I don’t hold any particular brief for Motorcycle “Clubs” like the Angels or the Mongols, but it’s nice to see the government slapped down when it goes a little too far.
The U.S. Government has been going after the Mongols for a while–and the Mongols do have some unsavory characters in their membership. But the government didn’t just go after individuals, they went after the club’s logo. Under RICO, they tried to strip the Mongols of their logo, and make it the property of the government. After getting a preliminary ruling allowing them to do so, the Feds have being going into private property of American citizens to confiscate patches, breaking into cars and homes to do so.
But, they got that slapped down in Federal Court. Judge Florence-Marie Cooper has ruled that a) the government can’t take the trademark, and b) even if they could, they have no right to go around confiscating patches or other items containing the mark from private citizens who are not under indictment.
…even if the Court were to assume that the collective membership mark is subject to forfeiture, the Court finds no statutory authority to seize property bearing the mark from third parties…. only defendants’ interests in the RICO enterprise and the proceeds from their racketeering activity are subject to forfeiture.
So, the Mongols get to keep their patch, and the Feds have to stop making searches and seizures on the basis of merely possessing it.
When you buy a motorcycle helmet, you usually look for the big DOT sticker on the back, since most states with helmet laws require the helmet to be certified by the US Department of Transportation. But of you’re really serious about trying to keep your noggin in one piece, you look for the sticker from Snell, or as its formal name is, the Snell Memorial Safety Foundation.
But, for a while now, there’s been a conflict between Snell and the DOT–and the international ECE 22-05–safety standards. Both DOT and ECE use a variety of different dummy head sizes and weights for different helmets in promulgating their approval. Snell on the other hand, uses the same 11-pound dummy head weight, irrespective of the size, and they’ve repeatedly said that there’s no indication that different head sizes have significantly different weights. So, they’ve said graduated head weight standards don’t provide adequate protection to an 11-pound head.
Now, this is kind of an important argument. You see, if you have an 8-pound head, and your helmet is designed to cushion an 11-pound head, then the helmet may be too rigid to properly protect your head. Sure, it’s great for the melon-heads, but the pinheads might get their skull scrambled, because the lower weight of your pinhead is too small to make the cushioning give enough. The reverse is also true. If you’re a melon-head, then a pinhead’s helmet will be too soft to protect you, and the helmet will come apart like an old shoe, and you’ll bump your skull on the pavement.
Either way, the end result is a Bad Thing if the helmet size and your head’s weight don’t match.
Well, now, after years of argument against the DOT and ECE standard, Snell is saying, “Never mind.” In the brand new M2010 standard, Snell has looked at actual studies of the head weights of actual dead people, and decided that DOT was right after all. Different sized heads do have significant weight differences.
So, as of the M2010 standard, Snell has adopted pretty much the same head profiles as ECE. In addition, Snell has also lowered the number of gravities the helmet is allowed to transmit to your skull from 300 g’s to 275 g’s. Both moves offer greater head protection, although, unfortunately, that also means that if you’re a pinhead with a Snell M2005 sticker, you’re helmet fails the M2010 standard. You might as well just whack your skull with a hammer right now for all the good that helmet will do you.
So, important helmet buying tip: The new M2010-standard helmets will be hitting store shelves on October 1st, 2009. But, manufacturers can make M2005-standard helmets for another couple of years, and sell them for…ever. So, you have to be sure that you look for the Snell M2010 sticker on the helmet if that’s what you really want.
On the bright side, this now means that a Snell-certified helmet will also meet DOT and ECE standards right across the board, no matter what size of melon you’re sporting.
Unless, of course, you’re buying a modular helmet, which, as far as I know, don’t exist in Snell-certified form.
Norton Motorcycles, the iconic British motorcycle brand recently resurrected by Stuart Garner, packed up their rotary-engined NRV588 racing motorcycle and left Britain today. Their destination: The Bonneville Salt Flats, right here in the US of A, where Garner himself will attempt to pilot the bike to a land speed record.
If Garner is successful, the NRV588 will set the world land speed record for a rotary motorcycle.
And, speaking of the NRV, Norton has a road-going edition of this racer in the works. It’s no where near as pretty as a 1991 Commander F1, but, it’ll probably be a whole lot faster. They are being hand-built in Norton’s Donington Park factory, even as I write this.
