By Scot Harden
As 2019 ends and 2020 begins, it’s a good time to pause and reflect on all our many blessings. Like you, I have much to be grateful for and much to look forward to. One of the things I’m grateful for is this column and the ability to talk about any topic that interests me without fear of censorship or editorial oversight. For over a year now Dealernews has given me free range to pontificate on any subject I choose. Some of my articles have been highly personal; others focused on what I feel are timely issues relevant to our sport and industry. And no other topic is more personal or relevant than the health of our sport and in particular new ridership. In last month’s column, I shared my impressions of the MIC Communication Symposium, where the MIC shared their vision and progress towards the development of a strategic campaign to attract new riders. And while I'm sure the MIC campaign will be a great addition, I also realized there is no silver bullet to the problem. In its wake the Plus 1 initiative I launched two years ago still has a place, and therefore I am encouraging others to pick up the torch and help me carry the banner forward. Judging by the large number of responses I received in response to my latest appeal, it's clear now more than ever; our industry is looking for leadership and direction on the topic of how to grow ridership. Over the last month, I've received dozens of great suggestions and ideas on how to advance the cause of attracting new riders. Here are just two :
Long-time motorcycle dealer and industry pioneer Bill Brokaw shared, “I taught myself to survive in Los Angeles traffic at the tender age of 14 and 15. Restricted licenses were available way back then. I succeeded and rode there for eighteen years. What I learned in those years I distilled into a slide show and talk that took under 2 hours. For 4 1/2 years, I gave the presentation a couple of times a year at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. The Air Force came up with their own whiz-bang audio-visual presentation and put me out to pasture. However, the safety officer, on my dismissal, informed me that over that time, there was a total of one broken arm suffered by an airman who had seen my presentation. I sold the fun and pride of wise motorcycling. I even explained how to go fast safely. After all, I knew they would go fast at times. I did. It was not unusual for fellows to come by the shop and thank me for what to them was a very unusual safety presentation”.
American Honda Ben Hoang’s remarks summed up a sentiment expressed by many, “Loved your ideas about just exposing people to all the great things around motorcycling, like the movies or the events, but the thing that got me most interested was the 6th one on your list. About sharing your experiences. That's going back to what I think most of the industry has stopped doing in our marketing. So many of us have talked about our products for so long, we forgot about what our customers get from them, unforgettable experiences with friends, family, or just themselves. So many of us in the industry have found friendship, support, love, and solace in Powersports, and I think we've gotten so far away from it. I agree 100% about “Cracking the Code” and that we need to just start getting our asses off the couch and get out there and get butts on seats and get them riding. (BTW - I’ll be taking some of my nieces riding this season for the first time)".
Ben's feedback struck a chord with me. It made me wonder what my life would be like without motorcycling? If I never took that first ride, twisted a throttle, felt the speed and power, the sense of freedom and possibility, hadn’y visited some of the places a motorcycle has taken me, had never crossed paths with some of the truly amazing people I’ve met along the way? Thanks to you Ben, here is just some of what I realized.
Without motorcycling …………., I would never have crossed the Sahara, Mojave, Sonora or Atacama deserts, the Andes, Atlas, Rockies, Pyrenees, Sierra Nevadas, or the Alps. I would never have seen a sunrise on the Bay of LA or a sunset off Agadir on the East African coast. I would never have had lunch on Laconia Beach on Elba Island(5 different times), crossed the mountain highlands in Lesotho, ridden to the very end of the Pan American road in Chile. I would never have visited some of the most beautiful and remote corners of this fantastic planet, been exposed to so many diverse cultures, ate so much great food.
Without motorcycling…......, I would never have had the unique challenge of haggling with a shop owner in the central bazaar in Marrakesh; ate fresh seafood as it came off the fishing boat in Scorpions Bay; entered Libya by mistake in the middle of the night while competing in a rally in Tunisia. I would never have seen the lights of La Paz shimmering in the distance after riding 450 miles through the night in the Baja 1000, sat in my underwear in a laundromat in Colorado waiting for my clothes to dry, marched in a parade of nations representing my country at Six Days.
Without motorcycling…......, I would never have been a part of amazing teams of designers and engineers, passionate businesspeople who take the enterprise of building and selling motorcycles very seriously, that for whom their job was more than just a paycheck but an opportunity to truly make a difference in the way an entire sport is experienced. I would never have been part of racing teams as a rider, or a manager. I would never have chased some massive dreams like winning Baja, earning 3 ISDE medals, winning B to V,or seeing Lac Rose at the end of the Dakar Rally and sharing in it with others who struggled alongside me as a team.
Without motorcycling…......., I would never have met men like Tom White, Casey Folks, Rod Bush, Jack Johnson, Brent Wallingsford, Malcolm Smith, John Penton, Lyle Lovett and many other close friends, heroes and other truly remarkable human beings that all played a major role in my life, people who enrichened me 1000 times over with the quality of their character, their passion for life, their shining spirits and friendship.
Without motorcycling…......, I would never have had the experience of riding, and later racing with my sons, our first camping trips to the desert, pounding laps together at Mammoth or Cahuilla, watching my oldest grandson take his first ride. I would never have experienced sharing my first Baja 1000 win with my grandmother from a pay phone in Ensenada, a woman who supported me unconditionally, despite her deepest fears for my safety and well-being, and who helped make all my youthful dreams possible. I would never have had the pleasure and satisfaction of a shared family experience, an experience unlike any other.
Without motorcycling …....., I would never have met my wife, my soulmate and partner, the woman who is my better half times ten and who has saved me countless times from myself, who helped bring out the best in me no matter how many times I was tempted by my worst.
Without motorcycling ……...., my life would be much different than it is now, and I suspect much poorer in so many meaningful ways.
I could go on for pages about what motorcycling has meant to me, but the point is what does it mean to you and what can you share about your experience that might inspire one other person to give the sport a try. This is precisely the point of Plus 1. Plus 1 is about bottling the collective experience we've all shared through motorcycling and presenting it in such a way that others want to be a part as well. I believe practically everyone is looking for the types of peak life experiences motorcycling delivers. So, let’s get out there and light the fire.
Please, I’d like to hear from you. Please share your thoughts and ideas. I’d like to see this column become a melting pot of ideas and success stories about how our industry has risen to the challenge and brought in that next generation of rider. All it takes is for each of us to convert one new rider in the coming year. Make it your resolution. It’s one worth keeping.
Looking forward to hearing back from each of you. In the meantime, Happy New Year and Good Riding in 2020!