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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