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Brake Line Failure on the 2013 CVO Road King

Brake Line Failure on the 2013 CVO Road King

Over dinner the previous night in Gillette one of the guys (JR) in the group was discussing how the rear brake wasn’t working correctly on his bike and that he hadn’t noticed it before, but the ABS light was always on.  After settling the tab (and much ribbing about pushing the correct pedal), we set off to look over the bike.

It’s a new, bone-stock 2013 CVO Road King that was purchased about 9 months ago.  The bike had about 3000 miles on the odometer.  And sure enough, the brake fluid line and the ABS electrical line had been incorrectly routed, were rubbing up against the rear tire and had completely worn through.   When pushing on the rear brake pedal the brake fluid would discharged onto the ground.  We re-routed the lines and taped up the wires thinking a front brake was good enough to get to the H-D dealer.

South Dakota view looking back

South Dakota view looking backward.

The next morning we stopped at the Black Hills H-D dealer in Rapid City, S.D.  They didn’t have the rear brake line parts and would need to order them from Milwaukee.  Since we were going that direction we elected to wait until we arrived and then get it repaired.  It turned out that no dealer in the Milwaukee area had the parts either and they would need to order it from the factory.  Just in time inventory really doesn’t work when you’re on the road.  Nice quality control H-D!

There’s no question about it… It’s extremely flat and a long ways across South Dakota!

Billboards are everywhere, lining the Interstate trying to distract drivers for hundreds of miles.  In fact, Wall Drug who spends over $300K annually on billboards must have the Guinness record because you can see their advertisements for more than two hundred miles.

South Dakota view looking forward.

South Dakota view looking forward.

On Interstate 90 between Wyoming and Minnesota the expansive view is mostly sunflowers with the occasional corn field thrown in to mix it up.  It was a 410 mile ride on silky smooth Interstate that was peppered with billboard adverts, across a hot and humid prairie with large juicy bugs!  Quite the pilgrimage across that state and when a rest stop did arrive you really do need to pull off, wet down your t-shirt and head band because the long hot road does get long and did I say hot?!

Pano of Clear Lake

Pano of Clear Lake, MN

As I rode along for hours on the flat concrete surface my mind had a tendency to wander.  I found myself thinking about the lack of radio stations or irrigation in S.D.  Over the entire day I never saw any irrigation being applied to a corn, wheat or sunflower field.  Coming from the Northwest where the farmers in the valley or in Eastern Oregon are always using water to irrigate their fields this seemed rather odd to me.

Crossing the Mississippi River

Crossing the Mississippi River

It had been a hot and high humidity riding day!  After what seemed like just shy of forever we finally arrived near the end of the state and overnighted at a Best Western in Sioux Falls.  Air conditioning never felt so nice.

The next morning one of the riders in our group peeled off to see family in Iowa as the rest of the group rolled quickly through Minnesota on I-90 hoping that the scenery would change.  However, the major change was how poor the road quality seemed to get with the cracks and ruts.  Did you know we sent a man to the moon?  Yes, we did!  They even shipped a little car with him and they drove it around on the planet.  You’d think we’d know how to fix a concrete Interstate!

At the Best Western in La Crosse, WI.

At the Best Western in La Crosse, WI.

It was a shorter riding day as we crossed the bridge over the Mississippi River and stayed at a Best Western Plus Riverfront Hotel in La Crosse, WI.  Unknown at the time, was we were staying on the Black River and this Best Western had a nice riverside resort feel with beach accommodations.  The hotel had a terrific acoustic band on the riverside deck where we had a casual dinner while enjoying the refreshments and entertainment.

Dinner at Jack's

Dinner at Jack’s – La Crosse, WI

Over the previous couple of days we were shadowed by a large group of riders from Brazil.  They flew into and rented motorcycles in Las Vegas and were riding to the 110th celebration.  For a couple nights in a row we happen to overnight at the same hotels.  The group of approximately 20 riders had rented a U-Haul truck to carry all their luggage and it was quite the chaotic scene at check-in/out!  We got to know a couple of them.  A nice group.

In La Crosse, there was a noticeable increase in the number of motorcycles traveling east.  Many more on the Interstate and by the time we arrived in Madison there was a constant flow of bikes.

Arrival at Brookfield Inn

Arrival at Brookfield Inn

We arrived in Milwaukee around 1pm and unloaded the bikes and checked in to the Brookfield Suites Hotel and Convention Center.  Another member of our group actually rode out several days early to MN to visit family and then met us at the Brookfield.

