Euro Gossip September 2009

September 14, 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.

Despite the fact that Italy shuts down for August and not much news has emanated from there, plenty of gossip is coming in from other places. Amongst the bad, some good and positive news seems to be surfacing, so here is the latest version of ‘murder and intrigue’ from the wide world of motorcycles.


Brough Superior Motorcycles Ltd. are a long way from Nottingham, England, where the original factory started by George Brough was located. The new company, based in the Austrian Tyrol is now producing an exact replica of the Pendine Racer, which takes a year to build. Costing well into six figures (they do not specify) you have to be vetted to place an order. The factory expects to build five or six each year!

Blata 125cc Motard
Blata is slowly expanding in to the full-sized motorcycle market with an Enduro and Motard model.


The name Blata may not spring to everybody’s list when talking about Eastern European motorcycles, but the Czechoslovakian manufacturer has been around since 1970 and made its name with Mini-moto machines. Now they have turned their attention to the full-sized machines and have recently introduced the Blata Motard 125cc and the Blata Enduro 125cc. Both are designed in the Czech Republic by Blata’s own research-and-development team located at the factory.

The two bikes share the same 125cc four-stroke single-cylinder engine complete with a balance shaft. Many of the components found on the bikes come from well-known European suppliers like Marzocchi, Sachs, Domino and AJP, who supply the radial front brakes, in an effort to ensure confidence from potential buyers. For the time being the factory is concentrating on the lucrative ‘learner’ market to establish itself before looking at producing anything larger.


Harley-Davidson Michelin Scorcher Tire


German sources close to the BMW factory suggest that for 2010, the BMW R1200 GS will be getting the motor from the HP2 Sport. The DOHC engine will be in a slightly detuned form though to spread the power and make it easier to ride on the road. The R1200RT is likely to get this powerplant as well in addition to a major style make-over.

The same sources suggest a lower specification, production version of the limited-production HP2 Megamoto is to be launched. When any of these will appear is anybody’s guess, with only Milan left as a major European show this year!

The asymmetric configuration and layout of the main and high-beam headlights comes from endurance racing  applying the principle of maximum effect on minimum weight. Precisely this is why the high-beam headlight is much smaller than the low-beam unit.
BMW is going to allow you to customize that BMW S1000RR with ABS and other options not included on its standard model.

The new BMW S1000RR will come in one standard specification and four color options. But, if that does not suit, buyers will be able to order their own machines to be built for them in the factory to their own specification. Purchasers will be able to specify items like ABS and traction control from a BMW list, making it almost a bespoke factory machine.

Despite the general gloom, German tuning specialist AC Schnitzer continues to work their magic on the home product. They have just launched their own version of the BMW F800R and the K1300R at their base in Aachen, Germany.

The smaller machine gets WP suspension front and rear, the former being rebuilt with different internals, the rear a fully-adjustable replacement unit. The exhaust can has been changed along with the air filter to give a useful extra three hp, but delivered in a more responsive manner. There is also a handlebar kit and some styling bodywork to alter the ride and appearance for those who want to be noticed. And you certainly will if you take their radical styling kit for the larger machine, which also has many weight-saving goodies like wheels which allow the 185 hp machine to lose weight and really handle as well as it looks.

MZ Motorcycles
MZ continues to make progress as they work to produce a bike for the German 250 National series and supply spare parts for exsisting MZ bikes.

We recently reported on MZ’s comeback thanks to a buyout by former factory racers, Ralf Waldmann and Martin Wimmer, from the Far East conglomerate who recently owned the historic firm. At the time they stated their intention to go racing and now a prototype has been seen fitted with a KTM 250 motocross motor mounted in their own new chassis. This new tubular steel chassis is based on a 125 GP race bike and uses proprietary Honda parts to speed up development.

The intention is apparently to enter the bike in the German 250 National series which allows 125 two-strokes to race against the larger four- strokes. Work is already well under way on their own motor, which is based on the Yamaha 125 unit that powers all their road bikes at present. There are still no plans to reproduce the 1000cc Twin, although they will be making spares for existing bikes.


Back in the 1970s just 38 examples of the now iconic Van Veen rotary OCR Superbike were built. Using a 1000cc Comotor rotary developed by Citroen and NSU, the 100-hp, 150-mph machine was something very special when it was first shown in 1976. Not only was the 292 kg big, it had a big price tag, the equivalent of about £20,000 now. Due to a number of factors, prices continued to rise and the factory closed in 1981 with just 38 bikes having been sold.

