Euro Gossip March 2009

March 11, 2009
Ian Kerr
Contributing Editor | Articles | RSS | Blog | Blog RSS

Our man in Europe, Ian delivers a monthly dose of those tasty rumors and hearsay from across the pond that make up our Euro Gossip column.

The goal for Lucky 13 character is to make riders aware of all the risks involved in riding a motorcycle in an entertaining way.
The goal for the Lucky 13 character is to make riders aware of all the risks involved in riding a motorcycle in an entertaining way.

The prestigious Association des Constructeurs Europeens de Motorcycles, better known as ACEM has just announced a new rider safety program based around a cartoon character called ‘Lucky 13’. The Brussels-based European motorcycle Industry lobby has joined forces with all similar influential bodies within the industry to make riders aware of all the risks involved in riding a motorcycle in an entertaining way.

The organization is a signatory to the European Road safety Charter which aims to reduce road fatalities by 50% by 2010. They are encouraging all dealers etc to help promote its message, which is also aimed at staving off even more restrictive legislation which may put off potential purchasers. This is a positive move aimed at helping dealers in attracting more riders to the world of two wheels and assuring them that it is a good move and will help them save money as well as give them a lot of fun!


KTM has announced it has increased its global sales by 7% in the last year. However, in anticipation of a worsening market it is cutting production by 10% for the forthcoming year. These actions are not enough though to stop it announcing a 14% price increase across all its range.


High-end motorcycle clothing firm Rukka (also well known in the sailing world) is in fact owned by a fashion company called the L-Fashion Group. It has now expanded its motorcycle portfolio to include the Fininish sportswear manufacturer Sinisalo, who are best known for their motocross gear, which apart from the actual clothing, also includes boots, helmets and body armor and protectors. The firm will continue to operate from their existing factories at Poulanka and Oulu in Northern Finland and no changes are envisaged with both brands continuing as separate entities in different motorcycle fields.

2009 BMW S 1000 RR
Bikes are ready to roll out to dealerships in the next few months. A price and release date for the US market will be available soon.


BMW’s long awaited Superbike is now here in its final form. Thanks to the Superbike being cleared for racing, the German company has had to show the bike that will be available to the public to comply with homologation rules.

Confirmed is a power output of 175 hp from the 999ccc four-cylinder motor. The whole bike weighs in at 183kg (403 lbs), showing the production team has achieved the design goals we have repeatedly mentioned here over the past year. Some of the final details as yet have not been released, but the bike is expected to be on sale at European dealer in May.


In Italy two wheels is now linked to the world of flight thanks to a takeover of Italy’s struggling national airline, Alitalia. Previously state owned, it is now part of Aerea Italiana (CAI) investor consortium owned by Piaggio Chairman Roberto Colaninno famed for his turnaround capabilities. Part of the consortium includes tire giant Pirelli’s chief Marco Provera. There are no plans to offer free flights to the factory to pick up your machine or tires at present though! 

Moto Morin continues to hit the European headlines with the launch of another new bike based on their modular concept. Styled by Marabese ‘to evoke the glory days of the big capacity dirt bikes of the 1960s’, the new Moto Morini Scrambler is apparently designed to capture the spirit of freedom of that decade.

2009 Moto Morini Scrambler
Moto Morini Scrambler brings back the glory days of 1960’s dirt bikes with all the comforts of today.

It comes at a time of course when Ducati is set to launch their own similar bike to try and capture some of BMW’s big Adventure market that it continue to dominate with the GS range.

It is powered by Morini’s now familiar, but critically acclaimed, 117-hp V-Twin CorsaCorta motor mounted in a trellis frame by Vericchi complete with hydro-formed swing-arm. At the front are 50mm Marzocchi forks and at the back is a Paioli shock. Twin Brembo 4-piston 298mm front discs with a single rear stop things safely.

The stylish black and white 198kg (437 lbs) machine is equipped with a 21-litre fuel tank (4.5 gallons) and shod with Michelin Anakee2 hybrid tires that hug stainless steel Excel wheel rims. Morini claims the Scrambler ‘has the capacity to thrill and is capable of tackling serious distances over a wide variety of roads’. The cost is expected to be around 10,400 Euros and the bike will be available shortly.

