tilted_standI overlooked this in my last post, but it’s a pretty cool idea. The Freestand strapless motorcycle tie-down system is from Ivie Racing in Memphis, TN (the dirty south is kicking some new product butt!) This pic shows the dirt bike model but they have variants that fit sport bikes and standard bikes, too. I can’t easily explain how this works, but I’ll try. The stands have a pair of open, semi-circular hooks attached to short stanchions that pivot from the center of the top cross piece. As you roll the bike forward the outer tip of the hooks catches on the inside of the fork legs. As you push the bike into the stand the hooks pivot to horizontal where they lock, preventing the forks from moving forward or backward. There’s a “how it works” video on the site that shows the stand in action.

It’s a cool engineering idea and, as the picture shows, holds the bike firmly in almost any position. There is no pressure on any part of the bike. All the force is transferred right into the fork stanchions and steering head. Best of all, it takes only one person because all you do is roll the bike into place. No chance of dropping it while you reach for tie-downs or fasten the clamps used on other systems like the MX Lock-n-Load or the Parts Unlimited Wheel Shoe (which I use). To be fair, the Freestand costs a lot more than either of those products, ranging from $250 to $350 depending on model. So I can’t see buying a bunch of these to fill your trailer, but I can see how one would be great in a shop or used on a lift in the garage. I almost always work on bikes alone, and getting one secured in the shop can be a little iffy. Talk to your significant other and see if she (or he) can get you one for Christmas.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the 2008 Powersports Dealer Expo in Indianapolis (called the Indy Show because it is always in Indianapolis) this past weekend. It was a great trip. I had a good time, met some old friends, made some new ones, and learned lots of interesting stuff. I’ll be writing about all of it here over the next few weeks. For a rather more lighthearted look at the show check out the Racer X Films from Day 1 and Day 2.

To start I thought I’d review some of the more interesting little doodads and helper-items I saw. Nothing really big here, and some of them sell for a little more than I think they should. But they are still neat and may give you some ideas of your own.

handymate2First up is the HandyMate from BossMate. Made in Chattanooga, TN the HandyMate is one of those “Duh, why didn’t I think of that?” ideas. It’s just some simple, rectangular braces/brackets through which you slip a 2”x12” board of whatever length you want (probably around 8 feet max.) to create a nice, stable, self-supporting bench. At 21” tall the HandyMate just about the right height to support a long-travel dirt bike. It also makes a nice bench seat for putting on your boots or whatever, as well as a good step stool for reaching stuff on top of the trailer or across the truck bed. If you’re like me and make your loading ramps from 2”x12” lumber, using one of them for a bench seat or bike stand at the trail site is a great extra use. They make all sorts of variations. The HandyMate is the smallest. All you guys with welders and some 1” sq. tubing around can probably make some up yourself, but for a guy like me who doesn’t have that stuff the $45 retail price tag is low enough I can afford to buy a pair. Check them out.

bootbunny1Next is the MX Boot Bunny. It’s basically some 3/16” (or maybe 1/4”) mild steel rod that has been shaped into two upright, sock-like shapes that let you slip your upside-down muddy boots over them for washing. The Bunny holds them nice and steady so you can hit them with the pressure washer or car wash nozzle without fear of filling them with water. The basic Bunny just sticks into the ground, but they also offer a little fold-up base that can be used on hard surfaces like driveways. The base folds flat so the unit can hang on a hook in your trailer or truck. This one isn’t all that applicable for me since I don’t really ride in the mud anymore. Nor do a lot of vintage guys because it’s just too hard on the bikes. But everything needs washing eventually and at $35.95 for the standard unit and $62.95 for the combo with the base and a hanger it’s worth looking at if you don’t like tossing muddy gear into your rig.

park_tool_workbench2The next item is from Park Tool USA and is a nifty portable workbench. Park has been making specialized bicycle tools for decades and is the leading brand in that space. For 2008 they are upgrading and modifying a number of their tools for the motorcycle market. They have a range of things like specialty vises for holding shocks and forks, etc. The portable workbench looks like a nice addition to the pit gear for any racer. It’ll hold as much as 200 lbs (although you shouldn’t try to put a pitbike on it). It has molded recesses so drinks, cans and tools don’t go rolling off. Plus they offer a nice little kit that turns it into a 2-wheel dolly for transporting other pit gear. This item is a little pricey. I don’t remember exactly what they told me, but I think it’s around $150 retail for the table. The dolly kit is extra. That’s a lot.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been happy with the flimsy camping tables from Walmart, etc. The plastic “church” tables tend to fall over easily if the ground is soft, plus stuff falls off them all the time. The Park table has the legs set at a 45-degree angle so even if the ground is soft it will work its way into the dirt and remain stable. The nice, lightweight aluminum tables from places like Pit Posse or Pit Products cost up to $300. That’s totally out of my league. Compared to that the Park table seems like a pretty good deal.

