We started a new column in the magazine this past month to get people talking with each other again. Here is the premise: We invite someone from the industry or the culture to write an opinion piece and then after it comes out in print we take it to ShopTalk for open discussion. This month the article was from Pat Jansen and last night on ShopTalk we had Rick Fairless come on to talk about that article and the climate of motorcycle business today. Below is a link to the show from last night, below that is the article from Pat Jansen. Remember, this is not necessarily the option of Cycle Source Magazine but we are giving space to get conversations started so join in!
In A World Of Indians, Why Not Strive To Be A Victory?
Article By: Patrick Jansen
I’m so tired of hearing people bicker back and forth about Millennials and their shortcomings and/or potential I could puke. I’ve got four kids in this age group and all of them to some degree embody the best and worst of what people say about this young generation. For those of you who aren’t up to speed about how sociologists, demographers and marketers label generations I’ll give you a quick briefing. We live in a world that now has six distinct generational categories. Builders, GI Generation, Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and NeXters.
Builders are those born between 1901-1925 they are creditedwith establishing the foundation of our modern world. They went from the horse and buggy to the moon and ushered in the Industrial Revolution. They grew up in a war-torn world and during the Great Depression.
GI Generation was born between 1926-1945 and are the generation that fought the Nazis, established labor unions and ushered in the nuclear age. Their generationwas the first to create a culture of convenience. Refrigerators, television and TV Dinners were all part of the by-productsof putting the first man on the moon!
Boomers were born between 1946-1965 and are one of the largest generations in the history of humankind. They are the product of service men and women returning from WWII and reproducing like rabbits. The Civil Rights Movement, Rock n Roll, andsexual liberation are their most notable calling cards.
Generation X born from 1966-1979 in contrast with their parents are one of the smallest generations. It is the generation that was raisedin front of the television. Almost 30% of this generationspotential members were aborted. And, they grew up in a culture where you could no longer trust your government, your church or your parents. They ushered in the computer age, the internet and saw the collapse of the Berlin wall and the dissolution of the USSR.
Millennials born from 1980-2000 are the first generation to have the world, literally, at their fingertips. The internet, cell phones, Google and Starbucks,have always existed for this generation. The previous two generations have been extensively involvedin raising them in an information and resource-richenvironment. They are the best-educatedgeneration in the history of humankind. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, andWikipedia are their world.
NeXters are the latest generation born. Technology hasn’t been a tool or resource for this generation, but it is a given as to how life happens. Technology is the predominant form of communication and relationship creation. Thisis a globalized generation who are socially liberal but economically conservative. Theirimpact is yet to be seen, butas they are the largest generation since the Boomers,it will be significant.
That’s not a perfect blueprint but should help to at least to bring you up to speed on the term Millenials.
As with all generations, Millenials have been criticized by previous generations for all the worlds’ ills and are pointed to by many as the poster children for a world going to hell in a handbasket. Critics should meter their opinions by researching or just remembering how they were viewed by their parents and grandparents.
So, close your textbooks and prepare now for some good old-fashioned soapboxblathering.
My intrigue with Millenials is that they seem to be a generation that is incapable of creating a culture all of their own. They instead co-optpast culturesand seem to wear them as facades: televisionshows, movies, andeven music lack originality. I offer up the new Magnum PI, Ghostbusters and an obsession with vinyl records.
About 15 years ago I was sitting in a bar in Atlanta, Georgia when some young guys started sending me drinks. I was drinking what had been kind ofa white trash staple of mine since high school, Pabst Blue Ribbon. It was a blue-collar beer that was cheap, cold and everything but cool. After about the third beer I asked my girlfriend at the time (now wife) Tracy if they were trying to pick me up. She laughed and said, “No dear, you are like the grandfather of their culture.” I grew up wearing black Chucks, Dickies and, when it got cold, flannel. I rode old bikes because that’s what I grew up working on and I listened to old music,wellbecause I’m old.
But now Millenials act as though they somehow created this culture they have simply adopted. The bikes they build are by and large simply imitations of bikes they have seen in old magazines. They use Knucklehead, Panhead and Shovelhead motors with no technological improvements offered. They have created high end shows to display their copies and declare themselves geniuses and look down their noses at those that came before them as lesser craftsman. Having been raised with all the knowledge of the world at their fingertips the best a generation has to offer is the regurgitation of things of the past.
Why should this matter to you? It matters because the dipshits running OEMs now hang on every Tweet and Instagram post this generation makes and it creates the direction the products the rest of us buy.
I give to you, as a case study, Polaris. In 1998 they brought The New American Motorcycle to market with the Victory brand and over a 15-year periodhad challenged Harley-Davidson’s position as THE American motorcycle. Victories were technologically superior to Harley-Davidson’s in every way. They handled better, were easierand cheaper to maintain, had larger displacement motors that made more horsepower and torque and had just introduced the 156 engine at Pikes Peak where, while not perfect, was amazing and the brand took two podiums that year, one with an electric motorcycle. Yet,just threeyears later this new brand creating a new culture of riders was summarily shuttered to chase after the Indian brand.
You see millennials don’t know how to create their own culture they reach back and take a cultural clip from the past and revel in it as their own. And that my friends is what Polaris has done with Indian. Instead of being the innovator of culture they simplyreached back and bought an identity.
Interestingly enough, the thing that reallygot the Indian ball rolling was the amazingly nimble and powerful Scout. Which is ten pounds heavier than the Victory Octane, produces almost tenhorsepower less than the Victory Octane and has a less aggressive riderposition than the Victory Octane. So not only did they cave intothis new generation’s penchant for historicalcultural co-opting:they dumbed down a product, packaged it in said purchased culture and have the entire motorcycle world breathy about what they might do next.
I’ve been asked recentlyif I’d buy an Indian. I reallydon’t have a problem with the product. My problemis with the fickleness of Polaris. When NeXters begin to clamor for their flavor of the day will the Indian brand after 18 years be shuttered leaving their dealers and owners with devalued motorcycles and a parts guarantee of 10 years to chase after something else?They already don’t listen to what the core of motorcyclists want. We were excited about the FTR750, andthey gave us, surprise, a redressed Scout in the FTR1200, and everyone goes gaga for it.
I may sound a little bitter, andmaybe I am. I am a Harley guy that gave Polaris more than a chance. I bought and rode a Victory Tour Cruiser all over the country. I defended Victory as The New American Motorcycle. I helped guys get out there when Victory jumped into the NHRA. And, that old girlfriend, now wife, has a 2008 Kingpin 8 ball sitting in the garage still. My word of caution to anyone considering jumping on the Indian bandwagon is this, “Remember the Victory Octane.” And for those Millennials intent on co-optinganything else from my motorcycle culture, “Thanks for the compliment.” Yes, my generation and the ones that taught us about motorcycles were, are and will always be badass. May you find your creative spark and do something original. In a world of Indians strive to be a Victory.