I am getting ready to race the Tecate Enduro this coming weekend. From there I am off to Baja for a week with the Hawaii guys. We are going a bit farther south, Catavina and Bay of LA to look at some trials I have not seen. It is raining as I write, so Tecate is going to be nearly perfect. I have the Beta 390RR prepped for the race and the KTM 450xcw ready for the trail ride. I am way overdue to write a blog post, I never seem to have enough time or motivation to flush out an entire post on one topic, so here are a bunch of random things that have been floating through my noggin.
Product Testing – When I go play hookie like this, I need to prep a bunch of stories to post ahead of time. It is good because it forces me to sit down and focus on some topics and ideas that I just don’t seem to get around to otherwise. It is all part of the testing process. It takes up more time than you can imagine. Don’t get me wrong, it is interesting stuff. Frankly I spend lots of time explaining to people how to make their products better. Sometimes I have to tell people that they are simply on the wrong path, never fun to do. Some of it is falls on deaf ears and some of my ideas actually make it to production. None of it makes me any money.
Advertising – At the end of each year I have to go through the process of evaluating my advertisers and making my pitch to get them to spend money with me for another year. It is a weird sort of disjointed process. I consider all of my advertisers partners. I use their products. No one simply gives me money to advertise. I have to give them a good once over first. I have to basically endorse what they sell. I am not sure if that fact is obvious to the reader or not.
It is just something I have to do for myself. You see, I make very little money from advertising. So I figure I am only going to do it the way I want to. I work with those who value what we do. They are true supporters of our little niche in the moto universe. They deserve your support too. I get to work with them to develop and improve the products you buy. I find that rewarding. For the most part my work is appreciated by them too. It is cool to be able to text the owner of a company from the woods and tell him how his latest product is performing. One of the ironic parts is that sometimes a company grows so big that they evolve beyond our little world and we have to reluctantly say goodbye to them because we helped them become too successful.
Another Year – It seems the year is just about over. That puts us just shy of our 5th birthday. It is amazing to think how much has changed in that time. Working on the cutting edge of technology as we are in this electronic age, things change so fast. Some of the content we started with has almost become archaic.
As much as I love race reporting, most of it does not perform very well. I think social media has taken over that realm. National Enduro and GNCC reports generate little enthusiasm among you readers. West coast local reports do okay, but other local or region racing seems to be of no interest. So we will leave that to someone else. Ultimately my goal is to produce content that no one else does. That is what keeps us unique.
Google search is king. Bike tests do well, but only if they are popular search topics. Product tests rank much lower for the flip side of that coin, not much searching. 2015 KTM enduro model preview was the biggest story for the year. Gas Gas 300, Husky 300 and KTM 690 are all right at the top too. As a combined category, the Trophy Girls outperform almost everything. I keep telling people I am going to start a new site that is just bikini girls and cat videos. It would be way bigger.
We see the competition come and go, both in print and electronic versions. Most start ups have no idea how difficult it is to make a commercial venture from writing about enduro bikes. It is a labor of love that requires tons of time and penny pinching. I can just barely say that we are really a going concern. Frankly, the Baja tours help pay for much of the content you see here. Both are labors of love. The website is the love and Baja business takes a lot of labor on my part. I love it too, but it is hard work.
Street Cred – Here is something I always find amusing, it never seems to end either. I can be at an event anywhere in the motorcycling world and have someone come up and ask me about, or quote something I have written. They know exactly what I am up to and read the website every day. I previously told the story of having someone come up to me on a mountainside at Romaniacs, as we were sitting in a bottle neck, and tell me how much he and his friends in Norway enjoyed the site.
Of course there is a wide part of the motorcycle industry that gives us that kind of credibility too. But there is an even bigger part that would not stop to give us the time of day. We are not the big magazine, so we simply have no place in the world.
Last year I called up Metro racing, the vintage guys. They are the sole importer of the old style Hi-Point/Alpinestars boots. I politely explained that I thought there was still a real market for the boot and I would be interested in testing them. The kind gentleman on the other end of the phone apparently thought I was from Mars. No matter how much I explained, he could not fathom why he would be interested in such a thing. I offered to return the boots after testing, I offered to pay for them, nada, no interest whatsoever.
This actually happens more frequently than not. For the most part I have given up searching out new products to test, I let them come to me. It is too frustrating to go through this process repeatedly. It just amazes me that it is easier to talk someone into giving me a motorcycle than it is a pair of goggles.
Entry Level Bikes – With all the hype from the new KTM 250 Freeride and upcoming Beta X Trainer, everyone wants to talk entry level. These bikes are a hit for us journalists because they generate interest and readers. We have to get those pageviews up every month! These bikes are novel. They will find a good home in the market. But… they are hardly entry level with price points from 7 to 8 thousand. KTM had orders for twice as many bikes as they can get. I am sure the same will happen for the Beta.
At nearly $8,000 KTM had no intention of making the Freeride a price point bike. It is a premium bike in budget clothing. It is $200 more than a 200xc-w and it would be hard to say that you are getting more motorcycle for that money. In the street bike world, a 2015 Honda CRB300R is an entry level bike at $4,400. That is a pretty big disparity. We still need a great entry level bike. Something that embodies the ease and versatility of the Freeride, but in the $5,000 range. A 260 lb Japanese 250 four stroke is not going to cut it.
More FreeRadicals – Speaking of the whole new concept of super light weight, easy to ride, cross over bikes. How come we can’t take a 200xc-w, give it a new non-expansion chamber style pipe and some fine tuning, to come up with a comparable idea? It would give us some of the same kind of weight reduction. It is a far more capable chassis, particularly suspension and brakes. The 200 motor is already a good trail motor, it could be detuned for torque and still put out respectable power.
Or, how about we take the Freeride motor and stick it into a 200 chassis? That would give all the new motor benefit, some of the weight reduction and far more chassis. Or how about just a lower suspension version off the 200 with a torque pipe?
Other Entry Options – I am trying to get an AJP to test. It might be a reasonable solution to the entry level problem. It looks promising on paper. But it would need some real ride time to evaluate. Frankly, we just need a new KDX 200.
450xc-w Hop Up – I have been playing with the idea of doing a hop up project on the 2015 KTM 450xc-w. Anything like this needs to be practical. I don’t want to just bolt a bunch of expensive parts to make a shiny project bike that may or may not be an improvement. It needs to be a good value for the performance gain.
So the problem is, there is not much for easy hop ups. Bolting on an exhaust and maybe changing to the euro map is about it for easy mods. A cam change would require a custom fuel map to get the most benefit. None of the 450xc-f parts will bolt right on because they are substantially different, particularly with the SX style throttle body. Unless I hear of some other great idea, I am probably just going to leave well enough alone.
Beta 390RR – Things are going well with it. It is a fantastic trail bike. I should have a better real world race report after the Tecate Enduro. But I think it is going to be good for a long day of technical racing.
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