Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Older riders 3x more likely to suffer serious injury than younger riders

It must be true, it's everywhere!!! 


This news item must be a REALLY BIG DEAL… Multiple writers and major media outlets generated "unique" articles based on this paper. (from a single metasearch: CBS/Jaslow, LATimes/Morin, USAToday/Painter, NYTimes/O'Connor, Philly.com/Preidt) 


The research paper this anti-motorcycle media blitz is based on is found in the Online First section of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Injury Prevention.  The BMJ website states: "Online First articles have been peer reviewed, accepted for publication, published online and indexed by PubMed; they have not yet been assigned to a journal issue. When an article is published in an issue it will be removed from this page." It is worth noting that there are articles dating back to November 2011 in the Online First listing, so there is no guarantee an article will eventually reach actual publication. 

The research article was "published" on BMJ Online First Feb 6, 2013.  The media articles began appearing the same day, with USAToday's scooping the rest online at 10:48 pm.  WOW, 5 different writers all posting essentially the same story nearly simultaneously… I shoulda bought a lottery ticket that day if that's a coincidence. 

One might wonder why a paper authored by a masters student, not yet formally published which describes what is probably an anomalous spike in the risk to such a small portion of the North American population (total active riders make up less than 5% in the US and only 1.5% in Ontario) should find such wide mainstream distribution. 

The REAL question is, does riding a motorcycle as we age present a greater serious injury risk than other normal activities?  Like getting in and out of bathtubs, climbing stairs/ladders, driving a car or having sex.  OF COURSE older people are many times more likely to be seriously injured than young people.  And yes, less experienced motorcyclists of any age fall down and get boo-boos.  If ya can't accept the risk, don't ride.  Or climb the stairs.  Or take a bath.  Or… you know… 

To contrast how the media handles "positive image" motorcycle stories… Research done in 2009 by Ryuta Kawashima (of Nintendo Brain Age fame) indicates current/daily riders show improved brain function over non-riders.  Not that the general public would know about a world-famous, tenured doctor's research… a similar internet meta search to the one that found 5 stories on Jackson's research showed not ONE major media outlet picked up the Kawashima story.  More HHHMMM…

And while Kawashima and Tohoku University openly disclose Yamaha Motor's sponsorship of the studies, Jackson and Brown University are not forthcoming about funding sources for their research.  Even more HHHMMM…

Are older/experienced motorcyclists underrepresented in other traffic statistics, elderly slip/fall injuries, general/mental aging health decline?  No one knows, because only research that shows "motorcycles are dangerous" gets non-motorcycle-industry-related funding and wide media coverage.  Given that motorcycle riders are only a few % of the general public, it should be no surprise that the corporate and political decision makers are not riders, nor hold positive attitudes towards riding. 

The Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) in the US does a survey every 5 years on non-rider attitudes towards motorcycling.  Results for several decades hold steady as follows:
Positive: 25%
Neutral: 33%
The "look on the bright side" MIC press release doesn't specify exactly what the remaining 42% represents, but the omission of a definition probably can be taken as "negative".  Any wonder that 75% of the public either actively dislikes or doesn't care about motorcycling when the corporate media blitzes the negative stories and ignores the positive? 

HHHMMM indeed! 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Numbers, numbers, numbers...

Sometimes I just search for numbers about motorcycles and racing.  Not to analyze them in the super-crunching way statisticians and accountants do, more as answers looking for questions.  

World population, 7 billion

Europe about 700 million
Canada/US about 340 million
Asia (without China) about 2.5 billion
China 1.3 billion

25 million.  That's the number of fans MotoGP is reputed to have worldwide.  
3.8 million.  That's how many "likes" MotoGP has on Facebook.  
403,000 MotoGP's Twitter followers
1.3 million.  Valentino Rossi's Twitter followers. 

Numbers on World Superbike are a little more difficult come by, my guess after wading through the 2011 TV/website media fodder would place it around 10 million fans.  
30,000 T-folowers and 302,000 Facebook "likes" may tend to push this estimate lower, but it may just reflect the difference in fan attitudes.  WSBK doesn't have a Valentino Rossi, who is a name instantly recognized in any European and many Asian kitchens.  

And then the bad news... 
1,200.  Canadian Superbike (CSBK) Facebook "likes"
595 CSBK Twitter followers.  
I won't even down you with the individual CSBK Champion stats.  

