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Updated: 9 min ago

Electric vehicles break range barriers

Mon, 30/01/2017 - 1:00pm

The biggest barriers for electric motorcycles are range and recharging times, but now a couple of achievements are set to break those barriers.

A Dutch university team called STORM (pictured above) has completed an 80-day World Tour with its electric motorcycle and Spanish renewable energy company Acciona has finished this month’s Dakar Rally in an electric rally car.

Acciona electric rally car

What both of these projects have in common are modular power packs made of individual lithium battery modules that can quickly be replaced.  No need to sit around for hours waiting to recharge a battery.

STORM electric motorcycle features hexagonal-shaped modular battery packs which can quickly be replaced Charging infrastructure

The US is installing more and more quick-charging stations, thanks to a recent partnership between BMW and Nissan who have opened 174 more outlets.

However, even with a total of 668 dual-port DC fast-charging stations across the country, it’s still nowhere near enough.

And by “quick-charging” they still mean at least half an hour to charge a flat battery to about 80%, depending on the size of the battery.

That’s a lot longer than the five minutes it takes to fill and pay for fuel for your motorcycle.

Barriers to EVs

Surely the answer is in developing standard-sized battery module replacements so you can quickly change a battery or a module or two and be on your way.

However, that requires everyone in the industry to adhere to standard-sized modules. It’s a bit like the old VHS/Beta debacle.

So long as motorcycle and car manufacturers go their separate ways with electric powertrains and battery technology, the barriers of limited range and slow recharging times will continue to be an issue.

Growing range

Meanwhile, range of electric vehicles is continuing to grow.

Zero Motorcycles claims a maximum of 320km on their Zero SR with an expensive power pack and the Tesla Model S 100 D claims range of 540km on a single charge.

But those distances may be eclipsed by UK-based start-up Vigo Motorcycles which claims an unbelievable 640km of range.

While they are not yet revealing how they can achieve such a figure, they are also claiming the 160kg sportsbike will reach a top speed of 290km/h, go from 0-100km/h in 3.2 seconds and cost about $A13,000.

However, it’s all just “on paper” or, at least, “on screen” at the moment. They are yet to produce a working prototype for which they are seeking crowdfunding.

Given how investors were burnt by the Skully head-up display helmet crowdfunding debacle where the money was squandered on fast cars and women, it may be difficult to secure the necessary funding.

The words “if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t” seem to be ringing loudly in our ears.

One barrier the EV industry does not need is false promises.

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2017 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 arrives

Mon, 30/01/2017 - 6:00am

The big Kawasaki Ninja 1000 has arrived with new electronic rider aids, marginally wider fairings for increased wind protection, redesigned seats, an all-new dash and many other upgrades.

And all this for just $300 more than last year’s price.

It comes in a choice of Candy Lime Green / Metallic Carbon Gray, or Metallic Spark Black / Metallic Graphite Gray for $16,299 plus on-road costs.

The third iteration of the big Ninja makes this one very accomplished sports tourer.

The Ninja’s 1043cc 4-stroke inline four engine has revised ECU settings to meet stringent European emissions targets. Kawasaki says it also provides smoother power delivery.

It’s electronic rider aids, inspired by the WSBK championship winning Ninja ZX-10R, now include an Inertia Measurement Unit package and Kawasaki Cornering Management Function.

The Ninja 1000 also gets LED headlamps, a restyled front cowl, and slightly wider fairings for increased wind protection.

The new instruments feature a large analogue tachometer, gear position indicator, shift-up indicator and a multi-function LCD screen.

Kawasaki says they have redesigned the rider and passenger seats for more comfort and there are big grab handles for the passenger.

A new “Clean-Mount” pannier system allows optional panniers to be attached and removed very easily, leaving a clean look when removed.

The clutch lever is now adjustable and there is a host of touring accessories available.

These new features join a long list of existing features such as triple petal discs, radial-mount monobloc callipers and radial-pump front brake master cylinder, assist and slipper clutch, hand-adjustable remote preload adjuster and 19 litre fuel tank.

Meanwhile, Kawasaki has a $1500 cashback offer on their 2016 model Ninja 1000 until the end of February.

