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This is interesting timing because April is Alcohol Responsibility Month and the partnership announcement stated nothing about responsible drinking and riding!

Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum

The multi-year marketing partnership was announced this month and the two companies will honor the father of American old school tattooing, Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins and unveil a series of twenty-two customized Harley-Davidson motorcycles designed by high profile artists and visionaries from around the U.S.

If you are unfamiliar with Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins story, after serving in the U.S. Navy during WWII, he dedicated his life honing the art of tattooing out of his shop on Hotel Street in Honolulu. His shop became the must-stop destination for sailors on their shore-leave.

In the 50’s and 60’s, Americans getting tattoos included the most aggressive elements of counterculture.  And it was a time of another level of commitment to inscribe your body with an image that permanently stated your beliefs, affiliation or anti-establishment attitude.  In the 70’s and early 80’s, getting aggressively tattooed and pierced became a mark of punk culture’s disdain for conformity and social mobility.  Today the range of things that people express with tattoos continues to widen.

Oregon Has 2nd Highest Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities From 2014-2015

But, I’m intrigued about this motorcycle and spiced rum marketing partnership which has some historical IRONY.  First, as previously mentioned the two companies chose April to kick-off the marketing partnership which  officially celebrates Alcohol Responsibility Month.  On the surface, that seems a bit tone deaf considering the increasing number of automobile and motorcycle accidents/deaths related to impaired driving.  In addition, is the fact that Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins was out riding his Harley-Davidson in 1973 when he had the heart attack that took his life (after collapsing in a cold sweat, he got back on his bike and rode home).  So, when Scott Beck, Harley-Davidson director of marketing stated: “We are struck by the natural ties Sailor Jerry has to the motorcycle culture” it raises some awkwardness in my view and wonder how the two companies ever got mixed up in all this in the first place.

But I’ll stop reflecting and focus on the announcement.

According to the Milwaukee Biz Times — the two companies said the partnership would “come to life in bars, restaurants, Harley-Davidson dealerships and joint celebrations around the country” and consumers should expect a number of shared events leading up to Harley’s 115th anniversary in 2018.  “Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum and Harley-Davidson are all about freedom of expression and customization, whether that is expressed by a Norman Collins tattoo or a bike,” said Scott Beck, Harley-Davidson director of marketing.

The first event will be the unveiling of 22 customized motorcycles at the Harley-Davidson Museum on May 2. Harley’s Forty-Eight, Iron 833 and Roadster models were used for the project.

The artists will incorporate the flash art style of “Sailor Jerry” into their motorcycle design.  And members of the Harley-Davison styling team will also work on the motorcycles to inspire their designs.  The custom motorcycles will be on display at events at liquor retailers, Sailor Jerry’s Fleet Week New York celebrations, the Harley-Davidson Museum and more. The motorcycles will also be available to win in a sweepstakes that starts May 15.

Clearly the reckless spirit of motorcycle riding and alcohol don’t mix.  However, the collaboration with Harley-Davidson and Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum does have a natural feel about it and I’ll be curious to see some of the artwork and craftsmanship that comes from the partnership.

Photos courtesy of Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum and Responsibility Org.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 2.35.53 PMDo you agree with the adage — “You are what you ride?”

While I don’t claim the axiom is foolproof, there are many observable examples that support the concept — from the successful lawyer driving to the office in a tire-shredding German sedan and then rides a chopped and stripped down Forty Eight on the weekends, to the general contractor who most days is in a tool-ridden F-250, but prefers to ride a CVO Limited, the grand American cruiser for the long road trips.

I fell hard for Harley-Davidson (over 20 years ago now) and it took me more than three models later to acquire the current riding spirit of the Road Glide.

I’ll admit it.  I enjoy the attention that comes with owning motorcycles of the Harley-Davidson caliber — parking lot discussions and drive-by salutations from strangers.  Sure it sounds pretentious, but I’ve spent way too much time behind the handle bars of a Honda and Yamaha to resist metaphorically blowing my own horn.

Right or wrong, many of us place a great deal of importance on what we ride. Critiquing others freely, we are likewise judged by the sheet metal of our ride.  Because, like it or not, motorcycles are a reflection of ourselves — a view into our wind in the face wandering soul.

Think about it.

We often purchase what fits our current character and life status. Everything from the color to the style and model is carefully and deliberately selected.  Much of our riding and our life for that matter, is spent developing this ride persona — and it evolves as we do.  Our environment may change from year to year where a mortgage or a kid in college influences what sits in the garage — as would the line of work, the economy, the community and our circle of friends.  Whether we currently own the motorcycle of our dreams does not mean the statement is any more or less true.

As we know, not everyone can live with a Harley-Davidson status symbol — whether they intended to or not. Just go to any dealer and look at the low-mileage castaways in the used area. Those owners moved on to a more practical ride or abandoned the entire motorcycle “lifestyle.”  An association with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is an extension of ourselves and a natural consequence of the freedom of the road culture. Like clothing, we dress in leather, steel and rubber, the same as we do with cotton or silk. Color, texture, design and shape — we’re being seen in public with our best “outfits.”

But, there is one great equalizer for all this pomp and circumstance activity — the gas station!  It’s the one place where we gather like creatures in the desert at the waterhole, replenishing empty tanks. The perfect spot to critique both motorcycle and rider while staring through polarized shades at the others from a distance.  I might dismount and swipe a credit card at the pump as fellow bikers draw conclusions based on my re-fueling habits.  I’m not bothered by that — after all, I’m doing precisely the same thing they did just minutes earlier.

Vanity comes in many forms, and even the modest will present their motorcycle with some defiance — like wearing blue jeans to a formal event.  It’s just a different perspective.

