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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

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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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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Forced Integration

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

RIDE TO WORK

This is where you learn that FedEx is your friend

In this issue I’d like to tell you about an important lesson I’ve learned recently. Actually, I learned the lesson long ago, but somehow I keep forgetting it, and life has to give me a refresher course from time to time.

Even though we are showing the second part of the Daytona Bike Build story in this issue, the bike is actually done. By the time you read this, it will be on display in Daytona Beach, Florida: completed, painted, running, and looking great. My oft-forgotten lesson is this: whenever you are working on a bike and mixing parts from different manufacturers, it’s a smart idea to trial-fit the parts to make sure they all interact well. Sounds simple, right?

You know the feeling—you get a box of cool new parts or gadgets and your excitement level is heightened. This might not be overwhelming, but it gets your heart rate up. Fact is, now is the time to see if those new parts will play nice with all the other stuff on the bike or stuff you’re planning to install. Building a motorcycle is an integrated process. And sometimes different brand products have to be modified to properly work with each other.

It never fails; deadlines seem to exacerbate any problems with cohesive fit. And the closer you are to a deadline, the more you’ll find difficulty in properly installing these dissimilar parts. Soon you realize things aren’t going as smoothly as you see on Discovery Channel. This is where you learn that FedEx is your friend.

For example, that extended clutch cable you installed on the aftermarket transmission sidecover might not be the right length for the tall bars you also installed, even though the catalog said it was. Those driving lights that the website said would fit? Yeah, they don’t. You can bet the stock hardware won’t be the correct length for the new parts you’re installing, so it’s time to get to know the hardware store attendant on a first name basis. And the chances of one brand of brake caliper working with another brand of brake disc, on a different brand of wheel, wrapped in yet another brand of fender? Well, those things all working together would be a huge long shot. So, out comes the die grinder, and fiberglass dust starts to fly.

I once heard a story about the development of a new, mid-1980’s, American-made automobile. Somewhere there was a manufacturing engineer who wouldn’t let departments talk to each other during the development phase. The carburetor guy wasn’t allowed to talk to the engine builder. The wheel designer wasn’t allowed to speak with the brake team. And the transmission crew wasn’t allowed to interact with the chassis department. “Just mind your own business, and stick to the blueprint” was his slogan. Seems that the first batch of cars off the assembly line didn’t start, run, or drive under their own power. Again, disconnect within the integration.

And this dilemma of integration occurs not only in the construction of motorcycles. Here at TAM Communications, we actually build something different: magazines. For example, this issue of American Iron Magazine almost had three Road Glide features. While compiling stories I hadn’t realized the duplication. And we figured our readers might revolt at the sight of lopsided magazine content (except for the Road Glide owners out there). But when the error was discovered, we made editorial changes to have more diverse content. Point is that it’s all about picking things that work well with each other. And if they don’t, you need to massage things out until they do work.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then a looming deadline and ill-fitting parts are the fathers of harsh words, lost sleep, and, ultimately, modification. Trust me, a few minutes spent test-fitting parts will not be wasted time. Even if the parts fit well, the peace of mind will be worth the effort. Especially just before deadline!

Steve Lita
Editor

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‘Tis the Season

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

RIDE TO WORK, By Steve Lita, Editor

“…thinking about what will be here before we know it: winter’s icy grip”

A few weekends ago was the first weekend I didn’t have to keep the air conditioning on in the house. But, unfortunately, the pendulum seems to have swung pretty fast, as it was only 45 degrees when I left this morning to come to work. The temps are dropping and leaves are turning. Seems like we went from sticky, hot summer to brisk, cool autumn, and we skipped the whole sleep-with-the-windows-open season here in New England this year. Maybe it’s that. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been entertaining myself lately with online social media jabs at a friend of mine who’s moving from Southern California to nearby Rhode Island. I’d say he’s in for a surprise when he tries to take an early morning ride on his motorcycle over the next few weeks.

I also bought a used motorcycle this past weekend, sight-unseen (I know, not very smart, but I had to have it). When I arrived to pick it up, I noticed a short 110-volt electrical cord sticking out from under the frame. My first thought? It reminded me of the old fashioned block heater cords I used to see on diesel trucks. Once I got the new project home I dug a little deeper into the mysterious power cord and found a Sears trickle charger hardwired to the battery. The unit was small enough to be tucked into a storage area adjacent to the battery, and I thought, what a great idea. It will eliminate workbench clutter when the bike is in storage for the offseason, and it only adds a pound or two to the bike, which isn’t a big deal. And all this gets me thinking about what will be here before we know it: winter’s icy grip.

While some readers might never feel our New England winter’s deep freeze, I’m sure plenty of you still feel the stinging pain on early morning rides even in the Midwest or southern states. So, instead of running a separate tech story about prepping your bike for winter storage or winter riding tips, I’ve decided to share a few of my favorite pointers here.

For those putting away a bike for the winter, you’ve already heard my first tip, tend to your battery. If your garage is somewhat insulated, you can probably get away with trickle charging your bike’s battery while it’s still mounted on the bike. Otherwise, remove the battery and store it indoors with a maintenance charger on it.

I like to fill my bike’s fuel tank with quality premium grade gas and mix in some stabilizer to keep the fuel from turning sour. Run your bike on this mixture for a last ride, and if the bike is carbureted, turn the petcock off and run the engine until the carb is dry.

Park the bike with the tires on small squares of carpeting to help prevent flat spotting, or, if you have the room, raise the bike off the ground and keep the tires off the ground completely.
Another winter prep I perform is not done on the bike, but rather to the garage. Set some mouse traps to keep the little critters from making a feast of your bike’s wiring harness. I don’t know how they can find copper wiring insulation appetizing, but I’ve seen several bikes ruined by common field mice. Also, plug the exhaust outlet(s) with a squishy rubber ball to keep moisture and the aforementioned mice out.

If you’re fortunate enough to keep riding year round, you’ll probably need some extra layers to keep out the cold. Some of my favorites are silk glove liners, often found in the skiing department of sporting goods stores. Silk is a wonderful insulator, and the liners are super soft and thin. Flannel-lined jeans are wonderful, and it feels like you’re wearing pajamas all day. If my neck gets cold when I’m riding, my day is done. So I’m a big fan of neck gaiters and quilted/lined bandanas. Most motorcycle shops can get these for you, or try FierceFaceProtection.net. Finally, stuff a few hunter hand warmer packets in your pants pocket. If you have any suggestions of your own, share them with us by writing to Letters@AmericanIronMag.com. I know what to get my relocating riding buddy for Christmas: a snow shovel. He’s probably never seen one before. AIM

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