Reach Down, Not Out
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Article By: Chris Callen
Originaly Published In The November 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
When I was a young boy growing up in South Western Pennsylvania, I had the privilege of being around some very impressive people. My grandfather for one who was a man’s man. He worked in the coal mines, then the steel mills, then owned his own twopump gas station. But in addition to him, were a few more people who inspired me to be the man I am today, simply through their own lives. Let me explain why that is important for conversation here. One such man was my next-door neighbor Kevin. He was, for all intents and purpose, my big brother growing up, since he was ten years older than me and vastly became my hero in everything he did. He was the reason I got into riding dirt bikes, playing guitar, listening to heavy rock music, whatever Kevin did I wanted to do too because he was the coolest person I knew. He also gave me my fi rst hit of a joint, so maybe not all of it was completely positive… but then again, it didn’t kill me. In any event, we would sit for hours in his bedroom making model choppers while listening to AC-DC’s new album, Hells Bells. It was and possibly still is the best time I can remember in life. Things were just cool or not, we dug them or dropped them based on what we wanted to do. We rode our dirt bikes everywhere and would ride with other people who were inspiring as well, like Ed Lojack whom I still consider a hero to this day. Ed is the winningest champion in the outdoor cross-country motocross game and was just inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall-Of-Fame for his accomplishments in that sport. Racing, riding and the culture that went around it was just something we all did, although Ed did it better than any of the rest of us, it was all just something I thought everyone did growing up.
Eventually our combined interests in motorcycles would lead us both to ride street bikes and even back to the dirt as we got a little older, but the passion and love of the machines is something we share to this day, even though he lives nearly a thousand miles away and we are both quickly becoming senior advisors to this culture. No matter where we are, apart or the few times we manage to get together, we are both transported in some ways right back to that same place where the fuse was lit on a lifetime of passion for bikes. I’ve seen his son take up some of that passion and the young men of his generation as well. At the same time, I’ve had my fair share of inspiring generations younger than me to love the culture around two wheels. It’s a time-honored tradition of passing the torch from one generation to another, but not one that can be taken lightly, or as it applies to today’s times, even understood. That’s the thing about this motorcycle deal that is so special. It’s a bond that isn’t created, it can be identifi ed and nurtured, but you can’t force it into existence. So, why do I bring up this state of mind today you might ask? Well, it seems outreach is the hot-button topic today for everyone in any corner of the motorcycle industry. Everyone from parts manufacturers to OEMs are completely possessed with the idea that nothing is more important than outreach, but few understand the complexity of which true outreach occurs.
You see, just like my experience as a kid, it was the people I looked up to that inspired me to ride, not the hokey slogans or campaigns of the day and brother they had some doozies. How can anyone forget mantras like “Let the good times roll.” or “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.” …. I would wager that no-one from the younger generation of those days were inspired to become motorcyclists because of those phrases. Still today the industry is convinced that by making a women’s only outreach or a millennial riding porthole in the social media infl uence stream, that this is what it will take to create new riders. No man, no it’s not like that. I would offer my own humble solution that by doing what you love, being what you say, leading by example and showing younger generations that what we do is real and cool on the basic principles of the thing itself, that’s where attention should be focused. Pandering to any subset in a time where the industry and the culture need both to focus on including more people is diverse, shallow and nearsighted. You want that millennial kid down the street to dig motorcycles then call him over one night and show him how to twist a wrench on yours, invite him into this thing, for real, not just as a prospective new consumer. Reach down, into your heart and show him who you are.