Spy shots of the new Ducati big trail bike undergoing final tests are now starting to appear. The yet unnamed machine looks like an enlarged Hypermotard, but we will probably have to wait until it officially breaks cover at the Milan Show in November to get the full specification.

Insiders claim that a new ‘Scrambler’ model that we predicted here over two years ago will also be launched as part as a four-bike new model launch. A safe bet could also be for a new tourer to replace the much lamented ST4! 

Benelli is rumored to be developing a power-valve system for its 750 2ue due to be launched next year. it is hoped the system, which is believed works on both the inlet and exhaust side of the engine, will provide a wider spread of power in a similar way to those used on 2-strokes back in the 1980s. The new system will restrict the size of the ports to speed up the gas flow at low revs, with a stepper motor opening things up as the speed and revs rise.


2009 Rieju Tango 250
Rieju is releasing a 250 based on their Tango design, which is sure to be a popular model.

In the current economic climate you would imagine most governments are doing everything to encourage frugal and green motoring. However, the Spanish Government has just agreed a registration scheme based on CO2 emissions that will penalize Powered Two Wheelers (PTW’s). The scheme approved last December lowers the two-wheeler threshold by 33-40% while leaving car limits untouched.

The Spanish trade organization has stated this will not only affect sales, but could also be a loss of jobs in an industry that employs 25,000 people across the country. It sees the new levels reducing sales by as much as 15% above the predicted drop due to the economy.

Meanwhile on a more positive note, home manufacturer Rieju who are well-known across Europe for their learner-legal 50cc and 125cc machines, has recently introduced a 250 based on the popular Tango design, an all-round machine which is ideal for commuting and off-road fun.

The 250 Tango boasts an all-new air-cooled, four-stroke 250cc engine housed in a rigid steel frame with mono-shock rear suspension, Paioli forks, front and rear disc brakes and a choice of tires; off road, road or dual purpose. Initially it will be available in three colors and will cost around 2,930 Euros.

United Kingdom

As one might expect, according to recently released figures from the UK’s Trade body, Powered two-wheeler (PTW) registrations in January were 7.3% down on the same month last year. The figures show that a total of 6,114 motorcycles, scooters and mopeds were registered – 481 fewer than in January 2008.

As a comparison, overall the UK car market showed a decline of 31% while motorcycle registrations were down only 1.6%. But, the poor January weather had a negative effect on the moped market which declined by 26.5%. Scooter registrations were down by 15.6%.

While most PTW categories saw drops in registration numbers, except for naked motorcycles which actually saw an increase of 20.9%, along with sport/touring (+ 17.5%) and supersports which showed a 16.6% increase.

The biggest-selling make was Yamaha with 1,000 registrations, followed by Honda and Suzuki, which is interesting considering the information given by the Japanese press. (See below under Japan)

Yamaha was the biggest selling make in Europe. Supersport bikes also saw a rise in registrations.

In a bizarre twist though, UK bike prices could rise due to a drop in the value of the pound against Euro, but not for the obvious reason. Some dealers are already reporting quite high volumes of sales to European buyers who are sourcing cheaper machines to maximize profits in their home countries.

Prices in Norway for example are 143% higher than the UK, in Denmark it is more like 190% higher. Germany is more realistic at 24%, while France is 27% followed by Spain at 29%, which clearly shows that there is a profitable mark-up for European wholesalers buying in the UK.

And it is not just new machines that are being snapped up, so too are the second-hand bikes, which could mean good news for dealers in the short-term and bad news for the British motorcyclist who will not have too much choice left. However, those looking for a trade in with a low mileage mint machine may well be able to command a higher price as such bikes become in short supply!

For those that can still get out on the roads, they have the ‘pleasure’ of a new £100,000 tracking system monitoring their every move. Designed to single out bikes from other road users, the new technology incorporates a number plate reader as well as recording speeds and tracking the bikes movements in the name of road safety!

Even if a rider commits no offence the data will be stored for future reference and understandably civil rights organizations are joining motorcycle rights groups in protesting.

