History Does Not Repeat

Steve Lita American Iron Magazine Editor

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

Ride to Work

It’s called history for a reason. It’s in the past—done, gone, hope you enjoyed it. We often remember things having been better when we were younger. Some people call it “The good old days.” Perhaps life wasn’t as complicated as it seems now, and responsibilities weren’t as heavy. It was a time before the instant gratification of having the world at your fingertips electronically. For example, we used to carry cash, or even a plastic credit card, back before the current trend of paying for something without using hard currency. All it takes now is the swipe of an app, the beep of a laser code reader, and zoom, you’re out of the drive-thru lane barely touching your brakes.

Remember when riding you had to carry change to make a phone call or use a paper map to find your way? I recently took a quick trip to New York City for a business meeting. That morning, I was thinking ahead and figured I would fully charge my handy cellphone before I departed. Only one problem—I left the phone plugged into the charger when I left. So there I was, in the big city without any means of looking up the address of where I was supposed to go, and an immediate feeling of being lost. Just then I thought, “Wait a minute! I can do this.” I remember how to find my way around and communicate from before the days of smart phones. Believe it or not, they still have phone booths in NYC. I’ve been told it’s because the city doesn’t want to lose the revenue from advertisements posted on the sides. It didn’t take long to find one, and it actually worked. I was amazed. I inserted old-fashioned coins, cleaned the receiver with a handkerchief, and called the party I was supposed to meet. Disaster averted.

This dose of nostalgia is brought to you courtesy of my return from 2017 Daytona Bike Week. I drove the company truck down, so I had plenty of time to ponder. Heck, I remember going to Daytona Bike Week for nine consecutive years before even coming to work here at this publishing company, and I’ve been here for 14 years. And while I remember having a great time back in the day, I contend that current events are better than ever.

Nothing irks me more than when I hear someone spout, “I’ll never go back to that event now. It’s not as good as back when I used to go.” And while everyone is entitled to his opinion, I’d say Bike Week is still well worth the overnight, straight-through, bonzai-run I do to get there.

Think about it: motorcycles that are considered historical now, were more common back then. So, these days, it’s more exciting to see a bike from a specific gone-by time period. Young people, those who have never attended Bike Week or only attended in recent years, bring a whole new vibe to the party. There are so many aspects of motorcycling going on in and around Daytona during that week; I’d defy anyone to be bored. If you’re into off-road riding, there are events for you. Into custom bikes? There are plenty to be seen. Into racing? They have that, too. And as for the old classics that were more common back in the day, you don’t have to look hard to find them. The success of the inaugural Sons of Speed Daytona event was proof of that. The stands were packed! (See page 66.)

So, I say don’t let your memories fade. It’s nice to remember how good it was. But also use them to make it better the next time around.

Thompson Vintage Motorcycle Classic
Speaking of old bikes, and following in the footsteps of Buzz’s column (page 14), I’d like to add another must-see event that’s on my calendar this year: the Thompson Vintage Motorcycle Classic. It’ll be held in the quiet northeast corner of Connecticut at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on June 25. The event will host a field of historic (pre-1990) motorcycles in a bike show, a massive swap meet, and a vintage motorcycle track day on Thompson’s 1.7-mile road course. The fan-favorite Parade Of Classics will happen at noon, with the vintage track day starting immediately thereafter. For more information, call 860/923-2280 or visit ThompsonSpeedway.com. Hope to see you there.

 

 

Billy Lane Pulled It Off

Shifting Gears with Buzz Kanter

SHIFTING GEARS by Buzz Kanter

SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher

In spite of long odds Las Vegas bookies would never take, in spite of the worst Mother Nature could throw at him, in spite of countless people saying it can’t be done, in spite of struggling to get century-old racing motorcycles to even run, Billy Lane pulled it off. The first-ever Sons of Speed races in March gave a full grandstand and tens of thousands of online followers a view of motorcycle history in the making. Photos, videos, and messages from the usually low-tech New Smyrna Speedway blew up the Internet and most platforms of social media.

