Chasing the Horizon
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News, opinion and other items of interest from the MOA's webmaster/digital editor and special guests. This blog builds on the MOA's podcast by, for and about motorcyclists of the same name. Chasing the Horizon (the podcast) is available at as well as in iTunes and Google Play. Opinions stated in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect policies, positions or practices of BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, BMW Motorrad, BMW NA, BMW AG, or any other organization or corporation.


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Top tags: Opinion  r1150rt  Safety  Seniors  tips  touring  travel  wanderlust 

One-way wanderlust

Posted By Matt Gulseth #194042 , Wednesday, October 11, 2017

This is a story about a guy that loves to ride but does not have the time take a long vacation to travel around the US. It’s a story about my journey around the USA, broken down into 15 different one-way trips. I have logged 30,000 miles in 45 different states on my 2004 R 1150 RT over the past few years and feel blessed to have seen the splendor and glory of our country.

I have done all of this travel in the span of approximately 70 days - while taking less than 20 days of vacation time to ride. I did that by using a simple process.

  1. Travel from one destination to a new destination.
  2. Find a safe spot to store your bike at the next destination.
  3. Fly home.
  4. Fly back to your bike and repeat steps 1-3.

I book early morning flights to start my trip and later flights coming back home, which helps reduce the number of vacation days taken and the number of days you need lodging.

This process came about because necessity is the mother of invention. I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the riding season lasts from approximately mid-April to mid-October. Once the leaves fall and the snow arrives, my fellow Minnesotan riders are putting their bikes in storage. The issue I had in the fall of 2014 was that I ran out of storage space in my garage. I was thinking of renting a storage locker in Minneapolis, but then I thought why not ride to a storage locker in a southern climate where I could keep riding my bike in the winter months.

My journey started with a spectacular three-day run down the Mississippi River. I headed east to Louisville, Kentucky, and dropped the bike off at storage locker near the Louisville airport, took a cab to the airport and flew home to Minneapolis. Three weeks later I flew back to Louisville on the back end of a round-trip ticket, picked up the bike from the storage locker and rode it over another four-day period to Austin, Texas. Since then my R 1150 RT has taken me to (and been stored in) Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Red Lodge, Montana, Memphis, Tampa Bay, Miami, Washington D.C., Boston and Denver.

I won’t describe all of the beautiful places I have been able to see by using this one-way technique because it would fill a book. A one-way road trip gives you a special feeling of freedom. It feels good knowing you don’t need to travel back to where you have just left. I have learned that this type of travel develops and feeds a wanderlust in me. Frankly, I have become addicted. I now favor a one-way journey over its more restrictive round-trip cousin. You sense how much more country and miles you are covering by simply heading to a new destination.

I have been blessed to meet so many people from all over the world while going on this journey. People are seemingly inclined to reach out and talk to you. “Have you ridden that bike all the way from Minnesota to here?” is usually the opening salvo from strangers. I met a bunch of Germans in Key West, Florida, that were riding rented Harleys. They liked the American riding their German horse and they loved the look of the old R 1150 RT at the beach.

People are inclined to provide assistance if you need it. There was the off-duty cop on a Harley in Virginia that helped me avoid a two-hour traffic jam by guiding me on some of the most scenic back roads in the Shenandoah valley. There was the Chinese citizen that I ran into at a rest stop on my way up to Acadia National Park in Maine. He was using a work visa to travel the lower 48 states on a 2015 BMW K 1600 GT and documenting the journey online. I knew the guy less than 10 minutes, but felt comfortable offering to share my room in Acadia that night because he had no lodging. Only folks on motorcycles can have a bond and trust to do such things for each other.

If you want to do this type of travel you need to understand and be comfortable with storing your bike away from home. Boredom warning: I am going to be giving practical tips in the following few pages so you can start dreaming of traveling around the US and storing your bike in any city.

The three types of places I have stored the bike are: a storage locker, motorcycle dealerships, and friends' places. I have found that the storage locker provides me the most flexibility and the lowest total cost in most locations. The following is a list of tips to think about to make your storage the most trouble free.

