31 May 2008 – Greetings from Salt Lake City

Hello from Salt Lake city. We’re ridden another 850 miles in last 2 days to get into Salt Lake. On Thursday we travelled from Prescott up through Sedona, Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon and then over and up to Mexican Hat Utah. If you ever go to Mexican Hat Utah and stay at the San Juan Motel, and eat at the San Juan Motel, don’t get the Navajo Taco. 5 hours after eating the taco, the most intense bowel flushing I’ve ever had began. It took us 2 hours yesterday morning driving to a town in the middle of nowhere to find a bottle of Immodium. I spent yesterday alternating between riding and stopping at the side of the road to unload another morsel of Taco. Thank God for Immodium. I ask forgiveness to the passers by who witnessed an Army guy with a white ass, squating in the bushes.

Anyway, enough of my orifice edification. The ride through Utah yesterday was spectacular. It’s the most beautiful countryside I’ve ever seen. It was like riding through a painting of the Southwest. For 200 miles it was all we could do to keep on the road while gawking. Add in cross-winds, a speed of 75 mph through canyons, and stretches of roads with slippery tar snakes lining every crack in the road, and you have an entertaining ride. Mark, you would have had a blast, although waiting for Donnie and Dave at rest stops is trying to our level of impatience.

I was aboard the Buell non-touring Ulysses on Thurs and the BMW R1200GS with all the bells and whistles yesterday. It’s pretty cool with the BMW to change the suspension settings on the fly with a push of a button. We did about 40 miles of offroad riding yesterday through the best part of Utah IMHO. Graded gravel road with switchbacks aplenty. I remembered a few miles in to disable the ABS and traction control. The bike didn’t like slipping and sliding over dirt and gravel with the stock settings.

The bikes are getting a full work out. They’re all smeared with red dust from being offroad, and look like we’ve thrashed them. It’s hard to say who the winner is, as I gather ratings and comments from the other guys prior to writing up the article. Truth be told, I wish I would have had the MTS yesterday, although I’m not too sure about the off-road stuff for the MTS. That dirt and debris would have played hell with my open belt covers. :-)

We’re off the watch Superpole, and I’m glued to my camelbak trying to replenish fluids so that I can go for a run later after the races. Lotsa bikes around the hotel. I’ll be placing a few business cards on several Ducs, signing each one with “LT was here”. Wonder if anyone will recognize my name. Prolly not, but it’s worth a try.

Enjoy your Sat.

29 May 2009 – Greetings from Prescott

It sounds like Mark is having an entertaining time attending the local Pcola events.

I spent yesterday riding from Irvine Cato Prescott Az — a little over 400 miles. We’re spending an entire day on each bike instead of swapping all the time. I rode the KTM Adventue 990 all day. Great bike. About 1/2 of the ride yesterday was twisties. The getting out of the Ca mountains was great and the ride up to Prescott was breathtaking. It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve ridden the roads in and around Prescott. I’d forgotten how good the riding is here.

Today I’ll be aboard the Buell Ulyssey all day. I’m not looking forward to my right leg getting baked from engine heat. We’re heading up to Mexican Hat Utah — a 450 mile slog. Time for a quick run in the moutain air, and then sit down and write my riding notes on the KTM.

Enjoy your TH.

28 May 2008-Bike night

(by Mark) While LT is off riding new bikes and enjoying World Superbike in Salt Lake City at no expense to himself, I have to amuse myself here in Pensacola.  Shelley and I decided to go to bike night over at Hooters last night and we met Patrick there.  He was finally back on his 996 and it looked great.  He certainly does nice repair work as it looked great.  I took the ST.  We met up there around 6:45p.m. Right after arrival a guy showed up on what I’ll just call a big green machine.  I never did determine what type of Kawasaki superbike it was but it was an ’00 model year with a 1248cc big bore kit, carbon fiber everything, and more gadgets than I could count.  It had radar detector, gps, rear view camera, heated grips, corbin hard bags and things I can’t remember.  The most unusual accessory was on his fuel tank/airbox.  It was a parrot perch.  Yes, a parrot perch.  He arrived with his 1 1/2 year old pet Maccaw hunkered down right there.  Apparently the bird loves it as he’s been up to 120 with her perched right there.  He says she lays low behind the windscreen as the speed picks up and even spreads her wings a bit…my guess is for stability.  Wild.  The bird sat on the railing at Hooters eating crackers while he socialized nearby.  Cool, not my style, but cool either way.

