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The Rightsizing of the Motorcycle Industry

Rightsizing of the Motorcycle Industry

As I drove around last Saturday to hand out flyers and solicit door prizes for the upcoming Rails and Roads Vintage Motorcycle Show (September 16th 2017 in Winnsboro SC) I stopped at a few dealerships and a few independent shops. In all places the welcomes were warm, but I noticed something very strange. In most cases there was almost no one in the stores besides the employees. When I worked at my local Honda dealership, every Saturday was a madhouse; an empty store on a Saturday was unheard of. It must have been inevitable that after decades of main stream success that it may be time for a rightsizing of the motorcycle industry.

Rails and Roads Motorcycle Show
Rails and Roads Motorcycle Show

Of course the recent news that Harley Davidson was going to layoff some production workers was something no one could have imagined 10-15 years ago. Before that Polaris announced the shuttering of their Victory motorcycle brand. The one bright spot in the market for Polaris is the success of the Indian brand that merged the solid technology of the Polaris company with an old legendary American brand name.

It’s not just cruisers, sport bike sales are off too. All across the market things are not as exciting as they used to be. The big 4 Japanese manufacturers are fortunate enough to have the ATV & side X side UTV market to keep them going, but even that segment has been affected by the tightening of the consumers spending habits. And this seems to be a global slide as the Nikkei Asian Review recently published an article entitled “The Motorcycle Becoming Thing of the Past.” According to this article, motorcycle sales in Japan are only 11% of what they once were. It’s sad to think that motorcycling is going away in the country that proved to the world that it was possible to build reliable, oil tight, powerful & lightweight motorcycles.

The bright spot in the world market for motorcycles is the increasing demand in India where according to the Times of India demand for 500cc and up motorcycles has increased at a 23% calculated annual growth rate from 2014 to 2017. This has led to a number of large players building factories there to pry some of this lucrative business away from Bajaj & Enfield.

Another happy trend is the vintage motorcycle industry. Although it is in very real danger of falling victim to the same over-exposure & over-saturation as the “American Chopper” crowd from a few years ago, right now the demand for genuine vintage motorcycles whether restored or customized in either the “café racer or “Bratstyle,”is extremely high.  Now when you buy that old Japanese 4 or even small displacement twin you have to pay real money for it, if you don’t someone else will. A lot of motorcycle manufacturers have noticed this trend and now offer ready to ride retro style machines to allow you to experience the joy of vintage motorcycling without the misery of actually restoring a vintage motorcycle.

But the motorcycle companies are not the only ones that suffer from a soft demand for motorcycles, the Touratech company makers of some of the finest accessories for the adventure touring market filed for bankruptcy protection this year. This is yet another symptom of the rightsizing of the motorcycle industry. According to the Touratech U.S.A. blog operations will continue as normal during the company’s reorganization.

Motorcycle magazines are another thing hit hard by the rightsizing of the motorcycle industry. The audience is fickle even when times are booming it’s tough for publishers. Two of my all-time favorite motorcycle magazines came & went during the nineties at the height of the motorcycling boom in the U.S. The Old Bike Journal was one and the other was Twistgrip. Both of them came and went pretty quickly, The Old Bike Journal lasted longer because it had a broader audience, but both of these publications came and went during relatively good times.

Recently on Facebook, Buzz Kanter the publisher of American Iron Magazine shared his thoughts on the state of the industry giving some examples of how tough it is to survive and thrive in today’s market. I am going to share his exact words with you in the succeeding paragraphs. (Yes he generously granted permission for all to share them.)

