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Swan Song

Posted By Ken Frick #199204, Monday, December 18, 2017

This was a long time ago. It started when I was still in college. My first real job was still two years away and I wouldn't meet my wife for another dozen years. It was a great time to go for a ride!

I'm not what you would call a romantic about mechanical things, but I'm positive my life wouldn't be as it is today if not for one motorcycle. I know that at some point I would've found something to ride, but certainly not like the Honda, the one that would fill my life with adventure. That bike and I were meant to be together.

For most of the twenty-five years I rode my old 750 my best pal Dave and I would take what we called our “last long ride of the season.” Long ago we'd talked our wives into letting us take off on a trip and somehow it had become an annual deal. Our season ending rides had taken us from our Ohio homes to Acadia National Park, Ely, Minnesota, to Virginia and North Carolina, and countless miles all over West Virginia, among other destinations. This year's trip would be down the Natchez Trace, then we figured into Louisiana and maybe points east. Like many of our trips we didn't have a plan so to speak, more a direction of travel to guide us.

Dave and I had long ago learned that no trip was like another. That all developed their own character. Not long before this trip was to begin the engine on my old bike developed an oil leak. From a mechanical point of view it wasn't much of a problem, I just needed to keep adding oil. But from a housekeeping perspective it was a mess.

With a flashlight I'd found the source, a bad gasket at the base of the cylinders. Each time the crankshaft turned a squirt gun inside the engine pumped a small gusher out onto the case. The repair would require removing the engine, something out of the question at this late stage of our planning. I'd have to live with it.

At first the leak generated a single flow of oil from the front of the engine, to the left and over the case that housed the generator, then down and out of sight. But no small leak stays small for long. Soon there was a Tigris and Euphrates of Valvoline flowing from two points, with the wind funneling the delta back over the shift lever – and my shoe!

At a stop light the dripping oil would become a “Honda Valdez” reminder that we'd been there. Not many people can lay claim to needing an oil change every two hundred miles – for the left shoe! I wrapped a towel around the engine and let the oil collect there. When the towel got dark I changed it. It worked something like a 20-50W Wonder Bra, or better yet, a high-density Pampers diaper. It was a sight, but it worked.

Dave and I have always had a knack for discovery. Our first day out took us through the back roads of Ohio and Kentucky into Tennessee. That night we found ourselves sitting on the deck of a tiny marina along the Cumberland River. During dinner we heard what appeared to be a rock and roll band warming up, in of all places a nearby parking lot. On a makeshift stage were three men and a young woman, whooping it up.

It was immediately apparent they weren't your typical Friday night band. They were jamming' up a storm. We were told that one of the musicians had purchased a $5 strand of Christmas lights at a yard sale to dress up the stage. Most of the lights worked. They added to the aura.

The scene approached the surreal. These four were playing to an almost empty parking lot. There were maybe two cars and three pick-up trucks, and an audience that never reached even a dozen people. We were about to witness something unique.

The musicians called themselves Guns for Hire. They'd driven over from Nashville, an hour away to put on the show. The four were studio musicians of the highest order. The bass player was Greg Johnson. We were told that if a “name” musician came through Nashville, Greg played for them. The lead guitarist and vocalist was Randy York, who had toured with Dan Peek after he had split with America. You can't believe the performance he put on.

The young lady was Tammy George, a lass with a mountain of talent, but for much of the show she was a spectator like the rest of us. Her claim to fame, no small feat at that, was a hit song she had written for Wynonna, for whom she'd sung back-up.

It was the drummer who stole the show. His name was Billy Mason, who toured with Tim McGraw's band. We are talking top drawer. No one could keep up with him. Even though this was the heart of country music, these guys were pure rock and roll. Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Who, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones where just a part of their show. When the drummer got on a roll he did Punk, he did Rap, pick any famous comedian and he did them as well. It was high octane!

The music rolled from their instruments. Dave and I joked that this was standing room only because there was no place to sit. A couple in their mid-fifties were dancing to our right, almost lost in the darkness. After three hours the band called it quits. By that time Dave and I were the audience. After we left the band started up again. We listened to them from our tent, maybe a hundred yards away. We weren't much of an audience, but we knew those four weren't playing for us. What a great way to start our trip.

