In the always weird and terrifying Craig’s List world, this might be the weirdest yet, solidly belonging in the WTF? category.
In the always weird and terrifying Craig’s List world, this might be the weirdest yet, solidly belonging in the WTF? category.
|Peter Lenz, center, poses with mechanic Will Eikenberry, Dylan Code, Misti Hurst, and Keith Code. Lenz died at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.|
[Should that be “Kill the Wabbit, Pweese?”]
A 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.
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.
For the last 16 years, I’ve concluded every motorcycle safety class with a bit about the insurance companies that offer discounts for taking the classes. A couple of weekends ago, I took the MMSC’s MN Expert Rider Course and the lead instructor told us that GEICO, Progressive, and a few other companies offer a discount for every training course a rider takes. This morning, I called GEICO to update their records on me and ask for the additional discount.
What I learned was something completely different from what I’ve been saying for the last 16 years. Not only did I not recieve an additional discount for the Expert Rider Course, but I haven’t even been receiving a discount for being an instructor because I haven’t notified GEICO that my instructor certification had been re-upped in the last couple of years. It turns out that the ONLY people who get a discount credit for “training” are instructors. At least, that’s true with GEICO.
Now, I’m wondering if any insurance companies still give discounts for taking the class? As instructors, we don’t get much feedback on some of the things we’ve been taught to say during the classes. I’ve heard hints from students, especially Intermediate Rider Course students (used to be the “Experienced Rider Course”) that their insurance company didn’t give any sort of discount for the BRC. I’ve checked up on this over the years on the Web, but that information has been inconclusive and contradictory. So, now I’m even more confused than usual.
I did learn that a couple of companies have discontinued motorcycle insurance in various states that do not have helmet laws.
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.
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.
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
Single-vehicle crashes vs. Multi-vehicle crashes
Motorcycle vs. deer
Motorcycle License Endorsement
Negotiating a curve
Rider deaths by age:
Rural vs. urban area
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).
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.
Today 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. Supposedly, 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.
So, 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.
Then, 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.
So, 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.
So, 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.
One of my favorite things about Mount Rushmore is the statements the Park Service selected from each of those Presidents. George Washington’s words are, probably, my favorite, “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.” Life and democracy are just a series of experiments, some successful and some not so much. Anyone who has ever worked in a lab of any sort knows that you just move on when an experiment fails.
So, with that background in mind, I think the MIC has been clueless in its sudden approach to find new customers. I’ve been saying, for almost 20 years, that new riders will not be the same people as the old riders. The Hardly/biker/gangbanger crowd are old, white, poor, and stupid. They are, literally, on the way out; and good riddance. Their redneck replacements will be even more poor, dumber, and will satisfy themselves with the old stock easily found on practically every block in the country. Harley stock-piled bikes in warehouses, dealers’ lots, and in the garages of wanna-be yuppies who are so underwater on their chrome toys that they’ll never see dry land again. In the meantime, those “nicest people” Honda once convinced to buy motorcycles have moved on to other things. In Sound Familiar?, my last post, I ridiculed the traditional approach the MIC is taking to try to cling to the biker business in spite of the fact that bikers are about as trendy and hip as Disco Dan. A local Red Wing motorcyclists’ Google group I sometimes follow was on a similar subject, based on that Bloomberg article and the fact that internal combustion powered vehicles are losing ground faster than expected.
One member seemed to think electric motorcycles are a joke and that my suggestion that motorcycling advocates try to seperate motorcycle licensing from cage licenses was ridiculous. “I'm envisioning an electric moped running the ironbutt rally. Pulling a trailer full of batteries. Picking up fresh batteries every 100 miles.
“Not to mention that a driver's license is much more than a license to drive, but also establishes residency, personal identification and even implied nationality.
“In my opinion, it makes sense to learn to drive in a car. Protected by a cage, one can learn traffic patterns etc without the undue risk associated with a bad/inexperienced decision on an MC.”
Since the Iron Butt is probably the ultimate motorcycling conspicuous consumption event, 1000 miles a day for no reason other than to burn fuel and attempt suicide-by-deer, I don't think many motorcyclists or motorcycle manufacturers take it into account in their product planning. I suspect there are more motorcyclists who don't know about the IBR than who do. I'd never heard of it until I moved to MN in 1996 and I'd been on two wheels for 40 years at that point. People who might commute by motorcycle are, or should be, a far bigger concern of the industry than the 12 guys who spend as small fortune on their once-a-year IBR extravaganza and the rest of the year recovering from that crippling event.
However, you might envision the ass-kicking suck-pow-blow bikes are getting at Pike’s Peak. Like horse-and-buggy owners at the turn of the last century, electric vehicles are coming on a lot faster than the old guard thinks and the speed of that change is only going to get quicker.
In fact, a drivers’ licenses is exactly nothing “more than a license to drive.” There are identification cards that serve the identity purpose of a drivers' license and you get them at the same DMV office or, in civilized states, at the post office or your local library. Red state voter suppression politicos try to make ID cards as difficult and expensive to obtain as cage licenses, but those folks are fighting a losing battle. Demographics and economics are going to be driving this bus and no matter how much voter repression goes on in the red states, those two things will be driven by forces outside of political control.
