Are We Ready For The Inevitable Motorcycle Industry Rebound?

During the last 20 years, Harley-Davidson did a magnificent job at fullfilling the needs and wants of the rebel inside all of us. In the mid 80’s, with a brand symbolizing the American dream of independence and freedom, Harley-davidson was able to seduce a still young generation of “Baby Boomers” who embraced their image and bought in droves a lot of their bikes. In the 90’s, until 2006, Harley was able to constantly redefine its image to fit in the lifestyle of the aging rebels and had an easy job at adapting its models just by observing the popularity of new design trends  (stretch, rake, 6-speed transmissions, wide tires, etc). imposed by a vibrant custom motorcycle industry

Dealers went from motorcycle shops to luxurious “Harley Dream Department Stores” which became one of the entertainment places for the MWTK’s (married With 2 kids) and older EN’s (Empty Nesters) to spend part of the money of  their peak income years. A booming economy financed by too easy borrowing at very low rates amplified the success of many companies, and you can put Harley Davidson motorcycles in the top list of discretionary purchases that many could not really afford if not extracted through credit card charges and equity lines of credit . It was way too easy for Harley-Davidson and the custom motorcycle industry. The Milwaukee company started to lose track of who were their loyal consumers. For me, the symbol of this disconnect is when Harley-Davidson was ridiculed for having Elton John headline its massive anniversary party, not exactly the music of choice for those more inclined to wear black leather and jeans than beige Dockers and Ralph Lauren polo shirts.

In addition Harley could not see, like most consumers, that we were riding inside an economic bubble. Consequently its executives fell asleep at the switch, easily expanding sales by borrowing very cheap money to lend it for a profit to all those who wanted to own a Harley. Financing bikes on 6-year terms became  its main source of profit. During that time Harley-Davidson completely forgot to think about the way to connect, both in terms of marketing and new products, with the new generation of motorcycle riders moving up through the ranks. Hello Harley, they don’t have as much money to spend on a motorcycle, they speak a different language, listen to other bands and don’t want to look like their baby-boomer parents and ride the same bikes. One of my favorite quotes is from famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky: “skating to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

What we see now coming from Milwaukee iis damage control. And it takes time. 1-Reshaping the company by cutting costs anywhere possible to re-establish the company in a financial situation where it can refinance its debts, satisfy Wall Street and its share holders. Mission accomplished. Harley has a ton of money to lend to its buyers and the stock is up 98% for the last 12 months. 2-Multiplying promotional incentives and discounts and limiting production to ease the burden of too many new bikes on the dealer floor. Mission in progress… 3-Talking to and helping minorities and women access to their motorcycles. In progress… 4-Painting some of its existing models in flat black, replacing chrome shine by dull powder coating, and calling the new line ‘Dark Series” to attract the new rebel X & Y generations? Convincing? Not really, but nothing else that Harley-Davidson could do in a short time. But what’s next? It has to be true new models (following the heritage) that the less than 35 year-olds can afford without over borrowing because they are already the most indebted young generation (student loans, cars, 1st time homes).

The custom motorcycle industry can’t live well without Harley-Davidson succeeding its transition to a completely new motorcycle world with brand new models at more affordable prices. Of course, Harley knows this. Your comments and sometimes very harsh critics in my Blog towards the mother company is for me the proof, if any necessary, of your great expectations and of your strong affective attachment to the brand.  Baggers and Trikes are not the future of Harley-Davidson in terms of volume. Not beyond 5 to 10 years. Right now they are just popular bikes in majority for the aging/old rebels. So, the custom versions done today by custom builders are not the future of the custom motorcycle industry beyond the same lapse of time.

Custom Builders and after-market part manufacturers have always been a huge source of inspiration for Harley and other clone manufacturers . And it will never stop to be this way. New old school bikes are very cool, but contrary to common belief, are in majority bought and customized by an already 35/40 year old crowd, and most will never be for long distance rides. And miles ridden have a strong positive influence of the motorcycle industry health. V-Twin or V-rod sport bikes? What else? A major trend has yet to emerge, one susceptible to persuade youngsters to ride, to visit a Harley dealership, to order one (under 10 k),  to have it customized or built from the ground up by a custom shop. I am not sure that Harley-Davidson will be ready right away with new models for youngsters and DINK’s (Double Income No Kids) to take full advantage of the inevitable motorcycle industry rebound.  And us on the custom side. Are we ready? Maybe, instead of whining at Harley, should we work harder at defining the new lines, the  street legal platforms and components able to turn a youngster into a biker. Harley-Davidson may follow…(pictures copyright Harley-Davidson)