2017 Kawasaki Ninja 1000

Price $16,299 (+ORC) Engine Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke In-Line Four Displacement 1043cc Bore and Stroke 77.0 x 56.0 mm Compression ratio 11.8:1 Valve system DOHC, 16 valves Fuel system Fuel injection: ø38 mm x 4 (Keihin) with oval sub-throttles Ignition Digital Starting Electric Lubrication Forced lubrication, wet sump Drivetrain: Transmission 6-speed, return Final drive Sealed Chain Primary reduction ratio 1.627 (83/51) 1st 2.600 (39/15) 2nd 1.950 (39/20) 3rd 1.600 (24/15) 4th 1.389 (25/18) 5th 1.238 (26/21) 6th 1.107 (31/28) Final reduction ratio 2.733 (41/15) Clutch Assist and Slipper, Wet Multi-Plate Manual Frame: Type Aluminium twin-tube Wheel travel: Front 120 mm Rear 144 mm Tyre: Front 120/70ZR17M/C (58W) Rear 190/50ZR17M/C (73W) Caster (rake) 24.5° Trail 102 mm Steering angle (left/right) 31° / 31°

Suspension: Front 41 mm inverted fork with compression and rebound damping and spring preload adjustability Rear Horizontal Back-link, gas-charged rear shock with rebound damping and spring preload adjustability Brakes: Front: Dual semi-floating 300 mm petal discs Caliper Dual radial-mount, monobloc, opposed 4-piston with ABS Rear: Single 250 mm petal disc Caliper Single-piston with ABS Dimensions: Overall length 2,100 mm Overall width 790 mm Overall height 1,185 mm / 1,235 mm Wheelbase 1,440 mm Ground clearance 130 mm Seat height 815 mm Curb mass 235 kg (includes full fuel tank and all fluids at correct levels) Fuel capacity 19 L Performance: Maximum power 105 kW @ 10,000 rpm Maximum torque 111 N-m @ 7,300 rpm

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Motorcycle racing returns to Sellicks Beach

Sun, 29/01/2017 - 5:00pm

Beach motorcycle racing, as depicted in The World’s Fastest Indian, will return to South Australia’s Sellicks Beach state on February 18-19, 2017.

The Levis Motorcycle Club will host a field of 110 motorcycles manufactured before 1963. There will be racing across five classes as well as sidecars.

The oldest motorcycle club in South Australia began beach racing in the 1920s and held annual Sellicks Beach Speed Trials in summer through to 1953. Re-enactments were held in 1986 and 1992 but regular races have not taken place on the beach for more than 60 years.

The Levis club, named after the English two-stroke motorcycle (pictured below), hopes a successful event will lead to it being held every two years in the future.

Publicity Officer Peter Hennekam says more than 2000 tickets have been sold and they expect about double that will be sold before the event.

The event is free for children under-16 but people looking to attend are being urged to pre-book online as tickets will not be on sale at the gate.

Hennekam said riders ranged in age from 16 to 84 and some of the bikes entered dated back to the 1920s.

“It’ll be a spectacle that you just won’t see anywhere else,” he said.

“The 84-year-old bloke is racing his 1925 Velocette and we’ve got one family where dad owns the two bikes but his son and his grandson are going to be riding them.

“People have been dragging bikes out from behind uncles’ sheds and doing them up – many of the bikes are being ridden for the first time in a number of years.”

The two-day event will feature 46 races including heats and finals. Most will be scratch races but some handicap races will also be run.

Beach perfect for racing

The 1.6km (1 mile) track is the same length as the original track and takes riders 800m down the beach before rounding a hairpin for the 800m return journey.

Sellicks Beach (pictured below) is about a 45-minute drive south of the centre of the South Australian capital Adelaide.



Sellicks Beach (Picture: Katie Hannan)

Levis Motorcycle Club Publicity Officer Steven Matthews says Sellicks Beach is well suited to racing because it had a pebble foundation under the sand, which gave it a solid base and prevented it from becoming boggy.

“It’s quite a unique beach as it provides a really good surface to ride on and that’s why they started races there in the 1920s,” he said.

“We are very keen for this event to be successful in terms of looking after the environment and the cultural aspects and proving to people that it is going to work and not have any negative impact on the area.”

Racing state

South Australia is home to the National Motor Museum, the Bay to Birdwood classic car rally, and is home to more than 100 car clubs and 39 motorcycle clubs.

Charley Boorman at the Birdwood Museum with Andy Caldecott’s and David Schwarz’s Dakar Rally bikes

Adelaide hosted the Australian Grand Prix from 1985 to 1995, and is the home of the Clipsal 500, the only CBD street circuit on the V8 Supercar calendar.

