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  • This is a guest post by Robert Argento. On most Tuesday nights, I meet Robert over a glass of wine and we talk about subjects ranging from economics to philosophy and many topics in between. Often these conversations get related to motorcycling. This is his first post on M-BY-M. 

    For more of Robert's writing see his own blog Marginal Returns to Zen.  


    Most people tend to think of karma as “what goes around comes around.” Basically, you have a cosmic ledger of deeds good and bad that decide what is coming to you in the future. Eventually the universe will punish you for your bad deeds and reward you for your good to balance the checkbook of the almighty. You could look at motorcycling this way, interpreting your experiences and those of other riders as a sort of morality play. For example, you could believe you suffered an off on a motorcycle because you’re a careless person, even when the off resulted from an unpredictable mechanical failure. In this way you could take any success or failure and construct a narrative that places a value judgment on your character. Good things only happen to good riders and bad things only happen to bad riders the same way that good things only happen to good people and bad things only happen to bad people. If a bad thing happened to you, then it must be punishment for some personal failing.

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    [Source: Wikimedia Commons]  

    There are people who do not see karma that way. Many of the people who originally began using the word karma did not see karma that way. One way of interpreting the teachings around karma of the old Buddhist masters is to think of the past and the future as only existing in your mind. The past is a mental reconstruction from an imperfect memory and the future is a projection created by your imagination. Thinking this way, the past doesn’t define you and the future doesn’t have to constrain you. All that baggage is in your head and you have the power to manage what is in your head. If you begin from this premise, then you could conclude that you are not entitled to effectively navigate the impossible corner at 90 miles-per-hour because you’ve been riding for two decades no more than you are doomed to never make a right-handed turn in one lane because you have yet to do so successfully. These things do not define how well you will do. What defines how well you will do is what you choose to do right here, right now. The moment you’re living is all that matters; everything else is just rumble strips in your head.

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    [Source: Wikimedia Commons]

    Now, the past can give you guidance on which choices to make. If you did not like the outcome of a past choice, then make a new choice. If the past is not helping you make a choice, then stop dwelling on the past. The same can be said of your imagination of the future. If the past and the future are constructs of the mind, and the mind is a tool, then it should only be applied when it serves a purpose. A screwdriver, like a past experience, can be useful when a screw needs to be tightened or loosened, but most do not hesitate to put the screwdriver down when faced with a nail, unless of course you have a few loose screws yourself.

    I think on some level, that is what draws us to riding. In the discipline of motorcycling, how well or poorly you rode yesterday need not affect how you ride today. How well or poorly you ride tomorrow need not concern you. Dwelling on how you rode at other times only takes attention that you need to safely and effectively operate the motorcycle, making your riding worse and placing you in avoidable danger. Dwelling on the stresses of life outside the motorcycle while you are riding isn’t exactly doing you any favors, either. Not only that, but much of the enjoyment of riding, at least for me, comes from letting the performance of riding fully consume your consciousness. To perform better on a bike, you must release the stresses and fears that prevent you from enjoying the moments of your life. To learn to let go and engage in the here and now on the bike builds a skill that you can apply whenever you feel overwhelmed with fear of what lies ahead and regret of what came before. There is something therapeutic to this. In this way, to ride is to meditate.

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    [Source: Stefan Munder on Flickr]

  • Colin Busch is a dangerous man. His words, imbued with a relentless optimism and bounding energy, somehow wend their way deep into your subconscious past your best defenses, the hell hounds named "I can't", "I shouldn't" and "What If", to enter that space where old dreams long forgotten slumber undisturbed under layers of dust. 

    "Just go. It's easier than you think." he says infectiously.

    A few years ago, Colin got his passport, international drivers license and some innoculations and with virtually no further planning, no plan, and no Spanish language skills, he rode South. He continued to ride for 11 months reaching Ushuaia, Argentina, the Southernmost point in the western hemisphere reachable by road. Some months ago, Colin gave part I of his presentation at Bob's BMW which I wrote about back then.