Zipper's

49 Responses to “Are We Ready For The Inevitable Motorcycle Industry Rebound?”


  1. 1 Dylan Apr 9th, 2010 at 7:35 am

    This should get interesting over the next five to ten years. I am a Gen X-er and I just saw the new 48 in person after seeing the marketing blitz for it. Not that impressed, especially since my local dealer was selling it for THREE THOUSAND over sticker. They were toting it as “only a few made”, but smart buyers know that this a cheap way to test market a product. If all goes well for HD we will be flooded with sportsters that have a wide glide front end and a fat front tire in the next couple of years. I will say it again HD. New Blood, fresh ideas and lower prices HD.

  2. 2 burnout Apr 9th, 2010 at 7:58 am

    The people I hear complaining the most about The Company are at the dealership most Saturdays checking out new bikes and buying the crap out of apparel. I CAN criticize HD but enough of that is done without me having to. I love ‘foolin around’ with harleys, beats having a REAL job. My phone has been ringing solid the last 2 months and I LIKE it! peace

  3. 3 Seymour Apr 9th, 2010 at 8:20 am

    I have an idea for a new HD vehicle that I were surely buy, but I don’t want to say what it is, because I want all the credit for it. Aint I a stinker?

  4. 4 Uruz Apr 9th, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Stick a fork in it. The boomers are spending their money on something else… like retirement. The old x-ers are getting ready to send their kids to college. The young x-ers are doing something else, not really buying much of anything except may flatscreens. The y-ers are asking y would I want one? That’s an old man’s hobby. The banks won’t finance any of them. And the companies in the industry are the most reactive, ill-run incs, llcs, and corps in America (outside of the car industry anyway). H-D is too big to fail and I suppose there will be those who still want that piece of Americana. The imports will be fine … nice selection of crotch rockets and real affordable, value-oriented bikes. But the rest? Does anyone really see Victory or Big Dog around a decade from now? The hey-day is over my friends. OCC’s 15 minutes are up. Arlen who? And the rest is history…..

  5. 5 Paul Brecht Apr 9th, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Cyril. Very good summary. From boom to bust to the largest question mark the industry has ever faced. Nobody has the slightest idea of what tomorrow will be made of. Scary.

  6. 6 johnny Apr 9th, 2010 at 9:59 am

    I have owned harleys all my life “BUT” I would trade for a new Vision right now. More power longer warranted and faster with a better 6 speed.

  7. 7 Brandon Apr 9th, 2010 at 10:07 am

    All what generations X & Y want is an iPod, an iPhone, a MacBook, an iPad, a 50″ flat TV screen, all in the same year. Total cost is the price of a Sportster. After that, let’s shoot for the BMW…Good luck Harley and all custom builders for the next 10 years.

  8. 8 Ernie Apr 9th, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Nobody analyzing better than you Cyril. But do you have the solution, the design, the bike of tomorrow?

  9. 9 fuji Apr 9th, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Cyril —– good read and good points from most.
    ————————————————————————————–
    After reading the cycle world article it is quite apparent that many internal changes [ politics ] are at hand for the new Management to deliver its potential

    That includes old thinkers to hand off the torch including Willie G. Omitting rude comments today. LOL

  10. 10 Bobfather Apr 9th, 2010 at 10:49 am

    I think the custom builders should look at what is selling. The market is moving away from wide tire long rake choppers and even past the retro styled Bobbers for the most part. Lean and mean along with long distance ability with a passenger is our focus right now. Comfort along plus power and versatility to be able to do some touring as well as handle the twisty roads. And finally at an affordable price tag. High quality parts on a budget conscious bike that can be used as an all around hot rod. Most buyers can’t afford to have multiple bikes so it’s our idea to make their only bike be all they need rolled into one skin. Our idea along those lines is coming soon.
    We’ll see how popular it is in the coming months.

  11. 11 Brent Apr 9th, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Bobfather. Agreeing with you 100%.

  12. 12 1550tc Apr 9th, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Brandon

    All what generations X & Y want is an iPod, an iPhone, a MacBook, an iPad, a 50″ flat TV screen, all in the same year.

