Feb 3, 2013

March: All the News that Didn't Fit

Last One
The winds of change have caught me, again. This time, they are blowing in the same direction I'm traveling. MMM has a new editor, is taking a new direction, and will look a lot different in the future. I discovered, a little late, that I'm not doing the All the News that Fits column, beginning the first issue of this year. I am not sad, upset, or sorry. It's a hard column to write and it might be obvious from the tone I take to the news that I'm tired of doing it. Most motorcycle "news" is pretty much corporate drivel and about as believable as White House press reports (no matter who is in the White House). So, when Harley, BMW, Ducati, Honda, or whoever dumps some of their gruel into the press hopper, I grind it up a little before redistributing it. What Americans appear to want is "happy talk" and I rarely believe happy talk coming from anyone. Especially me.

With the deadline pressure off, I might find that looking at the news and reporting it from my pissed off perspective is fun. We'll see. Whatever happens, it will be happening here from now on. Thanks for watching!

KTM Buys Husky
After a brief (6 years) and confusing off-road adventure, BMW decided to return to paved civilization and put Husqvarna Motorcycles S.R.L up for sale. The buyer is, semi-surprisingly, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer's investment company, Pierer Industrie AG. If you're old enough to remember the vintage-yearss enduro and motorcross battles between Penton (KTM's original US importer) and Husqvarna, this is a confusing turn of events for both brands. Relatively speaking, Husky had a pretty good year in 2012, producing 10,751 motorcycles, up 15.8%. Obviously, that wasn't good enough for the 100,000-unit-sales BMW mothership.
Presumably, the new conglomerate will be something like "KTM/Husaberg/Husqvarna." Pierer and his company successfully took KTM from bankruptcy court to the all-purpose off-road-to-roadracer juggernaut that it is today. Fans of the Swedish-turned-Italian brand (production moved to Varese, Italy during the period when Cagiva owned Husky), can only hope this is a good move for the historic off-road motorcycle company and not an opportunity for KTM to eliminate EU competition in that market.
Minnesota Motorcycle Road Guard Certificate
The state is in the final stages of officially recognizing one of the least-loved motorcycle behaviors; pirate parades. The newly semi-deputized Motorcycle Road Guards will have the authority to hold up productive traffic so that miles of slow moving parade participants can crawl through cities and towns emitting volumes of noise and air pollution and solidifying general public opinion into a unified "I hate motorcycles" atmosphere for every solitary motorcyclist who happens to follow the parade route for weeks afterwards. Way to go Minnesota legislature!
Commuting Wastes Time & Money, Who Knew?
In an amazing demonstration of how long it takes for a few dozen PhD's to screw in a light bulb, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) published the results of their annual Urban Mobility Report (UMR) to the amazement of the barely-conscious major media. It turns out (wait for it) that Americans blew an average of $818 each sitting in traffic in 2011. And that was a "good year," due to the traffic reduction effects of the 2nd Great Depression. On average, Americans allow an hour for what ought to be a 20 minute commute for a grand total of $121B in wasted time and energy costs.
Bill Eisele, a TTI researcher and report co-author noted, “As bad as traffic jams are, it’s even more frustrating that you can’t depend on traffic jams being consistent from day-to-day. This unreliable travel is costly for commuters and truck drivers moving goods.” A secondary cost of slow-moving traffic is the estimated 380 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per auto commuter contributed to the atmosphere (for a grand total of 56 billion pounds annually).
If US motorcyclists weren't wasting political energy and clout on divisive issues like opposing helmet laws and jacking-up right-of-way violation penalties, we could offer a solution to congestion in a substantial number of urban areas with lane-sharing and lane-splitting. A 2012 Belgian consultancy Transport & Mobility Leuven study found that 10% percent of cars were replaced by motorcycles commuting time for all vehicles decreased by 40% and total emissions were reduced by 6%. That study claimed that a 25% shift from cars to motorcycles would eliminate congestion. It has been estimated that with lane-sharing and filtering introduced into the formula, if only 1% of freeway traffic swapped their cages for motorcycles and scooters, traffic congestion would be significantly reduced.
CHP Defines and Recommends Lane Splitting
After years of rumor and inuendo, The California Highway Patrol has published a lane-splitting guide and initiated a public awareness campaign to educate riders and drivers about the long-accepted, commute-time-busting practice (http://www.chp.ca.gov/programs/lanesplitguide.html.). If nothing else positive comes from this information, the clinically and chronically uninformed will
Here They Come (and There We Go?)
The Autonomous Vehicle Act of 2012 (B-931), introduced by Councilwoman Mary M. Cheh, would allow self-driving cars to allowed to operate on Washington, D.C., roads The bill provides for vehicle designation for registration, titling and operation permit purposes, and establish safe operating protocols for such vehicles. Autonomous vehicles are the hot issue all over the EU and Japan and are expected to begin to displace piloted cars and trucks in the next decade or two. Obviously, motorcycles are incompatible with computer-controlled traffic systems.
Legislative Foolishness Around the Nation
Florida State Rep. Ritch Workman wants to eliminate the state's motorcycle handlebar height restriction ("no higher than the top of the shoulders of the person operating the motorcycle while properly seated upon the motorcycle"). Ohio's State Senator John Kasich sponsored a bill that changed the maximum height of motorcycle handlebars from 15 inches above the operator’s seat to no higher than the operator's shoulder height. Kasich's bill also created a “cab-enclosed motorcycle” classification for two- or three-wheeled vehicles having an occupant compartment top that is either permanent or removable.
