I’ve been doing research on the passing of the Victory brand of motorcycles since shortly after the announcement. As Publisher and Editor of Motorcycle Times magazine people like to talk to me about things when we meet at events. They share things openly and freely, things about motorcycles, themselves, the industry, their rides and experiences…and frankly, I love it. However, this topic was always tough to talk about. The thoughts and feelings are sometimes hard and raw and run deep, as you will see when we get to that.
Here in part one, are my words and basic hard facts I’ve uncovered. Having a basic understanding of the brand’s background is important to your understanding as we look into the events that led to this fateful decision. I’ll keep my personal opinions to a minimum so you can make your own determinations.
We really must begin at the beginning, and that is deep inside Polaris Industries, dominator of snowmobile design and sales since practically forever. Polaris is well known for their ATV and UTV Industry as well, and when they initially decided to enter that market it was after a long period, several years in fact, of studies and scrutiny. They entered the market late, in 1985 in fact, and the market was already totally dominated by Big Red; Honda. However, the plans were made and laid and to this day, one can argue that Polaris – the late comer – is now the leader in the ATV/UTV industry. I mention this insight because that is the same careful planning method used in the Victory brand, and once again they would be late to the party.
For some reason, Polaris decided they wanted a share of the American built motorcycle market and that they could switch some amount of Harley riders to their brand. The think tank was tasked with creating a motorcycle that would compete with Harley in both volume and quality. Perhaps wisely, they focused on two main cues, Style and Quality…with performance looming large. So, quality was established and never suffered. As testament many of the bikes are still on the road today, even the earliest ones. Just like Harley…though not as purely old in many cases.
All in all, Polaris looked at, over, around, under and through the motorcycle industry in America and indeed the entire world; to some degree; for as much as 8 years (according to some sources) before releasing the brand. The company was creating its own motorcycle brand and wanted to cover every base and be sure it was done right. The top minds known to them were reassigned and/or hired and assigned to the think tank. They focused on what fuels that Harley mystique and that Harley loyalty. They even studied the Harley imitators success and fails. They simply wanted to know what made it all tick, why riders throw a leg over that brand more than any other, what makes people people twist that grip?And they wanted to know how to distill all that into their own new brand.
If this is starting to sound like business a usual, that’s because it is – in a way. Polaris Industry principals sincerely believed that by offering a well thought out, superb quality, high performance, reliable machine at competitive prices they would attract customers not only from Harley but other makes as well; to include the burgeoning aftermarket. This would give Polaris the opportunity to enter a new to them market and expand their enterprise. So, yeah, make more money by selling more products. Business as usual in that regard.
The research was complete and the financial foundation was finally laid so attention was turned to what would arguably become the most critical element of it all. Style. Well, beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. The early bikes were somewhat art deco style, with gangster car style fender cues and various artful references to earlier times and swoopier designs wrapped around an engine that many reviewers stopped short of calling butt ugly. One particular reference comes to mind…”it looks like a compressor.” Being the largest displacement proprietary motorcycle engine ever offered in a mass produced motorcycle suddenly did not matter. The wonderful chassis and excellent brakes did not matter. Predictably, the fickle public still stubbornly wanted big motors coupled with traditionally good looks. Go figure. As a result, Victory splashed about in the shallow end of the design pool as it’s intended target companies looked on with amusement and a wonderful engine was very nearly overlooked by history. In my personal opinion, if that engine had sported a nicely designed Ham Can air cleaner nestled between those huge jugs things might have been different. It’s one of those cues that just needs to be there. But it isn’t.
Indeed, Victory stylists were simply throwing various ideas upon the canvass and declaring ART! in their effort to be unique. Meanwhile, their chosen competitors simply continued producing exactly what customers loved. The public’s initial reception of the Victory brand was mild to say the least. Various model designations mattered not. All that planning was barely moving the needle. Money was not being made.
The first Victory motorcycle was born on the 4th of July in 1998 at the Spirit Lake, Iowa, production facility as serious production was undertaken. Here is a visual representation of the model and one of it’s competitors. You will readily see that Victory missed the bulls eye they planned for, but really not by that much. But it was enough to cool the fires.
As a result, it was a little over 4 years before Victory turned a small profit. While that is not unusual in itself, this one was supposed to make money right off, due to all that careful planning. However, Polaris had committed to making this work, and one brilliant move was when they had kept Victory as a division rather than creating it as a stand alone company. If it were it would have surely been little more than a flash in the timeline’s frying pan. So this way the brand still had Polaris’s enormous financial wealth to prop it up…for now. Victory motorcycles very nearly withered on the vine before it ever really had a chance. Again, business as usual, right?
The flagship of any motorcycle line is usually the touring rig (if there is one) and there was soon to be one. And what a one it was! Completely unlike anything ever before seen in the motorcycling world style wise, the Victory Vision arrived on the scene. Part Jetson’s, part Art Deco, part Cadillac it challenged your eyes every time you encountered it. If Victory’s stylists had been starving artists before they now had Andy Warhol type visionaries (pun intended) and this crew hit the mark. Or didn’t. This bike was bon-a-fide art in that regard. As with art it is up for interpretation. Alas, most of the public interpreted this highly advanced motorcycle as simply weird, and so it too didn’t sell it’s intended capacities. Again, a visual is offered. You will see it’s not that far off in some regards, while also wildly off cue in others.
So, most riders never got to experience the superb chassis and motor combination. Or the amazing all day comfort. For most riders motorcycling is a passion and therefore a soulful and soul filled and soul filling experience. The middle picture above looks more like a cartoon animal screaming at you than man and machine fulfilling any sort of divine inspiration to track down the meaning of life, or at least a cold beer. The question begs. With all that planning how could they miss it? Remember it’s not just my smart aleck comments. Sales figures do not lie. History is a cold and uncaring mistress.
So I’ve established the background, the financing and the style problem Victory had in the early years. In part two I’ll share what I’ve been told and what I’ve discovered about how Polaris Industries endeavored to save their investment with other models closer to the mark and with some help from a couple of motorcycling’s Top Guns.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this. Please share your comments, especially if you are a Victory owner – or were one, or like me, really wanted one but just never got one and now likely never will.
IT’S TRUE THE TIMONIUM SHOW IS BACK ON!
Here at Motorcycle Times we were busily and happily working on the next issue, due out November 1st. That’s exciting in itself. Motorcycle Times has been feeding our grass roots readers and shops and dealers and other venues a steady diet of News and Reviews and Ride Impressions and Product Tests and Places to Ride To and even What To Eat When You Get Back ever since 1988. That’s 30+ years of cultivating our grass roots and we just that it’s been our turn for some time now. We love it. It’s exciting!
Well it got A LOT more exciting when I had a phone call from the owner of Jam On Productions, the producer of the biggest, the best and the most fun INTERNATIONAL MOTORCYCLE SHOWS and the best, the biggest and the most fun SWAP MEETS ever and everywhere!
The man himself told me the Timonium show is back on!
Look for the add in this issue for more information!
Now that’s exciting news!
YES THIS IS REAL! A COMPLETE 2019 AD CAMPAIGN WITH SOCIAL MEDIA FOR JUST $49.00 A MONTH!
DETAILS: one color business card ad (2″ X 3 1/2″) or an ad to fit, published in each issue of Motorcycle Times magazine during 2019, the same ad placed in rotation and on list display in the (coming soon) links page on the website; www.motorcycletimes.com; plus Facebook, Twitter and other social media exposure at least 3 times per month!
PLUS: when you sign up for this package you can jump ahead with the November/December 2018 issue at the same $49.00 price! Perfect for advertising your holiday sale items! The issue will hit the stands November 1st! Perfect timing for gift advertising and gift giving!
The ad can be changed or modified up to six times during the offer so you can match up with seasonal items too! Placements are limited, respond now via email to secure your spot! firstname.lastname@example.org
I watched it live on TV and the internet. I was just following my morning habits on that day and had the TV on as I drank more coffee. The stunning effect of it all has had lasting effects on me, on you, on our society and on our world.
However you interpret it, whatever angle you subscribe to, whether or not you believe whatever group was or was not behind this for whatever reason or not – our lives were changed.
I have no better words than this.
So I made this instead.
Teach Your Kids
REMEMBER WE OFFER:
FREE CHARITY EVENTS FLYERS POSTS ON OUR WEB PAGE AND IN OUR SOCIAL MEDIA!
FREE CHARITY EVENTS LISTINGS IN OUR ONLINE AND MAGAZINE EVENTS CALENDAR!
FREE ONLINE MOTORCYCLE & RELATED CLASSIFIED ADS!
(ask for details)
FOR 30 YEARS WE HAVE PUBLICIZED THE MOST MOTORCYCLE NEWS AND EVENTS IN OUR SERVICE AREA!
MOTORCYCLE TIMES! ADVERTISE WITH US AND MAKE MONEY!
While the industry has gravitated toward cookie cutter automation with standard operational processing to produce magazines, we take a different approach.
We put a lot of effort into our magazine. Every contributor was selected as a great fit for the puzzle we put together every issue. They take pride in sharing experiences and thoughts from their lives with all our readers. Each issue we carefully select a cover photo that is representative of what is contained inside.
