31 August 2010 – Scattergories

This week’s random stuff.

1.  I wasn’t thrilled after watching MotoGP this past weekend. When a rider checks out midway through a race and there isn’t much dicing between the rest of the field, I begin to yawn… and then tune out. Call it my adult ADD. Is it me, or do some teams seem more focused on next year than the rest of this racing season?

2. I was cruising through the final edits on the manual when I hit a snag. My alternator cover chapter was corrupt, as was the backup. The data retrieval from my old faulty hard drive corrupted it. I’m recreating the chapter from memory this week, but it’s a lot of work. Oh well. At least I’m plugging away instead of procrastinating. That’s rare for me.  You can credit the new monitor for my motivation.

3. I booked a cabin for a mountain getaway in October. Some folks have asked to meet up in the mountains, but it’s a combo trip of sight-seeing, hiking and riding and isn’t meant to be a group thing. Sorry.

4. I had an Army buddy call me to tell me that he wadded his VFR, was considering getting a Ducati sport-tourer as a replacement and wanted my opinion. Talk about a loaded question. He is considering an ST2 and a BMW K bike. I told him that’s like comparing apples with oranges. I gave him the usual spiel about power to weight ratios, maintenance costs, etc. I put in a plug for the ST4s, but he didn’t seem jazzed. Most uninitiated gravitate to the ST2 because of the ease of maintenance, but there no substitute for power on corner exits. The 4S just beats the ST2 hands down on power. Doug isn’t really a power-monger though, and an ST2 is a good intro to Ducatis. I’ve put 40K on that model, so it must be pretty good.

5.  I saw Mark’s prediction that the essence of what makes a ducati – the trellis frame, v-twin, desmo architecture will eventually be a thing of the past. I don’t think so. The frame will probably eventually go, but the desmo architecture is a good one, and the v-motor will stay. It may be a v-4, but the V is the essential element. I don’t care what it morphs into, my concern is 1 – how it runs out of the box — ie. lean running conditions solved,  2 – design – I don’t want Ducatis looking like J-bikes and 3- can owners perform their own maintenance. If the desmosedici and the MTS1200 are the standard fare in terms of product line complexity, I’ll become a Luddite and simply state that DT only supports Ducatis from 1990-2009. Twenty year of bikes is probably enough to focus on anyway.

6. Between teaching and other commitments, my weeks are flying by. Military duties loom, but I’ll be announcing any disruption to my shipping schedule. I haven’t had time to do any training, and the would-be trainee is too busy as well.

7. No photo shoot until the book is wrapped up. That’s my self-imposed treat for completing the project.

8. The rest of you are probably already sampling the beginnings of Fall. We’re a month away from that, but I can still sense it coming. Time to dig through the piles of riding gear and ferret out stuff for the Fall riding season.

TTYL – LT

28 August 2010 – Factory WSB No More

 

Above – a blast from a not-so-distant past — the last factory team to host Troy Bayliss

I was stunned to hear today that Ducati won’t field a factory WSB team next year. They defended their decision by stating that the efforts they put into the factory team will instead be directed towards the next generation of street hyperbike. That’s a not very convincing smoke screen for the fact that costs are eating them up. I think it’ s natural that Ducati draw in the purse strings. It isn’t like other manufacturers haven’t already done it. Ducati says they will still offer bikes to satellite teams for next year. In a recent RRW article, Ducati’s WSB technical manager said that the package they offer privateers is on par with the factory team. Results from the Althea team prove this. Anyway, hopes of seeing Bayliss make a return on the factory team are now dashed. I’m been saying that it’s probably time for a 1098 redesign anyway, so maybe this will accelerate it. I’d be surprised to see it happen for next year, but for 2012 it makes sense. The 1098 design is okay, but it didn’t grab me like the 916 did. Of course, few bikes have that effect.

Enjoy watching Indy MotoGP this weekend. Hopefully they have better weather up there than we have in the panhandle. We’re socked in with one of those systems that creeps in from the Gulf.

TTYL – LT

27 August 2010 – A bird in the box

 

Every once in awhile I come across something that causes an instant chuckle. So it was when I removed the seat and hoisted the tank on Dennis Malloy’s M1000. As you can see, something has been using his bike as a home. I don’t think that’s what K&N had in mind when they recommended cutting off the top of the airbox lid for breathing purposes. Unfortunately my chuckle was short-lived. I had dropped off Dennis’ tank at the painters but got a call from them this week that they still haven’t repaired it because of gas fumes eminating from the tank. The dent in the corner is too deep to bondo so they have to weld rods to it and pull it out the dent. Obviously they were a little nervous about welding with gas fumes present. I had to swing by the dealer and yank out the fuel pump and filter so they can fill the tank with water while they do the welding. It will take another week to get the work completed.  Getting the fuel pumps out on the injected Monsters is a MOFO. My arm is all bruised up from trying to free the pump from the metal clip at the bottom of the tank. I like the setup on the plastic tanks much better… other than the plastic tanks not liking ethanol of course.

