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Archive for the ‘Safety-Conscious’ Category

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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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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FLS SoftailQuality control issues in 2014 seem to bedevil Harley-Davidson.

The latest examples are the recalls of 4,688 model year 2014-2015 FLS Softail motorcycles manufactured March 25, 2013, to October 2, 2014 for a lamp-outage detection issues and 1,560 of its 2015 Tri-Glide Ultra Classic FLHTCUTG motorcycles due to rear-brake master cylinder issues.

The Softail motorcycles may have been manufactured without lamp-outage detection for the front turn signals and a rider may not be aware that a front turn signal is not working. And without working front turn signals, there is an increased risk of a crash.  Harley-Davidson is notifying owners, and dealers will correct the body control module software, free of charge. The recall began in December 2014.  The Harley-Davidson’s number for this recall is 0618 or NHTSA campaign number: 14V725000.

Tri-GlideOn the 3-wheel, certain Tri-Glide Ultra Classic motorcycles manufactured from July 14, 2014, through Oct. 15, 2015, could have rear master cylinder assembled with an incorrect piston.  Harley says this piston may not provide the proper support and may allow a tear in the primary cup. If the primary cup develops a tear it will decrease the brake performance and might increase the risk of a vehicle crash.  Harley-Davidson will notify owners, and dealers will replace the rear master cylinder, free of charge. The recall began December 16, 2014. The Harley-Davidson’s number for this recall is 0162.  Owners may contact Harley-Davidson customer service at 1-800-258-2464 or National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236, or go to www.safercar.gov.

While Harley-Davidsons recalls this year pale in comparison to the massive 300,000 bike recall issued back in 2011, but that was simply a rear brake light problem.

Most of the 2014 Harley-Davidson recalls seem to be centered around rushed product development and/or shoddy workmanship.  That same workmanship issue which has dogged the automakers.  And speaking of, these are the same automakers which just 4-years ago Mr. Keith E. Wandell (Harley-Davidson CEO and President) stated; “Look in a mirror – Harley was already so far down that same (GM) path it wasn’t even funny.”   Basically warning Harley-Davidson employees that it was turning into a GM… and the credibility issue that becomes being associated!

Prior to the above recalls we’ve seen the motor company recall more than 105,000 model 2014 Touring and CVO Touring motorcycles because of a problem with the anti-lock braking system that caused the front wheels to lock up without warning. In August, it recalled over 4,500 bikes for a faulty ignition switch.  It’s also recalling about 1,400 of its 500 and 750 Street bikes from the 2015 model year for a possible fuel tank leak.  I’ve captured the 2014 recalls HERE.

Is Harley-Davidson re-testing the customers reputation of shoddy workmanship (and raising the ghost of Harley’s past)?  It would do well to get a tighter grip on these issues and instill the pride of craftsmanship that should be the motorcycle maker’s hallmark.

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson.

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FXDL Dyna Low Rider Recall Letter

FXDL Dyna Low Rider Recall Letter

It’s surely just a coincident that two months ago GM icon Jim Federico was hired on as the Harley-Davidson VP of Engineering and now the motor company has issued an ignition switch recall on more than 3,300 FXDL Dyna Low Rider bikes.

You might recall that ignition switch problems have plagued General Motors and have now turned up in the motorcycle business.

It turns out that engine vibration can turn the switches from ‘on’ to the ‘accessory’ position.  If the switch goes to “accessory,” the engine can shut off while being driven and potentially cause a crash, however, there have been no crashes or injuries reported from this problem.

This recall involves 3,361 motorcycles shipped in the U.S, which represents certain model year 2014.5 FXDL models built 1/6/2014 through 6/9/2014.

