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Common Tread

The biggest turkeys of 2016

Nov 22, 2016

Whisk that gravy. I don't like lumps.

In 2016, we saw some items that needed to be written off as quickly as dry, overdone Thanksgiving protein. In a bizarre homage to the star of the Thanksgiving show, Common Tread presents the biggest turkeys of the year.

A fake, a fib, and a flop

"Howdy, this is" Lemmy
Motorcycle Media Lead

That's not a belt drive. EMD photo.
You guys may remember an article where I blasted EMD for making a fake kicker cover. Well, they’re at it again. Their Jaydee outer primary mimics the look of an open belt drive. That is, of course, until you start your bike, when the belt will not appear to move. The great irony here is that there are so few belt drives available for this fitment: 2007-plus H-D Touring bikes. Why? Because the primary chain got an auto-adjuster that year. The automatically adjusting chain running in an oil bath is so damned reliable, swapping it for a belt is foolhardy. What a turd.

Another meleagris gallopavo? Victory, come claim your prize for the Octane. It pains me to offer bird meat to such a fun motorcycle, but the problem is that we were promised something different than what was delivered. Everyone understood we were not going to be able to buy a street-legal Pike’s Peak bike, but the Octane turned out to be a hopped-up Scout. Adding insult to injury, a more sporting version never came to fruition. (I’m still holding out hope that there’s a 2018 High Octane or something in the works.)

For a succinct metaphor on this bike’s watering-down process, simply look at the tire progression. Dunlop GP-A Pros changed to Metzeler Racetecs, morphing into Pirelli Night Dragons, ending on the bias-ply Kendas (K671s?) that are on factory Octanes. Your marketing stinks. Try again.

Inverted fork, race rubber, real brakes, hot-rod shocks — none of which can be found on the production version of the Octane. RevZilla photo.

Finally, we have a movie. Look, I’m no Charlton Heston, but what the hell happened with "21 Days Under The Sky?" Here’s the plot: Friends ride shitbox bikes to New York to go hang out at the Brooklyn Invitational. The problem is that the whole movie is faintly ridiculous. The riders are cool-guy-on-Instagram types. There’s some super-over-the-top narrator who keeps hinting that the group might not make it to Brooklyn. Uh, guys? You might miss a chopper show. Who cares? Lots of extraneous bullshit is inserted into the movie so we all know these guys are #bikers. Viewers are treated to a constant chopper cosplay, a bearded guy taking a “shower” (getting sprayed down with a car wash hose), and a weird trippy drug scene. Cool, just like Easy Rider! I feel like an outlaw just typing this up.

Movie poster
Epic story, brah.

Here are some direct quotes from the website: “It's not a biker movie about crime, drugs, and women, though these are obvious byproducts of a life lived full...Their journey becomes less about getting anywhere and more about going back to where things started; about the vast heavenly landscapes, the proud people they encounter, and the small towns they rest in...this widescreen cinematic experience is the first of its kind, and is recognized as the seminal 'chopper' film of this generation.” Jesus wept.

Talk about takin’ yerself seriously. It’s choppers, fellas. This is supposed to be fun. Stop getting all philosophical about it. Most people ain’t lucky enough to go take three weeks off from being a grownup and ride around with their friends. 3,800 miles in 21 days ain’t exactly back-breakin’ mileage. You boys made a movie about your summer vacation. Smile and act like you're having a good time.

"21 Days Under the Sky is the one time the words EPIC and ADVENTURE can actually be used without the normal trappings of how these terms are tossed about in social media.”

Right. Happy Thanksgiving, ya turkeys.

Beavers, britches, and Bolts

Spurgeon "enjoy the ride" Dunbar
Metric Media Lead

My first nomination this year is for a piece of apparel.

Here is a taste of the copy for the Black Brand Sheared Beaver Jacket: “…the ultimate in style and comfort. Made from top-grain sheep leather trimmed on the collar and sleeves with genuine sheared beaver fur. Adding to the eye-catching good looks are gunmetal diamond-shaped rivets with embroidery on the front, back and shoulders…”

Beaver jacket
The Sheared Beaver. Black Brand photo.
Listen, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I get it. But, other than Rob Halford, who has ever used “gunmetal diamond-shaped rivets” and “eye-catching good looks” in the same sentence? On top of that, they are pricing this non-armored jacket at $651. If that’s too rich for your blood, check out the Brazilian Waxed jacket. It’s essentially the Sheared Beaver jacket with the beaver fur removed for $591. I can’t make this up.

Next up is AGV Sport. Take a look at the Covert Camo Riding Jeans. I wore these pants for the Kawasaki Z125 Pro release and video review. The armor fell out on me not once, but twice. The first time, we were in the middle of a group ride and a fellow rider commented that someone’s knee armor was lying in the middle of the street. Hilarious, until I realized it was mine. The second time it happened in the middle of a closed course race. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…

I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the armor stay in the armored pants that riders buy to protect them in the event of a crash.

Speaking of bike reviews, I will wrap up with the Yamaha SCR950. It’s not that I didn’t like this bike for what it is — a fun little standard motorcycle perfectly suited as an entry-level machine — it’s that it is trying to pretend to be something it’s not. This is the least scrambler-y of all of the Scramblers.