In 2008 for the 105th celebration, we stayed at the Hampton Inn Express in Delafield which was 20+ miles from downtown Milwaukee.  The Brookfield Suites Hotel was a much nicer place and about 7 miles to downtown.  We were within walking distance to Hal’s Harley-Davidson.  We liked this location much better and the hotel staff was awesome!

Arrived at the 110th Anniversary Celebration

Arrived at the 110th Anniversary Celebration

We had arrived on Thursday (August 29), the start of the celebrations and later that day we headed down to Summerfest/Maier Festival Park to take in the 30th Anniversary celebration of H.O.G.  We all wanted to get the unique pin for this event so we put on our 110th and H.O.G. identification and arrived in time to get a pin and watch Lynyrd Skynyrd headline the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse stage.

At the HOG 30th Anniversary Celebration

At the HOG 30th Anniversary Celebration

In what seemed like a bit of irony, there was Rickey Medlocke on guitar… he was rocking out and being displayed on the large jumbo-tron monitors which included his trademark “Indian” tat and custom guitar with inlaid “Indian” spelled out on the fret board.  It had nothing to do with Indian Motorcycles, but it would have made for an interesting photo given they were playing on the H-D main stage with bar and shield brand logos everywhere.

After several days of being on the road with just the motorcycle, the festival was a bit of a sensory overload.  There was a lot going on at Summerfest and it took awhile to absorb and sync up with all the Harley “noisemakers.”  Riders and enthusiasts literally travelled from all over the globe to attend the festivities and over the next few days of the birthday celebration there would be more than 66-band performances.

I was starting to wondered if that rumbling coming down the road might be the roar of music vs. a V-twin!

The 110th Anniversary Homecoming – Part 3 (HERE) or Part 1 (HERE)

Photos taken by author

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"Wind in the face..."

“Wind in the face…”

I’m headed out for some quality “wind in the face” time…  We’re Milwaukee, WI bound and going to take in the 110th Anniversary celebration.

In my mind, most of the fun is in the journey across the country, but once we arrive it will be three days of events both big and small to excite and entertain all who attend. Sixty bands with top tier musical acts daily. Factory tours, museum tours, demo rides, and plenty of refreshments and Milwaukee hospitality…you name it and the motor company has thought about it along with the great city of Milwaukee we’re clearly going to be wow’ed.  If you need more info on the 110th Anniversary go HERE

I know that for many the recession/depression-like economy over the past few years has limited many a family budgets.  And sustaining a cash flow causes everyone to rethink rally expenditures.

So if you can’t attend, local artist, Doug LeTendre, is the guy behind “Little Pictures by Doug, LLC“. He makes cards in honor of everything Milwaukee and Wisconsin. It’s unique artwork that is original, hand-made cards for only $20 for a pack of ten.  He’s now working on a card to commemorate the H-D 110th Anniversary.

It’s some cool art.  Click on Doug’s cards to see a sample of his original art. 

I’ll see you in Milwaukee to wish Harley-Davidson a happy 110th Anniversary!  Ride safe my friends.

Photo courtesy of Hallmark.

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110-PostereditedSlicing open champagne bottles with a giant sword is an unlikely refinement that we’ll see during the 110th Anniversary.  That is unless you have a need for a new-motorcycle christening and want to get your hard-partying samurai going.

We’re about 50 days out from the big celebration where the Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary team (marketing, general merchandising, communication, legal, etc.) have been negotiating rights to feed photos and sound to television stations for broadcast.  Not to mention all the work in venue agreements, performance contracts, vendor contracts, photographic rights, recording issues, publishing deals, leases and the list goes on and on.  Add to that the trademark team that’s traveled around to make sure the H-D marks are properly used and not infringed, and that when folks like me arrive (“customers”) we’re not buying counterfeit merchandise thinking H-D is selling inferior gear!  Yeah, there will be some tired H-D employees who will be looking forward to taking some time off after Labor Day!

I want to thank the H-D employees in advance.

110th Anniversary Commemorative Ticket + Museum Pass

110th Anniversary Commemorative Ticket, “Koochie” + Museum Pass

I received the 110th Anniversary tickets over the weekend.  I opted for the higher priced commemorative package thinking what was coming was gift-worthy or an elegant picture stand.  The package was small enough and arrived via the mailbox.

Unfortunately, the Harley-Davidson Anniversary team neglected to take a page from Apple and pay close attention to the unboxing experience.  When it arrived did it make me smile?  Sure.  Did it create a long-lasting positive experience?  No.  Hey, why sweat the small stuff, right… it was only $118!  And the aroma discharge from that “Koochie” thing is like having a set of motorcycle tires stored in your living room.  Nothing says your awesome like the smell of tire rubber in the house!

