Tag Archives: transportation

Leatt’s Full Disclosure: Co. gives media behind-the-scenes scoop

19 Mar

Image

Turns out there is a whole mess of misinformation out there about Leatt’s flagship neck brace. Knowing this, the company hosted what Leatt GM and lead marketing man, Phil Davy, called the company’s “full disclosure” tour of its HQ in South Africa. Here’s a story I did for Leatt’s blog and newsletter about the tour that saw eight magazine editors from around the world, representing several different publications, get a behind-the-scenes look at the R&D Leatt puts into its products.

It was a pretty fascinating insight into how Leatt does business, but I don’t suppose it helps to have me tell you this. Read the story and find out for yourself. Apologies for any typos/grammatical errors — I don’t get to give it any final edits before its published.

Motorcycle history: badges, tanks and logos

6 Nov

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

The history of the motorcycle business is filled with brands that have come and gone, and then sometimes returned only to go away again. Along with each of those brands is a logo, a design that often reaches the level of high art, while others are more pedestrian. Motorcycle enthusiasts, being the sort of passionate, whacked-out group that they are, make sure that these brands never really disappear.

One of those obsessive gearheads is Virgil Elings, the owner of the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum. His collection is a broad selection of bikes both odd and rare, motorcycles he’s been collecting for more than two decades. Had a chance to visit the museum in early October. Here’s a gallery of tank badges, brand names and logos on the selection of motorcycles — they are rotated out each month — that were filling the space of the former Brooks Brothers store that houses the museum when I visited.

If you’re ever up in Solvang or headed to Santa Ynez wine country, it’s well-worth a visit.

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

Solvang Vintage Motorcycle MuseumSolvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum

Ural Motorcycles: The most improbable motorbike company anywhere

8 Oct

Ural Motorcycles Expands U.S. dealer efforts, marketing push

Earlier this year I had a chance to head up to Redmond, Wash., to visit with the bootstraps brains behind Ural Motorcycles and take a ride on one of the sidecar bikes. The married Russian expats who run the company — Ilya Khait and Madina Merzhoeva — are a grassroots management team who handle everything from homologation concerns to keeping operations running smoothly back at the motorcycle plant in Irbit, Siberia. They have what can only be described as the most unbelievable operation in the motorcycle business.

Ural MotorcyclesHere’s the story I wrote for Dealernews about the company. They may have one of the best stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of telling. Really, just the logistics of building bikes in Russia and shipping them over here for distribution in the United States are mind-boggling. Here’s a detail I wasn’t able to fit into the story: After being asked why they have to ship all the bikes west, out of Russia and through Germany to the U.S. East Coast and then delivered to Washington state, when it seems it’s a much shorter route to go East, to America’s West Coast and Ural’s HQ, Ilya said, “Shipments have a way of disappearing when they head in that direction.”

Some other tidbits that didn’t make it: The massive production facility that’s been building Ural motorcycles since the 1940s is spread across nearly 450 acres. It had its own steam generating plant. The total square footage of the manufacturing buildings was about 1.3 million sq. ft., including a 360,000 sq. ft. building that once housed, welding, painting and main assembly. At the height of production in the 1980s, Ural was one of the largest motorcycle manufacturers in Europe and in 1993 it pumped out 132,000 motorcycles. Now? Not so much. After the collapse of the Soviet Union released that captive audience, those number dropped drastically. As mentioned in the story, Ural consolidated all of its operations in one 220,000. sq. ft. building and only uses a small sliver of that space.

I actually met Madina years ago, shortly after she and Ilya took over operations from the previous importer and distributor. It’s been pretty neat watching them build the company, improve the bikes and continually push the motorcycles further into the U.S. powersports market. Check out their full story at Dealernews.com.

 

Gard and Keanu’s excellent adventure: Arch Motorcycle Company

4 Oct

These are images of the KR GT-1 Prototype, the first model built by Arch Motorcycle Company. Arch is a new collaboration between custom builder Gard Hollinger of L.A. County Choprods and actor Keanu Reeves, who both are apparently simpatico when it comes to building high-design, performance-oriented custom v-twins.

Keanu Reeves Arch Motorcycles Gard Hollinger

Check out more about Arch and the new partnership over here at Dealernews. In the meantime, check out the pics and the vid of Reeves zipping around on the bike. We see on the L.A. County Choprods site that the build involved such industry notables as Bennett’s Performance, Ohlins Suspension, Baker Drivetrain, Yoshimura RD, K&N Filters, Evil Engineering and a host of other fine vendors.
Arch Motorcycle Company Keanu Reeves Gard Hollinger


Aside

Two-stroke/Blue smoke: a 2-cycle love affair

27 Sep

Two-stroke extravaganze motorcycles scooters

I’d happily asphyxiate in a cloud of 2-stroke smoke. Locked in the garage, that sweet oily haze drifting around me, the rink-a-dink-ding-dink rattling in my head. Soft sleep calling me down. Nothing.

