Tonight, 06 APR 2010, Pit Pass Radio will have an interview with Al Youngwerth, the founder of Rekluse Motor Sports Inc. If you’ve watched any of the recent Supercross races and wondered how some of the riders manage to keep the engine running when they fall off the bike, it’s because they’re using a Rekluse centrifugal clutch.

I’ve never had the chance to ride with one of these things, and they’re only available for modern bikes, but I’m told they are the shizznit — the cat’s pajamas, the real deal, the best thing since sliced bread, etc. One of my buddies — Bill Ramsey of Motorcycle Accessory Shop in Mesa, AZ (2319 West Main Street, Mesa, AZ 85201-6839 (480) 835-6228) — says he tried to talk Al into giving him some parts to use to get one working on a vintage bike, but didn’t have any luck.

That’s too bad, because the new Core EXP clutch kit is, relatively, affordable at $800 — at least compared to the $2,000 these things cost originally. Now I know all you vintage guys are out there going, “What!? 800-freakin’ dollars!? I’ve bought entire bikes for less than that!” But from what I’ve been told these things are worth at least two CDI ignition upgrades and, if you’re on an old points-based ignition system that’s $450 per.

I admit, there’s probably only a tiny, tiny fraction of VMX riders who would shell out for something like this, but it would be nice to have the opportunity. I’m told if you ever ride with one you’ll never go back.

So tune in and see what Al has to say.

Tonight’s show on Pit Pass was good. Good interviews, especially if you’re interested in industry stuff like I am. Important note: The crew mentioned that their email has been broken and they were not aware of the problem. So they asked that any listener who has emailed the show and not received a response to please send it again.

One thing that caught my attention was a brief mention from Tony Wenck as the second hour began about the FIM MX1 World Championship being shortened (again) with the postponement of the planned USGP round. I usually check the site a couple of times a week, but had not heard this yet. This cancellation comes on the heels of the cancellation of the South African round due to financial difficulties.

What Tony talked about, and what I want to discuss, is the overall trend of downsizing in industry, what it means, and what we should expect. There were 40,000 layoffs in the US this week as US companies cut back. That sounds devastating, and it is if you’re one of the 40,000.

What we have to remember is that business is cyclical. Companies that are flush with cash, booming with business, and running as fast as they can — which is what many US companies were doing between 2004 and 2007 — wake up one day and realize they’ve made a mistake (or several.)

They’ve hired too many people, taken on too many new product lines, acquired too many companies, or expanded too fast. Often the easiest way to solve a problem when you’re growing is to throw more people at it. Unfortunately, this is not the most efficient way, and often far from the best way, to solve a problem. As long as things are great everyone ignores it. But when things get tight it’s time for everyone to readjust to reality.

This readjustment process is what politicians call a recession. It’s when everybody backs up, re-evaluates what’s important, what works, and what doesn’t. Ultimately, the smart companies come out better than they were. They focus on where the money comes from, and they dump, at least for a time, the arrogance that makes them think they are infallible. The market speaks very loudly in a recession. That’s good. It hurts for a while. That’s bad.

The motorcycle industry has a lot of smart, resourceful, entrepreneurial people. These people will find new markets, lean out their business, improve customer service, and find ways to grow. They won’t be swayed by scare stories on the news every night. They’ll keep working and learning and adapting.

In a year or two we’ll look back and see the industry stronger as a result of the current problems. The motorcycle is a great way to forget your problems for a while. It’s a great way to save on gas. And it’s a great hobby for families and friends. Just hang in there. It will get better.

Tonight’s PitPass Radio featured Dan Kleen, president of NOHVCC – the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council. Dan did a good job of explaining some of the organization’s functions. Specifically, he was on to discuss a legislative victory in Iowa that got the State to return ATV fees that the legislature had confiscated for the past six years. It’s a good segment. It’s a small victory but an important one that shows we can be successful if we just organize ourselves and take the time to be heard. He’s the first guest starting at about the 15-minute mark.

