #1 above) may not adequately secure the saddlebag to the motorcycle during use.  If this condition remains undetected, the saddlebag may become separated from the motorcycle while it is in motion, possibly creating a hazard for other motorists including your riding buddy’s in formation behind that “separated” bag.

If this happens there is a good chance you’ll be picking up a new “road rash” painted saddlebag and dirty laundry strewn across the roadway!

UPDATED: July 23, 2015 (1:40pm PDT) — the recall effects 185,000 motorcycles which covers certain 2014 and 2015 Road King, Street Glide, Electra Glide Ultra Classic, Ultra Limited, Police Road King, Police Electra Glide and CVO Ultra Limited bikes. Also affected are 2014 CVO Road King and the 2015 Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low, Ultra Limited Low, Road Glide, CVO Street Glide and CVO Road Glide Ultra motorcycles. No injuries or crashes have been reported due to the saddlebag issues and no information has been provided on the number of “separated” bags.

UPDATED: July 29, 2015 — Polaris introduces its 2016 line up which includes the Victory Empulse TT ($19,999), an electric model which rolls out way ahead of H-D’s LiveWire.  It’s based on the Brammo Empulse R motorcycle produced by the electric motorcycle division of Brammo Inc., which was acquired by Polaris earlier this year.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 1.44.35 PMI’ll get right to the point.  Motorcycle sales down.  Revenues down.  Earnings down. Currency issues.  Tough competition.

The company’s Q2 earnings were hard to sugar coat for Matt Levatich, President and CEO.  But he sure tried.

“Our actions during the quarter have had a positive impact. We are encouraged by the momentum at retail as the quarter progressed, both in the U.S. and internationally.”  “We are confident in the strength of our business and the strategies we have in place to maintain our industry leadership and grow our business over the long term,” said Levatich. “Our singular focus on the customer through unrivaled products, unique experiences and our expanding dealer network is the bedrock we are building on to continue to grow our reach and impact with customers across the globe.”

Dealers worldwide sold 88,931 new motorcycles in Q2 2015 compared to 90,218 motorcycles in the year-ago quarter. In the U.S., dealers sold 57,790 new motorcycles in the quarter compared to sales of 58,225 motorcycles in the year-ago period.  In international markets, dealers sold 31,141 new motorcycles during the quarter compared to 31,993 motorcycles in the year-ago period, with sales up 16.6 percent in the Asia Pacific region and down 8.9 percent in the EMEA region, 2.6 percent in the Latin America region and 9.9 percent in Canada.

Second-quarter revenue from motorcycles decreased 11.6 percent to $1.31 billion compared to revenue of $1.48 billion in the year-ago period. Following the company’s decision in April to lower motorcycle shipments, the motor company shipped 85,172 motorcycles to dealers and distributors worldwide during the quarter compared to shipments of 92,217 motorcycles in the year-ago period.

Revenue from motorcycle parts and accessories was $256.8 million during the quarter, down 5.4 percent, and revenue from general merchandise, which includes MotorClothes apparel and accessories, was $77.5 million, up 1.5 percent compared to the year-ago period.

As the new CEO, this is Mr. Levatich’s first solo “ride” on an earnings report after Keith Wandell retired.   You have to give the company cred for its integrity of not over producing its motorcycles, but employees and shareholders can’t be happy with these sales.

Full disclosure:  I have no positions in HOG stocks and no plans to initiate any position within the next 72 hours.  I wrote this article from publically accessible information and expresses my own opinion.  I am not receiving compensation for it and have no business relationship with the company.  I currently own a Harley-Davidson Road Glide.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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Cover_ProxyNothing says ‘freedom’ like loading up your motorcycle with the minimum essentials and hitting the open road to explore.

The U.S. has over 4M miles of public highways.  But, which is the best road?  Where are the roads less-traveled?  Whether you’re looking for a ride on a twisty or a relaxed cruise on a scenic back country byway you’ll likely want a map.

Have you ever traveled Oregon 238?  It’s described as a ‘backway’ between Grants Pass and Medford and an exceptional alternative to traveling I-5.

Later this week is the Hells Canyon Rally in Baker City, Oregon.  I wonder how many riders will venture off I-84 onto the “Journey Through Time Scenic Byway” at Biggs?  It’s an endless set of curvy roads with incredible scenery and plenty of space to get lost…mentally!

This isn’t a post about planning out a trip to the Nth detail.  Getting on the motorcycle with the wind in your face and traveling to no place in particular has a lot of merit.  But you’ll likely need a map and I’m interested in the science of paper vs. screens.

Oregon

Oregon

Yeah, I know many of you out there pinch, swipe and prod an electronic device to determine a route.  I’m a bit “old skool” and think paper maps have a unique advantage that the more popular e-technologies miss.  In most cases, paper has more topography than an onscreen electronic reader.

An open paper map presents the motorcyclist with two clearly defined domains—the left and right pages—and a total of four corners with which to orient oneself.  The rider can focus on a section of a paper map without losing sight of the whole region: one can see where the route begins and ends and where one section is in relation to those borders.

A paper map is like leaving a footprint after another person on the trail—there’s a rhythm to it and a visible record of how far I’ve traveled.  It makes it easier (for me) to form a coherent mental map of the geography.  In contrast, most screens, and smartphones interfere with intuitive navigation of a location and inhibit people from mapping the journey in their minds.

Beyond the obvious disadvantage of needing internet to access internet-based maps, a digital map might have you scrolling through a seamless number of pages, tap up or swipe over to a page at a time and it is difficult to see any one area in the context of the overall route—the screen only displays a single virtual page: it is there and then it is gone.  I think the implicit feel of where you are on a physical map turns out to be more important than we realized.

But, maybe you’re the type of rider who rolls past the trees, rocks and moss in flashes with no trace of what came before and no way to see what lies ahead.  That’s fine.

If you’re the type of person who takes a more deliberate approach to your riding adventures then you’ll be interested to know that Oregon recently updated the official state map.  The last time it was updated was Summer of 2013.  The new map has shaded relief for terrain and new colors designating BLM owned land.  It also contains updated inserts of major cities as well as updates to state highways.  You can down load or order a map HERE.

Photo courtesy of ODOT’s Geographic Information Services.

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