~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Monday, October 30, 2006

If I Were A Rich Man

If you've had the good fortune to purchase of one Triumph's wonderful 2006 Scramblers you'll need the proper riding togs to go with it. I suggest you click on over and look through the catalog for "The Steve McQueen Sale and Collectors' Motorcycles & Related Memorabilia" auction at Bonham's. They are auctioning off a bunch of Steve McQueen memorabilia and motorcycles on November 11th and you might want to see about snapping up what must surely be the Holy Grail of motorcycle jackets.

Yep, McQueen's very own waxed cotton Belstaff Trialmaster Professional riding jacket:
photo: Bonham's

I had a Belstaff jacket just like it when I was young. All I needed beyond that was looks, talent, charisma, and riding skill and I could have been just like Steve.

I'll be surprised if that jacket doesn't bring some very serious money, more than the high auction estimate of $5,000. It may not be the very same Belstaff* jacket Steve's wearing in the ISDT picture above but it's close enough. For a die hard motorcycle enthusiast with money to spend the jacket offered would be quite and item to display in the den. And if that fellow had any guts and the jacket fit him he'd go riding in it at least once. I hope it goes to a worthy buyer.

Update: Nov. 12, 2006
Steve McQueen's old jacket did a little better than the auction estimate. The final selling price was $28,000. That tells me two things (1) Whomever did the auction estimates didn't know much about motorcycle history and the real power of the McQueen racing image to old riders.

*Update: April 29, 2006: I've been informed that the jacket McQueen is wearing in the photo is in fact a
Barbour International Jacket jacket and not a Belstaff. No matter, if you want to look just like Steve you can visit British Motorcycle Gear and buy your own for way less than $28,0000.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I Confess


OK, I confess, I'm interested in something on two wheels other than a motorcycle. I want a Heinkel Tourist motorscooter. There, I said it.

My wife has had an on-again-off-again interest in scooters so I've been poking around the scooter world to see what's what and fill in the extensive gaps in my knowledge of scooters. Somehow her interest in modern scooters has translated into me wanting a Heinkel from circa 1960. It's not clear to me how that happened but I'm good with it. I'd even let her ride it.

I've found that the scooter world is very much like the motorcycle world, just slower, maybe a little quirkier, and with a better sense of humor about itself. I confess too that I have always had an interest in things that were a bit different, a bit quirky, out of the mainstream, and so the Heinkel Tourist, with it's big valenced front fender and stout German heritage, has caught my interest. I work for a German company and have some knowledge of things German and as nearly as I can tell, the Heinkel Tourist is built the way the Germans used to build things before they discovered plastic, computers, and a "the more complex, the better" mentality.

I have no intention of giving up motorcycles but I just have the feeling that it would be no end of fun to have a vintage scooter, and a Heinkel in particular, to trundle about with on the weekends or to take to vintage events. The Heinkel has the style and substance of another era and I like that a lot.

With just 175cc it wouldn't be fast but it would be fun.

Heinkel's turn up for sale periodically, sometimes at good prices, sometimes at surprisingly high prices. They are not as numerous in the US as in Europe so finding the right Heinkel at the right price could be a bit of a challenge. I let one slip by already --"he who hesitates is lost" and all that. The was a nice looking Heinkel on eBay recently but it was down in Australia and the shipping costs would have made the purchase impractical unless the bug to have one bites me harder than it has. The recently acquired 1992 Kawasaki KLR650 is my 40th motorcycle; could my 41st two-wheeler be a vintage scooter? Stranger things have happened but not recently. I'm past-due.

More Heinkel Tourist info here for the excellent USA based Heinkel Tourist enthusiast and here for German site for all things Heinkel.

Friday, October 13, 2006

You Are What You Eat?

Whether for leather jackets or food or yard ornaments, cows can be expensive.

I've commented more than once now on the whole Harley-Davidson shtick and after I wrote my last blog entry about their silly video, I promised myself I would not write any more about H-D for awhile. But I couldn't resist.

I have to be honest right up front here and say that I actually like their bikes. Harley's have a visceral feel to them that is unique and enticing to their riders, I imagine, not unlike the way an old center-steer John Deere tractor appeals to old farmers or wannabe farmers. I was reminded of this sometime back when I test rode a new RoadGlide and the shifting brought back memories of youthful summers on my uncle's farm and the fun I had driving his faded green tractor.

