Archive for May, 2009

Jesse James is … a TV Star

May 31, 2009

Sure enough, I have a friend who has gone 7-odd seconds in the quarter mile on a bike, and I have friends who’ve rode in a temperature of -50 degrees, and I have a friend who has jumped a structure with a monster truck, and I have friends who have figure-eight raced, and I even have a friend who has been on fire. But, only one of my friends – a Facebook friend – has done it all: Jesse James.
Jesse James’ “ Jesse James Is A Dead Man” is entertaining as a lesson in odds and a flirtation with mortality.

Entertaining? Yes. Should it be more than that? No. It’s a stunt show.

Remember how many people stopped their lives to watch Evil Knievel jump the Snake River? You don’t? Talk with someone older than 35 years of age. Why did they watch it? For the excitement. The spectacle of doom.

Even so, nowadays, while all the stunts are prepped for safety, we continue to watch, for the possibility of catastrophe. Of course there’s no way in hell Spike TV or Jesse James’ dependents are going to allow his demise to be televised, and it’s obvious to any powersport enthusiast with a pulse who watches or listens to, or who frequents websites, that Mr. James is not dead.

Yet people watch.

You can, too, 9 p.m. CST, Sunday, on Spike TV.

Harley-Davidson Iron 883 Review

May 29, 2009


For me, one of the absolute wonders of riding a motorcycle has always been that minute you crest a hill and start to let gravity influence your ride. Where it’s less of you piloting the bike and more of you just riding it. While I love uphill cornering and sections of twisties — with all the physics they represent as I roll off, brake, lean and accelerate in that sublime danceable rhythm — it’s that moment, when you’re no longer pushing it that grabs me and lets me fly.

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson

Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson

As a kid I used to trek up to the higher points of the South Bay area of Los Angeles on my Strand cruiser and then make that bomb run downhill. Free flying. Wind swooping. Sensory overload. The pull of flat land bringing you down to its level. It’s the pure sensation of motion, where movement and rolling forward is the only thing.

While riding pretty much anything with two wheels and a motor is a good time, some motorcycles are just more fun, the kind of fun that hints back to (more…)

The Value of Manual Labor

May 28, 2009

The New York Times magazine has a great essay from Matthew B. Crawford, an author who also happens to own a small motorcycle repair shop in Richmond, Va. In “The Case for Working With Your Hands,” Crawford examines the value of manual (as in hands-on) work versus the abstract nature of most white-collar work. It’s well worth a read as Crawford chose his path after aiming for a gig as a college-educated knowledge worker (he has a Ph.D. in political philosophy.)

From the story:

After finishing a Ph.D. in political philosophy at the University of Chicago in 2000, I managed to stay on with a one-year postdoctoral fellowship at the university’s Committee on Social Thought. The academic job market was utterly bleak. In a state of professional panic, I retreated to a makeshift workshop I set up in the basement of a Hyde Park apartment building, where I spent the winter tearing down an old Honda motorcycle and rebuilding it. The physicality of it, and the clear specificity of what the project required of me, was a balm.

Crawford drills into a subject close to my heart and formerly calloused hands. As a professional keyboard pecker, I’m often at odds with my former career path and childhood aspirations to solid blue-collarism. It was in high school that I decided to opt out of college and work for a living. After a stint helping out my Brother, the Plumber, I became a roto-rooter guy. From there I worked as a technician for an aerospace (more…)

Assurant Solutions To Drop 20 Group Business

May 27, 2009

Assurant Offers Gloomy Outlook For Powersports

Joe Delmont

Joe Delmont

Assurant Solutions, the company that purchased the Lemco 20-Group business several years ago, said today that it is getting out of the 20 group business. At the time, the Lemco 20 Group operation was the largest of its kind in the powersports industry with about 325 participating dealers. Assurant purchased the business from RideNow, a major powersports dealer organization, which had purchased it from founder Ed Lemco.

In a memo to clients today, Jimmy Atkinson, Assurant vice president, said the company plans to “transfer” Assurant’s 20 group business to long-time trainer Gart Sutton.

Sutton’s GSA Best Operators Clubs business will contact the 300 or so members of Assurant’s 20 groups, Atkinson said, to “ensure a smooth transition.”

It’s not clear from the memo what this transition involves for dealers.

The move to GSA is effective June 1, 2009.