Storage Locker Checklist

  • Figure out the size and profile of your bike to determine the size of the locker that you need. Before you go on a journey, ride your bike to a storage facility in your home town to get a feel for how it will work. This local tryout will reduce anxiety on your first drop-off location away from home. If you have a wide bike you might need a wider locker, which will lead to higher pricing. I used to curse the side mirrors that detach off of my RT, but now they are a blessing. When I detach the mirrors and the side cases from my bike, I can get it through any external door on a 5-by-10-foot locker.
  • Find a locker near the airport of your destination. is the for storage lockers; essentially a storage locker concierge for the United States and they have helped me immensely on my journey. I look for a spot on their website by typing in the ZIP code of the airport. You may want to pay a little more for your locker to be close to an airport to avoid higher taxi or Uber rates. I strongly urge you to call Sparefoot once you have done your search to help you find the most appropriate location. I have always talked to somebody before I have booked any locker. They are not paying me to say this, they have just giving me outstanding service.
  • Usually you can get half of the first month storage free, but you will likely have check-in fees. Keep your lock for future use. Most companies require you use a certain lock, and I have two different locks. I have usually paid $45-60 per month for storage depending upon the city. Ask if the monthly fees are prorated, because some facilities prorate and some do not. This factor could affect when you might want to fly back and go on your next journey. The fees in San Francisco have been the priciest at $139 per month.
  • Ask about the business office hours of the facility and plan at least a half hour for checking in at the storage locker office. The longer the operating office hours, the more flexibility you will have with your flight back home. Plan another half hour to put the bike in the locker and get things sorted. There is nothing worse than ending your trip in a rush to get to the airport. I generally try arriving at storage facility two to three hours before flight departure, depending on the locker's proximity to airport. Also ask about the access hours for the gates once you have checked in the locker. Sometimes you can get 24-hour access to give you more flexibility.
  • Have your registration and proof of insurance with you and always on the bike. You will need these to check in. Do not buy insurance from the storage company. Your insurance on your bike should cover you in case something happens to it in the locker.
  • Keep your battery charged if possible. Ask for a locker with a light and bring a light socket converter to plug in a battery charger for your bike. Make sure it has a three-prong adapter if your charger requires it. If there is no light in the locker, then ask where there is an outside socket so you can charge your battery upon your next arrival if you need to charge your bike. If you are gone for a long time without a charger, consider disconnecting the battery.
  • Download the Uber app for an easy way to get transportation to and from the locker and airport and have the storage location entered on your navigation devices to easily find the facility on your arrival.
  • Remember to leave your riding gear in the locker. There’s no sense bringing all of this stuff back home unless you think you’re going to be riding another bike.

BMW Dealerships for Service and Storage

Some dealerships will offer you short-term storage if you are getting enough service on the bike; others have simply charged me an extra storage fee. Remember to look up the operating hours, as they likely will be more limited than using a storage locker.

Many of my journeys ended on a Sunday or Monday when dealerships are closed. If you use a dealership, you will need to spend more time planning your arrivals and departures. Another disadvantage with the dealership is that you will need to lug back home any gear that you cannot store on the bike.

Friends or Fellow BMW Owners

The issues that I have had with storing my bike at friends’ houses revolve around personal guilt and pricing. Most of my friends live a long way from airports; my taxi costs can eat up any savings on locker fees. Your friend might be willing to drive you back and forth to the airport, but then you have the same guilt issues. I am usually pressed for time on my normal morning flight arrivals and evening departures and feel it is rude for me to essentially store my bike and run to the airport or leave for my next destination.

I have not tapped into the BMW owners' network as a means for storing the bike for similar reasons. Frankly I would be happy to pay whatever fees I would incur to a BMW owner close to an airport and would probably feel less guilty because the fellow Beemer owner would know that I wanted to get heading down the road on my arrival. Heck, maybe the owner would join me on the trip for a bit.

Final Tips and Notes

I have never really worried about booking a room anywhere along these trips, and I have never had trouble finding lodging at a moment’s notice. Lodging at popular National Parks on busy holidays and in the summers are exceptions, though. Frankly, many times I’m not sure what city I’m going to end up in by the end of the day. My standard technique for acquiring lodging is to ride until the sun sets and find the closest city. I go to a restaurant, order dinner, and start searching for lodging. I prefer cheap motels with an exterior room door. If the town is small enough, I may just ride around and look for lodging.

I am an Iron Butt Association Rider and have done 2,000 miles in two days. During this journey, I was able to acquire the National Park Tour Master Traveler certificate by going to 50 different National Parks or Historic Sites in 25 states in one year. It was my favorite Iron Butt certificate that I have earned. Look this award up because it will open your eyes to some places you never thought you would go. It also helps you get on the roads less traveled, which is what wanderlust is all about.

