Euro Gossip May 2009

May 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.

Looking around Europe and further afield as I do each month, it is still very much a case of highs and lows. Thankfully the positives seem now to be in the majority, although as you will see from Spain, there is still a long way to go before it is all good news.

However, on this side of the pond the weather is greatly improving and should encourage new and lapsed riders to head for the dealerships and increase demand. This will hopefully encourage the factories to go ahead with the many new models that make up the rumour and gossip on which this column thrives!


Motorcycle Accidents In Depth Study
MAIDS: Motorcycle Accident In-Depth Survey

The Belgian Institute for Road Safety has recently launched a national campaign to raise road users’ awareness regarding the presence of Powered Two Wheelers (PTW) on the roads. Research has shown that half of PTW accidents are caused by perception errors made by other vehicle users. In order to increase the safety conditions for motorcycle riders, this campaigns targets other vehicles, inviting them to be more careful, as well as motorcyclists, explaining to them that they are not always visible to other road users.

One of the most important studies on motorcycle collisions, know as the MAIDS report, has just been republished. A new comparison between mopeds and motorcycles is included in this updated edition of the report Version 2.0 of the MAIDS Study is now available on It includes a new presentation of the data with a split between mopeds (L1 vehicles) and motorcycle (L3) in both chapters, chapter 3.0 General Accident Characteristics and Chapter 10.0 Rationale for Action.


The City of Paris has launched a campaign granting up to 400 Euros for the purchase of new electric mopeds (up to 25% of the purchase price inclusive of VAT). The aim is to encourage the use of electrically powered two-wheeled vehicles, which are considered as a sustainable solution to its congestion and pollution. A network of 40 terminals set up by Paris City Hall will allow for free battery recharges.

Julien Rondinos three wheel motorcycle concept.
French designer Julien Rondinaud’s three-wheel motorcycle design is very different from those currently in production but it has yet to be seen if this concept will make it into production.

Staying with new concepts, French designer Julien Rondinaud, based in Paris, has developed a KTM-powered three-wheeler. The Axial Three Wheel concept shows the three wheels in line longitudinally along the length of the vehicle and is powered by a twin KTM motor.

The bike runs on fourteen-inch wheels. The rear features auto steering and is longer than normal, but its designer claims his concept is just as nimble as a sports bike, but a lot harder to crash! The machine exists only as concept at present despite two years work and can be seen at

If you watched the Vin Diesel movie Babylon AD, you may have seen motor bikes featured heavily in the action sequences. Now one is up for sale, which cost just short of £40,000 to build, but the builder is open to offers.

Babylon AD Lazareth
Futuristic styling and amazing power will surely mean that Lazareth’s  superbike will command a high price if you want to see one in your garage.

Crazy Frenchman Ludovic Lazareth, whose creations have been mentioned here before, built the bike using a Yamaha Thunderace as the basis, although little of this remains. The engine now has a supercharger from a Mini Cooper S to give it a claimed 200bhp. So if you want something different with some very visible provenance, contact Ludovic and make him an offer.

French clothing brand Furygan is celebrating 40 years in the business and is launching a range of new products to celebrate as well as updating many other existing lines.


MZ Motorcycles
MZ motorcycles might rise from the ashes after two former racers purchased the brand and hope to revive it.

According to German news agency reports, the historic MZ brand has been bought by two of its former sponsored riders. Martin Wimmer, now the managing director, and Ralf Waldman, the race director, apparently concluded the deal in March for the company, which finally closed its doors at the end of 2008 after nearly 100 years of motorcycle production in the former East Germany.

Once producing over 85,000 machines a year in the State of Saxony, it was acquired by Malaysian giant Hong Leong Industries in 1996. Despite trying to inject new life into the brand with the launch of a 1000cc parallel twin, it continued to take losses and was closed in December, having made its last machine in June, 2008.

Strangely the deal, believed to be around 4 million Euros, seems to have been bankrolled by its former owners, although local government is now supporting it as it will create local jobs!

The former racers do not intend to produce the 1000cc parallel twin due to cost, but instead will focus on the 125 for the road market and a 250 race bike for the German domestic racing championship.


Good news from Italy – the sale of PTWs are now starting to take off again after the adoption of a scrapping scheme we mentioned a few columns ago. Thanks to the plan adopted by the Italian government, consumers are starting to regain confidence and are trading in their old machines and once again buying new vehicles.

A 500 Euro incentive was made available for replacing any Euro 0 or Euro 1 PTW with a new Euro 3 compliant vehicle. While at first only vehicles under 400cc were entitled to the discount which started in April, the scrapping scheme was quickly extended to all PTWs up to 60 kW, therefore covering a large part of the middleweight market and the whole of the Italian scooter market.