GSA also is negotiating to purchase Assurant’s traffic log business, Atkinson said. This deal could close within 60 days, he said.

In a related move, Assurant will close the Denver office on Friday, May 29, Atkinson said. Denver had been the headquarters for the Lemco operation prior to Assurant’s acquisition of the business.

A Gloomy Forecast

In his memo, Atkinson presented a gloomy forecast for the powersports industry. Noting that unit sales this year are down more than 30%, he said that “thousands of dealers will close over the next year.”

Based upon the number of franchised dealers operating in 2008, that’s a closure rate of almost 30%, higher than anything I’ve heard previously.

Atkinson said its Insureco operations will close Aug. 1, 2009, and dealers will have up to 60 days to arrange for replacement services.

Assurant Solutions remains committed to its vehicle service contract business, Atkinson said, adding that the company expects to “participate” in the recovery of this industry.

Dealernews editors are in the process of contacting participating dealers, as well as representatives of GSA and Assurant for details on this important announcement. We’ll provide additional information as we obtain it on this blog and at For additional details on this story, visit dealernews.comJD

Contact me with news tips and story ideas
at 952/893-6876 or

Ride The Mountain with Big Bear Choppers

May 27, 2009

The custom V-twin industry might be comatose at the moment, but that’s no excuse to hang up your party hat. For business may be down, but there’s always them there motorcycles to ride. If you’re so inclined (that’s good mountain humor) why not ride them up to enjoy Big Bear Choppers‘ 7th Annual Ride the Mountain festivities.

The only thing missing are little people. No, wait, there will be little people! The Shorty's Kiss Band is playing.

The only thing missing are little people. No, wait, there will be little people! The Shorty's Kiss Band is playing.

V-twins and other rides will own the mountain resort village of Big Bear, Calif., and the Snow Summit Mountain Resort on Saturday, June 6. This year’s sky-high shindig features the Freak Show Deluxe featuring glass eating, glass walking, sword swallowing and the bed of nails. Also, San Francisco-area rock-a-billy rebels, the Chop Tops, will be kicking some musical ass.

As a nod to its customers, BBC (website here) is hosting a VIP lounge under an exclusive tent next to the factory big rig, with preferred parking, refreshments and a special shirt and VIP badge. On Sunday, June 7, the Mindfreak himself, Criss Angel, will be at the Big Bear Choppers facility signing autographs and flogging his magic.

Lest this seem like a commercial, I’ll add this about Big Bear Choppers: the business is really down in the dumps across all segments so it’s pretty cool to see one of the big boys holding strong with a rally/event aimed squarely at its customers, and riders in general. Knowing how cost-cutting works I’d imagine that this is the kind of event that often appears on the chopping block when looking for cost savings. I tip my helmet to Kevin, Mona and Andy up at BBC for keeping the mountain open for everyone.

Nord To Give Up CPSC Chair

May 27, 2009

Nancy Nord plans to step down as chair of CPSC but plans to stay on the commission until her term is completed in 2012. Thomas Moore takes her spot.

President Obama has nominated two persons for commissioner posts, and a fifth commissioner could be added in August.

I’ll have more about CPSC commission makeup soon.

Pre-Owned Products Prove Popular

May 23, 2009

Anyone who frequents franchise powersports dealerships has likely noticed an expansion in the pre-owned inventory on display, but another recent retail trend is the increasing number of businesses popping up all over the country that specialize only in pre-owned motorcycles.


Dealing in pre-owned bikes is an especially compelling business venture at the moment, as the sour economy has dried up consumer credit opportunities for customers who have the desire to ride but are having a tough time obtaining credit on higher priced new models retailed by franchise dealerships. This bodes especially true in the sportbike marketplace, as many buyers of sportbikes tend to be younger, and thus representative of the main demographic suffering from the credit crisis.

Here in Minneapolis, there’s a new pre-owned shop called Simply Sport Bikes (SLXi). The endeavor, run by fellas named Brian Cox and Matt Johnson, grew out of a pre-owned luxury automobile business Cox has with his father.


Pics by

I recently stopped at SLXi to take a look at the operation. Cox, a long-time cycle enthusiast, told me he felt adding sportbikes as a sister venture to the luxury auto business could be an equally profitable and exciting opportunity. So, he hooked up with friend and long-time cycle technician Johnson and opened shop.

Johnson served as a franchise dealer tech and is the former of Full Power Cycle in Hopkins, Minn., a service-only operation.