Some of these motorcycles may have been assembled with a top engine mount bracket assembly (P/N 16400026) that has a resonant frequency equivalent to 5800 RPM engine speed. When the engine is operated at that speed, it causes excessive vibration in the ignition switch, which mount to that bracket. The excessive vibration can cause the switch to move from the “IGN” (ignition on) position to the “ACC”(accessory only) position, shutting the engine off. The production Electronic Control Module (ECM) calibration will not allow engine speed to exceed 5600 RPM, but Harley-Davidson offers street-legal performance calibrations which will allow the engine to operate above 5600 RPM. If a performance calibration has been installed which permits the engine to exceed 5600 rpm, it could allow a condition that may potentially cause the engine to stall unexpectedly. A stall while riding in traffic could lead to a crash.

The chronology of recall events are:  On 3/31/14, Harley-Davidson’s Customer Service department notified the Harley-Davidson Recall Investigation Committee (RIC) that the ignition switch on an FXDL motorcycle fitted with a non-Harley-Davidson exhaust system moved on its own from the “IGN” (ignition on) position to the “ACC” (accessory only) position during operation on a chassis dynamometer for tuning purposes.

The RIC initiated an investigation and analysis of this issue. A search of existing warranty data in April, 2014 disclosed no warranty events, but a search of customer complaints disclosed one complaint, which referenced an event similar to the initial report, i.e., an FXDL model motorcycle fitted with a non-Harley-Davidson exhaust system, operated on a chassis dynamometer.

During May, testing was initiated to attempt to re-create this condition.

During May and June, the RIC met to review test and field data information. The testing indicated that this condition could potentially occur both on the road as well as on the dynamometer, that a non-Harley-Davidson exhaust system was not necessary to create the condition, but could enhance it, and that the production Electronic Control Module calibration was not able to create the condition, as an engine speed of 5800 rpm or greater (production calibration includes a 5600 rpm rev limiter), was required to create the condition.

Another review of the warranty and complaint databases in June revealed a total of four events, all of which occurred on motorcycles believed to be fitted with non-Harley-Davidson exhaust systems and ECMs with higher than production engine speed rev limit calibrations.

There were no reported crashes or injuries.

On 6/19/14, the RIC completed its review and analysis, and referred the issue to executive management.

On 6/27/14, upon review of the results of the RIC’s investigation and analysis, Harley-Davidson’s executive management made its determination that a safety related defect existed in the subject population and declared a recall to remedy the issue.

Authorized Harley-Davidson dealers will replace the engine mount bracket assembly and ignition switch knob on the affected motorcycles with the components provided in the recall kit which is covered by the warranty.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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novelty-helmetOn Saturday Andrew Barns, 26, died when a car pulled out in front of him on his motorcycle at 185th and Farmington Road shortly before 7 p.m.  According to Sheriff reports he was wearing a novelty helmet and the medical examiner will determine if the novelty helmet contributed to his fatal injuries.  No citations were issued (at this time) to the driver.

I didn’t know Mr. Barns, but would like to offer my condolences to his family and friends.  It’s a sad day for all motorcycle enthusiasts and one to reflect on our choices.

Freedom and choice vs. safety

We’ve all heard the debate or been involved in a compelling argument on both sides of the helmet laws.  There are some motorcyclists who do, but most don’t wear a novelty helmet as a symbol of resistance “against the man” i.e. protesting lesgislators that require bikers to wear certified helmets.  Full Disclosure: I rode double digit years with a novelty helmet and even paid $2 for the DOT sticker to minimize chances of getting pulled over by law enforcement.

I don’t recall the exact moment, but I decided a few years ago that if I have to wear a helmet it might as well be one that offers some degree of protection and elected to switch to a certified helmet.   Those of you who visit this blog regularly know there are a lot of freedom of choice posts and it was MY choice to purchase a DOT certified helmet.  This may not reflect your thinking and that is your choice.

This post is about reflecting on our choices.

Clearly Mr. Barns accident was the auto drivers fault and I’m not trying to pile on to his tragedy, but it’s important to note that more than 800,000 novelty helmets are sold in the U.S. every year!   That’s about the same number of motorcycles that were registered in the state of California in 2011.

