Jul 10, 2023

VBR 5 and Me

A while back, Andy Goldfine invited me to be a guest storyteller at the 5th Very Boring Rally (Aerostich’s 40th anniversary). I have had a long, enlightening, and valuable friendship, first with Aerostich, and, after I moved to MN in 1996, with Andy. I bought my first ‘Stich gear in 1983, after moving to California from Minnesota. I wore that suit until I replaced it with a Darien in 2008, not long before I rode my V-Strom to Alaska. Mostly from when I moved to Minnesota, my collection of ‘Stich gear has grown steadily and every product I purchased from the company exceeded my expectations along with the company’s legendary customer service.

I was the first speaker in the VBR5 series and I didn’t have high expectations for a turnout. Andy and his marketing team must have over-hyped me substantially; or the draw of a free lunch overcame a fair number of motorcyclists’ better judgement. We had a nice crowd of about 15 rider/spectators and nobody threw tomatoes or other produce at me. Some disagreements, especially on the AGAT propaganda, but I’m used to that.

The industry has changed a lot since my first experience with a Roadcrafter and US motorcycling is either in serious decline or at a moment of serious change. In 2022, Honda sold 17M+ and a peak of 22M unit/motorcycles in 2018 worldwide, but on 32,000 of those in 2022 were US sales (0.19% of total motorcycle sales). When the US motorcycle market crashed in 2007, the worst year of the US recession only amounted to about a 0.05% drop in world motorcycle sales. The average age of a US motorcyclist has increased nearly one year each year for the past couple of decades. When the Hardly/chopper Boomer boom ends, which will be damned soon, something is going to pop. With the insane public costs of motorcycle crashes “the GAO further found that motorcycle crashes’ total direct measurable costs were approximately $16 billion.” The fact that the total USA motorcycle market had an estimated 2022 revenue of $6.24b USD out to be a total wakeup call for the public who foot the bulk of that $10B in totally unjustified taxpayer expense. If you add up the drunk riders, the unlicensed riders, the reckless riders, the unprotected riders, and the uninsured (medical and/or vehicle) riders, you are looking at a responsibility-free recreational vehicle that is ripe for recreational vehicle status and a public road banishment.

There is, finally, the beginnings of a couple of responsible motorcyclist organizations; since the AMA vacated that for the marketing riches of being nothing more than an industry spokesbabbler. Stupid crap like this Rick Gray side-stepping shuffle-dance (https://www.nonoise.org/resource/trans/highway/motorcycles/ama.htm) is typical of the AMA’s uselessness. However, both Andy’s Ride to Work Day campaign and SMARTER (Skilled Motorcyclist Association–Responsible, Trained, and Educated Riders) are trying to bring motorcycling as a reasonable transportation alternative, along with the responsibilities associated with that privilege, up front and personally. It might be too little, too late but it’s also better late than never time.