    When I saw that Bob's was hosting Part II, it was clear that I had to go.

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    They described this presentation as "For this viewing, in addition to giving a stunning photographic overview of his incredible ride through Mexico, Central and South America, this installment will focus more on the logistical and technical aspects of the “how, what, why, when” of not just surviving, but thoroughly enjoying long distance world travel on a shoestring budget."

    We went up as a group and unlike the previous presentation, this second one drew in a much bigger crowd. The parking lot was pretty full for an early March day.

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    Colin's adventure bike was not in the lot. There's a photo of it in the previous article I wrote. I talked to him briefly wondering why his bike wasn't here. "Well, I wanted to change the handlebar and I noticed the master cylinder was leaking, so now the bike is completely disassembled for a rebuild." he joked. It happens.

    This bike in the parking lot caught my attention.

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    I notice that there is a virtually identical bike in Colin's flicker feed so I suspect this may very well be one of his.

    Bob's goes out of it's way to host presentations from a wide range of people from professional authors to world travellers and others. In this way, it goes from being just a dealership to becoming a gateway drug to a much wider world, one that one would normally never has any easy access to. Depending on the expected turnout, they set up in the showroom. I've also seen them clear out the shop and host presentations in that space. Coffee and donuts are usually available and there's very little if any sales pressure. The no pressure environment makes it comfortable to attend and much more likely that people will come back. It honestly feels like they are giving something genuine to the community and I consider myself privileged to live so close to them. There are motorcycles and stuff which is easy to get, but having access to and gaining inspiration from those who are truly passionate about the sport is something much less common in my experience.

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    They had set up a projector where Colin presented a slideshow of beautiful photos from his trip and told stories of his experiences. While the previous presentation of more of an overview of the whole trip, this one focused a bit more on the logistical challenges and border crossings. It was not, however, technical being instead more philosophical and as such was enjoyable for those who had not seen part I.

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    Much of what he spoke about echoed my own experiences heading up to Deadhorse. So many people thought I was going to hurt myself or worse taking a street bike up the Dalton. For some reason, that trip did not scare me. It was the beautiful civilized North filled with Nice People and fierce wild animals.

    We've all heard the horror stories of travelling through South America. We hear how dangerous it is. The drug cartels and political unrest are rampant. There are stories of people visiting who just go missing. We've all heard how impassable the roads are and how backwards everything is. 

    What makes Colin dangerous is that he is proof positive that many of these stories are exaggerated or taken out of context. We here, in the DC area, live next to one of the most dangerous cities in the world and think nothing of it. There have been shootouts on my little street here in College Park, a few blocks down, and I hardly give it any thought. But, thinking about going through Mexico, Central America and South America actively scares me. The Unknown is often scary if you let it be. 

    He's heard all the same stories that I have. He mentioned that in each country as he approached the border they would tell him, "It's so dangerous on the other side, be careful." And in each case, he found largely the same friendly people where ever he went.

    He talked about getting shaken down by police but having it be a non-issue, as long as you have the right attitude. He talked about having to improvise and be creative to get the necessary paperwork to cross various borders. The need for flexibility was a theme that was woven through his presentation. "It was so easy." he said. I remember how I thought the Dalton was easy, but I gave the road the time it needs. Many people I met up there had crashed or had ridden with ones who did. Over time a theme developed that those who were trying to ride by deadline instead of riding the road in front of them were more likely to crash.

    "I don't ride at night. If you need to be at place X at a certain time and it's hundreds of miles away, that's when you make mistakes." Deadlines when travelling over unfamiliar terrain can kill you.

    The other thing that struck me about how Colin dealt with the various challenges he encountered was how he approached everything with a certain flexibility and open mindedness. I suspect in the same circumstances I would have a much harder time not doing everything by the book. It's a personality trait and one that I will spend some time thinking about. He tells a story of not wanting to spend thousands of dollars to get across Columbia "the right way" so he charters a fishing boat and has his bike loaded up on a little runabout and then hoisted on a moderate sized vessel. The captain dropped him and his bike off in Columbia at which point we was arrested and spent two days confined, but well fed. "They just want to know you're not selling drugs." he explained as if it was no big deal at all. I imagine if the same thing happened to me, I would be traumatized and that trauma itself would cause my captors to react differently to me. All you ever hear is that the Columbians will lock you up indefinitely. He said that after two days, they let him go and pointed him to inexpensive nice hotels he could stay at.