Harleys are unique enough in their feel and image now that "the Motor Company," as H-D likes to call itself, has managed to market the whole Harley experience in every imaginable way to increase their profits and grow their stock price. They have succeeded beyond what anyone believed and I wish I had been smart enough to buy a thousand shares back then but I'd spent all my money and then some on a new Softtail Custom. In the early '80s when H-D first went public with their stock I knew guys that bought just one share and ordered the actual paper stock certificate as a memento because everyone knew for sure Harley was going to finally go belly up and join Indian, Crocker and a pantheon of other great names in motorcycle heaven.

It didn't happen; H-D is still with us and they are everywhere.

The revival of H-D is one of the great turn-around stories in American business. Brilliant marketing, clever ads, an understanding of aging Baby Boomers, in addition to actually improving the basic quality of the product, worked just as it should. But Harley did not stop there. They branded their own clothes, chrome accessories, Monopoly game sets, Ford trucks, kid's bicycles and more. Any product with a blank spot for the Harley logo has become fair game in the pursuit of profit. I expect eventually at Sturgis or Daytona you'll be able to buy H-D branded fake vomit in case you're not man enough yourself to drink until you puke.

So when I was browsing the PetSmart web site the other day and saw "Harley-Davidson® Breakaway Safety Cat Collars" I knew there was no limit...or bottom...to what Harley would brand in order to make a buck.

Or so I thought.

I got an e-mail the other day from Ed over at Motohistory.net and he mentioned that H-D and ConAgra Foods, Inc. have just announced that soon, coming to a shabby convenience store or multi-million dollar Harley boutique near you, will be Harley-Davidson beef jerky. ConAgra, Inc., the folks who make "Slim Jim" beef jerky and "Wesson Oil" (amongst other things) will be stamping the Harley logo on presumably orange-and-black packages of beef jerky and calling it "Road Food" just for you. Soon, not only will you be able to find your personal identity in what you ride and what you wear but you can eat what you ride too! Ah, capitalism! To quote one of the parties in the jerkyfest speaking about H-D "...nothing fit with the brand and its image like jerky." No kidding...

Now H-D bikes and H-D branded stuff have never been inexpensive but it did seem to me that $5.99 for 3.25 ounces of sticks of dried up dead cow was a bit pricey even if they did have the Motor Company logo on their package. Being me, I did some math and found that at $5.99 for 3.25oz of H-D beef jerky, and considering that the typical Harley is about $20,000 and weighs about 700lbs, the jerky is $29.48 per pound while the Harley is only $28.57 per pound.

Guess what, it's cheaper to eat their motorcycles than their beef jerky.

Notice: The names Harely-Davidson, Sportster, RoadKing, ElectraGlide, and Softail are copyright H-D.
The names Slim Jim and Wesson Oil are copyright ConAgra, Inc.
Cows are copyright God. At least for now.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Baa Baa Black Sheep

There is an old Harley rider's expression "If I have to explain it, you wouldn't understand." Well, apparently the folks at H-D felt a need to try and explain it anyway and so in the trendiest video way, they now proudly proclaim "We believe in flames and skulls."

Harley's "statement" film is on their website and you can click here for a look.

The video is really nicely done from a graphic standpoint; the black and white images are compelling. Compelling only at first glance though because once you stop and look, the real message in the video is as conformist as any three-piece-suit culture of "The Man" against whom the video pretends to rebel. Does it strike anyone else as ironic that a billion dollar, multi-national, Wall Street listed corporation has made a video that talks about being an individualist and "sticking it to The Man"?

So the video got me to thinking about what I believe.

I believe I'm glad that I'm a motorcyclist all the time and not just a faux biker on the weekends.

I believe flames and skulls are a cliche now. (OK, flames are not, well painted flames will always look good)

I believe I'm glad I owned a Harley when it was a motorcycle and not a lifestyle statement.

I believe I'm glad I ride a Honda today and whatever brand of bike I want tomorrow, and that I am not bound by what my friends ride.

I believe I feel sorry for the hard core H-D riders (you know who you are and so do I). H-D has sold you guys out and you ought to be mad enough about it by now to go ride something else for a while and "stick it to The Man."

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"When my mood gets too hot and I find myself wandering beyond control I pull out my motor-bike and hurl it top-speed through these unfit roads for hour after hour." - T.E. Lawrence

An Important reminder from the past:
"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - James Madison