Kill the Wabbit, Please

Cal's ValkyrieA friend proudly put a picture of his Honda Valkyrie on Facebook the other day. We, in jest (I hope) had a few words about his opinion and mine regarding this chrome-laden hippo bike. When the Valkyrie first came out, in 1996,I thought it was the butt-uglist motorcycle ever produced by anyone, including the gods of ugly; Harley. It arrived in a variety of horrific paint schemes, all Harley-replica stuff, and every year until 2003 when Honda quit puking out these damn things it got uglier. I didn’t know, until recently, that the Valkyrie was a US-made Honda, from Marysville, OH. Figures. They probably coudn’t find any Japanese tasteless enough to work on it.

There is only one thought that comes into my mind when I see a Valkyrie, usually stationary with a “for sale” sign duct-taped to the windshield.


This one is pretty good, too.

I wish I could claim this as an original thought, but the credit belongs to a friend, Brett Rihanek, who spontaneously made the connection the second he saw the first Valkyrie ad.

Regardless, the Honda Valkyrie is still the posterchild for all of the gross Boomer hippobike excess that led up to the Great Recession and the current motorcycle downturn. 720 pounds of blubbering, over-complicated (six 28mm carbs?), waddling incapacity. You can not go anywhere on this motorcycle you couldn’t travel more comfortably in every cage ever built. To put a cap on the grossness, Honda topped their ugly-fest with the Valkyrie Rune. This POS goes so far beyond ugly that I don’t have a category for it.

2004-honda-valkyrie-rune-34_600x0w

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Licensed Non-Riders

One of the many ridiculous facts pertaining to our idiotic motorcycle licensing system in the “freedumb” USA is that once you obtain a motorcycle endorsement you can keep the damn thing forever without even riding a motorcycle once you receive the endorsement. Apparently, 8 million non-riders in the USA are in that category. 8 million bozos are ready and barely-able to swing a leg over a 110 cubic-inch Hardly simply because they once passed (even if they barely managed that on a 125cc training bike). Holy crap.

Even worse, Hardly wants to capitalize on that by convincing that marginally-abled crowd of “sleeping license-holders” to jump in front of a moving train after getting a second mortgage on their homes to buy a chrome-laden suicide machine. According to an article titled, “Millions of people have a motorcycle license but don’t own a bike,” ”Harley has a goal of attracting 2 million new U.S. riders over the next 10 years, a tall order considering it would represent a 25% increase in the total number of motorcycles registered in the nation.” You know me, I’m all for population reduction any way it can happen (as long as no innocent cats, dogs, hawks, eagles, crocodiles, or elephants are harmed in the filming of this catastrophe), but this is downright hilarious.

Stuff like this is why I believe motorcycle training is totally back-asswards. It’s pretty obvious that training beginning riders is a pointless, stupid idea from the perspective of a society trying to reduce the $22.6B in medical costs due to motorcycle crashes. Society has absolutely no reason to want to train beginning motorcyclists, with the obvious idea that the more butts put on motorcycle seats the more money it will cost society. However, once someone has decided to get licensed and buy a donor-cycle, society has every motivation to be sure that person is as unlikely as possible to contribute to that $22.6B. Which means that every time a motorcycle license comes due it should NOT be renewed without some evidence of recent (3-6 months, for example) advanced rider training. Not that silly MSF Intermediate Rider bullshit, either. I mean some kind of skill-demanding, road-speed advanced training like the MMSC/MSF “advanced” or “expert” rider courses.

Couple that training with a serious helmet law (no DOT head-pot bullshit, but full face, Snell-approved or nothing) and we’re beginning to talk about an actual attempt to drag US motorcycling into the 20th Century. Once we’ve made it that far, we might even head toward an actual 21st Century system of tiered licensing and a real inital rider’s test.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Foolish Motorcycle Stuff

The stock market gurus, the Motley Fool, had some foolish motorcycle statistics on their website in March. The title is a typically Wall Street puffed-up piece pretending to be a big surprise and delivering a little wisp of new information. It’s interesting to see some of what outsiders consider to be surprising, though.

https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/03/05/7-motorcycle-statistics-thatll-floor-you.aspx

12 Motorcycle Statistics That’ll Floor You

The facts that explain the changing face of the motorcycle industry and those who support it.
Motorcycles have come a long way since 1885, when Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach built the first one in Germany. Called the reitwagen, or riding car, its engine had 0.5 horsepower and a top speed of 11 kilometers per hour. Fourteen years later, the first production bike was made by Hildebrand and Wolfmuller featuring a two-cylinder engine that produced 2.5 horsepower and topped out at 45 kph.


Today’s motorcycles are obviously more powerful iron horses. Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG) recently unveiled its new Milwaukee-Eight engine that, on the 114 cubic inch high-end model model, has four valves per head and produces over 100 horsepower.