    There is a parallel to these stories and what I've spent so much time practicing when riding a motorcycle. Inevitably, when riding there will be these moments where Bad Things(tm) happen. You come into a corner too fast. There's gravel in your path. A deer surprises you. In my experience, it's your stress reaction to these events that's the most likely reason for a crash. If you can remain calm and avoid the tension that will cause you to fixate and crash, you can handle situations that others would be convinced cannot be avoided and you can do so easily. But it's also more than that. There's the background stress of expectations. If you have a deadline, if you feel pressure to make miles, are worried about money, are worried what others think, that stress will also force you out of the calm and prevent you from calmly seeing opportunities in front of you.

    I've practiced this so much on the motorcycle, but when it comes to my broader life I fail at this miserably. I can ride a motorcycle present but I make every newbie travellers mistake in the rest of my life. I don't treat it as a journey and I don't simply stop to appreciatively take in the moments and people around me. I hate it that intellectually I know this lesson, I've learned it before, but in practice I keep making the same mistake over and over again and it's cost me so much; lost friendships and ruined relationships. Once again, years later, I find myself saying "I'm sorry." Eventually the words lose their meaning and simply the lesson has to be learned or one is doomed to repeat the mistakes again and again, as I 've been doing.

    It's when you have the most to lose, when the bike is sliding out to the corner towards the steep drop off, that is when you have to force yourself to be calm so that you can recover. Stress out, be distracted, be rushed, be not entirely present and you will run wide and crash. This is much easier said than done, obviously. The stress, the panic, it blinds and takes over your consciousness to the point that it's all you can see. Let these stresses invade when you're trying to negotiate a border crossing in some third world country and I suspect the results you get will reflect that. Colin spoke about how he would manage his body language so to put people at ease. "Smile." he said. "Don't be rushed." "Take your time." "Don't be stressed. It's the stressed guy that stresses other people and has problems." 

    I suspect it's the little things, the little people skills that some have and others lack, that separate a successful journey from an unsuccessful one; just as in life. I believe that it was easy for Colin. So much of what he said rang true for me. I'm not sure I would have as easy a time simply because I'm not sure I could approach these problems as calmly. But maybe I can learn. 

    The presentation lasted an hour and there were so many other stories. He had a seal break on him dumping his transmission fluid out. Someone stopped and helped him by hauling him and his bike to a shop where it could be repaired. He broke his frame and once again there were people around to help. Everywhere, seemingly, that he needed help there were helping hands available. That was another core message from his presentation. You can't really be self-sufficient. You have to know how to ask for help and trust that there will be some around you. You can endlessly stress over the what-if's that can happen Out There. This is just another kind of stress that causes you to overload your bike. You try to plan for every contingency by taking every spare part and tool that you can for fear of being stuck only to find you've broken your frame because you hit a pothole and you had too much gear. "Take less. If need be be willing to buy stuff on the road." He actually took very little gear with him and relatively few tools. But this is also where experience comes in. After a few trips and some time on the road you get a sense for the kind of problems you are likely to run into and you plan for those. 

    There were other stories as well. There were moments of incredible beauty. There were places he described which seemed simply alien.

    In the end, he simply said that going on the Big Trips is so much easier than people make it out to be. "If you are in the right headspace." I added silently. As I said, Colin is a dangerous man who can inspire you to go do foolish things that you will remember for a lifetime.

    After the presentation he hung out and talked for at least another half hour.

    DSC07864.JPG

    His flicker feed has countless stunning photos from his trip.

    He also wrote a blog which you can read here.