One final note: I have found that is good to sometimes do a few round trips out of one city/locker. When you develop a familiarity with a region, you start to have more time to find some hidden backroad twisty treasures. I have found a love for the topography in Arizona and Utah and have left my bike in Phoenix or Las Vegas for extended stints for a number of round trips from each location. My Beemer is currently in Phoenix and I am planning three different round trips out of the same locker over the next couple of months. I know that soon the wanderlust will strike me and I will be heading down another road traveled to another destination somewhere.


Tags:  r1150rt  tips  touring  travel  wanderlust 

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The Hippocratic Poser

Posted By Lee Foote #173220, Thursday, June 29, 2017

Can you say "rolling cliché"? Choose your image - here are a few from which to pick:

Scene 1. A glistening four-year-old BMW R 1200 GS with 1,600 miles on the odometer, a rally screen and full knobbies is parked in front of a Starbucks coffee bar. The rider takes his Frappuccino iced because his yellow Roadcrafter suit is warmish on this barista stool. He spends a lot of time peering over the cover of his off-road motorcycle magazine to see who has noticed him. Finally, a scooter rider comments, and he bores them to tears by extolling his bike's published capabilities while deriding lesser models in the lot.

Scene 2. Straight pipe staccato pummels your eardrums as a goateed Harley rider gasses his Fatbob 1200 past your car. The colors on his ratty jean vest gleam as he races back to his real estate office to change for a sales meeting. He writes letters to repeal helmet laws each Independence Day as his act of freedom.

Scene 3. Three street bikes, a Ducati 991, BMW S 1000 R and a Yamaha R1 take turns lifting wheelies and screaming between stoplights. Each rider wears full race leathers that match their bikes, full face helmets and synthetic riding boots. Full marks for gear. None of their tire wear lines are closer than one inch from their semi-slick tire edges. They dart between and flip off slower drivers between stoplights.

Scene 4. The six-cylinder Goldwing GL1800 with paint-matched trailer gets 2-3 hours of washing, waxing and polishing per week and at least half that much riding time. Wife, husband and gear top 700 pounds. The bike is another 900. Together, they outweigh a Miata. He plays his 100-watt sound system in town, blaring Abba and Carpenters tunes and sometimes parks in the handicapped stall, justifying this to keep his beloved bike from car door nicks.

Scene 5. The competition pipe on the KTM 510 convert this potent dirt bike to a torque monster. A quick dig through the natural area and across the stream is the early morning shortcut to the gravel pit riding area. She can't help roosting gravel and mud in the streambed and the neighborhood coffee hour is shattered by the thumper's ratting.

Sure, these are stereotyped scenarios, but you recognize some of them - don't you? Have you wondered just what in the world is going through the riders' minds? Well at least the minds of all except the ones like us. Those we kind of know about.

Fess up; we are all posers to some degree, right? Do you recall that wonderful feeling of rolling up to an open-air café, the hot bike engine popping and clunking as it cools down; pulling off your helmet to see the patrons looking at you admiringly (?!) and you give them that look that says "Hey, toss me a beer would ya?" before you swagger in to get some grub.

In your imagination, a fit and well-tanned member of the opposite sex will coyly invite you to the bar stool next to them and fawn over you. There they will sit, enraptured by your tales of riding the miles of deep gravel and river crossings to civilization, then racing up twisty tarmac up to this very eating establishment for a bite. It is a choice moment, akin to easing into a hot tub on a cold night. Unfortunately, this fantasy exists only in our minds. We all play act a little.

The stereotypical uniforms we wear (leathers, rally jackets, chaps, dirt bike boots, colors, etc.) and the bikes we ride tend to set some public expectations, if not rules of engagement. Our accoutrements declare the image we want to project. We are erasing the doubt or uncertainty about what others will say and how we will respond. The script is just clearer that way. Less Game of Thrones and more Everybody Loves Raymond. We don't have to think or create an identity while striking our individualistic poses. Funny contradiction that: Using a common and often repeated riding uniform to make a statement about our individuality. Occasionally there is a beautiful moment of role confusion - what psychologists call cognitive dissonance - when a gnarly rider removes their helmet to reveal a beautiful raven-haired woman, an 80-year-old distance rider, or a one-armed biker. Does. . . not. . . compute . . . reset!

