Motorcycle Club or No Motorcycle Club – That is the question


As the title of the the blog post states, 2017 has brought up interesting changes in the biker lifestyle, some of which would be taboo- say in the 80’s or even 90’s. Have clubs become a thing of the past? Clubs served a huge purpose way back then after the Vietnam War, you actually couldn’t blame people for wanting to find like minded individuals to bond with and ride with during that screwed up period. But the question of today’s blog is an interesting one. Club or No Club? I know a ton of people in the lifestyle, been in it since childhood. when I look for things to write for this silly little blog, I often ask around for subjects to talk about. Lately one of the biggest things that have come to the forefront of those discussions have been about Clubs.

I have noticed that about 75% of the people I ask about this subject say the same thing. They love a good party, but the other responsibilities in life are way more important then being apart of any organized type of club. Yes about half of those 75% have a club they like to support, via it buying shirts or attending events, but the other half ,have no desire to even be supporters of any particular club. That actually surprised me a great bit, I know growing up it was every kids dream to get that Harley and be apart of something, not so much anymore. I had to ask about 20 people who said they had no interest in clubs why. I usually got the same type of answer from them. Most got into the lifestyle to just enjoy riding in the wind, being a biker didn’t define them as a person, in the old days being a biker was defined as living and breathing it day in and day out. A biker would try and put as many miles on the scooter as possible each week, try to attend as many rallies as humanly possible every weekend. Now a days people don’t let the lifestyle define them, sure they love the rides and brotherhood, but it seems like from the answers I was getting was more down the line of – “I have too many responsibilities to my family, too many responsibilities to my work to let a bike define who I am”.

With that information in hand, I talked to a lot of friends in the club scene. I posed a question to them about what they think has been the biggest changes in club life. The answers really didn’t surprise me all that much. One of the biggest changes, especially among the 1%ers I talked with ,was the fact people just didn’t feel like risking jail time any more. In the old days things were more mellow, a club didn’t have to go around worrying about being caught up in a RICO case as they do today. Clubs have seen a rapid decline among membership they told me, as the old timers got older, many were never replaced with fresh blood. They would tell me that the success of the Outlaw Biker image has in some ways, hurt clubs as a whole. People don’t want to risk anything of theirs being apart of a club. People just want to ride and party, go home and live their lives. That was a resounding answer to questions I posed to a lot of club members regarding club popularity these days.

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After hearing a lot of the answers to the questions I posed to people, I started to get a bigger picture and window into the thoughts of bikers now. Both parties, club and non club bikers agreed on something. These days many people see clubs as a risk not conductive to the image that they want to see themselves as bikers. The whole lifestyle did a huge flip and turn around. Another thing that really cemented that point, looking at past club members compared to today’s club members I noticed something very striking. In the old days you would hardly ever find any 1%ers turning on their brothers. They would rather die then rat one out. Now you can see it in the news all the time, brothers in mass are turning states evidence against those who where one time brothers. Crap even officers, be it Chapter Presidents or National Presidents turned on the club. Rather then doing the time, they saved themselves. So what does that say about the club culture now a days? Crap some guys are out there writing books about their time in clubs, something that was taboo back in the day.

So I figured I end the post with some questions, I’m very interested in hearing in the comments about how you personally think. Would you join a motorcycle club if giving the chance? Do you think 1%er clubs will ever regain the luster they once had? Why do you think people shy away from being apart of motorcycle clubs? What do you think the future holds for motorcycle clubs. It will be very interesting to hear some comments and thoughts.

 

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Harley No Longer King : Company in trouble


Once upon a time, Harley Davidson use to be the mega force in the motorcycle industry. It was always at the top of the list for any respecting biker to want to own. To be in most motorcycle clubs, one had to have a Harley. A biker without a Harley wasn’t considered to be a biker but just some wannabee. All that has now changed. The once-mighty symbol of freedom and image has started to crumble. The company that used to be the king of the road is just a shadow of itself. The company has no one to blame but itself for its fall from grace.

Harley got to be where it was from those hard working blue collar workers, workers that went to work every day and busted ass just to be able to ride and raise hell on the weekends. Since the early 90s when the lifestyle started to change and different people, usually not a part of Harley’s core customers came flocking to the lifestyle, Harley took advantage of this new influx and started to raise prices. This was a serious mistake on Harleys part.Harley started to price out its core customer base and relied on a customer base that wouldn’t stick with the company for long.

In the early 2000’s shows like Biker Build-Off, Orange County Choppers kept Harley riding high. Shows like those brought customers who never considered riding before into the mix. The Chopper craze was in full swing and if you couldn’t afford one of those a Harley was the next best thing. Harley started it’s decline at this point I believe. Harley started to focus not only on raising prices, even more, they started pushing clothing and accessories as a bigger part of the company instead of staying focused on a better bike.

In 2006, most of the reality show started to go off the air and the recession was starting to loom. Those customers Harley relied upon started to get out of the lifestyle. Started selling off those bikes. The used market became saturated with all kinds of makes and models. That saturation continues till today. What happens when the used market becomes saturated with bikes? No one really wants to spend the 25,000 to get a brand new bagger. Shit, no one wants to spend 10,000 on a Sportster. When people don’t buy then production starts to be cut and people at the company get laid off.

Harley was lucky in its marketing. It had a loyal base from the Vietnam era that pushed an idea. If you were not riding a Harley then you were not a REAL biker. Some of that thinking still exist today but not like it use to be. The problem with that thinking is people started saying “If you’re on two wheels, who gives a shit what you’re riding”. I agree fully with that saying by the way. I got to that point when Harley started closing up factories here in the states and gave work to Mexico and India. When they started shipping production overseas the product suffered. Just look at all the recalls that have started just last year. Quality might as well be made if China.

Since the Old Scooter tramps are now moving onto other things in life a new generation has started to come up. That new generation has gravitated towards Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Indian and Victory. Why? Well, it comes down to those companies make a better product then Harley. Most have a better design and most important are way more reliable. No one likes being on the side of the road on a long haul because the ride they are on has design flaws.( Pictured below YAMAHA XV 1900 Midnight Star)

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I sometimes found it funny when old timers would say “Yea they might make Hondas in Ohio but the money still goes to Japan”. I would just shake my head and tell them “Well, at least, some of that money is going into a hard working blue collar American who is taking pride building that bike”. Yea that usually shut them up lol. It was even funnier when that same old timer called me a couple weeks later asking for a tow because he and his Harley were on the side of the road. “You were saying about Harley again?”

Don’t think I’m here picking on Harley. I own a 03 Soft tail. I also own a Midnight Star. I usually ride the soft tail around town and the Star on long hauls. My personal preference is the Star rides a lot smoother than the Soft tail and my old ass need all the comfort I can get.

What does this mean for Harley when companies like Honda, Yamaha, Victory start putting out better bikes then them? Simple the market share becomes smaller and smaller for Harley. (See Here). Harley is starting to literally fall apart according to their financials. The only bright spot for Harley has been its 550 and 750 models that mainly sell overseas. While Harley was raising prices and putting out some bad bikes over these past couple years the competition came in and swooped up that blue collar base that Harley turned it’s back

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Do I think Harley will ever get back to it’s original core, customers? If they don’t I think they will be in the same spot they were in the 70’s. They will be facing bankruptcy and this time, won’t have a loyal base to bail them out. Harley miscalculated who would stick by them in the 90s and 00s. They also miscalculated that everyone in the lifestyle just needed to have that Harley to live up to the image. The new Image isn’t about owning a Harley to be a true Biker. The new image is “Just ride” and who gives a crap what you are riding.

 

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