Monday, May 28, 2012

TTen years after... an excerpt from Riding Man

It's hard for me to accept that this week marks the Tenth Anniversary of my TT. I'm still very much aware of it; people buy Riding Man every day -- and in fact there's an interesting meeting in Hollywood later this week, as the book continues its (excruciating!) 'development' as a feature film. But, ten years...
Photo by Peter Riddihough, courtesy
Like a lot of people, I begin each new TT fortnight hoping mainly that -- after this one -- there'll be at least one more. It's an event from a different time, when life and limb were, somehow, not so precious. As such, it lives on borrowed time.

None of that changes the fact that, if you love motorcycles and motorcycle racing, the Isle of Man is your spiritual home. If you've never been, you owe it to yourself to go. And like me, you'd better hope that this won't be the last TTime...

The TT lived in my imagination for about 40 years before I got there. In 2002, when I finally arrived in the paddock before dawn on the first day of practice, I walked into a setting that I'd imagined so many times, I experienced a profound sense of déjà vu. 

I wrote about experiencing the paddock for the first time, after imagining it so many times, in Riding Man. If you'd like to read about it, click that tantalizing 'Read More' link on the next line...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Revisiting the @tsunamiharley story

A little while back, when that Harley-Davidson washed up on a remote island in British Columbia -- the first major piece of tsunami debris to arrive in North America -- Harley-Davidson was pretty quick to offer to restore the bike and return it to its owner. It was a mainstream media story for a few days, especially in Canada, but it wasn't long before it fell off the radar screen.

This video clip tells the story, as of about three weeks ago. It turns out, it had one poignant closing note.

Ikuo Yokoyama lost his father and brother in the tsunami. It swept away his home and everything in it (and the container, in the back yard, where he parked his Harley.) He's still living in temporary shelter.

At first, he was thrilled they'd found his bike, but when he was told that Harley-Davidson was going to refurbish it and return it to him, Ikuo told Harley he could not accept it. He said, it would not be fair to spend so much on him and his motorcycle, when so many tsunami victims still have nothing.

I've written in the past about the way, in the weeks after the tsunami, millions of dollars worth of Japanese cash was found in the wreckage, and turned over to authorities. I won't bother asking the people rebuilding Joplin how much cash was turned in there, after the tornado that wrecked the town at about the same time the tsunami was doing its thing. Zero fucking dollars, you can be sure.

Only about 1/4 of the people living in the tsunami area were insured against such a flood. Most people who were insured were covered for their homes only, not contents. I hear that Harley-Davidson's offered to give the money they would have spent restoring Ikuo's hog into a tsunami relief fund in his name. That's small beer, but I guess it's all that's expected of them.

I don't have a conclusion for this post, sorry. I am not sure what should be done with Ikuo's motorcycle. I with they'd just left it on that remote beach with a plaque telling the handful of visitors that would see it every year that the rightful owner could have had it back, but refused it, because he couldn't bear the thought that he'd been treated better than anyone else.

We could use a few more people like that guy.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Monday Morning Crew Chief: How does Rossi feel about lapped traffic now?

Over the winter break, most factory riders in MotoGP were openly critical of the prospect of encountering lapped traffic (again) in the premier class in 2012. The tone of discussion ranged from assuming that fans would be aghast at the sight of backmarkers (no relation) being lapped, to implications that speed differentials would create major safety hazards.

Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden were almost the only two factory riders who didn't decry the CRT rules. The two Ducati riders were far from enthusiastic  about the prospect of sharing the track with riders and motorcycles turning significantly slower lap times, but at least they were open to trying the new rules on for size.

I guess Rossi may now be one of the few factory riders actively supporting the CRT rules, after one of the CRT bikes, getting lapped at the end of the race, slowed Casey Stoner just enough to allow Rossi to close the gap to second place. Rossi would never have caught and passed Stoner otherwise.

I doubt Stoner was philosophical about the presence of the lapper -- and I suppose I have to admit that I jumped the gun a little in assuming the FIM would force him to race by himself as early as yesterday. Now that he's shown a bit of vulnerability, I guess they may put the SuperLeague on hold.