Dave is one of those people who fits in anywhere. Although he's good natured and has a great sense of humor he keeps it pretty well disguised. If there's one constant in Dave's life it's his unwavering routine. He doesn't respond well to cute of superfluous, but quietly flaunts the fact he hasn't shaved since his last day in the US Army, decades ago.

When at leisure he's always attired in black, sort of like how Dale Earnhardt dressed, but without the swagger. At his government job there was an expectation that he wear a coat and tie, but he was no stuffed shirt. On a Monday, the tie he would often wear was of Edvard Munch's, “The Scream.”

Our second day was spent mostly on the beautiful parkway. The only natural breaks on the Trace are in Jackson and Tupelo, where we stopped our second night. When you visit Tupelo you're pretty much obligated to visit Elvis' birthplace. It was the perfect place for Dave to add to his tie collection. Together we spent maybe a hundred dollars on souvenirs. The city of Tupelo was very happy we stopped by. The king would have said, “Thankuvermuch.”

Over our many years Dave and I and our bikes had overcome all kinds of obstacles. We'd survived hail, heat, sleet, Joan Claybrook, downpours and snow. And me, Dave's snoring. This year's kick in the head came courtesy of Louisiana and Mississippi where we suffered through a hundred miles of “love bugs,” the mating lightning bug look-a-likes with one-track minds. Hundreds upon hundreds of blissful pairs, blindly kamikaziing against our windshields. And our helmets, and glasses, ugh, and foreheads. Our windshields became opaque, our headlights unable to pass even a token high beam. We pressed on because we had too. This was not a place to yawn.

The freeway took us around Biloxi and through Mobile. Sitting right off the freeway bridge, well below in Mobile Bay was “The” Alabama, the WWII battleship, the one with 16 inch guns. It was enough to raise goosebumps on top of goosebumps. What a sight! Focused Dave rode right by, never saw a thing.

The miles slipped by, the Florida panhandle next. It was both beautiful, nature at its finest, or repulsive, where developers had moved in to fill their pockets. In Georgia we rode through Jimmy Carter's hometown, and Americus, and Andersonville, past its Civil War Cemetery. It was a different world for Dave and me. The tobacco and cotton fields were new to us, the statues and state flags so different from the rest of the country. I'd only seen pictures of Antebellum Mansions, but now they had life. Everywhere we saw the rich history of the Confederate South and felt the pride of its heirs. There is no part of the country where people are so genuinely polite.

When Dave and I stopped for traffic lights or for meals we talked about everything. Would Jimmy Carter join us for dinner? Why did our waitress in Florida strand us, choosing to sit and flirt with an Air Force fly boy instead, and we both wondered if my bike's Wonder Bra was a fire hazard. We pondered the questions that have plagued mankind for years. If deer whistles work so well, why are they magnets for every dog in a two-county radius?

The miles with Dave were adding up. My cycle was doing only okay. There had been a few problems getting the Honda fired up in the morning, but nothing that delayed us. After all, it's old. And like many of us with a lot of miles it felt a little arthritic first thing in the morning. But once it got up to highway speed it was young and vibrant once again. It purred going down the highway. There was a special place in its power band where the motor always sang to me. On every ride, I waited for it. Little had changed over all our years together. This cycle was born to run.

My bike's physical luster had faded. It no longer shined up, now merely cleaning up. Sitting in our driveway it looked fine. But when parked next to a new machine its advancing years seemed to magnify. It didn't matter. During my single years it had wintered in my living room. And at our new place I'd built a special shed where it lived. During the riding season, rarely would you not see us together.

In the early morning hours we woke in central Georgia to find that one of my carbs had fouled more than usual. I had to remove the plugs and give them a quick cleaning before we could get back on the road. We figured an “O” ring in the fuel cock assembly had given way and gas was flooding through any intake valve that didn't seat properly. That meant all of them. Apparently, some of the fuel had made its way into the exhaust pipes, because when the engine finally fired it created one colossal sonic boom, a backfire of the decibel level normally reserved for Howitzers. It was impressive!