This year for the first time ever there will be a TT race for bikes using zero-carbon fuel and with zero toxic emissions on the Isle of Man. The race is to be run on the famous 37.75 mile course on June 12th, the day after the ‘normal’ racing finishes.

Each bike will be expected to complete a single lap in a minimum time of 50 minutes which equates to an average of 45.3 mph. Compare this to John McGuinness’s absolute lap record of 130.35 mph on a Honda Fireblade with a conventional engine. Pit-stops or any refueling is banned for the inaugural event which is open to electrically powered bikes, fuel cell bikes and those with hybrid propulsion systems. In addition, any conventional machine may enter as long as it is powered by a non-carbon based fuel such as hydrogen.

Brit Engineer Alistair Wager was once the boss of the HMC Ducati AMA Superbike team way back in 2001 and has always spent his working life with Ducati’s. Having worked on at least 20 of the 67 Supermono bikes he knows his way around the model and has now built his own version that is available to buy at around £35,000.

Although it sounds expensive, originals change hands at around £80,000 and this model is bang up to date with a larger capacity engine. Thanks to it being sanctioned by the Ducati factory it uses the original engine cases fitted with 999R piston and a forged conrod. A Teststretta head helps make the 88 hp which should be more than enough for most people to have fun with.

The new bike is lighter than the original thanks to acres of carbon fiber and top-notch components like Brembo brakes and Ohlin’s suspension. If this sounds like your kind of bike he can be contacted at

Rest of the World


Australian designer Tim Cameron s Hybrid Cafe Racer the Caf-e.
Future motorcycles are here with the very real hybrid sport motorcycle by designer Tim Cameron.

Down under, Australian designer Tim Cameron has developed a café racer that he claims gives sportbike performance but frugal petrol consumption figures. He has achieved this by mating a 500cc Parallel Twin motor to the battery pack from a Toyota Prius hybrid vehicle used in conjunction with an electric axial supercharger. The mating of the two is controlled by computer and drive is by a CVT type of transmission based on the Toyota Synergy Drive.

Although the CAF-E, which took just five months to get to concept stage remains there, some of his other designs are already in use and there should be no reason that this machine could not go into production in the future.


KBX Motorbike Products Private Ltd who supplies 50% of the brake market in India is now partially owned by Italian brake systems manufacturer Brembo. The company based in Pune currently supply Bajaj, Hero Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Royal Enfield to name but a few. This is not a new venture for Brembo though, having established a base in India in 2007, but does allow the Italian firm to expand business in the region.


Despite what the organizers are calling a “difficult economic climate”, the second Bike Asia Show will take place at the end of this month (February 27th to March 1st) following on from last year’s successful inaugural show. According to the show committee Asia is still seeing signs of growth unlike Europe, the USA and Japan. As a result companies such as Piaggio, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi and MV have already signed up.


Yamaha Logo
Yamaha begins to feel the economic pains as it braces for its first operating loss in 26 years.

Last month we reported that the Japanese business press was starting to highlight the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers beginning to feel the effects of the global recession and some of their cost cutting measures, like reducing the salaries of the directors.

Following on from that this month, apparently Yamaha Motor Co. is now bracing itself for its first operating loss since 1983. For the year ending December 31st 2008, it is expected to sink 30 billion yen into the red. As we have previously reported demand is sagging not only for motorcycles, but this has not been helped by the decline in demand for outboard motors used for leisure boats in Japan, the US and Europe. Generating about 90% of its sales for these products abroad, the company will be hit hard by the strong yen as well as the drop in demand. It is claimed that Yamaha will slash domestic motorcycle production by 24% in 2009 to slightly over 260,000 units, the lowest output in roughly four decades.

As a result Yamaha continue to reducing executive salaries and other fixed expenses to at least help offset the continued slide. According to sources within, sales are projected to slide more than 10% from last fiscal year’s estimated 1.6 trillion yen as the firm expects the tough climate to last until at least June.

But, it will not just be those at the top that suffer, as the company will close its main assembly plant in Shizuoka Prefecture, as well as upstream parts factories, for 10 days in February and March, reducing output by 13,000 units. It plans to negotiate with employees for additional work stoppages in the April-June quarter and intends to eliminate all non-full-time workers by the summer, as well as losing some administrative staff!

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