The industry has grown over the past 132 years serving a much more diverse crowd of riding enthusiasts. Although bike makers have struggled to recover from the financial-market meltdown a decade ago, here are 13 additional facts from the Motorcycle Industry Council that will blow you away.


1. Sales gains are fleeting.
There were 573,000 new motorcycles sold in 2015, up slightly from the prior year, but sales are expected to have declined around 2.1% in 2016.


2. Harley is still hogging sales.
Harley-Davidson accounted for 29.3% of all new motorcycle sales in the U.S. in 2015, followed by Honda Motors at 14%, and Yamaha at 13%. Polaris Industries (NYSE:PII) represented just 4.4% of total sales that year with its Indian and Victory brands. Yet Harley reported at the end of January, and 2016 U.S. sales fell 3.9% and were down globally 1.6%. Polaris, on the other hand, said its sales were up 1%, with Indian Motorcycle enjoying mid-20% growth.

3. Gang of eight.
Eight manufacturers represented 81% of all U.S sales in 2015. In addition to the four manufacturers above, Kawasaki, KTM, Suzuki, and BMW round out the list.


4. Going back to Cali.
California had the most new motorcycle sales, at 78,610, or 13.7% of the total. The next closest state was Florida, at 41,720, followed by Texas, with 41,420 new bikes sold. Despite being home to the annual motorcycle pilgrimage of Sturgis, South Dakota sold only 2,620 new bikes in 2015.

Two motorcycle riders on wide open road
IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

5. Wide open spaces.
Even though California topped all states in new bike sales, because it is also the most populous state, its sales work out to just 2.9 bikes per 100, below the national average of 3.2 bikes per 100 people. Wyoming, with 7.0 motorcycles per 100 people, has the most. As a result, there are fewer bikes in the east, with 2.9 per 100, and most in the midwest, with 3.4.


6. Changing makeup of riders.
Women represented 14% of all motorcycle owners in 2014, up from 6% in 1990 and 10% in 2009. It may be one of the most telling figures in why Harley is struggling; its core customer of middle-aged males has fallen from 94% of the motorcycle-owning population in 2009 to 86% in 2014. It’s also part of the reason Harley introduced its Street 500 and 750 models, and Polaris came out with its Scout and Scout Sixty models to appeal to these riders newer to the market. However, IHS Automotive data says Harley-Davidson still has a 60.2% share of women riders.

7. A graying market.
The median age of the typical motorcycle owner is 47, up from 32 in 1990 and 40 in 2009. And although its sales are slipping, Harley maintains a 55.1% share of the 35 and older male rider demographic. However, more troubling for the industry is the decline in riders under 18, which has fallen from 8% in 1990 to 2%, and those between 18 and 24 from 16% of the total down to 6%. Where will the new bike buyers come from if the industry is not attracting these younger people?


8. The great escape.
Married riders comprise 61% of motorcycle owners, up from 57% in 1990.


9. Becoming a wealthy pursuit.
Some 24% of motorcycle owner households earned between $50,000 and $74,999 in 2014, and as much as 65% earned $50,000 or more. The the median household income was $62,200.


10. And well-educated.
72% of motorcycle owners have received at least some college or post-graduate education, and almost as many (71%) were employed. Some 15% were retired.


11. Most weren’t off-roading.
Of all the new motorcycles sold in the U.S. in 2015, 74% were on-highway bikes, and the 8.4 million motorcycles that were registered in U.S. the year before was more than double the number in 1990. Motorcycles, in fact, represented 3% of total vehicle registrations.


12. Motorcycles do their part.
The motorcycle industry contributed $24.1 billion in economic value in 2015 via sales, services, state taxes paid, and licensing fees, and it employed 81,567 people.


AUTHOR
Rich Duprey Rich Duprey (TMFCop)

Rich has been a Fool since 1998 and writing for the site since 2004. After 20 years of patrolling the mean streets of suburbia, he hung up his badge and gun to take up a pen full time.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Crashing and Talking About Crashing

Here’s where we are in Minnesota, as of the end of July (Some corrections to these numbers will probably surface in August, but it won’t get better. Not all counties and municipalities report crashes quickly.)

2017 Minnesota Rider Deaths Statistics

Helmet use

  • 4 riders killed were wearing a helmet.
  • 22 riders killed were not wearing a helmet.
  • It’s unknown if 4 riders were wearing a helmet or not.

Single-vehicle crashes vs. Multi-vehicle crashes

  • 12 of the crashes involved only the motorcycle
  • 16 of the crashes involved a motorcycle and another vehicle

Motorcycle vs. deer

  • 4 of the crashes involved a motorcycle colliding with a deer.

Passengers killed

  • 3 passenger have died in a motorcycle crash

Motorcycle License Endorsement

  • 25 of the operators had a valid motorcycle license endorsement or permit.
  • 2 of the operators did not have a valid motorcycle license endorsement or permit.
  • It’s unknown if one of the riders had valid motorcycle license endorsement or permit.