Considering all of our rides together Dave and I were already familiar with “morning sickness.” Over our miles we'd awoken to corroded battery cables, blown fuses, a flat tire, fuel leaks, more flooded carbs, more fouled plugs, ignition points that were welded shut, a bad ignition switch, a bad throttle cable and even a faulty ignition condenser. None of them were serious, all of them to become another “Ken and Dave story” we'd share back home. Pick pretty much any place where we'd been and we had a story about getting there, or somehow escaping.

During my twenty-five years on the Honda we'd been to all of the lower forty-eight, through Daytona, to Indy and up Pikes Peak. We'd been to Niagara Falls and Thunder Bay, to all of the Great Lakes, Salt Lake, seen Scotty's Castle and been down the Devil’s Highway. We'd traveled on the PCH and up the Mokee Dugway, over the Golden Gate, Hoover Dam, the New River and the Mackinaw. Many of them two or three or more times.

Although all our destinations had been special it was the simple ride to get there that made those trips memorable. Along the way came the milestones. On this trip my cycle and I reached another. Near Milledgeville, Georgia I slipped off the highway to mark what would be our last. I had known for years that this day would come. I'd made the decision to find a newer bike, and indeed had almost purchased one a few weeks earlier. It was time to move on. This cycle would soon belong to someone else. But I needed to keep a part of this special machine, something that reflected the years we'd been together.

In a scant few seconds I stopped the one thing that had been witness to it all. By disconnecting the speedometer cable I froze for all time the odometer that had spun for two decades plus. This would be the third time the odometer would have turned over. I would replace it when I got home, to give the new owner and my Honda a fresh start.

In our years together I'd grown from a college student in his early twenties to middle age. Early on as the miles were beginning to accumulate I somehow took for granted that we'd grow old together and ride off into some sort of sunset.

With this simple act I'd put into motion the series of events that would end our time together. I hadn't planned on being emotional. But even as I pulled off the highway I knew the gravity of what I was about to do. I only hoped that I could keep it together and not make a fool of myself in front of Dave. He appeared with his camera and took a few pictures of the odometer and of me and the bike. I kept the conversation to a minimum and finally he returned to his bike.

There were tears in my eyes when I put the Honda in gear. Releasing the clutch, the speedometer didn't budge, the odometer standing still. Unfortunately the loose cable had come to rest against the inside of the fairing and from where I was sitting I could see its drive mechanism spinning furiously. It didn't want to stop. It's just a machine I kept telling myself, but if it had a heart it was breaking, just as mine was.

Although Dave and I continued to find things to laugh about, it wasn't the same. The road home took us by peanut stands and more Georgia Pacific forests. We rode into Tennessee, through Sylva, a scant few miles from where Dave had married his Emily. I was Dave's best man.

On our last morning we found my bike sitting on a two-cycle swamp of oil and gasoline, the size of a small bathroom. The night before I'd disconnected the fuel lines to keep the cylinders from flooding and had put a rag under the bike to hold whatever oil might be dripping. What we found might have warranted a call to HAZMAT!

I knew keeping this wonderful motorcycle was impossible. My Honda had always been a tank, but now one with cracks in its armor. I could repair the horn and the turn signal, but what of the problems I couldn't see. I saw small shavings when I changed the oil, no doubt from where the timing chain rubbed against the cylinder walls. The brakes had been used so many times the rear drum had worn well beyond any adjustment. Each piston had been through a billion cycles. How long would it be before the motor swallowed a valve? And when something major finally broke would I be three blocks from home, or somewhere far away. The truth was I couldn't begin to consider leaving it parked in my garage, not while I was out enjoying myself on another bike. I needed to find it a new home.

At our last stop for gas Dave and I shook hands, a tradition we'd started years earlier. With a glint in his eye Dave said that it had been “another grand trip.” And gesturing toward my bike added, “as it should be.” I already owned this bike when I met him all those years ago. He understood.