But seriously, folks...

Where did the idea even come from, that no one should ever encounter lapped traffic in the premier class? Dealing with lapped traffic has long been a part of racecraft; there were lappers in almost every 500GP race ever held. Hailwood and Agostini used to just about lap everyone but each other.

The AMA's tightened Q standards in recent years with an eye to reducing lapped traffic here in the U.S., and the races have been great -- but the credit for that goes towards ever-more-restricted technical rules and spec tires -- not cleaning up the back of the grid*. Miguel Duhamel, for one, would have a much smaller win total if it hadn't been for his skillful use of backmarkers -- I often saw him deftly catch and pass riders on better machinery, when they caught up to rolling chicanes in the second half of AMA nationals.

I think most people would say that the rapid evolution of the four-stroke bikes in the MotoGP era, particularly in the area of electronics, has reduced the amount of passing and dicing at a time when the problem of processional races is compounded by shrinking grids. Predictability is a great thing if you're the best rider on the best bike, but it sucks for the fans and the mid-grid. Lapped traffic is, if nothing else, a randomizing factor that re-emphasizes the rider's racecraft, and de-emphasizes the black boxes.

Lappers aren't necessarily bad for the show. Just ask Rossi.

*And, to the absence of Spies and Mladin. I'm just sayin'...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Injury-prone Hopkins proves natural fit for high-profile out-of-industry sponsor

The news that Superbike and sometime-MotoGP star John Hopkins will race at the upcoming Miller Motorsport Park SBK round on painkillers, and an ominous 'tweet' from @JHopper21 that suggests his hip injury may be a lot worse than we'd hoped all ads up to more of the same news from the Hopper. The guy spends more time in the hospital than he does at home.

That's bad news for most sponsors, who pay to have Hopkins on the track, and hopefully, flashing his pearly whites at their PR events.

But it appeals to his latest sponsor, for which both his name and his injury-prone habits fit perfectly...

Yes, he's just signed a sponsorship deal with Johns-Hopkins Medicine, the best and most famous hospital in the U.S.

"I get all kinds of sponsorship offers, from people who don't want to spend money but want me to use their stuff," Hopkins told Backmarker in an exclusive interview. "But really, how many helmets can I use? And, like, do you have any idea what a gallon of Monster a day will do to your kidneys? But hospital care's a different story; for me, that's as good as cash. I'm pumped to begin using Johns-Hopkins as soon as possible. I don't even have to crash again, since I've got so much old damage they can go right to work on."

Eugenia Marx, the spokesperson for the famed Baltimore institution, said, "It's a slam dunk -- oops, sorry for that stick-and-ball metaphor -- but I mean, what could be more natural that Johns-Hopkins sponsoring John Hopkins? Everyone here is eager to get to work, trying out new medical procedures on 'Hopper's' creative new injuries. I mean, how often do you get to see bone chips in a hip joint? We didn't even know that injury was possible until John came along."

Hopkins' agent, Bob Moore, said "We're pumped by this new sponsorship. As you know, the whole motorcycle racing industry loves to see non-endemic sponsors come into the sport, and we're proud to have brought in one of the most respected brand names in the U.S."

"Now that I know I'm backed by America's top hospital," Hopper told Backmarker, "I'm going to ride even more recklessly than before!"
"Holy Crap! This guy's got injuries on his injuries!" Careful Doc, that's your new poster boy...

Monday, May 14, 2012

What "The Innovator's Dilemma" has to tell us about electric motorcycles...

Last week was a good week for traffic on my blog -- largely because my sarcastic post about the FIM creating a new, one-rider SuperLeague for Casey Stoner got hundreds and hundreds of hits when it became a topic for serious discussion on a big bulletin board. What would I have to write, for people to just know it was a joke?

Anyway, with that many gullible nitwits out trolling the net for motorcycle news, I am probably wasting my time with this serious observation about the emerging electric motorcycle category. (N.B. For once, I used a word other than 'nascent' to describe the e-bike phenomenon.)

