Euro Gossip: May 2010

May 5, 2010
The journalists curse has struck again. Just after penning the last column and stating that we could expect to see UK politicians saying nice things about motorcycling in an effort to get votes, a Labour MP publically called motorcyclists “widow-makers and orphan-makers”. Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman went onto say that 650 people died a year on bikes and claimed the number for men dying aged 30-60 was actually rising. The reality is, of course, exactly the opposite. Rider deaths here are falling and are well below 500 a year. Sheerman has previously said that motorcycling should be discouraged and was “extremely dangerous”.
The Hildebrand   Wolfmuller was the first powered two-wheeler motorcycle in production. It was recently sold at an auction for £86 200.
The Hildebrand & Wolfmuller was the first powered two-wheeler motorcycle in production. It was recently sold at an auction for £86,200.

After over 3000 people joined a “Don’t vote Labour” Facebook group as a result of his orphan-maker remark, Sheerman tried to promote motorcycling in the House of Commons in a scandalous about turn to try and get back votes he may have lost the party as a whole. He was not helped when the current Transport Minister refused to promote motorcycling, while trying to encourage motorcycle voters to cast their vote for the Labour party in an interview with the motorcycle press!

To be fair though no party is exactly championing the two-wheeled cause and probably by the time you read this it will have been decided and it will be back to the status quo of fighting ever restrictive legislation from whoever is in power. And speaking of legislation, the new Framework Regulation proposal for the type-approval of PTWs in Europe has been delayed and the European Commission will not publish its proposals until the second half of this year.

One firm who never had to fight anything was Hildebrand and Wolfmuller, who in 1894 created the world’s first production motorcycle. Powered by a 1488ccc water-cooled twin-cylinder powerplant, it used the back wheel as crank and was basic to say the least.

The reason for mentioning it is that the best part of one (not a pretty sight!) has just surfaced from a family that has owned it since 1930. It was sold recently at one of Bonhams UK auctions for a whopping £86,200, which makes a modern production machine that you can actually ride away look very cheap. Makes you wonder if a Yamaha R1 will fetch similar prices relatively speaking in a hundred plus years time!

BMW’s Boxer may become water-cooled by 2012 due to emission requirements.

Rumors coming forth from insiders within BMW state that the Boxer engine will be water-cooled by 2012 to meet forthcoming stricter emission control standards. Officially BMW are staying tight-lipped as you might expect. Given the fact that they have kept the Boxer engine air-cooled since the very first one in 1921, (a portable industrial engine that found its way to a bike in 1923) and passed all the new standards, don’t bank on them not doing it again!

Eicma, otherwise known as the Milan Motorcycle Show (which this year runs from November 2nd through to the 7th), has just announced that Honda will be back exhibiting this year. Honda recently withdrew from exhibiting at all shows as cost cutting exercise. It is hoped that this booking could herald a return by the Japanese giant at major events which will help to encourage other manufacturers back as well.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi may be known worldwide in the political sphere, but soon his brother Paolo

Paolo Berlusconi  who recently purchased Moto Morini  maybe a potential buyer of MV Augusta.
Paolo Berlusconi, who recently purchased Moto Morini, maybe a potential buyer of MV Augusta. 

Berlusconi could be just as well known in the world of motorcycling. The reason is he has bought the Italian manufacturer Moto Morini for 2.5 million Euros.

Moto Morini’s financial troubles have been well reported here over the past few years and the firm actually declared itself bankrupt in September 2009. Under Italian law that gave them breathing space to find an investor and allows them to trade for six months and avoid paying any debts. Since then the firm has only building bikes to order while a backlog of unsold stock was cleared and a new owner sought.

Paolo Berlusconi gets the Morini factory, equipment, plus all the intellectual rights to the bikes and all designs past and present for his money. Berlusconi already owns Garelli, and Italian sources suggest he is a potential purchaser of MV Agusta, which would make him a serious major player in the Italian/world bike market.

