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Leslie Porterfield

Bonneville Salt Flats.  It’s no stranger to speed records.

And if you stroll through the race pits now days you’ll probably notice a lot of ponytails beneath helmets.  And they belong to women racers!  Racing in general is no longer a male dominated sport and motorcycle racing is no exception.

Harley-Davidson has made no secret of their strong interest in the female motorcycle market.  From support of the Women Riders Month, the International Female Ride Day to the dealer garage parties, Harley is helping women all over the world to join together to ride and break down any old stereotypes.  In some ways this is old news because in 1915 the 20-year-old Effie Hotchkiss drove from New York to California on a 3-speed Harley.  Or if you prefer during WWII, Bessie Stringfield rode from Army base to Army base as the only woman in the Army’s motorcycle dispatch unit.  Solo women motorcycle riders are revving engines as much as the next guy.

Now we have the world’s fastest woman on a motorcycle, Leslie Porterfield (34).  Not only does she hold the world record as the fastest female on a motorcycle, but she owns and operates High Five Cycles (Dallas, TX).   And, among many other accomplishments she has become the first woman to earn inclusion in the prestigious Bonneville 200 mph Club.  The first woman in its 61 year history.  After a nasty crash in 2007 she came back in 2008 to set the land speed record of 232MPH in the 2,000cc turbocharged class (on a 2002 turbo-modified Suzuki Hayabusa) and in the 1,000cc production class (2008 Honda CBR 1000) set the record of 192MPH.  Then at the 2009 International Speed Trails she claimed top speed of the meet award with a 240MPH pass.  Motorcycle tuning is performed by Scott Horner (Heads Up Performance) and Rhys Griffiths (APEX Speed Technology).

It turns out that Ms. Porterfield is featured on the cover of MyTekLife Magazine’s current issue, and for those lucky enough to be in the area she will be visiting Buddy Stubbs Arizona Harley-Davidson.  She is the honored guest during the Hogs and Dogs event on June 26th.  The location is 13850 N. Cave Creek Road and the event will include an opportunity to get autographs, and hear Ms. Porterfield talk about what’s next and going faster.   As a sidebar, Mr. Stubbs has an extensive racing career too which includes winning the Daytona 100 mile race in 1963.

For reference — the world’s fastest motorcycle crown belongs to Chris Carr and Denis Manning who logged 367.382MPH through the measured mile.

Photo courtesy of MyTekLife Magazine’s

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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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It was a Dark Sky Film made in 1970.

The film also appeared under the title Nam’s Angels.  The plot included a biker gang, the Devil’s Advocates who were recruited by the CIA to execute a daring rescue behind enemy lines in Cambodia. After customizing their Yamahas into combat-ready death machines, the gang roars into action on this unlikely suicide mission. Heavy casualties ensue. I kid you not.

I’m not sure if the movie did much if anything to propel Yamaha sales, but this week there are reports the Japanese motorcycle maker (Yamaha Motor) has plans to close seven factories globally with a loss of 1,000 jobs.  This is all in an effort to bounce back from a  Y216.1 billion ($2.7 billion) annual loss in 2009.  Yamaha is the world’s second biggest motorcycle manufacturer after Honda and this streamlining is in addition to a previously announced 10% reduction in the company’s global workforce of 17,000 which is underway.  This is Yamaha’s first loss in 26 years.

Specific plant closure include 5 of its 12 domestic factories by 2012, all in Shizuoka prefecture (central Japan) who now produce parts for motorcycles, marine products and buggies.  In addition, Yamaha will close a motorcycle factory in Italy and a marine products plant in Florida.

It looks like the only motorcycle manufacture beating down the 2009 slowing motorcycle trend was BMW Motorrad.  New products like the K1300GT, S1000 RR Superbike along with the opening of 8 new dealers in the past 5 months has them bullish on the future.

An interesting side bar on The Losers — it’s playing on a television in the background of a motel-room scene between Bruce Willis and Maria de Medeiros in Pulp Fiction. Clearly Quentin Tarantino is one of its fans.

Photo courtesy of Dark Sky.

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It was the slogan of American Honda’s safety awareness campaign back in 1998.

The “Stupid Hurts” (.pdf) campaign was intended to create a lasting impression on parents and youngsters as the company was under a lot of pressure with respect to marketing and promotion of ATVs.  It was a multi-million dollar program to deliver straightforward, no-nonsense messages encouraging rider training about helmet use, operator-only use, drug and alcohol-free operation, appropriate age/vehicle size, and youth supervision.

But, beginning Jan. 1, 2010  “stupid is as stupid does”…the Oregon legislature has passed a number of new laws to protect YOU as well as increase the fines because in case you haven’t heard the state has a “revenue challenge.”  Many would debate that it’s a SPENDING problem, but what do we know?  For example, the fine for riding a motorcycle without a motorcycle endorsement jumps from $360 to $720. However, the law also requires the court to suspend the fine if the rider completes training and receives an endorsement within 120 days of sentencing.  Of course if you’re under 21 years of age you are required to complete a TEAM Oregon Basic Rider Training (BRT) course which historically has had long lead times.