Over the last week or two, I've noted the following bits of news from the e-moto world...

  • The Brammo Empulse R was revealed, and it emerges that it will cost about $3,000 more than a BMW S1000RR.
  • The first North American TTXGP race took place but nobody came. OK, two teams entered three bikes. Two bikes started; one bike finished.
  • Daimler has promised to begin producing the Smart electric scooter by 2014

This costs as much as...

...this. The BMW is completely dominant by any measure. Does Brammo really think the Empulse R, at almost twenty grand, can be anything other than a rich tree-hugger's bauble?  
The first two items obviously relate to the high-end sportbike segment of the market -- a segment that, to date, really doesn't exist at all. Still, it's seductive to think of electric bikes coming along and jerking the filthy, polluting rug out from under the hidebound ICE sportbike world. Even I've been caught up in the hype that this will be the year an electric bike laps the TT course at 100 miles an hour.

But. Come on...

Brammo's still talking about 'over 100 mph' and '121 mile city range' in their press releases. Trust me, this will not be the bike that makes range anxiety a thing of the past. Ex-Zero brainiac Neal Saiki has a post on his web site about the skewed results for EVs in 'city' mileage tests.

For the price of the Empulse, you could buy the BMW, and cover all of your operating costs for a couple of years -- years in which you'd have an incomparably superior riding experience in every way. And what will really have been proved when the Mugen laps the TT course at 100+ next month? That it's as fast as a Manx Norton was 50 years ago, with half the range. And that if you could buy it, it would be an order of magnitude more expensive than the Manx was (corrected for inflation.)

Proof that I respect some Mormon Republicans. And yes, I'm aware that adding 'Republican' to 'Mormon' is redundant. 
All this leaps to mind because I was reminded of the theories of management guru Clayton Christensen when I read his profile in this week's New Yorker.

Christensen's book, 'The Innovator's Dilemma' is the most important business book written since the invention of the integrated circuit. Steve Jobs described The Innovator's Dilemma as one of his profound influences. Christensen coined the term 'disruptive technology,' and is -- at least arguably -- the expert on the adoptions of new tech that, uh, disrupts established sectors of the economy.
For the visual thinkers... I'd draw the red line slightly steeper, to acknowledge that at some point in the future it will likely pass, performance-wise, the technology being replaced -- that's true if only because the disruptive technology will, eventually, get the R&D spending. Or, here's a perhaps oversimplified take on it...

Christensen's take on disruption is that it follows a predictable arc, which is not dependent on the category being disrupted. He's studied examples from industries as varied as steel mills and steam shovels to hard drives and transistor radios. (The Honda Cub step-through was one of the disruptive technologies he identified and studied, too.) And in the Christensen model, the way disruption happens is that new technology displaces old technology at the bottom of the market, while it is still clearly inferior to the best of the previous tech.

The low-performance/low-price portion of the market is often happily ceded by established companies dominating the old technology, who think, We don't want to make that crap anyway.

Then, two things happen over time... First, the cheap new products attract a whole new group of consumers to the market. The first Sony transistor radios were cheap and portable, but their reception and sound quality was atrocious. Companies like RCA, that were in the radio business -- where are they now? -- didn't feel threatened by Sony at all. RCA couldn't imagine anyone buying a Sony, no matter how cheap, instead of an RCA tube radio, because the performance gap was so huge.

What RCA didn't see coming was that there was a huge, new market for radios. Teenagers, who were on the move, and wanted to listen to rock and roll music that their parents (who controlled the RCA) couldn't stand. They bought transistor radios by the million. That enabled the second thing to happen, which was -- those new customers funded R&D that enabled transistor radio performance to improve, and supplied a huge pool of consumers who, as they became more affluent, stuck with the technology they were familiar with.

