Rearview Mirror: Coming around again in 2010

By Kip Woodring

The world
  • The financial crisis and high unemployment continues with house prices still depressed due to the large number of foreclosures. Europe and America begin to pursue different courses to address the problems. Europe addresses budget deficits and the U.S. continues to try and spend its way out of the recession by creating more jobs. So, wanna bet who’s gonna be broke in 2040?
  • China launches its second lunar probe “Chang’e- 2” (figure 1) which successfully completed its missions: orbiting the Moon, taking high-resolution images of the moon’s surface and looking at possible landing sites for an unmanned lunar landing mission, thus keeping all the lunatics on Earth.
Figure 1
Figure 1
  • The Burj Khalifa, world’s tallest building (figure 2) at 829.8 meters (2,722 feet), and 160 floors officially opens in Dubai. Thank Gawd the restrooms aren’t all on the ground floor!
Figure 2
Figure 2
  • Jessica Watson (figure 3) at age 16 becomes the youngest person to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted… around the world. (Robin Lee Graham started his solo voyage at the age of 15 in 1965 but finished years later, after many adventures and a change in boats… as a married man of 21.) I’d prefer to do it his way, actually.
Figure 3
Figure 3
  • Astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus’ (figure 4) remains are re-buried in Bork Cathedral, Poland, after a 200-year search for his grave. After that long… how do they know it’s him?
Figure 4
Figure 4
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom ends with the last of the United States brigade combat teams crossing the border to Kuwait. You just Kuwait and see how that worked out.
  • Android-powered phones begin to outsell Apple in the smartphone market. So… robots are smarter than humans or what?
The nation
  • The 54-year run of the soap opera As the World Turns (figure 5) ends as its final episode is broadcast. Just ran outta soap, I guess.
Figure 5
Figure 5
  • With the second launch of the Dragon, Space-X becomes the first privately-held company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft. Recycling at its finest… eh?
  • Repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, a 17-year-old policy banning homosexuals (figure 6) serving openly in the U.S. military, signed into law. So, “don’t” is a policy and “do” is a law? Well, do tell!
Figure 6
Figure 6
The factories
  • Victory—finds extra ponies in their already highly-regarded “Freedom” powerplant (figure 7)… via upgrades in displacement, cam profiles and EFI… encapsulated in the Vegas Limited Edition 106/6. Yeah, it also gets a six-speed transmission, but the jump from 85 hp to 92 hp is what gets noticed. The engine also powers both versions of the new Crossroads touring models, which are a tad more mainstream than the radical Vision bagger introduced the year before. For ’10 the Vision gets ABS brakes and detailed improvements.
Figure 7
Figure 7
  • Indian—shows up on showroom floors! The high-end, handmade approach being the calling card for the Roadmaster, Chief, Darkhorse (figure 8)… etc. Although it wasn’t really big news, perhaps the most underrated aspect of these magnificent machines was the 105” Powerplus engine. Whatever else you could say, this thing (figure 9) had the bugs out and the power and looks in! Honest as an engine could be and free of the issues that plagued the first version, as introduced in the Gilroy Indians seven years earlier. Because of the monoshock suspension, Indians had a couple features I wish H-D had adopted… namely a sheet metal oil bag (figure 10) … under… the motor. This, in turn, led to the development of a gerotor oil pump (figure 11), which performed most admirably! Both of these would be a great install on an Evo Softail or Dyna… FYI. Speaking of which…

 

    Figure 8Figure 8
Figure 9
Figure 9
Figure 10
Figure 10
Figure 11
Figure 11
  • Harley-Davidson—used 2010 to refine and regroup in the face of world economics and a bad 2009. There were a bumper crop of tweaks on all models for 2010, and the notable switch to a helical 5th gear on the six-speed transmission. But the only “new” models for the year were the Dyna Wide Glide, Fat Boy Lo, XR1200X and Road Glide Custom… all pretty much parts bin and paint creations. (On the other hand, “BPF” Showa forks on the XR1200X (figure 12) were a sign that the Motor Company was ready to move suspension science into the modern era… good news for sure!)
Figure 12
Figure 12
On the surface

A hard year for everyone in the motorcycle business! The only upsides were Indian’s nerve in introducing expensive machines in a crap market, Victory gaining ground against the odds, and H-D completely re-thinking product development.

The inside story

Not enough room here to discuss all aspects of American manufacturers’ various strategies. Broadly—Indian was most precarious, since it was counting mostly upon rich customers who did not want to see themselves coming down the road all the time (i.e., the anti-Harley crowd.. Not much volume sales future in it… Aston-Martin vs. Ford Mustang… y’know? Meanwhile, Victory was building a head of steam, with great engines powering standout model lines… different in mostly good ways and finished to a fare-thee-well. Harley was in the process of doing what needed doing to maintain their leadership in the market… which to over-simplify… boils down to being able to build any product, on any line, on any day. They also bumped their product development capacity by 30 percent! So, to create and manufacture more and better machines in a highly-versatile manner… fruits of which we are still seeing today!

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