But, wait there’s more:

  1. Oregon’s “Move Over” law in 2010 now means that you’ll have to move over for tow trucks and other roadside assistance vehicles. Under current law, drivers have to pull over from police cars, fire engines and ambulances rendering assistance on a highway having two or more lanes of traffic going in the same direction. The change also clarifies that if a motorist can’t pull over because there is a vehicle in the other lane, the driver must slow his or her vehicle to at least 5 miles an hour under the posted speed.
  2. There was also an amendment to House Bill 2040 to add roadside assistance vehicles and tow vehicles to the list of vehicles that require motorist to “maintain a safe distance.”  Failure to maintain a safe distance (ORS 811.147) is a class B traffic violation.
  3. For drunk drivers who are convicted with a blood alcohol level of .15 percent or higher — they will now pay a minimum fine of $2,000. Previously, the fine structure called for a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first offense, $1,500 for a second conviction and $2,000 for a third or subsequent conviction, without regard for level of drunkenness.
  4. And what about protecting the children?  Any under 16 years of age will have to wear a safety belt or harness when operating a Class I or Class II all-terrain vehicle used for off-road use or a Class II ATV legal for street use. The safety belt or safety harness must be used when the vehicles are used both on public roads and premises open to the public. The law holds the parent, legal guardian or person responsible for the child responsible for compliance.
  5. Operators and passengers of Class II ATVs who are younger than 18 must wear motorcycle helmets. There is an exception for vehicles that have a roof or roll bar and that are registered through the Department of Transportation.

Clearly these new rules will create a lasting impression and stop stupid!

Photo courtesy of Honda.

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2-Day_LaunchIn two days the Indian “Alphonso” mangoes will hit the U.S. supermarket shelves for the first time in 18 years!

I’m reminded of that Jimmy Buffett song “Last Mango in…”

I went down to Captain Tony’s to get out of the heat

When I hear a voice call out to me, “Son, come have a seat”

The “seat” in this case is attached to a Harley-Davidson.  In exchange for importing mangoes, H-D will be allowed to launch its 883 Sportster and Fatboy in the “land of a billion people” (a.k.a. India) on August 27th as long they comply with Euro-III emission norms. In a country that snaps up more than 6 million new motorcycles a year, H-D is a bit late to the party, but they have to be optimistic given the successes of Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda and Ducati “superbikes” (anything over 800cc are referred to superbike in India).  The bikes will be shipped to India and available as a CBUs (Completely Built Units).  Previously the Indian government had not specified emission standards for motorcycles over 500cc which effectively prohibited the import of H-D motorcycles who could not meet the standards set for scooters.

Speaking of standards…  I’m talking about a country that after more than six decades of independence, over 55% of the population (~660Million) defecate in the open! Given these statistics it’s no surprise the government was slow to specify emission standards on 500cc motorcycles when they clearly are busy with sanitation issues.

New Deli Traffic

New Deli Traffic

Until this week Royal Enfield (owned by Eicher Group) was the only motorcycle maker to offer cruisers in India.  Consistently large orders from the Indian government led to establishing a factory back in 1955 in the town of Chennai, India.  Even after production stopped in England they continued in Chennai.  Here is a 5 min video of them building a motorcycle.  There seems to be a fondness of following the old British tradition and use of a mallet to assist in the precision parts fitting!

Anyone who has visited India knows that the large cities of New Deli, Bangalore, Hyderabad, or Mumbai have traffic that defies amazing.  It’s extremely densely packed roads with stop-n-go vehicles and engines idling most all of the time.  Then there are the rickshaws (phat-phatis), bicycles, jay-walkers, street-car peddlers, cows, donkey carts and at any given time each traffic lane supporting triple the number of vehicles that it should so, what you end up with is pure chaos.  Even with astronomically high traffic-death rates, scooters and motorcycles are the more practical method of getting around on these packed roads.

Matt Levatich, President and COO of Harley-Davison reportedly will be on hand at the launch and annual Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) to welcome back H-D to India for the first time since World War II.  At that time thousands of motorcycles were shipped to the eastern Assam state of India with the intention of transporting men and deliver mail.

India is a prime target given the sheer market size and I want to wish them success as they work to diversify their revenue base.

Photo courtesy of H-D India and Flickr.

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John and Melinda formed J&M in 1978

John and Melinda formed J&M in 1978

No, I’m not talking about the drama of motorcycle clubs or the FX television show “Son’s of Anarchy.”

The story starts in Tucson in 1978 when John Lazzeroni married Melinda Carevich.

Both were motorcycle enthusiasts, so for a wedding gift John arranged to have a new Honda Gold Wing delivered during the ceremony.  After the “I do’s”, they changed clothes, hopped on the motorcycle and headed to Las Vegas.

While on their honeymoon, John was disappointed that even on the quiet Gold Wing, he and Melinda had a difficult time talking to one another or hearing the radio.  Upon returning home he went to a motorcycle accessories store figuring someone had made a helmet with a built-in speaker and intercom system.  No one did!  He then decided to make one for himself… on the kitchen table.  In the end the product worked.  So well in fact that John and Melinda found themselves taking orders for similar headsets from their friends.  Realizing they may be on to something they took their last $400 and placed an ad in Rider Magazine.  The first day the ad appeared they took enough orders to pay for it and that’s when  they formed J&M Corp.