If Sony had decided to go head-to-head with RCA, going for RCA's performance and price right away, it would have failed miserably. Honda, with the Cub step-through, also carefully avoided competing with the likes of Norton. At the beginning, Honda wasn't even going after motorcyclists at all.
At some point in the future, we may look back and say, "Remember when electric motorbikes stole a march on the old fossil-fuel-powered bikes?" The bikes that disrupted the old regime will, I'm betting, be more like this one.
That's why, after mulling it over, I think the news that Smart will produce its innocuous urban runabout is far more significant than the unveiling of the Brammo Empulse R. If Christensen is right, it's vehicles like the Smart that will prove to be the real disruptors. It won't matter that they offer dramatically worse performance than comparable ICE bikes, because they'll create their own completely new market.
I don't know what the Smart will sell for, but you can be sure it will be a fraction of the Brammo's price, and if Daimler is, well, smart, they'll lower performance as far as they need to, to sell it at a price that undercuts every other autonomous, motorized option.

The lesson from The Innovator's Dilemma is that change, when it comes, doesn't come from knocking off the top of the market and trickling down. (Where's Mission, by the way?) Change comes from knocking off the bottom of the market, and bubbling up.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

FIM acknowledges reality, puts Stoner in league of his own

Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and rising star Cal Crutchlow have all warmly welcomed the news that the FIM (Federation Internationale Motocyclisme) has moved quickly to acknowledge what MotoGP insiders have been whispering since pre-season tests: Casey Stoner is in a league of his own.

This morning, in Mies, Switzerland, FIM President Vito Ippolito announced that beginning with the next race in Le Mans, France in two weeks' time, Stoner (Kurri Kurri, NSW, Australia) will compete by himself, in a separate race in a separate class.

Ippolito said, "Cal Crutchlow spoke for us all when he admitted that Casey is, right now, in a different league."

"After the race in Estoril, we convened a meeting of the Competition Committee, and asked members to come back with suggestions that would have the effect of improving competition at the front of the field. They made several outlines of options, including taking all the wheel weights out of Cristian Gabbarini's tool box, to make Casey's front-end chatter even worse. But our technical experts told us that while Casey complains bitterly about the chatter, it doesn't seem to slow him down. And besides, he complains about everything."

"As such, we've created a separate class for Casey, called MotoGP SuperLeague. Beginning in two weeks in France, Casey will qualify by himself and race, alone, in a 26-lap SuperLeague-class race held between the Moto2 race and the regular MotoGP event."

Reaction to this news was immediate, and mixed.

Noted MotoGP commentator David Emmett told Backmarker, "I don't care how fast Stoner is, watching him circulate by himself for 26 laps will be boring as hell."

Ex-500GP star Kevin Schwantz said, "Well, I guess they've gotta' do what they've gotta' do. Sure it's going to be boring, but it won't be that different than what fans would see if he continues to race with the rest of the MotoGP field."

Stoner, when informed of the rule, sent out this tweet to his followers: "Boring? Who cares? I'm paid to win races and titles, not entertain punters."

So far, most of the active MotoGP riders who've been reached for comment have reacted positively to the news. Dani Pedrosa said, "This only makes sense. All of us want the same thing, which is to compete on a level pitch. But Casey is too fast. It's not fair."

Only Nicky Hayden seemed to question the move, saying "I dunno, I think if the rest of us just speeded up, it would be better for the show. Right now, if I was going to create a separate league, it'd be for those dog-slow CRT bikes."

The Australian star is expected to have a mathematical lock on the SuperLeague championship by the time the series reaches the Motorland Aragon event, at which point he may begin riding more conservatively. The only thing that could prevent him from winning every race, it would seem, would be a return of his undiagnosable medical problems. (Related story: Gregory House, M.D., says, "At first I thought Stoner was lactose intolerant. But then I realized that, like me, he is just intolerant, period.")

There are still details to be worked out, such as how the Stoner-only SuperLeague will fit into the broadcast schedule, and whether Honda will pay Stoner's MotoGP championship bonus when, as it is assumed, he wins the FIM SuperLeague title instead. 