“Call it Industrial Darwinism if you wish. But the business world is really all about the survival of the fittest. I have questioned for a few years how the motorcycle industry could support so many manufacturers, distributors and magazines. I now believe we are about to have a serious shift and downsizing.
I predict a growing number of changes in the motorcycle industry in the next year or so.
Too many motorcycle-industry businesses are over finanically over leveraged and will not be able to carry the debt. Others seem to be poorly managed. But others look healthy, creative and sustainable.
I expect more consolidation of big name motorcycle industry brands, some companies going out of buisness, and a very significant reduction of motorcycle magazines.
Paisano (Easyriders Magazine, V-Twin Magazine, Wrench Magazine, Road Iron Magazine) has announced they are folding all their motorcycle magazines except Easyriders, which they are reducing from 12 to 9 or 10 issues a year.
Bonnier (Cycle World Magazine, Motorcyclist Magazine, Hot Bike Magazine, Baggers Magazine, Sport Rider Magazine, etc) has been cutting back on their magazines’s sizes and frequencies. They just announced they are folding Sport Rider, and I expect more radical cuts in staff and product there.
So what does this all mean? I believe the motorcycle industry is ripe for a “rightsizing” where there will be a rebalancing of supply and demand. As demand for motorcycles, motorcycle parts and motorcycle services continue to decline, so does the financial support of those who serve these markets.
We at the growing family of American Iron media (American Iron Magazine, American Iron Garage, American Iron Salute, and American Iron Power magazines, plus our growing on-line operations) are working hard to understand and react to these changes with strategic and creative ways. We’d like to thank everyone involved with the amazing world of motorcycles for your support as we move ahead into the future.
If you have read this far, I’d appreciate your reaction and suggestions, also please feel free to share this post.”

This is sobering stuff from an acknowledged industry leader. The cuts at Bonnier especially bug me because Cycle World is the only one I subscribe to and is the current home of my favorite motorcycle writer of all times Kevin Cameron, but time and the economy march on relentlessly so we must all adapt or die.

Now this all sounds like a lot of gloom and doom, but there could be a lot of positives to the rightsizing of the motorcycle industry. As motorcycling has grown and become more mainstream the many of the long time hardcore motorcycle enthusiasts (especially American motorcycle loyalists) have resented being taken for granted and seemingly being pushed aside as the dealers and motorcycle companies ran chasing after the hordes of trend followers who saw motorcycles as cool fashion accessories to be discarded when the next big thing comes along.

Another advantage is that the companies that survive the rightsizing will be more competitive and have a sounder financial footing for the future. I just hope the ones that do can produce products that I like and still stay in business.

Part of the problem with the motorcycle industry is enthusiasts like me, people with eclectic tastes in motorcycles that no one else but me really wants. The problem with modern motorcycling for me is there are so few motorcycles available that I would have. The short list in order by desirability is;

  1. Triumph Bonneville Street Twin (Yes the 900cc version I’d never miss the other 300cc.)
  2. Moto Guzzi V9 Roamer or Bobber (I prefer the Roamer with its chrome and 19” front wheel)
  3. Honda CB1100 (This bike can do no wrong and would actually be my first choice for a cross country ride, it just blends into the background too easily.)
  4. Honda Africa Twin (Only adventure bike I’d want)
  5. Royal Enfield Bullet (Love the style, riding position etc. but I’d have to keep a Honda in the garage next to it, you know just in case.)

    a real 2012 Royal Enfield Bullet
    a real 2012 Royal Enfield Bullet

Look at this list other than the Triumph does anybody else want one? I must not want one too badly either, the newest bike I own is a scooter an 01 Honda Helix, the next newest one is a 1980 CB650, & the others are from 1964, 1971 & 1972. Too many people bitch on the internet about what they want but when someone builds it they don’t go buy it. I plead guilty as charged to that. Prices are too damn high, income is down, and my 37 year old ratbike is just as roadworthy & reliable as anything I can buy.

This friends leads to the real reason for the “rightsizing of the motorcycle industry”, the customers just aren’t buying. There are a million reasons why not. In my case personally it’s the value of what you get versus what you pay. I can sign the line and get any motorcycle I want, but quite frankly to me they’re not worth the cost. Others just simply don’t see anything new that they want even though they don’t mind spending the money. Plus many vintage bikes especially the Japanese ones are damn near as reliable as anything made today for a fraction of the cost once they get fettled properly. Combine this with a general decline in interest in the experience of driving by younger people it’s easy to see why the industry as a whole is downsizing. The customers just aren’t buying.