Advertising the business is done two ways: through sponsorship of the Minnesota Sportbike Riders online forum ( and, more recently, via 30-second ads run on local television. For SLXi, while the TV ads have managed to attract a larger audience, the forum – a direct link to local sportbike enthusiasts – has proved to be a particular boon. For example, two weeks ago, the two entities teamed up to sponsor a group ride that resulted in an estimated 400 riders meeting at the store. Imagine the sales opportunities inherent in 400 sportbike “customers” in one location at one time.
SLXi currently has 109 bikes in stock and markets itself as among the largest sportbike-only retailers in the Midwest. Cox says obtaining stock isn’t an issue as advances in motorcycle development allow bikes to run longer with fewer problems, sportbike enthusiasts tend to buy and sell their rides much more often than other cyclists, and a decade of growth in motorcycle sales has brought more bikes into the pre-owned marketplace.

SLXi customers in need of financing are turned on to local banks and credit unions.

Like most sport bike dealers, SLXi does not offer a test drive on motorcycles. However they do offer a test drive “after the fact” – if you want to purchase a bike, you can fill out the documents for purchasing and pay for the vehicle. Once you’ve finalized the documents you can take the bike on a 10-15 minute test drive to ensure that you are comfortable with the machine. If there is anything you don’t like, you can bring the bike back and get a full refund, provided the bike is in the same condition as when it left.

Another SLXi benefit: The store offers “while-u-wait” service on things like accessory Installation, brake services, carb cleaning, chain/sprocket service, fork seal service, inspections, oil change, and tire mounting and balancing. “It’s kind of like the Jiffy Lube business model,” Cox says. “The customer brings the bike in and Matt takes care of it for them so they can be on the road again as quickly as possible.”

Parts, garments and accessories are procured from distributors Tucker Rocky and Western Power Sports.

I recently wrote a lengthy article about another successful pre-owned-only retailer, All Pro Motorsports in Wisconsin. Check out All Pro’s story HERE.

9021 … Oh, High-side

May 21, 2009

Dean McDermott, Tori Spelling’s husband, may be best-known for promoting his wife’s career. But, after adeancrash session at Keith Code’s California Superbike School, McDermott found another cause to shill for.

Here’s a video (copy and paste into your browser):

Suzuki’s Mueller Moves to Glenn Roller

May 19, 2009

Hey, Suzuki dealers, been waiting to hear from Bob Mueller? Mueller was – until recently – sales development manager for American Suzuki Motor Corp. The key word here is “was,” as Mueller was caught up in Suzuki’s recent employee downsizing scheme.

But Mueller isn’t finished with the motorcycle industry. In fact, you can now find him working with Glenn Roller at the Glenn Roller Institute. You may recall The Educational Program, Roller’s comprehensive sales training program, offered through Suzuki, that promises to take any salesperson – if they are willing to study and learn – from a basic to a highly advanced level of sales competency.

The Educational Program takes the salesperson to a higher level of understanding of the sales process and teaches a sales system that raises sales efficiency (average amount of time and effort it takes to close sales). This system is so efficient that within seven minutes one can establish customer trust, discover what is most important to them and determine their financial parameters. These levels of understanding are incredibly successful because they are simple and can be applied with any personality style. This program includes a 400 page sales book, a 12 CD audio book, 190 que cards for practicing your lines, on-line exercises, and on-line results reporting to management.

I’m currently taking The Educational Program training course, a process taking four to six weeks to complete at 30 minutes a day. I’ll let you know when I’m done.

AGV Protects Jordan’s Skull

May 19, 2009

Michael Jordan showed up at last weekend’s fifth round of the AMA Superbike series at Infineon Raceway to support his team, as is usual for the motorcycle fan.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

Jordan, after watching qualifications on Friday, jumped on a bike (a Ducati Multistrada) and went for a ride in the beautiful countryside of Sonoma protected with an AGV helmet.

The helmet on Jordan’s bean was one of the many helmets from the National Guard Jordan Suzuki Racing Experience: the 2-Up program sponsored by Dainese and AGV.

The 2-Up program, during which all riders participating are protected head-to-toe with Dainese leathers, gloves, boots and AGV helmets, provides an exclusive on-track experience for members of the media and other selected guests at each round of the AMA National Guard Pro Racing Superbike Series.

Learn more about Dainese and AGV here.