    Brandon good point although it sounds more like some late forties geezers and 50 + geezers on geezer glides LOL

    Skip the i pod and 50 inch tv, 65 now lol…grab the iPhone, a MacBook PRO and a back pac, jump on your harley……… these toys in todays world allow you with the right job to have great day working and riding ooops forgot the nikon d300, it dont get much better!

  13. 13 david uhl Apr 9th, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Great piece Cyril,thanks……….. it should be interesting to watch unfold ????????

  14. 14 George Mansell Apr 9th, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Yep, Cyril. Good and faithful picture of the past & present. I wish that your next article is a picture of the next 10 years! Or you keep it for yourself?

  15. 15 BOB Apr 9th, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    I’ve grown up with Harley’s and would be hard pressed to by a Jap bike. I am getting a little tired of the over exposure of everything Harley. If you think Harleys are expensive, check out the prices of the new Indians. I would love to trade my Harley for an Indian Dark House but there is no way I will pay $30,000. for a motorcycle!

  16. 16 Todd8080 Apr 9th, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    It really won’t matter what Harley comes up with to appeal to the kiddies. Since birth they’ve been inundated with Japanese products and had it drummed into their heads that anything not made in Japan isn’t worth owning. About the only thing they ever come in contact with that doesn’t come from Asia is food, and if they could arrange to have all their food sent from Japan I’m sure they would.

  17. 17 Fritz Apr 9th, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Excellent article! You really hit the nail on the head! Why does’nt H-D hire some market research company to find out what the GenX and Y really want? That outfit will probably come up with the same answers as the blogdogs already have but for some reason people only respect an answer after they’ve paid huge bucks for it.

  18. 18 David King Apr 9th, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    “For some reason people only respect an answer after they’ve paid huge bucks for it.” Fritz, you are so right. Harley people will not listen to Cyril or us because our advice is free.

  19. 19 DJay Apr 9th, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Cyril got the best blog because of articles like that. We want more.

  20. 20 Dave Blevins Apr 9th, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    A point is being missed, that point is not what X and Yers want… but rather what a motorcyclist wants.
    People of every generation will have a certain number of riders and non-riders regardless of market trends, my advice is not to bother with trying to seduce the non-riding segment of society (the video gamers, TV addicts, gadget rangers & inside activity seekers) and focus on the segment of America that enjoys riding motorcycles. A good way to do this might be for Harley to create a new style entry-level bike that looks good, has a low, unintimidating seat height and low center of gravity, with the tried and true HD sound and eye appeal.
    Perhaps a rubber mounted Sportster engine on a Softail frame… low cost to engineer and manufacture, could be offered in 3 styles:
    1…883 standard engine
    2…1200 engine
    3…Buell’s 100 HP version
    Offered in different paint and trim, this bike could be engineered and brought to market quickly and inexpensively utilizing products Harley mostly already has in its arsenal, and would certainly be be an answer for soon-to-be riders that might opt for a Honda Shadow or Yamaha Star due to cost and/or style.
    While it is true that not as many folks are riding today, there will always be some folks that want to ride… and if you aren’t gonna make sport bikes anymore, and the petering out of trikes and baggers is inevitable, why not offer something the newbies might buy. Hell, a lot of people riding for years might even want one.
    Obviously people haven’t stopped buying bikes, they’ve just gotten tired of the same Harley offerings and attitudes of the past couple of decades.
    Get smart Harley, this really isn’t that difficult a problem to solve.