The author with an SR500 in 1979.

There is absolutely no harm in any of these impressions and playing with some images. Sure, it is play-acting, but what we ride or the trappings of what we wear hurts no one, brings some fun to our lives, and may demystify our stance to strangers. Our ACTIONS, however, are sometimes not so harmless.

Each of the opening five scenarios had at least one offensive action embedded, meaning the clichés cross the line into public rudeness, maybe because the imagined riders were projecting a little too much image. Most riders don't stoop to those depths, but too many do. These offensive and destructive actions carry our recreational posing to a new level.

Hippocrates was an ancient Greek who might have had something to say about motorcyclist behavior. We often paraphrase his famous Hippocratic Oath to four words: First, do no harm. This pithy warning should be one of our litmus tests for the decorum we adopt in riding. As we offend a single non-motorcyclist we taint all other riders. We do harm.

There are some other broad rider guidelines such as "Be safe" and "ATGATT." Then there are the mostly harmless lies we use to justify our riding choices. I have these mistruths well-practiced. "Honey, I am saving a LOT of money at 50 MPG." In truth, my price per mile of riding is higher than my commuter car because of tire wear, farkles, riding gear, premium gas and winter storage.

The author with an F 650 GS in 2008.

How about this one "Officer, it is simply safer for me to ride slightly above the average traffic speed so I can better control my interactions with cars." A grain of truth there, however, when the average traffic speed is already 15 mph over the limit it makes for a fast-moving bike.

One more - "The $250 ZeigoTech cylinder guards are a safety issue to protect my valve covers." Well, given that you could replace either valve cover for about the same price.

Why can't we be honest with ourselves and just say something like, "I ride because I love the sensations," or "I take a similar pleasure in farkling my bike as I did building model airplanes as a kid." Maybe "My motorcycle type, attire and riding is a little fantasy escape from my boring job."

Some might say, "I enjoy the sense of belonging and shared discussion topics I find with my Yondabeemazuki riding club." Truth is there, and it's really not so different from a wine-tasting club, the remote-control airplane society or a knitting circle.

I wonder if a straight, honest depiction of practical motorcycling would diminish our motorcycling joy. What status is there in the utilitarian 125 cc Asian cargo bike relegated to ferrying water jugs, bok choy and the occasional well-balanced pig? Does our fantasy, posing, daydreaming, motorcycle website surfing and endless planning of hypothetical trips indicate a life of delusion? Fifty Shades of Adventure?

Maybe, but really now, where is the harm? Just so long as we don't carry our actions too far beyond our image management. It is easy to harm ourselves and others when we offend the public.

"Waitress - another Frappuccino please - make it a DOUBLE this time, I am feeling kind of wild! Anyone who rides a machine like THAT can handle their caffeine, ya know!"

The author with an R 1200 GS in 2016.

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Where are the mentors?

Posted By Garrick Slick, Wednesday, June 28, 2017

I was riding behind my girlfriend, Ashley, the other day after she finished classes. I ride with her so she can solidify her skills as she learns and she has someone who can run interference for her if traffic gets a little squirrely. Close to the school, I saw a fellow rider. He wore a decent, new-looking Shoei helmet, decent gloves, a hoodie, jeans and high-top basketball shoes.

At first, I couldn’t place what kind of bike he was on, but as we pulled up to a red light I saw that it was a fairly new Ducati Monster, and if memory serves it was the 1100 model. He had bar-end mirrors, colored to match his bike, as well as a Termignoni exhaust. The rider pulled up behind a truck in the lane next to Ashley and I. He was about a car length ahead of us, and I watched as the light turned green and the truck in front of the rider accelerated. The rider waited a moment, and instead of a smooth, clutch-control launch to gain speed, the rider pushed the motorcycle into the middle of the intersection as fast as his skinny-jeaned legs could push it and then popped the clutch to get underway.

I was dumbfounded to say the least! For someone to not know how to use the clutch properly on a motorcycle was something that amazed me to begin with, but he was not on a cheap or starter machine! He accelerated past the truck in front of him, then changed lanes to cut off the car in front of Ashley and I. All the while, Ashley smoothly moved through the gears of the TW200 that she has been riding all summer. The fact that I could see two riders side by side who differ so much made me come to a realization: this young man had been failed by motorcyclists.

