newslogo*Smoke On The Himalayas

*Nice Victory Eh!

*Stretchy Helmets?

*Go Big Red

*Ducks and Hogs on the Block

*Excelsior has Rough Ride

by Victor Wanchena

Smoke On The Himalayas
Ominous news for any two stroke fans living in Nepal. The Himalayan kingdom has banned the import of all two-stroke motorcycles in an attempt to clean up the air of its capital of Katmandu. According to officials in Nepal over half of the 70,000 bikes in Katmandu are two-stroke machines imported from India.

A minister in the Nepalese department of the environment and population, Bhakta Bahadur Balayar, told the Katmandu Post the ban would take effect and be enforced immediately. He also said, “Steps will also be taken to remove the existing ones.” Earlier this summer auto rickshaws were taken off the streets in Nepal due to the air pollution they were causing.

Nice Victory Eh!
Victory motorcycles is taking the first step towards their goal of worldwide sales of their bikes with the announcement that come next spring the Victory brand will be for sale in the great white north, a.k.a. Canada. “Victory has received a warm welcome and achieved success in the U.S. Now is the time to take our bikes north of the border and eventually overseas,” said Tom Tiller, the president and CEO of Polaris. The addition of the Canadians brings the total number of dealers to over 325. “We’re very pleased with the growth and progress of our dealer network nationwide,” said Matt Parks, general manager of Victory Motorcycles. “Coming off the strong dealer meeting last month , we’re convinced that gaining a firm foothold in Canada is another step in the right direction for our company.”

Stretchy Helmets?
Helmets and their use is the cause of many a debate in recent years. Regardless of your opinion about when to wear one, it is safe to say most everyone agrees that if you smack your head really hard on pavement a helmet will prevent a lot of injuries. Many head wounds are treatable if it’s a simple blow to the head. But if it’s a rotational injury where the head and brain twist on impact, it’s much more serious and difficult to treat.

Now comes a report from the BBC that a British fellow by the name of Ken Phillips has developed a layer that when placed over a helmet reduces the risk of rotational injuries. His idea came from observing how the scalp moves on the head. The concept is very simple, attach a layer of stretchy material over a helmet that would absorb rotational forces before they reach your head. A research lab in Glasgow, Scotland has tested Phillips theory and found that a helmet covered with a stretchy elastomer protected test dummies better than did standard helmets. “The idea is so simple, the human head has been doing it for years, now we have evidence that this idea could actually reduce deaths and injuries,” said Phillips.

Go Big Red
Honda recently hosted their dealer meeting in New Orleans where they unveiled several new models for the year 2000. The most exciting of the bunch was the new RC51 superbike. Meant as a replacement for the aging RC45, the 51 features a 1000cc fuel injected v-twin. Other details are rather sketchy but it’s reported to produce 130 hp and tremendous amounts of torque. The really good news is that the 51 will have a list price of only $9999 putting the superbike in reach of many buyers. Honda hopes the low price tag will rekindle the grassroots racing efforts that have been absent from superbike racing in the past years.

Honda also introduced the all new CBR929RR as their newest open class sport bike. With around 150 hp and a dry weight of just 374 pounds, the 929 may be Honda’s answer to the R1. In the cruiser category Honda dusted off the Sabre name plate and put it on their performance custom street rod. It has the same 1100cc v-twin as the venerable Shadows, but has been restyled and rework for greater power.

“We are innovators, the creators of categories and the machines that dominate them. These exciting products will start us on a three year path to market domination of the category segments we compete in,” said Honda Sr. Vice-President, John Petas. And of the competition Honda’s VP of Sales and Operations said, “We realize that Yamaha, Polaris, and Harley-Davidson have closed the gap in categories that we once dominated, I want each of you to know that their encroachment has not gone unnoticed. Nor will it go unanswered.”

Ducks and Hogs on the Block
Sotheby’s auction house of Chicago held it’s inaugural sale of motorcycles and bicycles this past month. The auction drew a large crowd to the Sotheby’s salesroom including a large number of bidders from the Middle-East.

A number of Indians and Harley-Davidsons were on the auction block as well as several significant Ducatis. “We are privileged to offer this outstanding collection of motorcycles,” said Larry Sirolli, managing director of Sotheby’s Chicago. One of the highlights from the auction was a 1939 Indian Four with only 110 original miles on it that went for over $60K, far beyond what the seller expected.

For Ducati the star of the show was the one-of-a-kind MH900 Evolution Prototype. It was designed as a futuristic Mike Hailwood Replica by Pierre Terblanche, Ducati’s director of design. Much fanfare surrounded the bike after its introduction at the 1998 Munich Motorcycle show. Other Ducks on the block included the 996 ridden to the World Superbike Championship by three time champ Carl Fogerty and a dozen Moto Morinis, a brand until recently owned by Ducati.

Excelsior has Rough Ride
It’s been a rocky couple of months for Excelsior-Henderson Motorcycles of Belle Plain. In August Excelsior reported they were in need of more operating cash to shore up their finances. Although they are producing bikes the company was reportedly selling them for a net loss of $2k per bike. This has led to the company searching for ways to cut the manufacturing costs and looking at their dealer network.

On the dealers Dan Hanlon said that while they were focusing on the manufacturing side of the business that they have not done all they could to help the dealers market and sell the luxury cruisers. Excelsior’s chief financial officer Tom Rootness resigned to pursue “other business opportunities”. Then came the really big news. On September 2nd Excelsior announced that they were laying off 97 employees from all levels of the company. This cut their work force by 45%. At this time three additions to company management were announced. Jack Thornton was appointed president, Terrance Adams was appointed chief financial officer, and Gary Johnson took over sales and marketing.

“The business decision to make staff reductions was an extremely difficult one,” said the Hanlons, “However in order to realign the company for long term success it was necessary to reduce our staff.” Jack Thornton, the new president, said, “This type of action is not uncommon with entities transitioning from development stage to a predictable operating company.”

After the announcement of the restructuring the price of Excelsior stock dropped dramatically, closing at $2.37 after very heavy trading volume. Most industry analysts agree that this is not the end of Big X and simply a speed bump on their road to success. But rumors of a possible buyout by Harley-Davidson have been floating around–though company spokesmen have said that nothing of the kind is going on.

To add to the concerns for the company is a lawsuit filed by several laid-off workers. They claim in their suit that Excelsior violated federal law by not giving enough advance notice of the layoffs.

M.M.M.

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