Monthly Archives: August 2012

A Long Day

I must admit that upon reading the current September issue of Cycle World, a magazine I spent a long portion of my career at, I was surprised to see – in a very wide-grin type of way – that when I turned the page there was that photo, along with an update of that story.

CW is celebrating its 50th anniversary of publishing in 2012, with updated looks at notable stories from the first half century. In 1962, Joe Parkhurst – an enthusiast with a vision – launched an alternative publication because the status quo at the time was failing to deliver a credible product to the reader marketplace. I was privileged to know Joe for many years, and was fortunate to hear firsthand the challenges he faced in launching Cycle World. I smile today at those stories as we launch the AIMExpo, and remember Joe’s insistence that he fervently believed that what he was doing was what motorcyclists were looking for. His belief was born out when CW became the largest selling motorcycle publication within two years. I’m sure if Parky were around today, he’d be on the AIMExpo staff in some capacity!

Remembering the 24-Hour World Record brought out that big ear-to-ear smile because it was one of those great moments. Paul Dean had been on the world-record-setting KZ650 Kawasaki in 1977, as part of a public relations effort to launch the KZ 650 streetbike that was promoted as ‘faster than a 750’. As editor of CW in 1985, he saw the upcoming release of the all new Suzuki GSX-R750 as the same type of category-busting bike, with performance equivalent to then-current 1000cc machines. As a totally independent endeavor – not a corporate PR effort – it seemed like the perfect recipe to engage readers, and to set a world record.

Look at that handsome fellow. (And yes I rocked a mustache!)

As the magazine’s ad director back in 1985, my role was to drive the ad sales effort, not really to ride bikes in magazine stories. And, I generally didn’t. Except…a 24-hour speed record attempt required bodies… that could ride. When asked to be a part of the record-setting team, there were a couple of rather important considerations I had to deal with. First, my wife Stephanie was about eight months pregnant with our son Shaun, and second, we had a 20 month old daughter in Ashley. And as recounted in the story, it was early September in south Texas, which meant one thing – hot. In the end, all the stars aligned! I must say that it was only possible with the support of Stephanie who encouraged me to be a part of the team.

There are many distinct memories that flooded back when I was reading the story in CW. First, the tire chunking at the start was more than a little disconcerting. While the team was trying to figure out the cause, to keep the record attempt alive, I was orbiting at over 100 mph with half-dollar sized chunks missing from the center of the tire. Paul didn’t mention the helmet lift, but boy do I remember it. The aerodynamic lift created by the shape of the top of the helmet was dramatic due to the force the chin strap created on your neck as the helmet tried to lift off your head. Someone later told me that we should have riveted windshield wiper blades to the top of our helmets to break the lift. The normal stint was about 40 minutes for each rider on one tank of gas, which was about the limit of one’s neck.

When darkness fell, that’s when it got a little scary.  At 145+ mph, we were overdriving the headlights by a considerable amount. The couple of times I saw a javelina pig on the inside apron of the track, at that speed, you were past them before you could react. It wasn’t mentioned in the story, but one of our crew refused to ride at night because it was a bit daunting. Forty minutes at night was a lot longer than in daytime.

This made it official!

And then who could forget Jim Hansen’s frequent trips to the local fast food joints – they were the stories of legend. ‘I need 30 Egg McMuffins, 50 coffees, and 50 orange juices,’ etc… were met with some silent moments at the drive-thru speaker.

There were a lot of great moments that came out of working on that project. And as I look back on the effort, I realized that there’s a lot of similarities with what we’re doing today, launching the AIMExpo.

-The 24 hour speed record was long standing, and it took a new motorcycle (the GSX-R) to break it.
-The AIMExpo is a new idea that will break longstanding expectations of the industry in regards to trade and consumer shows.

-The CW speed record was a team of enthusiasts, including one (Paul Dean) that had participated in the previous record-setting event.
-The AIMExpo team is a group of enthusiasts, including many who have great experience in the show business (and one who participated in the CW record – me!)

-The logistics faced by CW to mount a world record attempt took a team of varied talents.
-The logistics faced by the AIMExpo to launch the premier trade/consumer show in North America will be met by a talented/experienced team.

At the end of a very long 24-hour day, we had achieved our goal of setting a new world record, by more than a 10% margin over the previous record. We celebrated the record, but in reality, we were celebrating the GSX-R redefining the sportbike class, and the ushering in of the modern era of ‘street-legal racers’.  I invite you to join us in Orlando in October of 2013 as we redefine the expectations of the marketplace in how we communicate the business of motorcycling to the trade, press, and consumer constituents in North America.

Check out the full article and additional photos from the September issue of Cycle World here

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International Friendship

It’s hard to believe it’s already the middle of August. Time is really flying by.

You may have seen our release last week that since opening early registration for exhibitor space, we’ve already signed up nearly 40 companies for the inaugural American International Motorcycle Expo and are receiving more reservations daily.

