As 2017 is winding to a close, it’s time to reflect back at the year that was. We’ll be publishing several articles over the next couple of weeks that outline many of the highlights from the past year, but first is this fun look back at what we think are some of the most annoying motorcycle trends witnessed in 2017, as authored by our inimitable John Burns. We predict a lively comments section… –Ed.
10. Sales are Down
Well, some sales are down, other manufacturers – mostly European – keep reporting record numbers. So maybe it’s just a reshuffling? And lagging sales sometimes serve as a wake-up call. Harley-Davidson has been having a rough couple of years, but maybe that was the poke it needed to reinvent its line-up like it did with its Softail line a few months ago. Also, some of H-D’s losses are Indian’s gain. Aren’t we Amuricans believers in the idea that competition makes everybody stronger? If they couldn’t kill Coke by making it taste like Pepsi, then how are they gonna kill Harley-Davidson? Lagging sales are causing the Motor Company to double down on building new models and recruiting new riders. That which does not kill Milwaukee will make it stronger.
(For today, let’s ignore the elephant in the room: “According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income has actually dropped by roughly $5,000 since 1999 to a median of $51,017 as of 2012. Pew Research pointed out that in spite of nominal wage growth of 727% between 1964 and 2014, in constant 2014 dollars (meaning when taking inflation into account) real wage growth has totaled just 7.8% over 50 years. College tuition, medical care, and even fuel costs have risen at a faster pace, thus diminishing the buying power of the middle class.”)
9. Valentino Rossi Loses the MotoGP Championship Again
Why don’t people stay on the pavement, why? A broken leg from an off-road riding shunt removed WLF One from MotoGP championship contention halfway through the season, handing the championship to Marc Marquez. Now nearly 39 years old, it looks like Rossi may never make it up to 10 championships, and may never break Giacomo Agostini’s record of 122 GP wins. Try to forget the disappointment, like Vale, by visiting the Dailystar for a look at seven of his dates.
8. Crumbling Roads, Natural Disasters
It’s tough to get out and ride when your garage is underwater and/or your shit is on fire. For some reason, that seems to be happening with increasing frequency. Roads in serious disrepair all over the country have at least boosted sales of rugged vehicles like pickup trucks and adventure bikes. Not to worry, though, the $1,000,000,000,000 infrastructure plan is on its way next month according to this story.
7. Sturgis Tamed
From a story in USA Today dated 8 August, 2017:
For many Americans, Sturgis conjures up images of an anything-goes motorcycle festival, where drugs flow, fists fly and nudity runs rampant. But the reality is that most attendees today are professionals with too much to lose if they get arrested. Surprisingly, the top three professions at Sturgis are doctors, lawyers and accountants, said city manager Daniel Ainsley.
Doing the math makes that statistic easier to understand: New Harley-Davidson or Indian motorcycles start around $20,000, although high-end models can hit $50,000, and that’s before any real customization. Then there’s the logo-wear clothing, the gas, the insurance and even the ability to take a week’s vacation.
These aren’t Easy Riders, living a carefree life on the road. These are aging Baby Boomers with kids and mortgages and nice cars. Read the headline in one local paper this week: “Has Sturgis gotten too grey?”
The most risqué thing you might see on the street is Cierra Browning’s airbrush-painted torso. Wearing fishnet stockings and a lacy thong, Browning, 21, a restaurant manager, this week stood outside the Tattoo Cellar, calling out to passersby, cajoling them into getting inked.
Her outfit consisted of an eagle with an American flag painted on her back, and another eagle, wings spread, across her bare chest, her nipples covered by stickers. Man after man stopped to take pictures with her, and she tucked $20 bills into her waistband as she scanned the crowd.
6. Complete Lack of Making Motorcycle Training Fun
With all due respect to the brave men and women who lay their lives on the line so that others may ride, for God’s sake man, can’t we find a way to make it a little more stimulating than Rebel 250s in a parking lot? (Actually, I had a lot of fun doing that once, but only after I got to a BAC of about 0.16) What would be so wrong with a bunch of XR100s or Yamaha TT-R125s like American Supercamp or Rich Oliver or Colin Edwards train people on, trucked out to the kiddie track at a nice motocross park? Everybody would have way more fun, would learn a lot more bike control in the same amount of time, and wouldn’t be able to wait to get back out there on their own motorcycle. If Harley-Davidson can teach a whole town to ride, surely the people who produce XRs, TT-Rs, KLXs and RMs can do better. Those bikes are the true gateway drugs.