When I say that, I do not mean that the motorcycle community at large has made it so this young man is so dangerous to himself and others, but I mean that somewhere along the line, there was a disconnect from a good learning source and he stopped learning as a result. On the other hand, Ashley is still learning while riding with me after having her license for over a year. I’d like to say that I’m something of a mentor for her (though I don’t actually believe that), but she succeeds as a rider better than I ever did in the same amount of time, and eventually she may even surpass me in riding skill once she gets her feet beneath her.

What can be done for young riders like this fellow on the Ducati? The way I learned best was through riding with my parents, and the best way Ashley is learning is through riding with me, which leads me to the conclusion that mentorship is probably the most effective learning tool for a new rider. While the MSF courses can give the basics in motorcycle control, the best way to learn is through application in real-world environments, and the best way to do that is through riding with a friend or family member who has proven themselves to be trustworthy and capable.

My challenge to all riders is this: extend a hand. Be a friendly face. Invite new riders to ride around with you and show them the ropes. Inclusion is a large part of why many people join our sport. By being that friend to that rider, he or she can further understand the depth of riding as it is that so many of us know, but fail to explain properly. In doing so, they can themselves become a mentor to somebody at some point. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask questions of other riders, and be willing to hear them out when they answer. The best leaders are those that know how to follow as well.

Step up. Be an advocate for the riders you know and perhaps some of that good karma will come around and return the favor for you. Now get out there and be a mentor to somebody!

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So you want to grow old with your motorcycle

Posted By Bruce Mills #92953, Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The time has rolled around to where it is tough to get off your bike after a ride. Heck, it’s almost impossible to get off the floor once I’m down there. Other signs of aging have become an all-too-common occurrence.

The children and grandchildren are asking, "When are you going to stop riding? It’s too dangerous!" Friends shake their heads and say, "I wouldn’t want to ride in all that traffic nowadays." Still some of us old timers get the urge to drag out the bike and go for a ride. Riding motorcycles is a very dangerous sport, that is a fact.

There are a few of us who are not ready to give it up yet, or maybe ever. I find it comforting to still have a motorcycle in the garage. Let’s look at some ways to continue to ride safely as we age.

Check your motorcycle. If it looks like it’s been kept in a barn full of goats, better get it out and hose it off. If the cycle has been maintained properly, you’re ahead of the curve. Motorcycles that have been sitting for a long time need fresh oil and filters, fresh gas in the tank and air in the tires. Take great care checking those tires, as they are essential for safe motorcycling.

You want your motorcycle to respond when you need it to. Make sure she runs well and stops better. I’m an advocate of hard braking at the slightest hint of danger. Most road problems will disappear before you get to them if you can get on the brakes early and hard. Be an expert at braking.

Since we are of the self-taught motorcycle riding generation, we’ve learned it all the hard way. But we can improve our skills by reading and practicing. Some good authors to consider are David Hough, Reg Pridmore, Keith Code, Nick Ienatsch and Phillip Funnell. There are many others, too.

If we want to keep riding (I’m pushing five decades since I started) and save some of our skin while doing so, we need to exercise our brains on the subject. Forgetting things is easy so I’ve made a habit of reading through my motorcycle books even in the off season. Hopefully, then, if an emergency arises while riding, I will make the right decision.

Being hit by a drunk driver I should have avoided when I was in my teens was my one and only collision. Some of that now is experience, some is luck, but most of it is anticipating problems before I use up my available reaction/braking time. Still, I make mistakes.

Riding to a camping rally two years ago, my bike was overloaded. There were high winds that day blowing across the highway, which was ground down and had those friendly concrete lines.

The wind was pushing me to the shoulder, where there was a tall edge trap, and the road was shaking the bike and me silly. Traffic was heavy and a truck behind me was playing that game of "Let’s make this motorcycle go faster by getting right up behind him."

I thought, "I’m going to crash soon if I don’t do something!" The solution popped into my mind. I slowly dropped my speed down to around 30 mph in spite of the truck behind me, loosened my grip on the handle bars, put my weight on the foot pegs and leaned forward.

I remembered what to do. Afterwards I thought, "That worked pretty good!" Incidents like that have happened before where I have remembered the correct thing to do. Remembering isn’t always easy anymore but it’s still possible.

Family Cervidae five species.jpgSafety gear is critical as well. I can hear you laughing because the 50 pounds you’ve put on no longer allows you to wear your old horsehide police motorcycle jacket. You don’t own a color-coordinated ballistic riding suit, not that you ever thought about buying one. You still can wear boots and put on gloves. Your helmet still fits, right? You do wear a helmet, don’t you?

