Heading Towards Our 20 Year Mark
Article By: Chris Callen
Photos By: Cycle Source Staff
Originally Published In The January 2017 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
If this happens to be your first copy of Cycle Source, we do this issue each and every January. It’s called the “Year In Review” and it’s one of the most important issues that we do each year. The world we live in today goes by so fast that we like to take this one month a year and reflect over the things we did, the places we went and the faces we saw for that year in motorcycling. Rather than let this be a monotone report through my own eyes, I polled the entire staff this year and got their talking points to deliver here as well. So sit back, grab that morning coffee, look at the past 12 months through the eyes of the Cycle Source Staff and let’s dive into the “Year In Review.”
THE INDUSTRY: If I were to put a label on 2016 as a whole, I would say it was the year of diversity as it applied to the motorcycle industry. Companies responded to the broader audience and the custom motorcycle industry saw great leaps and bounds to fill their needs. The release of the Triumph Bonneville Bobber nearing years end was just the icing on the cake, but all over brands outside of Harley-Davidson were responding to the growing custom market. Additionally, I would say that the traditional chopper is back and in full regalia. More people are finding that middle ground between far out and skinny as shit, leading them to build a much more traditional chopper. Times were tough though and the industry saw, for the first time in a decade, the slowing of sales of tires and batteries. With more motorcycles out in the general public this means less of them are being ridden. Companies continued to find new ways to be more efficient, redefine themselves or merge with others to weather the storm of another tough year. On the other end of the industry, the small manufacturers were getting strong. The ability to turn to a machine and make a part was more important again this year and continues to gain strength. As for bike builders, the day of the rock star builder may be over but the rock stars of the backyard garage are taking the field. More people are learning to use a lathe, TIG weld and hand shape metal today than ever before in the industry’s past.
THE CULTURE: While there are more brands of motorcycles and a more diverse crowd than ever before it would seem that our culture as a whole is about as divided as it ever has been. The Hipsters, the Big Wheel Bagger Guys, the Rockers and the Mods, Hippies, Old Guys, Grey Beards… Really it’s too much to keep track of and begs for something to bring us all back together under one headline, motorcycles. Still, each of these segments has their strong points, the Hipster kids are killing it with fantastic events that partially resemble the seventies and still manage to define their own times. The Big Wheel Bagger crowd continues to drive the economics of the upper parts of our industry with no end in sight. The Baddest Bagger and Perewitz Paint shows we have attended all over the country are proof of that, with more high end vehicles in one place since the doors of OCC closed. In the middle there are a ton of folks who love it all and the good thing is their out there doing it like never before. For them, hard times provide the need for a get-away and the motorcycle has always been the machine to deliver that. I suspect that as we turn the calendar on a new year, a new presidency and a new direction for the United States, little will change that one great part of what we do. Age seems to come with wisdom as a lot of the culture turns toward serious gear for riding. What used to be the trend of taking off in a jean jacket and backwards hat sees many more riders today gearing up for the ride.
Rides, Runs And Events: National events seemed to stabilize somewhat in 2016, but the smaller regional rallies took a stronger foothold as people had less money still for big adventures. Small shows and niche events popped up everywhere and that was great for the scene as it gave us all a real solid look at the cultural differences in what we do from spot to spot. Events like St. Louis Cycle Show Case, Mama Tried, Fuel Cleveland, Bikes & Brews and the Oily Souls kept that same tradition going. On the national front, in addition to being the 35th Anniversary of the Buffalo Chip, it also marked the first year of their new highway that cut off before Sturgis and went straight to the Chip. 2016 sadly also marked the last year for The Love Ride. That’s right, the 32 year iconic California event held its last hurrah this year. And speaking of California for a minute, 2016 marked the year that lane splitting became legal. From the vintage end of the world the Pate Swap Meet held its second event and added a solid south western event to the AMCA calendar. One giant change in the event scene was the resurgance of amateur flat track racing brought on by Roland Sands and his Hooligan Racing. It seemed as if everyone was just waiting for a reason and Sands gave them that by example and more. By the end of the year amateur flat track races were as common as vendor row to any event you happened to be at. What I can say about this that’s good, as some professional racers may not agree with the format, it does bring back the basic principal of the motorcyle, people having fun on them. Even for the fans, it provides great entertainment for those that might not have a backgound in racing. They can just show up, pick a favorite racer and route him on to victory.
The Motorcycle Social-media and Other: New reality TV shows like Sacred Steel and Wrench Against The Machine has started to take a closer look at some of the grass roots of our culture. This was started last year with Discovery Channels show that featured lesser known builders from the custom scene. Of course not all media is good. It seems as bad as this year’s elections were, the state of social media continues to travel along a downward spiral in terms of values. Between that and the plague that is Amazon and EBay, where uneducated consumers buy products they expect local shops to unscrew for them, our access to everything fast is becoming more of a challenge than ever before. At least the elections came to an end, the fact that no matter where you go you can see groups of people holding their phones and staring downward in groups, of people they traveled across the country to be with, who are also staring at their phones. It’s time we call for a time out on these devices to spend a little with each other again. But that might just be me being idealistic. At least we now have a vice president that rides a motorcycle, I mean, how much of a nut job could he be?
So How Did We Do? 2016 was another monster year for Cycle Source Magazine. In spite of the distribution part of our industry still failing to help publishers, actually they went in reverse in some big ways, we continued to add to our market strength through our national distribution deals with Wal- Mart and one with Pilot/Flying J. At the beginning of the year we found ourselves as one of the top custom motorcycle publications in the US and we did everything we could this year to stay right in that spot. The big changes for you our readers were that we added a perfect bound spine and moved up to 116 pages in April and remained there the entire year. By the numbers, our year looked like this: 12 Editorials, 61 Feature Bikes, 12 Pin-ups, 50 Events Covered, 48 New Products, 278 Buyers’ Guide Products, 129 News’ Articles, 24 Human Interest Pieces, 7 Interviews, 5 Shop Visits, 7 Test Rides, 10 FXR Columns, 38 Tech Articles, 41 Staff Columns, 2 Full Throttle Rock Columns, 10 Product Test Articles, 11 Photo Hunts, 12 Product Spotlights, 10 Reader’s Rides, 16 Riding Adventure Stories, 5 Artist Profiles and 6 Special Issues. We launched a brand new initiative in Sturgis called Grease & Gears Garage and finally got good traction along with all the other magazines as Harley-Davidson came on as a sponsor of the Editor’s Choice Bike Shows. It all adds up to a hell of a pile of work and couldn’t be done without a killer staff. I thank all of our readers and our army of supporters as we head into our twentieth year publishing Cycle Source every thirty days. Thank you all for letting us do what we love. May 2017 find you happy with family, and God willing, a job that provides you with enough money to take a ride. For those in the service or with family serving overseas, Godspeed and a safe return. Happy New Year!