Euro Gossip December 2009

December 4, 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.

David Robb  VP of BMW Motorrad Design  unveils the eagerly anticipated BMW Concept 6 at the BMW press conference on press day at the The Carole Nash International Motorcycle   Scooter Show 2009 at the Birmingham NEC.The bike is a one-off V6 prototype highlighting BMWs advances in engine technology.
David Robb (VP of BMW Motorrad Design) unveils the eagerly anticipated BMW Concept 6 at the Carole Nash International Motorcycle & Scooter Show. The bike is a one-off prototype highlighting BMW’s advances in engine technology.

Once again we have reached that time of the year when this column can hold its head high or not, as all the motorcycle launches and shows have taken place. Once again, thankfully, we seem to have been bang on target with everything apart from the BMW six-cylinder prototype which appeared both at Milan and the UK’s NEC show.

This managed to stay well and truly under the radar of the extensive range of contacts that help bring information into the public domain. But, it illustrates that many of the leaks actually come from the manufacturers gradually building up interest and demand for up-and-coming models. If they really don’t want us to know until they’re ready, it is clear we will not!

Most of the new models have been well covered in various press stories, so they will not get a mention here as it seems to have gone mad with news and other innovations that need to be brought to your attention from this side of the water.

On a serious note, this issue contains information on two potential life-saving breakthroughs concerning crash helmets. At the risk of starting with gloomy news consider the fact that the COST 3272 study, a multi-national European research study on motorcycle accidents, found that 67% of motorcycle road casualties sustained head injuries. None of us want to think of such facts, preferring to concentrate on shiny new machines which include many safety orientated aids such as ABS and traction control. But given the above results, we are now pleased to feature some information on helmet advances that make life potentially safer without impinging on the sheer pleasure of riding motorcycles. (See information from Belgium and the UK)


Belgian helmet manufacturer Lazer is claiming a huge step forward in motorcycle helmet design with its newly-launched Superskin range. The company claims to mark a breakthrough in brain protection as the new design helps protect you from the deep, inoperable damage that can occur when the head rotates after hitting a solid surface such as the road or another vehicle.

Lazer Superskin
Lazer Helmets have developed a skin like helmet material that
they call Superskin that works similar to the human skin to
protect the skull.

According to the company’s information, “any blow to the head also results in a sharp, inevitable and immediate rotation of the skull and the brain, which has potentially devastating and untreatable effects on soft brain tissue and blood vessels. These can literally be ripped apart by the shearing forces inside the brain.”

Rotational Head Injury can happen deep within the brain and is not always visible or apparent on the brain’s surface. These twisting forces are the cause of most severe brain injuries. The scalp apparently offers natural protection from rotational head injury and provides frictionless movement minimizing rotation of the skull and brain itself – the Lazer Superskin works in the same way. It uses the Phillips Head Protection System (PHPS) – a flexible lubricated membrane that has been added over the hard shell of the helmet.

The lubricant and elastic quality of the membrane on the helmet decreases rotational forces when a head hits the tarmac or a vehicle, and cuts their rotational effect by over 60% in the critical milliseconds following a blow. This significantly reduces head trauma and decreases the risk of rotational head injury.”

Not nice to think about as you attack your favorite set of bends on a sportbike or explore a new dirt road, but comforting to think that somebody is doing their bit to help reduce potential injury when you get it wrong! Lazer claims that this new breakthrough could not only save lives, but turn potentially serious injuries into minor ones.

For more information on this and their state-of-the-art ‘electronic’ visor which darkens at the push of a button visit


French TV is to carry a series of 20 different road safety adverts paid for by the French government’s road safety organization Secuite Routiere. The strap line for each which is aimed at getting road users to be more aware of each other, especially powered two wheelers is ‘An accident never happens by accident.’


The C1  BMWs enclosed scooter model  never had the staying power the Bavarian marque hoped
Propelling the BMW C1-E is an electric motor sourcing juice from a lithium-ion battery.

BMW has now developed the C1 Electric scooter based on the original petrol powered C1, albeit it is now a little more aerodynamic in appearance. The new model is powered by a Vectrix electric motor and has the same previous safety features like a seat belt and roll over bar. There are currently no plans to put it into production according to the factory as it was produced as part of a European safety project.

German helmet manufacturer Schuberth has launched the C3 Carbon, a new helmet which it claims is the lightest and quietest flip-up helmet on the market weighing in at 1,385 grams (3.05 lbs). In addition, it has launched a version of the C3 called the Lady with an interior compromised of an anti-allergic, anti-bacterial, microfiber lining which it claims suits a female’s facial anatomy better. The company has also announced it is in talks with Cardo Systems, the US market leader in Bluetooth communications, to produce an entertainment and communications system for its helmets.

