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Eleven predictions for 2011

Ride more, social network less and plan ahead

I know, I know, it's not January so what are we doing running a predictions column in February?Think of it this way � it's called 11 predictions for 2011, and there's still 11 months left � so really no problem at all� Uh-huh� and with one month under our belt, we've had a little time to shore up our futuristic thoughts so they are more likely to become reality. Here we go!

  • Insurance rates will drop � I was called by my insurance broker in December about re-evaluating my policy. Hey, it's free and she has three other companies to compare rates to. I agreed and that dropped my rate by 50%.

    Look at what's going on out there. Progressive, Geico and every other player is spending copious amounts of money advertising motorcycle insurance at a time when the economy is in tough shape. Bottom line is that the fierce competition is driving down rates. Now is a great time to have your broker reassess your policy and compare it to others. And remember � in many states you can switch carriers any time without a penalty and instead get a rebate for your old policy.

  • You won't be buying your second, third or fourth motorcycle this year � or will you? � What some boutique dealers are saying is that no one is buying another bike to add to their collection. It may seem that way to them, but other lifestyle markets are discovering that high-end products continue to sell despite a down economy. The reason is that a fixed income is a fixed income, which includes anyone who has held a steady job the last five years. And there are plenty of them. Several major fortune 500 companies in the Northwest are publicizing good sales and bonuses for employees. If you're in one of those or live on a healthy fixed income, you may well be contemplating your next bike. I am.

  • Model selection will be minimized � The fact is, the last several years has been hard on dealers around the country and it's not over. To compensate, dealer orders to the manufacturers are far smaller than in years past in order to maintain cash flow to pay their staff and overhead. As a result, the color and model of a bike someone is lusting after will likely not be on the showroom floor come summer. Looking for a particular make, model and color? Order it now!

    If you think a Harley-Davidson or a new limited model is in your future, take heed to this history lesson. Anytime a manufacturer has a limited model, or sells a 'luxury' bike where the demand exceeds the supply, many dealers will take advantage of their customer and offer the bike at higher than list price. And many buyers will pay the extra money. Stupid but true. We've seen this happen in the past with the entire Harley-Davidson line at local dealers, as well as first-year releases on Honda's RC51, Yamaha's FJR1300 and Triumph's Thruxton. Eventually the bikes go into standard production, but those who just had to have it, plopped an additional $1,000 or more into the dealer's pocket on the front end. Smart buyers will order their bike before April and probably not get looped like that.Hot models this year are bikes like Yamaha's Super Tenur�, Triumph's 800 Tiger XC and H-D's 'custom paint job' offerings. Don't wait, order yours now.

  • Gas will once again go over $4 a gallon � The saving grace for a number of dealers, and you'll see why when I get to #5. The Obama administration is getting beat up from all sides for overspending. It's long been known that taxpayers pay for the real price of fuel on the backside, by paying their federal income tax. But when federal spending gets beat up, subsidies go away. In the rest of the world the real price of fuel is far higher and you can bet that while it hung around $3 a gallon last year, it's going to get a re-balance sooner rather than later.

  • Practical models will rule � The above being said, motorcycles will once again become popular with the first-time buyer and practical models will rule. The Kawasaki Ninja 250, Honda's new CBR250R and scooters of all makes, models and color are going to rule on the day gas goes over $3.99 a gallon. History already tells us this. Several dealers already have plenty of practical model stock in-house and are banking on it. And could you get one of these models for below list price? Probably not then, but you can right now.

  • Used bikes on some dealers lots will be almost non existent � Some dealers have chosen to liquidate a vast amount of inventory and not accept used bikes as trade-ins. Since used bikes are in demand and provide an average 25% margin or better for dealers, this could be a death knell for some. If you go out shopping for a used bike, you may find more inventory in the online classifieds than on the showroom floor.

  • Events will be fewer � As the economy boomed, so did the number of events you could attend. But we're in a contraction mode. While you may have liked certain events that are now gone, consider trying one or two staple events you may not have been to in the past.

  • Service waits will be longer � Most dealers are running on 50% or fewer employees than they had several years ago. When the sun comes out, you can bet their service department will be taxed. You're better off taking your bike in now, rather than waiting until spring.

  • Customer service will be at a minimum � And just like service departments are taxed, so will all the segments of your local dealer including sales, parts and otherwise. I walked into a 20,000 square foot shop the other day and could have rolled bikes right out the front door, since the only two employees I could find were in the service department working on a bike well behind the front showroom wall. 'Can I help you' is in remission for now. You want customer service? Ask for it.

  • There will still be plenty of great riding days � The planet knows no economy. It keeps giving good weather and bad weather cyclically, as it has for millions of years. Regardless of where we are in our lives, some great riding lies ahead.

  • Your motorcycle will continue to be a primary means of escape � After 9/11, I wrote a strong editorial reminding each of us that our motorcycles serve as a means of escape. In tough times we can escape everything else around us and go for a ride; probably some of the best therapy anyone can have. Imagine the countless hours unemployed people spend dabbling in the stupidity of social networking because they have no job. The biggest mistake anyone could make is getting rid of the motorcycle.

    In 2011, I promise to spend more hours on the motorcycle than social networking. Hey, that's how it worked out in 2010 and every year prior.
  • Ride safe and ride well!

    PT/Winter 2011


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