    He's talking about putting together a workshop and possibly another blog about what I guess I would call improvisational travel. If he does offer those workshops, I'll attend and report back.  

  • I get a ridiculous number of "corporate" guest blog requests. What these guys do, under contract with some vendor they never seem to want to disclose, is write generic motorcycle content. The catch is they want to include a link to said vendor despite the fact the vendor is so rarely in any way related to the content of the article. "Writes article about great roads in Europe then ends the article with a blurb about some dealership in Kansas." It's a ploy to increase link popularity and search engine ranking. Before I knew better and had a come one come all approach, I hosted one of these but later regretted the experience.  

    Most of these corporate bloggers are terrible. Some actually write moderately well but it still feels so contrived and disingenuous to me.  In the end they are pretending. It's kind of like the nice guy who's nice to a woman simply because he wants something. It feels dirty.

    If you're going to be a corporate blogger on contract at least try to be honest about it and write something compelling that involves your sponsor. If your sponsor is a tire manufacturer, interview some of their experts and write an article about tires! I think we would find that interesting. But don't try to put together generic "compelling content" and then bait and switch something that is unrelated.

    So something interesting happened today. Some generic corporate blogger contacted me about hosting a guest post. As I usually do, because you never know if it's a real rider or just some blogger for hire, I asked him for a sample of his writing and, unlike so many others, he actually gave me several. They were much better than most, but he still wanted to do the bait and switch thing at the end.

    So I politely declined the request. Unexpectedly, he replied back offering me a wide range of gear options in exchange for the post or even to pay me outright to host his content.

    I admit this is something I have not considered. The idea that someone would want to pay money to put some corporate content on this site is not something I thought would happen. It's just a very little site after all with a  programmer that desperately needs to be fired.

    But it raises some interesting questions. Where do we draw the line? There are companies that I think really add something to our experiences as motorcyclists. For instance, if Lee Parks or Keith Code wanted to write an article here talking about their respective schools the answer would be "HELL YES!". 

    But what about other companies? I guess it comes down to whether or not someone wants to be involved in what we are doing here in a human way. Aerostich? They link to the review I wrote about the Transit Suit from their Transit Suit product page and have included a number of photos of me in their catalogs. That's pretty cool and in a way gives me some street cred. The people I've talked to up there have always been nice and they were very receptive when I reached out to them. They seem to really get it. They host a rally. I think I should probably go. Revzilla is another company of people that really get it and frankly I owe those guys, especially Chris, a big thank you for exposing this little site to a much wider audience. Because of that post, I've gotten to meet a few compelling souls online; some have even joined the site and post regularly to the forum. There's also Bob's BMW, another company that gets it who I talk about probably too often. 

    So maybe that's the metric. Maybe, if you represent some company and want to post something here you just have to be someone who gets it and be willing to be involved in some real way. You have to be about motorcycling and motorcyclists first. 

    So I paused for a very brief moment when the offer of money was forwarded. As many know, I'm hurting for revenue, badly. Before too long, I'm going to have to figure out a way to generate some revenue which may involve having to get this thing they call a "Real Job(tm)". But my pause was not about whether or not to take the cash offer.

    It was how to say no, politely.

    How much is my integrity worth? Clearly, more than any blogger can pay.

    I'm taking this break from life to spend some time trying to build this thing, this Miles By Motorcycle, because I want to do something of high integrity. I want to do something honest. I want to find a way to sleep through the night again.  And, frankly, right now for this moment in time there really isn't anything else I want to be doing.

    I just don't want to do something evil, which really limits my options.

    To add insult to injury, someone reached out to me on Twitter and asked me if I was interested in doing some corporate blogging for them ... yea, no.  

    But then I think about my buddy, Duncan. He had just started watching Game of Thrones when he walked into the office the other day and said, "I'm only on episode four, but I can tell that it's not going to end very badly for that Ned Stark. He's screwed. Things always end badly for men of principle."

    "Ned Stark was the only character I identified with." I replied. 

    He then looked at me knowingly ...  