Ippolito did not rule out moving other riders out of MotoGP and into the SuperLeague if they become too dominant. "Right now," he said, "Casey is in a league of his own. But now that he's out of MotoGP, if someone like Pedrosa or Lorenzo gets too dominant, and gets into a league of his own, we'll probably bump him up into the SuperLeague, too. Unless we decide to create another league, maybe we'd call it HyperLeague or something, for him by himself. I'm not sure how we'd handle it; after all, there's only so much time on the schedule for additional one-rider leagues. But we'll do whatever we have to do, to ensure that MotoGP is competitive."

Monday, May 7, 2012

The rap on EVmoto 'racing'

A little while back, I noted that in spite of a ridiculously small field at the first 2012 e-Power race at Magny-Cours, it seemed the FIM had upgraded the series from an 'International Championship' to an official FIM World Championship. I just noticed that the series is now listed as a World Championship, like MotoGP and SBK.

I guess the FIM's staking its claim to the future, because at present, most EV motorcycle races are laughable. Not that racing a motorcycle with 100+ hp is ever a joke in itself, as Brammo's Steve Atlas now knows. He was bucked off the Empulse RR and broke several vertebrae(!!) Then, Brammo tapped Steve Rapp (an Infineon expert and a notable 'hired gun' in the AMA paddock) to take the ride, and it threw him down the road, too. Rapp broke his wrist, knocking him out of an actual motorcycle race he was entered in later that weekend. I hear they've already contacted Guilherme Marchi, a Brazilian, to take over riding duties at Laguna Seca.
Brammo ran this ad to celebrate it's 2011 TTXGP 'championship'. There's only one real race for EV motorcycles right now, though, and only one win will matter.
That left  precisely two entries in the TTXGP 'premier' class at Infineon. Both Lightnings. One finished. Yes, one entrant crossed the finish line.

Note to the EV racing apologists: One bike doesn't make a race.

And that was at Infineon; a race in the back yard of America's EV moto industry, such as it is. (Yes, I know Zero was represented in the 'super stock' class.) I presume a few more bikes will show up at Laguna Seca, when TTXGP and the FIM hold one of their interlocking races, but as an outsider looking in, I'm expecting another laughingstock.

By contrast there were, last I saw, close to 20 entries for the TT Zero event, pitting all the highest-profile U.S. endeavors against, among others, the most intriguing electric bike yet -- the Mugen. This is as it should be. Right now, EVs are still struggling to establish relevance, and prove they're meaningfully functional in real-world applications. The Isle of Man 'Mountain Course,' with its long lap, elevation change, long fast stretches and full set of real-roads challenges (bumps, terrible weather, crazy cambers; you name it...) has always been the place to prove that your bike's the best one out where real motorcycling happens, on real roads.

Until the TTXGP and e-Power get their shit together -- until they can field a reasonable number of competitive entrants -- there's only one EV motorcycle race worth paying attention to.

Wake me next month.

And a note to the FIM: 'World Championship'? Get real.

Friday, May 4, 2012

At least five new motorcycle reality shows vie for airtime

Talk about your garage monster. This 1,300 pound Merlin V-12 motor will power Falcon Motorcycle's stunning 'Albatross' motorcycle, and is the mechanical star of a forthcoming reality TV show.
My friends in advertising know that this time of year is important to the the television industry, and not just because it's the only time anyone in the U.S. watches hockey. It's also the 'upfront season,' when networks pitch up-and-coming shows to big advertisers and media buyers, in the hopes of selling the ad time, well, up front.

Of course, most of the attention in upfronts is paid to the biggest potential draws -- shows like Fox's X-Factor, and Glee, or ABC's Dancing With The Stars -- the Big Four networks will sell about $10 billion in ad time over the next few weeks, in shows like that.

But, in the 500-channel universe (not to mention the 50,000-channel YouTubeVerse) there are plenty of motorcycle-themed shows being floated past advertisers. Here are five motorcycle reality shows being pitched right now:

Next American Hero
In this show, cameras will follow perennial AMA backmarker (no relation) Johnny Rock Page as he travels the country with his leathers and helmet... pitching a reality show about himself to TV networks.

Don't Mind Drake
This is being touted as the first TV show about a web show. A camera crew details the day-to-day travails of the producer assigned to Drake McElroy's mind-numbingly self-aggrandizing web series.

The Big Biker Build-Off Wank-Off
Discovery has high hopes for this new concept, which will take viewers into the writing rooms of popular 'reality' shows like Jesse James Monster Garage and whatever that one is with the Teutels. TBBBOWO, which entertainment writers have already dubbed TBBBOWO (the pop acronym is another hint this show is here to stay) will feature the previously anonymous (and un-represented by the WGA) scribes who create these 'unscripted' shows, as they compete amongst each other to make the 'star' of their show appear to be the biggest wanker.

Noblesse Oblige
The only motorcycle-themed reality show that will run on a major network, CBS will air 'Noblesse Oblige,' which it is co-producing with the BBC.
     This show will follow Falcon Motorcycles' principals Ian Barry and Amaryllis Knight as they run a 'Bachelor'-style contest among California millionaires, to determine who'll get to own Falcon's next creation -- the audacious 'Albatross', a one-of-a-kind bike powered by a 1,000+ horsepower, 27-liter V-12 Merlin engine.
     In a coup, the media-savvy Barry & Knight have managed to sign both Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien to sit on their judging panel. We should see more sparks fly than you'd get disc-grinding a titanium case guard.
     At the end of the series, who will be handed the coveted platinum Whitworth wrench that fits the Merlin valve-adjustment nut, and signifies that the holder's earned the right to forfeit $8.9 million for this nine foot long, 1,600-pound motorcycle? Will it be a TV or movie star? A pop singer? A Scientologist? Or that renegade venture capitalist from Silicon Valley (perhaps the only place in America that's even more entitled than Hollywood)?..

Keshub Manhindra, the Chairman of the Mahindra Group -- one of India's largest motorcycle makers and sponsor of India's Moto3 entry-- is one of India's most powerful industrialists, with a luxury home in Delhi and a sumptuous summer compound in the Uttar Pradesh. But while he's a maharaja at work, he's run ragged and hopelessly henpecked at home by his five daughters.
The first episode of Mahindrance! focuses on the business dreams of the relatively homely Chandra (seen here in hat with gold coins.) Viewers who hang in there for the second episode get a treat when the super-hot Aadhira (far right) signs up for a charity wet-sari contest, only to learn that one of the judges is Keshub's bitter rival, the CEO of Indian Enfield.
     Mahindrance! is a cross between Monster Garage, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and Bend It Like Beckham, all seen through a colorful 'Bollywood' lens. This is the sleeper among motorcycle reality shows.

Temporarily on hiatus...

When motorcyclist and sustainability yogini Susanna Schick was knocked off her bicycle by an L.A. hit-and-run driver, her injuries knocked a hole in Lifetime's schedule. The chick network had scheduled Schick's show, 'Resistance,' to start this fall, but it is now delayed at least six months. In her new show, Schick tries to convince several well-known female riders; land-speed racer Susan Robertson, drag racer Angele Seeling, road racer Elena Myers, and MXer Ashley Fiolek to give up their ICE-powered bikes in exchange for EVs with the bottom end grunt of a 250, the top end of a 125, and the range of a Top Fuel dragster.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Undoing (a little bit) of tsunami damage

OK. I admit that I take the piss out of Harley-Davidson. But I do it because there's much that I admire about The Motor Company, and I think they can take it. Now, I want Harley-Davidson -- and in particular H-D's Canadian distributor -- to give me even more to admire.
This Harley looks surprisingly good, considering it just spent a year drifting across the Pacific to Canada.
After the tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, millions of tons of debris were swept out to sea, where currents took them towards Canada. A few days ago, a Japanese box van washed up on the shore of a small island off the coast of British Columbia. A beachcomber found the van, opened it up, and lo and behold there was a rusted but surprisingly intact Harley-Davidson motorcycle in it.

Since the license plate was clearly legible, it was a pretty easy matter to trace the bike's owner. He is Ikuo Yokoyama, a 29 year-old guy who lost pretty much everything he owned in the tsunami. (Surprisingly, Harleys have long been popular in Japan; for a while they licensed their designs to the Rykuo company, and Soichiro Honda himself rode and loved a hog.)
Ikuo was pumped to learn that his bike had been recovered, and told reporters that some of his fondest memories of life before the tsunami were of the rides he's taken around Japan. 
Someone at Harley in Japan, apparently, has said they're considering bringing Ikuo's bike back and restoring it.

That's a great idea, but not the best idea. You see, some of the most skilled Harley restorers in the entire world live and work in Vancouver, not far from where the tsunami Harley washed up.

Way back in 1917, Fred Deeley Ltd. became the first Harley dealership in Canada, and then the Harley importer for the entire country. Fred's son Trevor eventually took over the business and renamed it Trev Deeley Motorcycles. Trev played an important role for Harley, eventually serving on the Board. The Deeley family and their businesses -- including their dealership, Trev Deeley Motorcycles, which is still in operation in Vancouver, and Deeley H-D Canada, the distribution business, which operates out of Ontario -- are great supporters of all branches of motorcycle sport, including racing. Trev Deeley's little Twitter avatar is a flat track racer.

Along the way, Trev amassed an amazing collection of bikes, which were housed in the Trev Deeley Museum -- now known as The Deeley Motorcycle Exhibition, located at 1875 Boundary Road, in Vancouver. If you're anywhere near Vancouver and love motorcycles, it's one of the best collections I've ever seen, and well worth the detour.
Why send Ikuo's hog back to Japan to be restored, when the ace restorers who fixed up these bikes live and work in British Columbia? The Deeley Motorcycle Exhibition is one of the best motorcycle museums in the world.
Japan's been through enough, and still faces huge challenges restoring infrastructure and its economy after the tsunami. I think Harley-Davidson Canada should cover the costs of getting the bike to Vancouver, and that the expert restorers on staff at The Deeley Motorcycle Exhibition should return it to its former glory (and maybe then some, go nuts, you guys.)

Then, I think H-D should bring Ikuo to Canada for a ride through the Rockies, and fly man and bike back to Japan.

If you agree with me, tell Harley-Davidson Canada and The Deeley Motorcycle Exhibition. H-D Canada doesn't publish an email address, but you can Twitter message them at @HD_Canada. You can email the museum here: For good measure, why not email Mike Bellegarde, who handles marketing chores for the Vancouver dealership at

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Monster in play?

Stock in Hansen Natural (symbol HANS), the company that owns Monster Beverage Corp., got a huge boost a few days ago, on rumors that Coke had decided Monster was it, and was going to purchase the company.

Coke took the rare step of denying that it was looking into a Monster acquisition. And Monster coyly said, "We don't comment on rumors."

Would Monster-sponsored athletes like James 'The Rocket' Rispoli find that things really go better with Coke?  One thing's for sure; if Coke took over the brand, The Rocket -- and hundreds of other action-sports heroes -- would have to prove that the money Monster pumped into motorcycle racing, wake boarding, surfing, etc., was paying off in market share, sales volume, and profit.
It's hard to know what impact a change in ownership might have on Monster's action-sports-sponsorship-heavy marketing strategy -- but, if Coke did acquire them, you can be sure Monster's marketing department would come under pressure to prove an ROI on those sponsorships.

I guess it's entirely possible the rumors were started by some Hansen Natural exec who wanted to exercise his stock options and dump some shares, but sometimes where there's froth, there's carbonation.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

BMW's hard-on guy lawsuit reminds me... No, seriously

The story about the BMW rider who, after riding his bike (fitted with a Corbin seat) found himself with a permanent erection reminds me of the only time I ever officially test rode a CVO Harley-Davidson cruiser while I worked at Motorcyclist.