Ducati Vyper
The Vyper has been rumored to be Ducati’s entry in to the Curiser market. Although Ducati hasn’t released information about the motorcycle this artist’s rendering gives an idea of what could be comming to a dealership near you.

Ducati looks to be poised to launch a power cruiser called the Vyper, based on its new Streetfighter machine. According to the report and pictures published in a European bike magazine, it will be aimed at the Harley Davidson V-Rod and similar bikes like the Yamaha V-Max.

Other reports also suggest that the BMW GS-styled machines that we have often mentioned here may well still be in the pipeline with a fairly imminent world launch, certainly 2010 at the latest.

Sources suggest it will be the lightest and fastest in the class, although the street will be its primary habitat like the Triumph Tiger, rather than having any real dirt pretensions.

The factory leaks also suggest a scooter may come from Bologna!

The Benelli Due that has been mentioned repeatedly since it broke cover at the German Intermot show way back in 2006 now appears to be finally undergoing its final testing.

Designed by Spaniard Carlos Solsona (who subsequently left after snail- like progress with the project), it has been seen in the vicinity of the Pesaro factory ridden by former Superbike rider-turned-tester, Giancula Galasso.

It is believed there are two engine sizes, a 600cc and 750cc, to allow the bike to compete in different markets and to maximize its sales potential. The bike was actually designed to have a common platform to allow many variants to come from the basic format and it is expected these may well start appearing in 2011 after the current two models appear next year.

The funding for these products is of course coming from its parent company, Qianjiang, who bought the ailing historic Italian brand back in 2005. 

Aprilia has closed its off-road R&D subsidiary located at Ternate in Italy with a loss of 38 jobs. It was established in 2002 by Ampelio Macchi, who had headed up work on the Husqvarna machines while under the control of MV. Ironically, he left due to the financial difficulties being experienced by the parent company and the current economic climate is being blamed for this closure! 

Other classic Moto Guzzi styling touches include chrome spoked wheels cigar-shaped chrome Lafranconi exhausts and instruments that clearly resemble the famous Veglia-Borlettis from the 70s.
Moto Guzzi plans to produce more classic styled motorcycles with modern technology similar to their V7 released earlier this year.

Moto Guzzi is apparently considering supplanting some of its more modern power-trains into machines with classical styling like the V7 Classic. Favourable response to the older styled machines has been marred by comments about its lack of get-up-and-go.

This would of course be the cheapest way for the factory to give the fans exactly what they want, despite initially rejecting the idea on a cost basis. Insiders are now suggesting that such a move is now under consideration, even more so when you read on below!

While they think about that, Moto Guzzi admits that it is going to launch a brand new machine with the California moniker for 2010. The 1200cc machine will be its new flagship model, according to the press department.

The original was launched in 1971 as a touring version of the V7, but based on a police specification model. Ten years later, the capacity was upped to 948 and in ’93 it got fuel injection. Expect the power-train to come from a Stelvio!


News from Spain is definitely not good. According to reports, dealers are facing a 25% decline in sales and more than 6250 jobs in the motorcycle industry have already been lost so far as a result of the economic downturn. In early 2008, Spain’s network of dealers and agents employed 25,000. Since the beginning of the economic downturn, this figure has diminished considerably.

This unfortunate situation stems from a 25% fall in the market during 2008 and in the first quarter of 2009 registrations, which are even less than had been predicted. The reality was a 54.47% drop for motorcycles and mopeds sales, and a 56.60% drop for ATVs and quads.

Given these dramatic decreases, as you might expect the trade has called on the government to bring in measures and incentive policies to support the trade to help revive the sale of mopeds and motorcycles in Spain.

Classic Cos HyperTwin HT-01
Classic Co. has revealed the Hypertwin HT-01 designed by engineering student Jose Perez.

On a far more positive note, Moto Guzzi specialists Classic Co, based in Madrid, has taken the work of an engineering student, Jose Perez, and created the Hypertwin HT-01. Based on a Guzzi MGS-0, it features a Ducati trellis-style frame in which the now liquid cooled motor sits, complete with belt driven cams.

The suspension has been up-rated as has the braking system. In fact, the front end comes directly from a Ducati 999, while it is now clad in an angular bodywork very reminiscent of the KTM RC-8. At present the bike is being raced at selected meetings to act as mobile advertising boarding for their products, but may eventually be put into limited production if there is sufficient demand.