To everyone’s surprise and delight, Sons of Speed was a handful of guys (and a couple of very fast gals) pushing spindly old race bikes harder than they have been ridden in almost a hundred years. As one of the racers, I can tell you firsthand, it was so much more than that. If all you want to know is the winners: young Brittney Olsen captured a hard-fought first, Matt Harris a close second, Shelly Rossmeyer-Pepe third, and I managed to hold on to fourth place in the final race. If you are curious about what the event was like from a racer’s perspective, read part one of Sons of Speed starting on page 66.

We at American Iron Magazine feel fortunate to have been a small part of the inaugural Sons of Speed, an amazing event that is sure to rapidly grow in size and popularity. If you missed the first Sons of Speed races, you have two more opportunities to check out the action this year. We will be racing these old motorcycles at the Full Throttle property during the Sturgis Rally in August, and then it’s back to New Smyrna Speedway for Biketoberfest.

I know it is still a long way away, but you might want to make a note. In October, we are adding a show to the Sons of Speed parking lot for handcrafted custom and competition bikes, as well as a few select hot rods, called the Old Speed Show. More details to follow here in AIM and at www.OldSpeedShow.com.

Great Events Coming Soon
I can’t be the only one looking for interesting, motorcycle-friendly events and destinations to ride to. While there is no way I could share (or even know) about them all, here are a few in the next month or so:

Rolling Thunder in Washington, DC Sunday, May 28. Held every Memorial Day, this is a great event to honor our brave men and women in uniform. We cover this event every year in the magazine.

Greenwich Concours in Greenwich, Connecticut, June 3-4. This is a high-quality two-day show for exceptional classic and antique cars and motor-cycles. American Iron Magazine is a sponsor this year, so I will be there, and we expect some great old American street and race motorcycles on display.

Race of Gentlemen in Wildwood, New Jersey, June 9-11. This is a flashback event for classic two- and four-wheeled beach drag racers—lots of old-time fun and some great vintage race bikes and racers on the sand and in the parking lots.
Laconia Rally in and around Laconia, New Hampshire, June 10-18. One of the Big Three motorcycle rallies, Laconia is must-attend for all serious motorcycle enthusiasts.


USCRA FIM Vintage Motorcycle Road Race, New Hampshire Speedway, June 10-11. If you love classic motorcycle road racing, you need to check out this USCRA event tied in with the Laconia rally. If my schedule allows, I plan to race my 1937 Indian Sport Scout in the tank shifter class.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.

Buzz

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Sacrificial Motorcycling

Steve Lita American Iron Magazine Editor

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

Ride to Work

…making the decision to do without

I get lots of e-mails here at American Iron Magazine. Some come from readers, some from vendors and OEMs, and way too many from people who don’t have anything better to do than send out spam. But one just crossed my computer monitor that made me think. Seems a motorcycle manufacturer (a European brand that shall remain nameless, though here’s a hint: they’re known for making lots of red bikes) is promoting a new sales campaign based on the premise that you can now own a brand-new motorcycle for less than the cost of a good cup of coffee per day.

By the way, I love how they qualify what type of coffee (a “good” cup of coffee, not that cheap gas station stuff). It’s true, and they have the figures to back it up. A footnote at the end provides the supporting data. US News & World Report research shows that the average cost of a cappuccino in the US is $3.51. (I want that research dude’s job, traveling around buying cups of “good” coffee all day.) This is cappuccino we’re talking about here—after all, the company is Italian (hint #2). So with a payment plan of just $99 per month (after paying a specific down payment and $750 freight and setup fee), owning one of its motorcycles costs less than the $105.30 you would have spent on all that frothy, tasty, caffeine-laced goodness in a cup.

Sounds like a deal, right? Now comes the hard part: making the decision to do without one thing in order to have another. It happens all the time, you need to give up one thing you like, in order to get the thing you think you’ll like more. This is not the same as, say, ordering in a restaurant. “Can I have the loaded baked potato side dish instead of the creamed spinach (yuck)?” And that’s not meant to offend you creamed spinach fans out there. Giving up something you don’t like to get the one you do is a no-brainer. The sacrifice bunt in baseball is talked about often, and it benefits the team with the potential of scoring a run. The only person that doesn’t like it is the actual bunter.