I edited 3 chapters this week. The new monitor is working out great. I rolled out a few new products this week as well. Both I use, so it was a simple matter to pop up ads. I have a few different variants of batteries to get up on the webpage. Likewise, they’re batteries I’ve already used – An odyssey dri-cell battery and mini-batteries for the 9xx series running frame sliders.

Thanks for the comments (for the most part) on the Insight post. It’s nice to get other data points for what you guys are seeing. Like Dink said, I’m glad I’m not a taj-mahal dealer with a lot of overhead. I still wish the Ark was a lot bigger though.

TTYL – LT

25 August 2010 – Insights

I spend a lot of time tracking what’s going on in world economies. I tend to ignore what Wall Street is doing, because it’s too fickle, and recent wild swings in stock prices are further evidence that traders have no idea what’s going on. While bad news can bring a mood down, ignoring it doesn’t make it more palatable.  To make a long story short, things are bad and I don’t see a silver lining to the gathering clouds. The bailout didn’t work. And while pumping millions into companies to prop them up staved off a depression, it just lenghtened the blood-letting that is going to follow. I used to write State of the Industry pieces for MCN. As long as the industry was growing, my articles were welcomed. When the recession was evident and my data painted a gloomy picture, I was told my articles were too depressing. I think the fear now is that nobody wants to talk about how bad things might get because it can be a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy — if consumers think the future is bad, the less likely they will be to spend now.

My sale last week is evidence that people still have money. The problem is that unless the purchase is deemed necessary (or a great deal), wallets are remaining shut. I have the same attitude now. I haven’t invested in any trinkets for my bikes. Well that’s a bit of a lie. I did pick up a Sargent seat for the Hyper. I’m taking that up into the mountains next month and the stock seat really is awful. For the most part though, I’ve been eating into my sole remaining debt obligation — my house. That debt will be history by the end of the year. Do I think the future is bleak? I’m not sure, but I do think that there won’t be any real recovery for years. On a worse note, the growing antipithy towards government is dangerous. If they don’t learn to be better stewards of our tax dollars, the penchant to vote out incumbants won’t be enough.

So, what are motorcyclist to do? I’d take care of business to keep the bike running. After all, the sport is a form of escape, and I really don’t think about our national debt when I’m riding.  I have survivalist mentality though, and am closer now than ever before to preparing for weird scenarios. I’ve got the specs together on several M4s for home defense. I’m not about to sell the homestead and move to Montana, or have a gut feel that our society is breaking down quickly, but I don’t like what I see.

I tell my students that if I were them I’d stay in school and build their resumes over the next few years. Companies aren’t hiring because they sense the uncertainty that consumers are feeling. On a bright note, this gloom and doom is all relative. In Spain, unemployment is 20%. If we achieved that level of unemployment, it would approach Great Depression numbers. I think we’d better get used to 10% unemployment, but I don’t think we’ll crash to the level of Spain. Of course, the 10% figure doesn’t include underemployment for those that have jobs below former levels of prosperity.

The semester is off to a roaring start. I’ve got full classes, which is another sign of the times. When the economy is bad, people go back to school. I think for students, school IS an essential purchase. I just worry about their debt loads. Tuition is high and book expenses are higher. I listened to a graduate from NY lamenting the fact that he ran up a 200K debt load getting his undergraduate education. I think that’s absurd, but maybe he was mixing Desmosedici purchases in with his school expenses.

Enjoy the rest of your week. I picked up a huge monitor to continue work on the book. I’m knocking it out. I’ll be chatting with Dennis about publishing it when he comes to pick up his Monster.

TTYL – LT

21 August 2010 – Orders and more orders

Yesterday was a roaring success. The list of orders looked like a “who’s who” of frequent customers. I recognized most names. It was a record day of sales, and a win-win for all concerned. Of the 30 orders I received, 27 go out today. That’s a fairly good fill rate.

I worked my ass off yesterday to get everything packed and took a break last night to grab my bowling ball and kill some pins. The lane ate my ball… no seriously, the return mechanism ate my ball. After 30 minutes of looking they got tired and shrugged their shoulders. I received a free pass and a new ball gets drilled next week.