  • Over the summer I had written a road report about my last trip to Deal's Gap. In that report, I described a few things I had figured out about how to convey the feel of cornering to someone else. Chris at RevZilla noticed the article and put a link to it on the RevZilla Facebook page with a complimentary introduction. This was a very unexpected surprise. That one act caused 100 new people to like the M-BY-MC Facebook page, our best day up to that point. From this and a bit of reading, I gained a few new insights and have since made quite a bit of progress understanding how to do what I call "ethical social media marketing". I'm a very big fan of being ethical.

    A short while later, Chris reached out and suggested I stop by RevZilla. We could have lunch. Life got in the way, as it usually does, so it was quite a number of months before I would make the trip. 

    In the interim, Chris and some other folks from Revzilla did their own trip down to the Dragon. I believe it was their first time down there. It sounds to me like they had a blast.

    Later in the summer, I had my little mechanical mishap in Montana and, after my tow of shame across the country, I needed to have my transmission rebuilt. As it turns out, one of the most renowned BMW mechanics in the country, Tom Cutter, lives not very far from RevZilla. so I figured instead of shipping it to Tom, I could hand deliver it and on the way meet Chris for lunch.

    I mentioned to Chris that I would be driving up instead of riding because I had the transmission to carry.

    "It's ok. We can still be friends." he responded.

    "Doh!"

    Ok. Challenge accepted.

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    Tom Cutter would later say, "I've seen someone ride with a spare drive shaft but never a spare transmission."  

    Upon arriving at RevZilla, somewhat chilled to the bone, I walked into the showroom and was approached by a very attractive woman. I was already preparing to say "I'm just here to meet Chris for lunch." in response to the inevitable "Can I help you find something?" question when she asked, "Is that a Transit Suit?".

    "Yes." I replied a bit surprised. This turned into a 25 minute conversation about the history of waterproof leather gear in the US market. I learned a few things I did not know. 

    I should have known better. It was RevZilla after all. These people are motorcyclists and they Get It(tm).

    A short while later, Chris showed up and gave me a tour of the facility. It's a gorgeous building in an old navy ship yard complex. They've redone it with a vast open plan that is very tastefully designed. What struck me was how relaxed the environment felt. Quiet relaxed efficiency was the feel that day which is in stark contrast to the hurried, stressed and inhumanly mechanized feel of other places I've seen. Even on a day like this which was quite cold, there were a number of bikes in the parking lot. "It's a bit cold so more people than usual drove to work instead of riding." Chris mentioned almost apologetically. 

    We rode out to a cafeteria run by a nearby famous company whose name I completely forget because my memory is a sieve these days. It was in this old lofty industrial building. You could see a decommissioned aircraft carrier through the window. 

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    We spent lunch talking about riding and technique. One thing Chris said during our conversation that really stuck with me was, paraphrased,  "Your article showed a healthy approach to riding. You ride with the road not attacking it."  I had not considered "healthy" as an adjective to use in riding but I like his point.

    We spoke a bit about RevZilla. They are relentless in their efforts to improve, "chasing the awesome" as they say. I was left with the feeling that they don't fully understand how highly regarded they are Out There. But then again it's hard. 

    The problem is, with so many things, you can only see the magic from the outside and those on the outside rarely let you know what the magic is.

    It's the same with me. I have absolutely no idea what people like about Miles By Motorcycle or not. I'm always so surprised when I get some specific feedback about this project, because it happens much more rarely than you might imagine.

    Chris and I rode back to RevZilla. He got back to his work and I headed up to Tom Cutter to drop off my transmission.

    Chris later posted a photo on twitter

    Hubris and Magic

    Despite being a "software guy" and mostly making a living writing software, something that I do quite often is to spend hours trying to understand various businesses. I try to think through what I would do with a given business if it were mine, or more often why, if I it were mine, would it have failed.

