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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.

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BITW-HelmetAs I write this I’m reminded that I was flying home from Barcelona, Spain about this time last year after a long work week at an industry event and that every year in business is different.

A few years are easy, some are hard, and most are somewhere in between. Each year you face a different set of circumstances: changing economic, political, social and what’s cool in the billet industry.

We know from the Discovery Channel which scripted a mini-series project about the history of Harley-Davidson, that in the early years the company really struggled to survive. From month to month, they worked hard to keep from getting further behind and sinking further into debt.  There were the AMF years and then came the housing bubble.  Those of you who have tried or are establishing a little business of your own know that success is much harder than you envisioned it should be. Many folks think there must be “one big thing” they are missing that if discovered and remedied would turn things around and put them on the path to major prosperity.

Clearly, that isn’t the case, and over the course of a few startup years often you learn that rather than “one big thing,” there are many functions throughout the business that had to get established in good working order for the business to really succeed.

After 114 years, this still holds true for Harley-Davidson. There are no guarantees or shortcuts to success. There is only doing the hard work that needs to be done, doing it to the highest standards, and identifying the next area to establish or improve in order to build the next generation of Harley-Davidson rides and riders to control their destiny.

All of this became acute over the last week when Harley announced their Q4 and full-year 2016 financial results (HERE).

Words like “intense competition, flat market, soft sales, and earnings miss” ruled the day.

These are just words.  I’m of the viewpoint that how well any company performs is a key factor in how well they succeed compared to their competition.  Since we’re a few days before Super Bowl — a sports analogy is in order — how well a team executes ALL aspects of their game has everything to do with whether they win or lose.

Obviously taste in motorcycle brands, styles, or in paint schemes, is subjective. Some in the press have beaten down the overall market with reports that seem to indicate the riding “fad” has ended. Granted there’s been negative publicity with Polaris shutting down the Victory Motorcycle brand and overall motorcycle industry earnings not being great, but there are many very nice motorcycles being made, and WE the riding enthusiasts/public have lots of choices.

Why do I bring this up?

I’ve notice in my travels that many successful companies have a sense that they are masters of their own fate; their success is within their control. They know it’s a myriad of little things done well that add up to their success. And no matter what their size, they realize that a company always has the resources at hand to take their next step. Isn’t that really the “art” of it: to creatively employ existing resources to advance the ride, the employees and the company?

Most of us know the answer to a problem is rarely found outside the company; it usually comes from within.  I’m confident that Harley-Davidson will find the answers and simply function better as an organization.  I predict they will do a more thorough job of performing the functions a successful motorcycle company needs to and roll out compelling new products that will be industry hits.

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screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-11-15-09-amPolaris, the MN-based maker of motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles announced today that it’s winding down the Victory brand effective immediately to concentrate on its better-performing Indian Motorcycles business.

Polaris said it will assist dealerships in liquidating inventory and will supply parts for another 10 years and honor warranties in place.  Victory motorcycles are primarily manufactured in Spirit Lake, Iowa.

The first Victory motorcycles rolled out in 1998, yet never took much market share from Harley-Davidson Inc., in the cruiser-bike category. Indian Motorcycles, which Polaris relaunched after a 2011 acquisition, has performed better, however Harley’s market share remains at 48 percent to Indian’s 3 percent.

Polaris Industries Chairman and CEO Scott Wine stated, “This decision will improve the profitability of Polaris and our global motorcycle business, and will materially improve our competitive stance in the industry. Our focus is on profitable growth, and in an environment of finite resources, this move allows us to optimize and align our resources behind both our premium, high performing Indian Motorcycle brand and our innovative Slingshot brand, enhancing our focus on accelerating the success of those brands. Ultimately this decision will propel the industry-leading product innovation that is core to our strategy while fostering long-term growth and increased shareholder value.”

Photo courtesy of Victory/Polaris.

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Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.42.54 AMNot long ago Jesse James of West Coast Chopper (WCC) fame left California for the more gun-friendly state of Texas.

On the motorcycle front there’s no denying that he is a master marketer and craftsman.  But, motorcycle craftsman to custom firearms entrepreneur?  Not everyone was thrilled.

Keep in mind that it’s been 16 years since Discovery channel chronicled his every move in Motorcycle Mania.

Meanwhile, some in the firearms community were reluctant to accept his custom line of guns (JJFU — Jesse James Firearms Unlimited) as anything other than being overpriced “customization.”  But, hand-made firearms blended with multiple layers of different metals in Damascus style craftsmanship is an art form and now with months of product backlog after a couple years of forging his own work, those allegations don’t hold true.