Among all the buzz and active participation that has come with summer activities, I wanted to share a very wonderful visit AIMExpo received recently. Pier Francesco Caliari, Direttore Generale of both EICMA (Exposition Nazionale Ciclo Motociclo Accessori) – the big annual show in Italy – and ANCMA (Associazone Nazionale Ciclo Motociclo Accessori) – the Italian industry trade association – stopped by our office during his recent visit to the States from Italy, along with Vince Marazita, the American Representative for EICMA. Back in November, I made the trek to Milan for the 2011 EICMA show and was fortunate to set up a meeting to introduce myself to Francesco. I wanted to let him know what we were planning in North America and see if there might be areas to collaborate on in the future.

Vince Marazita, Me, Pier Francesco Caliari, Mike Webster, and Kerry Graeber

With our team growing and AIMExpo’s momentum gaining steam, we were very, very pleased that he wanted to meet with us while in Southern California. The EICMA model has been very influential in shaping the AIMExpo vision and in meeting to discover common goals and challenges, we realized we could and should work together to make motorcycling more accessible, especially to the youth.

One of the key virtues of EICMA is the energy that is created by the symbiosis of ‘new products meet the press’. New products + Press + Internet = EXCITEMENT! Add consumer accessibility within 48 hours, and stir it up! What’s not to like about that model!!

If you’ve read this blog previously, or have seen the AIMExpo “motto”, you know we want to re-energize the industry and rev-up the excitement around motorcycling in North America. I really enjoyed meeting with Caliari because it’s clear we both share a lot of passion to grow the motorcycle industry. We’ll meet again, and at the end of the day I think the visit spoke volumes to their support of our vision and goal with the AIMExpo.

To spread the good news of our show and of a new energy for North America, we’ll be exhibiting in this year’s EICMA show in November. Vince has signed us up as one of the many companies participating in the American pavillion, and we’ll proudly be waving the American flag and maybe even hand out some AIMExpo stickers! If you’re exhibiting or attending we’ll look forward to seeing you there!

AIMExpo Heads to Laguna Seca!

If it’s July, it must be MotoGP at Laguna Seca!  This past weekend, Mike Webster, Cinnamon Kernes and myself, along with our spouses headed up the California coast to beautiful Monterey to not only partake in the annual festivities, but to also take advantage of the opportunity to visit with some of the two-wheel industry’s most prominent and colorful figures. With more than 30 years of motorcycle history at Laguna Seca, it has become a destination venue every summer for enthusiasts of the incredible ballet of motorcycle sport. And, with MotoGP enjoying nearly a decade coming to one of my favorite cities and race tracks, this has become one of the most significant motorcycle sporting events in the country and a must attend for us at the Motorcycle Group.

From famous Cannery Row, to Pebble Beach, and even the Monterey Bay Aquarium, there is an unmatched energy surrounding the weekend that provides a lot of excitement on an international scale and reminds me exactly of what we are trying to achieve with the American International Motorcycle Expo in Orlando.

AIMExpo was in full force in the streets of Monterey!

While the rest of the continuously-growing Motorcycle Group team stayed back at our Irvine headquarters preparing essential materials, setting up meetings with partners, and keeping up the overall progression towards the inaugural event, our AIMExpo trio attended the race as part of the industry (although we’re BIG lifelong race fans). It provided a great opportunity to get out and mingle with our target audience for the show – retailers, consumers and the media. Personally, it rekindled a longstanding family tradition for Stephanie and I with son Shaun and daughter Ashley, who had attended Laguna nearly every year since they were in diapers!  Shaun’s something of a local living up in San Francisco (and working for a cool company called Fitbit – look it up at fitbit.com), and Ashley, who now lives in Charlotte (her husband, Ben, works at Joe Gibbs Racing on the motocross team), took advantage of an off-weekend on the national motocross circuit where she works in PR to join us.

 Best seat in the house!

One of the people I was most excited to catch up with was Steve Fields, who serves as Executive Director of Corporate Development at Laguna Seca Raceway. As the commercial face of the track, responsible for sponsorships and exhibitor space in the vendor area, it was good to spend some time with Steve and get a sense of the interest level within the industry to set up displays and generate more consumer appeal. He was happy to report that they sold out all the vendor space that was available within the track! This serves as a great barometer for our industry’s confidence in consumer spending, as well as the draw of racing for enthusiast attendees.

In speaking with some of the vendors at the track, it became clear that while many were aware of AIMExpo’s Orlando location inside the Orange County Convention Center in fall of 2013, not everyone was aware of the outdoor space that we’ve created for the industry to showcase its products. For demo rides, pinstripers, installers of all kinds (tires, pipes, etc….), we’ve set aside some key acreage for exhibitions and vendor space that is an integral part of AIMExpo. It’s a part of what makes us special for consumer attendees in Orlando next fall.

Laguna Seca in all its glory.

Of course, the on-track action captivated like only MotoGP can, while the dual-hosted round with AMA classes featured some very close racing battles. It was nice to catch up with a lot of old acquaintances in the paddock, and get some quality face time with some of our key players for AIMExpo. Everyone is excited about what we’re doing at the Motorcycle Group and it’s rewarding to sense the strong support from the industry.

All in all, the quick trip to Monterey was just what we all needed, from both a personal and business standpoint. We learned a lot in our progress towards October 2013 and also had the pleasure of witnessing the best road racing on the planet at one of the world’s most iconic venues.

Bob Starr of Yamaha, Mike and myself at Wayne Rainey’s Party on Thursday. Look at those bikes!

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