So I extrapolated this idea into motorcycling, and, no, I’m not shopping for a new European bike today. But I have experienced similar tough decisions before. I see a rare, used motorcycle part on eBay, and I subsequently convince myself that I have to have it on my bike. So I immediately go to my parts sales auctions and lower the price to make them more attractive to other buyers. It’s fire-sale time. Yes, I’ll take the loss on this, to get the cash I need for that.
It’s a tradeoff. You can’t have it all—unless you’re independently wealthy and throw money around like it’s water (which reminds me of a meme I saw online: “Water is the most essential element of life, because without water, you can’t make coffee”). But even in that case, if you have both things, and it didn’t hurt to get them, then you might not value either as much as the person who gave up something valuable to get something of more value.

As riders we might give up time with family and friends to go riding, but as a result of that decision, we also have riding family and friends. So that might be a win-win situation, depending on your family. I know Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) coaches who have given up a lot of weekend riding time in order to teach new riders how to ride safely. Both are fun, and the latter is a bit of a noble cause. We give up the comfort of a warm, dry car to ride a motorcycle in the rain in order to get to a bike rally, where we’ll inevitably have a raucous time. We give up our hearing temporarily to see a Kid Rock concert at The Chip in Sturgis. I can’t really sip my morning coffee (there it is again) on the days I ride my bike to work. And I give up hauling anything larger than what can fit on my bike. Saddlebags do have their limitations.

It’s said that a man should give up three month’s salary to buy an engagement ring. I guess those guys are going without food, beer, gas, an apartment, and car insurance for a while. And they say money can’t buy you love.

Next up is deciding what to give up. Better think about this. All that shimmers is not gold. Once you have time to think about it and perform the necessary research, maybe the item you desired wasn’t a must-have after all. As for me, I’ll keep taking my regular coffee (none of that decaf stuff) with cream, no sugar. Thank you.

 

What Do We Ride?

Shifting Gears with Buzz Kanter

SHIFTING GEARS by Buzz Kanter

SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher

A car moves the body, but a motorcycle moves the soul

Do you consider your motorcycle more a form of transportation or a personal statement? I’m convinced that for most of us it’s a bit of both. Though it’s likely more of a statement, because, let’s face it, most riders in America put in more miles each year in a car or truck than on two wheels. They are cheaper to buy, easier to maintain, and work better in all sorts of weather and road conditions. But as the old saying goes, “A car moves the body, but a motorcycle moves the soul.”

Ask a dozen people why they buy and ride motorcycles, and you will likely get dozens of different answers. Mostly, we ride motorcycles because it’s fun, exciting, and different. Motorcycle riders are different. My generation was inspired by Easy Rider, Rebel Without a Cause, The Wild One, Then Came Bronson, or CHiPS. No matter what inspired us to ride, that first one was enough to get us to come back for more.

So what do we ride? Many like factory stock motorcycles the way the design team intended them. Others like to tinker and bolt on parts to personalize their bikes to match changing tastes or style. And others go for radical modifications—big-wheel baggers, stripped-down bobbers, long-fork choppers, or swoopy café racers. And let’s not forget the antique bike crowd, always searching out original parts or the next project bike. Each motorcycle has its appeal to someone.

We are all a family united by our love of riding and motorcycles. And like most families, we are a widely diverse group. Some lucky ones trade up to new Harleys or Indians every year or two. Others are waiting for those 2- or 3-year-old trade-ins so they, too, can trade up to something newer. And some ride what we can afford while dreaming about riding something newer one day.

As our motorcycle riding family ages, my question is what are we doing to encourage the next generation of riders? What are you doing to share the passion with a neighbor and to let others, young or old, experience some saddle time? If we do not encourage and mentor new riders, what’s going to happen to our motorcycles? Please send us your suggestions on how we can grow the sport of motorcycling to Letters@AmericanIronMag.com.

American Iron Special Issues
Over the years we have created some great special newsstand issues focusing on specific topics. This includes our American Glory issues that celebrated Harley’s 110th anniversary, 100th, and even 95th. Last year we published American Iron Salute, celebrating brave men and women in uniform.