I’m a full two months late, but yesterday I finally found time to listen to AMA president Rob Dingman’s segment during the October 9 Pitpass Radio show. Dingman is a reasonable fellow and has a  big job ahead. He clearly understands the organization needs to regroup, refocus on its core mission, and do a much better job at fewer tasks. Dingman has previously served as the AMA’s chief lobbyist in DC, so he has important insight and experience in the area that is probably most critical to our future.

A few facts from the interview:

  • There are now about 290,000 members in the AMA, more than they’ve ever had.
  • There are between 3 million and 6 million motorcyclists in the US (everyone agreed the number is closer to 6 million)
  • The number one reason people give for joining/renewing with the AMA is the government relations activity.

When it came to talking about the new vision Dingman had some interesting things to say. First he reiterated that the AMA just doesn’t  have the resources to be an effective race promotion organization. He brought up the AMA vs NASCAR scenario and pointed out, quite rightly, that NASCAR’s marketing team alone is bigger than the whole AMA race organization. I don’t want to belabor this right now — I wrote about it in some detail before. But while what Dingman says is true and accurate and perhaps now that the AMA is getting out of the race promotion business we should accept it and move on, we need to be sure we’ve drawn the correct conclusions from this fact before we do. But I’ll address this in a future piece on some things I’d like to see the AMA do going forward.

The second thing Dingman said was that while the organization needs to do a better job at government relations, the staff is limited in much the same way as the racing organization. He noted that the association’s approach is to rely mainly on membership to move things forward by notifying the association and asking for guidance if needed, but doing most of it themselves. Frankly, this is completely inadequate but it’s a true reflection of how the AMA has operated for as long as I can remember. As a former AMA lobbyist Dingman knows this stuff as well as anyone, and I trust he knows what it takes to do a good job of it. I’m pretty sure he knows this isn’t going to cut it but he made no mention of any new approach. I had high hopes that the reduction in racing would mean more resources would go to this vital function, but so far no indication of that.

At this point in the interview host Scott Casber asked about the AMA’s historical mission (from 1924?) being to fight restrictive laws. I’m not sure where that came from. It’s not on the AMA history page and I don’t have any other info. If there is a charter online I can’t find it.

The third interesting thing Dingman said was that being in the race promotion business was creating a lot of conflict and controversy that was just not good for the organization. While he didn’t get into specifics, he made it clear that the controversy around the racing organization, and the confusion of sanctioning and promoting, was creating problems with corporate members. I am still not clear on the role corporate members play, mostly in regard to how much money they contribute to the organization. I know they hold half the board seats and they all get votes at corporate meetings. But I don’t know how much of the AMA’s money comes from them. I’d sure like to know that. More on that later, too. In any case, Dingman seemed to feel strongly the AMA’s image has been somehow tarnished by this controversy, that it’s preventing companies from partnering with the AMA, and that fixing this is the key to the association’s growth. He’s on the inside and should know, but it’s hard to see how this is the main problem.

All in, it was a pretty good interview. Dingman sees the need for change, I’m just not sure he sees taking it far enough. But he’s the best thing to happen to the AMA in a long time. We’ll continue to investigate how the organization works and try to understand how it can better serve the needs of riders, all with the goal of figuring out if the AMA is, indeed, the right organization to take us forward.

This week’s PitPass Radio show had AMA president Rob Dingman scheduled for the 2nd hour. Due to my wretched travel schedule the last few months I missed the live show and haven’t had time to listen to the MP3 yet. I’m interested to hear what Dingman had to say regarding his new vision. I’ll post some thoughts on it once I get a chance to listen.

I just finished my little segment on PitPass Radio. I don’t know what I expected, and it certainly could have gone worse. But I didn’t feel like I did a very good job. I think they wanted someone a little more controversial and I’m just not that guy. At least not yet. I need to really think this through and do some research.

They asked me questions about ArenaCross and stuff. I don’t know anything about that. I just know that the AMA is not run like a business, and running professional motorsports is a business. That’s why it’s called professional. I know what I think but I’m not confident in my expression of it yet. Guess I better get to that research.