I guess it was 2003 or '04, and Boehm asked me to write a short 'First Ride' review of a bike H-D'd loaned us. It was some cruiser that was powered by the largest-displacement motor they'd ever built at the time, and to give it a long, low, lean & mean look it had been accessorized with a really thin seat.

This bike gives the trademark 'Softail' a whole new meaning.
I took it for a ride around West Hollywood, to see if it impressed pimps, since that seemed to be the market H-D's stylists were aiming at. (Appropriately, Angelenos abbreviate that neighborhood to 'WeHo'.) I thought, it's no accident they've given this bike the code FXSTDSE, but I wasn't worried, since I always ride with full protection.

Where was I? You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. I'm telling you a true story.

The motor, like all Harleys, had a serious primary imbalance. But since it was overbored (and stroked, too, if I recall) that imbalance was more pronounced than ever. Those vibes were hardly attenuated at all by the thin seat.

The thing is, there was a certain frequency -- right where you'd naturally want to hold the revs while cruising for hookers -- where the vibrations did something to the lower part of my GI tract. Like, I felt something weird going on down there.

I suddenly knew that I was going to poo. It wasn't the pooing part of that thought that was weird; it was the sudden part. And when I tried to, uh, clench, I couldn't; my sphincter had gone numb. Having spent my life on sport bikes where, if there was a seat problem I just transferred weight to the foot pegs, that was my first response, but the foot pegs on the hog were way out front, to give it that La-Z-Boy riding position. There was nowhere to put my weight but on the seat. A few seconds later, I literally thought, If I don't shift gears right now, I'm going to lose control of my bowels.

I mean, I'm not saying customers should've sued over it, but if you'd made me ride it any distance, I'd'a had a whole different appreciation for those ridiculous assless chaps Harley riders wear. And I suppose those vibes might explain why, despite bikers' b.o. and scratchy beards, they always seem to find women who'll ride pillion.

The Manx Grand Prix faces the future

News out of the Isle of Man this morning suggests that the Manx Grand Prix faces a shaky future, but at least it's got a future, for now.

The issue, in a nutshell, is that the late-summer 'amateur' races on the famed Mountain Course cost the Manx government as much to put on as the TT, but they don't attract as many fans and don't contribute nearly as much to The Island's economy.

The last I read, the government has essentially assured the Manx Motor Cycle Club that the MGP will continue for the foreseeable future, but with a restricted schedule. The MGP 'fortnight' will be cut back to ten days -- a weekend, the next week, and the final 'long' weekend. The new schedule will include only two races for modern bikes, which will be called 'Clubman TT' races, in an effort to leverage the TT brand.

Leveraging the TT brand makes a lot of sense, and if they want my advice, they should change the names of the races for classic machinery to 'Classic (displacement) TT'. Reducing the number of classes for modern bikes begs the question, how will riders qualify for the TT? The answer is that the TT will continue with the practice of the last ten years or so, of specifically inviting riders. The role of the MGP as a TT proving ground will be de-emphasized.

One thing I learned while I lived on the Island is that the economic impact of the motorcycle races is consistently underestimated, because the Manxies consistently under-report the cash income from motorcycle tourists. The Manx Dept. of Economic Development recently concluded a four-month study of the MGP's economic impact. The (ungrateful) DED determined that The Island loses about 400,000 quid promoting the races. It's safe to say the 9,000 tourists who come leave far more than that amount, as cash, in the pockets of locals.

Shortening the MGP event will curry favor with the substantial minority of Manx residents, who resent the road closures, noise, and influx of tourists. There are, certainly, lots of Manxmen who would love to see the MGP canceled altogether, but that would be a shame. Among the Isle of Man racing faithful, the MGP is the connoisseur's choice.

After DJ's death in 2003, the TT itself did some soul-searching, and it redefined itself. It emerged improved, and is on more solid ground now than its been on in decades. Hopefully, the Manx Grand Prix will survive, too. It's on notice. If you want to read the full Manx DED report make the jump below (note that my version includes a few wonky characters.)