The last item is really a service and web site for ShipMyBike.com. I only talked to this guy for a minute but he seemed knowledgeable and claims to have been serving the motorcycle industry since 1965. His web site has a form you can fill out to get a free quote. Continental US, Hawaii/Alaska, and International services are all available. Here’s a customer quote from his About US page:

“I just got my two Vincent engines shipped by Berklay and they did a great job. Dennis handled it and it came from Mike’s house near Toranto Canada to Texas. Mike wanted it shipped one day after he had them crated and ready. After we got shipping arranged, Mike said they made contact with him, and they were there when he wanted them, had them loaded up and gone exactly when he wanted it. They shipped them to NYC for customs, then to me where I picked them up at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport. No problems, no damage, easy to deal with, very reasonable prices (cheaper than I could have driven there!). The crates looked like they didn¹t have a mark on them. No damage to anything, and a great, quick job.” — Charlie Hamburger

He’s just an expediter, and I don’t know what sort of premium he gets over the basic carrier rates. But it may still be cheaper than Forward Air. And if he has solid relationships with the trucking and transport companies so his stuff doesn’t get screwed up that’s worth a lot. If you’re getting a bike from overseas it might be a real help to have a specialist expediter. OH, he has a gawdawful animated audio thing on his home page. Very annoying. But just ignore it.

Posted at ESPN.com, the Dakar Rally is moving to South America for 2009. After the 2008 Rally was canceled due to terrorist threats by stone-age towelheads, Race director Etienne Lavigne told ESPN today the event will run through Argentina and Chile in 2009:

Race director Etienne Lavigne detailed the route in a telephone interview Monday. He was already in Buenos Aires, scouting out the Argentine capital that will host the start and finish of next year’s race.

“It’s a very, very big adventure,” Lavigne said.

This year marked the first time that the 30-year-old rally, one of the biggest competitions in automobile racing, was called off. Next year will mark the first time that it will not race in Africa.

According to Lavigne the race will return to Africa when it can. Seems to me they should stay out of that hellhole. It’s hard to imagine it will be any different in the future. But that’s just me. [found via RacerX Illustrated]

Getting detailed financial info on motorcycle manufacturers is difficult. The Big Four Japanese are vertically-integrated conglomerates who make everything from bullet trains and ships to pianos and keyboards. They don’t usually break out motorcycle sales in their financials. Ditto for BMW – they don’t separate cars and motorcycles. The small companies – Ducati, Piaggio, etc. are often traded on foreign exchanges with limited disclosure rules or have large percentages of their stock held by private interests. US-based Harley-Davidson is about the only pure motorcycle manufacturer where we can track true financials. This makes it hard for someone like me to assess trends and get any real feel for what’s happening in terms of industry economics, so it’s really helpful when someone publishes inside data on a specific company.

Alan Cathcart had a brief writeup on Buell and Ducati in the January 23 issue of Cycle News that had some interesting data on Ducati. I record it here for future reference.

Outgoing Ducati President/CEO Federico Minoli engineered the talks between H-D and Ducati that had H-D looking seriously at acquiring the Italian marque in late 2007. The deal was squashed by the Bonomi family, who controls Ducati via a 30%-minus-one-share equity stake owned by their private equity firm Investindustrial.

According to Cathcart Ducati’s revenues for the first nine months of 2007 showed a 43% increase over the same period in 2006:

Financial info for Ducati – first nine months of the year.
Category 2006 2007
Revenue €224.2 million €322.2 million
Gross Profit -€4.6 million €17.6 million
Debt €46.7 million €9.5 million
Worldwide Registrations 30,100 34,705
Data from the January 23, 2008 issue of Cycle News.

H-D’s numbers have gone in the opposite direction, with sales mirroring the overall slump in the US economy and projected 2008 numbers being even worse. Interestingly, the two companies are apparently still talking and a future merger is not out of the question. As we have noted here before, big companies need to get bigger in order to remain competitive, and consolidation is the natural path in all industries. Big companies also have trouble innovating, and tend toward buying up innovation rather than developing it on their own. In the end this reduces overall choice in the marketplace, providing us – the riding public – with largely identical machines that are just branded differently.

