Euro Gossip April 2010

April 6, 2010
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 Spaniards love  I mean love  their scooters. There are more in one or two city blocks in Barcelona than you will find in an entire downtown of many US cities.
New legislation and budget cuts have put the motorcycle industry in a tough spot in Europe. Can the various associations and government agencies see eye-to-eye on a solution?

Yet another quiet month on the actual motorcycle front, although in the world of UK politics motorcycles have been featured quite a lot recently. There are several good reasons, as you will see in a minute, but also the main election for the UK government is up and coming and those up for election are always keen to do anything for votes.

No surprise then that the House of Commons heard Prime Minister Gordon Brown announce recently that “it is important that we have a strong motorcycling industry in this country.” It is an industry that directly employs 62,000 people (not mention ancillary firms that get business) and contributes a not too shabby significant gross value of £2.7 billion to the nation’s coffers.

Brown’s statement came in response to questions raised regarding the appalling motorcycle testing situation, which has been fundamentally changed since the introduction of European legislation in October 2008. Since then there has been a 62% decline in the number of tests taken since the introduction of the multi-purpose test centers. The total number of bike test centers has also dropped from more than 200 to around 60, forcing candidates to travel miles to take a motorcycle test and putting many training firms out of business. (See below for more information on this)

Worryingly, a further piece of European legislation due to be implemented in 2013 could put the final nail in the coffin of motorcycling if it is not monitored and implemented properly. Understandably, the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) that represents manufacturers and business’s publically welcomed the Prime Minister’s support. Its faith was rewarded shortly after with the publication of a report by the influential Parliamentary Transport Select Committee (TSC) on the new European motorcycle test. The test, which was introduced early in 2009 as a result of European regulations, was widely criticized by the industry, trainers and riders groups.

The TSC report follows ‘enquiry’ hearings, held in Parliament during October 2009. The Motor Cycle Industry Association, along with its sister organization, the Motor Cycle Industry Training Association (MCITA) and riders groups, took an active part in the TSC’s enquiry and appeared in front of it to give evidence. The result is that the TSC has been damning in its assessment of the Driving Standards Agency’s (DSA), which administers the testing on behalf of government. The Committee concluded that the implementation of the new MPTCs was ‘bungled’, and that the Driving Standards Agency’s failure to get all 66 planned centers operational, inconveniencing motorcyclists and trainers and driving up the cost of doing a test, is unacceptable.

Chair, Louise Ellman MP said, “many candidates and trainers now have to travel too far for their motorcycle test. This adds to the cost and in some cases, exposes candidates to fast and dangerous roads on the way to a test site – before they have even taken their test. The Driving Standards Agency needs to give much greater priority to customer service and convenience for test candidates and trainers.”

The report concludes that the Driving Standards Agency was slow and dogmatic in its approach to test centers, failing to listen adequately to the motorcycle industry. Smaller test sites could have been retained, saving millions of pounds. No other country in Europe has found it necessary to build ‘super test sites.’ However, the MCIA said that while this vindicated its view, it does not solve the problem. The MCIA report calls for more cooperation and dialogue to sort out the current problems, and the perhaps more serious impeding legislation out.

Speaking of which, it would appear that the European Parliament at Brussels is looking at making ABS mandatory of motorcycles adding up to £750 to the cost of a machine and maybe putting riders off buying sportbikes. In addition they are looking at extending the 100 hp limit, currently in force in France, to the rest of Europe. Although some see this as highly unlikely, instead it will more likely be France being asked to drop it for harmonization purposes, which would be good news for French riders at least.

Neale Bayly makes a long overdue return to Scotland on some Triumph STs.
Small business owners can now get a big discount on a new motorcycle in the UK with a new piece of legislation.

Staying with Parliament, the recent financial UK Budget had some good news for those running motorcycles as part of their business. Riders can now make savings and take advantage of a little publicized change in law which could slash up to 40% off the cost of a new bike. A change to the Finance Act means self-employed riders buying a bike solely for business use can deduct 100% of its cost from their taxable profits by claiming it as an annual investment on their tax return.

What this means in practical terms is that a rider could save a staggering £2,728 on the cost of a new Honda CBF1000. Valued at £6,821, the change in the law will bring the cost of a new CBF1000 down to only £4,093 for those who pay 40% tax. The new rules only apply to bikes bought after April 6th 2009 but may help persuade more people to move to two wheels and save money, as well as enjoying the ride and the congestion beating properties of motorcycles.

On a similar vein London, the capital city, has announced that up to £17m is to be invested by The Department for Transport (DoT) and Transport for London (TfL) in the development of an electric charging infrastructure. This will be good news for all those involved with electric motorcycles, which, as you will see, tend to dominate this report!


2010 KTM Freeride Enduro
KTM evolves its original electric prototype into the new Freeride, which debuted at the Tokyo Motorcycle Show.

KTM continues to expand its horizons despite its recent financial woes. To this end it has presented two versions of an electrically-driven sport motorcycle, one a sports-oriented off-road machine and the other a dynamic on-road bike at the Tokyo Motorcycle Show. Called the Freeride, the bikes have taken 1.5 years to develop and they are part of KTM’s commitment toward the production of a series-ready zero emission motorcycle. KTM believes these new models “truly express the sporting spirit of the brand, bikes that transport the company motto “Ready to Race” right into the 21st century”.