Negotiating a curve

  • 9 of the crashes happened while motorcyclists were negotiating a curve.

Rider deaths by age:

  • Under 20: 1
  • 20’s: 6
  • 30’s: 1
  • 40’s: 6
  • 50’s: 10
  • 60’s: 5
  • 70’s: 1
  • 80’s: –

Rural vs. urban area

  • 14 of the crashes happened in a rural area.
  • 12 of the crashes happened in an urban area.
  • 2 of the crashes is unknown.

Registered Motorcycles Drop

The number of registered motorcycles declined by 10,000 from 2015 to 2016 after being stagnate for the previous four years.

The Mostly Useless Motorcycle Safety Advisory Task Force

ST. PAUL — Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman has reappointed, Frank Ernst, Debra Heisick, Natonia Johnson, Mark Koon, Monte Ohlrogge, Dwight Smith, Bob Swenson, Tim Walker, David Weeres and Geoffrey Wyatt, and appointed new members, Tracey Lynne Armstrong, Jonathon Paul Fernholz, Bridget Karp, David Nei and Dean Nelson to the Motorcycle Safety Advisory Task Force.  Their appointments run through June 30, 2019.

There is no information listed as to whose interests these “representatives” represent. You’d think police, MNHP, dealers, MMSC coaches and the private training sector, daily commuters, MNDOT engineers, and actual representatives of Minnesota motorcyclists would be in this mix. However, it’s usually just the ABATE pirate crowd and their only input is “no helmet laws,” criminalize anyone who hits a motorcyclist in an intersection and ignore the majority of motorcycle crashes that are the fault of motorcyclists, and DO NOT EVER talk about motorcycle noise.

Supposedly, this group “will focus on three areas:  motorcycle rider training, motorcycle rider testing and licensing, and public information and media relations.” If history is any indicator, media relations will be a bigger topic than anything useful.

2017 Toward Zero Deaths Conference

This might be an opportunity for non-ABATE bar-hoppers to have some input into the state’s motorcycle safety. planning. The “Minnesota’s Toward Zero Deaths” traffic safety initiative. You can find a little more information about the conference at http://www.minnesotatzd.org/events/conference/2017/index.html. Registration is $95 for a two-day conference, “including breakfast, lunch, and a reception.” I scanned the website and can’t find any evidence that motorcycles are even discussed in the conference, but it’s possible we might come up since we accounted for 15% of 2015’s Minnesota traffic deaths (the latest data on MNDOT’s site).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bait and Switch

A while back an acquaintance who has worked in motorcycling’s retail and marketing deadzone for the last decade or more tried to tell me that the industry had spent huge bucks and tons of effort trying to find motorcycles that Millennials might buy. I admit that I don’t monitor the industry the way I once did, but I have not seen any sort of serious attempt to either figure out what the next generation of American motorcyclists might buy or to sell that generation on motorcycling. Likewise, there hasn’t been much to attract my attention, either.

r3Today was supposed to be that sort of opportunity with their 2017 Yamaha Street Motorcycle Dealer Demo Event at River Valley Power & Sport. It was raining when I left, but there had been one pass of the bike test rides down my street, so I knew it was going on. I was interested in the R3, which was supposed to be one of the test bikes. I got there right after the first group returned. No R3. I asked one of the Yamaha guys if I’d just missed it and was told that quite a few people had asked about the R3, but Yamaha and the dealer had decided to load up Yamaha’s “new” edition of the classic hippobike, the Venture. 2018-yamaha-star-venture-motorcycle-preview-1Supposedly, there was a waiting list of buyers for this blimp, but I doubt that. There were some geezerly folks there to test ride the Venture, but there were always a few unridden spares, leaving one Venture behind would have freed up space that could have held at least two R3 bikes. Unfortunately for me, there was nothing else in the lineup that I wanted to ride.

Once again, the draw of the Boomer big buck buyer displaced new riders and riders who aren’t just looking for something to take up space at the back of the garage.

IMG_8411IMG_8412IMG_8413IMG_8414IMG_8415IMG_8416IMG_8417IMG_8418IMG_8419IMG_8420IMG_8421

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Grand Assumptions

too-many_minds 4When I was a kid, growing up in western Kansas, I assumed that everybody knew how to ride a horse. I did, after all, and I was a “city kid” and most of the people I knew were city kids and all of them rode a horse at some time or another, I assumed. I had an uncle who had a large eastern Kansas ranch and who kept horses, a lot of horses. I started riding horses when I was about five and kept at it until I was in my mid-twenties. When I moved to Dallas, Texas in the late-60’s, I discovered practically no one in that city had ever seen a horse outside of television. I was practically considered a “cowboy” because of my hometown and the fact that I knew how to saddle and ride a horse.