Motopsyco’s Featured Website BikeBandit.com

It’s been a while since I’ve featured a great useful website so today I’ll tell you about one of my favorite places to shop for motorcycle parts and riding gear BikeBandit.com!

http://www.bikebandit.com/ for motorcycle parts, full face helmets & more
http://www.bikebandit.com/ for motorcycle parts, full face helmets & more

Regardless of what you are shopping for you owe it to yourself to at least check Bike Bandit while you are shopping for motorcycle parts and accessories, especially motorcycle OEM parts. In addition to their very competitive pricing they have the diagrams (aka micro-fiche), and part numbers from the following manufacturers; BMW, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, Polaris, Suzuki, Triumph, and Yamaha. This covers most major brands of motorcycles, all terrain vehicles, side by sides, dirtbikes, scooters, personal watercraft, and even generators!

They also have a decently written professional blog filled with tips on riding and wrenching that is worth looking through on a regular basis.

Shop for your Motorcyle OEM Parts at Bike Bandit
Shop for your Motorcyle OEM Parts at Bike Bandit

Seriously click here right now and go check out the great selection of motorcycle OEM parts. Yes I really purchase OEM parts from them on a regular basis and those of you who know me, know just how cheap I am, even though I demand top quality customer service.

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you know that I am a stickler for protective riding gear. When I get on my bike in the morning to go to the office, I always wear boots, pants, jacket, and gloves along with a full face helmet. Some may think this is overkill but I am really attached to my skin, especially the skin on my face so for me a full face helmet is the only way to go.

Full-Face-Helmets
Bike Bandit Sale prices on full face helmets.

Right now Bike Bandit is having a really good sale on Arai full face helmets so if you’re in the market for some world class skull protection you really should get in on this sale.

That’s it for today and if you haven’t already be sure to sign up for our emailing list to keep up with the world of do it yourself motorcycle & repairs and vintage motorcycle news & events.

Peace Y’all

Destination Eustis 2016 Motorcycle Show

Friday at the Destination Eustis 2016 Motorcycle Show

There wasn’t really a lot going on yet when I rolled into the Destination Eustis 2016 Motorcycle Show early on Friday March 4th. So I went ahead and set up my base camp for the weekend. To stretch my budget this year, instead of staying in a hotel I decided to sleep on an air mattress in the back of the enclosed trailer. This actually made a decent camping arrangement as a simple tent heater kept it nice and cozy on the cool early spring nights.

Motopsyco's camp @ Destination Eustis 2016 Motorcycle Show

Afterwards I went digging around the swap meet just to see what was there. I didn’t take as many pictures this year because I had an actual shopping list of parts that are needed for two very different bikes, one a 45 cubic inch Flathead Harley and the other a Honda CT70 Mini Trail. Didn’t find much for the mini but there were a couple of vendors that had some good deals on parts for the Flattie.

<harley flathead battery boxes>

<flathead & wla handlebars>

One of the absolute coolest things there was this little Model T replica for sale. The seller drove it around all over the place, and I hope some happy person took it home.

Mini Model T at Destination Eustis 2016 Motorcycle Show

Other than a little shopping I just hung around the main exhibition hall and offered my meager assistance to the really hard working folks in the VJMC who were getting everything ready for the show on Saturday. Once darkness had fallen and supper was over it was time to retire to my little campsite and knock back a brew before turning in.

Saturday at the Destination Eustis 2016 Motorcycle Show

<campfire coffee>

Fresh perked coffee early in the morning, sitting in a chair outside while cooking breakfast over a camp stove. The only way it could have gotten any better would be if my lovely partner had been there with me, but alas she had to work.