The AMA is looking for help in getting Congressional support for H.R. 1076, the HIPAA Recreational Injury Technical Correction Act. According to this AMA press release:

The AMA is calling on motorcyclists and others who face health insurance discrimination to urge their U.S. Representatives to support H.R. 1076, known as the HIPAA Recreational Injury Technical Correction Act,” said Moreland. “Time is short. The bill has broad bi-partisan support but we need 218 votes for passage. If we don’t act by April, we will likely miss our chance for legislative action in 2008.

The problem is that employers, and some other health insurance providers, are beginning to discriminate against motorcyclists and others who engage in legal recreational activities that the employers don’t like. Often they won’t disclose this little tidbit, they just won’t pay if you run up a bill for a motorcycle (or horseback, or climbing, etc.) accident. If we had anything resembling an open market for health insurance this wouldn’t be an issue. But we don’t have a market – we have a government subsidized, bureaucratically-managed fiasco that has evolved to limit our coverage options to either what our employer provides, or nothing. So we pay out the ass for healthcare premiums (because the government has mandated that employers must provide coverage for all employees if they provide for any) but the government doesn’t require that employer to actually pay claims for that coverage if it’s an activity the employer doesn’t like. Great idea.

Apparently this brilliant little loophole is a result of the jackasses in Congress passing a bill – the Health Information Privacy Privacy Protection Act – back in 1996 but abdicating the writing of the actual rules of the bill to the Dept. of Health and Human Services. This stellar bureaucracy screwed up the rules, creating this money-saving opportunity for employers. H.R. 1076 is a corrective bill to fix their screw up. I don’t know the history behind it. I don’t know if the AMA played an active and important role or if someone else did all the work and the AMA is just taking credit. I hope this is something the AMA really pushed for and made an impact. This is the sort of thing they ought to be doing instead of running around organizing races.

In any case, this is an important bill. The AMA has a simple, online tool to help you contact your elected representative and tell them to actually do something useful and sign onto this bill. Click the link and do it now. If we don’t act together we may not have the chance to act at all.

nopiswimsuit_smallProgress requires compromise. Advancement requires sacrifice. These time-honored platitudes are ingrained in most of us from childhood. To reach any worthwhile goal you often have to give up things you hold dear. Achieving mainstream acceptance is a goal for the motocross community, and the pursuit of that goal has caused us to gradually give up more and more of what we once held to be inherent truths about our sport.

In her latest blog post Sarah Whitmore shares her distaste for the racier side of Supercross.

Speaking of Supercross I am getting a little annoyed at all of the “main event” board and “30 second” board girls. Not to mention every energy drink company is in some huge competition to see who can have the most scantily clad girls on display. Its bad enough when these girls are getting paid to dress like this but then there are fans walking around wearing less than what I wear to the beach.

As a twenty-something woman and one of the top female motocross racers in the country Sarah speaks with some authority on this issue. Unfortunately, she has made one flawed assumption – that Supercross is a family sport. It is not. I wish it were, but Supercross is our (the industry, the racers, the broader MX community) shot at hitting the big time. And because we are all slavishly in pursuit of that magical, mythical pinnacle of fame and fortune we have pretty much sacrificed any tie we had to our past legacy.

The racy aspect of Supercross is much more likely to increase than it is to regress to any family values approach. As I wrote a few weeks back regarding the Leticia Cline incident, hotties are a part of getting mainstreamed. Sex sells. In the 18-34 male demographic for which Supercross has been manufactured sex sells supremely. And selling is what LiveNation is all about.

There may be one, perhaps even two, people inside LiveNation who actually care about motocross and Supercross. They are likely the guys working directly in the sport, managing the ground-level operations. But let’s not make the mistake of thinking that there is any passion at all at the executive or Board levels. It’s about money. Period.

If you want to see one possible future for Supercross watch an episode of NOPI TunerVision, or go to a NOPI Nationals event. They have racing. It’s a backdrop to car shows, jello wrestling, soap suds dance orgies, and nearly-naked bikini contests. Not that I have a problem with any of these things. They just are. And if Sarah wants a glimpse of what her future may hold she can visit bikiniracer.com. Sex is what the 18-34 male demographic wants. Action sports and sex. It sells. Welcome to the mainstream.