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About Free Wheelin'

Publisher Rathjen weighs in on different things pertaining to motorcycling. Sometimes a bit hard to the point and slightly abrasive, his Free Wheelin’ column is not afraid to make a stand on issues that he feels are of importance to riders and riding.

Name: Brian Rathjen

Current Rides:

Kawasaki KLR 650, BMW R1200GS

Favorite quote:

If you think you can or you think you can't, you're probably right.

- Henry Ford

Commercial Success

A Message to the Motorcycle Industry

The industry has long realized they have a big problem and are now actively looking for a solution. Perhaps a day late and a dollar short, but a strong effort is now being made.

It is all good and very welcome. but others saw what was happening and began to do something about it.

At this year’s AIMExpo there was a general meeting held with a few hundred industry members attending. A lot of catchy phrases were used – personal sovereignty, riding culture, culture code, and others. Flow and In the Zone were there too – I like that and had written about this state of mind a few times last year.

The MIC came up with a catchy phrase…

More Riders, Riding More. Que?

When I first heard it, I bit my tongue and rolled my eyes.

But it is to the point – still not nearly as good as Kawasaki’s old slogan “Let the Good Times Roll.” Even Rick Ocasek and The Cars liked that one enough to nick it.

That was followed by a symposium held in California in late November. You can see it in its entirety at the web site below.

One of the key points brought forth, and something that has rankled me for years, is the way motorcycles and riders are portrayed on television and film.

The MIC addresses this a bit as well, showing one of the more positive GEICO ads where the 1982 Whitesnake song ‘Here I go Again’ is used. There are a few versions of this – a dad daydreaming at his kid’s birthday party, a construction worker with a jackhammer (African American by the way – a group sorely needing more representation in our message to the general public) and a CEO at a board meeting.

All three are well done and portray us in a fun light. We like fun light.

There is another commercial that I think would work far better when it comes to attracting new riders. To make them think…“I want to be her. I want to ride.”

It is titled ‘New Roads’ from Pacifico Beer.

In my mind, this short (only 15 seconds) spot is the perfect example of a positive portrayal of the ‘riding culture’. It starts with four retro machines tearing down a wide dirt road towards the coast, a case of Pacifico Beer strapped to one gal’s ride. During the commercial, there are four machines. Both the guys and gals riding solo – yes!FWPacifico

Yes, it’s a beer commercial. But don’t judge by that.

I like beer, you like beer, we all like a good beer, right?

And, this commercial is really not about drinking cerveza. It is really about drinking up life. The Pacifico is just a bonus.

The announcer’s pleasant tones says…‘Ever wonder why someone would leave the roads they know for places they don’t? Maybe a better question is…what are you waiting for?’

It is obvious that this group is having a great time and that they parked and settled for the night. New Roads was made even better and that the featured rider was female was a big plus in my mind.

Pacifico showed experienced riders having fun. It asked the question why are you not riding with them?

In the evening they had a fire on a rocky ocean coast and one tent – maybe there was another… But, they’re young and I am not here to judge – but I do now have a 6-pack of Pacifico beer in the fridge. Okay, they got me. That was their plan.

15 seconds and they got me. 15 seconds!

But… why is the MIC and industry looking to others to get their message of how fun, inviting and cool riding is when they should be doing this themselves.

Bike Bandit has a great website with the Top Ten Most Memorable Motorcycle Commercials.

Not only were they well made and certainly memorable – but they were fun; just like riding and motorcycles are and should be.

Somewhere along the line motorcycle commercials, if made at all, became too serious, too dramatic and overproduced. They went from Shindig to Greta Thunberg. So sad.

What was the last US television commercial for motorcycles you remember?

Right. The motorcycle industry has been sucked in by the internet.

TV, why? The internet is, except for original production costs, virtually free. Print – well we’re dead.

We’ll let insurance companies and banks tell our story for us. Great.

FWTaiwanAlthough bittersweet, the last great motorcycle commercial was created by the Taiwanese TC Bank. Yes… a bank. It is called Dream Riders and tells the true story of a group of friends all in the late 80s. They all have issues. Heart disease, cancer, arthritis. Loved ones and friends pass. At dinner, a large framed picture of the friend who rode with them back in the day sits on an empty chair at the table. One of the men looks at a picture from 50 years back. All of them on a beach. He thinks to himself while the others are lost in their own thoughts. He then stands and throws the gauntlet down slamming the photograph down on the table, startling his somber friends.

“Let’s ride motorcycles!

If these three minutes do not move you, I wonder why you are reading this magazine.

Here is a call to the industry readers and leaders that read Backroads. The Chuck Bodermans, Erik Pritchards, Richard Beatties & John Howells out there in OEMland…

Television is still watched and there are over 120 million homes where they watch every day. Remember that riding is fun and portray this and then get creative with your placement and place commercials that make us want to turn off the boob tube and go for a ride. Drop Greta and embrace Rick & Morty.

Don't ignore print. There is a symbiotic relationship between print and the internet. Backroads readers read about a place and then follow it up on the web.

To paraphrase what the old man said in that Monty Python movie…

“We’re not dead yet.”

Top 10 Most Memorable 1970s Motorcycle Commercials

Pacifico New Roads

Dream Riders

MIC Symposium