Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic caused upheaval in 2020, and resulted in the cancellation of most motorcycle events in the Northeast (and everywhere else), but changing consumer habits also played a role in this year’s most-read stories.
Three of the Top 5 stories involved saying goodbye as businesses closed.
More than 100,000 motorcycle enthusiasts visited RIDE-CT & RIDE-New England in 2020. Some riders made it a daily habit to check out the website while others stopped by more infrequently, only when a story piqued their interest.
The website produced more than 250 stories that varied from breaking news to features, and variety was evident in the somewhat surprising list of most-read stories based on the number of page views each received from the total of tens of thousands recorded.
Here goes with the Top 5 stories of 2020.
#5 “American Iron” Stops Publishing
The last decade has been difficult for all print publications as advertising revenue and circulation has dropped with society’s shift to internet consumption. Motorcycle mags have been closing for years, and this year it was “American Iron’s” turn.
The Stamford, CT-based magazine announced in early July that it was closing up shop after 390 issues. Publisher and editor-in-chief Buzz Kanter reported that advertising crashed with the pandemic and that the magazine “ran out of options.”
The magazine welcomed new subscribers right up to the very end, though, resulting in Kanter quickly becoming the target of intense reader vitriol. The story on the closing of “American Iron” likely set a record for nasty comments, most aimed at Kanter, from RIDE-CT & RIDE-New England readers.
#4 Toymakers Cafe Closes
After more than 18 years of being Sunday morning gathering spot for riders from across the Northeast, Toymakers Cafe in Falls Village, CT pulled the plugs on its waffle irons and coffee makers.
With indoor seating prohibited because of the pandemic and the future uncertain, owners Annie and Greg Bidou shuttered the cozy, eccentric eatery over the Labor Day Weekend.
After first considering maybe leasing the cafe space to someone else for another business, the Bidous are now pondering doing motorcycle parts swap meets on the property and maybe offering coffee and snacks on weekends in the spring.
A week ago, their biker-themed cookbook “Recipes for a Good Ride – The Toymakers Cafe Cookery Book” was released.
#3 Mount Washington Ends “Motorcycles Only” Days
In a decision made before the pandemic hit, the Mount Washington Auto Road in Gorham, NH announced that it was ending an approximately 15 years practice of setting aside some days during Laconia Motorcycle Week where “motorcycles only” could ride to the top of the mountain.
The 7.6-mile road – both paved and gravel – goes to the 6,288-foot summit. It opened on Aug. 8, 1861. Declining participation by riders was given as the reason for ending “motorcycles only” days.
The response to the story suggests riders liked the option.
#2 Pandemic, Downsizing Claims Dealerships
Harley-Davidson got a new CEO in Jochen Zeitz in 2020 and he quickly set out to remake the company by downsizing the model lineup and cutting back on the number of dealers.
The arrival of the pandemic, however, also played a role in the overarching story that sits in the #2 spot on our Top 5 list – the shutdown of motorcycle stores across the region.
While the pandemic-related closure of Hudson Valley Harley-Davidson in Nanuet, NY got the highest number of page views, other stores closed as well.
Also disappearing were Southampton Harley-Davidson in Southampton, MA, Wilkins Harley-Davidson in Essex Junction, VT and Heritage Harley-Davidson in Concord, NH.
#1 Colors Ban At Springfield Motorcycle Show
The imposition of a “no colors” policy and a ban on the sale of club or gang-related material at the Springfield Motorcycle Show in mid-January by the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA riled riders across southern New England.
Stories about the kerfuffle involving the family-friendly show generated well more than 10,000 page views and ranked as the most-read of 2020. The “no colors” policy not only applied to Hells Angels, but also to the Blue Knights (made up of police officers) and the Christian Motorcycle Association.
After receiving blowback, the Eastern State Exposition quickly rescinded its ill-conceived policy, but a heightened security presence was noticeable at the show.
Among some of the other stories that generated a lot of interest in 2020 included a proposed town ordinance in South Windsor, CT that would have punished dirt bike, ATV and snowmobile riders; the sale of Gengras Harley-Davidson in East Hartford, CT and the store being renamed Hartford Harley-Davidson; and a flap of a mural at the Miss Worcester Diner in Worcester, MA that displayed a Harley-Davidson logo.
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