If you have gear always wear it, but don’t let it lull you into thinking that all of a sudden you’re racing legend Mert Lawwill. Riding gear may give the appearance that you know what you’re doing, but it does not make you a skilled rider. Don’t ever ride or be influenced to ride past your skill and safety level. Always reserve a percentage of it for emergencies.

Riding a motorcycle proficiently requires knowledge and practice. Letting weeks go by without riding is detrimental to staying in the safety groove. Practice what you’ve learned from reading and read often.

Think about riding when you’re driving your car, pretend it’s your motorcycle. Think about lane placement, dangerous possibilities at intersections, etc., and by all means keep a safe distance between you and the car in front of you. This will give you time to react and avoid problems when you ride.

Never ever be in a hurry. Being in a hurry is when you make mistakes. Slow down, be safe and enjoy the ride.

If you have to open up your bike for fun, be very selective where and when you do it. Pick places where there aren’t a lot of crossroads and traffic is light. Do this in the daytime and not at night. I never ride when it is dark because my night vision isn’t the best and deer are painful.

Reaction time is affected by your speed. The faster you go, the higher percentage of riding skill you will need to stay safe. Riding fast can put you outside of your skill/reaction ability. That is when really bad things can happen.

By the way, how is your reaction time? How fast can you still make the right decision in an emergency? How much real skill and knowledge do you have in reserve for hard riding? How good are you, really? You have to figure that out and then lay down some guidelines for yourself.

"Coffee with Tom" (Tom Stresing) is an informal safety seminar that is held every year at the Wisconsin Dells Rally. It is informative, entertaining and we always look forward to attending. Safety seminars similar to Tom’s can be found at rallies all around the nation. I’ve noticed that there are always enough of us older riders attending rallies to open up a senior high rise apartment building, yet not many of us take advantage of this type of training. Don’t miss a chance to attend.

Tag Sale Sign.jpgLack of concentration causes many an accident. I was riding in heavy traffic last year. The posted speed was 30 mph. People were selling things in their front yards along the street. Looking away for a few seconds at a boat for sale, I failed to notice all the traffic in front of me had stopped for an accident. Even though I was braking hard, I quickly realized I would not be able to stop in time. My motorcycle and I were about to become trunk ornaments.

Always looking for escape routes when riding, I steered for the gutter between the car ahead of me and the curb. I made it around the car and finally stopped alongside of the front passenger side window. There were just inches to spare between the car, my bike and the curb.

I avoided a nasty rear-end collision, a situation that would not have happened had I been looking where I should. The safe distance between the car in front of me dwindled because I was spending critical time watching elsewhere. This lapse in concentration caused the emergency.

Now I’m going to go against the current here and upset a few people. I don’t adhere to the adage that sooner or later you’re going to have an accident, that you’re going to crash because everyone does. That is like giving up in a corner that you’ve entered too fast, slamming on the brakes and sailing off into the ditch. Believe and plan to survive every ride or just sell the bike. Don’t give up to the crash. Fight to make that corner, to stop short, to anticipate. It can be done. You can ride safer.

Gary Nixon.JPG Gary Nixon, pictured here, reportedly used to ask at the start of every race, "Which one of you sons-of-bitches is coming in second?" I say, coming in second isn’t all that bad. Just having a pleasant ride and getting back home safe can now be fulfilling. Enjoy that bike and grow old with it.


Photo credits

  • Pile of wrecked motorcycles: From a story on about a Lamborghini driver plowing into a row of BMW bikes in front of a dealership in Mariano Comense, Italy.
  • Deer: From the general Wikipedia page about these nefarious creatures.
  • Yard sale sign: By Jim Chute - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
  • Gary Nixon: Found on Nixon's Wikipedia page. Photographer unknown, but the photo is originally from the book Motor Cycle Racing, written by Peter Carrick and published in 1969 by Hamlyn. Reproduced here under Fair Use provisions of US Copyright Law.

Tags:  Opinion  Safety  Seniors 

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RIP Victory

Posted By Wes Fleming, Wednesday, January 11, 2017
The announcement signaling the dissolution of Victory Motorcycles came as a shock to many riders. I would love to say I was prescient enough to see it coming, but while I found the announcement unexpected, I did not find it surprising.