My thoughts: As much as MotoGP and WSBK are "big" sports draws, they don't even approach the (disputed) numbers for soccer, somewhere between 1 and 3 billion depending how you define a "fan".  Formula 1, the granddaddy of motorsports, is even more enigmatic as far as making fan numbers freely available goes, but the fact it draws huge corporate sponsorship $$$ means fans are attending races and watching on TV/internet.  

The murkiness of fan numbers makes me think that perhaps the motorsport media knows that the numbers are suspect or at least open to "misinterpretation" by the great unwashed.  As a starter, unless otherwise noted, most race attendance stats total gate entries over the entire weekend.  So a race that claims 30,000 fans in attendance may have only seen 15,000 on Sunday, 10,000 on Saturday for qualifying/practice/support-races and 5,000 for Friday practice.   So 1/2 the number of fans "claimed" actually showed up.  But in marketing/accounting parlance, there were 30,000 "impressions" or paid entries.  

More numbers, Canadian ones this time.  

Canada, total population: ~34 million 
Ontario, ~13 million
GTA, ~6 million  

Ontario M-license holders all classes, ~ 600,000 (about 25% of the Cdn total)
Ontario plated/insured street motorcycles, ~200,000 (again generously, about 1 million Canada wide)

That last number should give the Cdn motorcycle industry serious pause.  

Only 200,000 active riders (i.e. willing/able to pay to license/insure a street bike) in a population of 13 million.  

That's 1.5% of the population.  

That answers a lot of questions.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Tale of Two Motorcycle Shows

The late-2013 and early-2013 Canadian Motorcycle Show season is closing fast, and in Ontario, the industry is poised to inspire as many of the committed 200,000 active riders,  400,000 licensed-but-not-active riders and an indeterminate number of potential new riders to "come on down"!  

The Supershow (held at the International Centre) looks to be mainly sticking to its well established formula... "Some things old, some things new, tons of chrome and hot babes too."  Must be working, as the Supershow/International lineage has run continuously since the 1970's, helping Ontario riders get their winter fix in a cacophony of two-wheeled hoopla with a generous helping of club cosiness and some flea market mixed in so no one takes it all too seriously.   

The "industry" has intermittently run a higher toned "manufacturer's showcase" event over the last 4 decades or so.  In the years when the Supershow/International was the only one running, the manufacturers set up shop there, despite rumblings of misgivings about associating their brands with a less than first-class event. 

The MMIC recently reintroduced it's show in downtown Toronto, possibly in hopes of attracting potential riders from the general public which would be less likely to attend the Supershow.  Doesn't seem to have worked, attendances were getting pretty dismal.  

So this year it has been rebranded "The Motorcycle Show" under the new in-house PSS (Power Sports Services).  If the name is as clever as the marketing gets (as in the age-old question Cdn riders ask each other, "Are you going to the motorcycle show?"), this may be a serious "fail", as my kids say.

In short, we are 1 month away from the MMIC/PSS extravaganza of "new" bike models, but the Canadian forum/blogosphere doesn't seem to be any more abuzz than usual. The manufacturers are doing their usual pre-show-season international media carpet bombing, but is dropping a cylinder across the sport-bike board or bumping displacement on an entry level oldie-but-goodie really "news"?

So we wait to see if the show attendances rise dramatically on a carefully timed media wave or... not? 

Next post:  Numbers, numbers, numbers... 


Friday, October 19, 2012

One more time, with feeling...

As the old saying goes, as much as things change, they stay the same.  The 2012 Cdn riding season draws to a close.  Cdn road racing champions are crowned.   The professional/amateur also-rans whine about how they have to pay to be "the show" while everyone else involved makes money.  The "industry" puts on it's latest "happy talk" face and gets ready to sell, sell, sell at the winter shows and beyond.  Cdn moto-journalists and other online insiders/pundits pan or push products/services/events depending on what industry segments are most ripe for plucking gear freebies, bike test vacations and other perks.  (Be assured, I'm not on anyone's "perks" list.)

Port Dover Friday the 13th set new attendance figures (again), depending on whose numbers you believe, 50-75,000 bikes/riders and totals of 100-125,000 overall.  HOLEECRAP!!!  Not bad for something started by a couple average guys out of their back pockets...

M/c road race events also had notable attendances/grids, but mostly in the opposite direction... at some series, even the crickets have stopped showing up.  

Which begs the age-old question, if you build it, will they come?  Maybe not...  