You may deceive society by how you look and the way you dress, your manner of speech and education, the neighborhood you live in or the reach of your bank account, but none of this really matters in a material world.  Because in that moment of judgement, you are inevitably what you ride.

Photos courtesy of H-D
All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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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

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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.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Advert in 2012 – Nothing can replace the real one. Use original Harley-Davidson parts.

Halloween’s coming, and with it “mischief night”—which means it’s the season for pranks.  And being on a Friday night this year means egged houses and toilet-papered trees are the order of the day for the mischievous.

Did you know that Harley-Davidson has been pulling clever pranks for years?  All with the intent of snagging the attention of often-distracted online observers/customers.

This phenomenon, has a name now—“prankvertising”—which has really ramped up in recent years, perhaps because of Halloween or maybe because agencies like doing the unorthodox and testing consumer limits.

The photo with this blog post is an in your face example that mashes all the politically incorrect buttons.  Some would debate it provides confirmation of how completely out of touch Harley-Davidson is or was in deploying this image as a visual ‘joke.’

Is the motorcycle culture’ a petri dish of people who know so little about human social interaction and how professional life works that advertising agencies can concoct up this stuff straight-faced, thinking there are no consequences?

I’m sure some of you will view this as demeaning, insulting and extremely sexist. Harley-Davidson on the other hand and their agency (Big), didn’t think they were objectifying or exploiting women in this ad or even blink by portraying women and comparing them to a motorcycle part, and picturing them as sex toys.

Full Disclosure:  My initial reaction when I first saw the ad and tag line, “Nothing can replace the real one. Use original Harley-Davidson parts,” was to laugh out loud and marvel at the clever humor, but then political correctness kicked in and I made a note that advertising agencies should really realize their responsibility towards society and their target audience.  Given Harley-Davidson’s significant outreach to the woman demographic for motorcycle sales it’s highly unlikely you’ll see something like this again.

Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson and Big, İstanbul, Turkey

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Easy Rider Poster at Sunset Gower Studio

Easy Rider Poster at Sunset Gower Studio

Last spring I happen to be in Hollywood on a work gig and got a Sunset Gower Studio tour.  Sunset Gower has been part of the Hollywood film history since there was a Hollywood.

While wandering through the writers’ suites and the studio lot I walked down this hallway and came across an Easy Rider poster.  The Sunset Gower sound stages were used for the movie.

No one could have predicted that Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda’s small budget film, fueled by motorcycles and amazing music would redefine pop culture.

In fact, it’s impossible to even think about this film without the opening riff of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” echoing in your head.  In the movie industry, it’s rare that a film and its soundtrack break through to the masses.  Easy Rider was an incredible success commercially and culturally (it inspired an entire genre and a hundred knockoffs), and the impact of the soundtrack was revolutionary.

“The idea was to have the music which accompanies the cross-country cycling scenes reflect current times,” Peter Fonda told Rolling Stone in 1969. By compiling prerecorded tracks and music specifically created for the film to make a “musical commentary” and companion to the movie.

IMG_2785Additionally, the Easy Rider soundtrack laid the groundwork for Michelangelo Antonioni’s Pink Floyd-led Zabriske Point the following year and nearly every classic film soundtrack of the next four decades, from Singles to Forrest Gump to Drive.

The soundtrack paints a picture of the counterculture on the brink of the Seventies.   Steppenwolf’s get-on-your-bike-and-ride anthem along with the bluesy dealer epic “The Pusher,” and the classic cuts from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Holy Modal Rounders and the Byrds (whose Roger McGuinn also scored the film) makes an epic film.

As the story goes, Bob Dylan was recruited by Peter Fonda to pen the film’s theme “Ballad of Easy Rider,” (soundtrack) and after jotting out a few lines, told the actor to give the lyrics to McGuinn to flesh out.

Photos taken by author and courtesy of Sunset Gower Studio and Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive.

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Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman

“I’ve got to run to keep from hidin’
And I’m bound to keep on ridin'”

The 1973 reference is when the Allman Brothers were the biggest band in the country.  Duane had died two years before, but the band carried on, ate a peach, and emerged with the “Brothers and Sisters” album that was so prevalent we were all ramblin’ men and women.

Remember 1973…  scratch that, you probably weren’t even alive back then. The preoccupation of young males was the stereo shop on Saturday afternoon followed by some tuning of your ride.  Back in the day music used to be a commitment.  You actually had to step out of the house and go to your local store to buy the vinyl album.  After paying with hard earned cash you returned home to the Marantz amplifier and Advent speakers, dropped the Dual turntable needle and digested it.

America has a bit of an outlaw culture.   Boomers understand this as the great American pastime was to get in a vehicle or put some wind in the face and set off across this great country of ours, where no one knew where you were going, or where you were, which is exactly how you liked it, because we don’t really want to be boxed in, we want to be free.

So, today I’m driving north on the spot where all commuters know traffic grinds to a halt, pushing the buttons on the satellite radio and I hear “Midnight Rider.”   It’s the track that got all the airplay from the “Laid Back” album.  And I’m instantly transported back to that high-school swagger in art class with this playing in the background.  Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’ve become a member of the over-the-hill gang.

Probably, but I’m past the point of caring.

Do we really have any choice but to keep on keepin’ on?  We keep on ridin’ because the road really does go on forever.  Around every bend are not only unforeseen potholes, but a lot of pleasures.  And just like the hopeful grooves in those old vinyl favorites they are as powerful today as it was back in 1973.

Older?  Yes.  Over the hill?  Hardly.

We’re still ridin’ and groovin’.  We’ve got the wind in our face, the power of music in us and no one is going to catch us midnight riders!

Original version of “Midnight Rider
Alternative version of “MidnightRider” with Vince Gill, Gregg Allman and Zac Brown

Photo courtesy of Facebook.

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