by Thomas Day

2008 Motorcycle Sales Figures

While the major media is still calling the current economic disaster “a recession,” readers with a more seasoned sense of history suspect the world is in a depression that could be a long-term affliction. The Motorcycle Industry Council reported motorcycle sales suffered an overall 7.2% decline in 2008, with off-road sales taking a huge 30% hit. Small bike and scooter sales were up substantially, due to rising fuel costs. Scooter sales alone were up 41.5%, not counting small non-MIC member manufacturers like Kymco, Hyosung, and the many Chinese imports. Dual-sport sales were also up 22.8%, for the year. Big iron manufacturers, like Harley Davidson and Victory are hard-hit by the economy. Harley has announced the company will be eliminating 1,100 jobs over the next 2 years and Polaris will cut 460 jobs.

Fuel costs could be the economic driving factor for 2009. MIC President Tim Buche said, “We could find that many people who are getting into bikes just for the economics will discover the moto DNA within themselves and wind up becoming lifelong riders.”

Motorcycle Stimulus

Along with tax cuts, buying a new motorcycle will provide you with a tax break in 2009. “This inclusive and equitable solution will provide much-needed relief to riders, as well as to those who sell motorcycles,” said AMA Vice President for Government Relations Ed Moreland. “When it appeared that motorcycles were going to be overlooked in this bill, the AMA and the Association’s members, along with Harley-Davidson and others, took our case straight to Capitol Hill and persuaded lawmakers that this was the right decision.”

news110Two Wheels Reinvented

19-year-old Canadian MIT-freshman Ben Gulak has reinvented the electric motorcycle concept with a dose of cool. Using an off-the-shelf 3D CAD program, a $45,000 investment and a lot of sweat-and-blood experimentation, Gulak designed a radical new two-wheeled vehicle, curiously named “the Uno.” Even weirder, the Uno works.

From the side, the Uno looks like a unicycle, but the two side-by-side wheels are powered independently, which allows the bike to turn practically “on a dime.” Like the Segway, the Uno uses gyroscopic sensors to balance and maneuver the bike. The Uno received Popular Science Magazine’s “Invention of the Year” award and a variety of commendations from motorcycle shows and magazines. The Uno is so lightweight that it can be carried indoors and into elevators, where you can park it in your office if you are still employed someplace that provides offices. The built-in charging system can be plugged into your office outlet if your employer is still paying the electric bill.

The inventor said, “I was inspired to make the bike after visiting China a few years ago and seeing all the smog. They all drive little bikes that are really polluting and I wanted to make something to combat that. I started with the concept because if something doesn’t look cool, people just won’t be interested.”

Gulak’s company is hiring electrical and mechanical engineers for his new offices in Cambridge, MA (apply at or visit

Four Wheels Reinvented

A Netherlands engineering firm and German manufacturing facility have introduced a new 3-wheel vehicle that leans like a motorcycle when turning. The Carver One is powered by a 4-cylinder engine mounted between the two rear wheels. The 1.400 pound vehicle’s “Dynamic Vehicle Control” hydraulic suspension is computer-controlled and calculates lean angle (to a maximum of 45º) based on suspension loading and the vehicle’s speed.

Don’t get excited, yet. The company is only planning to build 200 units in 2009 and at 48,000 euros ($68,000 US) Carver One won’t be exported to the US in the foreseeable future. However, Carver Europe has licensed its technology to California-based Venture Vehicles, which is planning to introduce a “more affordable, more aerodynamic” electric version of the Carver to the United States by “2010 or 2011.”

Take Your Motorcycle Vitamins, Carefully

Ryutu Kawashima, a Japanese neuroscientist and designer of the mental-training software “Brain Age,” is also a motorcyclist. Kawashima-san conducted a study with Yamaha and Tokyo University that has uncovered a possible link between riding and improved cognitive functions. 22 men who had once been motorcyclists were studied: 11 of the men continued with their normal non-motorcycling lives and 11 resumed riding motorcycles. After two months, “improved brain function” was noted and memory function improved by 50% in the motorcycling subjects. These results are preliminary and based on an admittedly small sample. Yamaha’s contribution adds a little doubt to the conclusion, as well.