    So think about it for a second. Think about that day when you decide you're going to found a company that sells stuff online and ships from warehouses. You know you're going to invest huge sums of money in a capital and labor intensive business. More over you've decided, for whatever insane reason, to go into a space that has dozens upon dozens of deeply entrenched competitors that have been there for years. Aerostich. Competition Accessories. Motorcycle Super Store. And dozens upon dozens others.

    But more than those players, there's an 800 lb gorilla in the room. Amazon. 

    Amazon has done such an incredible awe inspiring job at streamlining it's entire process that there's really not much, absent some disruptive new technology, that anyone is going to be able to do better in a substantive way. The best you can hope for is to be as good as Amazon.  It's such a high bar and would involve so much work and risk that I would never entertain it. Compete against Amazon? That's simply hubris. Crazy.

    And yet, here they are. Do I buy anything from Amazon that I can buy from RevZilla? No. What is the most popular vendor in the M-BY-MC forums? RevZilla. Who do I hear about on the street more than anyone else? RevZilla.

    But the question is why? Yes, when I order something from RevZilla it shows up the next day or the day after. It's similar with Amazon. RevZilla takes the risk out of my purchases. If something doesn't work out, I can typically just send it back and they make it very easy, just like Amazon.

    So in the basic processes of finding something, ordering it, receiving it, returning it, etc RevZilla has done the impossible in that they are as good as Amazon in every way that matters to me. But yet, I still prefer interacting with RevZilla.  

    However, there is a kink in Amazon's armor when it comes to niche markets. Amazon is an inhuman machine. Being a machine, Amazon cares for nothing beyond fulfillment which they have automated to an incredible degree and have done fantastically well. But yet every interaction with Amazon I have makes me feel completely alone. I'm interacting with software. The human behind the software is just an extension of the machine much like those poor souls connected to the Matrix. 

    This is how RevZilla competes. To my knowledge, everybody there rides.  They understand the subject deeply and that's something I have come to value. They love talking about it, all topics around it, and they are very knowledgeable as the attractive woman from the showroom demonstrated. And this may be a false impression, but everyone I met there seemed far more interested in talking about motorcycles than trying to get me to buy something I don't need. Maybe that's because they know they are already too hazardous to my wealth.

    They also understand the maxim of the internet which is "you have to give to get." And they give quite a lot. Imagine the crazy number of hours it's taken to put together all those fantastic video reviews from a motorcyclists perspective about most things in their inventory. It's simply nuts. But with that comes a greater advantage. In the motorcycling world, Amazon will always be just a machine. However, RevZilla has become a knowledge resource and seems to be moving towards a lifestyle brand and more importantly a story. In some ways, they are competing like a media company with a fulfillment arm.

    As an act of my own Hubris, given that I don't think I could actually improve or contribute anything of substance to such a well run organization, but purely as a mental exercise, if I owned RevZilla what would I do? I think the problem RevZilla and retailers of gear in general have is that they are only in peoples minds when someone needs something. If I need tires, I think of RevZilla. But if I'm going out on a ride, I typically don't. I would find ways of moving beyond the gear to being a resource during the ride. 

    Bob's BMW does this really well. They host events, sponsor a racer who gives excellent talks, host world travellers, do presentations, do tech sessions, do tours and always encourage people just to ride on by. We often do on our days rides around town. They have coffee. They also are a gateway to a much wider world of motorcycling. Revzilla could do something akin to this on a grander scale.

    In addition, I would expand the lifestyle/story/media side. They have a blog which is quite good.

    I would also also get a woman to review female oriented gear. There are so many women getting into riding and they don't have much of voice out there yet. RevZilla could get a real foothold into being a resource for the female rider. Women are, from what I understand, the fastest growing segment of the motorcycle market and they are still quite underserved.

    Like I said, it's just Hubris on my part. But it's an interesting mental exercise that I do with many businesses. What would you do if you owned Miles By Motorcycle? 