Polaris Industries is a massive company, featuring 17 brands, 13 offices or manufacturing locations in eight countries (USA, Canada, Australia, Britain, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Norway), and somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 employees. The company had $4.719 billion in revenue in 2015 and earned a net income of $455.4 million that same year. In addition to motorcycles, Polaris manufactures snowmobiles, ATVs and small electric vehicles (think golf carts) and has extensive defense contracts around the world.  They used to make jet-ski-style watercraft, too, but got out of that business when it stopped being profitable. At any rate, motorcycles were about 15 percent of Polaris’ business in 2015, a high point in a year that saw declining sales in other segments (ORVs down 20 percent, snowmobiles down 25 percent).

Which is exactly what they’re doing with Victory.  Victory motorcycles haven’t been making Polaris enough money to warrant continuing the line, especially in the light of the unprecedented success of Indian Motorcycles.

Polaris bought all the name rights and intellectual property involved with the Indian Motorcycles brand in 2011. In 2013 they announced they would start production, and in 2014 they started showing off their new Indian motorcycles. Now - in early 2017 - Indian has multiple models in their catalog ranging from a “starter” bike (Scout 60) to a full-dress touring rig (Roadmaster).

I imagine that gunning up Indian was a huge risk for Polaris, and they probably figured that if it all went sideways, at least they’d still have Victory. I also imagine that they are pleasantly surprised at the wide (and fast!) embrace given to Indian motorcycles when they hit the streets. Those bikes are a near-perfect combination of technology, style and - most importantly - history, and they have resonated with the American public.

Indian sales have been driving Polaris’ motorcycle segment since their introduction in 2014. Polaris’ motorcycle revenue jumped 94 percent from Q3-2014 to Q4, a jump brought about by the initial sales of Indian motorcycles. In the same quarter, Harley-Davidson sales numbers dropped 3 percent, even though earnings rose 10 percent.

Motorcycle sales rose for Polaris in 2015 as well, with their year-end report showing a 67 percent increase.

In Q1-2016, Polaris’ motorcycle sales rose 18 percent. That quarter, Victory introduced the Octane (a mid-sized cruiser) and Indian introduced the Springfield, a more or less standard cruiser with a bolt-on windshield and some other add-ons built into the base price. Further, Harley’s global revenue rose 5% to $1.3 billion. Polaris’ motorcycle revenue was just $188 million, and it’s important to keep in mind that there are few Victory or Indian dealerships overseas.

What’s hidden in those early 2016 numbers is a 50 percent rise in Indian sales. When Harley holds 51 percent of the market share, a 50 percent rise in the sales of any one other brand is significant.

Anyway, back to my main point. It’s obvious that Indian sales have been outpacing Victory sales, and Polaris made the strategic decision to drop Victory and focus on Indian. I think it’s smart for Polaris to focus on Indian, because Indian has what Victory didn’t: 100 years of legacy and brand recognition. Mystique, if you will.

Victory’s 18-year run was as successful as you could probably expect from a ground-up motorcycle marque, but in the end it wasn’t enough to overcome Indian’s American legacy.

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Auctions, auctions and more auctions

Posted By Wes Fleming, Thursday, October 27, 2016

I have always been fascinated by auctions. eBay is one thing, but a live auction is an electric event. I'm the type of person that watches the Barrett-Jackson auctions on TV and reads up on what Sotheby's is doing. Remember when Christie's auctioned off 100 of Eric Clapton's guitars, pulling in over $5 million for his Crossroads Foundation? Or the Bonham's auction of 75 more of Clapton's guitars and 55 of his amps in 2011?

It's possible I remember those more than most people because in addition to motorcycles, I'm also interested in guitars. And Eric Clapton.

But I digress.

I love motorcycle auctions for the same reasons many of us scroll through want-ads on the MOA Marketplace or IBMWR - because I'm always excited about that steal of a deal bike, like that R 50/5 I stumbled across for $1,000. Buying at auction seems both exciting and safe - you have to figure somebody's vetted the bikes, unlike when you buy an old rusty chunk off that guy who thinks his barn collapsed in 1972, but he can't quite recall.

BMWs don't figure heavily in the world of motorcycle auctions - yet - so when I come across them at auction, I try to pay attention. BMW has crafted a few collectible bikes over the decades, and there's always some race bike out there waiting to go for top dollar (or euro).