That last argument is what I think of as the ultimate helicopter parent whine, “I’m gonna put my half-witted offspring in the largest SUV possible, in case little Douchebag gets distracted by his cell phone, video game, and in-dash movies and loses control of his vehicle and kills your kid; who was responsibly walking, bicycling, or motorcycling.” If you think young drivers are learning traffic patterns, you haven’t been on the road in any sort of state of consciousness. You don’t learn patterns or good habits from being inside a well-protected, smarter-than-you vehicle. You learn by immersing yourself in the environment where you will sink or swim. That’s why walking, bicycling, and motorcycling are better educators than cages, but it’s also why we’ve become a nation of pampered, lazy, uneducated spoiled brats who are non-competitive, trailing-edge, and have traded democracy for idiocracy.
I’m not convinced motorcycles have a future in the industrialized world. When the only people who can afford the average motorcycle are the 1%, the market has shrivelled to unsustainable. There was a reason Henry Ford paid his workers enough that they could buy the products they built. There was an even better reason Honda tried to market their 1960’s motorcycles to “the nicest people.” Today, a reasonably practical new motorcycle costs at least $5,000 and that same money will buy a decent used car that will get the same or better fuel mileage, last longer with less maintenance, and be useable year-around.
I really believe it’s time to experiment with the whole motorcycle paradigm. I know of more than a few young people who could be tempted to obtain a motorcycle license before they mess with a car license. They might not ever bother with the car license, given mass transportation access and automous cars. While some people imagine that “drivers’ education courses” in high school or privately provides some level of competence, that would just be more of that silly idealizing-high-school crap. Drivers’ Ed courses are notoriously taught by the guy who couldn’t clear the lowest bar in teachers’ education, worse than phys-ed, and the classes are barely a joke, academically or practically. Currently, all licensing testing is designed to put butts in seats as efficiently as possible. Safety and competence isn’t any significant part of either drivers or motorcyclists training. That could and should be changed. Completely decoupling the cage license from motorcycle licensing could provide an opportunity to enhance all aspects of motorcycle training, which would make both motorcycle and car licensing more productive. Obviously, tiered licensing only makes sense. I can’t think of a single good reason to put a new motorcyclist on a liter bike; or a new driver in a 2,400 kilo SUV.
Electric motorcycles might make even more sense than electric cars, given the fact that most motorcycles don’t travel more than 1,500 miles a year and the advantage motorcycles could have in parking, lane-sharing, and storage. An electric motorcycle with a 150 mile range would more than do the transportation job for most people and a $0.06 fillup would just be icing on the cake.
Bloomberg just published an essay titled, “The Motorcycle Industry Is Dying.” Not a new concept and much of their analysis has been seen here first, but it’s slightly comforting to see some one else get it. The article puts a lot of weight on the new Honda Rebel 500 and I have to admit that is entertaining. I rode the Rebel 250 for the first time in a MSF class a couple of weeks ago and it is awful. There is nothing about that motorcycle that would have enticed me to get into motorcycling.
“Honda’s Rebel is the latest entry in a parade of new bikes designed for first-time riders; almost every company in the motorcycle industry has scrambled to make one. They are smaller, lighter, and more affordable than most everything else at a dealership and probably wouldn’t look out of place in the 1960s—back when motorcycling was about the ride, not necessarily the bike. They are also bait for millennials, meant to lure them into the easy-rider lifestyle. If all goes as planned, these little rigs will help companies like Harley-Davidson coast for another 50 years.” Good luck with that daydream.
I personally can’t imagine anything other than a hoard of electric bikes in the $5,000-territory that will turn the motorcycle economy around, but power to them for finally waking up and discovering Boomers are dying off. “A motorcycle is a picture of discretionary spending, and they can be tricky to finance even in a healthy credit market. Even now, with the stock market on a historic bull run and after the U.S. auto industry posted its best year on record, traffic in motorcycle stores has stayed slow. In 2016, U.S. customers rolled off with 371,403 new bikes, roughly half as many as a decade ago.”
Too little, too late has been my analysis for the last decade. This author sort of agrees, “The problem, however, with this sudden industry pivot to younger customers is that it may be coming too late. For years, it was too easy to just keep building bigger, more powerful bikes.“ It was easier and Boomers were dumb enough to buy into pretending that 60 was the age of midlife crisis. Ride down WI35 and look at all the Harleys out on the front lawns for sale. It’s over boys, now what are you going to do? One problem with a lot of these little motorcycles is that they aren’t as energy efficient as many cars. If anything makes motorcycles a purely recreational toy it is lousy fuel economy.
It could be a bigger trend than motorcycles, though. Driving, in general, has lost a lot of appeal to practically everyone.
Hard to know, but it’s harder to find people who think off-pavement riding is even interesting, let alone worth risking life, limb, and savings on this kind of adventure. All of the economic reasons listed are valid and likely contributors, but I think the biggest problem is the price of motorcycles vs. competitive means of transportation.
Maybe these prices look reasonable to you, but for a kid looking for a recreational vehicle he/she might ride for 3-4 months a year, 3-4 times a week, this is nutty money.