    The M-BY-MC Problem

    So for quite a number of years, a bunch of bad things happened and I emerged not entirely unscathed. I realized I'm still licking my wounds these years later. The business I've run for 14 years is officially shut down as of 2013. I was in such a bad place that I just didn't have it in me to start a new company chasing money, to go back to contract consulting. There's a huge call for me to go back to doing defense contracting. I have a number of skills and a base of experience that the military finds compelling, but I so don't want to go back to that world. I could go join a startup. CTO's are really hard to find and I've had several offers on that front. But I don't know if I could do the 18 hour a day 7 day a week grind the way I used to, at least not for something I didn't believe deeply in. 

    So against all wisdom, I decided that all I really wanted to do, at least for right now,  was to build this idea for a motorcycle travel community. I wanted to build a place that my friends, and possibly others, could get together and dream, plan and ride but also a place that could become a repository of all those things we forget or misplace. I hate Facebook in that I can't look anything up. There's so much knowledge in discussions that I want to be able to find again. Seriously, I want to be able to ask what was that post about jackets that Duncan posted last year. I also wanted it to be a place where we could share our rides on maps, and then search over those maps as suggestions for new rides. I'd love to ask what was that road in Pennsylvania Ian liked so much from last month. As it stands now, the site is just a pale shadow of the vision I have for it, but it's getting better.

    I knew the site would have to make some money on its own at some point. But I didn't want to go the route that sites typically take. I want to find ways that the site can generate some revenue that is of benefit to the members of the site, not at their expense. The google ads, for instance, bother me because they are interruption based. I'm looking at a thread about jackets and then see an ad for a refrigerator. That annoys me. Thinking about some of the tactics of Upworthy and other clickbait sites make me cringe. The idea of selling data about individual users to advertisers just feels wrong.

    "Riders, first. Those who care about them, second. The site, third." is what I usually said.  

    I don't want to be evil. I'm a big believer in trust and I want to be trusted; which reminds me of something Duncan said the other day about Game of Thrones. "I'm only into the fourth episode, but I can already tell that Ned Stark is screwed. He's a man of principle. It's alway the men of principle who have unfortunate endings."

    In line with being principled, and clearly doomed, I had this thought. Motorcyclists are all about gear. One look at the forum and you see most of the time we're talking about gear, parts, tires, supplies. Motorcycling is a deeply "stuff" oriented affair. I know for a fact that the site has caused over 14 people to buy Sena SMH10's. 

    What if I could somehow capture the "things" that people talk about, like the Sena SMH10 and create a separate list. A "stuff and gear" list that you could search. Looking up the SMH10 you could go to the Mentions tab under it and there see every single place on the site that that "⁞thing" is mentioned? In this way, you could see conversations between other people about it and not just reviews. You would see the mentions of when the thing locked up. How to recover it. Conversations about upgrading. Etc. In my mind, it would be better than reviews. It would be a way of seeing into real conversations about the thing. If it works, it would be a great way to research something you want to buy. And then, after you buy it, if you run into questions, you already have a way of finding those conversations to participate in.

    Then I thought, "Maybe I could sign up for the Amazon affiliate program and 'somehow' get people to post Amazon links to the products they're talking about."  As long as the relationship is declared, it's not evil, right? This appealed to me because it would be 'organic'. The products and stuff that the site would promote would only be the things that members of the site had talked about. This feels nicer to me than many other options.

    But then something happened that really deflated my hopes of this thing ever making money in this way.

    Nobody links to Amazon.

    Everybody links to RevZilla. 

    This really threw a wrench in the works. There's no way that I'm going to be able to entice people to change their behavior and post to anything they don't want to post to. "Riders, first." 

    I wished RevZilla had an affiliate program. 

    I briefly considered investors, but they would have to be true believers and have some strategic reason for getting involved. But, I would have to have a business plan with a clear path to growth and profitability. And frankly, that is not something I really have yet.  Have you seen the Underwear Gnomes Southpark episode? If you have, then you understand. 

    Maybe, I could get sponsors. Maybe I could get enough sponsors to let me keep doing this. 

    I've considered offering custom development services. Imagine you're a motorcycle association, it'd likely be a compelling benefit to having your own group on M-BY-MC where your members could plan and share rides, host events, etc.

