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HD TankI’m talking about rider “connectivity” which has become a topic of discussion and debate in certain circles.

Technology content, infotainment and virtual connectivity all seem to be the metrics by which a growing portion of the motorcycle community defines the performance or desirability of a motorcycle. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of connectivity in motorcycles, but it’s not the kind that involves touchscreens, phones, Nav, satellite radio and cell towers. My definition of connectivity involves the seat of your pants, your hands on oversized handlebars and your feet on the pegs. 

It’s the visceral connection, not the blue-tooth connected one!  It’s the emotional and physical connection, the one that makes you want to ride it. How does the infotainment touchscreen with VOX interrupts provide that?

I’ll assume most Harley owners are as passionate about riding their motorcycles as I am.  Yet, as I travel around it seems many of you are suffering from a “connection disorder” — an affliction that occurs when a rider can’t connect their multitude of electronic devices with their motorcycle!  

I want to connect via my senses, not my phone. Direct steering feel, linear brakes, great lateral grip and the melodious exhaust soundtrack are what connect me when I’m riding.  I want a motorcycle that puts me deep into the rider, motorcycle and road feedback loop.  Not one that isolates me from it.  Or distracts me from my riding senses.

How did this Harley-Davidson connection disorder come about?

It started with the launch of the Boom! Box Infotainment System and the affliction has grown exponentially.  Back in the day, multitasking while riding was about downshifting smoothly while braking and throttling up for the next corner.  Multitasking today is about loudly shouting to activate the intercom while navigating through menu tabs to deactivate your appointment alert.

Historically a mechanical aptitude and a passion for motorcycles was everything needed to enthusiastically explore the world of 2-wheel vehicle dynamics.  In 2015,  you’ll need some “tech genes” in your family tree or be prepared to visit a genius bar in the Harley-Davidson dealership.

I’m unsure why Harley-Davidson is so busy developing and marketing motorcycle connectivity technologies that don’t even involve being on the motorcycle, much less riding it.  Can you spell “wearables”…  It won’t be long before your watch connects to the infotainment system.  Monitoring your heart rate as you cruise the two-lane blacktop is something all riders will want, right?

As I’ve traveled around this year I’ve witnessed riders affected with the disorder — not many at first, but enough to know I was witnessing a connection disorder trend that will only spread.  I hope it’s not contagious!

Photos courtesy of H-D

All Rights Reserved© Northwest Harley Blog
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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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