Sunday, December 30, 2012

Where have all the tourists gone?

Things are very quiet in Melbourne right now. Maybe its the economic climate, or that people aren't travelling from the USA or Europe in as greater numbers as in the past. I wish I knew why more people aren't coming out for a Harley Ride with us.

The most common question I get asked when someone is sitting on the back of my Harley Davidson (a 2012 Heritage Softail BTW) is, "How many time a week do you take people for a ride John?" My answer is, "Not that often actually. If I was in this business for the money, then  I would have quit years ago." Interestingly, one of my peers in the Harley Rides industry just quit and stopped doing rides because he wasn't making any money doing it......

My situation differs a little from most. I have no debts and as a retired Army Officer I have a military pension that gives me more flexibility than most. For me riding a motorcycle is my passion. There is just nothing else that I would rather do - so taking people out for motorcycle joyrides is it : )

Maybe, its the cost of the ride. I'm the first to admit that its not cheap to come out for a ride with us. But, interestingly its been almost 3 years since we last raised our prices. If anything we have stayed a little behind inflation prices or the cost of living increases. Maintaining a Harley Davidson motorcycle is not cheap - and I am a stickler for keeping my bike in great condition (so it doesn't let me down at the most embarrassing time, like in the middle of a ride). Some of my peers in the Harley Rides industry service their own bikes to save money. Several own very old bikes to save money. So competing on price is not easy.

Or is it the Public Perception of the Motorcycle? According to certain Government Agencies, like the Transport Accident Commission (TAC), riding on a motorcycle is a very risky business. According to them if you get on a motorcycle you are guaranteed to have a accident. I haven't had an accident for over 30 years on my motorcycle. In fact I am highly aware of what to avoid and how to stay out of trouble whenever I am on my bike. In fact I am paranoid about making a mistake that will result in getting my bike scratched. If anything, sitting on the back of my motorcycle as a passenger is far safer that being in a bus or taxi or hire car in my biased opinion.

Is a fear of motorcycles stopping people from coming out for a ride with us? Many rides are a surprise for the person we are taking out. These rides are often booked as a surprise gift for their birthday, anniversary, fathers day or mothers day, even on their wedding day. The responses we get are diverse, and the frequent response is immediate apprehension - usually goaded by their friends with silly remarks like, "Now, don't fall off", said with a big smile and accompanying laughter.

After a person has been been sitting on the bike and have moved off, their apprehension quickly evaporates. I make a point of explaining why the bike stays upright when we are in motion, and demonstrate the physics that make it difficult to fall off the bike - unless we are stationary - or something hits us (which is very unlikely as long as I am in control).

By the end of the ride, our passengers have a new perspective as to why I ride a motorcycle - which as someone I know declares, "Is the most fun thing you can ever do." It is an addiction. I know the risks and I know how to manage them - I just wish people understood that fact.

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