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Willie G. Davidson honoured at Sturgis Rally

Sun, 02/04/2017 - 4:00pm

Harley-Davidson icon Willie G. Davidson will receive a lifetime achievement award at this year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota in August.

Willie G. is the grandson of company co-founder Willian A. Davidson. He made his name as the designer of many important custom models such as the Super Glide, Low Rider and many of the company logos, apparel designs and jewellery.

Willie’s 1980 Custom Belt-Drive Wide Glide

He is also credited with saving the company when he and several executives bought back Harley-Davidson from American Machine and Foundry (AMF) in 1981 for more than $75 million.

He retired in 2012 as chief stylist, but the 83-year-old still consults and has an office at Harley HQ in Milwaukee where he designs various logos, but isn’t involved in bike design.

If you’ve loved Harleys over the years, you should be a Willie G. fan. I must admit to being a bit of a groupie and have interviewed him at the 105th and 110th anniversaries in Milwaukee, even asking him to sign my hat.

Now, he will be honoured at the world’s largest motorcycle rally with a Lifetime Achievement Award on August 9 in the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame.

Museum boss Myrick Robbins describes Willie G as an” ambassador for biker culture worldwide”.

“The Museum’s goal is to ‘Honor the Rider’ and Willie G. is the embodiment of motorcycle riding.

“You could say Willie G. was born with gasoline in his veins.”

Willie’s vest

He graduated from The University of Wisconsin and studied at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles.

He worked for the design department of Ford Motor Company before joining Harley-Davidson in 1963 where he established the motorcycle design department.

The post Willie G. Davidson honoured at Sturgis Rally appeared first on Motorbike Writer.

Hedon open-face luxury helmets

Sun, 02/04/2017 - 5:00am

Most open-face helmets are cheap and nasty, but if you are a fan of the style and want luxury and comfort, one of the premium brands is the French-made Hedon.

They are about to launch their first full-face helmet, the Heroine, in Australia next month, but it’s been the Hedonist and Epicure (pictured at top) open-face helmets which have earned them their name.

Hedon Heroine Racer

My daughter bought a Hedonist and the new Australian distributors, The Design Collective, sent me an Epicure to test.

Thankfully we are about the same size in helmet, so I was able to test them both.

Two different styles

The Hedonist is a conventional open-face helmet with three snap-on clips at the front for a visor, peak or shield, with a goggle strap holder at the back, while the Epicure has a full-length tilting visor.

They are not cheap at $499 for the Hedonist and $585 for the Epicurist. However, you know you have bough a luxury product when you receive the helmet in its box which has a plastic window so you can view the helmet inside.

It’s like a work of art and my daughter has her champagne-coloured helmet displayed in the box on the shelf of her bedroom when she’s not wearing it.

Luxury fit

But Hedon helmets are not just stunning in a box. They have a slim shell in several different sizes, so they look tailor-made to your head, rather than like some alien space helmet.

That luxury fitment continues inside with plush fine calf leather, quality brass fittings and Merlin anti-bacterial fabric lining which looks and feels like soft suede.

Some people won’t wear an open-face helmet for safety reasons. However, there are many primary safety advantages of an open-face helmet such as being lighter and less fatiguing, cooler (in style and temperature), having a wider field of vision, fewer fogging problems and because you are more alert to traffic sounds.

The Hedon is super-light with a shell made of carbonfibre and fibreglass and has such a wide field of vision you can’t even see the helmet when it’s on, unless you pull it right down in front.

Hedon Hedonist

I gave the distributors my head size, measured around the widest part of my head, and they sent me a helmet that felt quite snug.

At first I thought it would be too tight and quickly become uncomfortable.

However, while it’s snug, it doesn’t have any pressure points, so it doesn’t become painful on a long ride. And because it’s snug all over, it doesn’t want to lift off at high speed; the Epicurist even more secure than the Hedonist.

Every head is different, so it may not fit your head like mine, but I have never had a helmet that does not have at least one pressure point somewhere.

These are usually resolved by pushing your thumb into the pressure point to compress the foam. However, that is reducing the integrity of the helmet and reducing its impact resistance.

Good vision

Both luxury helmets allow you to wear sunglasses without getting caught in the visor and the padding inside doesn’t push against the glasses frames.

My daughter fitted a $79 bubble screen to her Hedonist and the Epicurist comes with a 2mm thick hand thermoformed shield. You can get replacement shields for the Epicurist for $115.

Neither screen fogs up and they don’t easily scratch, despite being hit square on with a stone at high speed while wearing the Epicurist.

Hedon Epicurist

You can’t ride around with the Epicure’s  visor up as it whistles even at low speed and tries to pull your head off at high speed. But it’s the helmet you would get if you want face protection from the wind, dust and rain.

Long-lasting luxury

I have several Bell Custom 500 helmets, but all of them have quickly deteriorated with the rubber trim and lining quickly falling apart from sweat.

While you also can’t remove the lining of the Hedon helmets for washing, it is longer lasting and more robust than the Bell.

I’m not a huge fan of the champagne and cherry colours of these helmets but there is an extensive range to suit everyone  including several shades of white and black!

If you are a fan of open-face helmets and want something fashionable, well made, luxurious and comfortable, then it’s time to invest in a Hedon helmet.

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BMW ‘announces’ two-wheel-drive GS

Sat, 01/04/2017 - 5:00pm

BMW has announced a two-wheel-drive version of its R 1200 GS Adventure will be available later this year.

While it might seem like a good idea, it’s actually an April Fool’s Day joke, confirmed by BMW Motorrad Australia GM Andreas Lundgren.

“There is a very thin border between fact and fiction in their pranks … the concept is plausible,” he says.

Their press release declares it would be called xDrive Hybrid and include an electric motor in the front wheel hub as developed by their automobile engineers for hybrid vehicles.

The Bavarian jokesters are famous for their April Fool’s Day jokes, having begun running spoof advertisements on April 1 in the early 1980s.

BMW’s marketing department says April Fool jokes are “designed to teeter on the verge of credibility” and often focus on a new and revolutionary piece of technology, but “push the idea just beyond the plausible.”

Some of their other April 1 pranks were a self-cleaning car, remote-inflatable tyres, dog-repellent bumpers, tyres that melted snow and a self-driving car that follows you when you go for a jog. This appears to be their first motorcycle prank.

Two-wheel-drive bikes

But is a two-wheel-drive BMW adventure motorcycle so implausible?

There have been several other two-wheel-drive motorcycles before, most notably Yamaha’s 2WD system called 2-TRAC. They used it to tackle the Dakar Rally but it never made it into mass production.

The idea is not dead yet with Yamaha, either. Their PES2 electric bike is 2WD and the Japanese company recently filed a patent for a new 2WD system with an electric motor driving the front wheel.

