Wednesday, July 9, 2014
You were warned about it almost from the day you started riding motorcycles. You've talked to riders it has happened to. But you never expected to find yourself where you are now, speeding toward a car that is inexplicably turning left in front of you, its driver staring wide-eyed at you through the window but not stopping. In a flash you think, Holy hell. This is really happening.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
It was suggested last Saturday morning that we try a different place for breakfast once a month. For this coming Saturday, June 28th, we will meet at the Grand Falls Casino Restaurant (Larchwood, IA) at the usual time (8am). If you have an idea for a ride following, bring it to breakfast, that would be great.
Thursday, June 12, 2014
In 1973 BMW turned the motorcycle world on its head. The sometimes conservative German company set the Paris show alight with the simply stunning R 90 S. The man behind this classic Hans Muth motorcycle was legendary automotive figure, American, Bob Lutz.
The beautiful Silver Smoke livery complimented the elegant and practical fairing and the seat-cowl was like no previous BMW – or in fact any other motorcycle. With 67 hp the R 90 S was a fast, fine handling machine capable of over 200 km/h and became an instant classic, which brought immediate attention to BMW motorcycles. Not only did it help sell the R 60/6, R 75/6 and R 90/6 models, it made a profit. At that time it saved BMW motorcycles from almost certain death as the BMW Board were starting to lose interest in motorcycles.
In 1971, Eberhard von Kuenheim was mapping out the future of BMW. The newly installed, 43-year-old CEO enticed Lutz, the then 39-year-old sales-and-marketing executive from General Motors' Opel subsidiary to join him in the effort. The task was to take BMW from a small European manufacturer to a world brand.
Lutz (pictured left on a 1973 R 75/5 – the 500,000th BMW bike – in front of the BMW Museum) was a master at creating brand awareness and making products that excited buyers. ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ and ‘The Ultimate Riding Machine’ tag lines were two of his early decisions. He wanted to create agile and sporting products that were true to BMW’s historic past.
From 1972 to 1974 he was on the BMW Board with responsibility for sales. In that time he had a profound effect on BMW, an effect that is still very much with us today. He saved BMW motorcycles and laid the platform for the launch of the first 3 Series car, the basis of BMW’s ongoing success.
At that time BMW was beginning the climb from being a German producer to becoming a genuine worldwide brand and had a far simpler structure than today. BMW motorcycles were produced with a fragmented structure within the company and although the /5 Series launched in 1969 had taken BMW forward, it was bikes like the Honda CB 750 Four that had really altered the landscape.
The /5 in some ways looked old and far from exciting, even with some special versions, such as the ‘Toaster Tank’ model released in some markets (such as the USA) to grab extra attention and sales. As a passionate car man and motorcycling enthusiast, Bob could see a future where others could not, and it was the R 90 S that he is immensely proud of, even four decades later.
“The R 90 S was the fruit of getting all the dispersed ‘bike guys’ at BMW together in one room and shaking our heads over the ‘Toaster Tank’ and other misbegotten models, and quickly agreeing what a really great Jap-thumping BMW would look like,” he said. “The result was the R 90 S in Silver Smoke and to my mind, the somewhat less attractive Daytona Orange. I could write a book about the product development and marketing lessons that programme taught me and could teach the world. It saved the BMW motorcycle business and showed the Finance guys, who were arguing that we should exit the motorcycle business because there was no way we could compete with the Japanese. There was money to be made with superior product, priced at a premium.”
“The bike was an instant success. We sold out immediately and, importantly, made more money than we did on a lower spec 1600 car. Yes, in all humility, I give myself some credit for saving the bike arm of BMW. I still love the R 90 S and I am immensely proud of it,” said Lutz.
From 1954 to 1959 Lutz was a US Marine fighter pilot (he remained as a reservist to 1965). He was the ‘squeaky clean marine’ as depicted in the film adaptation of Tom Wolf’s, ‘The Right Stuff’. If he had not taken to the auto business via a degree in production management and marketing at UC Berkeley, he may well have found his way into the NASA space programme.
The ‘fighter pilot’ has never really left him. His passion for fast cars is equal to that of his love of fast flying. In his extensive garage he has some wonderful cars and an Alpha jet fighter trainer – the German built aircraft – providing an outlet for his love of speed. It is not all in the air or on four wheels though: in his garages in both Switzerland (the country of his birth) and the USA he has several BMW motorcycles to satisfy his two-wheeled thirst.
Lutz’s career took him to the top echelons of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors before his ‘retirement’ in 2009. Now 81-years-old Lutz is still active in the industry and he can look back to 1973 with pride, in having helped create the iconic BMW R 90 S, one of the great motorcycles of the 1970s – and arguably of all time.
Historical Significance of the R90S
If not for the introduction of the R90S model in 1974, you would most likely
not be riding a BMW motorbike today, unless of course it was of the vintage
variety. Top management was ready to toss in the towel, yes pull the plug
on the motorrad division as sales were steadily declining and losses were
mounting in the early seventies. As Robert A. Lutz explains in my
correspondence with him:
" The (finance) vultures were circling over the motorcycle division. Sales
were low, mostly to police fleets (low margins); low retail sales (mostly
older, conservative riders.) There was no hope, at that point, of matching
Japanese multi-cam, multi-cylinder technology. We were in a gradual downward
spiral. Butler and Smith did not help at that point. They wanted to see the
bikes "Harley-ized", with more chrome (hence those horrible battery covers)
and way smaller gas tanks, again covered in chrome (the dreadful "toaster
tank" series, a joke in their day, now, for some reason, a coveted collector
bike!). At any rate, the R90S turned everything around." ......(Robert A.