Other than that we got eye fulls of a half dozen what I would, as a cop, call scantily clad skinny crack whores, that arrived in a group on the back of sportbikes that apparently all work at a local tatoo parlor based upon their shirts and other logo wear.  Nothing like riding on the back of a sportbike in spiked heels, the lowest cut jeans I’ve ever seen and not much covering their tops.  Ah, youth…

Other than that it was the standard assortment of about every type of bike from the area.  Cruisers, rats, sportbikes etc…

That about wraps up the bike night report.  Happy hump day.

27 May 2008 – Off to WSB

I got things sorted as much as possible with the business prior to heading out again for WSB. I want to thank the patient customers I have. I do my very best to fill every order in a timely fashion, but it helps that many track my coming and going with my military obligations. Thus far, I’ve spent 6 weeks this year away on Army duty. That sort of schedule makes it tough to keep up with orders, but I’ve managed to minimize delays by being creative. Most of my vendors are great suppliers, which has helped immensely. Another thing that has helped has been having internet access while I’m away to plug holes in inventory. One of the upsides of being a one-man show is I usually instantly recognize an inventory problem by keeping an eye on every order that comes in. I then can order things behind the scenes so that the parts are there when I get back to the shop. The next week will be a bit tougher, because my internet access will be extremely limited.

The next week is supposed to be a vacation, but my vacations are skewed. I’ll spend the fly to CA and back reading up on my tech specs of the bikes we’ll test, then spend the evening of every day writing and logging details of that’s days riding, and then start compiling the story as soon as I get back. I haven’t asked Dave or Franke, but I’m hoping I have a few weeks after I return to get the story in. I talked to Ron last night. We’ve nixxed the trip to Iowa in 2 weeks. I’m tired of being gone, and he can’t get away from the office for a week. Maybe we’ll just do a mountain trip over a few weekdays in the middle of June.

I don’t know when/if I’ll be able to post for the next week, so I’m hoping Mark can pick up the slack in the old DD.

Enjoy your Tue.

26 May 2008 – Shipment Status

I promised an update to the listing of backorders preventing shipments. Here’s the short list of the orders held up. Suzi will ship these this week as the products come in. All other orders placed between 24 May and 5 June will ship on 6 June.

  • Walther – BMC Air filter – Ordered on Tuesday this past week due to stockout. Still awaiting filter.
  • Moronchuk – Valve Cover Gaskets – Ordered in April. Should be here early this week.
  • Burling – Frame Plugs – Will be here on Wed.

That’s it. All 55 of the other orders shipped this past Saturday. Whew!!!

Mark and I did an improptu blackwater run yesterday. The plan was to take the 900ss, but the battery took a dump, so I rolled out the MTS. What a great bike. The DS1000 motor is sweet, although the vibration below 4K is annoying and blurs the mirrors. In the twisties, it rocks. Just sling it into a turn and it holds a line like glue. It isn’t as stable at high speed stuff like a superbike, but for 90% of the riding most people do, it does everything well. I’ve heard they top out at 134 mph, which is more than enough for most folks. If given a choice between the ST2 or the MTS, I’d take the MTS for most duties. If my legs were a few inches shorter, the ST would be more comfortable to me. Even though Terblanche designed the ST, it isn’t designed for tall/big guys. That’s the realm of Adventure Tourers.

In the middle the Blackwater run, I swapped bikes with Mark so he could feel the MTS. The plan was to let him see how nimble it was in the twisties. Well, things didn’t go as planned. Mark’s had some rear shock issues with his ST4S, and I felt them firsthand. When I tried to dip the ST into a turn, the back end started pogoing, and I turned into an instant sissy. I don’t know how he’s ridden it like that, but it was awful. After a brief 5 minutes of riding, I was ready to swap back. I don’t know why, but shock issues are tougher to dial out than front suspension issues, at least for me they are.

The love bugs are out in force in parts of the Panhandle. I spent 15 minutes cleaning their remains off the front end of the MTS after the ride. They swarm around a warm bike, and disintegrate when you hit. Weird creatures. It’s time to pull the riding gear ouf the house garage and put it in climate control until the fall. The humidity and down here fry riding gear.