Sources state that production of the new KTM Freeride sports Enduro will probably begin in the coming year. There are no current plans for the Supermoto-oriented Freeride variant, other than to serve as an example as to how the range can be expanded in the future.

Meanwhile on a more conventional front the 125 X-Street, that we have mentioned being built by Bajaj in India, is set to have a bigger brother according to factory sources. The learner-legal 125cc, which should be on sale at the end of this year, will get a sibling built on the same platform for 2013 as both the Austrian and Indian firm seek to attract younger riders to increase sales.


Bakker Frames
Bakker could see some higher than usual production numbers if the speculated Moto3 class comes to replace the existing 125cc MotoGP class.

The name Nice Bakker is legendary when talking about special low volume, tuned and sweet-handling motorcycles, not to mention the odd frame for Giacomo Agostini. No wonder then that he has turned his attention to the new racing class dubbed Moto3. Although currently not ratified as such, this is expected to take over as the entry-level racing class from the hugely expensive 125cc GP machines, where leasing one bike from a factory can cost in the region of £120,000 per season.

Compare this with Bakker’s first effort based around a Suzuki RM-Z250 motor that you can buy for £20,000. In standard form it makes 42 hp (average 45 hp for a 125GP machine) and sits in an aluminum frame with similar dimensions to the afore mentioned GP machine. Costs will obviously vary depending on the level of components, like suspension used – Ohlins’ of course upping the ante considerably. But, with clubs all around Europe opening up the 125 class to 250 four-stroke Singles to get a full grid, Bakker could well be moving into quite respectable production levels if he keeps the cost down!


The concept surfaced two years ago  but now its a reality as Piaggio introduces its MP3 Hybrid scooter - a gas electric hybrid coming to the US in 2010.
A joint project between Piaggio and energy company Enel hopes to advance zero emission technology through sharing information in hopes to bring more electric vehicles to the mainstream.

Continuing with the move to electric vehicles, Piaggio and Enel, an Italian energy provider, have recently signed an agreement for the development of mobility of zero, or low environmental impact. According to the joint statement, ‘The purpose of this project is to analyze the specific needs of mobility and electrical charging of individual users and company fleets, while providing innovative products and services. It will also enable to test the interaction between Enel’s recharging infrastructure and Piaggio’s electric vehicles.

Basically Piaggio will provide know-how, information and technical data on electric and hybrid engines, their performance, usage and recharging requirements, and will provide the results of surveys on the management of resources at zero and low impact on the environment. Existing models such as the MP3 scooter Hybrid will be used in trials while Enel will provide its innovative electric charging infrastructure as their part of the deal.


Royal Automobile Club of Catalunya
The Royal Automobile Club of Catalunya has released a study showing that PTW’s rank high in crash statistics and are currently using it to help form a proper safety campaign to address PTW safety.

The Royal Automobile Club of Catalunya in Spain has recently published a study on the “Safety of Powered Two-Wheelers in the city of Barcelona.” PTW’s have always been an important part of Barcelona’s transport mix, which is similar to Rome, but they feature highly in the crash statistics as well.

One of the main reasons for the study was to identify the main causation factor for collisions to help form an informed message for a safety campaign to be aimed at PTW users.

The study found that in 2007, there were 278,000 PTW’s in Barcelona, which according to the research explains why it has lower congestion levels than other urban areas of the same size. In addition PTW’s are prominent due to the lack of a decent public transport system. According to this study, in Barcelona there are 21 injuries every day involving PTW accidents. Not surprisingly the main accident causes are similar to those found the world over such as:

‘Improper turning of other vehicles, not obeying the traffic lights and distraction (all represent 12% of total), followed by the disobedience of other traffic signs (9%) and poorly performed lane changes (8%). Alcohol was found as a secondary contributing factor in 9% of the mildly injured victims and in 52% of the heavily injured ones.’

United Kingdom
Triumph, which is celebrating 20 years of production in its new guise, is set to launch an all-new three-cylinder tourer under the Trophy name, along with a GS rival big trailie using the same power-plant, possibly using the Adventurer name. It is expected that the first will be fitted with items like Sat Nav and be on a par with a Pan European and the second will be road based and run alongside the Tiger rather than replace it.

AJS Eos 125 MK2
AJS Motorcycles has announced their updated Eos 125 MK2 with improved rear suspension and some updates to its chopper styling.

A more confirmed rumor, though, is that of a new Sprint ST version, which has been spotted undergoing final tests. Changes appear minor from the shots taken. And shaft drive, although rumored, seems not to be the case. Triumph has not yet commented on the pictures circulating about the bike.

Meanwhile like Triumph, the new motorcycles being launched under the historic AJS moniker may be a long way from those original machines manufactured in the UK, they are at least keeping the name alive. Recently announced is the new AJS Eos 125, which is now in it’s Mk2 version, with a new look for 2010 including a black engine, side panels and battery cover. It also features improved rear suspension, a new design of alloy wheels, new exhaust system with bolt-in CATs, new handlebar risers and an option of dual seat. A brand new model called the Daytona also joins the budget line-up. Based n the Eos chassis , it comes with USD front forks, steeper steering head angle, a dual seat as standard and multi-spoked alloy wheels.

If pulling wheelies is your thing, pity the UK rider who has just got 3-month’s jail time for pulling one. Admittedly, it was close to an unmarked police car and he did flip up his number plate in an effort to avoid detection, but this is more than most people currently get for violent crimes like robbery!