Thanks for the comments on Rossi. I haven’t heard if his crew is coming or not. Burgess says he’s happy with Yamaha, but Rossi likes working with his folks. Ducati needs to leverage the Rossi venture into sales. You can expect a Rossi replica, Rossi posters and tees, and everything else they can put a “46” on. Count me in on a few trinkets. At the very least a poster of him on the desmosedici leaned over into a corner will go up in the Ark.

It’s back to school next week. Lesley is out of town, so I have the weekend free. I’m hitting the beach. Enjoy your weekend.

TTYL – LT

16 August 2010 – Rossi !!!

Here’s this week’s scattergun of thoughts.

1. Unless you’ve been under a rock, you probably already know that Valentino Rossi has signed a 2 year deal with Ducati to be their factory racer. I think they’ll give another year to Nicky as well. I’ve been looking for an excuse to have one of my rare 1 day sales, and this is something I’ve been waiting for ever since Rossi left Honda. I’m having a one day sale on Friday 20 August. 10% off, which is half of my margin for most items. Sale doesn’t apply to exhaust systems. Customers MUST type rossi (all lowercase) in the customer code section of the order. No alibis, no early orders, and no excuses. I haven’t had a one day sale in 20 months, so it’s a rare occasion. I’ll honor any stockouts during the sale, not to include those few products that are on extended backorder from the vendors.

2. So what are your thoughts on whether Rossi will be able to tame the Desmosedici next year? Obviously the Yamaha and Honda factory teams are a leg up on Ducati right now. I don’t know whether it’s a horsepower issue, or merely horsepower delivery. I’m guessing it’s a delivery issue. RRW indicated that Ducati will soon be testing their next generation of Desmosedici when MotoGP goes back to 1000cc bikes in 2012. Ducati is picking a 900cc powerplant, claiming that it offers better fuel efficiency. I don’t see how giving up 100cc in displacement is a good idea, but who am I to question the engineers.

3. I’m working on a few pieces for MCN this week and reediting my book files. It’s a low-key week for me. I’m healing several muscle pulls this week, forcing myself to stay away from the gym for upper body workouts. Legs and cardio are still on, but the 1 week break will hopefully heal things up for me. Getting old is a bitch.

4. There is no sign of slack in the heat wave, so I’m just biding my time, waiting for it to break so that I can do the photo shoots and begin riding again.

5. My apologies for branding all liberals as nuts. Some of my best friends are liberals, and not all liberals are for wealth redistribution. On the other hand, I don’t know of any conservative that is for wealth redistribution. Many thanks for those that chimed in. I love a good debate. And if there were no dissenters across the 40000+ subscribers to MCN, it would be a boring world. That doesn’t mean I put them on my Christmas card list, but contrarians make things interesting.

TTYL – LT

12 August 2010 – Feedback from the bleachers

My story on How to Build a Motorcycle Collection finally hit print this month in MCN. I rarely get feedback on any story, which is an indication that most readers find it at least acceptable. When readers are disgruntled, they let you know. Here’s a letter that hit Editor Scott’s desk today. He kindly forwarded it to me. My reply will NOT be in the mag. Enjoy!

Dear MCN,

I did not like the feature story on page 28 of the September 2010 issue of MCN of a motojournalist that has 18 motorcycles of which some are parked in his living room. Either I did not get the story or read it wrong—twice. But with the way the economy is these days a feature story about a person that has to build more garage space for his collection of Ducati’s has no place in your magazine at this time. Many people (even motorcyclists) are struggling to make ends meet these days and the story to me came across as more about him than building a collection. Well good for him. If LT has that much cash and likes to write about it maybe he can cover my subscription to MCN then eh?

If that’s a no—then please cancel my subscription and refund my money.

My humble reply:

Yes, you missed the point of the article, but suffice it to say that no explanation I could make would probably register with you.  You obviously don’t think a collection of bikes is cool, so why even read the story.  I never felt jealous or outraged by the wealth (or lack thereof) that anyone else displayed. That smacks of contempt, which I find to be a petty emotion. You strike me as a liberal who believes in redistribution of wealth, which, I suppose is in vogue in some circles. Unfortunately, that is not my political slant, and I try not to be disparaging to the possessions of another man.  Therefore, my recommendation is that they cancel your subscription and send the funds to me so that I can purchase another Ducati part for my collection. That way, your money will live on in perpetuity, appreciated by future generations of Ducati fans, most of whom work hard for their toys.