The No. 1 best-selling motorcycle issue of 2016, it sold out in most stores, so we release another one later this year. On May 16th we are publishing the first issue of American Iron Power, which will be all about high-performance options and motorcycles. Look for it in the same stores that sell American Iron Magazine. Most of our magazines (even the older ones) are available to purchase at Greaserag.com.

Motorcycle Kickstart Classic
Love the look, sound, and passion of classic motorcycles? Our next Kickstart Classic ride will be in the Carolinas May 18-21, starting at Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, and ending at the AMCA meet in Denton, North Carolina. Preregistration is highly recommended at AIMag.com or call Rosemary at 203/425-8777 ext. 114.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.

Buzz

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Appeal of a Birthday Bike

Buzz Kanter, American Iron Magazine Publisher/Editor in Chief

Buzz Kanter, American Iron Magazine Publisher/Editor in Chief

Shifting Gears

An ad for a 1955 Harley Panhead For Sale

A birthday bike will transport you to amazing places. What, you might ask, is a birthday bike, and what about it attracts us old timers? A birthday bike? Yep, that’s a motorcycle from the year you were born. In my case that goes way back to 1955, two years before the first Harley Sportster hit the street and two years after the last Indian rolled out of the Springfield factory.

Not many of us are lucky enough to have birthday bikes, but I suspect most of us wish we did. When I am out riding mine, I often get plenty of questions. I know people want to hear a great story, something like my father bought it new when I was born and gave it to me when I passed my license test or that I found it neglected in a field, barn, or tag sale, bought it cheap, and got it running. Maybe I built it a piece at a time over the years from swap meet parts. My favorite is that Harley-Davidson gave it to Elvis Presley as a gift, and I stumbled on it locally many years later.

The reality is much less romantic, but still makes for a good story. I was in Daytona for Bike Week almost 20 years ago when one evening, while looking through the classifieds (remember those?) in the local newspaper, I saw an ad for a 1955 Harley Panhead for sale. Sounded interesting, so I called and left a message on the answering machine in our precell phone days. The next day I called two more times, again leaving more messages, and I repeated the process the day after that. Eventually, I figured he must have sold it and wasn’t returning phone calls.

A few days later I tried one more time, and the seller finally answered the phone. The bike was still for sale. Yes, I could come over and look at it. I dropped everything and rode over on a new review/loaner from Harley. The seller couldn’t get the Panhead to start, but I was able to. He didn’t want me to test ride it, but eventually allowed me to. It ran OK, but it had handling issues. We shook hands on a deal. The next day I trucked the bike and a lot of spare parts to my friend Jim Kelsey’s shop at the old Klassix Auto Attraction.

I carefully checked out my new prize as best I could with borrowed tools. I started with a top-to-bottom, front-to-back cleaning, complete with polish and fresh wax. I do this on bikes new to me to check them out up close and personal. I look for loose or missing items, damage, and questionable conditions. I pumped up the tires (why do so many people sell bikes with low tire pressure?), adjusted and lubed the primary and drive chains, drained and cleaned the Linkert carburetor float bowl, topped off the wet cell battery, and hooked up a charger. I checked the oil and then cleaned and greased everything that needed it. Eventually I stood back and admired my birthday bike. It cleaned up well and looked good—probably better than me!

I kicked it to life and rode it around the parking lot (no plate, so I did not dare go any farther) until I got the old Panhead up to operating temperatures. I drained and refilled the oil tank, then checked and topped off the transmission. Initially, the clutch was grabby—which I assumed was from sitting so long—but, like almost everything on that old bike, it soon improved with use. It seemed to run stronger with each lap of the parking lot.

But it still had handling issues, a bit like a long-fork chopper. So back to the garage to check wheel, fork, and steering head bearing play. I discovered the rare factory-installed adjustable fork rake for sidecar use (it was set for sidecar use!). I figured out how to change it to solo settings— voila! The handling improved remarkably.

As I stated, that was about 20 years ago. Since then I have personalized the bike with pinstriping, bolt-on accessories, and Heather’s Leathers custom seat and bags. I rode it solo for a number of years before finding and attaching a correct 1955 Harley sidecarthat it still hauls today. And there you have it: my 1955 Harley Panhead birthday bike.