Rather than presenting a neon circus tent hoping to grab your eye – which is ok in itself – we set ourselves apart beginning with the first thing you see. I believe we have hit the absolute dead center bulls eye with this one. Here is a preview of the next issue due out Sept 1 2018. What do you think?COVER M.T. SEPT_OCT_2018
5th Annual and Final Dale Murray Memorial Benefit Ride
The Law Dogs Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, Maryland Chapter, held the 4TH Dale Murray Memorial Benefit Ride on Saturday, August 26, 2017. The memorial benefit motorcycle ride, started in 2014, is held in memory of member Dale Murray, who died from Pancreatic Cancer in May of 2013. All proceeds have been distributed in Dale’s memory as follows:
2014: $3,500 to Johns Hopkins University Pancreatic Research Center
2015: $3,000 to the Emergency Patient Cancer Fund, Western MD Regional Medical Center
2016: $3,600 to the Emergency Patient Cancer Fund, Western MD Regional Medical Center
2017: $3,700 to the Emergency Patient Cancer Fund, Western MD Regional Medical Center
The Law Dogs Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club was established in 2000 to offer brotherhood and motorcycling benefits to active, retired or vested Police Officers, active Police Reserves, Corrections Officers, as well as Fire Fighters and EMS Personnel, to raise money for charitable organizations and to raise money for a fallen brother/sister fund of Emergency Personnel. Chapters are located in Texas, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Illinois, Georgia, Delaware, Tennessee, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Dakota and Romania.
President: Joe Neder; Vice-President: Daryl McCarty; Treasurer: Steve Wilkinson; Secretary: Sharon Leasure; Road Captain: Jake Twigg; Sergeant-at-Arms: David Penrod
NOTE: this group picks a charity and supports it a number of times, then picks another. They are still going strong in Maryland and other locations! – Mark
MOTORCYCLE TIMES IS LOOKING FOR REPRESENTATIVES
Are you looking for part time work with a flexible schedule in the motorcycle world?
Do you live in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., The DelMarVa Resort Areas, or near other popular riding areas such as The Dragon’s Tail?
Do you want to make some money?
Send an email with your resume and contact information to us!
For the July/August 2018 Issue I was hand delivering Motorcycle Times magazine to about 140 locations in PA, DE, MD, VA, WV, DC and DelMArVa, randomly picked from our delivery list. I like to stay in touch with our customers so I can listen to them and remain focused on their needs. This is the best method I’ve found, so it is what I do every couple of months. Along the way, I’ve encountered many useful bits of information ranging from closed stores to demolished and/or missing locations to new employee’s and even new owners and new locations!
It’s all normal and I wasn’t surprised, though in some cases there is a familiar sadness and the usual questions and wonderment’s accompanying a long established business changing hands or even just closing for good. This is another reason I put myself out on the road every so often. Our magazine was founded as a grassroots operation, literally being hand typed and physically cut and pasted then photo copied, manually assembled and then stapled in Jerry Smith’s living room. Through the years as Motorcycle Times has grown and weathered the industry and social changes, technology continued to advance until today Motorcycle Times is printed on state of the art computerized machines by an old and well established industry leader selected by me with a nod to their same grassroots tradition. Through the years, Motorcycle Times has kept pace with our industry while retaining it’s grassroots connections despite almost 30 years of expansions and contractions that created so many changes in our culture of motorcycling.
2019 is officially Motorcycle Time’s 30th year in production. This alone ranks us with the likes of Cycle World, Motorcyclist, Dirt Bike, and a few others in terms of longevity. Another thing we have in common with other industry leaders is that we are not a sugar coated, eye candy, bikini and chrome infested magazine…of which there is nothing wrong with and I myself will sometimes flip through one. Which is another big difference. Our customers actually read our magazines. There is a time and place for most things and our time and place is motorcycles and motorcycle news and events and motorcyclists and getting the word out. It’s what we’ve done best for almost 30 years so far.
And it’s what I’m continuing to do. In fact I’m doing it right now.
Email is always on or call me. Leave a message if I can’t answer.
So, some of our grassroots are in Clearbrook, Va at Winchester Motorsports. I pulled in just as they were closing down for the day. Not knowing me from anyone, or even why I was there, the new owners Mike and Melissa greeted me and showed me genuine hospitality. It was very refreshing to meet two people who weren’t in rush to just GET OUT of there and go home. As we talked it became clear that Mike and by default Melissa have experience in the motorcycling field and aren’t just on a buzz from new ownership. It’s nice to see a store change hands to other motorcyclists and not some faceless corporation that rotates clerks through it to keep the numbers up. It’s a grassroots store.
CLICK THE LINK BELOW THIS PICTURE TO VIEW THE VIDEO!
It is a popular video so it may be slow loading right now, still worth watching!