Now two enthusiasts who bought up all the old stock are going to use it all up to build another 10 machines. These will be hand-built in northern Holland, with both the faired and unfaired versions being available. They expect all to be built by 2010 and despite not mentioning prices they already have a lot of serious interest from all over the world.


New Ducati Logo
Ducati is not for sale, but with loans due to be repaid soon and the market not quite at peak performance, could Ducati end up part of the Volkswagen Group in the near future?

Ducati have emphatically told Dr. Ferdinand Pech, the Volkswagen Group Chairman, it is not for sale. The 72-year-old who has just acquired Porsche for the group, is a Ducati rider and has told a German magazine he wished he had bought Ducati when it was struggling in the ‘80s.

Ducati though is on high having recently increased its market share due to its strong model line-up. However, Ducati is owned by Performance Motorcycles, who paid a high premium before the recent world money troubles, borrowing heavily. Its acquisition was based on rising sales which it currently has, but these are in a shrinking market! Loans are apparently due to be repaid soon!

In the meantime Ducati have confirmed that the ‘enduro’ machine that has oft been mentioned here will be launched at the Milan Show. In an interview with an Italian magazine they confirmed its existence, but said it was a ’practical superbike’ not an off-roader.

The trademark Gore Tex is quite rightly associated with waterproofing and breathability. So when you think of motorcycling you think of fabric-based over-suits using one of their membranes or coatings.

Dainese logo
Dainese continues to push the development of racing suits, teaming up with Gore.

However, now you might have to rethink as a partnership between Italian clothing firm Dainese and Gore – the manufacturers of the aforementioned Gore-Tex fabrics – have created a breathable and (they claim) 100% waterproof, leather racing suit.

Leather is of course the preferred protection not only on the track, but on the road for the vast majority of riders, despite recent new technological fabrics and new style suits. However, it is not waterproof and therefore needs an over-suit to be carried. On the road this is not too much of an issue, but on the track it can affect the rider’s ability to move around on the machine.

Valentino Rossi D-Air System
Rossi has been testing the D-Air suit. The Gore-tex application could prove to provide more mobility during racing.

After three years of research and development the first of these new racings suits has been made specifically for none other than Valentino Rossi, who you may remember has also been trying out the airbag suit as well!

According to Dainese, who have been using the Gore technology for years in their fabric motorcycle wear, “the suit unites Dainese’s leather expertise with the technical functionality of Gore-Tex membranes and Gore’s technology expertise to deliver a 100% durably waterproof and breathable leather garment for racing.”

According to sources, another benefit is that Rossi’s suit is lightweight and less bulky, combining the waterproof protection in a single composite layer with Kangaroo hide, which has the best abrasion resistance.

United Kingdom 

Ilmor only had a short time in MotoGP in 2007, before disappearing from view due to lack of finance. Now a British firm called GP Motorsports is offering the exact same bike, now powered by a tuned Aprilia SXV550 motor for road or track use all for just £15,000, plus your donor Aprilia. A limited run of 15 will be built, of which 10 will be for sale, built to the customers own specification. So, if you want a MotoGP bike on the road, you need to place an order quickly!

Motorcycle Industry Association
The MCIA released another study showing UK motorcycle tourism is down and motorcycle sales have dropped from the previous month.

The Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) which represents the UK motorcycle trade, has just published a survey that shows more UK bikers head into Europe than come the other way to the UK.

Its analysis of official statistics shows that almost four times as many British bikers cross the Channel for their holidays as come the other way. These figures show 100,000 independent bikers travel abroad by ferry or the channel tunnel for their holidays in Europe, whereas only 23,000 European riders visit the UK and as a result, tourism is losing out potentially to the tune of £30 million.

Bad news continues as sales of powered two-wheelers (PTW) including motorcycles, mopeds and scooters fell by 26.8% compared to July 2008, according to MCIA figures. Total PTW registrations for the first seven months of the year are down 16.8% with just 72,877 machines registered.

Fifty years of the Triumph Bonneville was celebrated not too far from the original Triumph factory at Meriden recently. Over 500 of the model in its various guises turned up to join some of the original factory staff for a three-day bash. Riders and enthusiasts came from all over the world including Craig Vetter, who flew in from the States to give an entertaining talk on his work with Triumph.