At the first international fair for electric mobility called ‘eCarTec 2009’ in Munich, companies from all over the world gathered for series of awards in the field of electric mobility. Zero Motorcycles, which is now based in Europe as well as the US, managed to scoop the award for the “Best Electric Motorcycle” to add to its already impressive list of credits. Zero Motorcycles first appeared in 2006 with the all-electric Drift. In 2008 it launched the Zero X, which was followed by the Zero S Supermoto motorcycle in April this year. Zero followed up this August with the Zero DS dual sport.


Recent figures from the Italian motorcycle industry show a small drop of 1.6% for the first nine months of this year compared to last. While this may seem excellent news, motorcycle sales actually fell by 20.9% and it was only a buoyant scooter market helped by the 500 euro government subsidy that kept the fall being much higher!


Just when it probably thought things could not get any worse, the Spanish motorcycle market continues to get bad news. As part of its cost cutting program Honda is now to stop motorcycle production in Spain. The Japanese giant has been gradually losing out to the competition and will close its factory in Barcelona, which commenced production in 1986 and currently has an annual output capacity of 50,000 units. Instead, the Honda side of things will be transferred to Italy, but no mention has been made of the Spanish Montessa brand which is also produced there. The only good news for the workers is that while actual motorcycle production will cease in March 2010, parts production will still continue at the plant for the foreseeable future.

Rieju RS3Rieju RS3Rieju RS3
Rieju spices up their 125cc street bikes with some MotoGP inspired design. Rieju hopes to draw in some of the younger riders with this slick ride.

Meanwhile home manufacturer Rieju continues with more new models in the small bike market, this time for the road. The new RS3 features a completely new composite steel/aluminum chassis in which is mounted a Yamaha-Minarelli 125cc 4-stroke liquid-cooled engine. Upside down front forks with 40 mm stanchions keep the front end supported, making the bike appear bigger than it actually is. Braking is trusted to a couple of Wave discs of 300mm in front and 220mm rear, with a radial-mounted front caliper, mounted on light alloy 17” rims. Clad in a new “MotoGP” inspired bodywork, underlined with advanced lighting, LED type lamps for the rear and front daytime lights, make the R3 have real street credibility for the younger riders.

United Kingdom

Norton Commando 961 Cafe Racer
Norton seems to have stolen the NEC UK show with their standard models but managed to surprise the crowd with their new Cafe Racer.

The re-born Norton Motorcycle Company certainly kept its word by launching the new Norton 961 SE at the UK show at the end of November. But, they really stunned the show-goers with the launch of a Café Racer version and basic Sport version to go with. With the first deliveries going out at the beginning of December and full order books it looks like they are truly back and will become a major player once again in the British motorcycle industry.

We have previously reported the good news from the UK government regarding the fall in motorcycle accident figures including fatalities. However, the 2008 figures still showed that over 28,000 motorcycle accidents resulted in around 5,500 serious injuries and 500 fatalities in the Great Britain. Many involved Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) which thanks to research from a University in Sussex could become significantly less. A development team, led by inventor Julian Preston-Powers and Ricardo Anzil, have been working on a brain-cooling device that can be incorporated into a crash helmet to minimize brain injury after a collision.

The medical profession has long recognized the benefits of a hypothermic state in trauma victims for literally hundreds of years. Using that knowledge the ThermaHelm brain cooling device has been patented to help reduce the damage caused by the swelling of the brain post trauma.

Apparently ThermaHelm, performs like an instant ice pack when activated by sudden impact. As a result it reduces brain swelling and thus the risk of long-term brain damage and extends the time medical staff has to perform any critical medical procedures. The basic concept of using a hypothermic state to reduce deterioration has long been use in medical institutions during operations etc, but nobody has thought of taking it outside that environment until now.

Will ThermaHelm be standard equipment in your helmets in the
next few years? While it is still in the prototype phase, there
appear to be no shortage of brands interested in this technology.

So significant are the results of this research and development, despite it still being at the prototype stage, it has attracted significant interest from crash helmet manufacturers from all over the world. According to the team, the device would be integrated within the lining of the helmet when it is made and would have no adverse impact on the overall integrity of the helmet. It operates by having two light-weight and non-toxic chemical packs built into the helmet lining, one containing water, the other ammonium nitrate. Multiple trigger points allow the chemicals to mix after the membranes have been broken and initiate the endothermic (cold) reaction which is immediate and starts cooling the brain to prevent swelling. The cooling effect lasts for 30-45 minutes to help prevent damage. Another benefit is that there is no need to remove the helmet to reduce swelling, which could cause, or aggravate spinal or neck injuries sustained in the accident, no matter how carefully it is done.