110th Anniversary Celebration Schedule Guide

110th Anniversary Celebration Schedule Guide

I’m not sure who from Harley-Davidson sat in a conference room, doing the most mundane task of simply opening an Anniversary sample package to see what the emotional response would be by customers.  But, I’ve digressed.

The 110th “ride home” is just around the corner and starting feel real.  Earlier this week Harley-Davidson announced a NEW two-day party ($79) pass.  It gets you into the Summerfest Grounds any two of the 3-days.  The music headliners (Aerosmith, Toby Keith, Kid Rock (each sold separately)) are an incremental $24.50 purchase.  There is a $95 three day pass and the upsell commemorative package.  I’ve also seen a Chrome Ticket Package online at $522.15 which must pay for a lake-front rental given that unobtanium price.  To be candid, I’m a little overwhelmed with all these pricing options being tossed around on the web, but it does eliminate potential negative feedback for not having enough pricing options.

And how about that “official” Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary Mobile App (HERE).  Yeah, I’ve allowed H-D to use some memory space on the iPhone to buzz and blink me with updates over the next 50+ days.  Even if you’re not attending the anniversary event, I suggest downloading the app because H-D will be talking to your phone (via the app) and you can enjoy the festivity updates from the couch and avoid “social envy” while tweeting about all the $$ you’ve saved.

Ever wonder what’s it like when motorcyclists take over a town?   Noisy!

Poster photo courtesy of H-D and colorized by author.  Photos taken by author.

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Chief-2014Traditional product launches often act as a big corporate “Lighting Bolt.”

Meaning the company plans a big event, creates loads of new sales tools and collateral and places those important ad campaigns in the trade rags.  All the while keeping everything in hush, hush secrecy ‘til they near the big day. Then comes the big ‘Ta Da’. The press release hits the wire, they hold some big chest-thumping events and then start selling, having trained the sales force in the weeks prior.

Spirit of Munro -- Named in honor of Burt Munro’s “Munro Special,”

Spirit of Munro — Named in honor of Burt Munro’s “Munro Special,”

The Indian Motorcycle (Polaris Industries) launch plan is different.

Their launch process is a more gradual, momentum-building approach that is often called “Rolling Thunder.”  Not to be confused with the Rolling Thunder® Inc., and POW/MIA topic, the rolling product launch approach dribbles out information, builds credibility over time, creating anticipation, and leverages social media to feed the various channels and momentum.

Case in point is the dribbling out of key information from Indian Motorcycle. First up at Daytona Bike Week was the reveal — a release of information about the new 111 cubic inch engine, called Thunder Stroke 111™ made in Osceola, WI and assembled at the Polaris plant in Spirit Lake, Iowa. Next up was the back story of the custom-built streamliner named “Spirit of Munro” and then last weeks announcement of their intent to unveil the new 2014 Indian Chief motorcycle at the 73rd Sturgis Motorcycle Rally followed with a sneak-peek video and the subtle announcement (HERE at 0:43) of the $18,999 price. The previous Indian Chief sold in the $26-$37K range and the previous owners may stare at that in slacked-jaw envy!

Thunder Stroke 111™

Thunder Stroke 111™

Clearly the supply-chain scale and negotiation mojo that Polaris brings to the Indian table brought better component pricing and improved labor rates.

The Indian brand dates back to the early 1900s.  Polaris acquired it in 2011 and 27 months later will release a new classic motorcycle line.  Polaris continues forward with their Victory 15-year old brand of motorcycles.  They each draw on different customers.

I’m not sure how many more “dribbles” they have planned, but the press buzz and excitement of the launch in social media circles is clearly throttling up.

Photo’s courtesy of Indian Motorcycles.

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belushianddanThe Baby Boomer generation is a source of trends, research and discussion of and by people born from 1946 – 1964.

The “Boomers” are a key demographic, with plenty of disposable income and make up a major share of people who buy and ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

So, it’s rather ironic when Dan Aykroyd yesterday wrote to his fans online that he had offered to have the Blues Brothers open for Kid Rock at Harley-Davidson’s 110th anniversary celebration, but executives apparently told him that they were “too old for (their) desired demographic”.

Huh?  Really H-D.  REALLY!

This ranks right up there as the biggest marketing no brainer in the history of no brainers, but H-D exec’s say no and then add a shameless insult that is deliberately offensive to the aging hipsters and largest customer segment for the motor company?!

aykroyd-FBHere is the actual text:  Offered Blues Brothers to open for Kid Rock at Harley-Davidson 110th anniversary.  H-D execs. say B.B.’s too old… fb.me/27MHI7iYw — Dan Aykroyd (@dan_aykroyd) May 10, 2013

You might recall that Kid Rock is scheduled as the headliner for the event’s third and final night on Saturday, Aug. 31 in Milwaukee.