    Regardless of what happens moving forward, even if I have to get a fulltime position at some startup, or do fulltime contracting, this site will continue, but improvements to it may slow down considerably.

    However, there was an interesting development today that might be part of a path forward to let me do this for longer.

    Some Announcements

    First, I'd like to announce the formation of Flying Brick Software, LLC, which will be operating Miles By Motorcycle going forward.  I will be updating the terms of service and privacy policy soon to reflect this and will make an announcement to that effect. 

    Second, as part of forming Flying Brick Software, LLC, my good friend Duncan Sterling has come on board as a partner in the LLC.  He's an avid motorcyclist who has been riding longer than I have, if you can believe that. He rides a 2009 BMW K1300S but also has an affinity for Indians and old Japanese motorcycles. He's a former MSF Rider coach and used to run the MSF program for PG County. And he's been the biggest inspiration and motivation for me to continue working all these long hours on the site. 

    Third, I was saying above that everyone on the site keeps linking to RevZilla and no one links to Amazon? 

    RevZilla now has an affiliate program and we were just accepted into the program!

    This should prove to be very interesting. 

  • Duncan and I headed up to New York City to attend the 2013 Progressive International Motorcycle Show. Here is his event report.


    Last Saturday, we headed up to New York City for the International Motorcycle Show, on the annual Bob's BMW charter trip. 

    First off, kudos to Bob's for doing such an excellent job of setting up the trip. We arrived at about 7:35,and found waiting staff members at the gate who directed us to parking and the waiting area inside. Shortly thereafter (and right on time), there was a headcount, and we boarded a very comfortable motor coach for our trip north. ⁞

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    The Bob's staffers who accompanied us were well prepared with both snacks and movies. We watched "On Any Sunday" on the trip up, and enjoyed a very nicely prepared Wegman's box lunch as well before we arrived at the Javits Convention Center in New York.

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    Once we arrived, a brief walk through some blowing snow landed us in a very large display hall with a reasonably thorough representation of international motorcycle brands. In the 'expected' category, there were the Japanese Majors (Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha), and a number of major European brands (BMW, Ducati, KTM, Triumph). There were all the American majors (Harley Davidson, Indian and Victory), and some European boutique brands (Aprilia, Motoguzzi, MV August).

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    In the missing category were Erik Buell Racing, Hyosung, Royal Enfield, and Ural, which we found to be quite surprising, given the exposure afforded by a show in a major city. Surprisingly, Royal Enfield and Ural have made regular appearances at the smaller Washington DC show.

    Both Indian and the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club had some beautifully restored bikes on display from the the 1920s up through the early 1980s.

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    There were many attractive bikes at the show but what caught my eye first and foremost was the Yamaha's new sport triple (the FZ-09), which looks like it would be a lot of fun on the right stretch of country two lane. Following that, Motoguzzi's, and Triumph's new custom range demonstrated a surprisingly interesting range of possibilities, with scramblers and cafe variants looking most intriguing to my eye. 

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    Ongoing favorites of mine present included Ducati's Diavel, Honda's F6B Goldwing, most of the new Indian range and the ever reliable and unchanging Suzuki DR650. Accessory and parts vendors were plentiful, with a slight bias toward riding gear. One of the more unique accessories on display was a convertible trailer that could convert between being a compact self folding trailer that could act as a ramp for a pickup truck, or for itself, with a remote control that allows for one person operation.

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    The amount of time we had at the show was just about perfect, allowing enough time to see everything, as well as fit in a quick lunch before it was time to board the bus and head back for Maryland. On the trip back  we saw “Worlds Fastest Indian”, and got back to Bob's right on time, despite a quick rest stop in Delaware and negotiating a snow storm through most of New Jersey.

    In summary, I'd say the trip was well worth it, and I will probably go again next year.


    For many more photos take a look at the 2013 NYC International Motorcycle Show Album. There's also a thread about it in the Miles By Motorcycle Discussion Forum.

    If you know someone who rides, please share this article forward.  


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