<cb450 police & qa50>

After making myself reasonably presentable it was time to head over to the main hall again and watch as the neat old bikes filed in to register for the show. Rather than trying to post them individually I put a few of them in a slideshow for you.

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There were of course a few extra special bikes that really stood out and demonstrated that even though this may be one of the smaller “Bike Week” events it attracts some really high caliber machinery.

First up is an ultra rare Flying Merkel, who doesn’t enjoy seeing an old timer like this in good running order?

Flying merkel>

There have been a lot of custom cafe racer or muscle-bike style custom Goldwings showing up on the internet and it was great to see this wild ‘Wing show up to take home 1st place in the custom class.

Custom Goldwing Destination Eustis 2016 Motorcycle Show

No vintage motorcycle show is complete without at least one classic American racer, and the stunning Indian flat tracker fits the bill perfectly.

<antique indian racer>

The Best Of Show award went to my friend Mike, who brought this absolutely immaculate 1975 Kawasaki Z1B. He restored this bike himself from a rusty derelict. Look for more pictures of this one in the next week or two.

<1975 Kawasaki Z1B>

One of the best things about going to a VJMC organized show is the fact that the judging is done by audience voting. This makes results almost completely unpredictable, and does away the bullshit & hurt feelings that result from selection by a panel of judges. I’d also like to acknowledge the hard work of the Vintage Motorcycle Alliance, they run the swap meet and set up the vendor areas and without them and the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club, this event would not be what it is.

Click here to learn more about the Vintage Motorcycle Alliance

Click here to learn more about the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club

Until next time, Peace Y’all

 

 

The 2015 Bull City Rumble

The 2015 Bull City Rumble

Every year for the last 11 years during the Labor Day weekend holiday the club Ton Up North Carolina has been hosting a great multiday event for vintage motorcycle enthusiasts in Durham North Carolina. The main focus is on vintage café racer styled customs, restorations, competition bikes, and vintage scooters. Ever since I discovered this event three years ago the Saturday bike show has been permanently added to my calendar.

<Durham NC September 5th 2015>

One of the great things I love about this event is the fact that every year at least one really oddball custom will show up. The top motor freak at this year’s show was a diamond plate covered Goldwing that had everyone scratching their heads.

<diamond plate Goldwing>

This being a café racer club there was plenty of fine British & European iron on display including an original unrestored 1983 Triumph TSS with electric start.

 

<1983 Triumph TSS>

Numerous Moto Guzzi motorcycles were on hand such as this T3 and this old Ambassador

<old Moto Guzzis>

I can’t tell you exactly which one of the two it was but one of these immaculate AJS machines that won best of show, both look so pristine I don’t think it matters

< antique AJS motorcycles>

Fellow VJMC member Mike McSween was showing his terrific pair of restored vintage Kawasaki road racers with his 1971 H1R 500, number 56 in the picture taking home first place. The other green jewel in the picture is his 1972 H2 750 triple.

<vintage Kawasaki Road Racers>

Anytime I get within a mile of a Vincent I have to take its picture. Even though I am normally a Japanese bike fanatic, Vincents like this 1952 model really are my ultimate dream machine. Perhaps one day…

<1952 Vincent>

The award for the best Japanese motorcycle went to this highly detailed & wonderfully conceived CX500 Honda.

< Honda CX500 Cafe Racer>

No matter what angle it is viewed from the artistry & talent of the builder is just amazing.

<custom CX500>

Until 2014 there was no class for American motorcycles and while this was still the smallest class it did attract some high quality equipment including a 1950’s vintage Indian and this fine looking Harley Davidson J model.