In my view, the vendor/marketers of novelty helmets are like big tobacco–unapologetic, dismissing safety concerns, squelching debate and claiming they simply are accommodating consumer demand.   Most all are made in China or India and even those Carbon Fiber/Kevlar versions are outright fakes.  Sure it’s legal to make and sell novelty helmets as long as they aren’t falsely represented as meeting federal standards, but talk about a poster-child for proliferating cheap ineffective Chinese products as motorcycle crash deaths mount.

And I’m intrigued by the contradiction… Harley-Davidson motorcyclists complain about the cheap China made Harley trinkets or 3rd party chrome parts which they want no part of, but think nothing about buying a $29 “Made In China” novelty helmet believing that ‘something is better than nothing’ regarding its protection.  But, I’ve digressed.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agency has estimated that as many as 754 people die each year in states with mandatory helmet laws because they were wearing novelty helmets instead of certified headgear, which amounts to nearly 1 in 6 rider fatalities.

According to this study based on head trauma vs. non-head trauma deaths, head trauma deaths account for 34% of motorcyclist deaths.  Many would agree that an approved/certified safety helmet is by far more protective and would overwhelmingly prevent serious injuries as opposed to a novelty helmet, but I would also like to see a correlation and follow-up on motorcycle licensing, training and education.

I am sure there are a fair number of riders out there who won’t appreciate this blog post.  They will see my post as advocacy for the U.S. becoming a more repressed, intolerant and regimented place.  More government intervention.  Most blogs just don’t want to touch the topic.  But, novelty helmets just don’t share the same distinguishing characteristics as certified helmets.

If we’re being intellectually honest as a group/industry, its important to spotlight helmet considerations in the ongoing debate over motorcycle safety.

The Barns tragedy compelled me to urge motorcyclists to think different–if you’re going to wear a helmet, why not consider or make it a certified one?

Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

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800x400-rebel-reaperThere’s been 19 motorcycle fatalities so far this year in Oregon.  Too many and more than twice the 9 deaths in 2013 during the same period.

ODOT has stated and the facts bear this out that many of the fatal crashes are due to operator error, unsafe riding–speeding, following too close and abrupt lane changes.

And then we have the below idiot…  Speeding, reckless driving, acting stupid and irresponsible on the way to work.

On July 2, 2014 at approximately 6:26 a.m., an OSP senior trooper on patrol saw a black & silver 2003 Suzuki motorcycle displaying a Washington license plate eastbound on Highway 30 milepost 42 traveling 120 mph. When the trooper activated the patrol car’s emergency lights to initiate a traffic stop, the motorcycle sped up faster on the two lane highway passing other unidentified witnesses using the westbound lane and eastbound shoulder. The trooper lost sight of the motorcycle a couple miles later and terminated the attempt to stop it.

At approximately 6:40 a.m., a report was received from a log truck driver that the reckless, eluding motorcyclist pulled into the Dyno Nobel (a leader in commercial explosives) plant parking lot where it was parked. The trooper and officers from St. Helens Police Department and Rainier Police Department arrived at the parking lot and found the unoccupied motorcycle.

Subsequent investigation confirmed the motorcycle’s operator, Michael Tejada Echeverria, age 19, from Longview, Washington, worked at the plant and he was contacted by officers.

Mr. Echeverria was arrested and lodged in the Columbia County Jail for Felony Attempt to Elude on a Vehicle, Reckless Driving, and Recklessly Endangering Another Person. He was also cited for Exceeding the Posted Speed in Excess of 100 mph, No Motorcycle Endorsement, and Driving Uninsured.

Clearly Mr. Echeverria will drive without a motorcycle endorsement.  He must be thinking that the U.S. Constitution guarantees him the right to travel the roads of the land freely, and that state laws don’t apply.

Hey Mr. Echeverria, 1776 sent a telegraph to explain something… There is no constitutional right to drive a motorcycle or a car.  You may have the right to travel throughout the country, but that means walking, taking a bus, taking a taxi, riding a bicycle, hopping, skipping, uni-cycling, kayaking, or using a skateboard.  Since a motor vehicle can be a very dangerous instrument in unskilled hands, the state is fully justified in demanding proof that you can operate a motorcycle without endangering anybody, and in reserving the right to revoke your driver’s license if your conduct shows that you tend to disregard the rules of the road and the safety of the people around you.