Kawashima concluded, “In a convenient and easy environment, the human mind and body get used to setting the hurdle low. Our final conclusion is that riding motorcycles can lead to smart aging.”

Another Japanese study, published in the International Journal of Impotence Research, found a group of motorcyclists demonstrated a “significant difference in the prevalence of erectile dysfunction.” Yamaha wasn’t involved in that study.

Reed Passes Stewart in Supercross Points Race

With a win at the Daytona Supercross, Chad Reed (Suzuki) passed James Stewart (Yamaha) with an 11-point lead in the AMA Supercross series. In the Daytona series, Stewart crashed in the first corner crunch and finished 7th overall. The other podium finishers at Daytona were Jason Lawrence (Yamaha) in 2nd and David Millsaps (Honda) in 3rd. Earlier in the month, Reed won his first Supercross event in Indianapolis, where he tied Stewart for the points lead.

Setting the Electric Bar

San Francisco design company, Mission Motors, rolled out the Mission One electric motorcycle for the TED (Technology, Education & Design) Conference this year. They are calling the bike the “world’s fastest production electric motorcycle.” The company is taking orders on the 150mph, 150-mile range electric bike with the following notice, “We are now accepting reservations for the Premier Limited Edition of the Mission One, limited to 50 numbered units to be delivered in 2010 … The deposit amount is $5,000, and the sales price is $68,995.”

Bike Week?

Following in the path paved by Myrtle Beach, other communities are laying down the law in limiting the area’s two annual motorcycle events. North Myrtle Beach increased the cost of vendor permits. Mayor John Rhodes explained, “After many years, our residents grew weary of three weeks of noise and traffic congestion each May, and they asked City Council to end the events. As a result, the Harley-Davidson Dealers Association Spring Rally and the Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest will not be held in Myrtle Beach.”

Electric Paris Scooter Discount and a Motorcycle Impound Law

In an attempt to diminish French dependence on foreign oil, buying an electric scooter in Paris will get you a 25% subsidy to a maximum of €400.

In attempt to get motorcycles off of the road, a new law will allow law enforcement officers to order any motorcycle towed for an inspection “to ensure legal conformity.” The law does not describe the criteria for legal conformity, so it encourages open season on French motorcyclists.

Setting an Example

47-year-old Barnstaple, U.K. rider Robert Bennett was clocked at 122mph by a traffic cop’s speed camera as he was downshifting his Suzuki Hayabusa before a curve on a rain-soaked two-lane. Bennett was demonstrating parental responsibility as his glove-less, street-clothed 14-year-old son was clinging to his back when poor old dad was arrested. The divorced cleaning supervisor was sentenced to six months in jail and an 18-month driving ban.

New California Motorcycle Air Standards

The AMA reports, “California bill proposes emissions testing for motorcycles. Recently, California State Senator Fran Pavley introduced legislation that would ‘amend Section 44011 of, and to add Section 44012.5 to, the Health and Safety Code, relating to air pollution.’” The legislation requires California motorcycle owners to get smog tests every two years for all 2000 or newer vehicles. Obviously, California EPA approved exhaust and fuel systems would be required to pass the smog tests.

NHTSA Recalls

Harley-Davidson 2002 to 2009 VRSC (excluding VRSCF model): The mounting bracket for the LED turn signal kit’s controller can punch a hole in the oil filter.

Kawasaki: 2008-2009 KLR 650 (KL650E8F/L, KL650E9F/L): 1) Bolts for the muffler assembly come loose from the frame allowing it to fall off. 2) Wiring harness shorts against the frame can cause an engine electrical system failure.

Kawasaki: 2009 Ninja ZX10R (ZX1000E9F/E9FA/E9FAL): Timing inspection caps on the starter clutch cover can come loose and fall out, allowing oil to leak onto the rear tire or engine failure.

Piaggio 2008-2009 Aprilia Scarabeo 200: Handlebar mounted windshield does not meet DOT standards.


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