  21. 21 Magnumbob Apr 9th, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    This is a great topic CryiI, and as usual I read and enjoyed your well written article.
    If we can all agree that Harley buyers are getting older and diminishing in number, and that Harley needs to attract younger riders to prosper in the long term, I’m thinking the factory has only two choices. Either build what they (the youngsters) want, or convince them that what they really want is what Harley has been building all along.
    I’m thinking good luck with the latter. I hate to break the news to you guys, but to a 19 year old, you ain’t cool anymore. Mention Harleys riders to young people and they don’t see the young bad ass riding free in the wind that we still picture ourselves as when we close our eyes. They just see fat old white haired dudes on slow motorcycles. Harleys are what their parents would ride (or their parents parents). Think back to when you were young. It’s like Harley is trying to sell tickets for Lawrence Welk at a Grateful Dead concert.
    So what do the young people want? Running around Daytona, I certainly saw no shortage of young people riding motorcycles. I saw a few young guys riding bobber style customs or stock Sportsters, but the vast majority weren’t riding Harleys or any other cruiser style bikes for that matter. Most were riding all manner of sport bikes, Super Motos, or stretched out Hayabusas.
    Many of them seemed not that different from us when we were young. I mean, I didn’t have green hair on my helmet or pants around my knees, but there they were doing their own thing, some of them pulling off impromptu stunt shows, riding with complete disregard for their own safety or anyone around them and managing quite well to piss off or at least annoy many of the older folks. The thought makes me smile. These are the cool motorcycle guys of today, and there is no way a lead sled with 60 horsepower is going to cut it for them.
    That’s why it’s so exciting that Harley finally let Eric Buell have his way and build a bike with a modern engine that can actually finally compete with the metric bikes on their own turf. For the first time in modern history, with Buell’s 1125R, Harley is on the cutting edge! Just think, 146 horsepower in a great handling package weighing in at only 375 lbs? That’s 20 more horsepower and 30 pounds less than the hyper 600cc Jap bikes that are so popular with the stunt guys, and at a price that’s right in there too.
    Just think of the possibilities! After actually winning some road races and grudgingly earning some respect back, Harley can introduce a Stripped down Streetfighter version of the bike and market it as a TRUE bad ass motorcycle ridden by true bad ass riders. Maybe they could even back door fund a TV show with some young edgy looking cats traveling around doing stunt shows on Buells. Hey, If Harley knows anything it’s how to market an image. And there’s always room for customizing. OK, you’re not going to be selling “Ride to Live” air cleaners or leather hand grip fringe, more like custom wheels, suspension components, stunt cages, custom paint work, and I’m sure the fabricators will come up with cool gas tanks, rear sections, etc. Maybe with some time, Buell will come out with a larger displacement version, or maybe something completely new to compete with the Hayabusa for the straight line/top speed performance throne…..They are on a roll now baby…..The sky’s the limit.
    What’s that? They closed down Buell?…….
    Now, I’m sure many of you are thinking, and rightfully so, that Buell never was a success. No big surprise since until very recently Mr. Buell was attempting to build a modern sport bike while being saddled with a heavy, under powered, air cooled engine with its roots conceived over 50 years ago. And even with the 1125R, marketing was pretty much nonexistent. While Eric Buell has soldiered on, always pushing forward with his innovations, the whole line has been treated like a red haired step child from the beginning. Frankly, I’ve always thought Buells were toads myself, and if all they ever built were Sportster engine bikes I would have never believed they could go anywhere, but the 1125 changed all that. I really do believe that had the 1125R been marketed correctly it could have been the catalyst of change from resting on past glories, to breaking new ground.
    Oh well, we always have Lawrence Welk.

  22. 22 Kber45 Apr 9th, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Shutting down Buell was a mistake and shows that HD has no connection with younger riders. I think it will come back to bite them in the ass.

  23. 23 Joe Mielke Apr 9th, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Dark Custom:

    There will always be a segment in the riding community that is solely in it to ride and they only care that they have a good set of rubber underneath them and tool role to address any rodeside repairs. HD can’t sell that……..They never can……..They can sell the image, but they can’t sell the personality that is driven to be that type of rider.

    Like any trend that HD follows the dark custom line is just marketing. Any of the true riders that are riding and wrenching right now are not doing it on brand new sportsters or dynas. Not that I have anything against sportsters or dynas. Both good platforms. The guys that are really riding their bikes cross country with only a change of under pants and a bed roll are out riding pans, knucks, shovels and ironheads and evos both big twin and sporties. The new “Rebel” if you will. There are so many low buck motorcycles to be had out there right now. I have to believe that marketing a $10,000 sportster to a 20 something is a hard sell when Ebay is full of $5000-7000 buy it now sporties. The first Harley I bought and just built a fresh bike around is my 72 ironhead, because the engine looks great and it was cheap.

    Just another generation of HD selling the lifestyle to an audience that sees it, wants it but does not know how to get it. Insert HD marketing and financing. They do make it easy to sell it if the customer is wanting to buy into it however.

    Buell:

    I bought 2 1125Rs when they were fire saleing them. Have always like Buells and I love the 1125R. I believe the Buell platform will come back in a few years. They will bring it back as a HD model. It will fly the Bar and Shield rather than the pegasus logo.

    Kind of like GM losing the Pontiac, Olds, Hummer and Saturn line up. At any time GM could introduce a Pontiac or Oldmobile model under the GM banner if they so desire.

    But my opinion is just that, an opinion.