At present is anticipated that following successful trials it could be on sale in early 2010 and will be suitable for use in most standard helmets and will add approximately £150 to the overall price.

If you watch the mainstream news you will doubt know already that the UK is gearing up for a general election which is likely to take place in May 2010. Unlike the US, mercifully the process is far quicker as the various political parties clamor for votes. In an effort to make sure that motorcycling is not overlooked by a new government or legislated against, all the various motorcycle groups have joined forces to make potential parliamentary candidates realize that motorcyclists are also voters. The Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), the British Motorcyclists Federation (BMF) who represent riders rights, have joined with the Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCIA) who represent the industry, to encourage motorcyclists to vote.

The main ‘Riders Are Voters’ campaign will kick off in the new year and as part of this, motorcycle riders and businesses in the motorcycle industry will be encouraged to contact local Parliamentary Candidates to ask for support for a motorcycling manifesto; ‘Britain Needs Biking’.

It has come about as research has shown that more than a million motorcycle and scooter riders are voters, so are their friends and families. The three main bodies hope that by working together they can show that the biking constituency is big enough to make a difference at elections and that biking should be taken seriously in any future legislation and transport policies, especially given the number of jobs it provides as well.

Somewhat ironic that at the same time this alliance was announced the proposals to improve skills and safety for new motorcycle riders were published by the UK government. The measures are contained in a consultation on the implementation of new European requirements which will come into force in 2013. The main aspects of the proposed changes, which may make getting a motorcycle license harder, are that the current two categories of motorbike will be

Hesketh Motorcycles
Confusing name changing / branding aside, there will be some new zero emission scooters hitting the UK market soon.

replaced with three A1 (up to 125cc), A2 (up to 35Kw [47 horsepower]) and A (above 35Kw) and new rules will be introduced for riders of larger bikes. Riders wanting to progress to larger categories of motorbikes will have to take additional training or a further test and there will be a rise in the minimum age from 21 to 24 for those wishing to start riding larger bikes without previous experience.

A few issues ago we reported that a new company bearing the legendary Hesketh name had been set up to market their own brand of scooters that were to be imported. Now it seems there has been a slight change of direction and they have secured an exclusive deal with New Vectrix, which is continuing production of its zero emission electric bikes. The new machine will be sold as a premium product in the UK under the brand name “Hesketh” and will be called the Hesketh HZE-Vectrix.

Royal Enfield Woodsman
Royal Enfield revives the Woodsman name, but the name is just about all it shares with its 50’s era brother.

UK registrations of powered two wheelers PTW’s have recorded their 12th successive monthly fall. Registrations for October 2009 were 27% down on the same month in 2008 according to the latest figures which show a fall in all categories. As a result the MCIA which represents the manufacturers, have once again called on the UK government to introduce an incentive package similar to the car market which has seen the automotive sector return to growth despite the ongoing recession.

The ‘Woodsman EFI’ is the latest variant of the new fuel-injected Royal Enfield‘s Bullet with high bars and a raised exhaust. Unveiled at the recent UK’s NEC Bike show, it has been designed in the UK and despite being new in every respect its name comes from the marque’s past history.

The original Woodsman was produced by the UK factory at Redditch and was on sale in the mid-fifties, (1955 -1959) in the home market. It was also sold in the USA under the Indian brand name. Despite its historical links, the new Woodsman now features a solo seat, a mini luggage rack, rear set footrests and an alloy bash plate. The powerplant is, of course, the new 499cc electronically-controlled fuel-injected unit complete with a five-speed gearbox which meets the new Euro 3 emission tests. The more stringent emissions forced the factory to move from its older engine, which had been in production since the original Woodsman was

Avon Storm Ultra 2
Avon reveals their new Storm 2 Ultra tires to the public at the UK international Motorcycle Show and further improving on their Storm brand.

produced. The Indian-based factory claim a power output of 28 hp in standard form with 30.46 lb-ft of torque at 4000rpm. Fuel consumption is a claimed 80 mpg, which means a tank range of over 200 miles!

Home grown UK motorcycle tire producer Avon Tyres, debuted its successor to the Storm ST family of sports-touring tires at this year’s UK International Motorcycle and Scooter show. Avon claim the new Storm 2 Ultra builds on the performance of the previous tire by offering greater mileage and improved grip in all weathers and road conditions. These improvements are as a result of a multi-compound Super Rich Silica (SRS) tread and a zero-degree belting system, combined with modifications to the dynamic stresses within the carcass to increase mechanical grip on the road.