Euro Gossip April 2009

April 15, 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.

ACEM (Association des Constructeurs Européens de Motocycles) is the professional body representing the interests and combined skills of 11 powered two wheelers (PTWs) manufacturers.

In the current world of gloom and doom it would be nice to start off with lots of good news like motorcycles enjoying booming sales. Hopefully that may come in time as the recession bites and people wake up to the benefits of two wheels around the world. But a word of caution on that front will be found under the United Kingdom section showing how a few dealers have gone for short term gain and ended up with a potential long term loss.

At the top, while gathering for their annual General Assembly hosted by Ducati in Bologna, Italy, ACEM (the manufacturer’s body) members noted that the European Commission recently announced initiatives and instruments to fight the downturn in the automotive sector, and resolved that, due to its similarities to the car sector, the PTW industry should be entitled to the same benefits. They quite rightly decided that the PTW sector “needs the same urgent and drastic measures aimed at preventing a prolonged period of recession, supporting manufacturing and continuing to drive forward the environmental goals that are shared by policy makers and manufacturers”.

The problem, though, seems to be not only people tightening belts and not spending, which can work both ways, but increasingly restrictive legislation and the public perception of motorcyclist and those in power. Take for instance the British rider caught riding his Suzuki Hayabusa at 122 mph with his 14 year-old son on the back. Breaking the law, yes, but six months jail time on the grounds that his son was not wearing protective clothing apart from a crash helmet – not advisable but not illegal!

Jailed on what might happen not what did, which was excessive speed. Balance this up with a car driver who killed a motorcyclist and just got a heavy fine and disqualified from driving. Even some people who commit crimes causing injury to others seem to be getting off with suspended sentences lately!

Moving to Europe in general, it has come to light that a new and potentially draconian EU-type approval regulation framework, up until now only applying to cars and commercial vehicles, is now being considered for motorcycles. Called the ‘Framework Regulation of the European Parliament on Type-Approval of Two and Three wheel Motor Vehicles and Quadricycles’ it has far reaching implications to say the least. Some of it relates to the setting of new emission limits, together with the introduction of durability limits, CO2 measurement, fuel consumption measurement, evaporative emissions limits and a new test procedure for mopeds and new limits for quadricycles.

But the really worrying item in the consultation document is that it states ‘two and three-wheelers show a generally worse road accident data than other vehicles’, and goes onto to raise the question of maximum power outputs. France of course already has this restriction and it has shown no improvement over other countries who have not adopted such measures as proved by the in-depth EU-funded Motorcycle Accidents In Depth Study (MAIDS) of 2004.

Other problems with some of the recommendations are that there will be no parity between the method of testing emissions between car and bikes, so the consumer cannot make a valid judgment.

Mandatory ABS for bikes could stifle development and increase cost and is one area where the industry is already moving in the right direction without compulsion!

French tuning firm Macatwin has put its custom touch on a Triumph Rocket III.
French tuning firm Macatwin has put its custom touch on a Triumph Rocket III.

Proposed controls on modifications to motorcycles (anti-tampering measures) are also included as are proposals for restrictions on power outputs, engine control units, fuel systems etc al of which are unrealistic and unnecessary and as experts point out will have little effect of the crash / collision rate!.


French tuning firm Macatwin has been featured several times in this column for some of their stunning creations. This time they get a mention for stripping off all the glitz and glamour from a Triumph Rocket III and creating a hardcore machine in all black. Slash cut pipes and cut-off mudguards add to the lean, mean street look, but despite the drag bike appearance the motor remains standard. For more information on the ‘Rocketeer’ as they have called it check out

Tire giant Michelin has just launched a new range of tires after three years of intensive testing to bring a product that can be used legally on the road or race track. It has integrated the latest technologies developed through motorcycle racing into its new hypersport tire range.

The Michelin Power One is claimed to achieve outstanding results in different areas of performance, enabling each rider to choose a tire suited to their riding style, motorcycle and conditions of use. Unusually the Michelin Power One racing range comprises two sub-categories. The Michelin Power One grooved range is made up of 20 models, available in eight sizes. It has nine different rubber compounds approved for road riding, and can be used for racing or on track days.

Michelin Power One Tires
The Michelin Power One was designed with the racetrack in mind, first and foremost.

The Michelin Power One 16.5-inch slick and rain tire is available in seven versions, with two sizes and 11 rubber compounds developed exclusively for track use.

Michelin has created a dedicated website for the Michelin Power One, which enables riders to determine which model is best for their needs. Available free of charge, this on-line service chooses the most appropriate tire and also provides tire inflation recommendations based on information provided by the rider. Six selection criteria are involved and no technical knowledge is required, since the Michelin software does the calculation and chooses the right tire immediately.


We have repeatedly mentioned that the former F1 world Champion Michael Schumacher has turned his attentions to two wheels, racing in the German series with some success. At the same time he has been helping his former sponsors Schuberth helmets to develop its bike helmet range even further. Well it seems he has been successful as the biggest selling S1 PRO and C3 models can now officially be used on track in the UK, following notification from the ACU (the governing body) that they have passed their internal testing with flying colors.

Former F1 world Champion Michael Schumacher has turned his attentions to two wheeled racing. At the same time he has been helping his former sponsors Schuberth helmets to develop its bike helmet range.
Former F1 world Champion Michael Schumacher has turned his attentions to two wheeled racing. At the same time he has been helping his former sponsors Schuberth helmets to develop its bike helmet range.

Schuberth’s motorcycle helmets claim to have the lowest decibel rating of any helmet in the world and perfect optics across the entire visor to reduce eye fatigue and aid concentration. The outer shells are made from unique materials combined at very high pressures and temperatures for strength while the inner shell is a five-piece construction using 3 different densities of EPS to optimize shock absorption.