If you have a similar story, we’d love for you to share it, with or without photos, for our readers to enjoy. Send your story to Letters@AmericanIronMag.com.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.

Buzz Kanter
Publisher/Editor in Chief

Crystal Ball

Steve Lita American Iron Magazine Editor

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

Ride to Work

A glimpse into what many of us will be using on a daily basis in the near future

Attending a trade show is like having a crystal ball. I am hooked on trade shows. Just name it, and I’ll try to get media credentials for it. I get to network with colleagues, see people I haven’t seen in a long time, make new contacts, see the hottest new products, and come up with ideas on how to incorporate all this cool new stuff into my motorcycle adventures and yours!

My most recent trade show was the Consumer Electronics Trade Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The timing was perfect, as it led into a motorcycle press launch in Arizona the next day. So why not get to town a little early and get my trade show fix?

The CES is primarily for the mainstream market. There are plenty of TV sets, home audio, and cellphone gadgets galore. This year there were several hot trends; 3-D printers dominated several rows of one show floor, and the catch phrase smart electronic wearables was prevalent. I didn’t spend a lot of time there, but it was amazing to see what people are dreaming up. This show is a glimpse into what many of us will be using on a daily basis in the nearfuture, and some of it is a glimpse into what your children or grandchildren will be using on a daily basis in the distant future.

I posted pictures on social media while walking around, but posting took time away from walking around and seeing the cool stuff. So, believe me, my phone is full of pictures of items you have not seen yet. Some of my favorites include the portable 12-volt air pump with a compressor and removable air storage tank, the high-mounted brake light for the back of a motorcyclist’s helmet, a motorcycle helmet headsup display, and heated shoe insoles to keep a rider’s feet toasty. Dainese was there with its inflatable motorcycle riding jacket—think of it as an airbag for bikers. And Dainese wasn’t the only one with such a product on display. Remember, companies design these products for the mainstream consumer, and an inflatable rider safety vest can protect horseback riders, skateboarders, or skiers. Several companies displayed new tire pressure monitor kits, an accessory I think no motorcycle should be without. After all, we ride on fewer tires than a car, so we need to take care of our hides. Schumacher Electric showed its new Schulink battery charger, complete with a smartphone app so you can monitor your motorcycle’s battery charge status without even stepping foot in the garage.

Cameras, both still photo and action, were abundant at the CES; watch for a 360-degree action camera coming soon. I also visited the manufacturers of many professional still cameras, because we use them so much in the magazine biz. But how about an action camera that’s built into a pair of sunglasses? CES had it. There are those smart wearable electronics buzzwords again. I hope to show you more of what I saw at CES. Watch for some product reviews in American Iron Magazine soon.

Some of the products at CES are already available, some are coming soon, and yet others are pie-in-the-sky dreams that are not in production yet, with companies gauging the public’s interest. Some of the booths were actually crowdfunded projects from new startup companies.

I had a nice conversation with the folks from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and they were happy to show me their giant cat magnet on display. Joking here, it’s a prop they used in a television commercial, a trade show foot-traffic stopper, and hilarious to look at.

Some of the items that caught my eye, which are not applicable to the motorcycle industry, include a smart walking cane for the elderly or handicapped. The cane learns the walk rate of the user and can recognize if the user is walking erratically or has fallen down, at which point it can summon help electronically. That and the polished stainless steel robotic barista making coffee were my favorite non-bike items. Now all I need is a smart, wearable, stainless steel, robotic barista that I can carry on my motorcycle, and I’ll be all set.

Sons of Speed From A Racer’s View

Professionally I am a motojournalist. For fun I am a vintage motorcycle enthusiast. And I was able to combine the two this past week at the first ever Sons of Speed race at the tail end of Daytona Bike Week. As the only journalist crazy enough to get out on a high banked race track on a 100-year-old motorcycle with no brakes, suspension, transmission or clutch, I wanted to share some of my experiences and observations here. Most journalists hang around the pits or track looking for a good story, I wanted to experience racing Sons of Speed for myself.