5. Crap Fuel Mileage and no E-bike Breakthrough in Sight
Oh look, we’re on E again. We love our Tuonos and things, but really, some of these new bikes get such lousy fuel mileage, we didn’t even bother to measure it in last year’s Streetfighter Shootout. I remember Ducati 916s getting near the 50s back in the old days, but lots of modern literbikes are in the low 30s – worse mileage than a lot of cars. Can’t we do better? Well, you could trade for an NC700X and get 60 mpg.
And electric bikes are getting incrementally better, but we’re still waiting for the battery breakthrough (or maybe just the charging breakthrough) that will make them practical for travel as well as commuting. Maybe BMW will come up with something in the new Group Battery Cell Competence Center it just opened in Munich?
4. Lack of Automatic Transmissions, Fear of the Scooter
After the fear of being flattened by a car, fear of learning to shift gears is the next big thing that scares many people away from learning to ride. Apart from Honda and its automatic Dual Clutch Transmission models, nobody else is lifting one engineering finger to soothe those people’s fears. Scooters, of course, are basic transportation for billions the world over, but not in the USA. It’s now officially okay to be gay, but, for some, it’s still not cool to ride a scooter. More for the rest of us, really. Two-wheeled things you just hop on and go becoming commonplace would go a long way to promoting motorcycling over here. Buy someone you love a Vespa for Christmas; why not?
3. Still no Lane Sharing in 49 of 50 Bass-ackward States
You really can’t blame the bass-ackward states, I suppose, but it seems reasonable to blame the people who should be educating and influencing them toward the light, toward the fact that lane sharing is not only safer for the sharee, but that it eases traffic congestion, gets everyone wherever they’re going quicker, and is almost universally accepted around the world.
Whose job might that be? Mine, for one, but also, oh, gee, I dunno? Maybe the American Motorcyclist Association or possibly the Motorcycle Industry Council? Motorcycle Safety Foundation? No telling how many people in Houston, Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix, Seattle, etc. would park their F150s on nice days if they could get to work in half the time on their new DCT Honda or scooter. It might even sell a few motorcycles, easing problem #10. Right now, Washington state’s bill is mired in the legislative process, and Arizona’s is waiting to be voted down in January. Can we get the NRA to take this up if we all agree to pack heat?
2. Old Motorcyclists Dying at an Alarming Rate, Along with Everybody Else
A report out from AAA in October says the mortality rate for riders 60 or older is more than four times the overall increase in motorcycle deaths for 2016. “Overall,” the report also states, “motorcycle deaths rose to the highest level in eight years in 2016, although some of the increase was also in line with an increase in motorcycle registrations. The number of motorcycles on the road increased to 8.6 million motorcycles in 2015 compared with 8.4 million in 2014, according to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) data cited by the organization.”
Motorcycle fatalities rose 5.1% from 2015 to 2016, while deaths among older baby boomers increased more than 20%.
Is it just me, or are older people in general more prone to die than younger ones? Where’s our control group? Meanwhile, more riders of all ages have been dying in record numbers since many states repealed helmet laws beginning 20 years ago. Freedom!
1. Hating on Each Other
Recent political events have made us all too aware of the effectiveness of the tactics of divide and conquer. Let’s not let it happen to us motorcycle people, who all belong in the freak tent according to 94% of the population. I remember saying something disparaging about a guy’s chopper one time in the presence of Gordon Jennings. I paraphrase, but GJ said, “Anybody who’s crazy enough to sit on a single-track vehicle with an engine in it, and ride not out only into the land but also into heavy traffic, is alright with me.”
Let us quit bagging on the millennial, whose seeming lackadaisical attitude hides the kinds of worries older generations didn’t have to deal with. Bust not the chops of the Boomer, though most of our monetary problems really are his fault. Hate not upon the Harley rider, many of who were once sportbikers and could ride rings around you. But feel free to poke fun at loud pipes and lack of helmet on any motorcycle rider. In a pleasant way. When safe to do so.
Fear not the crotch rocketeer; they’re not all idiots, and in time they’ll shed the helmet Mohawk and become solid motorcycle citizens. BMW people are just like the rest of us but with more money; be nice and they might let you onto their private racetrack. The vintage crowd will always be with us; buy them a sandwich. Render unto Ducati what is Caesar’s.
Blameth not the manufacturers, who are making new bikes so fast in all price ranges we can barely “test” them all. Dealers, ahhh, well, okay, dealers are jerks. I kid. They do their best in an era when everybody wants online prices from brick and mortar stores. Feel free to try on 10 helmets then buy one online.
Rev not your engine in town unless you have to to keep it from dying. Wave at little kids and the fairer sex when appropriate, in a non-threatening or suggestive way. Follow the golden rule: Don’t be a dick. Actually it’s treat others how you’d like to be treated, with empathy and understanding no matter what weird junk they inexplicably choose to ride. They’re all motorcycles. Yes, even trikes.