Kentucky State Rep. Kelly Flood wants to label motorcyclists "vulnerable users of a public roadway" to add "enhanced penalties" for anyone convicted of, or pleading guilty to, a collision resulting in serious injury or death to a vulnerable roadway user. (I wonder if there will be a Special Olympics for "vulnerable roadway users?" Are old motorcyclists "venerable vulnerable roadway users?") Rhode Island, Missouri, and New York all have proposed legislation that would enhance penalties for motor vehicle violations at intersections and right-of-way violations that result in serious bodily injury or death.
Maine State Rep. Paulette Beaudoin is trying to require helmets for "all motorcycle operators and passengers" in that state. State senators in Nebraska (Dave Bloomfield) and New York (Michael Nozzolio) are trying to repeal those states' helmet laws. The Virginia legislature sidelined it's attempted repeal of the state's helmet law after opposition from the Virginia State Police, local chiefs of police, fire chiefs, volunteer rescue squads,
New York Senator William J. Larkin is attempting to outlaw wheelies, stoppies, and any airborne motorcycle activity.
New York Assembly Member Thomas J. Abinanti wants to prohibit any passenger vehicle (including motorcycles) from "idling its engine more than three consecutive minutes under certain conditions when the vehicle is stopped."
As always, MMM applauds these fine states and officials for having resolved all of their states' critical economic, environmental, and criminal problems, resulting in lots of spare time to spend on these inconsequential motorcycle transportation issues.
Crazy People Scoff at Common Sense
Refugees from MMM dominated the Watertown, SD, 2013 Groundhog Road Enduro in mid-January. Off-roading promoter and all-around-tough-guy Lee Bruns and the rest of the STFU M/C hosted this frosty inaugural event. Either the reputations of the Minnesota contingent frightened off the locals or common sense kept them near their fireplaces and far away from their motorcycles, because "no locals" turned out to suffer the event. Lee's description of the weather was "Ice, wind, snow. No fun. " Bruce Mike, MMM's editor won. Rick Ashton took second. Former Sev Pearman took third. Only 1-point separated 1st and 2nd! The riders were polled at halftime and they unanimously decided to call it a day.
Total miles driven to/from event: 425
Total motorcycle miles ridden: 27
Satisfaction derived from staying home and warm: Priceless
Be Like Steve
In case you're a slave to fashion, but adverse to actually getting dirty or riding a real motorcycle the folks at Barbour have produced exactly what you need: a MacGrain Waxed Jacket that is a replica of the 1964 ISDT team jacket Steve McQueen wore for that event. The key feature of this reissue is the "mud-splattered design made of rubber compounded mud, made to match the mud marks on Steve's original jacket." (Personally, I'd rather have a replica of the jacket Bruce Mike wore at the 2013 Groundhog Road Enduro, with an ice-coated design made to match the frozen slabs of ice on his event-winning gear.)
A 250CC Triumph?
Triumph is building a new manufacturing site in facility in Narasapur, India, near the city of Bangalore where the company expects to be producing 250,000 bikes per year by 2015 and double that number when production is fully operational and the company's Asian marketing and distribution are up to speed. The new facility's first products will be twin-cylinder 250cc motorcycles.
Making Enemies and Spreading the Love
Sportbike gangbangers, Hector Martinez and Paige Hernandez, and at least 100 of their biker buddies put on a demonstration of arrogance and vandalism in late January when the wild bunch shut down L.A.'s I10 freeway traffic for about ten minutes. As rush hour traffic backed up for miles, Martinez proposed to Hernandez and the the pair's punk friends stunted, smoked up the California air with colorful burnouts, and generally made nuisances of themselves. While some of us imagine the wonderful future for motorcycles as a practical vehicle, these zombies do their damnedest to make sure that 99.999% of the population hate motorcycles and motorcyclists. Good job, douchebags.
Sidesaddle That Bike
The Indonesian town of Lhokseumawe has banned female passengers from straddling motor bikes, as passengers or riders. “We want to save women from things that will cause them to violate Shariah law. We wish to honor women with this ban, because they are delicate creatures,” said Lhokseumawe mayor Suaidi Yahya.
The loony mayor said an aspect of the law is to discourage women from wearing pants. “It will be easier for women to avoid straddling motorcycles if all of them wear skirts.” Sounds like a plan to convince all of the smart people in Lhokseumawe to move somewhere else. A lot of the Midwest and most of the South tried that tactic and the braindrain those places suffered as a result created the Teatards.
Making Up for Lost Time by Losing Time
The "good years" of slightly lowered Minnesota motorcycle death rates are over, which might be a sign that we're experiencing some economic recovery or just a side-effect of last year's mild winter and early spring. Whatever the cause, in 2012 Minnesota cycle fatalities were up 26%, for a total of 53 motorcyclist deaths; compared to 2011'S 42 deaths. The state has a record-high 230,000 registered two-wheelers and approx. 400,000 licensed operators (7.5% of the population).
NTSA Motorcycle Recalls
Triumph 2011-2012 Daytona 675, Street Triple, and 2012 Thunderbird and Thunderbird Storm motorcycles : Wheel bearings of poor quality could fail unexpectedly, increasing the risk of a motorcycle crash. Triumph will notify owners, and dealers will replace the affected bearings free of charge.
Continental Tire ContiMotion motorcycle tires, size 180/60R16 M/C 74H: Sold as replacement equipment for Honda GoldWing 1800 motorcycles, some of these tires may experience uneven wear, groove cracking, and belt lift. This could result in a loss of inflation pressure. Continental Tire will notify owners and reimburse customers for the affected tires.
Triumph 2013 Trophy motorcycles: These motorcycles were produced with a label bearing incorrect tire data, which could cause users to install incorrect replacement tires, increasing the risk of personal injury. None of the affected motorcycles have been sold to consumers and they will be repaired prior to sale.

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