No motorcycle racing this weekend. Next weekend is another story. :-)

Enjoy your memorial day.

25 May 2008 – Prillers

Mark and I dropped by the local Aprilia dealership today. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the Aprilia lineup in the flesh, so I  just ogled the bikes. I never regretted selling my 2000 Mille-R, but I didn’t sell it because I didn’t like it. I just never rode it compared to my Ducs. After looking at their lineup, I’m still amazed that they don’t sell well. I finished my state of the industry article last week, so the sales numbers for the manufacturers are still in my head. Aprilia is owned by Piaggio, so I don’t know home many Aprilias are sold. But combining both Aprilia and Moto Guzzi will net less than 1300 bikes sold this year. That’s about 1/10 the sales of Ducati, and Ducati only musters 1% of the streetbike market in the US. Why don’t Aprilias sell.? I’ll be damned if I know. They’ve always had great products. Their current lineup of bikes is the best they’ve ever had. If I had to pick, I’d take a SVX-550, a Dorsoduro 750, and a Mille (no Mille Factory because I hate the red/white with the gold frame).  The Dorsoduro is their latest offering, so new that the dealership didn’t have one on the floor. It has the motor of the shiver 750, but in a combo that is a targeted towards the hypermotard. I like the Dorsosuro better than the Tuono, but you know how I am about weight. It weighs 15 pounds more than the Hypermotard, but has 450cc less engine displacement. What’s up with that?

Mark and I hung out there for about 15 minutes, and then headed out. Five years ago, I could have decided on the Aprilia path instead of Ducati. Decisions, decisions. A normal person would purchase other brands just to spice things up. I’m infected with the mind of a business-person, and Ducati seemed to make more sense at the time.  Of course, I’ll have to see what the V-4 superbike that Aprilia puts out in 09/10 looks like.

Enjoy your Sun.

24 May 2008 – Packing and Shipping

It’s nice to be back home, I think. I’ve been busy packing since arriving home yesterday. I’ll provide a list here tomorrow of orders that are delayed. If you’re name wasn’t on the list, then your items shipped today. I only stocked out of a few things, but it only takes a single item to hold up an order. The next feast on the schedule of interruptions is WSB. Orders made from today through 5 June will ship on the 6th. Once I get back from WSB, things will settle down… I hope.

Enjoy your Sat.

23 May 2008 – Proposed EU tiered rider system

Guido Ebert, senior editor of Dealernews had an interesting piece in last month’s issue. He explored the EU’s new proposed 4-tier rider licensing system (they already have a similar system in place). In short, it expands their current licensing guidelines into a 4 tier system. In order to own/ride an open class sportbike with a horsepower rating greater than 48 hp, a rider would have to have 2 years of riding experience and/or be 24 years old.

Ebert asked the pres of the motorcycle industry council, a Suzuki exec, a Kawasaki Exec and a Ducati exec what they thought of the proposed EU regulations. The MIC pres had the most compelling argument against the US adopting similar laws — that the government is inefficient, and that he’d rather see more rider education than laws. That would be my tack. The Suzuki exec said basically that if a rider kills himself by going too fast then social darwinism had its day. That’s a bit cruel, but it does focus on individual responsibility. The Kawasaki exec said such a system would be too expensive to administer, and rider education would be better. I dismiss the “too expensive” end of it. What’s too expensive? Do you mean in comparison to a bloated Farm bill we don’t need. The dumbest response was by Nick McCabe of Ducati. Ebert quotes him as saying “you can still get in trouble on that EX500 or vulcan 250 as easily as you can on a 1098”. That’s brilliant Nick. If you can’t tell the difference between riding a vulcan 250, an ex500 and a 1098,  you’re a moron. And if you think that you wouldn’t be more likely to get into trouble on a bike that has 4x the horsepower of an ex500, you’re a limp-wristed tool.  Leave it to the Ducati rep for the most brain-dead response to Ebert’s question. 

Enjoy your Fr.

22 May 2008- The lone rider…or not…

(by Mark) Brad called me yesterday and wanted to check out a local bike event last night.  It was short notice but I said “sure”, because I’m a team player and it sounded fun. 