<Harley Davidson model J>

I must confess that when the American class was first introduced that I and a couple of others had mixed feelings about it. We feared that an influx of the so called American bikers would destroy the character of this event and make it into yet another chrome, mullet, & tattoo show for us (and our fat wallets) to stay away from. Fortunately this has not happened so far. I was there for nine hours this year and only heard one person make a disparaging remark about the motorcycles with superior engineering, handling & reliability. Since she was blonde I’ll forgive her for not having the intellectual acumen to understand that some of us view our motorcycles as something more than just a two wheeled “Members Only” jacket.

It was great having Rommel Harley Davidson there as a sponsor and I really enjoyed checking out the new Street 750 demo trailer that they had set up. Check it out on the video below at the bottom of the page.
Other motorcycles at the show that I really liked included this very tasteful black Suzuki café racer. These late 70’s & early ‘80s Suzuki cycles don’t get nearly the love from restorers or customizers that they should, even though they were probably the best all-around motorcycles of that time period.

<Suzuki GS cafe racer>

If you love vintage turbo bikes there were a Yamaha Seca & a Honda CX parked side by side on the street.

<Turbo Seca Turbo CX500>

Everywhere you looked there was a good selection of vintage & retro machines, fine people, good eats, and plenty of excitement, and I am already planning to return next year. Check out the Ton Up NC website at http://tonup-nc.blogspot.com/ for more information.

<at the 2015 Bull City Rumble>

I took so many pictures at the 2015 Bull City Rumble that I decided to put the best of the rest into a slide show.

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Here’s the youtube video that I made of the event. Watching this is probably the best way to get an idea of the scope of this event.

The 2015 National Bikers Roundup

Last weekend one of our local county council members & I took in a visit to the Darlington Dragway, our goal was to get an overview of the 2015 National Bikers Roundup and show all of the locals who were unnecessarily anxious about the presence of a large group of African-American bikers in our community. Folks, even at the Memorial Day Bikefest, the bikers are not the problem. The National Bikers Roundup organization, rented the venue, got all of the necessary permits, coordinated with local law enforcement, and had more than adequate event staff on hand to keep everything rolling smoothly. We had a blast check out the video & the pictures below!

I’m not going to write a lot in this post as I’d just be repeating a lot of what I’ve already said in the video.

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Peace Y’all

The 2015 VJMC National Rally Day 2

It is the end of the second day of the 2015 VJMC National Rally, and a little rain is falling  from a passing thunderstorm this evening but for most of the day the weather was beautiful and the group rides went off without a hitch.

image

We all had a great time on a various rides to various different places in the mountains. My wife and I actually followed the tiddler group up to the Sugarland visitors  center, after a brief visit to the museum we proceeded to the Metcalfe Bottoms picnic area where we had a nice lunch.
In the meantime the convention center continues fill up with an ever increasing assortment of nice bikes as people rolled in.

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It turns out I’m not the only one who brought a 185 Suzuki.

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Above is an entire row of classic Kawasakis.

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Here’s a nice original XS500

After a great BBQ supper we listened to a presentation from Pete Boody the owner of Pistol Pete’s services who is restoring the prototype Goldwing serial number 2. Pete gave us a good run down of the early history of the development of the Goldwing and the difference between the prototypes, the pre-production units and  the final production units.

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It has been a terrific day and I do have some video footage from the ride that is up on YouTube.


Peace Y’all

2015 VJMC National Rally Day 1

Today was the first day of the 2015 VJMC National Rally

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Here are a few more pictures from the first day’s action .

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I actually feel bad about loading the Suburban Assault Scrambler onto  to a trailer for this short little trip, but I wanted to take both bikes.

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This blue and white Suzuki water buffalo is terrific looking.

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Another blue and white Suzuki.

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A Honda Grom and a CB 1100 parked outside of the Convention Center.

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A raffle bike from the  Cincinnati group.

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It just wouldn’t be a vintage motorcycle rally without a Honda ST90.

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A beautiful Yamaha but check out the odometer below.

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Before I sign off for the day, I  just have to include a picture of my Suzuki TS185 sitting inside the convention center with all the pretty show bikes.

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Peace y’all.