    Peace
    Joe

  24. 24 Joe Mielke Apr 9th, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    When I say “guys”…………..I mean guys and gals. I wouldn’t want to forget the ladies!
    Joe

  25. 25 fuji Apr 9th, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    Magnumbob .
    You hit it closer than any one.
    ———————————————
    What’s wrong with kids These days .

    Don’t they know that they should emulate us to be cool.

    Damn Rebels, what are they thinking.

  26. 26 The Producer Apr 9th, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Great article,

    No one would have guessed GM and Crysler would be partially owned by the American Tax payers. No one would have thought Toyota would be facing so may recalls. Yet I am reminded of the past when H-D was almost under and The Bowling ball ompany picked them up and kept them afloat for a number of years. I am reminded of the 4.00/gallon of gas I paid 2 summers ago when I drove the family to disneyland and back in my Astro! I am reminded of the early 60’s when the Honda came over here and kicked butt and started the Boomers on the trail to buying bikes.

    Boomers are aging and there is no other following generation this big or with this much money. Our country is sliding toward a different country altogether than the one I grew up in (I’m 50). Money will be tighter for all the following generations. Txes will be higher to be sure.

    The world is changing we can’t turn the clock back – but on the good side – According to MIC 10.4 miilion bikes were registered and 25 miliion americans threw a leg over a bike last year.

    Were in a very tough economic time its our Great Depression but it will move on as have all the other down turns.

    All in all every year bike ownership increases so in the long run maybe H-D wont be the king but I suspect they will be around for a while longer as will all the other big guys and those smaller guys and gals who work smart.

    And wouldn’t it be nice if H-D stared doing open engineering where they took everyones ideas off the web and rewarded individuals who came up with real world new styled bikes? Many companies have begun doing this – sharing is where its at and there is probably enough brain power on this website alone that you could all come up with valuable input toward the next gen H-D. Just a thought.

    The (Hog Radio) Producer

    The way things are today would be the way they are.

    Stuff happens to every business and every generation.

  27. 27 Seven Apr 10th, 2010 at 1:54 am

    I am a gen Xer and female, in theory a marketing target for HD now.

    But my first bike didn’t cost 10 or 20 grand, it cost 400$, all I could afford at 16, my second bike cost 900$, not a single bike in those first few years cost much more than a $1000. By the time I could afford even a used sporty HD ( in the UK HDs run a about double the US prices) i had a mortgage, family and a massive brand loyalty and nostalgia to the makers of those cheap bikes I grew up riding.

    Even now a used base level junker HD sporty that needs serious work costs double a much later used Buell or Honda in great condition. If you are a new rider trying to start on a budget, by the time you buy all the gear, get a licence etc you just buy the best bike you can afford with what money is left, and that unfortunately for HD isn’t an HD. If you get bitten by the bug and want to trade up? the likely hood is you will keep brand loyalty if you were happy with your first bike.

    The boomers grew up in an age when a used old HD was highly affordable, HD have been milking that nostalgia for years. gen X and Y are growing older with not only much less disposable income due to the debts built up by the boomers and the fiscal cost of looking after them as they retire, but also where HDs are out of reach pricewise.

    I still have nostalgia for my dream bike when I was 17,a VFR 750, the new VFR 1200 may well tempt me to buy new for that reason. The same way thaose old cheap unreliable ’74 electraglides and the like the boomers cut their riding teeth on will tempt them to the dealerships to look at a new tourer.

    Nothing HD have done in years has tempted me into a dealership to even take a test ride.

  28. 28 Otis Ward Apr 10th, 2010 at 7:01 am

    I’ll never stop riding, no matter what generation I belong. It’ll never be over as long as a few real bikers exist. The image of the rebel will always lure women who wish to correct us, which in turn will attract new young riders who wish to be the rebel. The cycle continues…

  29. 29 Michael Apr 10th, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Everyone seem to think they know the solution to Harley-Davidson’ sales challenges but no one seems to ever do any really good market research… I wish HD would just hire the best market research company in the country, the best design concept company and do what they say instead of guessing and dabbling 🙂

  30. 30 Frank Apr 10th, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    DIE HARLEY DIE! LIVE AFTERMARKET LIVE! Harley dropped Scout who tried to get Harley to intertwine with the non-branded community and they dropped him. Michael Scout WAS market research who tried to mix them with good designers, but the non-riding ladies working a 9-5 day job leading the youth marketing didn’t like the answers…so they migrated to stock bike photo opps with cheesy young boy bands. It’s all facade, no soul. You want sou? Tehn buy from companies lead by people who live it. That’s most of the companies you see on this blog. Trust me, you’ll get a cool bike out of it.