Buzz Kanter being interviewed with his 1915 Harley racer at the first ever Sons of Speed races at New Smyrna Speedway

I will be going into a lot more detail about the behind the scenes and actual Sons of Speed races in the pages of American Iron Magazine, but I wanted to share a bit of the story here and now.

These motorcycles are all direct drive, meaning if the engine is running, the rear wheel is spinning. So we could not practice anywhere but literally on the track. The first day of practice we all were trying to figure out how to ride the bikes and the fastest way around the track. We’d push the bike up on the high banking – often with the spearkplugs out to make pushing easier. Then we roll down the banking to spin the engine enough to start. The starting was brutal on the bike and rider as you are trying to balance the bike and get it to fire as you lift up your feet and get them on the pegs.

Rhett Rotten sliding out at the Sons of Speed practice. He broke 2 ribs and was back racing the next day

To our surprise there was only one accident on the track. And that was when Rhett Rotten, a Wall of Death rider, suffered a rear tire blow out. He and the bike slid, jumped and bounced down the track at close to 60+ mph. He broke two ribs and after a visit to the local hospital was back on the track for the races.

All the Sons of Speed racers on race day. Notice the crowded stands.

When we finally got out to race Saturday, they had us in four heat races. The plan was the winners of the four move to the finals. And the 2nd place racers in each heat raced for a spot in the main.

I am not going to go blow by blow here, but in the first heat Billy Lane jumped out at the start and took the lead with me following and two others behind me.

Buzz Kanter (white leathers) and Billy Lane (black leathers) at the Sons of Speed races.

I was able to stay within 10 bike lengths or so of Billy until the last lap when I was able to slide past him and hold the lead for the win.

Made it to the main where I was able to hold on to 4th place with Brittney Olsen taking the win with her fast bike and smooth riding. Full report with lots more photos in an upcoming issue of American Iron Magazine. If you don’t currently subscribe, do it now to make sure you get the issue with the race coverage AND save money too. SUBSCRIBE & SAVE

The Loss Of Victory

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

RIDE TO WORK

It didn’t make financial sense to keep competing against itself

Yes, that headline is meant to be an oxymoron. As of this writing, the announcement that Polaris Industries is winding down the Victory motorcycle brand is just a few days old, and the internet is ablaze with angry owners and armchair CEOs.

Thanks to a 24/7-Internet that epitomizes and encourages the pack mentality, every person that ever rode a motorcycle can chime in about which motorcycle brand builds butt-ugly bikes, how Polaris supposedly wronged its customers, and how much a person loves or hates the brand; some of these threads are peppered with “I told ya so,” thrown in for good measure. Say what you will—I highly doubt there will be a reversal of decision. As for me, I liked Victory bikes. And the only framed picture of me that my mom has sitting on a bookshelf is of me riding a Victory Magnum. But perhaps she’s biased, with me being her favorite son and all.

It’s ironic that I received the news about Victory at 7 am PST, just before my scheduled meeting with Polaris staff. The meeting started out with the staffer extending his hand and introducing himself, and as I shook his hand I said, “I’m Steve, from American Iron Magazine. What did you do to Victory?” Might as well jump right in. He delivered his response with tongue-in-cheek. “Well, more money we can now spend on Indian, I suppose.” While we both chuckled at his response, it was probably the most succinct way to sum it up. The official Polaris press release states: Several factors influenced today’s announcement. Victory has struggled to establish the market share needed to succeed and be profitable…and considering the strong performance and growth potential of Indian Motorcycle, the decision to more narrowly focus Polaris’ energy and investments became quite clear.

There it is, right there in the last sentence. One of the things that went awry, in my opinion, was Polaris competing against itself by having two brands producing premium cruisers and touring bikes under the same roof. And while efforts were made late in the game to position either brand at different points on the spectrum, Victory as the performance cruiser and Indian as the classic cruiser, offerings from both brands were cannibalizing sales from each other. Even adding an electric naked standard (whose time has not yet come) to the Victory product line wasn’t enough to separate the product selections. After all, how many customers can afford to buy two new cruisers from the same company?