It’s okay to wish to be a rebel, but enjoy that skateboard when you get out of jail.

Photo courtesy of Rebel Rockers Skateboards.

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 Oculus Rift, a virtual reality 3-D headset

Oculus Rift, a virtual reality 3-D headset

Oculus what?

Developed by a home schooled 19-year old garage hacker, Palmer Lucky, created Oculus Rift, a virtual reality 3-D headset that uses 360-degree head tracking to make it feel like you’re inside a different world.  For example, looking to the left or right will automatically pan the scene in either direction, making it feel as natural as looking around in reality. The eyewear also provides parallel images for each eye, which is the same way your eyes perceive images in the real world.  Facebook recently acquired Oculus for $2B, yes that’s B as in BILLIONs, recognizing it had many untapped applications when it bought the company.

Still don’t understand?  Here is a horse riding experience video.

We’ve all either read or heard about the Harley-Davidson Fit Shop where the local dealer will take you through a step-by-step process literally seating you on a bike and switching out components such as seat, handlebars, suspension and foot controls until they find a combination that fits you.

Always Be Closing...

Always Be Closing…

But, if you’re very early into the motorcycle “consideration” purchase phase and unsure of riding or unclear about the whole motorcycle lifestyle thing, what then?

That’s where the Oculus Rift could be leveraged.  It was made specifically for gaming when it was initially introduced, however, people are using the headset to drive tanks in the military and medically explore the human body, among other fascinating applications.

I’m sure I’ve sparked some interest or debate as to whether Harley-Davidson could really use the technology to good effect.

Why not?

H-D could surely leverage the technology to provide consumers who are unsure if they want a motorcycle, have little knowledge about them or the experience and not sure what kind to purchase.  For some enjoying luxuries that are unaffordable in the real world, this might be just the ticket to spending time in a riding (virtual) environment.

FUSAR Technologies - The Guardian

FUSAR Technologies – The Guardian

For grins, let’s call it the Harley-Davidson Virtual Reality Motorcycle Simulator (HDVRMS).  Potential buyers would sit on a motorcycle mock up, place the headset on, grab the handlebars and the entire system is then hooked up to a computer programmed with virtual reality riding software/content.  This would be very high-quality footage in the motorcycle simulator.  Think UHD/4K video.  Basically, H-D would put multiple hi-rez cameras on the front/side/back of a motorcycle and ride it through the streets of Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles or through any national park or canyon road with twisties.  The footage would go to a digital film room for editing and then it would be incorporated into the computer system that would run the virtual-reality motorcycle simulator.

Imagine the possibilities.  Riding Highway 101 down the California coast.  Drag racing your favorite Pro Stock champion would be no problem.  Maybe you’ve always wanted to ride a motorcycle in downtown New Delhi dodging tiny rick-shaw’s full of banana trees.  No problem, select it in the computer and go.

Still not buying it?

How about the potential of integrating the technology into Harley-Davidson product development?  You can watch Ford’s virtual reality technology in action in this video.  Essentially, VR would allow Harley-Davidson to test scenarios and designs, and experience products before they are even made.

If not product development or supporting sales then there is the opportunity that an augmented reality motorcycle helmet could save your life.  Young motorcycle riders could attend motorcycle training on the H-D VR simulator so that they can hone their skills and become more proficient on the street.

FUSAR Technologies is doing just that on Kickstarter.  Called the Guardian, it’s a DOT approved helmet with an Android board, two wide-angle cameras and bits and pieces that is fully integrated and connected to the device and motorcycle that allows the motorcyclist to have a full cognitive awareness of what’s going on around them.

The one problem for Harley-Davidson?  It could become so real and addictive sitting in the comfort of the dealer or your home that you actually never get outdoors to ride!

Photos courtesy of Oculus Rift/ Sergey Galyonkin, HD and FUSAR

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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