by Thomas Day

Non-Residents Need a Minnesota Trail Pass

Any non-Minnesota residents riding off-road on state trails are going to need to display a $20 pass on Minnesota’s ORV trails. An alternative is a three-year pass for $30. The fees collected pay for trail maintenance costs. Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings) and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) bill went into effect July 1, although the state trails are closed until the state government comes back to life. As of July 1, kids between 12-17 can operate a Class 1 ATV, but their passengers have to be a parent or guardian.

Still Going

US Highland, the off-road motorcycle manufacturer that made the news last year when three of the company’s executives were killed in a small plane crash, is still in business. After the crash, the company’s penny stock fell 44 cents to 75 cents and there were rumors flying that the company would be out of business in a year. The stock has not recovered, currently at about 20 cents, but the company recently commenced production on several motorcycles and held a Memorial Day open house to show off their new 14 acre / 33,000 square-foot building complex. 800 visitors from England, Spain, Northern Europe, Italy Canada, and the USA toured the US Highland facility and were treated to Highland motorcycle test rides on the factory test track.

Mats Malmberg, the founder of Highland, who resumed leadership of the company after the loss of the company’s US leadership said, “We have worked diligently for two years for this day. To bring about such success and create so many jobs in such a short period of time has been extremely rewarding for us all. We are grateful to all who have supported our efforts, both in the USA and in Sweden and look forward to our wonderful growth opportunities.”

Noise Testing Takes A Step Sideways

“The three biggest problems facing motorcycling today is [sic] noise, noise and noise,” said AMA spokesperson. In response, the AMA and the industry group, IMC, have joined with several state legislatures to enact noise laws based on a law passed recently in Maine. The Maine law does not mandate motorcycle testing during inspection or registration and will require police to have on hand a $2,000 testing kit for citations. After receiving a citation, a Maine motorcyclist can have a technician test the system and those results can be used as a defense in court.

This is the AMA and industry’s response to California’s Motorcycle Anti-Tampering Act, which will require motorcycle exhaust systems to bear a stamp certifying federal EPA sound requirements after 2012. “I think the issue has gained visibility with what California did last year,” said the AMA’s Peter TerHorst. “And you know the old saw, what happens in California works it’s way across the country.”

Obviously, the high cost of individual “testing kits” for each patrol car will prevent this system from noticeably impacting motorcycle noise, which is the AMA and IMC’s intention, but the long-term damage done to motorcycling by the noise issue will continue to erode public patience. An ineffective and impossible to administer test system may be more of an irritant than a solution.

Iron Butt Results and Worse

This year’s winner was Stillwater resident Peter Behm with 13,544 miles on a Yamaha FJR 1300. Jim Frens, on a Honda Goldwing, had the most miles ever in the Iron Butt competition (14,185) and was the first to exceed 14,000 miles but he was out-pointed by Behn. 14,000 miles in 11 days is a staggering accomplishment. There were 76 finishers in this year’s event and 11 DNFs. 21 riders completed the Four Corners Tour. This was the year of the Big Bike, as the top finishers all the way to 65th place were on liter-or-larger motorcycles.

Local competitors Jim Winterer and John Coons retired early. Mr. Winterer went down hard on the third day avoiding a semi with locked trailer brakes. He received facial lacerations because the crash occurred while his helmet was flipped-up. He is recovering nicely. Mr. Coons checked out in New York State. His consolation prizes were a few broken ribs, a broken clavicle, a couple broken fingers and a concussion. Second stage leader Ken Meese went out in a crash on US-50 in Nevada and was hospitalized for several severe injuries. Rob Jamie hit a mountain lion in Arizona and was also hospitalized for injuries.

In another long distance competition, Ken Morton died on a leg of the Utah 1088. Ken crashed on I-80 in Nebraska and one report was that he “hydroplaned in standing water, went into the guardrail and was killed instantly.” High winds were also a factor.

Captain America and Harley Unite

When Captain America: The First Avenger hits the big screen, Harley is ready to rewrite history by linking the Marvel fantasy character to the 1940s “Liberator” H-D model. “Captain America makes the perfect marketing partner for Harley-Davidson as he truly embodies the iconic, heroic and American aspects of our brand,” said Dino Bernacchi, Harley-Davidson’s director of Marketing Communications. “Both Captain America and our motorcycles are great symbols of freedom.”

Lock It Up in London

British motorcyclists are five times as likely to have their bike stolen in London as the British national average. In response, the city is disbanding the Metropolitan Police’s Stolen Vehicle Unit due to budget cuts. South West London offers cyclists 30 times the theft opportunity of the country’s low-risk areas. Scooters and mopeds are the most likely to be stolen and touring bikes are the least.

Lawmaking Around the World

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) submitted H.R. 748 to the US house to prohibit EPA from authorizing use of gasoline containing greater than 10 percent ethanol. Reps. Tom Petri (R-WI), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Dennis Ross (R-FL) and Wally Herger (R-CA) are cosponsors. This is a bill that all motorcycle and ATV owners should get behind. Alcohol-laced fuels are more corrosive to metals and plastic parts and are incompatible with older machines. Air-cooled engines, in particular, are sensitive to the higher operating temperatures produced by E-15-and-above alcohol content fuels, not to mention the fact that E-15 may void the manufacturers’ warranties. Several companies, including Polaris (Polaris Fuel Stabilizer), make additive products that minimize the effects of alcohol-content fuels.

North Carolina recently passed a law that would levy a $200 fine on any driver causing a motorcyclist to change or leave the traffic lanes on any public street or highway. I’d have never learned how to ride off road, if Kansas had that law in 1963.

Virginia and Illinois passed laws permitting motorcyclists to escape vehicle-actuated stop lights under certain circumstances.