(Story supplied by The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia.)


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Indian Motorcycle to launch three new models?

Sun, 29/01/2017 - 6:00am

Indian Motorcycles is believed to be launching three new models as soon as next week called the Chieftain Elite, Chieftain Limited and Roadmaster Classic.

Here are the clues: The bikes were listed with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) last week and American motorcycle journalists have been invited to an Indian “event” in Southern California next week.

So it sounds like the new models could be unveiled very soon.

Chieftain Elite

The term “Elite” has not been used on any Indian models before.

We expect it could be like Harley-Davidson’s Custom Vehicles Operation (CVO) models with all the bells and whistles.

However, we don’t expect it will have a bigger engine like the CVOs as the CARB documents don’t specify any engine changes.

All new models are still powered by the same 111-cube Thunder Stroke engine as the rest of the Chief and Roadmaster models.

Chieftain Limited

The term “Limited” is used by Harley on its Ultra Touring model, but there is no reason to believe it will have the same use with Indian.

Perhaps it will be a limited edition with special graphics, like their Jack Daniels models.

Indian Motorcycle Springfield and Chief Vintage Jack Daniels limited edition models Roadmaster Classic

As for the Roadmaster Classic, there are a couple of options.

Harley distinguishes its Road King Classic from the Road King with wire wheels and leather bags, rather than mags and hard panniers.

However, Indian uses the term “Classic” in the Chief range to signify a basic model, so it could be a stripped-down Roadmaster.

Whatever the new models are, we expect to see them unveiled soon.

It usually takes a few months before they arrive in Australia, but we can imagine they will want them here quickly too fill the showrooms as they empty out of Victory stock now that their sister company is ceasing production.

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Erik Buell Racing follows Victory into closure

Sat, 28/01/2017 - 7:56am

For the second time in as many years, Erik Buell Racing is ceasing operations, following closely on the heels of compatriot Victory Motorcycles.

The American motorcycle market is in a slump, particularly in motorcycles over 900cc, which includes almost every American-made motorcycle.

Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycles are counteracting the trend with strong sales overseas, particularly in Australia, Asia and Latin America.

But Buell and Victory were haemorrhaging sales and profits too much to be sustained.

Erik Buell Racing has issued the following statement:

EBR Motorcycles, LLC (“EBR”) located in East Troy, Wisconsin will begin a wind down of production operations commencing next week. EBR will continue to honour warranties and provide technical and parts support to current dealers and riders who bought motorcycles manufactured by EBR. EBR will continue to review strategic alternatives with interested investors regarding production operations.

The decision was a tough one for EBR as it has been solely focused on the growth and building EBR for success. The team at EBR has worked tirelessly making every effort to build the company. There is no fault on any of the team at EBR for this decision. They and their families have our deepest gratitude for their efforts and dedication to EBR. This difficult decision was based primarily on EBR facing significant headwinds with signing new dealers, which is key to sales and growth for a new company. In addition, EBR has had limited production in 2016 and 2017 that was under goal. The combination of slow sales and industry announcements of other major OEM brands closing or cutting production only magnified the challenges faced by EBR.

The limited production of remaining 2017 and 2016 EBR motorcycles are currently available from EBR’s top dealers. For a list of top dealers, please go to

A sale of production equipment and excess parts will start in March.

It’s been a tumultuous couple of years for EBR:

  • The company ceased production in April 2015;
  • It was bought by Michigan company Liquid Asset Partners in February 2016;
  • EBR returned to small-scale production last March;
  • They released their 2017 models and promised new bikes in 2018 in September; and
  • As recently as November, EBR unveiled a blackened and lowered 1190SX “Black Lightning” model.

    EBR Black Lightning

After such upheaval, the company could not earn the trust of dealers, including Australian distributors Urban Moto Imports.

It is such a shame as Erik is a nice guy with a lot of great and innovative ideas.

  • Will Victory and Buell be the last of the motorcycle closure this year? Who’s next? Leave your comments below.

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More Harleys to get Milwaukee Eight?

Sat, 28/01/2017 - 6:00am

Harley-Davidson might extend their 107-cube Milwaukee Eight engines to some members of its Dyna and Softail range in the next couple of months.