Other 2WD products and concepts include the Christini dirt bikes, Suzuki Nuda concept, Rokon, Ural 2WD outfits and Australia’s own Drysdale stroker which was intended for the Australian Army.

But the biggest hint that BMW may actually be considering a 2WD bike comes from BMW accessories company Wunderlich

Last year, they developed an electronic two-wheel-drive system for the R 1200 GS that also gives it a reverse gear.

The Wunderlich invention is basically a 7.6kW electric hub motor in the front wheel that neatly fits inside the ABS ring.

It sounds very similar to what BMW proposes in their April 1 press release.

Many online sites fell for the BMW joke, but they weren’t the only ones playing pranks.

This year we’ve heard of an Australian Government law to make all bikes water-cooled, Holden producing motorcycles, Triumph introducing a HandleWheel to replace the handlebars and the American Transportation Department requiring all bikes to be fitted with a $35 limiter that restricted top speed to 75mph (120km/h). The latter caused much angst and confusion among riders!

At Motorbike Writer, we report the news and don’t play pranks with our readers.

This is from the BMW Motorrad April 1 press release on the “xDrive Hybrid” bike:

All-wheel drive can be operated automatically or manually by the rider via the 2WD (Two-Wheel Drive) switch located on the left handlebar operation unit. It activates the wheel-hub e-Drive system which functions both as electric motor and generator. With the additional output of 33 kW (45 hp) and overall 125 kW (170 hp) system performance, the innovative all-wheel drive system opens up a whole new dimension of performance and off-road suitability.

A new generation of batteries, derived from BMW i battery technology, stores the energy recuperated during braking. The e-Drive system on the front wheel is supplied with this energy and the R 1200 GS xDrive Hybrid rider can use it for accelerating in addition to the power delivered by the combustion engine. Thanks to sophisticated management technology the power is always supplied to the front wheel in the right amount and appropriately depending on the riding situation. This means that the front wheel only receives the amount of power as the traction conditions permit – for example in wet or deep snow conditions. The rider can use a number of riding modes to customise how the all-wheel drive system operates and adjust the hybrid system’s recuperation strategies to suit his needs. Everything can be controlled using the innovative LCD display.

Optimised braking performance and balanced weight ratio thanks to intelligent recuperation and single disc brake.

Apart from the significant advantages achieved with regard to ride performance, the xDrive Hybrid all-wheel drive also benefits braking greatly. Thanks to the recuperation process, which has been integrated into the BMW Motorrad ABS system, braking performance has been improved even further.

This intelligent combined solution also made it possible to reduce the conventional double-disc hydraulic braking system at the front to a single-disc brake system thereby saving approximately 2.9 kilograms of weight. In combination with the wheel hub e-Drive, which only weighs 880 grams, the bike’s agility was also optimised. Thanks to the bike’s positive weight balance, the weight level of the current R 1200 GS Adventure could be maintained in spite of the additional hybrid all-wheel technology.

This bike will get you anywhere, on any surface – even to the North pole.

In the past months the test version of the new R 1200 GS xDrive Hybrid covered countless thousands of kilometres in the toughest of riding conditions. The most extreme demands were placed on the bike last winter, when Reiner Scherbeck, the head of winter testing at BMW Motorrad, rode it to the North Cape on a first stage and from there across the frozen Barents Sea to the North Pole and back again.

Scherbeck: “We were absolutely amazed how problem-free and reliable the all-wheel drive worked even at minus 56 degrees. Thanks to our functional BMW rider equipment, the cold temperatures were no problem for the rider, too. Probably the most thrilling conclusion we can draw from our test runs, is that for the first time we can offer a motorcycle that makes riding a motorcycle a pleasure at snow depths of 1.25 metres in high winter with the new R 1200 GS xDrive Hybrid. Special front section components have also been developed for this purpose as well as high-speed suitable M+S all-season tyres. This was also necessary in order to meet the necessary requirements for high-speed winter operation.”  

The new BMW R 1200 GS xDrive Hybrid will be presented to the public in a suitable location very soon. It will be available from the second half of 2017. BMW Motorrad will announce special tyre combinations and optional equipment features as well as the official sales price at a later date.

The post BMW ‘announces’ two-wheel-drive GS appeared first on Motorbike Writer.

Indian ride for domestic violence victims

Sat, 01/04/2017 - 5:00am

Social worker Julie Jasper is riding a 1942 Indian 741 Military Scout around Australia to encourage young domestic violence victims to “break the silence”.

It’s called the Silent Tour and you can join the 50-year-old rider on one of the legs of her tour by following her website and making a $35 donation.

Julie started on March 4, 2017, in her hometown of Albany, WA, and arrives in Perth this Sunday (April 2, 2017) for a ride out from Guilford to Gilderton with riders from the Indian Motorcycle dealership.

Julie’s 1942 Scout

That’s only 500km in a month, but Julie is not in a rush as she wants to spend the time making people aware of what victims of domestic violence go through.

She is also using the trip to concentrate on writing her book “Flaying solo – one women’s journey to self-discovery”. (Yes, “flaying” as in ripping the skin off to expose what’s underneath.)

“I needed to remove myself from family and friends and get out in the bush to write this book,” she says.

“So I decided to take myself off around Australia on my dream bike and raise awareness for domestic violence.”

Julie has been a full-time carer for abused children for the past two years so she knows first-hand what they go through.

She has decided to open up her trip to others to come along to not only raise money for her sponsors, the Albany Community Foundation, but also to provide her with company and security.

Julie chose an old Indian Scout because it was her dream bike and provided a challenge.

“I’ve always loved Indians and old things so when the two came together, it was the perfect combination,” she says.

“It is a challenge, but the bike is up to it. It was built for World War II as a despatch rider’s bike so they built them very solid.”

However, when she first got it, she dropped it in the shed and broke her leg. She spent the next four months writing eight chapters for her book.

Julie says the Scout’s engine has been totally reconditioned and she believes it will get her steadily around Australia at an average of 85/90km/h on the highway, over the next 11 months.

“I have a Perth mechanic, Murray Morrell, who is an Indian expert who has been rebuilding Indians for years,” she says. “He’ll be my online mechanic if anything goes wrong.”

The post Indian ride for domestic violence victims appeared first on Motorbike Writer.

Is Melbourne footpath parking under threat?

Fri, 31/03/2017 - 4:00pm

The Independent Riders Group in Victoria is concerned that Melbourne’s much-vaunted motorcycle footpath parking is under threat.

They claim the threat comes from a growing number of pedestrians, a strong cycling lobby claiming footpath space, comments by a former RACV boss, an MCG parking ban and alternative road-centre parking.

However, the rival Victorian Motorcycle Council describes the claims as “scaremongering” and says there is only an issue about parking around Luna Park in the City of Port Phillip which they are involved in resolving.

Melbourne has been a shining light for the rest of the country with its free motorcycle footpath parking which is enshrined in their Future Melbourne Committee Road Safety Plan. It is vital as an example for other cities that the system remains in place.

A Melbourne City Council spokeswoman says they have delivered on all the outcomes outlined in the plan.

“State law is that motorcycles can be parked on the footpath anywhere In Victoria, unless it is explicitly stated otherwise, for example, via a parking sign,” the spokeswoman says.

“Footpath parking for motorcycles is not being phased out in the City of Melbourne.

“Our Road Safety Plan 2013–17 states that Council may restrict footpath parking in some areas for safety reasons. However, dedicated on-street parking would then be provided to allow parking for the same number of motorcycles.

“The City of Melbourne has received very few complaints about motorcycles parked on footpaths in recent years.”

Cyclists and pedestrians

Cyclists and pedestrians are competitors for footpath parking spaces and their growing number in all cities is a definite concern for all riders.

They have very well-organised and politically strong lobby groups that are appealing to many politicians.

Therefore, it is important that motorcyclist representative groups continue to keep pressure on councils to acknowledge the advantages of motorcycles in the CBD.

Thankfully, the major cities are recognising this fact. In Brisbane, a special working group of motorcyclists is being assembled to help council find more parking solutions.

Austroads report on parking RACV parking threat

As for the claim that the RACV is against motorcyclists, it is based on old quotes from a former boss.

A spokeswoman says the quotes were “taken out of context” and were personal beliefs and not those of the RACV.

“The RACV encourages motorcycle and scooter riders to park their bikes in accordance with the guidelines developed by the former Victorian Motorcycle Advisory Council,” she says.

A copy of the guidelines for motorcycle parking is available on the RACV website.

Free footpath parking in Melbourne MCG parking ban

As for the MCG motorcycle ban, it is extended to all motorised vehicles, not just motorcycles, says spokesman Ben Corfee.

“After carefully assessing the security risk of having unattended motor-vehicles in close proximity to patrons and infrastructure, the MCC has instituted a 30 metre “exclusion zone” from the concourse,” he says.

“This ‘exclusion zone’ applies to both general public cars / vehicles and motorbikes and compliments the water filled barriers that are currently in place to help mitigate the risk of Hostile Vehicles and unauthorised vehicle approaches.”

The security concerns are certainly valid given last year’s tragic Bourke St incident and the recent London terror attack.

Besides, the MCG has identified an alternative area in Jolimont St specifically for motorcycle parking on event days.

Centre parking

IRG member Rodney Brown says he is concerned that various pressures will force motorcycle from footpaths where parking is free to paid centre-road parking which he says is a higher risk to riders.

A move from free to paid parking would certainly be a disincentive to riders, however our society seems to be moving more toward more user-pays systems.

We would hope that if they do, concrete island buffers would be introduced to help protect riders mounting and dismounting their bikes.


In response to a website that highlights badly parked motorcycles and calls for a ban on footpath parking, we suggested flyers be placed on offending vehicles to make them aware of the quite comprehensive guidelines on footpath parking.

The IRG has now taken this suggestion on board.

Even if this poses no threat to footpath parking, illegal parking by a minority of riders sets a bad example in the community for all motorcyclists.

  • What do you think about free motorcycle footpath parking? Leave your comments below.

The post Is Melbourne footpath parking under threat? appeared first on Motorbike Writer.

Biggest Ace Cafe to open in Florida

Fri, 31/03/2017 - 12:00pm

The famous London Ace Cafe has many copies around the world, but the first North American franchise, set to open in Orlando, Florida, in spring 2017, will be the biggest yet.

Ace Cafe Orlando will be a 35,000-square-foot (10,668sq m) motor-centric dining, entertainment, and retail destination expecting to draw more than 400,000 people a year.

It will be housed in three historic buildings in downtown Orlando and holds the exclusive licensee rights in North America and South America for the world-famous brand.

Ace Cafe history

The Ace Cafe London was established in 1938 and after World War II it became a mecca for “rockers” and cafe racers on motorcycles and in hot rod cars.

The original location on London’s North Circular Road began as a simple roadside cafe for truckers, then evolved into a popular destination for rock ‘n roll-loving teens riding motorbikes during the ’50s and ’60s. Today, the Ace has a multi-generational appeal from motorsports enthusiasts from all over the world.

Motorbike Writer has done the pilgrimage and was underwhelmed by the small and grubby cafe. But you can’t be underwhelmed by its influence on motorcycle culture.

Bigger and better

By comparison, the two-storey Ace Cafe Orlando will be much larger and feature a full-service restaurant, two kitchens, four bars, a coffee bar, a communal counter, a mezzanine that overlooks the main floor dining area and stage, and private and semi-private spaces for groups.

Ace Cafe Orlando artist’s drawing

With a nod to Ace Cafe’s roots, they will serve British food favourites such as Bangers & Mash, Fish & Chips, and Chicken Curry, plus American diner favourites.

More importantly, they will sell officially branded Ace gear and apparel in the Rockers Speed Shop and include a BMW motorcycle dealership, Dainese D-Store, EagleRider motorcycle rental company and Stonebridge Motorgallery, selling vintage and one-off custom motorcycles as well as artwork, photography, sculptures, and memorabilia.

Outside will be a large park for motorcycle and hot rod events that hosts up to 7000 people.

After the Ace Cafe opens, they will start work on a live music and bar and a beer garden.

Ace Cafe Orlando artist’s drawing

The Blue Cap Shack bar weill feature the area’s first Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ, the Kansas City-based BBQ restaurant voted “Best BBQ” by Anthony Bourdain, Chef Wolfgang Puck and USA Today.

The Backyard Beer Garden will also have an outdoor stage for live music accommodating up to 1200 people.

Ace Cafe North America boss Mark McKee says the family oriented venue will attract “petrolheads and aficionados to would-be enthusiasts” as well as music lovers.

Next time you are in the USA, make sure you pay a visit!


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Oxley Highway speed camera blitz

Fri, 31/03/2017 - 5:00am

Riders on the Oxley Highway face a blitz of police patrols and speed cameras in the wake of two recent motorcycle crashes – one fatal.

This blitz comes as a speed zone review of the highway continues with no timeline for a final decision.

The speed zone review has been delayed because local Member for Oxley Melinda Pavey has become the new NSW Roads and Maritime Services Minister.

As the local member, she is concerned by the business and community reaction to the planned reduction in speeds on the highway by as much as 30km/h in some areas.

The RMS says the speed zone changes between Long Flat and Walcha were due to a high number of crashes. From November 9, 2011, to November 8, 2016, there were five fatal motorcycle crashes.

After significant community feedback from the motorcycling and local business community, the RMS promised another review with findings originally scheduled before Christmas.

The secondary review will now be released after the Centre for Road Safety has completed its analysis, an RMS spokesman says. No timeline has been given.

Speed blitz

Referring to last weekend’s fatal motorcycle crash, the new Minister says any loss of life is a tragedy as she hints at a coming speed blitz on the highway.

“Our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the man who lost his life at the weekend,” she says.

However, she points out that a “recent analysis of accident data” shows that motorists are still speeding.

“We need to get the balance right between enforcement and behavioural change, but if they continue to speed we will have no option but to increase the level of enforcement, including speed cameras,” she says.

“Some motorcyclists have been caught speeding at more than 160km/h since the review began, which is incredibly dangerous and reckless. We cannot allow this to continue, not when people’s lives are at stake. 

“We will continue to work with the NSW Police and NSW Centre for Road Safety to improve the safety of this road and reduce the risk of further tragedies like these.”

Meanwhile, the “Save the Oxley” petition, organised by local Ken Healey, has attracted more than 7000 signatures.


The post Oxley Highway speed camera blitz appeared first on Motorbike Writer.

Rider hits unsecured mattress in tunnel

Thu, 30/03/2017 - 1:07pm

An Ipswich rider has hit a mattress that fell off a trailer in a Brisbane tunnel at 80km/h and police are lived to tell the tale after performing an impromptu “endo”.

Contractor Aaron Wood said the “endo” was so severe he tore the grips off the bars of his Honda CBR1000RR.

Aaron was following a Toyota Prado through the Clem 7 tunnel on the night of March 28, 2017, when an unsecured mattress flew out of the back of a cage trailer it was towing.

He hit the mattress and came to an abrupt stop, lucky not to be rear-ended. The mattress was lodged under the bike near the exhaust and began to smoulder before being pulled out.

“I have been riding for 20 years and never had something like this happen,” he told The Queensland Times.

Ipswich police are checking the tunnel CCTV footage, but it is very difficult to read the number plate of the vehicle.

A police media spokesperson says if they locate the driver they could be charged with “Fail to ensure load on private light vehicle complies with requirements” and face a $243 fine.

Australian authorities receive tens of thousands of callouts a year to collect debris from our roads.

It includes household goods, building materials and green waste, causing road closures, disruptions, injuries and deaths.

Most vulnerable to these unsecured loads are motorcyclists.

Most riders have witnessed all sorts of things flying off the backs of trucks and pick-ups, but the worst culprits seem to be tradies.

Perhaps they are in a rush to get home or to the next job, but too many don’t secure their loads properly.

Take a look at the side of our freeways. They are littered with tradies’ hard hats, rubber boots, gloves and tools.

Other motorists to avoid are weekend gardeners taking their load to the dump in a hired trailer. They are not professional transport operators, so they don’t know how to secure a load properly. Give them a wide berth.

It’s not as if the police and authorities don’t care about unsecured loads.

Police frequently blitz for unsecured loads and the fines range from several hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the risk level of the spilt load.

However, a fine won’t help a rider recovering in hospital from hitting a loose load. Instead, it’s our responsibility to stay away from any vehicle with a loose load.

And if you see a dangerous load, report it to the police.

This video of an American rider crashing into a load that had fallen off the back of a boat trailer being pulled by an SUV is a lesson in never following vehicles with dodgy looking loads.

Rider Brendan Jankowski, 20, doesn’t seem to be following very closely, but it is close enough for him not to be able to avoid the load of rolled-up foam that falls off. He hits it square on and flips over.

Luckily, he only received minor injuries.

It’s a good lesson to be aware of trucks and pickups carrying loads secured only by ropes and ties.

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Riders: If it’s flooded forget it

Thu, 30/03/2017 - 7:26am

Much of eastern Queensland and northern NSW is heading for severe flash flooding over the next 24 hours and emergency services have reiterated their call: “If it’s flooded, forget it”.

The police are pretty serious about the current situation and warn that this morning’s rain is “just the tip of the iceberg”. Interesting analogy!

Anyway, police are now fining motorists hundreds of dollars for negligent driving if they attempt to cross flood waters and get stuck, requiring rescue.

Just for today, it might be prudent to forget about taking the bike out.

Don’t be that idiot that goes playing in flooded waters and ends up losing their bike, forcing emergency services personnel to risk their lives trying to save you.

Water crossings can be enormous fun, but it’s just not worth it when the water crossing is flooded.

You may have crossed this particular crossing before and think that the water is just a little higher than normal. However, there could be a sink hole underneath and you could lose your bike and then be swept away in the fast-running waters.

Flooded water is unpredictable. Is the level still rising, how fast is the water flowing, is it flowing at different rates in different parts of the crossing, is a sudden surge of more water on its way, what objects have been washed down and are now submerged underneath such as barbed wire?

There are too many unknowns.

One of my water crossing failures was in a low-flooded causeway. I was riding a big Yamaha Super Tenere through on the clear wheel tracks but the water was flowing faster where there was a gap in the weeds upstream.

Even though it was a low level and the bike substantial, the water velocity was enough to push my front wheel slightly off track, into the slime and down I went.

I was lucky not to be swept off the causeway into the fast-running creek.

It was a stupid thing to do and I acknowledge that.

After the storms have passed and the skies turn blue, there will be an enormous temptation this weekend to go out and play in the waters.

However, flood waters can take a lot of time to subside, so remain vigilant and cautious.

In the meantime, maybe just for today forget about taking the bike out!

The post Riders: If it’s flooded forget it appeared first on Motorbike Writer.

Top 10 tips for short motorcyclists

Thu, 30/03/2017 - 5:00am

Short riders have always been disadvantaged by the fact that bikes are designed for tall riders, although that has changed in recent years.

Brands such as Harley-Davidson, BMW, Ducati, Triumph and others are now making models that have lower seat heights or are offering optional low seats for short riders.

Even so, there are many bike types that are too high for some riders, especially sportsbikes and dirt bikes which need to be high for lean angle and clearance. The lowest types are cruisers and scooters where you can get off the seat easily.

But it shouldn’t stop you. Look at 1.58m-high Dani Pedrosa on the MotoGP grid. He is almost off the seat to get one foot on the ground. It hasn’t stopped him from riding!

Until gyroscopic self-balancing bikes such as BMW’s Vision Next 100, Honda’s Riding Assist or Yamaha’s Motobot become reality, short riders just have to find smarter ways to ride.

Honda’s self-balancing motorcycle So here are our top 10 tips for short riders

1 Pick a low bike with a narrow seat. It’s not just about having a low seat, but also one that is narrow as that allows you to get your legs closer together which means you have a better reach to the ground. Sit on bikes at the dealership and test them out. Not every bike will have the same reach to the ground because of the seat shape. For a list of bike seat heights, visit our comprehensive list and use the special app.

2 Buy a light bike. If you are teetering on your tiptoes when stationary, it is easier to hold a light bike than a heavy one. Also, buy a bike with an adjustable height seat like on many BMWs.

3 Buy a lower seat if the option is available. Some are offered as factory accessories by manufacturers, otherwise there are plentiful aftermarket suppliers. You can also have it customised by special motorcycle upholsterers who will scoop out some of the foam and replace it with memory foam, gel or 3D foam. Even though it will be thinner, it may not be uncomfortable as some of those foams are better than the stock seat foam.

4 Before buying the bike, ask the dealer if they are able to make suspension adjustments that lower the bike. It’s not a great option, but it can be done with some success. The forks may be dropped through the triple clamp, although this will change the steering characteristics making it more “nervous”. You can also soften the rear spring which will give you more sag when you sit on the bike making it substantially lower. If you are short, you are also probably lighter than the 75kg average for which most bike suspensions are set, so it shouldn’t be a problem and the bike won’t bottom out on the suspension. However, be aware that lowering the suspension will affect cornering clearance, shock compression, wheel travel and it may not handle as well. Some people also change to lower-profile tyres, but be aware it will change the revs and may make your speedometer slightly inaccurate.

5 Some short riders buy thick or platform sole shoes to give them a bit more reach. Just make sure they are proper motorcycle shoes and you still have feel for the brake and clutch levers. High heels are not suitable for obvious reasons, but also because they provide no more reach to the toes, only the heels. that’s why you need shoes with a thick front section.

Harley make thick-soled boots

6 Some short riders mount with the side stand still down. Be aware that many of the lightweight alloy side stands being used now will bend and eventually snap from putting all your weight on them.

7 If you mount this way, you will need to push off on the side stand side over to the other side and will need to quickly get your right foot down. This can be disastrous, so maybe practise with a friend to help catch you.

8 You can also start the bike while standing beside it and mount “on the fly”. Start by putting your left foot on the foot peg and then ease the clutch out while throwing your right leg over the seat. You may have to do a few bunny hops on your right foot. This is how we used to mount our pushbikes as kids. You can dismount in the same way, but it takes practice and you should do it on a small bike first on a long driveway like we have in these photos, not on the road. Also, be aware that police may deem this practice as illegal. However, we can’t find anything in the road rules against it, now that the controls laws have been adjusted.

9 When you get on the bike, drop your weight into the seat and let the suspension sag rather than trying to hold the bike up with your weight on your legs. You will be surprised how much this drops the bike down. On the tall F 800 GS, it means the difference between being on my toes and having my feet flat on the ground.

10 However, you only ever need – and should have – your left leg on the ground when stationary with your right foot on the brake. Besides, that gives you extra reach to the ground. To do this, counter-steer the bike to the right by using the left handlebar just before stopping. This will tilt the bike slightly to the left. Just before you top, slide your backside off to the left and keep your right foot on the brake as you come to a stop. When you put your leg on the ground, be aware that your bike will lean to the left and you will have to support its weight. This is why we suggested a lighter bike. But here’s a handy tip: It will be easier to hold it if you also point the front wheel to the right.

  • Did this article help you? If so, share it with your friends. Do you have any other tips you would like to share? Leave your comments below.

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First real-world motorcycle ABS study

Wed, 29/03/2017 - 4:00pm

A real-world study into the effects of ABS in motorcycle crashes has been completed with the help of Australian riders.

There have been plenty of studies in the past about the effectiveness of ABS on motorcycles, but they are all statistical summaries and not real-world surveys.

Last year UK motorcycle road safety researcher Dr Elaine Hardy contacted us to publicise her research and attract Australian riders who had been in an ABS-equipped bike crash to participate in the study.

Now she has released the results of the first real-world study of ABS effectiveness. You can read the full “Effects of ABS in motorcycle crashes” survey here.

It involved surveying 60 male riders and one female with 25 respondents from Australia, 34 from Europe and two in South Africa.

“ABS can and does make a difference,” says Elaine who worked on the study with colleagues from universities in Europe.

“The underlying problem that everybody seems to be oblivious to is the importance of hazard awareness training and simply how to brake in emergencies (with or without ABS).

“There is a lot of misinformation out there.  The purpose of this study is to find facts about what happens when riders crash, not debate about mandating ABS or not.”

BMW demonstrates ABS

The horse has already bolted on mandatory ABS in several countries, anyway.

India makes it mandatory for all motorcycles with an engine bigger than 125cc from April 2017, More than one in three new motorcycles manufactured in Europe is now fitted with ABS and Japan, Europe, Brazil and Taiwan have mandated anti-lock brakes on designated motorcycles.

There are no calls in Australia yet for ABS to be mandated on bikes, but the Federal Chamber of Automated Industries and VicRoads say ABS is safe and a Monash Uni statistical study says it would save lives.

Even if ABS isn’t mandated, motorcycle companies are rolling out the technology across their range.

Elaine says she has spoken with industry representatives who say that because the cost of the technology has dropped considerably all bikes, except mopeds, will end up with ABS brakes.

“So they are not fussed whether the system becomes mandatory or not – because all bikes 125cc+ will end up having them anyway – and the cost will be absorbed through sales,” she says.

Elaine’s study is the first real-world research into ABS motorcycle crashes, but she says more needs to be done.

“Although this pilot survey is a small sample, the wealth and depth of information provided by the motorcyclists who participated allows for a wide range of analysis of the details that resulted from the questionnaire and the responses,” she says.

The study found the typical speed of 32% of the riders was between 41-60km/h, while 13% indicated their speed prior to braking was 61-70km/h. Only four (7%) indicated their speed was more than 100km/h prior to braking.  Eight (14%) were travelling at speeds up to 20km/h prior to braking.  

“In particular, the riders overwhelmingly recognised the risk of injury if they are involved in a crash and thus wore highly protective clothing and helmets,” she says.

In terms of how the speed before braking affected the injury severity, the study suggests that the injury outcome appears to be nearly random, or rather it is dependent on circumstances other than speed.

When asked whether the riders applied their brakes prior to crashing, 52 (85.2%) replied that they did.

“This response is possibly the most important and relevant question and answer in the survey,” Elaine says.

“The reason is that the focus of this survey and its response regards advanced (anti-lock) braking systems and whether the dynamics of the outcome of the crashes matters or whether there is something else that requires attention.”

Elaine says licence training is usually designed for the novice to pass a test, rather than being trained to survive, let alone understand the dynamics of ABS.

She says it is important the rider understands how to use ABS and has sufficient knowledge of emergency braking and hazard awareness to prevent a crash.

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World’s oldest, Roman Holiday Vespa sells

Wed, 29/03/2017 - 12:00pm

The world’s oldest Vespa that was also used in the classic 1953 film, Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, has sold at auction for more than a quarter million dollars.

There were 21 bids for the working scooter which was hand-crafted in 1946.

It was estimated to sell for up to €300,000 ($US324,492, $A424,771) but sold for €191,000 ($US195,748, $A256,252).

The 98cc scooter has the chassis number 1003 and is the third Vespa made by Piaggio from the “0 series” which comprised of 60 prototypes. The first two prototypes are no longer in existence.

For many years it belonged to a private collector who has 60 rare Vespas.

This particular scooter is not only the oldest, but also the most famous for its role in Roman Holiday. The film made Vespa an icon of post-war life.

The above clip shows Hepburn’s scooter sequence in the streets of Rome. It was her first big screen role and both she and the scooter would go on to become famous.

Even though it was a brief appearance by the Vespa, it was featured in  movie posters that helped sell more 100,000 Vespa as a direct result.

By 1962, more than 60 movies featured Vespas and by 1970 Piaggio had sold more than four million Vespas worldwide.

Vespa history

Piaggio was originally a manufacturer of warplanes, but they were no longer allowed to continue production after the war because of Italy’s collaboration with the Germans.

So Piaggio management redirected manufacturing efforts to scooters which were designed so women in skirts could ride them on the battle-scarred roads of Italy without getting dirty.

The scooter was named Vespa because it look like a wasp, which in Italian and Latin is “vespa”.

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Helstons for luxurious riding gear

Wed, 29/03/2017 - 5:00am

When it comes time to spoil yourself with a bit of luxury and high-quality comfortable motorcycle riding gear, we recommend sampling French manufacturer Helstons.

Some time ago I went searching for a pair of winter leather gloves that kept the cold out and didn’t leave me feeling like I was wearing boxing gloves.

Helstons were recommended, so I lashed out £89.99 and bought a pair.

Helstons summer and winter gloves

They are made of the softest leather with a high-quality lining that allows them to slip on and off easily and feel ultra-comfortable, even on long trips when normal gloves would start to feel uncomfortable in the palms.

They were also super-warm without making my hands sweat and still allowing plenty of feel through the levers.

They treat them with a mix of oils and waves that gives them a great aged appearance, although they are only semi-waterproof.

I liked them so much I bought a pair of summer leather gloves for £49.99 and found them just as luxuriously comfortable and cool.

So when it came time to upgrade my summer mesh jacket I went straight to Helstons to see what they had.

I chose their Wall Mesh textile jacket and am very impressed.

Not only is it lightweight and cool with all the properly certified armour, but it fits properly.

I’m sick of motorcycle jackets that fit when you stand up straight but feel uncomfortable when you sit on the bike.

They either gape at the back of the neck, cut into your adam’s apple, bunch up in the front making you look like you’ve got a big gut or flap around in the arms.

No such problem with the Helstons jacket.

The Wall Mesh jacket has plenty of pockets, a mesh liner that wicks the sweat away and the sleeves are long enough and don’t ride up in the wind.

It comes with an internal waterproof liner which I do not usually like because the exterior gets wet and heavy, and takes ages to dry. However, the nylon mesh material doesn’t hold a lot of water, so it dries quickly.

It comes in black and brown, so I chose brown and it looks quite smart. My wife even lets me wear the jacket as casual wear with the armour quickly removed.

The jacket comes in sizes S to 5XL and it cost me just a bit over $200 delivered to my door.

I ordered online through FC Moto, but you can also get them from Motolegends and there is so far no Australian dealer.

The jacket actually arrived in Australia five days after I ordered but sat in customs for two weeks before being released.

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Second Ipswich Bike Night looms

Tue, 28/03/2017 - 4:00pm

The second Ipswich Bike Night at the Ipswich Country Club is on this Saturday (April 1) and Motorbike Writer will have a stall where you can buy some of the products from our new online shop.

Co-organisers Brad Palmer, duty manager of the Ipswich Country Club, and course superintendent Luke Nowlan say the first night was such a success they now plan to hold the events every second month on the first Saturday from 5pm.

The family oriented venue is superb for a bike night with plenty of space to display bikes, plus all the facilities of the country club, including plenty of restrooms, a restaurant and bar facilities so you can stay on after bike night finishes at 8pm.

The first Ipswich Bike Night attracted about 300 bikes, including 40 for the show and shine.

Brad says the healthy turnout was thanks to the support of the Ipswich Ulysses Club who will have a stall inside the pro shop this time and organise the registration and voting tables for the show and shine.

BMW Clubs of Australia president John Eacott of Melbourne visited the first Ipswich Bike Night and said he was very impressed with the turnout for the inaugural event.

John Eacott

The first Ipswich Bike Night included a free-entry show and shine, live band, a host of motorcycle-related stalls plus food and drink from the clubhouse.

Brad says the second Bike Night will be “even bigger” with more show and shine categories, a lot more prizes from motorcycle venues around the area as well as 10-20 different stalls, including Motorbike Writer.

“We are expecting numbers around the 500-600 mark, fingers crossed,” he says.

He says they will also have up to four extra food vendors so it is quicker for people to get food and drink service.

RideSmart is major sponsor for the event providing trophies and vouchers and TopGun Motorcycles will also supply prizes.

If you are interested in having a free stall at any of the next Ipswich Bike Nights, contact Brad on 0422 040665 for bookings.

Brad promises the lack of parking spaces for motorcycles at the first show has been fixed with spaces reserved earlier in the day.

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Psychs on Bikes Big Ride for mental health

Tue, 28/03/2017 - 12:00pm

Psychologists and psychiatrists are mounting up on their motorcycles for their annual Big Ride to bring mental health issues and therapies to people in remote communities.

There’s the old saying that you will never find a motorcycle outside a psychologist’s office, that is unless it belongs to a psychologist who belongs to the group, Psychs on Bikes!

The group was started by Kawasaki GTR1400 rider and Sydney psychiatrist Joe Dunn.

Joe Dunn in remote communities

Psychs on Bikes is a group of mental health professionals who ride around the country spreading mental health awareness and doing free health checks, particularly in remote communities.

Check out their Big Ride in this video.

The Big Ride

They have a number of rides each year, but their big event is the Big Ride which this year takes in a 2500km loop through Western Queensland in April.

The Big Ride starts and ends at the Ramsay Healthcare psychiatric hospital New Farm Clinic in Brisbane which is their biggest sponsor. The Big Ride takes in Goondiwindi, St George, Roma, Carnarvon Gorge (for a day of R and R), Emerald, Biloela and the Caloundra from April 15 to 23.

“We’ll be talking to the media, meeting with local health professionals and interacting with the local community,” he says. 

“We’ve started a technique called Psychs in the Pub where we talk about mental health issues and conduct Free Men’s Health Checks.

“This year we have about a dozen psychs in attendance.”

Joe says any health professionals who’d like to join can contact him via email at

Psychs on Bikes beginning

We spoke to Joe last year about how he established Psychs on Bikes.

“It all happened by accident about seven years ago when I wanted to rid the Nullarbor in a bit of a midlife crisis,” Joe says.

Joe (centre) with his son and mate

He was accompanied by his son and a couple of mates who were a psychiatrist and a psychologist.

After the ride, they decided to return to Sydney and invite other mental health care professionals to join them. That started an annual pilgrimage around the country as well as shorter rides to various motorcycle festivals and events.

“Our interest is in rural mental health where the suicide rate is high, mainly among men,” Joe says.

“They come attracted by the bikes and the good news is they are starting to open up more about their emotions.”

Although it is a free men’s health check, everyone is welcome.

“It’s actually a fairly cursory physical health check, but then we ask them to fill out a mental health questionnaire and that’s an invitation for blokes to start talking.”

Although they target males, Joe said almost half of their riders are female mental health professionals.

Psychs on Bikes Veteran rider

Joe has been riding for 47 years having obtained his licence at 15 in New Zealand. He says he rode a Honda 90 to school and couldn’t afford a car, so he rode motorcycles to uni.

He says the GTR is his “14th or 15th motorbike”.

“There is a great camaraderie in riding,” he says. “It’s a very levelling experience. You can ride with people from every socio-economic group and we are all united by our interest in bikes and avoiding speed cameras.

“If you are a real rider, you understand the pleasures and risks of riding, but you can’t go a couple of weeks without getting the wind in your face.

“It’s not an addiction, but it’s pretty near.”

Psychs on Bikes has raised money for the Australasian Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, but they don’t always have put their hands out for funds as they are generously supported by Ramsay Health Care which is the biggest owner of private hospitals in Australia.

  • *If you would like to feature your motorcycle club or group on Motorbike Writer for free, please email us your details and photos to

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Motorcycle road signs we’d like to see

Tue, 28/03/2017 - 5:00am

“Signs, signs, everywhere are signs, blocking up the scenery, breaking my mind, do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the signs,” sang Five Man Electric Band in 1971.

More than 45 years later, there are still signs blocking the scenery and breaking our minds. Let’s just hope they don’t break our bikes, too!

I went for a ride over Mt Glorious and they have added a heap more signs – some good and some bad.

We don’t mind the sign that tells us about a tightening curve, but you can become over-proscriptive! Can’t we just use our good sense and watch the road?

We kind of like the new signs that say “Look for bikes”, but there are just so many of them, motorists become oblivious to them.

Better still would be a sign telling them what to do about it … like to pull over and let us pass! I followed a driver at 40km/h in the 70km/h zone who didn’t pull over in any of the provided zones. When he hit a straight where there was a dotted passing line, he sped up to 90km/h, preventing me from overtaking him!

It’s probably about time there were some signs about motorbikes. After all, there seem to be a lot about cyclists.

However, we think this sign might be a bit more accurate.

And how about this one that includes pedestrians and horse riders?

With lane filtering now accepted in three Australian states and one territory and California in the USA (lane splitting), shouldn’t we have some roadside education like this?

Or how about a simple sign like this one? It’s an adaption of an American campaign to tell motorists about lane splitting that reads “Share the road”. We think this is more apt.

We could also do with a realistic warning sign, specifically for riders, like this one about kangaroos.

But that’s all serious stuff. How about some that show the pure joy of riding?

Do you have any serious or humours ideas for motorcycle road signs? Please share them with us!

Meanwhile, we’ll leave you with the Five Man Electric Band. Enjoy!

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Go slow on ABS, ESC and autonomous vehicles

Mon, 27/03/2017 - 4:00pm

The Australian Motorcycle Council is calling on authorities to slow down the testing and introduction of autonomous vehicles and to abandon plans for mandatory ABS and traction control.

AMC representative Guy Stanford says authorities seem to keen to progress toward autonomous vehicles without considering the impact on motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists who may not be detected by sophisticated vehicles sensors.

In one case, a female motorcycle rider was rear-ended by an automated Tesla S under test in Norway.

“There is no doubt we are facing an electronic future, but is it as safe as they claim?” Guy asks.

He says autonomous vehicles represent a huge threat to smaller road users such as riders.

Guy and his V-Strom Mandatory safety devices

Guy also calls for authorities to be cautious and not follow some other countries which are making ABS mandatory.

India makes ABS mandatory for all motorcycles with an engine bigger than 125cc from April 2017.

More than one in three new motorcycles manufactured in Europe is now fitted with ABS and Japan, Europe, Brazil and Taiwan have mandated anti-lock brakes on designated motorcycles.

Guy says that we could end up with cheap and relatively ineffective first-generation ABS simply to meet a regulatory obligation.

“That this may come about because of an over-estimation of crash reduction from ABS,” he says. 

“Many new motorcycles arriving in Australia have the latest ABS and we like that, although it adds around $1000 to the cost of the machine.   

“ABS for cars was not the promised magic silver bullet, but it did pave the way for ESC, which does work. There is no certainty that things that work for cars will work for motorcycles, but some authorities don’t see the difference. 

“We have to be careful of over-gizmoing things,” he says.

“The AMC view is that we would like to be able to inform people of the options but don’t tell us how to lead our lives.”

Meanwhile, the Australian Federal Chamber of Automated Industries supports the “continued development, introduction, and promotion of better technology for safer motorcycles” such as ABS and traction control.

A Melbourne university doctor has even called for bikes to be fitted with automatic emergency braking technology found in many modern cars. These devices activate the brakes at slow speeds if an obstacle is sensed in front of the vehicle.

While that might work in a car where you are belted into a seat, it could cause a rider to be flung over the handlebars.

Lane Filtering

It also doesn’t take into account the fact that filtering is progressively being introduced in Australian and American states. In filtering situations, riders get close to other vehicles which could easily activate emergency braking systems and send riders tumbling into traffic.

Automatic emergency braking is now widely available in cars, but is yet to be introduced in motorcycles. However BMW developed two experimental models — one motorcycle and one scooter — in 2011 and 2012, so it is being considered by the industry.

Unfortunately, the safety Nazis look at accident figures which show the high rate of accidents involving motorcycles and without any first-hand experience, they mistakenly believe that safety devices from other vehicles will work with motorcycles.

Guy says we need proper research by experts who know something about the dynamics of motorcycles and the needs of riders. 

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MV Agusta financial plans approved

Mon, 27/03/2017 - 12:00pm

What does it mean for MV Agusta customers now that the Italian Court of Varese has approved their financial reshaping of the company?

The Italian brand is declaring there are good times ahead. They now have the backing of Russian financial investors and are coming back to full production again on all current models, although there are no new models on the horizon.

MV boss Giovanni Castiglioni issued this statement: “In the last 12 months, the implemented measures have brought MV Agusta back in positive cash flow generation, allowing the company to accomplish the targets set in its plan and to consistently support product development and consolidation of our main markets. MV Agusta has a completely new product line, born from five years of heavy investments that, along with our iconic brand, represent the key elements to support our growth and our clients demand.”

It seems like a solid structure and we would like to be optimistic about this brand that builds sexy, high-performance motorcycles.

However, history shows there is cause for some concern for the venerable racing marque.

The Court of Varese made a similar ruling back in 2004 and the company has been in and out of financial problems ever since.

Despite part ownership by Mercedes-AMG, MV Agusta has struggled recently with liquidity issues and had reduced factory hours and spending on research and development.

Then, in November 2016, a “significant capital investment” deal was done with Russian-based investment company Black Ocean Group, controlled by the Sardarov family and by British financier, Oliver Ripley.

Now its financial restructure plans have been approved by the Italian Court of Varese and it is believed parts suppliers are now being paid and will be 100% back on line soon.

We certainly wish them the best of good fortune and hope they don’t follow Buell and Victory Motorcycles into oblivion or end up watered down as yet another Chinese automotive purchase.

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Burt Munro 50-year speed record honoured

Mon, 27/03/2017 - 5:00am

Burt Munro’s 50-year unbroken land speed record will be honoured with a special commemorative event in August 2017 at Bonneville Speed Week.

Burt’s son John and daughter Margaret will be special guests of Indian Motorcycle at the event which will honour Burt’s 1967 record of 184.087mph set in the SA 1000 class on his 1920 Indian Scout streamliner.

The record remains unbroken to this day, although the class is now called S-AF 1000cc.

Inaccurate record

Actually, the record was originally inaccurate.

Burt Munro

The record on his Indian 953cc Fuel Streamliner in the American Motorcyclist Association Land Speed Record in Class S.A. 1000 was originally listed by the American Motorcycle Association as 183.586mph.

That was supposed to be the average of his north run of 184.710mph and his south run of 183.463.

However, John told us at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in 2014 that the average is actually half a mile-per-hour faster at 184.087mph.

John Munro and MotorbikeWriter on the Indian Scout and Roadmaster at Sturgis

Only a couple of days earlier, John was notified by the AMA that the record had been adjusted.

“So, he’s dead for 36 years and he just broke another record,” he told us.

Munro Special display

Burt’s Scout is on display in a glass case in the Hammer Hardware store in his home town of Invercargill, New Zealand, among the E Hayes Motorworks Collection.

The Munro Special at Hammer Hardware

We recently visited the store where rare and historic bikes such as the Munro Special sit among nuts, bolts, screws, tools and cans of paint.

The 1967 record was set on his seventh trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats, not on his first trip as depicted in the 2005 movie The World’s Fastest Indian starring Anthony Hopkins.

Unbroken records

Burt also set records in the 55 cubic-inch class at 178.971mph in 1962 and in the SA 1000 class in 1966 at 168.066mph.

There are only four AMA unbroken records older than Burt’s 1967 record: the 500cc S-AF class record set in 1958 of 212.288mph by Jess Thomas; the 650cc A-AF class record in 1961 of 159.542mph by Gary Richards; the 650cc S-AF class record in 1962 of 230.269mph by Bill Johnson; and the 650cc APS-AF class record in 1965 of 161.793mph also by Gary Richards.

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Varied lane filtering laws explained

Sun, 26/03/2017 - 4:00pm

Lane filtering laws now extend to four states and one territory in Australia and lane splitting in California in the US, but more states may be coming on board and the laws vary.

It makes it difficult for nomadic riders to avoid offending if the laws vary slightly in each state.

While we welcome lane filtering laws, shouldn’t they all be the same?

How can riders be expected to know all the vagaries of traffic laws in each state?

Australian Motorcycle Council representative Guy Stanford believes uniform road rules will happen … one day.

Guy and his V-Strom

“It’s a complex process to get state agreement on road rules,” he says.

The problem is that states are possessive of their road rules because it is one of the few things over which they retained power after Federation.

Guy was invited by the National Transport Commission to address the Australian Road Rules Maintenance Advisory Group which is attempting to make road rules uniform across all states.

While varied lane filtering laws have been introduced, Guy says uniform rules about standing on the foot pegs and pushing a bike without having to wear a helmet have recently been introduced, so there is hope.

How the lane filtering laws vary

Let’s start with how they are similar.

Every law includes wording that says something like “only allowed when safe to do so”.

Guy says this vagueness means police can use their opinion to fine riders.

“That is sloppy legislation wording and it can mean fines for safe filtering,” he says.

“And like the confused helmet laws, cops can use the road rules to harass riders.”

Other similar lane-filtering regulations are:

  • The maximum filtering speed is 30km/h;
  • Filtering is banned in school zones during school times;
  • Filtering is illegal between a vehicle and the kerb; and
  • Filtering is restricted to fully licensed riders only, not learners or provisional licensed riders (except P plates in Victoria and R-Date in SA).

The biggest differences are in Queensland which allows riders to use the “green bicycle box” at intersections and permits “edge filtering”.

The latter means riders can use the sealed verge on roads posted at 90km/h or more.

Perversely, if the electronic speed signs drop the speed limit under 90km/h – usually during peak hours when you are more likely to filter on these roads, anyway – it is illegal.

The ACT trial bans filtering next to heavy vehicles and buses, while it is only a recommendation in NSW and not mentioned in Queensland, Victoria or South Australia.

South Australia and Victoria specifically mention that lane filtering is banned at crossings and roundabouts which are not mentioned in the other states’ rules.

Victoria also uses signs saying “no motorcycle lane filtering sign” to delineate areas where it is banned.

American lane splitting

Meanwhile, California is the first American state to allow lane splitting.

In the lead-up to the Californian legislation, there were recommendations of a top speed of 30mph (48km/h) and 50mph (80km/h) and not more than 10mph (16km/h) and 15mph (25km/h) faster than the traffic flow.

However, the law has only “general guidelines”, recommendations and no mandatory top speed.

Instead, lane splitting is monitored by the California Highway Patrol (CHiPs) and only allowed when it is “safe and prudent”.

American moto journalist Robin Hartfiel of Motorcycle and Powersport News says there is still plenty of room for interpretation of the laws. 

“The vehicle code change last year gave the California Highway Patrol the authority to establish guidelines for lane splitting,” he says.

“Although CHP had done this once before about five years ago, someone filed a complaint that the CHP producing guidelines was de facto lawmaking and CHP had to pull it all down.

“The new guidelines are in development from what I understand and the speed differential you referenced is part of this process, along with only splitting between the one and two lanes.” 

The law does, however, include fines for motorists for “intentionally blocking or impeding a motorcyclist in a way that could cause harm to the rider” such as opening a door or moving over on a rider.

We could do with that one in Australia! Instead, we have fines for riders only.

The fines are now almost $400 and three points. Previously they were about $150 and one point for passing on the left and $75 and no points for failure to stay in your lane.

However, due to representation by the Victorian Motorcycle Council (VMC), Victoria has introduced a low-level 1-point penalty for minor exceeding of the 30km/h limit while filtering.  Other Australian States, please take note!

Other states of the US, including Texas, Washington, Tennessee and Oregon are considering introducing lane splitting laws but with varied maximum splitting speeds and variances with surrounding traffic.

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