Extensive wind tunnel development produces helmets which are claimed to be stable at speed – no lateral or vertical movement to tire the neck and shoulders.


Small Italian race bike builder Paton, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, is ready to begin production of a brand new bike based on its 500GP machine. According to sources, PG55RR which is currently in the making, will be powered by a V-Four two-stroke motor and will go into limited production if there is sufficient demand. The 190-hp motor comes from their 2001 race bike mounted in a new frame with top class running gear like Brembo brakes. No timescales or prices have been mentioned at present. 

A 2009 Suzuki Hayabusa, covered a distance of 3190.8 mi at an average speed of 132.9 mph using only one set of Pirelli’s new Angel ST sport-touring tire setting the world duration record.

Pirelli has launched the Angel ST tire particularly designed with sport-touring motorcycles such as the Yamaha FJR1300, Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa and Kawasaki GTR 1400 in mind. It is claimed to provide a combination of longevity for touring and excellent cornering and side grip for a sportier ride. These characteristics are reflected in the tread pattern which transforms after extended use from an angel insignia into a devil motif to warn of unacceptable wear. 

Ducati senior executives have taken a voluntary drop of 10% in their wages as well as foregoing any bonus, despite their market share rising 1.3% to 12.5%. However, the Italian bike market recently fell by 38.8%, which is what triggered the cut.

Meanwhile the Italian government apparently plans to give rebates of 500 Euros to riders who replace older models with newer more fuel-efficient models that meet Euro 3 emission regulations, according to a recent news agency report.


Rieju has introduced a new MRT 50 series  available in Enduro or Supermoto trims.
Rieju has introduced a new MRT 50 series, available in Enduro or Supermoto trims.

Famous for its fast 50’s, Spanish manufacturer Rieju has introduced a new MRT 50 series. Available in Enduro or Supermoto form the new models feature the latest chassis design and bang up to date styling to the geared 50cc market. Made near Barcelona, with three color options, they feature Yamaha Minarelli six-speed motors combined with quality components such as KTM radiators, Domino grips, AJP calipers and IRIS Digital clocks and come with a two years parts and labor warranty.


Suspension experts Ohlins have been working on electronically-controlled suspension since 1984 when it took out its first patents. Now it releases a system for racing that fits into existing units that its hopes will be able to offer as an aftermarket system for the road rider.

The system consists of two elements, basically an ECU and a pair of bleed adjustment actuators that fit into the original rebound and compression valves. This will allow the rider to alter the suspension during the race, rather than making a pit stop. No release date has been given for general use.

United Kingdom

Lawrence of Arabia on a Brough Superior.
Lawrence of Arabia on a Brough Superior.

It seems to be a regular occurrence to report the rebirth of a once famous name from the British motorcycle manufacturers who were consigned to the history books a long time ago. This time it is Brough Superior (made really famous by Lawrence of Arabia). 

Last year we reported the rights had been bought by wealthy businessman Mark Upham and now it appears the intention is to build five SS101-styled bikes complete with new engines. The bikes will all be bespoke to the customers own requirements and will come with a dyno readout for the engine to show its power characteristics.

These bikes will not be cheap, but money will not be the only requirement to own one, you will need to go through a vetting and interview process to make sure you are a ‘proper’ person to own one. Three such people have already laid their deposits down!

The UK motorcycle industry should be eligible for the same levels of support as those offered by the government to the car sector. The Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCI) is backing the European Association of Motorcycle Manufacturers (ACEM)’s call (see lead story) for measures similar to those devised for the car sector, to be applied to the powered two-wheeler industry in order to counter the economic crisis.

It would seem that all the dealers who we mentioned last month that were selling both new and used stock to Europeans dealers and enthusiasts are now beginning to regret their decision for a fast buck.

The initial reason was the strength of the Euro against Sterling had and has put foreign customers in a position to pay near retail prices for second-hand units in the UK before transporting them across the continent to sell at substantial margins.

Doing business with this growing customer group may have provided a short-term sales boost during an otherwise bleak trading time, but dealers are now concerned that it has been at the cost of future business. Experts calculate that a home sale will generate up to five other transactions to include part exchanges, often of the original machine.

This means that it will go through various price points, appealing to different customers, not to mention profit for the workshop and potential clothing and accessory sales. While some dealers appreciate that it is hard to turn down a firm sale in the current climate, it means there will be a shortage of machinery when things do pick up and it could put off potential new riders.

The EVO Design Solutions EVO-RR and EVO-R will both race the 2009 TTXGP.

As a result of this, in the auction halls, competition for the best quality lots at recent motorcycle sales has become more intense as retail demand gains strength and good-quality machines become more difficult to source. Feedback from the market indicates that second-hand stocks are too low to satisfy any rise in consumer demand. As a result, the auction houses are now seeing a number of retail buyers attending trade auctions to try and lay their hands on a bargain.

Back in the 1990s sports car manufacturer Lotus nearly entered the world of motorcycling with a machine designed by former Norton works rider and development engineer Peter Williams. Now thanks to the Electric TT races we mentioned in the last edition, the bike could see daylight as a battery-powered race bike run by a consortium of British engineers.

The EV-O RR is made from a stressed all carbon body, has a double wishbone front end and Moto GP developed telemetry and control systems. It is claimed the bike will have the power and performance of a 600cc sportbike.

The Rest of the World


Cut backs continue as Suzuki has recently announced that it will shut down some operations at domestic motorcycle and auto factories for two to eight extra days in April. The motorcycle and automobile manufacturer plans to shut down production lines for export models at the Sagara factory, in Makinohara, Shizuoka Prefecture, for five extra days. Sport utility vehicle production lines at the Iwata factory, in Shizuoka Prefecture, will be shut down the longest among the auto production lines, with six extra days off.