Anyway, we met up at 9 mile and Scenic and rode over to the weekly bike night at a local Hooters restautant.  We showed up just past 7 p.m. and there were 10 or so bikes in the parking lot with the entire parking lot already blocked off for bikes only.  Sweet!  We grabbed a table inside by the window and during the next hour about 100 bikes rolled up.  The place was hopping.  They really throw out the red carpet.  They had FREE nachos with all the fixings throughout the event.  They also had plenty of staff on hand and even had a guy taking pictures.  They post them up on their web site and even have a slide show of past pictures going on one of their big screens.  They even had some motorcycle sports events showing on the TVs.  Nice.  There was a huge assortment of bikes from rice rockets to custom choppers.  There was even someone on a brand new red monster 696 there.  It looked pretty damn sweet in person and already had the full Termignoni high pipes installed.  Brad and I were on our STs so the chicks were definitely diggin us…at least in our minds.  While we were there, Mike gave me a call inquiring as to a possible get together this week.  I brought him up to speed on the Hooters event and he said that was his plan next Tuesday night as well.  Personally, I think if I go I’ll show up around 1830 so as to get in before the crowd.  It’s nice to go to a bike event with alot of activity.  I still like out Italian get together, of course.  Next month on the first Wednesday in June I think I’ll hit the Tijuana Flats at Cordova again with the Floribama Riders.  LT will still be out of town so without having to twist his arm, that’s “the plan”.  The Hooter’s bike night was overall a good event though.  After a plate of wings and a coke Brad was very pleased and sounded like MacArthur as we suited up to leave…I shall return!  …and so shall I. 

For more inspiration and information they even have a web site!  Here ya go!  http://www.biker-central.com/pensacola/hooters/hooters-p-4-1-08.html

Have a peachy Wednesday. 

21 May 2008 – Ducati targets independent shops

A friend in Ca called me yesterday to tell me that Ducati shops were issued a letter from DNA over the weekend instructing them to stop selling OEM parts to independent shops. I’m guessing, but I surmise that service/parts receipts are off, and at least one dealer has complained to DNA about independent shops hurting their business. Wahhhhh!!! The funny thing is the the numbers I’m looking at show Ducati with a 20% increase in unit sales through March.

In the marketplace, there has always been enough room for both authorized dealers and the aftermarket/third-party providers. The relationship can often be symbiotic. Dealers get the lion-share of the service work and all of the warranty work, and the independent shops provide an additional revenue stream for the manufacturer. Sometimes manufacturers try to circle the wagons to protect the dealers when the market turns soft. Porche did the same thing as Ducati is trying to do. In the 80s, Porsche tried to control access to their OEM parts to force owners to use dealers for service. It had mixed success and gave up attempts at enforcement. Most manufacturers eventually realize that by circling the wagons, they not only keep independent shops out, but they create a barrier between themselves and their customers. Many customers prefer to deal with both the aftermarket AND the dealer. If I had a dealer tell me I had to do business with him and only him, I’d be switching brands, right after I flipped him off.

By eliminating the availability of OEM parts to owners/independent shops, owners will be forced to have their Ducatis worked on at a dealership, which, I’m guessing, is the whole aim of the letter to dealers. A skeptic would claim that if dealerships provided stellar service, there would be no need for independent shops. A counter is that without dealers, independent shops wouldn’t have access to OEM parts. It’s a catch-22. Ducati has a vested interest in protecting the perceived rights of their dealers. However, it’s one thing to try to enforce warranty standards, and entirely another to dictate to dealers who they can sell to.  I would argue that in a slack economy, independent shops continue to give dealers much-needed cash flow in parts. If a dealer can’t compete with an independent shop, they need to revisit their competitive capabilities. Most dealers can squash an independent shop by providing customers what they’re looking for.

It is probably not in Ducati’s best interest to piss off it’s clientele, and the #1 way of doing so is to piss off a core group of enthusiasts who enjoy both modifying their Ducatis and working on them. Sounds like another article for MCN, so I’ll let you chat amongst yourselves.

UPDATE: Evidently, the letter DNA sent was directed towards the practices of some Canadian dealers, and isn’t meant to target specific US shops. Rumors will float.