Issue 2 / 2013, Featured Articles, Affiliate Profiles

Affiliate Profile: Vulcan Bagger Association

By ROK Staff   Wed, May 15, 2013

Six years after he founded the organization that grew into the Vulcan Bagger Association with more than 2,000 members, Robert "Trip" Hilliard is passing the baton to new leadership.

There’s a new rider taking the lead at the Vulcan Bagger Association. And while there’s nothing uncommon about a change of leadership in organizations that rely on volunteer labor, this is not your typical transition.

For one thing, the outgoing president, Robert “Trip” Hilliard, single-handedly founded the organization and is the only president the VBA has ever known. Second, while many leadership changes happen because the current leader is burnt out or hounded out, Hilliard decided on his own to make the voluntary change because he felt it was best for the club, kind of like an athlete retiring while still at the top of his game. And the third unusual aspect of this transition is that the new VBA president, Jared Gant, is one of the club’s youngest members.

National Rally
Though the club started as an online entity, the Vulcan Bagger Association now has several regional rallies and a national rally each year where members get together in person. This photo is from a group ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Photo: Teri Conrad)

“In any organization, there comes a time to pass the baton,” Hilliard says. “I wanted someone to come in and take the VBA to another level.”

Here’s evidence of the wisdom of Hilliard’s selection of Gant: In the days after he announced on the forum that Gant would be the new president, dozens of messages were posted and not one questioned the choice or made a negative comment. Anyone familiar with the dynamic of most online forums can attest that such consensus is rare.

Until now, the VBA has always been Hilliard’s baby. It all began when Hilliard bought a Kawasaki Nomad™ in 2005. He wrote about his trips (counterintuitively, his nickname is not based on his penchant for travels) on his personal website and other Nomad owners began contacting him. A webmaster by profession, Hilliard saw a need for a way to share information, so in 2007 he created a website and forum and formed KawaNOW, Kawasaki Nomad Owners Worldwide. When the Vaquero® came out in late 2010, the club’s name changed to the Vulcan Bagger Association to officially include Vaquero and Voyager® owners. Today, the club that Gant is taking over has more than 2,000 members across the United States and in countries as far-flung as New Zealand and Russia.

Vulcan Bagger Association
VBA logo
Founded: 2007
Dues: None
On the web:

Vulcan Bagger Association
VBA Forum

Gant, age 28, is a member of the Iron Butt Association, has ridden through 46 states in recent years and met and stayed in the homes of several VBA members along the way, something he says is “really the highlight of the trip.” He considers the VBA’s biggest strength to be the same thing that first attracted him to the forum and club: the combined experience of thousands of Kawasaki owners.

 Jared Gant
 Jared Gant is president of the VBA effective May 1. (Photo: Courtesy Jared Gant)

“An incredible wealth of information exists on that forum,” Gant says. “There is nothing you could ask about the bikes that you can’t get an answer.”

Taking the reins from the club’s founder is a tall task, especially for someone like Gant. His wife is attending law school and they have a 2-year-old daughter, but he seems undaunted by the demands on his time.

“I’m excited about the changes in the VBA,” he says. “It’s fun. I wake up every morning with a smile on my face. I’m really enjoying this time in my life.”

Related articles:
VBA Southwest Rally 2012: Utah
VBA Canadian Rockies Rally 2012
VBA Southcentral Rally 2012: Arkansas
VBA Southeast Rally 2012: Tennessee
KawaNOW Rally in the Redwoods
KawaNOW National Rally 2011

 

By ROK Staff

On occasion our staff may collaborate on something that we feel is best attributed to our "staff" byline. 

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