  31. 31 Brett Apr 10th, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Seven, I do ‘t live in the UK or Europe, so I don’t know what things cost. However, in the States, I have already posted all the numbers & HD is right in line with all the other motorcycle manufacturers. When it comes to new bike prices. The one thing you can’t do though is take say a 500 & say, see Kawasaki makes a bike starting at $3 grand & Harley doesn’t, because, while MAYBE HD should consider a bike that small, they don’t offer one & if you take a Honda, Triumph, Kawasaki, Yamaha or Victory & compare their bikes that are the same sizes as the bikes HD offers, they are all right about the same price.

    So basically if price is the only issue, Harley could only get lower prices by making bikes smaller then an 883.

    I, however, don’t believe price is the only issue.

    1st, alot of people are no longer loyal to just one brand of anything. When I was growing up you were either a Ford person or a Chevy person. A Reebok person or Nike person & so on.

    Motorcycles a very different for 1 big reason, you are either a CRUISER person or SPORT BIKE person. & this is HD’s real issue. Alot of the people who like Japanese or European bikes are buying sport bikes or crotch rockets, not a cruiser. When I posted the numbers, no one is coming close to Harley’s strangle hold on the cruiser market.

    So the real challenge is how to you get the kid who wants a Hayabusa or Ducati Street Fighter to think a Sportster is cool? Chances are, you won’t. When you see all the athletes & rappers riding the sport bikes, that is what the younger people want.

    To these kids, Jesse James isn’t the owner of West Coast Choppers, he’s the guy who cheated on the old chick from The Blind Side with the Nazi tattooed chick.

    The reality is, until there is some young athlete or band or rapper, running around on Harleys & until we get the new generation of bike builders to take the place of Jesse James, Billy Lane, Indian Larry…it will be hard to turn the younger crowd on to HD.

  32. 32 Vision Apr 10th, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Excellent article but it would seem that the economic slowdown has been scapegoated a bit when we see things like…

    “– Triumph Motorcycles has followed up on its record-breaking 2009 and is achieving excellent new sales number for the beginning of 2010.”

    So that means some people are still buying non Japanese bikes they are just not buying Harleys. It sure looks like Triumph has out Harley’ed Harley and now it is the Triumph that appears to be the young non conformists bike of choice.

  33. 33 Laurence Zankowski Apr 11th, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Cyril,

    I took a ride yesterday up from Tucson, AZ to Pumpkin Center, AZ. One of the great rides here in AZ. Roosevelt Lake, the mountains, and loads of bikes on the road.

    But in truth, though a magical ride it is not fun anymore. And that is where I feel Harley is. They lost a sense of humor and fun. You can see it in their old adverts. But not anymore. All attitude and anger.

    When I rode my scooters I had a smile on my face that lasted for hours after the ride. How can you take a scooter seriously? However, after putting 100,000 miles on my Road King, it is a rare day when you see me smiling on the bike, it is not fun anymore.

    Just saying.

    Laurence

  34. 34 Rock Apr 12th, 2010 at 7:50 am

    I said years ago that they should change their name to Hauley-Davidson.
    You see more of them on trailers than on the road.
    Rock

  35. 35 mike@timeless Apr 12th, 2010 at 8:52 am

    My two cents worth_______________ To get youth on the band wagon you need to start at the bottom. There has to be a mini cycle that is affordable that kids can ride. motorcross or atv. You have to start breeding brand loyalty. Harley had a bad ass mx bike in 77/78 it was a 250mx. To this day it is one of the best looking dirt bikes made. All orange and black. Amf started it and cancelled it in the wake of japanese competition. 20-20 is great as we know, but if it would have been stuck to ,you would see it now in supercross and it would lead youth to buy hd when they get old. bring it back

  36. 36 Vince Apr 12th, 2010 at 11:00 am

    People customized motorcycles before I was born. They will continue to customize motorcycles after I am dead. How and what they customize may change, but the why will remain the same.

  37. 37 ian Apr 12th, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Not sure its anything to do with this post – but I bought a Buell Ulysses (one without the boxes and stuff) a couple of days after Buell was shut down – for the simple reason it was half price. Now the sun has started to shine here in the UK I have been using it all the time for the simple reason that riding my Steetglide makes me feel every year of my 49 years but this Buell makes me feel like a teenager – particularly in urban areas – its just brilliant.
    So Harley on the rebound back – re-vist all the good things about Buell and build something that makes old gits like me smile.

