A Tale of Two Jumps…

…And a tale of two Robbies. This past week, for the big new years celebration, Both Robbie Madison and “Kaptain” Robbie Kneivel made highly hyped motorcycle jumps in Las Vegas.

Robbie Madison’s jump was…insane.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eM1e51mxulA

Robbie Kneivel’s jump was…meh.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqCqraMxSLY

I think Robbie Kneivel irks me.  First, he didn’t jump the volcano at the Mirage.  He jumped near the volcano.  And even if he had, so what.  I’ve been to the Mirage.  I’ve seen the volcano.  It ain’t that big. Jumping it really isn’t any more impressive than what the average motocross racer does every day, and Robbie–and FOX–acted like it was just as impressive as anything Evel Kneivel ever did.

It wasn’t.

If Evel had set this deal up, he would have jumped the volcano.  And he’d have done it riding a 600-pound Harley Sportster with stock suspension, not a lightweight little motocross bike with 18 inches of suspension travel.

Robbie Madison’s jump, on the other hand…well, not even Evel could’ve coaxed a Sportster up on top of a 100-foot vertical tower.

Granted, Madison used a motocross bike, too, but at least he has the excuse that it’s pretty much the only type of bike that could’ve done it.

In the video, the FOX announcer made a big deal out of the fact that kneivel doesn’t have a speedometer on his bike.  But a speedometer really isn’t necessary for a jump that can be made at any speed between 40 and 80 miles per hour.  At the end of the day, what Robbie Kneivel did was take a motocross bike and catch 25 feet of air from ramps on a level street, and it was hyped like the most amazing event ever.

I couldn’t do either of those jumps, myself.  But then I don’t bill myself as the world’s greatest motorcycle stunt daredevil.

It’s All About The Torque

That’s the main characteristic of diesel engines.  “Meh” horsepower, but brutal torque.  As a result, you don’t see many motorcycles with diesel engines.  Oh, there’ve been a  few, of course, but mostly as limited-quantity specialty bikes, or concepts.

EVA Trak Diesel Motorcycle
EVA Trak Diesel Motorcycle

But now, a Dutch manufacturer, E.V.A, plans to produce a diesel-powered adventurer tourer this year.  Called the “Trak”, this bike will be powered by an 800cc turbo diesel with a CVT transmission (No shifting?). It’ll weight about 500 pounds dry, and put out 54 horsepower and 74 ft/lbs of torque at–get ready for it–1800RPM.  That’s an engine speed that barely registers on the tach of a modern sportbike.  It also has optional ABS brakes.  Although not shown in this picture, EVA will have a nice set of aluminum luggage to mount on it, hence the “tourer” in “adventure tourer”.

It’s not the prettiest motorcycle in the world, but it apparently does have one big advantage, which is a claimed 100 miles per gallon.  That assumes you’re running the bike on diesel.  According to EVA, it will also run on vegetable oil.  With a 6-gallon tank, a 500+ mile range is pretty respectable.  You won’t get there fast, but you’ll certainly get there cheaply.

You will not, alas, get the bike cheaply.  EVA’s planned MSRP on the Trak is €17,500, which comes out to somewhere in the vicinity of $25,000 at the current rate of exchange.  So, you’ll have to ride it a lot to offset the steep sticker price with fuel savings.

EVA plans to release the bike in Europe first, but it could be coming to the US in September of this year.

Brave Scary New World

Bruce McLaughlan, writing in his Detroit News column, warns motorcycle dealers that, with the economy winding down, they may have to change some practices if they want to continue selling motorcycles.

You hear a lot of excuses about why dealers don’t allow test-rides: Liability, potential for damage, wildly varying skill levels among riders, etc.

Some brands are definitely better at providing this opportunity than others. Harley-Davidson, for example, has recognized the value to the point of promoting rentals — you can live with a Harley model for a weekend, maybe try two or three this way, then buy the one that really fits your needs.

I have found some of the European brands such as Triumph, Aprilia and Ducati promoting test ride events.

My Buell dealer, Ray C’s Harley-Davidson in Lapeer, encouraged me to test-ride the bike I eventually purchased.

But I have seen multi-line dealers — these typically are the guys who carry some or all of the Japanese brands — who won’t give you the time of day, let alone a test ride…

So how do the multi-line sport bike guys stay in business? I think the answer can be found in Japan, where the factories keep kicking out new bikes — the life cycle between major makeovers is only about two years, or less than half the life cycle of a typical car or truck. These new bikes offer significant gains in nearly every aspect of performance every time…

With the economy imposing significant new factors in the latter part of 2008 and heading into 2009, will this dynamic change?

What if the factories decide it’s too expensive to pour R&D money into their bikes?

Given the perceptible drop off in traffic at this year’s motorcycle show, smart dealers had better take note. Bikes may not sell themselves for much longer!

The reticence that some dealers–mainly the Big Four–have against allowing terst rides is a real turn-off.  not only to me, but, according to JD Power, for nearly everybody.  It can be a make-or-break customer satisfaction item.  At a time when BMW, Triumph, Aprilia, and others are offering test rides, it’ll be interesting to see how long the UJM dealers resist giving their customers a taste of how a prospective bike suits them.

The economy is slowing down quite a lot, so the sales staffs at the dealers better learn some new customer service practices, or it might be a mighty lean couple of years for them.