Today J&M is a leader in motorcycle audio equipment.  They manufacture top of the line helmet headsets along with integrated systems featuring intercom, CB radio, FRS, cell phone, radar detection, blue-tooth and GPS audio capability.  J&M is also an OEM supplier of helmet headsets for Honda, Yamaha, BMW and Kawasaki.  The products are marketed around the world.  John and Melinda have been awarded many U.S. patents for designs of headsets, microphones, and integrated audio gear.  In fact, J&M is the exclusive licensee of Reissue Patent Number 34,525 (“the ’525 patent”) directed to helmet accessories for mounting a microphone and an electrical plug on a motorcycle helmet.

What about Harley-Davidson motorcycles?  H-D bought accessories from J&M until 1991.  In the summer of 1989, however, H-D approached Radio Sound about manufacturing accessories for resale.  H-D and Radio Sound produced their first accessories in 1990.   In 1997, Radio Sound and Harley-Davidson began to manufacture and sell two new versions of their helmet accessories, model numbers 77147-98 and 77147-91C.  J&M brought a legal suit against Harley-Davidson in November 1997, claiming that the accessories infringed its ‘525 patent.  It turns out that the legal system didn’t see it the same way.   These accessories had an integrated mount for the microphone boom and the electrical plug, attach to the helmet with a single clamp, and did not extend below the lower edge of the motorcycle helmet and was determined to NOT be a patent infringement.  You can read the legal opinion/brief HERE if you’d like more detail.

Lazzeroni L2000

Lazzeroni L2000

At any rate, motorcycle audio accessories is hardly the background of what you might expect from the founder of a firearms company, right?

Nonetheless, while working to get the motorcycle audio equipment company going John, who was an active hunter and hand-loader got the “Magnum” bug.  It was the late 80’s and he owned several Weatherby rifles.  He began “necking down” the rifles and doing a lot of ballistic experimenting.  He was ahead of his time as the traditional manufactures would later introduce .30/378 caliber rifles.  Lazzeroni Arms was formed and in 1992 John set out to design his own rifle and series of cartridges for short-action magnums.  Today they are known for high-quality and the “flattest shooting” and hardest hitting hunting rifles on the planet.  The rifles are built to fire extremely powerful proprietary magnum Lazzeroni cartridges which are distinguished by their high operating pressures and the very high muzzle velocities they produce.

Kudo’s to John and Melinda Lazzeroni who have accomplished a lot in both the firearm and motorcycle audio accessory business.

Photo courtesy of Petersen’s Rifle Shooter

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HSC55In June, Honda celebrated the 50th anniversary of its arrival in the U.S.  I posted an article on the event HERE.

Sadly, this week Honda re-confirmed in the Tokyo Nikkei, its intent to indeed wind down the U.S. motorcycle production due to declining demand.  The closure this month ends a 30 year run of motorcycle production in the U.S.  Honda launched U.S. production in 1979 and was the first among Japanese firms to make motorcycles in North America.  The plant in Marysville, Ohio produced the Gold Wing, a heavy-weight class 1,800cc touring bike, and had an annual output capacity of about 70,000 units.

1963_AdHonda launched its first overseas subsidiary in the U.S. on June 11, 1959.  Honda bought an old photo studio in Los Angeles and sent its associates off in Chevy pickups to pitch their bikes to local hardware stores and motorcycle shops.  The lead products were the Dream, Benly, and Super Cub (called the Honda 50, in the U.S.).  An ad campaign and slogan “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” reshaped how Americans looked at motorcycles and by 1968 Honda had become the bestselling motorcycle with sales exceeding a million.

Honda quickly followed up and entered the U.S. car market in 1969, selling a handful of its tiny sedans in Hawaii before launching on the mainland in 1970.  The oil crisis of 1973-1974 helped put the company on the minds of all Americans.  Honda became the first Asian automaker to set up production in the U.S., with the first motorcycle rolling off the Ohio assembly line Sept. 10, 1979, and the first car built Nov. 1, 1982.  In 1988 Honda began exporting the U.S.-built Accord to Japan ending any debate as to doubts as to whether quality standards could be maintained.

We’ve witness the American motorcycle market shrink to 1.32 million units in 2008, down almost 30% from a peak of 1.79 million units in 2005. Honda’s Q1’09 net income plummeted 95% and motorcycle/ATV units were down 32% from a year ago.  We’ve seen dismal financial results from Harley-Davidson too.

Affordability is a strong theme with motorcycle manufactures these days and Honda seems to prosper in difficult times.  They’ve concluded that the advantages of local motorcycle production have faded and will now export products from Japan to the U.S. market instead.  Despite the closure, its worldwide motorcycle business is fairly solid and they are boosting production in regions where demand is growing, mainly in Asia.

Photo’s courtesy of Honda archives.

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