Forty miles later Dave waved goodbye, taking the exit to his home an hour to the west. During our week on the road the leaves had begun to take on their fall colors, the seasons were changing. The Honda and I were on our own, riding into the darkness. Thirty minutes from home I watched an enormous lightning storm to the east. There was the smell of rain in the air.

The magic was with me. In minutes I could make out stars in the sky. Once again I'd ridden all summer without getting caught in the rain. I've had the feeling for years that someone, or something had been watching over me. As I pulled onto my street I could see that a full moon had risen over my house. It was a beautiful sight. My Honda had brought me home again.

Dave was right. It had been a great ride.


I never sold the Honda. When I approached a friend at the AMA he told me that he wanted it for their Hall of Fame Museum. There it still lives, always warm and dry. For me a Kawasaki Concours was next. But it wasn't the same. Slowly, imperceptibly, it robbed me of the joy I'd always felt when riding.

I was giving thought to ending my time on two wheels, but last year a BMW R 1200 RT ended all of that. The Beemer brought me back to the living. Will it ever be like the old Honda? Time will tell, but already we have a very good start.

I see the old speedometer every day.

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Beginning at the beginning

Posted By Scott Auld, Sunday, December 3, 2017
Updated: Sunday, December 3, 2017

My buddy Wes asked me to write up a short article for you folks based on my vast, extensive experience with motorcycles. By vast, extensive experience, I mean the three weeks I had ridden as of the time I wrote this.

I blew up (don't ask) my MINI Cooper and had been looking around to replace it was something that was small, light and good on gas again, and started thinking that maybe a little scooter would be fine for commuting the nine miles and back to work. As I started to look into those I realized that the price of a scooter gets you almost all the way into the price of a motorcycle, so I started thinking maybe I need to be a motorcycle owner for the first time in my life. The problem was, I didn't know anything about motorcycles and the idea of even riding around without a seat belt seemed terrifying to me.

I did what every red-blooded American male does. I got on YouTube and started watching videos about how to ride a motorcycle. I bet you've seen some of the same ones I saw. Some of them were terrible, and some of them were actually very good with experienced riders taking time to show exactly what is involved in even the basics, like starting a bike and just moving slowly around the parking lot. I started to get the idea that maybe I could do this.

The author at the Ace Café's US location.

I started listening to motorcycle podcasts and following popular YouTubers and bugging my buddy Wes about everything I could think of. He's been a BMW guy for as long as I can remember him riding, so I'm naturally attracted to the precision engineering and beautiful lines of Motorrad's offerings. Plus I already had experience with BMW from my MINI.

I watched Long Way Round, Long Way Down, watched Charlie Boorman's Dakar Rally movie, and started learning everything I could about motorcycles in general. I bought a copy of Precision Motorcycling by David Hough for three dollars online at a Goodwill, and started reading through that and realized that there's a lot more to motorcycling then hitting the gas. Several of my coworkers ride, and when I brought up this topic they immediately told me I needed to take the MSF class before they would even discuss it with me.

I used some Christmas money to sign up for the class and took it two rainy weekdays in early January. Man, it was pouring rain for that class but maybe that's a good thing. I'm not afraid of the rain now, that's for sure, and Florida gets more rain then anyone in the US except Washington state.

The BRC is the ultimate learning-to-ride equalizer.

Over the protestations of my friends, I decided I wanted to start on a very small displacement motorcycle since the class basically qualified me to drive around in a parking lot. That's not a bad reflection on the class, it does a great job of teaching you everything you need to know about a motorcycle from the beginning. Before I went to the class I didn't know how to start one, I didn't know how to shift, I didn't know how the clutch responded, I didn't know a friction zone from a freak show. The class was an excellent beginning introduction in confidence builder. You did a good job of warning you of the dangers enough so that you can take them seriously when you do get out on the road. But honestly nothing is a substitute for actual traffic experience. I think it would have been foolish to leave that class and go out and buy a 1000cc bike. A funny thing happens when you tell your friends you're shopping for a motorcycle – they start shopping vicariously through you. I had guys recommending 1200cc Harleys, an FZ9, and all kinds of crazy stuff that I really don't think would be appropriate for someone who had never driven over 20 miles an hour in second gear.