Lutz goes into more detail in the 19 minute video he produced for our
upcoming R90S 40th Anniversary Celebration about how dire the situation was
for BMW motorrad when he arrived around 1971. Although he was hired to
increase sale in automotive, he had great passion for motorbikes and
desperately wanted the division to excel and to be profitable. In his spare
time he quickly reorganized the division and accessed the situation and knew
what had to be done to turn things around.
The stunning R90S was born, sales skyrocketed and put BMW back on the map
and the rest is history. A very successful racing campaign of course only
added to it's popularity. Whatever BMW you are riding today.....you can
thank Bob Lutz for his vision and foresight. Bob is 82 years old, is still
riding and has a nice collection of BMW motorbikes in his stable.
The video production is very informative and well worth viewing.
Mit freundlichen Grüßen,
Saturday, June 7, 2014
Micahel Dunlop has done it again. The 25-year-old Northern Irishman repeated exactly what he achieved at last year’s Isle of Man TT – four race wins.
The Hawk Racing BMW S1000RR pilot topped off his 2014 Isle of Man TT with a win at Friday’s PokerStars Senior TT. This was his fourth win in five solo races; he also won theDainese TT, the RL 360 Superstock TT, and the Monster Energy Supersport 2 TT.
Dunlop – the nephew of the legendary Joey Dunlop who holds the most TT wins with 26 – now has 11 TT victories. He is now equal in wins to Steve Hislop and Phillip McCallen.
Joining Dunlop on the Senior TT podium was Honda Racing’s Conor Cummins and Tyco Suzuki’s Guy Martin. As for Martin, this was his 15th TT podium as he continues to chase his first TT win.
Dunlop fought hard for the victory at the six-lap race on the 37.73-mile Snaefell Mountain Course; he was as low as seventh at Glen Helen on the opening lap, but battled to first. He eventually finished 14 seconds ahead of Cummins.
Following is the official TT report:
With conditions all around the Mountain Course remaining perfect throughout the 6-lap race, the second Tyco Suzuki ridden by William Dunlop held the lead in the early stages, ahead by 1.3 seconds at Glen Helen with Cummins and Martin in second and third from Dean Harrison, John McGuinness and James Hillier.
William still led at Ramsey but Michael was beginning to make his move, closing the gap to just one second and by the end of the lap Michael was in front. His lap of 130.628mph gave him a 0.8s lead over Martin with Cummins, William Dunlop and Harrison in hot pursuit, just 3s covering the top five.
On the second lap, Dunlop and the BMW really began to make their mark on the race and with a new lap record, for the Senior race, of 131.668mph, he went 7.7s clear as he came into the pits for his first stop. William had edged out Martin for second as Cummins slipped back to fourth. Harrison remained in fifth as a slow starting Bruce Anstey moved up to sixth.
Lap three saw some major changes though and while Michael remained in the lead, Cummins and Martin moved up to second and third respectively as William Dunlop crashed at the Les Graham Memorial, the 28-year reported to have received a suspected broken leg and was taken by airmed to Nobles Hospital. Harrison was also out, retiring at Sulby.
The gap between Michael Dunlop and Conor Cummins went up to 13s at Ramsey on the fourth lap, but by the pits and the second stop, it was down to 9.5s as Cummins was the quickest on the fourth lap at 130.499mph. Martin was 10s further back in third, with Dunlop having caught him on the road, as Anstey, Hillier and McGuinness now slotted into fourth to sixth.
At Glen Helen on the penultimate lap, just 7s separated Dunlop and Cummins with the former circulating on the road with Hillier, McGuinness and Martin also encountering heavy traffic. However, the Ballymoney rider fought his way to the front of the quartet and once there he was able to build a slightly more comfortable lead.
By the end of the race, the margin was 14s as he swept to his 11th win of his relatively short TT career, with Cummins again justifying Honda’s faith in him in 2nd, 9.6s ahead of Martin who had to settle for third and his 15th TT podium.
Just like twelve months ago Anstey and Hillier battled all the way to the checked flag, this time for fourth, and it was again the Kiwi who prevailed, this time by 1.4s. Meanwhile, McGuinness, sixth at the end of the opening lap, duly completed the race in the same position to end a difficult week with a solid finish.
Josh Brookes put behind the disappointment of Wednesday’s Supersport race, when he was knocked off by Lee Johnston at Creg ny Baa on the final lap, to finish in a strong seventh with Dan Kneen, Michael Rutter and David Johnson rounding out the top ten.
There was another sensational performance from newcomer Peter Hickman who not only took 11th place but also set the fastest ever lap by a first timer at the Mountain Course with a stunning lap of 129.104mph.
He was the first privateer home ahead of Ian Mackman (15th) but Ivan Lintin’s 16th place was enough to see him wrap up the TT Privateer’s Championship with 97 points overall.
John Ingram and Philip Crowe were reported off at Governors and Gooseneck respectively but both were reported as OK. Martin Jessop, also off at Governors, was taken by ambulance to Nobles hospital with a suspected broken collar bone, while Austrian Horst Saiger was conscious after an incident at Gardeners Lane and taken to Nobles with a leg injury.