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18 years into it

Wow – has it really been 18 years since Sound RIDER! came on the scene?

Indeed, it has been. July 1st marked our 18th anniversary.

To give you an idea of what it might have been like to be there when we launched the first issue, let’s take a little trip over to the Seattle neighborhood of Eastlake, climb up into the 4th floor of my condo back then – the one with the wonderful view of Lake Union looking west to the Aurora Bridge and the Olympics – and fire up the good old 9600 baud modem.

That’s right, in 1999, most of us lit up a modem to get online, since DSL and T3 connections were for the wealthier individuals and businesses, while the rest of us waded through the screech-roll-hummm scenario before connecting.

Kind of like motorcycles back then. Some had fuel injection, some did not. Today most do.

And so, we uploaded the first issue. Total time, about 10 minutes.

Social media back then consisted of newsgroups and AOL chat rooms. Today we’ve got Facebook, Twitter, and other outlets to fill us full of real and fake news.

Many online businesses have morphed over time. Back then Amazon sold books. Today they do all they can to put every kind of retailer under, from mega store chains to small companies. The impending death of White Horse Gear signals the beginning of the end for motorcycle gear merchants. Our online store feels the same pain, but we run a tight ship and refuse to sell our exclusive products through the monster channel because of the paltry return we would get back.

As far as our online magazine goes, we continue to produce top grade editorial reporting on what’s happening around the Pacific Northwest. That is something we’ve done from the start and continue to do today.

But yeah – we morphed. We added an online store, tours, and a rally, and most recently a podcast. All extensions of what we enjoy doing – riding motorcycles.

Our online store, which we began in 2001, grew every year up to the great recession. Sales have declined every year since, as have motorcycle sales. As one dealer put it to me in 2007, “It will never be like it was – ever again.” So far he’s right.

We started our Rally in the Gorge back in 2003 to fill a gap where no other multi-day non-brand specific rallies existed. Today there are more than a dozen new rallies in the Pacific Northwest that didn’t exist back then.

Our choice of the Columbia River Gorge as our rally location has proven to be a well-made selection. With more than 1200 miles of paved roads and 700 miles of off-pavement riding, it allows us to offer a different experience for riders each year they show up.

When we kicked off our podcast back in 2015, there was already a pretty decent national one called The Pace Motorcycle Podcast. We opted to continue the Pacific Northwest focus since that’s what we know best. But it’s now been nearly a year since the last Pace podcast came online, leaving a huge hole for someone to come in and produce a class act national show that covers new gear and new bikes of all kinds and showcase top names in the industry.

Which leads us to another shortage. Back in the days of print media and cool TV networks, big names rose to the top of the heap like David L. Hough, Clement Salvadorie, Peter Egan, Greg Frazier, Jesse James, Eric Buell, Helge Pedersen, Keith Code and so on. But now we’re faced with highly fragmented media, so it’s impossible to find the next big names to look up to. We’re talking riders and mentors in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

Got an interest in road racing? Sure, you can tune into the Moto GP circuit if you want to pay the annual subscription fee to watch it online. 18 years ago you could watch motorcycle racing for free on network TV. Not anymore.

Today we have subscriptions for everything and some of us just don’t want to buy into that kind of economy, thus the media becomes more fragmented as a result.

Remember that a subscription to Sound RIDER! is free. It’s the local dealers and services and our online store that are making it possible for you to get the online magazine delivered to your inbox every month. So, before you buy your next piece of gear online from Amazon, be sure to give the dealers and us a shot at price matching, because most can meet or beat AMZN’s prices with better service than you’ll ever get from artificial intelligence.

Back in 2009, I published a book, Sound RIDER!: 1999-2009. Beginning next summer, I’ll start to pull together the galleys for the Next Ten Years. It’s going to be an interesting look at where we’ve been and where we’re going.

TM/July 17


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