Not all helmets are the same. The ECE 22-05 standard, which rules in Europe, is not as stringent as the Snell standard in the U.S., and manufacturers have admitted it is easier to pass the European standard. Most MotoGP and WSB riders opt for the Snell-approved versions.
Those of you who actually reside in the USA and buy your crash helmets there can feel somewhat smug this month in light of comments made by the UK’s leading helmet tester. Brain Walker from the independent test house, Helmet Protection Evaluation, has slammed the European standard ECE 22-05 which came into force in 2000.
With 55 years testing experience, he is obviously somebody to be listened to when he slams standards imposed by the Eurocrats at Brussels. He points out that due to the way the standard is written, it is easy for manufacturers to build helmets to pass the test by applying additional strength in the specific test areas, rather than building a totally safe helmet.
His claims are backed up by the leading manufacturers who admit that it is easier to pass the European test rather than the American Snell test, which requires a much higher standard outer shell to pass. They also point out that it has resulted in the market being flooded by loads of cheap Chinese helmets, which could be lethal due to their poor quality being accepted, as a result of badly formulated tests. It should also be noted that many MotoGP and WSB riders only wear helmets that have passed the Snell test, despite their replicas being sold with an ECE 22-05 marking!
Interestingly both Arai and Shoei are looking at ways of allowing the helmet to be removed from a fallen rider without undoing the retention strap. The idea is that the cheek-pads will be capable of being removed with the helmet on, meaning that it will then be able to be slipped off easily without risk of spinal injury. It could mean all tests being revised to take this development into account!
The RC8 V-Twin keeps making the rounds in Euro Gossip, now reportedly powered by an enlarged 1150cc engine currently undergoing testing.
Spy shots are already circulating of the new KTM RC8 V-Twin sportbike powered by an all-new 1150cc motor undergoing tests. Previously the test bike has been powered by the existing 990 motor. The new motor is said to be just 20mm taller and weighs in at just 5 pounds more but pumps out 150 bhp compared to the 115 bhp claimed for the 990. The enlarged Twin is mounted in an all-new frame with an aluminum swingarm, and it is close to being production ready according to factory insiders. If that is correct you can expect to se it at the Cologne Show in October with a price tag around $20,000.
In the meantime, KTM has officially launched its new LC4 690 motor, which is the largest single-cylinder bike the firm has ever made. The fuel-injected Single is claimed to be 7 pounds lighter than the motor it replaces and comes with a six-speed gearbox with a power output around 60 bhp. It is expected to be used in several models, including the Rally Replica for those who want to compete in events like the Dakar rally.
The JH600 represents the first machine whose technology is derived and owned by the Chinese firm Jialing, who has been affiliated with Honda for well over two decades.
The Chinese government is now getting concerned about the reputation of bikes manufactured in that country. Despite increasing numbers of sales worldwide, the reliability is not good, so government officials are putting pressure on home manufacturers to improve, especially as they move into the larger-capacity markets where quality is far more important.
This edict comes as Chinese manufacturer Jialing announces its first big bike, the JH600, a single-cylinder machine that comes with a two-year warranty! This is the first bike that is not part of the 25-year tie-up with Honda, and Jialing actually owns all the technology on this new machine.
The 40-horsepower fuel-injected motor was commissioned from Austrian firm AVL and will power the bike to 90 mph. The chassis was built in-house around it, and all the other components were sourced from major suppliers in Taiwan, which gives some hope as to its longevity and reliability. Despite all the out-sourcing, it is still expected to sell for around $3500, undercutting all the competition without exception when compared to similar sized products!
Chinese-owned Benelli is said to be shooting for MotoGP in 2008 through its Zongshen parent company.
As if to emphasize the above, small Chinese bikes are now featuring high on the UK bikes sales charts, but they are also some of the top bikes to be stolen. However, the cheap and cheerful machines are not that desirable to bike thieves due to the low quality and low purchase prices, so the second chart success is puzzling.
However, police experts now believe that the bikes break down after about six months and, as there is no spares or back-up available, owner’s burn them out or throw them into waterways and then claim they have been stolen to recoup some of their cash.
Joel Domergue has started up a new French firm by the name of Wakan, which will produce this machine powered by a 1640cc V-Twin.
Another new motorcycle manufacturer enters the world in the shape of Wakan based in the South of France. Founded by Joel Domergue, who was previously a manufacturer of trials bikes, Wakan will soon be launching a roadster powered by a 1640cc V-Twin motor based on Harley-Davidson architecture.
The minimalist machine caries the oil in its frame, and the petrol tank is located under the seat to help keep the centre of gravity low. Several new patents have also been taken out on this machine, principally concerning the air-box and headlight assembly. Its motor is claimed to produce 115 bhp and 115 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm. Thanks to the bike’s claimed weight of just 390 lbs, it should be able to top 150 mph, putting it straight up against the established opposition like Buell.
Did the decision by SYM to create their own scooter distribution and dealer network put the final nails in the coffin of Sachs? Either way, the historic old German manufacturer is no more.
Bad news from Germany is that Sachs has collapsed after 120 years of trading. Founded in 1886, the world’s oldest motorcycle manufacturer has finally folded after a series of crippling financial problems and despite a recent cash injection from the Chinese. New Superior bought a 99.5% share of the company back in February this year. However, when the company recently found they could not afford to make a compulsory pension fund payment to the original Hercules staff, it declared itself insolvent! The factory site at Nuremberg was once home to Hercules, DKW and of course Fichel, and Sachs and is the company’s only real asset, although part of this has already been sold off by the Chinese owners.
Rumor has it the Sachs collapse was really due to the decision by SYM scooters to set up their own distributor and dealer network in Germany. This was the only real profitable side of the business. The only in-house model that Sachs currently produces is the oddball MadAss; all others are cheap and nasty Chinese small scooters that do not sell well!
