• Tomb of a 700-year-old female mummy (figure 1), discovered by road workers, opened in Taizhou, Jiangsu, China. Amazing… she doesn’t look a day over 150… does she?
• Messenger spacecraft (figure 2) enters Mercury’s orbit. Makes me wonder what Ford’s orbit is these days… Har-har!
• CERN scientists announce their discovery of neutrinos (figure 3) breaking the speed of light… or not! Turns out the announcement was made… before they discovered the faulty wire. CERB fixed it, regrouped, restarted the experiment and the votes aren’t in… takes years. While we wait, those freaky little neutrinos are providing all sorts of astonishment to keep us bewildered. (GTS!)
• The potentially hazardous asteroid 2005 YU55 (figure 4) passed 0.85 lunar distances from Earth (about 201,700 miles), the closest-known approach by an asteroid since 1976. Mother Earth dodged another bullet!
• Video game Minecraft is officially released by Mojang. Unofficially, it had been through no less than six iterations: Pre-classic (May 10, 2009-May 16–17, 2009), Classic (May 17, 2009–December 23, 2009), Indev (December 23, 2009–February 27, 2010), Infdev (February 27, 2010–June 30, 2010), Alpha (June 30, 2010–December 20, 2010), Beta (December 20, 2010–November 18, 2011)… before!
• Apple releases the iPhone 4S (figure 5) on October 14, only nine days after the death of co-founder Steve Jobs. The iPhones have moved though another five or six generations… but there will never be a Steve Jobs 2.0.
• The world’s first synthetic organ transplant was successfully completed in Sweden when surgeons transplanted a completely synthetic trachea (figure 6) into a patient. A fake windpipe does the world good… saves lives and all… but it makes me gag!
• Citizens in countries across the Middle East (figure 7) rise up against their governments in what was called the “Arab Spring”… a response to oppressive regimes and low standards of living. Anyone here wanna “spring” up?
• Space Shuttle Discovery (figure 8) makes its final landing after 39 missions. NASA quits recycling and just shoots stuff out there… no deposit, no return!
• NASA’s Dawn space probe (figure 9) enters orbit around the protoplanet Vesta. (See what I mean?)
• NASA launches its Juno space probe (figure 10) from Cape Canaveral to orbit and study Jupiter. Seems like the first sign of other intelligent life in the universe… might be our space junk when “they” find it!
• The United States ends its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, allowing gay men and women to serve openly for the… first time. Thank you for your service… period!
• The last U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq, formally ending the Iraq War. Informally… we keep 157 troops there… just in case. Thank you for your protection… period!
• The Occupy Wall Street movement (figure 11) began on September 17, as a protest meant to highlight income inequality in the United States and rest of the world. How’d that work out… anyway?
• Mostly… “holding patterns” for Polaris and H-D… trying to bounce back from 2009–2010. Both companies offered lots of tweaks and upgrades… neither had new models for 2011.
• Victory—offered their hot-rod Freedom 106 across the board (97 hp and 113 ft/lbs torque), along with a stronger, quieter “100,000-mile” transmission (helical gears, 66 percent less driveline “lash,” beefier bearings, shift forks and more)… not to mention the stout 48-amp charging system.
• Indian—trickles along, selling a few high-dollar 105“ Chiefs… then… Polaris buys out Stellican! For those who cared, it meant that the oldest American brand was no longer owned by an English company and Polaris’ deep pockets assured Indian’s future… whatever that might turn out to be.
• Harley-Davidson—like Victory, got a significant bump in sales and profitability, but had nothing obvious up their sleeve in 2011. Instead, there were a myriad of subtle but important improvements… some innovative and most electronic!
On the surface
•2011 saw H-D’s revenue increase to $5.3 billion with income of $548.1 million… a bump of 9.3 percent over 2010. The Factory shipped out 233,117 machines worldwide, compared to 210,494 in 2010. Better… the stock price increased over 12 percent, while the rest of the S&P 500 stayed flat. It also didn’t hurt that H-D’s market share in the U.S. hit an all-time high of 55.7 percent, with 40 percent of those customers between 18-34 years old and most of ’em were women, and minorities!
Meantime… the motorcycle division (Victory) of Polaris wasn’t letting the grass grow either. Second highest market share in the U.S., and motorcycle sales revenue up 22 percent from the year before. Polaris stock overall peaked at $280-plus per share as well. Sadly, it’s damn near impossible to get accurate production numbers for their motorcycles, because they lumped ’em in with “on road vehicles” as a category… which included stuff Polaris made that clearly isn’t motorcycles. Be that as it may, the basics were looking damn good in 2011. The company already owned Swiss Auto (designers of the FTR750) and increased their holdings of KTM to 25 percent. And Harley was finally looking over their shoulder to see who was gaining.
The inside story
Well, not that it was a big secret really, but most of the back room buzz in 2011 was regarding the eminent retirement of an industry icon… William Godfrey Davidson. ”Willy G.” to us. It seemed likely in 2011… so much so it was discussed in the Motor Company’s annual report to shareholders! But for the sake of a round number (I guess) Willy waited. More will be heard from (and about) the chief styling officer emeritus and goodwill ambassador… later.
The computer geeks took over the asylum… ah… factory in 2011 with the advent of the so-called Body Control Module (BCM) and Harley-Davidson Local Area Network (HDLAN)… whew! Essentially, that’s geek-speak for turning electrical components (like turn signals, horns, and such) into electronic components… in many cases (like handlebar switch housings) communicating wirelessly.
Good news: BCMs on Softails reliably replace fuses and relays, eliminate high loads on ignition and handlebar switches, make for tidier wiring of smaller gauge, integrate lighting and security systems, and (tah-dah!) allow the use of LED lights without add-on modules. HDLAN linked up the ABS, ECM, BCM, instrument cluster and handlebar switches… generating “messages” rather than pesky old-fashioned wiring connections.
Bad news: If any of it quits, breaks or malfunctions… you probably can’t fix it… let alone diagnose the issue. I have issues with that!