I read a beautiful and very intelligent editorial written by Chris Callen from Cycle Source Magazine. Like him I am irritated by those who attribute the slow down of our industry to the disappearance of TV shows glorifying our work. Ok, OCC is still on our screens, but the majority of those watching their show are not bikers and don’t build a motorcycle in their garage. They follow the tribulations of the Teutuls for their entertaining value and because they can identify themselves with the struggles of a family making business happen. American Thunder on Speed Channel has more bike shows coverage and focuses on the end result, the customized bike. Custom Builder’s business life was pretty good before 2000 and the arrival of motorcycle TV shows. These shows were created because our industry was growing, more and more amazing custom bikes were seen in the streets and because there was opportunity for the networks to create audiences by showing the talented work of the men producing these machines. Because Motorcycle Mania with Jesse James became a hit, many more TV shows were created. The motorcycle industry was feeding the networks and the networks was feeding the industry by bringing to us even more attention & respect from the public at large, bikers and non bikers. It’s how we made TV look very cool. It’s true that TV helped us sell many more frames/rollers/parts…and tee-shirts. We all beneficiated but also attracted a lot of individuals who were buying the fad and thought it was easy and possible for them to build from the ground up a reliable bike in 2 weeks maximum and, why not, to resell it for a big profit . New shops & vendors with a name ending with the magic word “choppers” were created every week under the illusion that bikes were a very cool way to make millions in a few months. All veterans in this business (you are one if you were able to make a living in this business during at least 15 years in a row) knew that it was only illusion.
The motorcycle industry is not the new Eldorado the new comers thought it was. It is an industry fueled by love and passion for the craft, not by the pursuit of money. How many new bikers, dealers, vendors, manufacturers, bike show organizers already disappeared when we reached 2004, 1 or 2 years before almost all motorcycle TV shows were canceled? Networks look for audiences, and when the number of viewers goes down, shows are not renewed. Since 2005, it’s no picnic to be an American. National polls reveal a seemingly incurable malaise aggravated by insecurities about housing, health care, gas price, retirement and jobs. There is the knock-kneed dollar, there is the economy, there is Iraq, there is a new presidential election… To pay our bills half of us are tempted to raid our 401(k) s and the other half doesn’t have them. If you have difficulty to make ends meet after paying your mortgage a motorcycle TV show is not going to help you in any way or help us to sell more bikes and parts. Oh, I forgot to mention. The only ones that I heard suggesting that more TV shows will re launch our business are people who aren’t riding or weren’t part of our industry pre-2000. I tell you. "It’s the economy, stupid!". But the US economy will prevail, and like Chris Callen said, we are going again to make TV look very cool.
Update: (Thursday Oct 25, 7 PM EST). I thank everybody for their nice comments regarding the post above. Reading them this evening, I learn that a motorcycle website states that Billy Lane, because of his accident, is responsible for the cancellation of the TV shows and the slow down of the industry. Like my readers (see comments), I find such a statement absolutely ridiculous and offending for my fellow builder Billy Lane. And to demonstrate that the statement made makes no sense at all, I want to advise all my readers that Billy Lane will be very soon on TV with Paul Cox to host the new show "The Next Great American Builder" that I announced this week in exclusivity in my Blog. The show is about 13 individuals, non professionals, competing to become my next fellow pro-builder.