I’ve noticed a similar trend in my industry—print magazines. There are some publishing companies out here who are competing against themselves. While some titles get stronger, others weaken. The fortunate thing is that the cost of a magazine subscription isn’t a financial heartache for the consumer, so, hopefully, people can subscribe to more than one.

Early in my career, I shuffled through pages of parts books (remember when parts books were printed on paper?) as a GM dealer parts counterman. The catalog would designate which car line the part was used for: CBOP, which stood for Chevy, Buick, Olds, Pontiac. Yep, the very same parts were used to build seemingly identical cars and were being sold across the street from each other in competing dealerships. I often wondered why. Not too long ago, it didn’t make financial sense to keep competing against itself, and GM “right-sized” itself by eliminating several brands. Personally, I don’t know why Pontiac or Olds had to go. I would have killed off Buick and GMC. (How is a GMC any better or different than a Chevy?)

There are probably more reasons why the Victory brand was not victorious, certainly more than this column can adequately cover. Sadly, some folks will lose their jobs over this. But I’ve been told layoffs were kept to a minimum by transferring employees to other divisions within Polaris, and most being dismissed were temporary labor. If this move will allow the parent company to concentrate on beating the competition, its true competition, sustaining fiscal viability, and caring for its core employees, then it was the move that had to be made. Another snippet from the official press release states: Our focus is on profitable growth… fostering long-term growth and increased shareholder value.

Still, I’d hate to be the guy who suggested winding down Victory in a boardroom as a means of making the company stronger.

Steve Lita
Editor

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Black Leather, Loud Pipes, And Trouble?

Shifting Gears with Buzz Kanter

SHIFTING GEARS by Buzz Kanter

SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher

Our job is to educate and entertain our readers

Hollywood movie makers, a handful of video game programmers, and even some of the media seem to think that all motorcycle riders plow through towns with blaring exhaust notes, stirring up problems, and leaving behind a mess. Does that sum up who we are? You and I know otherwise. We know about the generous, patriotic, and caring nature of most motorcyclists. We know about the charitable Christmastime toy runs benefitting less fortunate kids. We know about the fund-raisers for local riders in need. We know about galvanizing charity rides such as The Patriot Ride, Kyle Petty Charity Ride, The Dream Ride, dozens of MDA rides, and cancer survivor and veteran support rides.

OK, so some of us might look and sound scary to nonriders, especially when we gather in numbers like we do in Daytona this time of year. But let me share an observation I have made at every Bike Week I have attended, going back to the 1970s. It’s a secret most visitors aren’t aware of: Daytona locals love bikers. Ask the waitresses, hotel managers, and retailers, and they will tell you we are their favorite group of visitors. The locals report that bikers are friendlier and more polite than the racecar fans, hot rodders, and spring breakers—especially the spring breakers. We don’t overcrowd or trash hotel rooms. We don’t skip out on bills. And we tip our servers better, too.

While on the topic of Daytona Bike Week, I sure hope you get a chance to see Billy Lane and a handful of other motorcycle daredevils make history. I’m referring to the Sons of Speed race at the New Smyrna Speedway on March 17 and 18. You can learn more about this first-time event in his article about my 1915 Harley racer on page 100 in this issue. I hope to see you there.

One last highlight in regards to Bike Week: this is the 347th issue of American Iron Magazine, the first one went on sale at Daytona Bike Week 1989, and TAM Communications bought American Iron Magazine the week before Daytona Bike Week 1991. We’d like to thank everyone who has helped and supported us. Our crew simply could not do what we do without you.

Want More Motorcycle Tech?
Every four weeks our hard-working team has to pump out another issue of American Iron Magazine—13 times a year. And we squeeze in the best possible mix of editorial in each issue. This includes new bike and product reviews, tech and how-to, motorcycle news, custom and classic bike features, plus occasional tours and event coverage. Over the years, we discovered that some of our readers can’t ever seem to get enough of our DIY tech, while others may not be as eager to jump to tech pieces.

If you are one of those who quickly rip through the tech and how-to in our flagship American Iron Magazine and still want more, we now also publish six issues of our all-tech American Iron Garage. Frankly, I don’t know how our team keeps up this pace, but I am sure glad they do. Want more tech? Pick up a copy of American Iron Garage from your favorite newsstand, or you can save a bunch of money and subscribe by calling 877/204-0774.