Ducati has officially released the Monster 796 which has the 803cc engine and performance similar to the Hypermotard.
Ducati has officially released the Monster 796 which has the 803cc engine and performance similar to the Hypermotard.

As expected, Ducati launched the Monster 796 fitted with the 803cc engine from the Hypermotard. It is mounted in a chassis that is halfway between a 696 and 1100 Monster in specification, both of which will continue to be sold. A single mono–arm controls the rear with a budget Sachs shock and non-adjustable Marzocchi inverted forks. Expect similar performance to the Hypermotard.

After a break, World Ducati Week (WDW) is back at the Misano Circuit in Italy from June 10-14th. Founded in 1998 the normally bi-annual event has attracted thousands of Ducatisti from all over the world for a week’s total immersion in all things red and Ducati. The organizers promise the usual mix of partying with factory riders present, shows, test rides, stunts and music plus the opportunity of factory and museum visits, not mention the odd Ducati or two being present!

More shots appearing of the new MV testing show it is definitely a three cylinder as we have reported here in the past. What is new is that news is emerging that it will come in two sizes, an 800cc for road use and a smaller 675cc version so they can compete in the World Supersport race series. However, before either can become a production reality, it would need current owners Harley-Davidson to give the go-ahead (and finances), or they will have to wait until a new owner is found!

Lastly from Italy, the scrappage scheme that produced such good registration figures has recently stopped and registrations are suffering quite badly in all categories. It is rumored that it will be reinstated, but industry figures are citing it will further highlight just how much this has propped the industry up. When it ceases for good it could lead to severe financial problems for the trade!

United Kingdom
While the products currently wearing the historic British AJS badge come from the Far East, at least they are keeping the name alive. Two new learner-friendly 125cc’s are the latest in the range powered by the firm’s usual liquid-cooled, 125cc 4-stroke Parallel Twin.

The AJS DD125E-5C Daytona is a learner-friendly cruiser that has a low seat height and a twin cylinder  water-cooled four-stroke engine.
The AJS DD125E-5C Daytona is a learner-friendly cruiser that has a low seat height and a twin cylinder, water-cooled four-stroke engine.

First up giving total street cred to the embryonic biker is the DD125-9 ‘Bobber’, which is a full-on, classic hard-tail with a true ‘bobber’ look thanks to its black color (sic) scheme. Its stablemate is the DD125E-5C ‘Daytona’ which comes in white with sprung rear suspension, inverted front forks, wavy front discs and a lot of chrome to complete the pose value. The Bobber is priced at £2999, while the Daytona costs £
BMW may be hit worldwide like all of their counterparts, but in the UK they are on a high following the release of the March 2010 registration figures. The results show BMW Motorrad actually had record-breaking sales in the UK during the first three months of 2010. Sales of BMW were up 40% while the overall market was down 20%. This moved them into the number three slot in the manufacturers table with a 12.6% market share. Break it down further and you find they sold more bikes over 500cc than anyone else and the new S1000RR accounted for 43.2% of the 1000cc Supersports segment and was the best-selling motorcycle over 125cc with another three of the BMW range featuring in the first five listing!

We announced recently that Martin Conquest, who are the UK manufacturers of the world’s first production high-performance motorcycle that can be driven from a wheelchair, had signed deals to sell in the USA as well as gaining European Type Approval. The Manchester based firm has now announced that racing legend Tony Jefferies has been appointed to their board of directors. He is currently the owner of Allan Jefferies Motorcycles, an official BMW dealership in Shipley, West Yorkshire that was started by his father, whose name is still on the shop.

Thirteen-time World Champion Angel Nieto  seen here in 1970  will participate in a parade lap before competitors take to the 37.75-mile mountain course.
Thirteen-time World Champion Angel Nieto, seen here in 1970, will participate in a parade lap before competitors take to the 37.75-mile mountain course.

Tony is an ex-works rider and Isle of Man TT winner and father of legendary TT racer David Jefferies, who was killed there in 2003. Tony himself was unfortunately paralyzed in a racing accident, but has never let that keep him away from motorcycling and it was his go-getting attitude that the board felt personifies Conquest 1200 riders. In addition his astute business mind and engineering expertise, as well as personal knowledge of the challenges facing wheelchair-bound riders, will allow him to aid development of current and future models.

