Archive for September, 2009

Erpelding, Europe’s Keeper of Classic Race Bikes

September 29, 2009

Are you a racebike enthusiast? Happen to be planning a trip to the Nuerburgring in Germany?

erpeldingIf so, you may want to visit former motorcycle and auto dealer and racer Frithjor Erpelding, a man who claims to have the second largest private museum in Europe dedicated to race motorcycles. Located in the Eifel mountain hamlet of Jammelshofen, near the ‘Ring, the museum houses 200-some bikes and a half-dozen of his championship-winning race cars.

Among the units on display: AJS, Aprilia, Ariel, Bimota, BSA, CZ, Egli, Gilera, NSU, Koenig, Moto Parilla, Moto Guzzi, MV Agusta, Matchless, Maico, Triumph, Norton, Greeves, Jawa, Puch, Wanderer, Harris, BSS, Benelli, Laverda, Royal-Enfield, Harley-Davidson, Horex, Honda, Gilera, Kawasaki, Kreidler, Linto, Suzuki, Scott, Seley, Yamaha, Rickman, KTM, Ducati, Montessa, NSU, Vincent, Velocette and Zuendapp, etc.

I asked Erpelding which of the 200 units is his favorite. “The Norton,” he replied without pause. Erpelding has two Norton Manx. “The chairman of Cambridge University recently contacted me, asking if I would sell one of my Manx. I told him ‘No’. He offered Euro 100,000 and I declined. Then he offered Euro 200,000 and I again declined. Finally, I cut to the chase and told him I wouldn’t be selling the bike no matter what the price.”

MuseumBut, Erpelding is willing to sell certain units. He says he recently sold a Vincent to a collector in the United States for Euro 80,000. “He deposited the check in my bank account before even receiving the bike. I called and asked him why he trusted me, and he said, ‘I’ve heard you’re a trustworthy guy’.”

Erpelding is a fella who loves telling his stories. If you’re planning a visit, be sure to leave time to have beer at his Race Museum Bar. He’ll tell you about his run-ins with racer Agostini and Yamaha bosses; his thoughts on Triumph, MZ and KTM; his trips to Goodwood; and his days of racing Honda motorcycles and cars.

Check out Erpelding’s website, which features the full line-up of the museum’s bikes on display.

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Corazzo’s E-mail Newsletter — Great Stuff

September 28, 2009

I get a couple of e-mail newsletters and one of the best comes from Corazzo, the company that designs and

corazzomanufacturers riding gear aimed at the scootering crowds. I’ve been a big fan of Corazzo since seeing them at Dealer Expo a few years back. As a longtime scooter nut I was stoked to see that founder and president Bradford Duval the GLARING dearth of products that would appeal to the scooter niche — a very niche-y niche at that.

 

For some reason known only to them, some scooter riders feel perfectly OK riding around in shorts and T-shirts and sometimes flip-flops. Being a Safety Geek, I always want to let them know that the lowside they might take in some gravel sure ain’t gonna feel too good on bare legs/arms/etc. But I’m not an obnoxious Safety Geek so I just shake my (more…)

Race Replica Scoots We’re Not Getting

September 27, 2009

File this under cool stuff we’re not getting in the U.S.: Three 50cc scooters wrapped in race livery that are sure to be a hit with sportbike enthusiasts looking for alternative surface street transportation.

Inspired by Valentino Rossi and the Fiat Yamaha MotoGP racing team, the Aerox Team Yamaha Race Replica (top), powered by a liquid-cooled two-stroke 50cc engine, is wrapped in the new-for-2009 paint and graphics to match the racing livery of the YZR-M1 MotoGP bike.

The Gilera Runner Marco Simoncelli Replica (middle) is powered by a 50cc liquid-cooled two-stroke engine delivering 5.4hp and features livery similar to that of the 250cc MotoGP World Champion’s factory racebike.

The Malaguti Phantom F12R Ducati Corse Superbike (bottom), available in 50cc liquid or air-cooled two-stroke versions, is the latest in a line of scoots made available via a licensing agreement between Ducati and Malaguti. Also available: the Phantom F12R Bayliss Limited Edition and the Phantom F12R Ducati Team version.

I saw all three of these units during a recent trip to the Nuerburgring in Germany. The bikes depicted in the photos were for sale at motorcycle dealerships adjacent to the world-famous racetrack.
Yamaha_ScooterGilera_ScooterDucati_Adenau-copy

Small Stores Versus Big Stores

September 25, 2009

Exterior_HIn a column titled Memories of Dealerships Past,” industry veteran Mike Vaughan wondered whether the industry downturn will give way to smaller, friendlier stores.

One thing is apparent. The number of dealerships is falling rapidly. But what types of stores will be the predominate survivors? What will be the best way to distribute the smaller volume of motorcycles, about half the volume of only a couple of years ago?

Going by the trBertsend in the general retail world, where big-box stores have taken over, I’m guessing the ratio of big stores to little stores will increase. That means more people riding or driving longer distances to get to a dealership. But motorcyclists typically aren’t averse to traveling.

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We Get Letters: A Note From Harley-Davidson South

September 23, 2009

There are million customer service stories in the naked city and here’s one of them from Steve Otton, the service director at Harley-Davidson South in Miami, Florida. Knowing that some of those stories are of the horror variety, I dig reading stuff like this.

We all have great customer stories, but recently the Service Department at Peterson’s Harley-Davidson South (in Miami) was contacted by Mr. Tim Olsen with a bit of a different request.

Mr. Olsen is the Chief Engineer on the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster. Tim rides a 2004 FLHTC-I which travels everywhere with him on board the ship. Tim e-mailed us indicating he wasnancy foster having a charging system problem (more…)

Motorcyclists as Insignificant Windshield Splatters — A Great PSA (and a Poll)

September 21, 2009

I’ve seen more than a few motorcycle safety PSAs (public service announcements) from around the world and I’ve got to say they pack a far more visceral punch than anything I’ve seen stateside. Are Americans too squeamish to see the reality of inattentive driving? I wouldn’t think so judging by the content of much pop culture over the years. (Hostel or Saw anybody?).

Still, I’m wondering if and when we’ll start seeing motorcycle safety messages that aim to shock the driving public into paying attention like this one does.

Stock Up on Graphics

September 18, 2009

EDHARDYYamahaNEWCommodities are still selling well. Everything else isn’t. That seems to be the assumption right now. But a major accessories dealer tells me that graphics are selling better than ever. Graphics are about as nonessential as it gets. What gives?

The dealer was David Damron, owner of Chaparral Motorsports in San Bernardino, Calif. Most of you are familiar with the store thanks to his mail-order ads in most of the major motorcycle magazines. I was interviewing him for the cover profile of our October issue.

“Our parts-and-accessories sales are very good,” he said, “but we’re really surprised at the amount of graphics that we are selling. I mean, it’s a different mind-set than my own. If I were counting pennies, I would make sure I had a good chain and sprocket and tires on my bike, and I wouldn’t care how scratched the graphics were.”
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Brittany Morrow’s new Rock The Gear Video

September 16, 2009

Many of you may be familiar with Brittany Morrow and her harrowing tale of surviving a fall at speed off the back of a GSX R750. Surviving being a relative term given the two months she spent in the hospital and the skin grafts she received on more than 50 percent of her body. But she did survive — in a big way. 

Since that incident, Morrow has appeared in the pages of our 2007 Gear supplement and has emerged as a spokeswoman for the phrase ATGATT (all the gear, all the time). If you’ve ever had a customer dismiss the need to wear protective gear, get a hold of one of the posters we featured in that issue of Gear and explain the consequences of going without. I’m probably not the only one to repeat this cliche, but it’s one I tell people when they ask me why I’m all armored up on a hot day — I’d rather sweat than bleed. I didn’t need to see the pictures of Brittany post-surgery, but when I did they confirmed my strong stance on this subject.

Well, Morrow is the driving force behind Rock the Gear, an organization dedicated to educating every rider about making smart choices when deciding what to wear. Her latest contribution is a video featuring sportbike freestyle professionals tearing it up on their bikes and talking about the importance of wearing protective gear. It’s worth a watch and the Rock the Gear website is worth a look.

XDL US Stuntriding Championship Series – Rock the Gear . org from Brittany Morrow on Vimeo.

How Much Should the OEMs Help You?

September 4, 2009

j0386501In my editor’s note for our September issue (also my previous blog posting), I wonder whether the dealer closings are slowing — or have just begun. Evidence provided by ADP Lightspeed suggests the former. But some industry insiders fear another wave of closings in the fall.

If the overall unit decline through June, as reported by the MIC, is 42 percent, then dealers in pockets of the country are suffering even more. Such large declines combined with the scarcity in commercial credit means many franchised dealers are having trouble making payroll. And they are likely falling behind in their payments to some of their largest creditors, their OEMs. (Obviously I’m excluding the minority of dealers who buy their inventory outright — more on them later.)

This brings me to my main question: How much assistance should the OEMs provide to ailing dealers?

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Customs Grabs $1.5 Million in Powersports Units

September 2, 2009

10 CFMOTO Containers Tied Up

EPA Violations Claimed

U.S. Customs officials in Dallas last week grabbed more than 1,400 motorcycles and scooters, claiming they violated EPA regulations. About 400 hundred of those units belong to CFMOTO Powersports, Inc., the distributor based in suburban Minneapolis. They’re worth about $1.5 million at retail.

The move by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) people has cost CFMOTO more than $100,000 in storage fees alone, and the company also could be hit with penalties and legal fees, says Lev Mirman, president of CFMOTO’s operations in the U.S.  “This is absolutely crazy at a time when scooter sales are down 75% from last year and cash is very tight,” says Mirman.

When I spoke with Mirman this week, he was really hot, pointing out that his vehicles all have passed EPA certification tests at EPA approved labs. He says he holds four certificates that cost him more than $20,000 each. “We follow every EPA rule,” he says.

Mirman claims the grab is a move by the feds to block the sale of Chinese-made products. “They had a big push in the Dallas port to get as many Chinese bikes arrested (more…)