LT

10 August 2010 – Survival Mode

Several weeks ago sales slumped, and have been at abnormally low levels since. I don’t fret too much. I put a lot of effort into my business model, and I’ll survive. The same can’t be said for some dealers and some of my suppliers. I had the fortune yesterday of talking to Christian Hansen of Speedymoto. I had to order something and asked him how business was. We’ve chatted before about the state of the industry. Christian wasn’t very upbeat. In strategy terms, he’s pursuing related diversification as a means to keep his machines running. He’s also dealing with knock offs. Forgive my insolence, but I fucking hate eBay. Anybody with access to a CNC machine is making stuff on their lunch hour and is spitting out knock offs of billet parts AND tools. Some are the tools that I designed with Charlie. There’s nothing either Christian or I can do about the knock offs. We just stick to our knitting and hope for the best. I can’t match their prices. Machine time costs my suppliers time and money. I understand if customers buy the cheap stuff to save a buck, but don’t come crying when bonafide Ducati vendors and dealers go out of business. The vendors of these knock-offs on eBay remind me of parasites. They feed off the ideas of others, but don’t really create anything new.

I’m not one to put my business in the hands of hope alone. I’ve reduced my inventory levels, am very careful about taking on any non-essential products (i.e. Billet and bling), and haven’t spent anything on toys all year. The question that me, Christian, other Ducati vendors and all Ducati dealers ask is when and if a rebound will occur. Ever since DJ Brown passed away earlier this year my source of industry data dried up. I do know that Ducati and Triumph sales are holding steady, but I have no idea about the rest of the manufacturers. I wandered into a mega dealership last week and talked to a friend of mine that has worked there for the past decade. He indicated that in the Summer they rely on Personal Watercraft sales to keep them afloat. He said that the oil spill essentially killed the sales of PWCs this year, and nobody is buying new motorcycles. I think there’s more to his sales slump than the BP oil spill. The Obama administration can point to a revived economy all they want, but I’m not seeing it, and I’m guessing that many of you aren’t either. My business has been treading water. I may be shooting myself in the foot for closing down the service end of things for awhile. If a dealership did that, they’d be out of business. Other than aforementioned brands, service departments are carrying dealerships. The good news for me is that while people can put off servicing their Ducati, they can’t eliminate it.

DT isn’t going out of business as long as I can help it. And while I don’t twist a grip in anger all Summer, I’m just biding my time until the temps cool and I can enjoy my sport again.  And for those of you that have placed orders from me in a not-so-veiled attempt at throwing some money my way, I offer my heart-felt thanks. I’ve got awesome customers.

I’m putting off the photo shoot for a bit. I want to do some outdoor shots and it’s just too damn hot. The calendar would still be available by Thanksgiving, so I don’t need to rush things right now. As long as I have the pics to the printer by the middle of October I’ll be okay.

One last note – I’m scheming to have a fall rally. Not a bike show (my last one was a fizzle) or a maintenance seminar, but rather a Fall rally of Italian Bikes. It would consist of a nice local ride and a bar-b-que to hang out and gawk at owner’s rides. I’m shooting for the end of Oct when things are nice and cool.

TTYL – LT

7 August 2010 – Older is Better

Above – Seth Swartz’s ’96 M900

Seth came this weekend to pick up his M900. I’ve been performing his service work for the past 5 years. His mods are as extreme as the ones on my M900, and I think I like his rendition better. His custom painted carbon tank and side panels are spectacular. And the new Keihin 41mm FCRs make it sing. Seth has over 30K on his Monster, and it’s a labor of love that has seen him through ownership for the past 10 years. There are countless mods, including the magnesium wheels, tail chop, Leo Vince pipes and DP rearsets and new instrumentation. While I like the look of the new Monsters, there’s just something about the 1st gen that melts my butter.

I upgraded the software on my iPhone and lost ALL my contact phone numbers, so if you have my phone # I’d appreciate a text message so that I can load you back into my contact list.

I expanded the spark plug lineup to include plugs for the ST4/ST4s and 748-996 Superbikes. Business has been off a bit, but I attribute it to the extreme heat conditions. The only place to hide is at the beach at night. The breeze there is cool enough to prevent sweating. Even with the A/C on in my workshop, it’s a sweat pit. I never did finish the insulation, so I can’t bitch too much. I accepted another bike in the shop. Dennis Malloy’s M1000 has a dent in the tank, so I’ll take that to the painter this week to have the dent pulled and a repaint.

I have the next 2 weeks off. Other than some minor prep work or the Fall term and a deadline for a few MCN pieces, I’m free. I’d head up into the mountains, but it’s not really any cooler up there. I’ll probably hit the beach for awhile, enjoy some dates and do some work on the biz.

TTYL – LT