No More Honda Hoot

One of the big motorcycle events of every year is the Honda Hoot.  Honda owners from all over North America show up every year in Knoxville, TN.

But, American Honda is pulling the plug.

American Honda announced today that the 2008 Honda Hoot will bring to a close 15 years of what has been one of the most successful motorcycle rallies in history. Over the years, almost a quarter of a million guests attended the Honda Hoot which was born in the hills of Ashville North Carolina and eventually moved to Knoxville, Tennessee. At the first event, a little over 3000 attendees enjoyed what would grow to become one of the largest rallies in North America…

Based on the current economic crunch which may have significant impact on our customers during 2009, American Honda will take this time to seek out new and innovative ways to engage with our customers so that we can continue to ride together.

The language of the announcement makes it sound like the cancellation of the Hoot is a permanent deal, not a temporary expediant due to the current economy.

This is especially interesting, coming as it does just days after the announcement that American Honda is withdrawing from AMA racing.  Again, Honda is using the current economic situation as the reason for withdrawing.  I do note, however, that in February of this year, Honda announced that in 2009, that its Motorcycle manufacturing operations would be transferred back to Japan.  That announcement came well before any economic concerns.

It seems to me like Honda had decided almost a year ago that its US operations would be sharply curtailed, and we are now seeing the public ramifications of that decision.  I’m inclined to the belief that something is going on at Honda.  But I don’t know what.  And I don’t know if that something is good or bad.

Based on Honda CEO  Takeo Fukui’s rather downbeat speech a few days ago, Honda is under some financial pressure, but in the same speech, he seemed to be a bit more positive about the state of the motorcycle industry.

But the recent indications are that American Honda is really scaling back a lot.

Viper: The New Kid in Town

Viper Motorcycles has been trying to do two things.  1) Build a factory custom motorcycle that people want to buy, and 2) Get envionmental/emissions approval from the EPA–and CARB, in California–to actually sell that motorcycle.  As of now, they’ve accomplished 50% of their goals.

John Silseth II, Viper Powersports CEO, stated, “We have received our EPA certificate and have successfully completed our CARB testing for approval in all 50 states. During testing, we knew the Viper 152 inch short stroke motor was clean and produced less heat than our competitors and we are excited at the opportunity to move forward fully compliant. The 2009 Diamondback is in production this month and will begin shipping in early 2009.”

According to Terry Nesbitt, Viper Motorcycle Company President, “We are 8 years into this project and are ready to take our place as an OEM. The Diamondback 152 Super Cruiser is the only production cruiser designed and manufactured in-house in its entirety utilizing proprietary component parts distinctive to the Viper brand.”

Viper Diamondback
Viper Diamondback

Viper is an interesting project.  Based in Minnesota–which gives them plenty of time during the winter to work, instead of ride–the compnay produced proprietary engines and custom motorcycles.  This move into the factory custom business in all 50 states moves them from a a custom chopper shop into an actual manufacturer.

Their premier bike, the Diamondback, has a Viper proprietary 152 c.i. V-Twin motor, belt drive, a six-speed tranny, and sports a 120/70-21 Metzeler tire in front, and a tiny little 260/40-18 Metzeler in back.  Dry weight is 600 lbs.  Rake/Trail is 34 degrees, with a wheelbase of 71 inches.

I’ll leave it to you to imagine the awsome canyon-carving ability the above implies.

Looking at the bike, it looks like a custom cruiser.  I’m sure you’ll like it, if that’s the sort of thing you like.  To me…well…it looks like another Arlen Ness inspired creation.To tell the truth, I’m not all that big on custom bikes.

Still, that’s just my personal taste, and I wish Viper all the success in the world.  They’ll probably need all the good wishes they can get, too.  The current economic conditions don’t make this the most auspicious time to introduce a new factory custom to the US market.