An interesting side bar to temper the inevitable racing nostalgia for the "huge crowds in the good old days" appeared in the form of the video of the 1989 Mosport WSBK round.  Remember, this was before the days of MotoGP and WSBK arriving same-day-delay in your living room.  The weekly pulp moto-papers cranked out the "story", followed weeks later by colour photo spreads in the glossy magazines.  A video was a months-in-the-making treat to be savoured while the bike was snowed in.  If you wanted to see a race before the snow flew, you had to go to the track.  


While the initial impression from the video was of a hugely successful professional event with close racing, sponsor bucks by the transporter load and plenty of star power, a closer look tells another story.  

Close, spectacular racing?  Absolutely, every sponsor/promoter's wet dream these days.  Except a look further down the grid reveals the organizers had to scour the Cdn road racing ranks to fill the grid, a far cry from the one or two "wildcard" rides allowed today.  The skuttlebutt at the time was many of the WSBK regulars were less than enthused about Mosport's guardrails and generally poor track condition, so chose not to participate. 

But that didn't detract from the fact the fans in attendance were treated to a great show.  Except there weren't many fans there.  The aerial and race action shots showed mostly empty parking areas and bleachers.  The camera crew and editors did their best to avoid revealing the dismal turnout, but at some point they had to show the race action and the background track-side emptiness.  WESCAM was obviously a major sponsor and wanted the dramatic "still-cam" helicopter views to be prominent... a LOT of grass showing where parked spectator vehicles should have been. 

The 1990 WSBK round apparently did better, with more of the WSBK circus and "an estimated 35,000" fans in attendance.  I'm guessing that may have been the totaled number of per-day fan gate entries for the weekend, apparently still common practice when counting US MotoGP/WSBK attendance.  With European events of the time attracting closer to 100,000 Sunday numbers, no wonder there has not been a GP or WSBK Cdn round since 1991.  That and the fact that Canadian Superbike (CSBK) currently has no CMA/FIM sanction.  

The Cdn road racing backdrop in the 1980's brought the first iterations of RACE and CSBK into being, protests of the CMA's way of managing/sanctioning road racing via the FIM policy/procedures.  As just one example, CMA racers were forbidden from, and penalized for, riding in any non-CMA-sanctioned races/series.  The racers wanted their freedom and voted with their license/entry fees.  Ironically, Cdn racers wishing to compete in FIM European road racing events must still get CMA approval, or seek same via AMA channels.

Fast forward to late 2012, and a long rumoured new National series to be formed in protest of CSBK was actually, sorta announced.  This follows on the recent formation of SOAR, a protest regional series for RACE and track day refugees.  

The "new" Nationals promise their "better" rules will deliver lower costs/fuller grids, closer/more exciting racing, which wedded to star-powered social media marketing will naturally fill bleachers with adoring and committed fans.  Which will "of course" attract and retain sponsors from all over the Cdn landscape.  

This series will be formally announced "soon" IF (a big, big IF), the organizers get support from racers, sponsors, manufacturers and tracks.  

Deja vu all over again.  While I wasn't invited into the boardrooms, I would guess this is EXACTLY what was presented to "stakeholders" in the 1980's (and since) by RACE/CSBK/SOAR/VRRA/TFR/ASM and any other series organizer in the alphabet soup that makes up Cdn m/c road racing.  

So if they (re)build it, will the fans come?  

Maybe someone should look at how MotoGP, WSBK, AMA, WERA and other major series are faring before assuming re-jigging the rules and refreshing "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday" (WOSSOM) marketing will put legions of Canadian butts in bleachers, eyeballs on TV/computer screens and set the FaceBook/Twitter-verse on fire.  

My read of current international events and informed commentary is that the new-rules/WOSSOM-lite formula ain't working all that well for the big-budget guys in motorcycle-friendly Europe, so how's it gonna play in "motorcycles are dangerous" Ontario?  While the "new Nationals" may sound completely different to Cdn m/c industry insiders and racers, it will look about the same to us punters who are needed to ensure suitable ROI (return on investment).

I guess 2011 CSBK Champion and WSBK contender Brett McCormick's 2,700 Twitter followers can't be wrong.  Unless you consider Rossi's 1.3 million T-followers aren't preventing European race attendances from dropping quickly and steadily enough to have Bridgepoint (mega-money rights-holders of MotoGP/WSBK) rearranging the rules/management deckchairs on that Titanic.  

Gee, if there was only some proven, long term example of low-cost, recession-resistant marketing scheme that brought out Cdn riders and non-riders (and international ones) in the droves, even if there was nothing particularly "exciting" to do or see...  

Say it out loud, all together now... "Port Dover Friday the 13th".  

Next post: "A Tale of Two Motorcycle Shows"