Rick’s Gentleman’s Express Blog

Motorcycle news and opinion

Archive for April, 2009

Harley cuts 400 workers

without comments

According to an Associated Press story for April 16, 2009, Harley-Davidson is cutting 400 production workers, just part of the planned 1,400 to 1,500 workers to be cut over the next two years.

While sales of scooters have jumped, sales of large, expensive bikes appear to have tanked. The AP story refers to the motorcycle market as “sluggish”.

What I found amazing in this story was that H-D is still strong financially — their earnings dropped just 2 percent to 1.29 billion $US — in stark contrast to their cousins in the American automobile industry. I have questioned the viability of the heavy cruiser market in the past, but it appears that H-D is well-run and will weather the economic storm without having to bring back a re-branded Cushman scooter to make ends meet.

Written by admin

April 17th, 2009 at 6:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Where will new riders come from?

without comments

I must confess that many years ago I tried to read motorcycle road-racing training guru Keith Code’s book on “the soft-science of motorcycle racing” and didn’t get very far. I read an article recently by Code that  made a lot more sense to me. The article was about 11 year-old motorcycle racers.

I have always assumed that the current generation might think themselves masters of the universe while playing video games, but be unable to cut it in the real world. According to Code, who has trained thousands of racers young and old including some future champions, the kids are alright and often take to racing and instruction better than adults.

I started wondering what those 11 year-olds will be doing a few years down the road when they are old enough to ride street bikes. Could they be future motorcycle riders or will their racing training be just an exciting memory from their past? It is a well-documented fact that the average age of motorcyclists has been climbing steadily for decades and by decades. This is good for motorcycling in some ways — tapping into an older and more affluent market while portraying riding as a sensible activity for those that have achieved “Freedom 55”. At the same time, the average age cannot keep climbing indefinitely. Sooner or later, one becomes too infirm to ride.

I have been fortunate to have started riding in my teens and to have continued riding through every decade since. Will Code’s 11 year-old prodigies do the same? Will they ride off to college on a bike, commute to their new job on a bike, and then go touring with their spouse on a bike?

If motorcycling is going to grow as a mainstream mode of transportation instead of being just a niche recreational activity, new entrants will have to come from somewhere and in doing so will have to take people away from other sectors much like scooter sales are taking away from car sales right now.

The same magazine that carried Code’s article had a retrospective piece on the Honda 50 and the “you meet the nicest people on a Honda” ad campaign that helped introduce millions to motorcycling as a cool way to get around almost 50 years ago. Is the time right for this to happen again in a way that cuts across all demographics and makes motorcycling acceptable to all age groups, genders and income levels?

Written by admin

April 11th, 2009 at 9:17 am

Posted in Uncategorized