United Kingdom

The bad news is that new registrations of motorcycles are 6.5 % down on April 2008 figures, according to the Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCIA), and the overall powered two-wheeler (PTW) market is 12.4 % down on the same month last year. To put numbers on that statistic, 12,045 new motorcycles, mopeds and scooters were registered.

The good news is that this is a far stronger performance than the UK car market, which dropped 24 % in April. April’s results demonstrate the continuing relevance of motorcycles, mopeds and scooters as a UK transport option which offers affordability in the current credit crunch.

The debacle concerning the new government motorcycle riding test that has been highlighted here continues with some of the first candidates getting injured as result of falling off during the new ‘swerve’ test. This manoeuvre, to be carried out at 31 mph, is designed to replicate real world riding and help prevent riders crashing!

I think that we can be back fighting again in Motegi. I am so glad we could race today after yesterday and I am satisfied to be leaving here having made a good start to the season - it is long! Valentino Rossi - MotoGP - Losail
Valentino Rossi will make his first appearance at the Isle of Man TT race with legendary racer Giacomo Agonstini.

However, preliminary reports are showing the exact opposite, leading to some instructors resigning rather than teach people to hurt themselves. There is also a chronic lack of test facilities as predicted and the industry is already calling for the government to rethink the whole programme!

Eight-time MotoGP World Champion, Valentino Rossi, has confirmed that he will make his first visit to the Isle of Man TT Races in June this year.

The 30-year-old winner of 97 Grands Prix will visit the Island on Saturday, June 6th, with fellow Italian legend Giacomo Agostini. The latter, who raced on the famous Mountain Course between 1966 and 1972, winning 10 TT races, (which then held world championship status) will accompany Rossi on a lap of the course prior to the Dainese-sponsored Superbike race.

The two most successful motorcycle racers of all time will ride behind the course car on 2009 Yamaha R1s, flanked by the Travelling Marshalls, who will be riding similar machines.

Rest of the World


The Keihin Corporation, as most know, supplies the Japanese bike industry with most of its carburetors and fuel systems. Now the cut-back in motorcycle production is obviously starting to filter back down to the individual suppliers of component parts.

Ergo Keihin has announced that it will close a fuel system plant in Iwate Prefecture by next January and a motorcycle parts factory in Kawasaki by August. All production facilities and employees will be transferred to remaining factories, according to reports.

The Kawasaki plant’s development operations will shift to the company’s hub in Tochigi Prefecture. The consolidation will reduce the company’s domestic factories from eight to six and its development facilities from three to two, which they hope will help reduce overall costs without loss of business or staff.

Honda Logo
Honda Motor Co. showed that they aren’t immune to the effects of a slow economy dipping in to the red in the fourth quarter.

Despite some conflicting reports over the past couple of months, Honda Motor Co. has finally announced that it has plunged into the red in its fiscal fourth quarter, hurt by stagnant consumer spending in primary markets and the yen’s surge.

In the quarter ended March, the company posted a net loss of ¥186.1 billion, a swing from the year-earlier profit of ¥25.4 billion and an operating loss of ¥283.0 billion, reversing the previous year’s operating profit of ¥168.8 billion. Sales plummeted 42% to ¥1.784 trillion from ¥3.056 trillion.

The company though has recently unveiled plans to bring an electric PTW to the market for 2010. CEO Takeo Fukui revealed that the company is developing a battery-powered electric motorcycle which emits no CO2 during operation.

PTWs, which are often used for short distance travel and urban mobility, are starting to benefit from battery technology improvements as battery life has been a limiting factor in their market growth.

Arai Helmets
Arai Helmets celebrates their 25th year supporting the Isle of Man TT.

The 2009 Isle of Man TT races will mark 25 years of Arai Helmets officially supporting the TT. The legendary Japanese helmet is synonymous with the TT and riders like the legendary Joey Dunlop (26 TT victories) have all worn the premier brand. In fact, each year up to 80% of competitors at the Isle of Man put their faith in the Japanese brand.

In 1983, Arai broke into the European market and first attended the TT in 1984. From its small beginnings, Arai set the benchmark in rider service and this year will send a purpose-built unit and two support vans to the Isle that will be manned by a staff of five.

Arai use the races to gather important data and feedback on its products in order to aid motorcycle helmet development and to create a better product for road riders as well as racers.

Arai says that the TT is responsible in helping development to determine vent sizing and position, visor aperture and even the general fit of a helmet, relevant to road use, rather than just relying on race track data.


The second annual Bike Asia Expo we mentioned at the beginning of this year took place at the end of February and surprisingly managed to attract 10% more visitors than last years’ inaugural event, despite the current world financial situation. The event was well supported by Italy, with manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers making the long trip, but all were apparently happy with the resulting trade.

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