RIP Victory
As we prepared to ship this issue to the printer, we got the news that after investing 18 years of blood, sweat, and gears, Polaris is shutting down Victory. While this is not a complete surprise,
I am sad that we are losing another great American motorcycle brand. I can understand why those who own Victory motorcycles, putting thousands of miles on them, really love the product.

I spoke with some senior Polaris management, and they assured me they can now put more resources into further growing the Indian brand. I hate to oversimplify it, but this is a matter of Polaris consolidating motorcycle resources for the benefit of one brand instead of diluting them over two. I will miss Victory, but I am curious about what Polaris can now do with the Indian family.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.

Buzz

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Everybody Has One

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

RIDE TO WORK

There was a difference of opinion of epic proportions

There’s a funny cliché: I hope my widow doesn’t sell my bikes for what I told her I paid for them. And, of course, there are variations on that theme: cars, tools, snowmobiles, rare beer can collections—just fill in the blank. Last weekend I attended an estate sale of a gentleman who fancied himself a motorcycle mechanic and rare beer can collector. After scrounging through piles of what I would describe as junk, I found a few morsels and set about the dance of negotiating with the guy’s heirs. The not-so-lucky family members tasked with liquidating what they also described as junk were the man’s widow and daughter.

If you read my writing in American Iron Magazine, you may have figured out a few things about me. I like swap meets, I like auctions, I like finding cool old parts and tools. And more than that, like most people, I like getting a smokin’ deal on stuff. I spoke with the daughter who was a bit overwhelmed with the task of cleaning out the house. I mentioned that she would probably get the maximum dollar for things if she held an auction; pitting  several (or, at least, two) people in the crowd against each other, bidding for an item, would financially benefit her family the most. Her response was that she didn’t know how to go about it, and just wanted to get rid of all this stuff. I asked her for prices, and she asked for offers. And so started the dance.

When I’m confronted with this samba at a swap meet, you better believe I start way low. The worst that can happen is the seller says no. But I wouldn’t want it to appear that I was taking advantage of anyone in this situation. After all, she has already suffered, having just lost her dad. I gave what I considered a fair offer. She consulted with a friend more knowledgeable about motorcycles, and he thought I was only off by five or ten bucks. So we were in the same ballpark. Less than 10 seconds later, I was counting off a few bills and she was thanking me for coming. All good.

Just a few feet away, her mother was arguing with a guy who was dickering on some chain binders. Mom was asking the daughter to look up the price of new chain binders on her cellphone-internet gizmo and wanted to base her price on the results. The ones in question were undoubtedly not new. There was a difference of opinion of epic proportions. I’m not sure if that guy got the chain binders he wanted, and I’m not sure if she got retail price, as I had walked away from the uncomfortable situation.

My point is, often times there are differences of opinions. It’s true among families, friends, relationships, the motorcycle hobby, presidential elections, and life in general. You might think your bike is the coolest thing ever! I mean, James Dean and Steve McQueen got nothin’ on you! But everyone walked by your bike parked on Main Street in Daytona without giving it a second look. What was wrong with them? Are they blind?

I once attended the local Sunday morning breakfast bike gathering, and after a while I saw a group of guys gathered around my bike. So, I walked back and just stood there, silent. Some guys were complimenting it, and some were slamming it. One guy posed a question, “Where did the owner get those handlebars?” It was then that a buddy of mine spoiled my fun and said, “Why don’t you ask him? He’s standing right behind you.” You don’t know somebody’s true opinion unless you have a hidden camera.

I recently posted pictures of a new American-made V-twin motorcycle, the Vanguard, on Facebook from the New York International Motorcycle Show. Everybody was quick to voice his opinion and criticize. My first reaction was “some will love it, others might not.” It’s an American-made, V-twin-powered, high-tech motorcycle, from a new company that is going to try to make it in this business. We will cover it in American Iron Magazine. Might not be your cup of tea, but you have to give them credit for trying. So, if you were one of the naysayers, I guess Vanguard doesn’t see things the same way you do. What? Are they blind?

Steve Lita
Editor

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