Oh, and since I mentioned it…
I think there’s 55 of these left in the whole world.
If you’d like to add another motorcycle–or two–to your garage, and you don’t have the scratch for a new one, then you might be interested in the Great California Garage Sale going on in Sacramento this week. As you may have heard, the state of California is…ummm…a bit short of cash. So the state is going all out and selling cars, motorcycles, computers, and just about everything else they can think of in a big state garage sale. The sale and auction will take place in Sacramento on Friday and Saturday, 28-29 Aug 09.
They’ve got at least 5 BMW R1150RTP’s from the highway patrol, which you could probably pick up for a decent price. I’ve seen some other bikes listed there, too, probably confiscated from drug dealers and whatnot.
You’ll probably get a better price there than you would from a regular dealer, anyway.
According to Bloomberg, Kawasaki will be switching motorcycle production out of Japan, to Thailand. The first production shift will be medium and large motorcycles as early as this year.. It seems that Kawasaki may also be joined there by Honda, which is also considering shifting production of medium-sized motorcycles to that country.
This will mark the first time a Japanese manufacturer has begun production for export in a developing country. The company cites lower labor costs for the move.
It’s no secret that the recent worldwide economic downturn has seriously affected motorcycle sales, sending them plunging by a third. Now here in the United States, it’s become a common thing to see executives at big firms take huge bonuses, even when the company isn’t doing so hot. The most egregious example of this was when failed insurer AIG took billions of dollars in Federal money for a bailout of the company, then promptly paid off millions and millions in executive bonuses with it.
Apparently, things are different in Italy, where senior executives at Ducati, faced with slumping sales, did the right thing.
Senior executives at Ducati have taken a 10 per cent cut in their pay and will not receive any bonuses because of the decline, while [Ducati CEO] Mr [Gabriele] Del Torchio said he had taken a 20 per cent pay cut.
Let’s leave aside any legalistic or other arguments about whether the executives should be compensated or not. At the end of the day, when you’re cutting production, and laying off staff, it seems only right that the pain should be shared by everyone else in the company, all the way to the top.
Kudos to Ducati for setting an example of shared sacrifice.
The annual march of media bike choices continues, with Motorcycle.com weighing in with thir top picks of the year. Their choices are interesting, and a bit different than I would have expected.
For the overall bike of the year, they picked the Triumph Street Triple R.
Best Sportbike honors go to the Kawasaki ZX-6R, with the runner-up being the Honda CBR1000RR.
The Ducati Monster 1100 gets the nod for best standard motorcycle, with second place going to the Harley-Davidson XR1200.
The best cruiser pick is the all new Triumph Thunderbird 1600, with the Suzuki Boulevard M90 taking an honorable mention.
The award for best touring bike goes to the BMW R1200RT, closely followed by the Honda Gold Wing.
BMW also take both first and second place spots for sport-touring, with the K1300GT winning, and the F800ST getting the honorable mention.
BMW stays in the winner’s circle for best off-road bike, with the top honors going to the F800GS, and the second spot going to the Aprilia SXV/RXV 5.5.
They also have picks for best eccentrics, scooters, technology, and more, so why not go there and read them?
The two-stroke motorcycle has long been replaced by the four-stroke. Now, Ilmore Engineering appears to have come up with a five-stroke engine. Ilmore does a lot of stuff in Indy Car, Formula 1, and MotoGP, so they aren’t some fly-by-night firm with a wild idea.
Although, it is a wild idea.
With dual camshafts and an asymetrical three-cylinder configuration, the Ilmor is more than intriguing with its design, and promises to bring real benefits both to the race track, and to road-use. Most notably is a 10% increased fuel efficiency, and 20% weight reduction in power-plant weight.
With its 700cc, turbocharged, prototype motor, Ilmor is able to extract 130hp and 122 lbs•ft of torque. To achieve this, the motor employs two overhead camshafts. One is a “high pressure” camshaft, which turns at half the crank speed, while the other shaft is a “low pressure” camshaft, which turns at the same speed as the crankshaft.
Yes, you read that right. A 700cc motor with 130HP and 122lb-ft of torque. Those are…interesting numbers. That’s what I call a real “Speed Triple”. You’d need to put a second mortgage on your house to pay off your tire bill, assuming you don’t just wheelie right over and turn turtle, killing yourself.