Did you know that the late Steve McQueen owned seven of the top 100 motorcycles ever sold at auction? It's true - several Indians (including a sidecar rig), Brough Superior, Husqvarna and even a Scott Flying Squirrel. He also drove a 1968 Ford Gulf GT40 in the film Le Mans, which at $11 million is the highest-selling movie car in auction history.

Sorry, another digression.

Motorcycles. BMW MOTORCYCLES! The highest-selling (at auction) BMW motorcycle to date went in a Bonhams auction in 2013. An RS 255 Kompressor owned by BMW works rider Walter Zeller sold for $480,000 - seriously, nearly a half-million dollars. The bike sported a 1939 Kompressor engine in a 1951 Rennsport plunger frame and a bunch of other modifications - a really stellar reproduction of an RS255 Kompressor.

    Other high-dollar BMWs
  • 1925 R 37 - $235,400 (Mecum, 2014)
  • 1954 RS 54 - $224,078 (H&H)
  • 1954 Rennsport RS 54 sidecar - 167,800 (Bonhams, 2013)
  • 1924 R 32 - $163,438 (Bonhams, 2009)
  • 1925 R 32 - $139,000 (Bonhams, 2011)
  • 1939 R 51 RS - $130,200 (Bonhams, 2011)
  • 1954 Rennsport RS 54 - $126,000 (Bonhams, 2014)
  • 1970 Rennsport Sidecar (500cc) - approx. $112,700 (Bonhams, 2011)
  • 1956 Rennsport RS 54 - $103,500 (Bonhams, 2014)
  • 1928 R 63 - $101,504 (Bonhams, 2009)

At this point, you can probably understand why I'm looking forward to an RM Sotheby's auction, the Duemila Ruote auction taking place in Milan, Italy at the end of November 2016. They're auctioning over 430 cars, bicycles, boats, bobsleds and items of memorabilia along with the motorcycles.

The motorcycles include a bunch of BMWs, and some really nice ones, too. There's a few nice-looking vintage BMWs, but what caught my eye (because how many R 50s am I really going to be able to afford?) was the more recent bikes - and yes, even some Airheads.

Note: these photos are courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.

The first ones I noticed were a pair of stunning K bikes, a dark and mysterious 1990 model and a stunning red 1989 example:

K bikes get a lot of guff from some circles in the MOA, but DAMN! Those K1s look sweet!

A pair of HP2 bikes also piqued my interest, starting with this 2005 Enduro that may need a new rear shock

and followed by this 2008 Sport

There's this sweet-looking 2004 R 1100 S Boxer Cup Replica

And yes, there's even some vintage bikes, such as this cool looking R 75 with its Steib sidecar, leather saddlebags and dual ammo cases

Not to mention an R 69 S

It would have been nice for the website to list the years of those last two bikes, but what can you do. I sent them an email, but haven't heard back yet. They probably know I'm not a serious bidder.

They have a good number of other BMWs in this auction as well, including (of course) a bunch of GS bikes: '84 R 80 GS (which we're still hoping to see a tribute to in the R nineT line), '96 R 80 GS Basic, '89 R 100 GS Paris Dakar (best looking GS BMW ever made!). There's a sweet 1975 R 90 S in the orange fade paint scheme and some vintage bikes, too (R 50, R 51/3, R 60), and some airheads. I'm not sure how an '05 R 1150 GS Adventure made its way into a big international auction, but they've got one of those, too.

If you're interested in learning more about the Duemila Ruote auction, check out these two websites: where the auction is being held (Fiera Milano) and the auction broker (RM Sotheby's).

And don't forget to let me know if you pick up a bike at a good price!

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Welcome to the new blog

Posted By Wes Fleming, Thursday, October 27, 2016

In my position as the MOA's digital editor, I come across a lot of info that's interesting, but not necessarily breaking news.  Maybe it's about the newest KTM adventure or hooligan bike, or KLIM has added 12 dealers in the midwest. Maybe Ducati's CEO resigned, or the AMA has adjusted its stance on ethanol in our fuel supply.

Whatever it is, it's not something we might normally run as a news item on the website or in the magazine, but it's something that evokes passion or at the least is interesting.

That's what I'll be putting in here, and I hope you find it of some minor value.

I do want to emphasize that anything you find in this blog comes from my personal interests and is my personal opinion. Nothing I say should be mistaken or construed as official policy or the position of the MOA or any other organization or corporation.

Plastic up, rubber down, chase the horizon.

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