In France  road designers have already introduced a lower rail on crash barriers to prevent bikers from sliding under or hitting support posts.
In France, road designers have already introduced a lower rail on crash barriers to prevent bikers from sliding under or hitting support posts.

Brit bike builder Allen Millyard has appeared in numerous magazines over the years with some of his 30 multi-cylinder creations. Now he has topped the lot with his latest machine powered by a Dodge Viper engine. The 9-foot-long machine is fully road legal and despite it weighing 630 kg, its creator has covered over 250 miles on UK roads. Geared for 190 mph, the 500-hp machine was created in single garage at his home and took a year to build. Despite this he is planning to build another 10 to sell! (Contact kawafives@ if you want to order one)

The first motorcycle–friendly crash barrier has just been installed in north-west England. Made in Spain, it is designed to absorb the energy of a motorcycle or rider before they hit the upright support pillars, which cause the real damage. Its use is being closely monitored after a recent report showed the current barriers, whilst good for stopping four-plus wheels, actually contributed to rider deaths!

Rest of the World


Last month we reported on the fact that the Indian motorcycle market is definitely bucking the world-wide trend of declining sales and is now the second-largest market in the world for PTW’s. Many of the Japanese manufacturers either have their own production plants there, or are allied to Indian manufacturers, making use of the cheaper labor rates to produce some of their product range. KTM, of course, are now producing small machines designed and built in India with home manufacturer Bajaj being a principle shareholder of the Austrian firm.

Harley Davidson Motorcycles
With economic growth in south-east Asia, Harley-Davidson looks to expand their market with sales begining in 2010.

Well it seems that Harley-Davidson has now seen the potential and has formally announced plans to enter the motorcycle market there with the intention of selling bikes in 2010. To this end, the American giant has established a subsidiary to be located in Gurgaon, near Delhi.

Apparently Harley sees India’s rapidly growing economy, rising middle class and the significant investment in construction of new highways as a precursor to leisure motorcycling and as an addition to the thriving small basic transportation market. Initially bikes will be imported, but they have already said they are looking for local partners. ‘Made in India?’


Normally under the Japanese sub-heading we currently list some of the gloom and doom about falling sales, company losses and manufacturing plants closing or reducing output. This time though is somewhat different; although to not mention that Honda is 96% down on last year’s figures would be remiss, but you know that!

According to local press reports, three motorcycle manufacturers appear to have had some luck and escaped damage from the recent earthquake that hit the Shizuoka Prefecture. Many of the major companies were on a summer break, but reports suggest that the Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha factory sites in the Prefecture escaped any serious damage as a result of the ‘quake.


Kymco Like 50cc
The retro-styled Kymco Like now comes in 50cc for scooter riders that wanted vintage styling with better MPG.

Taiwanese manufacturer Kymco has now launched a 50cc version of the hugely popular ‘Like,’ a 125cc retro-styled scooter. The ‘Like 50’ has been classically styled by Italian designer Massimo Zaniboni who designed the larger sibling to ensure continuity. According to the factory ‘it combines the clean and modern lines of a retro scooter with the engineering, build quality and comfort of a 21st century machine’. It is based on the designer’s interpretation of the 1960s scooters and a result has chrome mirrors, wide body panels and chrome surround headlamp on the handlebars to help provide the classic retro look.

The Like 50 is powered by a modern fuel-efficient four-stroke air-cooled engine, which they claim will be capable of achieving in excess of 100 mpg with very low carbon emissions. Despite ‘downsizing’ Kymco has kept premium features from the larger machines to attract buyers. These include a halogen headlight, 12-inch alloy wheels, a digital instrument panel, including fuel gauge, a color-coded top box, electric and kick-start, automatic choke, lockable underseat storage box, steering lock, and center and side stands.


Triumph Motorcycles have had some component manufacturing done in Thailand as well as assembly for some time now. But, now it seems that two large Japanese manufacturers could be joining them. Recent press reports in Japan suggest that both Honda and Kawasaki are looking to produce machines of 600cc and above in Thailand to cut labor costs. Although Honda and others use emerging countries to build small machines, this is the first time the Japanese are looking to be produce larger capacity machines in such countries as part of cost cutting exercises.