The Texas legislature rejected a bill that would have redefined “sport bikes” as a special category of vehicle with special operator restrictions.

The European Union is still wrestling with standardized motorcycle licensing standards (vehicles and riders). The lack of such standards could limit riders’ ability to cross between borders. Type-L (Mopeds, Motorcycles, Motor Tricycles and Quadricycles) vehicle license approval is proceeding slowly, especially in light of the 25% downsizing of the EU market between 2008 and 2010. 2011 is shaping up to be an equally dismal sales year (down 3% from 2010’s poor sales figures). Standards for electric PTW (Powered Two-Wheel) vehicles are in flux and EU countries can’t even agree on license plate sizes.

Life-Saving Motorcycles

In one of the most devastated of Japan’s coastal cities, Kesennuma City, only three businesses were open three months after the earthquake and tsunami; two of them were motorcycle dealers. Takeo Hirono and his mother own and operate the two dealerships, Moto Shop Hirono. When the tsunami struck, Takeo tried to get to his mother by truck but failed due to traffic. He returned to his shop, swapped vehicles, and headed back to his mother’s store by motorcycle, rescuing her by riding to high ground just before the wall of water stuck. Hirono said, “A friend who was watching from the elevated area told me that the tsunami arrived almost immediately after we drove by. This motorcycle saved my life.”

As the catastrophe played out over the next few days, Hirono found himself in an unusual position; the only rescue game in town. “An exhausted man, covered in mud, arrived at the shop and asked me to lend him a motorcycle to make it to his home to check on his family. I lent him the motorcycle I use for work, and told him to hurry to his loved ones. Several other people also showed up asking the same thing, and I just kept lending out motorcycles. I don’t even know whom I lent them to.”

As the area struggled to recover, more people discovered the mobility and other advantages of motorcycles and scooters and Moto Shop Hirono sold out its inventory and continued to provide service to the community. Mr. Hirono said, “As a consequence of the disaster many people have reconsidered the convenience offered by motorcycles. I hope to see such people keep a motorcycle around, much like a stock of household medicine, to give them valuable mobility at times of critical need.”

The whole Moto Shop Hirono story:

How Low Can You Go?

At 1,000 frames-per-second, Red Bull and Casey Stoner demonstrate how far a MotoGP bike can lean in their newest Red Bull Moments ad: Stoner’s knee and elbow are dragging the corner as his back tire continues to out-spin his front. Unbelievable!

Helmet Law

The most-reported motorcycle story of the year will be about the death of an anti-helmet law protestor. On July 4th, 55-year-old Philip Contos of Parish, New York was protesting New York’s state helmet law with a large group of ABATE (American Bikers Aimed Toward Education) riders when he, “hit the brakes [on his 1983 Harley Davidson], lost control, was ejected, and struck his head on the road.” Contos was pronounced dead at the hospital from head injuries.

“The medical expert we discussed the case with, who pronounced him deceased, stated that he would’ve no doubt survived the accident had he been wearing a helmet,” said a spokesperson from the state patrol office.

Practically every news media in the country ran a version of the “bareheaded motorcyclist” story and it was also reported in India, China, Japan, Singapore, and most of Europe’s national news media. At the time of this printing, Google search found 14,700 hits for “Philip A. Contos.” Mr. Cantos’ 15-minutes of fame came at a high price.

Stunting Killer

A 3-year-old girl, Asia Williams, was allegedly struck and killed by Shawn Dejean when a group of bikers sped through a New Orleans neighborhood’s 4th of July celebration. A man on a blue GSX-R1100 was seen hitting the toddler, and some reports said he stopped to see the damage he’d done then sped away. Others said he didn’t seem to notice hitting the girl at all. One neighbor described the scene as “He clipped the little girl. She spun. Her body spun through the air like a helicopter blade.” She landed on the opposite side of the street and died of head injuries.

Three members of the motorcycle group who raced through the street, doing burnouts and wheelies, stayed to talk to police. However, Dejean’s identify was undetermined until he turned himself in two days later, after radio stations and neighborhood advocates raised the stakes with a reward for information leading to conviction. Dejean was booked on manslaughter, misdemeanor suspicion of reckless driving, and felony hit-and-run in which the victim dies. Anti-motorcycle sentiment is high in New Orleans and talk radio is keeping the incident high profile. Dejean is being held on $200,000 bond and will be in court on July 21.  A standing-room-only memorial for Asia Williams was held on July 12.

NHTSA July Motorcycle Recalls

Triumph 2010 Thunderbird, Thunderbird ABS: Thread locker/screw combination at the front fender mounting digs into the tire sidewall causing tire failure.

Ducati Diavel made 9/23/10 to 5/12/11: Chain guard brass inserts for the license plate holder retaining screws on the rear swing-arm are too loose, allowing the holder to fall into the rear wheel.

Indian 2009-2011: 1) If the headlight switch is slowly moved from one position to another (high beam to low beam or low beam to high beam), both beams may be on momentarily and the body control module senses an overload and will turn off the headlights. 2) The side stand may not fold rearward and upward and can contact the ground causing loss of control.

Yamaha FJR1300 2006-2009: Poor connection for the ground joint of the wire harness could cause intermittent ignition and engine stall. Approximately 10,000 units are affected.

Yamaha FJR1300 2011: Binding brake light switch prevents the brake light from activating.

Honda VT750 2010, 2011: Faulty bank angle sensor causes the engine to stall.

Kawasaki KLX250 2009-2010: Fuel tank could leak from cracks at the spot weld(s) on the side mount tabs and can cause a fire.

Kawasaki VN900D Vulcan Classic LT2011: Pinched tire inner tubes lose air pressure resulting in tire failure.




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