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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

Brand New Day

And it seems like, yes it feels like …

A brand new day - Van Morrison


By the time you read this it will be months past…

Oh sure, we could have put this is The Backroads Report – but, that defeats the purpose here.

It has been years now since we began saying the motorcycle industry has been paying more attention to the web and less and less attention to real riders and printed media.

There have been a few exceptions – like when Triumph had a super event in mid-New Jersey in 2018.

FWBut, other than that, the industry seems to have all followed each other into the web.

I would say it is all good, as we think social media and conventional print can work hand in hand, but it is looking like it is not - especially that some on social media speak out their asses and it befuddles us how the OEMs continue to kiss those same asses.

We have ever-expanding websites and large Amazon-like suppliers, and although they certainly make getting certain products in a quick and thrifty fashion, they have crushed many of the small shops that have spent decades working with companies like Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and BMW.

Yet, the OEMs continue to walk away from these very people who made them – sucked in by the easy and quick lure of social media.

Does the web get the word out? Sure.

Do these sites offer a service?

Indeed, but what is the eventual price of that and then where does it go from there?

We all use the web, but you can’t walk into the web on Saturday around 2:30 in the afternoon, when you have a problem with your bike. Any real motorcycle shop will go out of their way to make sure it is all right and you are one the road. Why…? Because they ride, they know – they understand - and they really want to help.

Besides brick & mortar businesses have that true bike shop feel, smell and ambiance that the web will never be able to replace.

It is a sorry trend.

Along that line… the New York IMS dates seem to keep getting worse and worse each year and the number of attendees drop on a yearly basis – but the IMS and OEMs scratch their heads and wonders why?

Seriously? Pre-winter dates do not seem to work - in New York at least.

Every serious motorcycle publication – and you know who you are - has written about this.

But, is anyone listening in Japan or Europe? Milwaukee…you too! I think not.

It is like the industry is trying to kill itself. It is obvious we need a tabla rasa. Maybe we should take a step back….? We need to go back to basics.

We need to appeal to the general masses of American people.

Let the non-riders know that riding is not just a good thing – but fun as well. We need new blood!

Back in the ‘60’s there was one advertisement campaign that changed riding history in the US. “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda!” It portrayed ‘everyday’ people – enjoying two wheels. It erased the stupid Hollywood stereotypes and gave the viewers a fresh look.

Advertisements like this and the way the industry portrayed themselves came across in a good light. No… a great light! It was an impressive and growing time for the motorcycle industry in the United States.

Not so much these days.

These days it seems that every manufacturer will jump through hoops – pay incredible fees to get their bikes in the latest film or TV feature – even if it makes us look like henchmen and not the nicest people you would meet on a Honda.

Every time I see a motorcycle on TV, the rider seems to have an Uzi and are shooting at the good guys or robbing a bank. They are not making me too proud.

Yet, the industry lets this happen – and seems to be oblivious.

So many of these media portrayals should be pushed aside and let the true and wonderful spirit of motorcycle riding come forth.

Where is Jim Bronson when we need him!?

Recently I was down at a small go-cart track in Virginia and spent a bit of time watching 7-year old Nathan Gouker and his dad doing laps on Mini-Moto bikes.

Wow – this kid was faster than I could ever be. So impressive. So much fun to watch.

We need more of this and less of that. It is time for the motorcycle industry to shake loose the dregs and mildew that has grown on us.

It is time for a brand new day.