But, assuming those difficulties can be overcome, it sounds like a neat idea.
Our cousins in The Old Country love motorcycles as much as we do, but they don’t love the same motorcycles, apparently. The French automotive magazine MotoRevue has released their list of top five motorcycles in Europe, and, as you might imagine, they’re quite different from the Motorcyclist picks of the year I wrote about a few days ago.
Three Italians–the Ducati Streetfighter and 1198, and the Aprilia RSV4–head the roster. One Brit bike, the Triuph Speed Triple, makes the list. And the 2009 Yamaha Star V-Max rounds it off.
Apparently, our European cousins are speed freaks. But then, they tend to have speed limits that are a bit less stodgy than those on this side of The Pond.
Zero Motorcycle is just giddy with excitement, because they’ve released the DS, an all-electric, zero-emissions, dual-sport motorcycle. They Claim that it’s not only emissions free, but almost completely recycleable as well.
Powered by the most advanced drive train in the industry, the Zero DS is a fully electric motorcycle that can handle any surface you can throw at it. Navigating obstacles and maintaining control is accomplished using a specially developed suspension system and a rugged wheel set. During technical maneuvers an optimized direct drive gear system delivers astonishing responsiveness with the twist of your wrist.
Well, that sounds like it’s just chock full of motorcycle goodness…except for one, tiny little thing. When you look at the specifications, you see this:
Top Speed: 55 MPH
Range: Up to 50 Miles
Recharge Time: Less than 4 hours
So, let’s see, it’s too slow to actually commute on any freeway with. The range is “up to 50 miles” depending on your riding style. Then it takes about 4 hours to recharge. So, essentially, you can ride it for less than an hour at speed, then you’re stuck at an electrical socket for “less than 4 hours”. So, let’s say 3.75 hours.
And it’s a trail bike, too. Now, I don’t know about you, but I can think of no better vehicle for riding trails in the middle of nowhere than one with an unpredictable range, because its power usage increases with hard riding. and, of course, you can’t carry any extra fuel with you for emergencies.
On the upside, It won’t strand you more than 50 miles away from your last known location. You can walk that in two or three days, depending on the terrain. Five days, max.
So, take it out into the boonies. You’ll be fine.
Doesn’t everybody want a motorcycle that can’t be ridden more than 25 miles away from an electrical socket without stranding you?
The mavens at Motorcyclist magazine have announced the winner of the award for 2009 Motorcycle of the Year, as well as their other picks.
The bike picking up the top award this year is the Yamaha YZF-R1.
Modern sportbikes are engineered so close to the edge of the performance envelope that we’re conditioned to expect incremental changes: a shaved pound here, an added pony there. It’s almost unimaginable that any sportbike could surprise us with a novel riding experience that realigns our understanding of what a liter-class sportbike is, and what one can do. The 2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 is exactly that sort of bike-which is why it’s our Motorcycle of the Year.
Other notable picks include:
Ben Spies as the Motorcyclist of the year.
The Kawasaki ZX-6R as the best sportbike of the year, closely followed by the Ducati 1198.
The Ducati Streetfighter as the Best Naked Bike, followed by the Harley Davidson XR1200 Sportster.
The Kawasaki Concours14 as the year’s Best Touring Bike, followed by the Harley Davidson Ultra Classic Electra Glide.
Best Adventure Bike honors go to two BMWs, with the F800GS in the top position, and the R1200GS Adventure in second place.
The Best Dreambike is the Aprilia RSV4, with the BMW S1000RR as the follow-on.
Best Bang For The Buck goes to Kawasaki, with the ER-6n as the winner, and KLX250SF as the second-place finisher.
For Best Cruiser, Motorcyclist goes strictly for muscle this year, with the Star (Yamaha) V-MAX ruling the roost, and the Harley Davidson V-Rod Muscle in the supporting position.
Best Dirtbike is the Husaberg FE450; second best is the Honda CRF450R.
Best New Technology is the Honda Combined ABS system, followed by the Ducati Traction Control.
And, finally, the Best New Product honors go to the Gopro Motorsports Hero Wide Camera, with the Bazzaz Performance Z-FI Traction Control taking the runner-up position.
