Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Effective Marketing and Harley Davidson's have ruined my Country

The only harley I will ever ogle at will be this one. Period.

1975 — Evel Knievel on his Harley-Davidson XR-750 gearing-up for the Wembley stadium bus jump

I live in India and I love it. We are more of a continent than a country. There are so many languages spoken across India, that its not even funny. For example, I was born and grew up in Tamil Nadu (as shown below in "Orange", marked in the southern tip of peninsula) and I can only read write and speak English (taught in school) and my Native language (what we speak at home) Tamil. Yes, No Hindi people, true story.

We have rain forests, hillocks, mountains, The Himalayas, beaches, low altitude deserts, high altitude deserts, lakes, rivers, river beds, more beaches, islands, high altitude lakes, trails and a lot of unpaved roads. 

So, you get the idea. Now, back to marketing and harley davidson. Firstly, I'd like to acknowledge the fact that they have been commendable ever since they step foot and opened shop. In terms of selling junk and world war II technology to people of my country. It takes a lot of ingenuity to fool the general uninitiated population of the 2nd most populated country on the planet or, maybe not. 

Yesterday, there was a report published by for "Who makes the most reliable motorcycle? " - Well, that would be some interesting statistic. But, here's what the Top 10 looks like

I am not surprised to see the "All Jap" or Big four right up in the top of the list, But it made me wonder what the success criteria was. After much reading, this is what they looked at - 

"With a larger sample size than in our previous motorcycle survey, now counting 12,300 motorcycles, we were able to add more brands and resolution this year. For this analysis, we adjusted for mileage driven over a 12-month period and estimated repair rates for 4-year-old models without a service contract."

First of all, the above list represents a pile of horseshit (At least to me). Because there is no KTM in the list. You can disagree with me, but just go and google "Marc Coma" and what he rode to win the Dakar. Not once, or twice..But 5 freaking times. He started riding a Suzuki in his maiden dakar, but was pinned with a DNF badge, and Once he went KTM, there was no looking back. 

After much more reading, taking a closer look at the component failure list, these were reported - 

Now is when the sensible reader pays attention. Equate the above to the motorcycle you ride. Especially if you do the long haul and not stupid "Chai & pakoda rides" or go to IBW (India Bike Week, it totally sucks BTW and is a cheap imitation of the sturgis)

I like machine shops, special tools, wrenches and iron in general, oh I forgot...Greasy hands too ! Things that you can do with your own hands are so underestimated in todays world. If you can relate to this, then you'll love this upcoming film called " The Greasy Hands Preachers " 

But I digress, So back to the component failure list. Pay attention NOW.

1. Electrical system - At a very primordial level, all you need to know is all motorcycles will have a stator / alternator, an Ignition system controlled by a ECU/CDI (basically a smallish computer that tells the ignition system when to send that much needed spark that magically turns into ponies). Complex electrical systems mean disaster on "long hauls" as parts and skills are hard to find where you are stranded. 

Harley's are notorious people ! - Here's why

2. Accessories - I dont even know why it made it to the list. I cant think of any accessory failure that can kill me. Accessories can sometimes be redundant. A GPS receiver in remote parts of the Himalayas is just a very very expensive compass.  But, Harley owners love this crap. Its literally a life saver for them. Especially if its leather. pun intended. 

3. Brakes - Yes, You ride long enough, those sintered pads are bound to need replacement, I get it. Read "Brakes" as cycle parts and all of them require your attention and inspection folks. But, some motorcycles are just designed in a crappy way. Like Harley's. 

4. Fuel system - Now this is an interesting topic. Throttle bodies/Fuel injectors Vs Old school carburetors. I personally prefer the carburetors and carrying a couple of main & pilot jets along, just in case. They are simple yet comprehensive, easy to fix when they fail & you cannot rebuild a "failed fuel injector"

5. Clutch - Yes, I get this one too. But, some motorcycles are just designed in a crappy way. Like Harley's, because here's why

6. Body panels - Seriously ?

7. Drive system -  My bikes, like most bikes run on chains and sprockets.They're Mechanical, easy to clean & lube, has a predictable life span and Wear is inevitable.  HD's takes the cake on this one. Harley's are belt drive and supposedly thats a USP. But, Doug Wothke called bluff a bluff and changed the belt drive system when he needed a real world motorcycle. 

The dirtster !

8. Valve train - You wouldn't believe me. But its true. Harley's use "Plastic" as cam chain slider material or "shoes". Guess what, they wear pretty darn fast. This can be catastrophic at many different levels. Even harley wanted to fix something this disastrous, so they came out with a "new hydraulic tensioning system". But this was a mere workaround and not a solution. Be aware that it can fail as soon 15,000 miles (in extreme cases). Even the newer hydraulic system can fail at 50,000 miles or less. The cam chain tensioners have a section in every service manual that covers the Twin Cam engines and is very enlightening. If your pipes are loud (which all Harley's are), you may not hear or get any warning. The oil pump passages can clog up without making any noise whatsoever except when the engine starts tearing itself to pieces. The scary thing is every Twin-Cam engine has the potential to have the cam chain follower issue, even the new models. Yes, be offended, but throw your tantrums at Harley, not me. Dont kill the messenger ! Read more here

9. Suspension - First thoughts are, They are non existant on Harley's. I cant elaborate on this enough, but suspensions make or brake a bike. Dont fall for marketing gimmicks folks. 

10. Cooling system, Piston & Transmission - These components have a below 5% repair and is more or less applicable like cycle parts on any motorcycle as wear is inevitable. And, I am not going easy on HD's on this one. 

Considering the above, and evaluating what your ride, If its a harley, you are bound to be very disappointed. But, there is no perfect motorcycle, and there are loads of things that are not in our control. Its a matter of choice at the end of the day. But, taking advantage of ignorance is something else altogether. Shame on you Harley ! Even though I am disappointed with the actual outcome of the survey, I must say that I am happy to see BMW in 9th place. Because, just like Harley's they have quirks and flaws too and deserve it. All hail the Japanese ! (and the Austrians, if they ever make a light weight 'do it all' motorcycle - I hope someone who can take 'real' decisions at KTM India reads this)

Whats next is the continuation to the Winter chronicles...and here's the teaser ...

"No Harley" Zone

Snow capped peaks or Bust !

The Road from Puh

Not for the faint hearted, and certainly not for Harley's

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