I ended up settling on a 250 Suzuki - the exact same bike I was using in the class - and had a good time driving around town, gently staying out of peoples' way and watching out for left-turners of all types. I've owned it right at two weeks now and have about 250 miles under my belt right now, less than one percent of most of the people I know who ride bikes. But I'm going on an adventure!

I would recommend the MSF class to anyone who wants to know How a motorcycle works and has never sat on one before, or even to the experienced rider who just wants a refresher and a fun chance to drive around the parking lot around the cones. Some of the best money I've ever spent, I figure.

Scott's first bike, a Suzuki TU-250.

The class itself was an eye-opening experience. There were eight students -  two 40-somethings (of which I was one), two 30-somethings (who were cops getting their endorsements because they were applying to be motormen for the City of Sunrise Police Department) and four early-20-somethings who all just liked motorcycles or scooters and wanted to learn. It was refreshing to see so many young people wanting to learn to ride. I have been told that motorcycling is dying out, but based on the demographics in my class, that isn't the case. Millennials are (generally speaking) interested in experiences, and motorcycling provides that.

The first 30 minutes or so was paperwork - signing releases, filling out forms, etc. We went around the room and introduced ourselves and told why we wanted to learn, which was cool. Then, out to the bikes. We picked up helmets and struggled to figure out how to operate those D-rings in the blind, then walked over to a row of Suzukis and picked one out for ourselves. They were all identical so it really didn't matter, other than there were two 250cc cruiser-type bikes from Kawasaki, which went to the girls. Oh, did I mention there were a couple of ladies in the 20-something group? 

Finally, we got on the bikes, put kickstands up and started walking the bikes in neutral around the parking lot. This gave us a feel for the weight of the bikes, and got us familiar with the front brake's response. It was a big moment when we all got to start the bikes up, what a great sound. We sat there revving our 250cc engines like little kids, grinning like goofballs. SO COOL!

Preview for Scott's YouTube channel, AmenMoto Motorcycle Adventures.

Then it was time to concentrate - we put the bikes in first gear and got to know the friction zone. We just rolled the bike a foot or two forward, then braked, keeping both feet on the ground. This went on for a good five minutes or so, then it was time to get the bikes rolling, still in first gear, and we went back and forth across the parking lot in straight lines. It was a cool feeling when we finally got both feet up on the pegs. I know this sounds almost ridiculous to a seasoned rider, but that was the moment it really felt like we were learning to ride motorcycles - when we had both feet planted and let the bike go fast enough for gyroscopic action to keep the bike upright.

What followed is a little bit of a blur. We would get off the bikes, walk over and talk to the teacher (or "rider coach"), discussing what we learned and what we felt, then we would go back out ot the bikes, start them up, ride around the course accomplishing some other small task, then bikes parked, discuss again. The constant parking and starting and parking and starting was ingraining the process of turning off the bike and parking it safely and then starting it up again. We didn't know this, we just thought it was all fun.

After a break for lunch, we returned to the riding range for a series of increasingly complicated tasks, like the double-U-turn box, learning how to coordinate both brakes, weaving through small cones, handling a mid-turn stop, learning how to upshift and downshift (and what downshifting does to traction,) and ended the day with a discussion and a video and opted to take our written tests, since if anyone failed they could take it again the following day. Two folks got perfect scores, the rest of us each missed one question. A passing grade for everyone on the written test, it was nice to have that out of the way.

The AmenMoto duo, Doug (L) and Scott.

We were invited to come back early the next morning, so I arrived at 6:30 and did some laps and some cones and the double-U-turn box a few times. Then the class started up with more complicated driving tasks. The rain was absolutely POURING by this point, and the instructor gave us about a 30-minute break to wait for a break in the rain, which never came. We all agreed we would skip the lunch break and try to power through the rest of the course without any breaks. We were all completely soaked all the way down to our skivvies, and it was chilly, but we powered on.