The Blues Brothers formed in 1978 and featured Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as part of a musical sketch on Saturday Night Live. Their debut album, “Briefcase Full of Blues”  went to number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.  In 1980, John Landis directed the “Blues Brothers” movie which according to Box Office Mojo, remains the 13th highest grossing film in both the ‘Musical‘ and ‘Comedy – Road Trip‘ categories and likewise ranks as having the 13th highest box office earnings for films opening in limited release.

Hey Harley-Davidson…  ever hear of Bikes, Blues and BBQ?  How about The Blues Bothers Ride?  You don’t stop riding because you get old; you get old because you stop riding!

Is it time for a public apology and to make a truly informed decision rather than sending out open insults to your customer base?

Photo courtesy of Facebook and meoutfit.com.  Rawhide video HERE.

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Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary Celebration

Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary Celebration

Graffiti art originated in the late 1960’s, and it has been developing ever since.

It’s not readily accepted as being art like those works that are found in a gallery or a museum. Most of the opposition to graffiti art is due to its location and bold, unexpected, and unconventional presentation, and that often it involves illegal locations or does it necessarily qualify as art.

H-D is giving all its fans an opportunity to create their own “graphic art” as part of the 110th Anniversary Celebration.

The graphic maker is located HERE where you can upload a personal photo and have it framed within the 110th Anniversary logo.  Once the upload is complete and the photo gets checked/validated it will be shared on the 110th Anniversary “Graphic Wall” and visible to the riding world.

Photo taken by author near Moab, UT and post processed by H-D

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He’s a preacher’s son, a perpetual optimist, and in a nod to the “Imported from Wisconsin” team he rides a Harley-Davidson Road King.

I’m talking about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker who pledged a “return to frugality in government.”

Harley motorcycles and government frugality are two things I can rally behind, but just 6-weeks into his term, the badger state protesters, mostly public-sector workers have seized the same building and are comparing the governor to Hitler and Darth Vader.

The trigger?  A bill which would reduce most public-sector workers of their union rights and pare back their benefits. The protesters interpreted “frugality” as code for “union busting” and erupted into dueling rallies and slogan chants.

In my overly basic description, unions have two sides.  One is the great positive influence on democracy of people banding together for equal and fair treatment by employers.  The other is the misuse of that power to force too many concessions from employers, or become unreasonable about the union making concessions when economic conditions have changed.  In fact, watching the teachers demonstrate in Wisconsin I wonder how all these people obtained college degrees because a 6th grader understands that if you have $50 in the bank, you can’t withdraw $500.  Can they spell bankruptcydeficit, or foreclosure?  And if your taxes are increased (suggested by legislatures who like gov. welfare programs and want someone else to pay for them), will you have more money or less to spend?

“Frugal” may describe Gov. Walker, but for many Americans we’re in ‘frugal fatigue’ fearing a job loss any day, coping with rising health care costs and hoping for any opportunity to break the economic gridlock and return to the good ‘ol days of 2005.

Take Harley-Davidson who was on a high-speed-train to utter collapse.  They had to reduce labor costs and gain worker flexibility to remain competitive in the new economy.  They stated it would move operations from Milwaukee to Kansas City if it did not get a new union contract with lots of worker concessions. They also had threatened to move operations from York to Shelbyville, Ky., if it could not get a contract in York.  The company never blinked and I don’t think it was an empty threat of playing one location against another, and the reality was they have the capability of moving if they want too — anytime.  The company wasn’t expecting much and didn’t get any pushback from the unions given the dismal job market and in the past 22 months, Harley-Davidson has negotiated competitive labor contracts with the unions, exited non-core brands, expanded internationally, rebuilt its balance sheet, and addressed the scarcity value of the brand.

Will there be fewer people employed at $35.00 an hour to manufacture a H-D motorcycle?  Yes,  but this wasn’t some proud attempt at “union busting” by the company management.  It was about survival of the company and for the remaining few people employed it was about work or do without!

So, for all the Wisconsin fans and Wisconsonites in these troubling times – for the love of the Super Bowl champions, Bucky the badger and of course, the beer (Pabst, Schiltz, Miller and Blatz) – can we all just agree and get united to pitch in a bit more on health care and retirement benefits like the rest of us in the non-public, non-union job sectors and break the gridlock?!

Photo courtesy of WI., collective bargaining rights protestors.

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