  38. 38 Tamara Smith, James Gaskets, Inc. Apr 12th, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    The brand itself used to represent a lifestyle. We don’t even represent the lifestyle anymore – we trailer our bikes into Sturgis from neighboring states!!! This should be a huge concern for the aftermarket industry.

  39. 39 Odlamn Apr 13th, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Further to the point from previous post from Mr. Blevins… “focus on the segment of America that enjoys riding motorcycles.”

    Right there is the nut of the matter. Target your marketing…and by marketing I mean listening and responding to (with relevant product experiences), not just talking to the market.

    Don’t worry…Just ride. Be good to each other…and me.

    Thanks for getting the blood into my gray matter daily, Cyril.

    O.

  40. 40 grayhawk Apr 13th, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    To the comments above in regards to HD making smaller bikes, as much as I have ranted about wanting a motorcompany with cradle to grave branding I believe if you asked HD hiarchy point blank the honest answer is/might just be they cannot make a small unit in the US and make a profit as they would be building/assembling under the same cost of doing business,labor contracts/parameters, etc. and there is no margin of profitability model that would warrant that path, no different in a open shop custom shop using its senior techs/builders putting together a mini custom unless they used all hydro techs if you will which large union manufacturors cannot do.

    Maybe the India/HD path will have a thumper offshoot ?; a lot more preferred than the big bikes being made offshore and imported back in. One might argueably argue that the same margin versus cost to manufacture was Buell’s downfall as well.In otherwords if it, junior harleys can’t be brought in do not look for it here.

    As far as die HD die above, the whole industry exists/thrives in better times and future times because they, “all componets of the industry”, HD/Vintage/Aftermarket, and Custom, etc. all feed off each other and all advance the industry due to contributions by each and all.

    In regards to lifstyle changed/gone I would guess that proportionally there are just as many true hardcore, bikers are my life and my sole transportation as there ever was or more; there are just so many new facets of the masses that have come onboard and yes some bring the house when they come, some fly in on their jet or throw it on their rigged out or barely can make it trailer, or mama’s not gonna ride on the fender or doesn’t have her own, etc. but the good news is there is room for all just not all on the same little main street at the same time. The more the merrier just be considerate of each others space and safety. Larger bike market better for all.

  41. 41 grayhawk Apr 13th, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    No I did not mean to imply Buell was a junior Harley I was referring to the Hummer, Aerommachi, believe that is how you spell it and Sprints, entry level type units, if you will, etc.

  42. 42 mike Apr 14th, 2010 at 11:47 am

    japan has a high living standard also and they dominate the worlds atv and offroad motorcycle market. its sad that we have to say hd is too fat to compete. enough said now, so what can be done. give up?

  43. 43 grayhawk Apr 14th, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Hey Mike, Japan has been having some of their brand motorcycles manufactored/outsourced offshore even in the US, but in major quantities in China and India to name the obvious for some time as their margin deteriated at home and it became profitable marginwise to do so.

    India looks like has been the best one to protect their interlectual property rights compared to China who even copy each other in same country just change the name. If you can’t make a reasonable margin than your out of luck or out of business unless you live in a supportive country that establishes and enforces fair trade laws and have relevent/non-managed currency values and consistent world wide manufacturing safety and environmental standards that are even, protect the planet where environmental issue is real and doesn’t penalize western countries in the name of catch-up.But modern countries will always have more expensive labor than developing always has been.

    Support local and national businesses where you can and there still will be room for imports and exports where they make sense but do not criple a countries economic structure.

    An article that may be of some interest from 2006 below,

    http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/jul2006/gb20060717_673201.htm

  44. 44 Tamara Smith, James Gaskets, Inc. Apr 14th, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    The point about trailering bikes (rather than riding them) was in reference to the lack of miles being put on bikes (important to a gasket manufacturer 🙂 and the likelihood that this directly relates to the age group attracted to the “lifestyle”. When 20-30somethings see their parents pull out of the driveway with their bikes in tow, it doesn’t look like they’re off to have fun; makes it hard to market to a new generation looking for fun and excitement. There is definitely room for all and I’m not criticizing anyone else’s mode of transport, just wondering what the appeal will be to youngsters – the future of the industry we’re in.