Now the National Rifle Association announced a new licensing deal with Jesse James that will venture into Second Amendment-themed apparel with a branded clothing line called NRA Originals.

The Jesse James “outlaw persona” has without a doubt gathered a fan base over the years and one the NRA is looking to tap into.

Photo courtesy of NRA Originals web site.

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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
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Indian Motorcycle 2017 Line-Up

Indian Motorcycles

Could this be a historic mark on Sturgis?

Seventy-five years after Ed Kretz dominated the first motorcycle race on the sands of Daytona Beach, Indian Motorcycle announces the 2017 line-up just days before the start of the 76th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and just hours before Harley-Davidson’s Q2’16 financial results.

Indian states the 2017 lineup includes the recently released Scout Sixty, Indian Springfield and Chief Dark Horse models with new color choices.

A new and the industry’s largest and brightest touch-screen information and entertainment system has a 7-inch display with turn-by-turn navigation, Bluetooth audio and USB flash drive support. The Chieftain bikes come with 100 watts of audio, while the more expensive Indian Roadmaster has 200 watts.  The screen is glove compatible with two-finger touch capabilities, according to the company.

Indian has grown at a brisk pace, introducing nine new models since its relaunch in August 2013.  The motorcycle industry is looking to be flat this year, so Indian and Harley-Davidson are in a share battle.  For the full year, Polaris sees motorcycle sales increasing in the high teens on a percentage basis.

Time will tell if it’s a brand, a dealership or a bike thing as the two companies slog it out in the back half of the year.  On the surface it looks like Indian will once again challenge its main rival.

If you are headed to the 76th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally,  riders can view the entire new 2017 lineup at the Indian Motorcycle Factory display on Lazelle St. or experience them firsthand with a Factory Demo Ride at 2100 Whitewood Service Road (I-90 at Exit 30) from August 6 – August 12 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily.

Photo courtesy of Indian Motocycles.

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Multiple Years of Hells Canyon Rally T-shirts

Multiple Years of Hells Canyon Rally T-shirts

A motorcycle t-shirt addiction!

If you are reading this post based on the title then you know I’ve completed the first step, acceptance!

It started out as a day of cleaning the closet and the dresser.  The t-shirts were categorized by:
  • Stack #1 — The newest Harley t-shirts (location based) that I frequently wear during the week
  • Stack #2 — T-shirts with some wear from various HOG events and motorcycle rallies
  • Stack #3 — T-shirts that have significant wear that I save up and pack for those long trips and then I’ll throw them out as I travel to lighten the load
  • Stack #4 — Long sleeve t-shirts only
  • Stack #5 — In the garage for oil clean up.  Typically they were gifted Sons of Anarchy (SOA) tee’s!
Various H.O.G. Rally T-shirts

Various H.O.G. Rally T-shirts

I’m no longer in denial, and have finally accepted that I have a propensity to purchase too many motorcycle t-shirts.  I’ve got several shelves and drawers in a dresser dedicated to everything from tank tops to long sleeve t-shirts.  I’m definitely flirting with excessive and now realize after my day of cleaning that I should just say no!  I could hit the road and wear each shirt and never do laundry for well over a month.

Do you have this problem?

I have t-shirts from so many H-D dealers around the world, then add in those from the various pubs, band/concerts, place-name t-shirts, and an original Big Lewbowski t-shirt that I can’t bring myself to ditch “The Dude.”

I can promise you that nearly any time I go somewhere on the motorcycle, I’m buying a t-shirt there. Why? Because it’s what I like to wear.  But, it also starts out as some regret because when I’m at a motorcycle event and I see a t-shirt that is out of the ordinary I’ll think about purchasing it.  It’s unique.  It’s a color of black that I don’t own!  The graphic design is interesting.  The compulsion is to buy the t-shirt, hope for a good fit after being washed and then add the particular t-shirt to my ever growing collection.

You just don’t understand the extra ordinary strength it takes for me to not buy a t-shirt these days.  In many instances t-shirts have been the only documentation of my rides, a recap of the journey or a memory on one of those bucket list highways.

You may think that it gets better with time, and that as I get older I wouldn’t feel the compulsion to have so many H-D t-shirts, but I am here to tell you that in fact it does not.

I’ve decided I have give up fighting it, and will now spend more time parting with the worn t-shirts by dropping them off at Goodwill or using some for doing a wax and shine on the bike.   Hopefully I’m making a fellow t-shirt “addict” a happier person.

Photos taken by author.

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