By noon it was time to start our testing. There were something like 10 or 12 tasks we had to complete, some of which were done two-tests-at-a-time. For example, "Demonstrate you can drive a half circle staying in your lane, then come to a stop within this box." Each person did their task while the rest of the class watched, then we all moved on to the next task. When the tasks were over, we parked the bikes by the shed, helped fill them back up with gas, and put them away. My trip-meter said 11 miles total for the two days of class. Finally, we were all done and we went back inside, wondering how we did.

In the classroom, the rider coach let us all know we had all passed, and after a collective sigh of relief he told us each how we did and where we had a point or two deducted. No one was anywhere near close to failing. With a round of applause for ourselves, we packed up and headed home - or, some of us to the DMV, where our test results had already been transmitted - to get our license endorsements.

Scott's trade-up Triumph.

Scott rode that little Suzuki for a year, after which he traded it in on a barely used Triumph Bonneville, pictured above. He still hasn't bought another car and rides everywhere he goes, having recently ridden his 20,000th mile in his two years of motorcycle ownership. You can see his collection of motorcycling videos by searching for AmenMoto Motorcycle Adventures on YouTube. He even rides his Triumph off-road, as the video below shows!

Tags:  beginners  MSF  Safety  travel 

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Whither motorcycling?

Posted By Tom Stresing #96217, Tuesday, October 24, 2017

In addition to my disguise as a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet, I often materialize as a substitute teacher. In that position at Jefferson High School last fall, some of the kids noticed me rereading Proficient Motorcycling (they’re always amazed when they see someone reading a book), so I started to tell them about my motorcycle trips.

One of those cherubs asked me why I would bother to ride a motorcycle all the way to Yellowstone when I could just Google it. I had no answer at the time, because I was unsure if we could actually speak the same language (I don’t speak hashtag). I’ve been mulling over what that answer could be for several months. This might be it.

The sacrifices of the Greatest Generation kept us from having to learn German, and the generations before that overcame obstacle after obstacle with grit, determination and hard work. We have become softer and lazier ever since, and we can legitimately blame our parents for that. They wanted us to have better lives than they did, but we don’t. We have easier lives, yes, but better?

Science has cured lots of the diseases that used to kill us early, but rather than being healthier we sit in front of televisions and eat junk food, wonder why we’re obese and who we can sue because of that. We join health clubs and still don’t get in shape. Apparently we’re actually supposed to go there and play on those strange-looking machines, but who has time for that?. We’ve been presented with so many miracles that now we expect them, demand them and take them for granted.

La Touche Lennui 1893.jpgBecause we feel we must be given entertainment all the time, we are easily and quite often bored. Kids (and some adults) are going to end up with their necks permanently deformed from constantly looking down at cell phones. This will not be an evolutionary trend, as it’s hard to mate in that pose; even if it could be done, the distracting baby goat videos on the phone and the laughter from the other Starbucks patrons would preclude completion. My new car came with a button that, when pushed, not only will it parallel park for me, it can actually choose the space into which it can fit! That is laziness bordering on insanity, but I do love the heated and cooled massaging seats.

The point is that riding a motorcycle well requires effort. Fewer of us know the meaning of the word. Granted, we have a volunteer military made up of amazing people who relish hard work, self-discipline and determination. We have folks who become police officers despite the bad press and requisite political correctness. There are individuals who will enter a burning building to rescue people who were so busy watching (un)reality TV that they didn’t get around to putting batteries in their smoke detectors. There are those who climb mountains and run marathons, those who provide aid and comfort to the downtrodden. These heroes are courage and sacrifice personified, and I am awed by them and grateful that they exist.

As more and more of us protect our fragile egos in our safe places surrounded by our participation trophies, there are fewer and fewer of us who find the true joy in accepting challenges, overcoming them and searching, even begging, for more. Look no further for an endangered species - or for the reason that motorcycle sales are down.

P.S. I’d have written more, but I must get a note of thanks out to the Flonase Company. Now that I know that six is greater than one, I consider my mathematical education to be complete. Once in awhile I catch myself wondering if other numbers might also be greater than one, but that heavy-duty philosophy stuff just gives me a headache, so I go back to my video games.

Painting by Gaston La Touche -!La Touche_L'Ennui, Public Domain, Link

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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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