  45. 45 grayhawk Apr 14th, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Sorry Tamara, was not my intention to flag your point in a critical light was intended to further your point from the perspective that as in my opinion there are now more of all the different lifestyle riders out there getting to and from in all different modes. But hopefully there are not too many 20 to 30 something year olds out there that are still hanging at their parents home unless their house-sitting the dogs as their parents should be emptynesters, ha.

    If we can get the younger set out of the house/off the gamers controller addiction and into the wind the appeal will follow.
    Regards

  46. 46 live2rideaglide Apr 15th, 2010 at 10:37 am

    great article cyril, you are once again on target with your analysis. anyone who has been around bikes and bike shops for any length of time could see this coming a mile away. remember some years ago when you had to get on a waiting list to get a harley? the listers are now 20 yrs older and have got over their need to
    ” be a biker ” on the weekends. they have moved on to vacation homes and other thangs. i was raised in a family bike dealership/shop when most shops were small and mostly catered to the” core “, theones who rode hogs then and still ride them cause it’s in our blood. the boomers,busters and x ers are a transient flow of socio-economical mindset that is always searching for the ” new buzz “. if you target these folks you better be ready to
    change and adapt on a regular basis . the biker core whether hd or
    metric is a shrinking demographic that will most likely have to go
    aftermarket to get their ” core ” fix. good day all bikers. glide

  47. 47 Tamara Smith, James Gaskets, Inc. Apr 15th, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Hah! Good point – that the “youngsters” are hopefully just housesitting; unfortunately not always the case these days, so hopefully the wanna-be empty-nesters are getting away more often!

    Seriously, Cyril’s article caught my attention because the subject of ‘where to go from here’ is a common concern for businesses dealing in the H-D aftermarket. I’ve followed the feedback and read some good suggestions and I keep coming back to the Buell. I won’t pretend to know a lot about the bike, but I do think I have a sense of trends and the direction of the market. We had a Buell here at the shop and the guy that owns it really isn’t a guy that would be attracted to the life of a biker, would have no interest at all in a chopper, wouldn’t want a big bike, but he likes to go fast and have fun, so he got a Buell. What I haven’t heard is what was so wrong with the bike that it’s been done away with. It was never really marketed and is still sort of an obscure little project that didn’t get much attention. At the risk of sounding naive… couldn’t the Buell have been the missing link between the putter and a sport bike?

  48. 48 grayhawk Apr 15th, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Absolutely not naive imo Tamara it, Buell Twins, is/was/could be again just not under the HD banner. It is the best twisty, but a niche market at best with costly overheads to manufacture for ROI as it was structured within the umbrella, Never probably did make a profit that forsure not when incorporated in the cost layers of the motorcompany.

    Unless your the greatest drafter you won’t stay next to a 600 in the straight line but in the twisties, in the hill countries and Europeon style country roads, etc. your at its best.

  49. 49 Blackmax Apr 17th, 2010 at 6:43 am

    Hi Cyril…
    Just wanted to add my 2 cents from the heartlands of Ohio, Indiana & Kentucky.
    Yeah, H-D has a ways to go to attract a younger market , they don;t want to ride what their parents rode (even though baggers make more sense storage & comfort-wise). The “Dark Custom” series is a start but guess what? Honda has the Shadow Phantom which is a fuel injected Shadow all blacked out. Yeah, you can say that you get more horses out of an 883 or the new 49er, but when you’re a kid looking at every dollar, it becomes a matter of price vs. power. And unfortunately that has becaome he answer for a lot of us, even the older folk. As (here I go speaking heresy) I’ve ridden Kawasaki (Vulcan 1600 Nomad) for years. Can’t afford a Road King/Street Glide then, and now my wife, after she sat on both in the showroom would not let me buy one now. Too short & too uncomfortable without having to spend another $500 – 700 to get it that way, and a lot of the guys I have ridden with over the years, staunch red, white & blue, H-D to the bone, are now riding chopped up Yamaha/Star’s as they are more affordable, bigger horsepower & just as easy to customize.
    When I go to cover events nowadays, it’s rare that I see anybody under the age of 45 anywhere near our runs/rides. It’s a damn shame & none of the organizations have an answer for what we all know, and see as the major problem of getting the younger folks to ride. they’d rather be on their own, doing their own thing….
    Buell going under was THE WORSE thing that could’ve happened tho H-D to attract the next gereration & I hope that Willie G and maybe the CVO guys have something up thier sleeves
    for the sake of the motorcycle future, I sure hope so

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