On a more positive note, American David Robb, the head of BMW’s motorcycle design studio, has admitted that there is more to come in the way of sports-orientated bikes, although he refused to give time scales or any in-depth information.
His colleague and the boss of the bike division, Dr. Herbert Diess, said the main focus at present was the new HP1 Enduro single! However, informed sources say that no less than five new bikes will be at the Cologne Show, including two more versions of the F800.
A 400cc scaled-down version of the Aprilia Scarabeo 500 has been released in order to comply with the varying vehicle restrictions of stricter countries.
Despite the restructuring at Ducati and the extra money now within the company thanks to the shares sell-off earlier this year, it has not prevented 100 staff being given an extended summer break of seventeen weeks. The factory staff has been told to stay away as the company does not want high residual stocks of the poorly selling 999 sitting around when they announce the replacement at the Milan show in November.
Aprilia has just launched a 400cc version of their Scarabeo scooter. The machine is a sleeved-down version of the 500 to meet odd driving license requirements in some countries, and it’s designed to fit between the 500 and the smaller 250 version. It puts out a claimed 34 bhp, which should see it make 95 mph.
An expiring engine supply deal with Suzuki could spell the end of Cagiva, although the brand name may get farmed out to another manufacturer.
Despite what we said last month about Cagiva and a new bike, rumors are now circulating that the brand may not exist this time next year. The problem revolves around the supply of motors from Suzuki for the Raptor and Navigator models. The deal is about to end, and the Suzuki motors won’t pass new emission tests without a lot of development work. With most of the investment resources going into the Husqvarna and MV brands, company bosses are apparently looking at the viability of licensing the name to other manufacturers to keep it alive until they want to use it again.
Husqvarna is now developing a smaller, lighter and more powerful 250cc four-stroke Single for dirt bikes. So far the prototype is said to give 37 bhp whilst being 15% smaller than the current quarter-liter motor. Size reduction has been achieved by moving the shafts of the five-speed gearbox closer together, as well as moving the actual box closer to the transmission, which now has a slipper clutch. Expect to see fuel injection on the finished item, which will appear in 2008 at the earliest.
The 24 members of Italy’s World Cup team will each receive a special edition Brutale. Another 100 models will be manufactured and offered up for sale.
MV is of course looking at an 1100cc version of its F4 Superbike to give it enough power to deal with the one-liter bikes from Japan. In the 1970s MV’s German importer produced an 1100cc Grand Prix machine, and it is thought if they go ahead it could use the same name.
One bike that is a reality is the ‘World Cup Brutale’ that is to be presented to all the Italian World Cup team to celebrate their recent win. Boss Claudio Castiglioni has previously presented special paint scheme bikes to football teams as far back as 1982. Apart from the 24 machines for the team members, another 100 will be offered for sale, although no price has been fixed as yet.
Lastly from Italy, a scooter rider in Turin who tried to escape from police when he was challenged for not wearing a helmet has just had 144 penalty points added to his license. He got them for riding on footways, the wrong way down one-way streets, failing to stop, red lights, speeding, no insurance and no rear-view mirrors.
Royal Enfield has announced that, as well as expanding and increasing bike production, we will see a whole new model range for 2008, although so far they have refused to give any details.
Honda has increased its production in Pakistan by 25% by opening a second factory in Lahore. Atlas Honda sold 328,00 bikes last year, netting 65% of the home market with both expecting to rise further this year.
Motorcycle production in Spain is now at record levels, beating the previous high in 1991. In 2005 there were a total of 122,755 units manufactured, a rise of 26.1% over the previous year.
UK custom builder Roger Allmond gained some attention with his T-Bob (above), which is powered by a Ducati 996 engine. Now Allmond is working on a new design which utilizes a Victory V-Twin.
Patrik Furstenhoff, the alleged star of the ‘Ghostrider’ movies, has beaten the world record for a wheelie. During a three-day event in the UK, he took his unfaired turbo Hayabusa to 215 mph on the rear wheel. After doing so, he announced his retirement from the stunt world.
Taiwan is having its first industry motorcycle show in the Tapei World Trade Center on 27-29th October 2006. Called ‘Motorcycle Taiwan,’ it is expected to have over 300 exhibitors, and 122 home-based firms have already booked and more are expected along with 12,000 visitors.
Custom bike builder Roger Allmond, who once worked for the legendary John Reed (Uncle Bunt), has just finished a stunning custom built out of aluminum and based around a Victory V-twin motor. Having originally attracted worldwide attention with his Ducati Hi-Tec Bobber in the last year’s world finals, the Englishman continues to push the boundaries with his hand-built specials.
Triumph has leaked details of its 2007 line-up. First up is the new Tiger that we have profiled for some time in this column. The only change is that it may come in two versions, the second being an ‘Adventure’ package. The Rocket III and the Scrambler get new color schemes, while the Bonneville now gets the larger 865cc parallel twin motor from the T100. In addition, the Speed Triple and Sprint ST get exhaust catalysers and new color schemes.
Behind the scenes, though, news is breaking of the Rocket III tourer for the U.S. market now being given the green light after being put on the back-burner while other models were developed. However, the new model will apparently be slimmer and come with top box, panniers and may have an electric screen. If the bike does finally appear it could be one of the heaviest production bikes in the world tipping the scales at nearly 900 lbs!
Now it appears that a touring version of the already enormous Rocket III is bound for the States and will weigh in at almost 900 lbs.
A female motorcyclist in the Foshan province of China found she had an unexpected pillion in the shape of a five-foot snake. Due to her understandable hysteria, she dropped the bike causing minimal injury and damage to all concerned! Moral of the story? Always check your machine before setting off!
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