The Conquest International’s BMW-powered machine has provided a level of performance and independence that was previously unattainable for people with disabilities from the waist down unless it was a bespoke vehicle. The unique production streamlined machine allows drivers to access the machine from the rear by an automated access ramp, before securing their wheelchair in the locking mechanism.

All controls are then hand operated and the machine actually uses the front-end of a standard BMW motorcycle, which is welded to an aluminum frame with two rear alloy wheels, as well as the engine which gives the same level of performance for the three wheeler that it does for a bike.

Following in Valentino Rossis footsteps  teammate Jorge Lorenzo will also be taking a parade lap before the Dainese Senior TT.
Following in Valentino Rossi’s footsteps, teammate Jorge Lorenzo will also be taking a parade lap before the Dainese Senior TT.

Following off from MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi’s lap of the Isle of Man TT course last year, teammate Jorge Lorenzo will reprise the lap this year in company with another Spaniard, 13-time World Champion Angel Nieto. Once again the lap of the 37.75-mile mountain course has been arranged by Italian clothing company Dainese who are sponsoring the six-lap Senior race that ends the meeting immediately after the lap.

BMW are to return to the TT for the first time in 30 years. The Bavarian manufacturer first entered the TT in 1937 and won over 30 races, mostly in the sidecar class. They will be joined for the first time by Austrian manufacturer KTM who have entered an RC8R in various races.

The changes to the famous Silverstone race circuit have now been completed in readiness for season of world championship racing both for two and four wheels. The 3.66-mile Northamptonshire track was opened by His Royal Highness the Duke of York, who was taken around the track by former F1car world champion Damon Hill, flanked by current World Superbike Leader Leon Haslam and his father, former works rider Ron Haslam on bikes.

The RV MSX1 Motorsport Helmet has an optical system which allows the rider to see behind them.
The RV MSX1 Motorsport Helmet has an optical system which allows the rider to see behind them.

Reevu the British Crash helmet firm that produces a helmet with a built in rear view mirror has just announced its motorsport helmet is available for sale. Established in 1999 the system that allows a rider to see behind them thanks to an optical system within the shell has been developing the system for 30 months and now has numerous patents for the product.

Rest of the World
According to some industry sources, China is now seen as the most important manufacturer (but not the largest!) and consumer of powered two wheelers (PTW’s) vehicles in the world. So no surprise that Eicma who are best known for running the yearly Italian bike show in November are working hard on the launch of ‘Eicma China’ the first International Trade fair to be devoted to PTW’s. It is due to be held at the National Agriculture Exhibition Centre in Beijing from June 11-13 this year. Among exhibitors already signed up are Ducati, Suzuki and Triumph.

Apparently the Chinese motorcycle market is about to be affected by legislation that is more restrictive in terms of

Ducati is making an effort to increase its sales abroad in China and recently opened its first store in Shanghai.
Ducati is making an effort to increase its sales abroad in China and recently opened its first store in Shanghai. 

emissions and more liberal with regards to urban traffic circulation, which could affect some of the two-wheeled product currently emanating from China or being exported to it.

Ducati is increasingly building a sales network in China and recently opened its first store in Shanghai. This no doubt was the reason that the Chinese gave space to Ducati (who were the only motorcycle firm to get it) at the Beijing exhibition. The Beijing automotive show is very car-dedicated and is known as Asia’s number one automotive event with 70,000 vistors attending. The Ducati stand resulted in one wealthy fan buying four models from their full range which was on display.

While other countries continue to show a downturn in sales, Indian motorcycle sales rose 26% for the year up to March 2010, with a total of 7.34 million units having been sold. In the same period scooter sales also rose 27% which translates into an extra 1.46 million scooters on the roads. Interestingly, while PTW’s dominate the Indian market for personal transport, car sales also rose 25% with 1.53 million being sold.

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