As I mentioned before, the economy isn’t good. And since motorcycles are a luxury good for most people, they are being hit especially hard. The MoCo had a 91% drop in profits last quarter, Suzuki’s sales numbers have collapsed…it’s bad all over. And I can prove it now.
The Motorcycle Industry Council is reporting their collected sales data for the first six months of 2009, and I can’t find any good news in it.
Scooters took the brunt of the fall in sales, decreasing over 67% year to date compared to the same period last year and an incredible 77.5% in June 2009 over the same month in 2008…
Dual-purpose motorcycles fell nearly 47% in year to date sales compared to 2008 while the month of June saw 58%, or 4,431 fewer motorcycle sold than the year before…
But not all of the drop can be attributed to motorcycles falling out of favor with the would-be riding public. Many buyers complain about trouble finding financing for their new motorcycle purchases.
Regardless, looking at the year to date number, a staggering 177,650 fewer motorcycles were sold in the first six month of 2009 compared to the year before.
So, the good news is that a lot of motorcycles are just sitting on showroom floors, waiting for someone to buy them. The bad news is that it’s getting hard to get motorcycle financing.
And I don’t think it’s gonna get any prettier any time soon.
Other than Triumph’s web site, no one seems to be reporting this, but as of this week, the very first Triumph Thunderbirds have arrived in the United States. The first bikes arrived on Tuesday, so that means that there is a very high likelihood that some of them will be on showroom floors at Triumph dealerships this weekend.
So, along with the Bonneville, and Thruxton, Triumph has now bought the venerable Thunderbird back to life, and back to the US.
The new Thunderbird is a 1600cc parallel twin, and, while I can’t find any actual specifications on it, the engine supposedly puts out “in excess of 80 HP”, and “in excess of 100 lb-ft of torque”. Stack that up against, say, a Road King. Harley doesn’t like publishing horsepower stats, but the RK has around 96 lb-ft of torque.
That makes the Thunderbird competitive in performance. And, at $12,499 for the standard version and $13,299 for the ABS version, it’s very competitive in price.
UPDATE: The Motorcycle Daily web site has a write up on an initial-production Triumph Thunderbird. They note the following about the bikes powerplant:
[T]he new Thunderbird is powered by a new water-cooled, parallel-twin engine that displaces 1597cc, with a DOHC 8-valve head. The engine makes 85 horsepower and 14,90 Kgm (108 ft/lbs) at 2750 rpm. For those who want more power, Triumph offers a kit that adds 12 horsepower and more torque.
Sounds like a beefy ride.
Ever since BMW announced it would begin producing a liter-class sportbike to compete with the Japanese, people have been waiting for the BMW S1000RR. The one question was what the price would be, as BMWs tend to be a bit more…extravagantly priced than their competitors. Those questions are now answered. And the price is competitive. So is everything else.
We’re very pleased to announce the pricing on the 2010 BMW S 1000 RR: MSRP*: $13,800.00
- Race ABS (excluding DTC): $1,000.00
- Race ABS and Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) Combined: $1,480.00
- Gear Shift Assistant: $ 450.00
- Anti Theft Alarm: $ 395.00
- Motorsports Paint Scheme: $ 750.00
The options include either standalone new 4-stage Race ABS or Race ABS combined with multi-stage Dynamic Traction Control. Other must have options include the truly awesome Gear Shift Assistant that allows clutchless upshifts during acceleration, Anti Theft Alarm and the WSBK-inspired Motorsports Paint Scheme. This new Superbike from BMW weighing only 404 lbs, and putting out a massive 193 hp, is one of the most potent, sophisticated and lightest sport bikes ever unleashed on the planet. The new S 1000 RR is the most powerful production 1000cc sport bike in the world.
So, let me see if I for this right. BMW is going to put out a 404 lb. bike with 193HP, and they are going to charge just $800 more than Honda’s 178-horsepower CBR1000RR? That’s pretty aggressive pricing.
The styling is pretty aggressive, too. It’s not bad looking, either, if you don’t mind that the headlights look like a pirate with a squinty eye.
All in all, it looks like another German act of aggression. And, at 193HP, I think that it needs a suitable nickname. I propose the name “Kalmarmörder”.*