If OEMs are going to continue with this naming convention, then I am going to continue to try to ride these bikes off-road. The SCR950 has less than three inches of rear-end suspension travel and about five inches of ground clearance (before you sit down). Try hitting a pothole on this thing without needing your spine realigned afterward.

Sort of Scrambl-y. RevZilla photo.

Truth be told, I had a lot of fun with this motorcycle when I rode it out to Joshua Tree to search out Gram Parson’s ghost. It is a cool little bike and I think there are a lot of riders out there who will get a lot of miles out of it. Like Abhi over at RideApart, I just wish they had called it something else.

I think “Standard Urban Retro Not-So-Cruisery-Cruiser 950” has a nice ring to it, no?

Marcus Weller, more of the same, and a movie

Brett “I’m going to let you try that again” Walling
Director of Media and Content

Marcus Weller and Skully helmets: consider yourselves plated and served. You’re 2016’s grand champion Turducken. As a backer of IndieGoGo and Kickstarter campaigns, I’m a proponent of supporting hard-working status-quo disruptors with a vision for creating something better than what’s currently available. Since Skully came onto the scene with their first promo video in late 2013 there was plenty of buzz that surrounded their AR-1 helmet. Their record-setting IndieGoGo campaign fueled a fury of excitement. From the crowdfunding videos to the CEO’s testimonial reassuring investors that all was well, I watched nearly everything their marketing department produced.

Skully helmet
Vaporware. RevZilla photo.
What transpired over the course of 2016 ultimately amounts to fraud. One of the most successful IndieGoGo campaigns of all time turned out to be a giant black mark on the face of crowdfunding. The numbers are appalling: $2.5 million raised from 1,900 investors, including three backers who ponied up $24,979 apiece. All of that money is up in smoke.

Now, a failing startup that leaves optimistic investors out in the cold is nothing new for the world of alternative finance. But once a former Skully bookeeper sued the company, the plot became nauseating. Lavish trips, Dodge Vipers and four motorcycles all are alleged to have been paid for on the company dime. So instead of the Skully picking up a ZLA Award for 2016, it will now be forever invoked as the reason not to grab your credit card when a new startup brings forward the potential for the next big thing.

Next up? I’m calling out pretty much every major apparel brand. Alpinestars, Dainese, Icon, REV’IT!, I’m stuffin’ and trussin’ you turkeys. (Yes, this includes quite a few items that we sell.) Since I joined RevZilla as the Video Production Manager back in 2012, I’ve had my hands on thousands of product reviews — and products. The most insidious thing I’ve seen take hold in the soft goods side of this industry is a combination of lack of purposeful approach, coupled with an overproduction of model variations. You know the old saying, “Just throw it against the wall and see what sticks?” Apparel brands have been throwing and throwing for the last two years. Very little has been on the wall afterwards.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been some great iterations on tried-and-true products over the past couple years. REV’IT! Cayenne Pro Gloves or SIDI X-3 Lei Boots are perfect examples. But true purpose-driven evolution and R&D is what denotes a brand that’s worth buying — and it’s hard to come by these days. In my opinion, there aren’t too many new products that meet that criterion. Unfortunately, one of our favorite sayings over the past couple years has been, “Wow, I guess they’ve just run out of ideas.” Smell that? That’s giblets.

TV Show Poster
Harley And The Davidsons, featuring A Black Guy. Discovery Channel image.

For my final bird, I present “Harley and the Davidsons.” Historical fiction meets semi-big budget television with a dash of decent acting. (OK, Robert Aramayo’s portrayal of William Harley was quite good.) Was it just coincidence that you saw this Discovery Channel miniseries being advertised in late August, just around the time the new Milwaukee-Eight engine saw the light of day? Ah, no.

This three-part mini-series that debuted on Discovery Channel on Labor Day might just be the largest piece of content marketing to ever be produced. Was the trailer cool? You bet. It promised “the real story” about how America’s most heralded motorcycle brand came to be. It showcased the excitement and danger of racing in the early 20th century when the rules were scarce, the protection was non-existent, and the bikes were plenty fast enough to end up as smoking wreckage. Is that what was delivered? Ehh, sort of. But more than anything what we got was a predictably forced drama. (I didn’t know anything about the history, so the predictability was kind of a bummer.)

The most egregious step on the part of this show was the storyline, or lack thereof, for William Johnson. For those of you who don’t know, “Wild Bill” was the first black Harley-Davidson dealer, as well as the first black AMA member licensed to compete in national motorcycle racing events. This amazing feat is a story that deserves its own mini-series. However, the way in which "Harley And The Davidsons" shoved his character into the final section of the last episode felt like a perfunctory inclusion at best. I was so turned off by the heavy-handed way they leveraged the only black role in the piece that I can only imagine this was done at the request of someone in the MoCo’s corporate office.

This came off exactly as what it is: a veiled attempt to make Harley-Davidson seem like a progressive company, forcing this nugget of history upon the viewer at the very last moment. Harley, if you really cared about telling the amazing story of William Johnson, you wouldn’t have waited until the last second to do it. Shame on you, ya turkeys.