2012-Nissan-Frontier-4X4-PRO4X-dash-viewNow, I take more than a little crap from the fact that I own a manual transmission pickup, one of the last made and sold in the US: a Nissan Frontier. “Nobody” drives a manual anymore.” It’s almost true. Fewer than 3% of cars and trucks sold in the US have manual transmissions. Ten years ago, half of the vehicles sold had manual transmissions, especially trucks. It won’t be long before the only people who know anything about shifting gears will be motorcyclists and even that could change quickly. Scooters have always been “automatic” shifters and some motorcycles are going that way, too. My wife tolerates our pickup, but she has decided she wants a mini-van with an automatic transmission and all of the extras. My driving days are numbered and I’m not complaining. Part of the deal we made with the pickup was that I’d keep driving as long as we had it. When we go back to an automatic transmission vehicle, I’m moving to passenger-only status. It’s not a punishment for her, but a reward for me after driving more than a million miles in my lifetime, I’m opting out.

Some people believe that possessing a driver’s license is an important thing. A rapidly increasing number of Americans disagree. “Among young adults, the declines are smaller but still significant—16.4 percent fewer 20-to-24-year-olds had licenses in 2014 than in 1983, 11 percent fewer 25-to-29-year-olds, 10.3 percent fewer 30-to-34-year-olds, and 7.4 percent fewer 35-to-39-year-olds. For people between 40 and 54, the declines were small, less than 5 percent.” Owning a car and driving are less important in urban areas and are becoming less important in small-to-mid-sized cities. Red Wing, for example, has a terrific bus service that will pick me up at my driveway. It’s only 3 miles to downtown from my near-edge-of-the-city home, so walking or bicycling makes a lot more sense than driving about 90% of the time to go downtown. Getting to the Cities is more complicated, but not impossible. Amtrak has a daily “shuttle run” to the Cities, even though the times are weirdly inconvenient. There is talk of a “Red Rock Corridor” rail that would connect Red Wing and other Mississippi Valley cities to the Twin Cities. If that happens, even these rural areas1 could see a drop in car ownership.

automated_carsIn 2017, it might seem impossible to imagine a future where most people don’t drive their own cars. In 1900 it was pretty impractical to imagine a future where most people didn’t own a horse. In 1960, it was difficult to imagine a future where most Americans didn’t own an American-made car. In 2030, it could be hard to believe that people once drove cars, rather than simply instructed their autonomous vehicle to take them to a destination while they relaxed, read, did homework or work-work, or yakked on the phone. By 2050, it is entirely possible that the only people who will “drive” their own vehicle will be the ultra-rich, since they will be the only people who can afford the liability insurance. Imagine that.

1 An unanticipated effect of this shift would likely be even more abandonment of the rural areas, fewer resources for small towns and disconnected areas of even high population states like California, and more electoral catestrophes like the 2016 election unless the Electoral College idiocy is addressed. Not all Future Shock stresses are desireable or healthy. They just happen and we react as if “nobody knew it would be this complicated.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Cycle of Life

_grandloopSo, a few years ago, this was the only camping vehicle I needed or wanted. I could go anywhere I wanted, any time I got the time to go somewhere, without worrying about anything from someone else’s schedules to what the roads are like where I wanted to go. The WR with my Giant Loop gear was the perfect touring vehicle at the time.

20140704_142353Then, I retired. We bought an RV. Ok, I bought an RV, but I did it because my wife wanted a few adventures now that I wasn’t working a bizillion hours a week. I mean this was a serious months long nag that finally convinced me to look for an RV that would hold both of us, that my wife might drive (since I still hate driving four-wheel anythings), and that could tow a trailer for bicycles and the WR. Being the dumbass I am, I picked the Winnebago Rialta you see at right. I wrote a whole series of rants about how awful that played out.

2016-02-16 Blizzard & RVSo, we sold the Rialta and decided to downsize and move to someplace less noisy than Little Canada and our beloved I35E backyard noise generator. We moved to Red Wing, downsized about 1600 square feet, from 2700 to 1100, lost about 35dB of average noise, Still with a jones for traveling, she decided we needed to “seperate our camping house from our vehicle,” so we bought a pickup with towing capability and a camper trailer. And there it sat, wind, rain, snow, heat, and rince and repeat for two years. This week, we finally got the damn thing out on the road, mostly to practice backing it up and parking it. She wanted nothing to do with any part of the process and decided the whole camper experiment had been a mistake. I concur.

_grandloopSo, we’re going to put the camper up for sale. Maybe, buy a minivan for short haul camping trips (that we’ll probably never take), and we haven’t decided if we’re keeping the pickup. Since I sold the bike trailer, we might hang on to the pickup and ramps. In the meantime, I’m back to my original camping rig and other than all of the hassle involved between then and now, I’m ok with that.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment