Thursday, July 31, 2008

15 Seconds of Fame

Couldn't believe it. I was scrolling through new blog entries in Google Reader when I noticed that Doug (of 40on2 fame) had posted another entry in his "As the Wheels Turn" series of photo-soap-operas. Imagine my surprise to find out that Doug deemed me worthy of mention in his eminent blog due to a comment I had made a few days earlier.

Wow! So this is what it feels like to be famous... Damn. I was expecting a little bit more. I'll check my emails... Nope, still no invitation to mingle with the beautiful people out there.

Oh well, that came and went pretty quick.

Fame and riches are fleeting. Stupidity is eternal” - Don Williams, Jr.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Honda Cop-Out

OK, so Suzuki isn't the only Japanese manufacturer trying to justify it's exhorbitant pricing with weak arguments. I just noticed today that Honda Canada has a similar missive on their website.

It seems the reason why Canadians are being asked to pay a higher price for Honda bikes when compared to our neighbours to the South is because motorcycles purchased in Canada have "Canadian-specific features and dedicated service to provide peace of mind throughout the entire ownership experience". Blah, blah, blah... Cheesh, do these marketing types just plagiarize each other, or what?

They do go on with a list of reasons why Canadians shouldn't cross the border to buy a bike. My favourite is that northern bikes have "Canadian-specific climate-related parts, which may include such items as heated breather hoses to reduce winter ice-up." Well I'm sure glad to hear that! Wonder if you can get that as an after-market part, as I'd really love to have heated breather hoses on my V-Strom for when I just gotta take the bike out in sub-zero temps.

About the only reasons why I'd buy from my local dealer would be: a) to support my dealer and local economy, and b) to get a bike that isn't available South of the border (yes, my American friends, we've got the Varadero).

Can't help but wonder if it wouldn't simply be easier to lower the pricing on their bikes to make it a more level playing field and give their dealers a chance to stay afloat.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Something Up at BMW Toronto?

Although I've never shopped there, I like the fact that BMW Toronto seems to do alot for its customers and Beemer riders in general. From tech days to track days, group rides and social get-togethers - they always seem to have something going on. I know this because I get the newsletter every other week or so.

The latest edition, however, was a bit cryptic:

"Dear Valued BMW Toronto Client,

We regret to inform you that the seminar scheduled for this evening has been postponed until further notice.

BMW Toronto has undergone an ownership change in the past two weeks. As a result, there are several organizational and process changes that are currently underway.

We will continue to strive for improvement in the level of service that you have grown accustomed to at BMW Toronto. We truly appreciate your patience and understanding as we adjust to make ourselves a better organization to meet the needs of your Motorrad experience.

We sincerely apologize for an inconvenience that this may cause. Please feel free to contact us for any questions that may arise.

Thank you for your continued patronage.

Tim Sarch & the BMW Toronto Motorrad Team

Hmmm. Could BMW Toronto be adopting the same attitude as other single-brand mega-dealers? 90% of all effort goes to selling cars, with 10% for whatever else they've got (motorcycles, atv, snowmobiles, etc...).

I've also noticed that Honda has opened a PowerHouse™ dealer in Bathurst, NB where you can shop for a Civic while also perusing the collection of CBR's. I don't mind the concept of an all-in-one dealership, as long as the level of service offered to motorcyclists remains up to par with what I can get at smaller shops.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Suzuki Cop-Out

So Suzuki Canada has posted an explanation as to why model pricing is so much higher in Canada when compared to the same models down in the States. It seems that since certain models sold up in the Great White North "are built and equipped with Canadian consumers in mind", we should just cough-up the extra dough and buy it. I don't think so.

They also list particularities with Canadian models when compared to their American counterparts. As an example, it would seem that we Northerners prefer it naked - which is odd considering the climate - as the SV650 and GS500 are available sans tupperware North of the border, while our neighbours to the South can only get the all-dressed version. What they don't mention is that the naked SV650 actually costs $1,100 more than it's fully-faired American cousin. Same goes for the GS500, which in the nude will cost you $6,499 while the American Gixxer-wannabe GS500F retails for $5,199.

As for the models that are identical, we're still paying a high premium in Canada. A V-Strom 650 with ABS will cost you about 25% more if you purchase it here. That's an extra 1,800 loonies which could just as easily have been spent on accessories.

Now if this were the case across all manufacturers, I'd probably not bitch about it so much. But the truth is, other makes out there have considerably lowered their pricing while the Big-3 Japanese brands seem to be holding strong. So as unlikely as it may seem, it's now cheaper in Canada to buy a BMW R1200RT than a Honda ST1300. It's also cheaper to get a Triumph ST rather than a VFR (and the ST has standard luggage).

Whatever happened to Japanese bikes being the affordable alternative?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Modern Motorcycle Design - Love it or Hate it.

It seems most motorcyclists fall into two different camps: the evolutionaries and the traditionalists. They rarely agree on aesthetics.

Case in point: the Victory Vision. When Victory came out with the initial prototype and started doing the marketing rounds, even moto-journalists were polarized. Some called it a brave new design, while others thought it looked like a UFO. Personally, I liked it.

I can understand why boomers and early genexers like Harleys and classic Triumphs. Its melancholy - finally getting the bike you lusted at years ago. The look hasn't changed that much, and with a bit of faded memory a brand new Sportster looks just like the one you remember your uncle riding when you were a kid.

The same neo-styling is gaining popularity with the four-wheeled crowd too. Just check out Chevrolet's new Camaro or the Dodge Challenger. Straight outta the seventies, eh? Funny thing is, they both look remarkably similar. Then again, so do most cruisers out there.

I've always preferred thouroughly modern looking machines. Bikes that you simply couldn't mistake for your uncle's old Sportster. Of course, the fact that I ride a V-Strom should make the previous statement evident.

I talked about that, so that I could talk about this. Honda's new DN-01. Now for most traditionalists, one look at Honda's new Sports Cruiser will most likely trigger an involuntary gag reflex. I simply love it. This ain't your daddy's bike. It is modern in how it looks, how it works and probably how it rides. Forget the VTX, think of Akira's bike in the classic film by Katsuhiro Otomo. Want to be an individualist? Forget the chrome and leather fringe and get one of these. I guarantee that it'll turn more heads at the doughnut shop than the latest cookie cutter chopper.

For now, the DN-01 is only available in Japan. But I hope that some day Honda Canada might bring it over. After all, they did import the CBF1000, Varadero and CBR125.

Paperless Society?

I’ve been bombarded lately by Eco-group propaganda that I should be doing my part to Save the Planet™. Which, when you come to think of it, is a farce that probably works well on weak-minded lemmings who easily buy into that sort of advertising. Truth is, the planet’s fine. It was around long before we started screwing things up, and I’m willing to bet it’ll still be here long after we’ve blasted ourselves into oblivion. The little pests living on its surface, however, aren't doing so great.

Anyhow, I do subscribe to the Reduce, Recycle and Reuse philosophy for much more egotistical reasons: I’m still fairly young and I’d like to save some stuff for me to enjoy into my later years. But I digress…

Got an "URGENT MESSAGE" in the mail last week letting me know that my subscription to Motorcyclist Magazine was up and that I should be renewing “immediately” to either prevent World War III or find a cure for cancer… don’t remember exactly which. Well, being the good Samaritan that I am, I went to their website and proceeded to renew my subscription. That’s where I found it.

Electronic magazine subscriptions. Basically, you sign up and rather than receive a torn-up and battered copy in the mail (Thank you, Canada Post), you simply download it onto your computer and thumb through a virtual copy of the complete magazine – ads and all.

At first I wasn’t really impressed by the service that much, I mean, it would be awkward balancing the laptop on my, uhm, lap while sitting on the throne. Then I started reading more about this new distribution medium. Seems they’re going to be coming out with an application that also lets you read your favourite mags on your iPod Touch or iPhone. Now there’s an idea that holds some promise.

I travel a lot for work, and the thought of loading up a stack of motorcycle mags on my iPod is attractive. No more reading through those cheesy airline mags (although Air Canada’s EnRoute is quite good). Not to mention that my iPod is already loaded up with my favourite tunes and a few good movies – so to be able to add my magazines simply completes the concept of portable entertainment.

Oh, and when a new issue comes out you get an email notifying you. Then you simply download it to your home computer, or if you’re on the road with your iPod just find a public Wi-Fi hotspot (like any Starbucks) and download the issue directly to your iPod. Cool.

So how is this good for the environment? Well, no paper for starters. Also, no delivery which means less gas (I’m talking about the postman, he’s got the winds something bad).

And one last advantage: it’s cheap! For the price of a regular Motorcyclist subscription I was able to subscribe to Motorcyclist, Dirt Rider, and Sail.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Biker Philosophy

Great quote from FLHX Dave when commenting on Doug's post about the HD - MV marriage:

"I just can't buy into the HD lifestyle crap. Your lifestyle should be your lifestyle."

Thanks Dave. Truer words have rarely been spoken. If somebody relies on a bike - be it a Harley, Beemer, Goldwing or whatever - to define their lifestyle, then they probably didn't have much of a lifestyle to begin with.

Find what fits, ride it, and be happy!

Like a Phoenix

Reading through my usual list of favourite motorcycle blogs, I came across Doug's take on the recent aquisition of fabled Italian brand MV Agusta by All-American® Harley Davidson group. Blogs and online forums have been busy prophesizing what will happen to MV Agusta now that Willie G. and the boys have taken over. Italian purists fear the worst, of course, however I can't help but think the opposite.

I've got to agree with Doug on this one, HD's experience at resurrecting an historic marque is no laughing matter. What a group of investors have done with that company after AMF had practically dug it's grave is truly remarquable. Maybe they'll be able to work their marketing magic with MV Agusta too. I strongly doubt there'll be much parts swapping between the two brands... Just picture it: Screamin' Eagle pipes and an Evolution Twin on a Brutale. Ugh!

Speaking of resurecting a storied brand, there's alot of buzz surrounding the upcoming launch of the "new" 2009 Indian Chief. Initial pictures are promising. Flared fenders, round cylinders... yup - it's a Chief all right. I really like the upside-down teardrop headlight - nice touch. I just hope they iron out all the bugs before it makes it to the showroom floor this time.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Broken Backs and Sad Goodbyes.

The past few weeks have been tough, but there's finally some light filtering through the clouds. About a month ago I woke up with a sore back - not really a big deal. But as the day progressed things got a little weird. It started with a tingling in my left hand which eventually turned into complete numbness, then partial paralysis. As I said: Weird.

Anyhow, I went to see my family doctor, he checked a few things then pronounced the verdict: a herniated disk. WTF! I'm 35 for crissakes, only "old guys" get herniated disks, right? Wrong. So the doc sent me over to get an MRI to make sure, and sure enough he was right. So it was bedrest, anti-inflammatory meds and physiotherapy for me. Great. And of course, no motorcycling. Shit.

So I've been a good boy, following my regiment, doing physio 2 or 3 times per week. Truth be told, my physiotherapist is the best. Our first session consisted of a half-hour chat as she tried to get a good idea of where the ouch was. Then she got to work! We used electrodes to stimulate and relax tense back muscles, then ultrasonic therapy, deep body massages, traction, and on and on. But it works! Still have to keep doing physio, but I've recovered most mobility in my left hand. Only the index finger is still numb and dumb... but we're working on it.

Finally last Saturday I was able to go out for a ride. Still had to be careful though, as I only had three fingers for clutching duties rather than the full-fisted approach I usually use - but it wasn't too bad. The clutch action on a V-Strom is fairly light, so it made things easier. Wandered around town for a bit, but quickly decided to stop for a visit at a local MC shop to look for a mesh jacket as the temps outside were hitting the low thirties and the long black touring jacket was making quick work of cooking me to a crisp (30 degrees Celsius, of course, for the non-metrics out there, that would be in the mid-eighties). Found exactly what I wanted in a Teknic Supervent Jacket (grey) which some guy had purchased, worn once, then returned. Got it for $75, which ain't bad at all considering it retails for about $280.

With that taken care of, I headed back out on the road and decided to ride the Fundy Trail down to Alma. Conditions were perfect and although I did get a little discomfort in my upper vertabrae (C5 to C7 for you geeks out there), my mind hadn't been this much at ease for quite some time. So although my doctor and physiotherapist wouldn't have approved, I'm sure any reputable psychologist out there would've given me a thumbs-up. Unfortunately, the feeling was going to be shortlived.

On Sunday morning, I was enjoying my coffee when the phone rang. It was my mother. Granddad had passed away earlier that day. He'd been sick for some time now, spending the past 7 months in a hospital room, but the moment you hear the news it still hits pretty hard. I'd driven up to Bathurst three weeks earlier to visit him, and although he was weak, he still sat up strait and proud in his chair. And he still had a firm handshake.

Grandad and Grandma would've celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary later this summer, and although this may sound corny, they were still very much in love. I always admired how perfectly they matched each other, they had a kinship that could be felt by all who met them. He was ninety and he will be dearly missed by his eight kids, 20 grandkids, and 14 great-grandkids. We laid him to rest yesterday afternoon, a beautiful summer's day.

This morning I'm feeling a little introspective, and melancholy weighs heavy on my mind. We had thunderstorms for most of the night, but as is always the case after a storm, the sun is now filtering through the clouds. It's a new day.