At least that’s how it happens in my head. Surely, it’s a horrible, choking affair that leaves a blue, wretched corpse. But the distinctive stink of a 2-stroke is intoxicating and not just to these twisted nostrils. Legions of other have a similar sickness. I know. They were all at the 16th annual Two Stroke Extravaganza on Sunday, Sept. 23. Organized by the Socal 2-Strokers, the event is billed as the largest gathering of 2-stroke machines in America. Scooters. Dirtbikes. Race bikes. Street bikes. ATVs. Karts. You name it. All were on hand for the event.

And it’s not just the scent that draws them — obviously. There’s also the power and simplicity of these wonderful internal combustion engines that hold a special spot in the history of motorcycling. Oh, and there’s that sound too. Here’s a smattering of painfully artsty images and a couple of kick-ass videos capturing that jangly-sharp ping-a-rang-tang we all know and love. Like this Suzuki RG500 Walter Wolf edition.

Motorcycle riders and the road: What’s our responsibility?

4 Sep

ImageBeen out on the road a bunch the last few weeks of summer, covering the wide expanses of Southern California. It’s been family fun vacation time and not too much — not any really — two-wheeled time so I’ve been hyper aware of all those out for weekend rides and long-distance jaunts. It’s not so much jealousy that I’m not joining them, more a longing to be back riding again. As I’ve always known since the first time on a motorcycle, it’s that space between Points A and B, that time riding, is the only time I’m truly at peace in my own head. But the post-ACL surgery recovery continues and I’m waiting it out even if I do feel OK enough now to ride.

Seeing all those motorcyclists on the road, going where they’re going, doing what they do, reminded me of something I wrote a ways back when Caltrans launched its “Share the Road” campaign a few years back. See, for every ATGATT-clad rider and leather-ed enthusiast tearing right along there were the guys in T-shirts, tennis shoes, no-socks, and often shorts performing acts of unbelievable stupidity on So Cal’s highways and byways. I don’t get it. Here’s the thing from a few years back:

I was driving into work this week when I noticed that the digital freeway sign that usually informs me about the minutes I’d spend in the purgatory of traffic that is the 405 south had a new message. This week these signs read, “Share the road. Look twice for motorcyclists.” What a fantastic message I thought, and a good sign that the CHP and CalTrans were reinforcing a warning that we riders have been proselytizing all along.

In fact, the “Share the Road” message showing up on the approximately 700 so-called Amber Alert signs across California is part of a public service campaign by the CHP, the Office of Traffic Safety and CalTrans to promote highway safety by getting drivers to actually look for motorcyclists. Nice stuff.

The pessimist in me had another thought — I bet there were more than a few drivers cruising by, reading that sign and thinking, “Why should I care? These stupid motorcyclists are crazy to begin with and dying is a part of their equation.” I honestly believe that there are those out there who don’t give a flying crap about riders and believe some motorcyclists deserve to die or be injured.

After getting into the office and going through my e-mail, which includes Google news alerts that notify me of news stories containing keywords like “motorcycles” and “honda” and such, my thoughts were confirmed. Again. I have a morbid curiosity about reading the reader comment sections in stories about fellow riders going down in traffic or being seriously injured. It’s in these anonymous forms that I’ve read the most vile, repugnant statements made by strangers about strangers that I’ve ever come across.

The other day it was a story about the 91 freeway in Long Beach, Calif., being closed down to investigate a crash between a motorcyclist and a vehicle. There was really no information in the story about the accident or the condition of the rider, but here is one such comment:

Was this an unfortunate accident between a car and a motorcycle? Or, was the motorcyclist splitting lanes so he could go 20 mph faster than the rest of the traffic? If it was an unfortunate accident, I hope everyone is okay. If it was reckless lane-splitting, like I see every single day, then the motorcyclist deserved to be hit.

The thing is, this is one of the more sedate such comments I’ve read. One of the worst happened in a story about the death of an employee of a Harley-Davidson dealership here in Orange County, Calif. Not only did some commentators say he deserved to die, they Continue reading

My work: Dealernews column

12 Jun
A new enthusiasm for adventure touring
Publish date: Apr 22, 2012
By:  Dennis Johnson

Road, track or trail, motorcycle riding is all movement. Whether it’s crosstown, cross-country or cross-continent, two wheels are locomotion. I know that four wheels will get you there too, but for me, motorcycles come with a built-in need to go, go, go. Leave a car parked and it just sits there. A motorcycle not in motion just falls over, save for the kickstand.

There’s something about packing up a bike with what you need for the night or the week that seems to fit the very purpose of the machine. Get on and go. It seems that nowhere is this more relevant than the touring segment. In the May 2012 issue of Dealernews CLICK TO SEE MORE

%d bloggers like this: