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Interview: Amber Spencer, ‘Changing the Face of the Motorcycle Industry’

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When I started getting into the Powersports industry, I was floored by the amount of brands doing innovative things in an attempt to make the biking community a better, safer place.

From the simplicities of a new 20-point inspection in a budding bike rental company, to the continued advancements (read: quirks) of Honda’s self-balancing prototype – and all the way to big bike brands hitting their stride as they patent radar systems, it seems that everybody with a decent mind and a dexterous pair of hands is working on the next big thing.

Juxtaposed to this are mounting concerns in the opposite direction, including a number of safety organizations meeting with the U.S. DOT about rider safety in a world where autonomous driving exists.

In short, our good community is currently experiencing a tug-of-war between those who like new tech, and those who hate it; so you can imagine how intrigued I was to hear of a brand that was gunning to cater to both sides of the coin.

Meet Damon Motorcycles – an up-and-coming brand that initially started in software technology innovations, and has since then chucked everything they know into an incubating electric motorcycle range.

Best part of this range? The machines boast a wide range of safety features, from a wide-view rear camera, to a shoulder-check ‘copilot’ – even to things like radar-assisted safety.

The catering is in the adjustments; according to Damon’s VP of Worldwide Marketing, Amber Spencer, you can turn the things off, or have them minimized as much or as little as needed to ensure your ride is as smooth as you dreamed it could be.

Amber herself was the first business hire for the company, and was an integral part to the bike’s first prototype days.

She has a lot on her mind, and we have a lot we’d like to toss at her – so let’s get started.

Amber Spencer, the current VP of Worldwide Marketing for Damon Motorcycles. Media sourced from Damon Motorcycles.
Amber Spencer, the current VP of Worldwide Marketing for Damon Motorcycles. Media sourced from Damon Motorcycles.

Tell us how you got into the world of motorcycle riding.​


…So it was actually 2017 when I finally jumped in, but I’d always been interested in motorsports.

I was like five or six years old when I started go-kart racing with my dad. There was always that need for speed, but I didn’t really get on my first motorcycle until I was 21 and that was on the back of my dad’s Harley-Davidson.

That experience changed my life, I would say.

I dunno what your experience was like when you first got on a bike, but when I first got on, it was this amazing feeling I’d never had before. I couldn’t believe the bike’s weight was sitting so easily on two wheels. I was amazed.

Leaning into the wind, that experience, that feeling…it’s almost like an intangible feeling that you get. I was totally in love with it.

I wanted to get a motorcycle right after that, but the safety aspect of riding kind of held me back a little bit…plus the fact that my mom actually got run over by a motorcycle when she was nine years old, obviously she would be super against me having a motorcycle.

Of course, the itch never really went away…*laughs*

So, yeah – around 2017, I was kind of going through like a quarter-life crisis, and I’m like, ‘you know what, I’m gonna do the things that I really want to do.’

That’s when I purchased my first motorcycle, which was a Suzuki Boulevard S40.

Amber Spencer, the VP of Worldwide Marketing at Damon Motorcycles. Media sourced from the team at Damon Motorcycles.
Amber Spencer, the VP of Worldwide Marketing at Damon Motorcycles. Media sourced from the team at Damon Motorcycles.

Your bio makes mention of an accident.​

Can you tell us more about that?​


It was in my first year of riding, and I was pulling onto a highway. I was coming on the ramp, and it was October – so it was kind of a little bit chilly.

There were a lot of cars behind me, and they were not going very fast. So as we merge, the traffic starts moving and I’m like, ‘ok, time to accelerate.’

I pull into the middle lane, I start accelerating, and I check my mirrors to make sure I know what’s going on.

As I look down into my mirror, the car in front of me slammed on his brakes; I looked up and in the split second before impact I was like, ‘I’m not gonna stop in time. I’m gonna hit the back of this car.’

I was already pulling the front brake so I pulled even harder.

People told me afterward that the back wheel of my bike came up off the ground as I flipped over the front and was tossed across two lanes and rolled into a ditch.

As for my speed – sure, I was accelerating to get up to highway speed, but was probably only going 50, 60km/h.

Luckily, because I rolled, I just kind of stood up and looked around. My bike was there, on the road, in pieces. Everybody was stopped at that point and people were running over to me because it looked so crazy.

I was very lucky that there wasn’t a car in the next lane who could have hit me – it made me realize…when stuff like this happens and you’re on a bike, you have no say and you don’t know when it’s gonna happen. Sometimes you have absolutely no control, in spite of your best efforts.

I really thought of myself as somebody who was very vigilant and responsible and able; that accident happened after a year of 10,000km of riding.

That’s when I really clued in on the importance of safety gear and awareness on a bike.

Amber Spencer, the VP of Worldwide Marketing at Damon Motorcycles. Media sourced from the team at Damon Motorcycles.
Amber Spencer, the VP of Worldwide Marketing at Damon Motorcycles. Media sourced from the team at Damon Motorcycles.

We know you have a background in sales growth and marketing software development.​

What influenced you toward Damon Motorcycles?​


So like you said, my experience is sort of a conversion of marketing and technology and lifestyle.

Right around 2017, I was trying to start my own business. I was very into entrepreneurship and startup culture as I worked with several companies in that space.

At the same time, I had also started motorcycling – so I had these two competing interests that were gonna take up a lot of my time…

I went on this group ride – they meet every Monday and ride up to Squamish, which is really scenic (it involves the Sea-to-Sky road in Vancouver, CA).

Jay – the CEO of Damon – was there at this meet, and he was like, ‘oh, I’m working on safety systems for motorcycles that are internet-connected, and we’re looking for software developers.’

And the whole idea was really compelling, really interesting – it was a startup company, but it also dealt in motorcycles.

Not only that, they were also working on safety – and I had had my accident not long before. and so I was very compelled.

So then he’s like, ‘oh, you work in tech? We’re actually looking for people that work in tech.’

It just so happened that I was at the right crux in my career where I was really ready to start doing something new.

You know in the first year of riding, you’re so passionate about it? It’s the most exciting thing in the world. and so that’s how that really came to be.

About four months after that, I ended up taking the interview and getting the job at Damon.

Amber Spencer with Damon Motorcycles CEO Jay Jerald and other members of the Damon team. Media sourced from Damon Motorcycles' Twitter platform.
Amber Spencer with Damon Motorcycles CEO Jay Jerald and other members of the Damon team. Media sourced from Damon Motorcycles’ Twitter platform.

Walk us through what your contribution to Damon motorcycles looks like.​


Hmmm.

So I’ve been with Damon for four years now; I was the first business hire and before me the hires were engineers.

When I joined, we were working on safety systems, and I had a bit of a hybrid role because they needed somebody to assist on the product development side (talking to customers and validating that this system was useful to them).

Beyond that, my initial role was product marketing and trying to ensure that the product was a fit for the market – but in the early days we didn’t need so much marketing.

As we started adding more marketing people and more business people to Damon, we realized, ‘okay, the safety systems alone are gonna be really difficult to retrofit on existing motorcycles. We’re gonna have to recreate the motorcycle from the ground up to ensure that this system is integrated, that it works properly, that it looks good.’

So that’s how Damon actually evolved into becoming a company that is based on the user’s needs.

At this point we’re exploring, options, like ‘if we’re gonna build this motorcycle from the ground up, then we should change what has been done for the last hundred years.’

A few of the ways we thought to make today’s bikes better were by improving safety and comfort. You know, when you’re riding (especially on a sport bike), and you just get really tired, or your back is aching? – that becomes a safety issue we wanted to target.

We also had the freedom to innovate – and the concept of going electric came along after that.

For Damon, the heavier marketing lift really came after our public launch of the Hypersport at CES in 2020. I still work with the product, but now we have a product team – more members can take on more things.

So now I’m more focused on the marketing aspect of the brand. After CES 2020, I built all of our channels from the ground up – things like our social media and our customer support and our website.

Amber Spencer on the Hypersport, showing off 'Top Tech of 2020' for CES 2020. Media sourced from FMB.
Amber Spencer on the Hypersport, showing off ‘Top Tech of 2020’ for CES 2020. Media sourced from FMB.

What are some key features of Damon to brag about?​


Well, We had a really excellent launch at CES in 2020. It was really key in helping get us out into the world and into the media.

At the time I was also super proud of our team; I had gone from being the first female in the company to working with a team that was 20% female.

Here I was, working along alongside great women, building new motorcycles that weren’t just based around the average, 180lb, six-foot man, but were actually built around human beings of all shapes and sizes.

Of all of the outward-facing assets, something that’s really important to me as a brand and as a company is that we’re always listening to customers. We always reply to people, we’re always listening and making sure that we’re approachable and that we’re relatable as a brand.

I think all of this has really resonated with our customer base and with creating that community around us.

A big part of my role today is just trying to keep that culture in place – building the team, making sure that the team is all aligned.

We have a fantastic, marketing-plus-engineering-plus-design team that I’m really proud to be a part of now. It’s been a really cool journey from the product side of things to the marketing side, and then into a director VP role that’s more based around building on the people and the culture and the branding.

A lot of companies have had to hit the reset button and create culture because of equity and inclusion and things that are becoming more important, but to Damon these have always been a part of our DNA; I guess it shows how we can get through a pandemic and continue to forge ahead and meet brand vision and goals, too.

Is there anybody you look up to as an inspiring figure in the motorcycle industry?

I do really love that there are more female racers in the industry.

Women like Ana Carresco, Mariah Costello – I really look up to them.

I still remember my first years, getting into riding, getting into watching MotoGP, and I’m like, ‘there’s not any female races. Where are they? Where’s the women representation??’

Now, today, I’m super proud of these women who’ve been able to forge their own way in the racing industry – and those two are two that kind of really stand out to me.

Amber Spencer with her Honda CBR1000RR. Media sourced from Damon's Facebook.
Amber Spencer with her Honda CBR1000RR. Media sourced from Damon’s Facebook.

Damon’s motorcycles are a hot commodity when it comes to the potential for test rides. Is there anywhere that currently supports fans accessing that privilege?​


So I can’t really divulge too much – but yes, we have something in the works, both for media and for customers.

I can’t divulge when, but …definitely stay in touch because you’re gonna have access to information on that.

You’ll be on ‘the elite sneak peak,’ I like to call it, haha!

Amber Spencer, the VP of Worldwide Marketing at Damon Motorcycles. Media sourced from the team at Damon Motorcycles.
Amber Spencer, the VP of Worldwide Marketing at Damon Motorcycles. Media sourced from the team at Damon Motorcycles.

Where do you feel the perfect balance sits for motorcycles and safety technology today?​


Ooo, I think that’s a really great question.

I do think that [safety tech] does get a bad rap because of what people imagine it to be – so it’s more about your experience, how the technology is impacting your ride.

Is it impacting your ride in a negative way or in a positive way?

I can speak from experience on the Damon bikes, that it really is more augmenting your awareness than it is interfering.

For our technology, we have put in the ability to adjust the sensitivity so that you can have it the way that you want to ride, off the get-go.

Maybe you ride a little closer to a car bumper, maybe you drive a little further back or maybe you do lane-splitting – whatever your inclination, there are adjustments that can compensate because where everybody feels safe is gonna be a little different.

As someone who has experienced Damon’s safety system, I’ve found that I miss it when I’m not riding with it – especially the blind spot detection.

Typically you do your shoulder checks, right? But you, you have the helmet and you need your attention facing forwards – so it’s always a quick check, more so than in a car.

With this tech, you’ll do your shoulder check, then you look forward and it confirms that, yes, there is a car there – and it just really helps bring your anxiety down a little bit.

As for the rear-view camera, you CAN turn that off and change it to a mode where you don’t see it…but I find it very helpful because it not only shows you what’s directly behind you, but also a few lanes across. It’s quite a wide view.

Knowing where the cars are without having to, you know, look in your mirrors (which are usually vibrating or your arms in the way)…having that sense of awareness is so, so good.

Same with the collision warning.

Amber on her Honda CBR1000RR. Media sourced from SIM.
Amber on her Honda CBR1000RR. Media sourced from SIM.

When you’re on a bike, sometimes you end up riding really close to the car in front (I recall my accident). Having that reminder just to leave that extra bit of space so that you’re gonna have a little bit more room in front if somebody does come up behind you – it’s great.

So I really think technology like this is more to augment or to help you stay safe than to take over or get in the way of your ride, or distract you…in fact, the biggest problem we tackled had to do with cognitive overload.

You already have so much to think about when you’re on your bike, why would you want extra things beeping and interrupting you?

And then there’s the direction we have taken as humans. We’ve been getting used to being connected to absolutely everything in our lives. We’re always on our laptops, we have our smartphones, we have our smart fitness watches…we even order our groceries on our cellphones.

Everything is now on your mobile app of choice, so why wouldn’t you want to be connected to your bike?

Damon’s tech is engineered to not be distracting, to make it easier to be safe…I don’t know if we’ll ever get to a point where our motorcycles are doing things for us, but I think this transition in particular will be more natural than people realize, for sure.

Amber enjoying a cool breeze on trackway. Media sourced from the Damon Motorcycles team.
Amber enjoying a cool breeze on trackway. Media sourced from the Damon Motorcycles team.

We’ve heard whispers that Damon could be working on an adventure motorcycle further down the road.​

Is there anything currently incubating in Damon’s pipeline that you can talk about?​


Oof…I can’t comment on that, haha!

I CAN say that it is a rendering…it’s a vision of the future of what Damon is going to be -I I can’t say what type of motorcycle that’s gonna be, it’s more of a vision of like, ‘this is what the factory’s gonna look like. There’s gonna be tons of bikes outside’ – and there WILL be more bikes in the future, that’s a given.

So I can’t say anything specific about motorcycles that we’re going to be releasing in the future…in the near future, anyways.

Amber Spencer filling her GSXR750 up with gas prior to a trackway. Media sourced from Tech 'N Wheels.
Amber Spencer filling her GSXR750 up with gas prior to a trackway. Media sourced from Tech ‘N Wheels.

…It was worth a shot.
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As someone who has ridden the Hypersport, how does she compare when it comes to handling? Is there perhaps one bike in particular that comes to mind as a similarity?​


I would say it’s more similar to the CBR1000RR (or one of the thousands), given that it’s got that amount of power and the ergonomics of it also feels fairly similar.

It’s interesting – it both is, and it isn’t as different as you would imagine. You’re in the same position with basically everything the same, other than the fact that you don’t have a clutch.

I rode the [Hypersport] on the track, and also got to run my Suzuki GSXR-750 too – and it was awesome because it was really nice not having to do the shifting and just have more mental focus on what I wanted the Hypersport to do.

I definitely prefer the Hypersport, just because it has the whole package that the other bikes don’t have. I don’t have to worry about shifting. It’s internet-connected. It has safety systems that I could turn off when I wanted to.

It also has all of the high-end components – plus it looks amazing, and it’s super unique.

I should clarify; I love all of my bikes, ‘cause they’re all unique and all really different. I personally don’t have a preference for either gas or electric – it’s more about, like, ‘what do I feel like today.’

If I REALLY had to choose one…I would choose the Hypersport just because it’s got so many more things than the other bikes – and I’m not just saying that.

It’s a total package deal.

Amber Spencer, the VP of Worldwide Marketing at Damon Motorcycles. Media sourced from the team at Damon Motorcycles.
Amber Spencer, the VP of Worldwide Marketing at Damon Motorcycles. Media sourced from the team at Damon Motorcycles.

What have you currently got in the garage?​


Oooh!
We do have some Groms that we’re wanting to take to the race track. There’s a small race track close by to where we live, so we’ve got two Groms that we’re, gonna take them out there.

We also have some dirt bikes, as well as the Suzuki GSXR-750, a CBR10000RR and a Ducati Panigale 1299S.

Amber Spencer showing off the ergonomics of the Hypersport at the CES2020. Media sourced from Techouver.
Amber Spencer showing off the ergonomics of the Hypersport at the CES2020. Media sourced from Techouver.

Any parting words of wisdom you can leave for beginner riders looking to suit up, swing a leg over and contribute to the motorcycle community?​


For any beginner riders?

Go for the safety course.

It’s an absolute. You have to, to make sure that you’re safe on the road and you know how to ride – and that includes knowing what to look for, especially since everything will be new to you.

Also!

Choose a motorcycle that you feel comfortable with when you first start riding.

It doesn’t have to be a brand new one – maybe go out and look for a good, used, 250cc’s, something like that.

Maybe if you’re on the shorter side, maybe look at a cruiser, something that you’re going to feel comfortable or confident on.

You can always change up your motorcycle later and get a bigger one – and when you’re ready, if you’re thinking about it, just go for it.

You won’t regret it.

*All media sourced from Sportbikes Inc. Magazine, Techouver, Tech ‘N Wheels, Damon’s Facebook and Amber Spencer’s Twitter platform, as well as Amber and Donna on the Damon Motorcycles team. A big thanks for taking the time to chat about all things Damon, and see you out on the twisties!*​


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