That is purely speculation on our behalf, but it is based on history and mechanics.


Harley releases its next year’s models in September, but they also release two or three updated models in February or March.

Last year, one of those was the Dyna Low Rider S with the CVO 110 engine like the Softail Fat Boy S and Slim S.

Those S models continue and we don’t expect any more to get the 110 Screamin’ Eagle engine.

Harley-Davidson Dyna Low Rider S Mechanics

However, the 107-cube Milwaukee Eight engine from the Touring range could easily make its way into the Dyna range as they are both rubber-mounted.

It doesn’t stop them being introduced into the Softail, but it would be an easier fit in the Dynas.

In fact, the new Milwaukee Eight has a single internal counterbalancer that cancels out 75% of primary vibration, so it eliminates the need for A- and B-design bottom ends as in the Twin Cam motor.

That means it is an even easier fit in the frame-mounted Softails.

Who knows, they might even release some new “S” models with the CVO 114-cube Screamin’ Eagle Milwaukee Eight!

114 Screamin’ Eagle engine Official comment

We asked Harley-Davidson Australia marketing director Adam Wright for official comment on our speculation.

“Unfortunately I’m unable to make comment on any future model releases at this time,” he says. 

We might be totally wrong and the M8 won’t make it to any new models until September or even 2018 … but we certainly hope we’re right!

Milwaukee Eight

The engine is named Milwaukee-Eight because of where it’s made and the number of valves in the twin cylinders. In Australia, it’s already being called the M8 or “mate”.

It’s the ninth in the lineage of the company’s iconic Big Twin engines and comes in air-cooled and water-cooled variants. Only bikes with lower fairings can accommodate the water-cooled variant.

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Ewan and McQueen bikes sell at auction

Fri, 27/01/2017 - 5:00pm

Ewan McGregor sold his “beloved” Panhead chopper and two Steve McQueen bikes have also sold at the annual Bonhams motorcycle auction in Las Vegas.

The Star Wars actor’s chopper, styled by ‘Indian Larry’ Desmedt, sold for just $US 25,300 ($A33,587).

The bike is powered by a Panhead-style Pandemonium 88ci motor and was built in 2010 at the reformed Indian Larry Motorcycles.

It is not known why Ewan sold selling the chopper from his ever-growing collection of motorcycles. He bought it from the Gasoline Alley bike shop in Brooklyn, New York.

Ewan famously rode around the world on a BMW R 1150 GS Adventure in Long Way Round and a BMW R 1200 GS Adventure in Long Way Down with friend Charley Boorman. He is now a Moto Guzzi ambassador.

Of much more interest and value was the late Steve McQueen’s 1912 Harley-Davidson X8E Big Twin which went for $US82,800 ($A109,922).

Steve McQueen’s Harley

It was the first Harley all-chain drive model, which also featured a clutch, skirted fenders, and a 1000cc engine with mechanical valves.

It is believed that Steve rode the bike in at least one pre-1916 historic race.

The distinctive paint scheme, with one side of the tank in original paint and the other red, is the subject of discussion.

Some believe Steve McQueen and buddy Von Dutch rattle-can painted the bike red after a late-night drinking session.

Red on one side

While many high-priced models at the auction were passed in, the top price was $US195,000 ($A258,876) paid for a 1914 Feilbach 10HP Limited.

Arthur Otto Feilbach started building motorcycles in his garage in Milwaukee in 1904 and it is believed Bill Harley of Harley-Davidson fame once worked for him.

The 1914 Feilbach Limited was powered by a 1130cc Feilbach Limited V-twin engine independently designed by Arthur.

1914 Feilbach 10HP Limited

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BMW adds new Navigator VI GPS

Fri, 27/01/2017 - 1:00pm

If you wondered why BMW Motorrad Australia was giving away free Navigator V GPS units with some new 2016 models, it’s because the Navigator VI is coming.

While the navigation system is the same as the V, the new VI has several new features.

One of the most important is that the new 5-inch screen is much more readable in direct sunlight thanks to a circular polarisation filter.

Internal storage capacity has increased from 8GB to 16GB so you can store more maps and routes and it features new route options called “Winding Roads”, “Avoid main roads”, “Avoid motorways” and “Round Trip”.

There is also a “Natural Guidance” function where the navigation instructions describe your surroundings. Maybe it says something like “turn left at the pink building”!

The new Navigator VI also now includes music streaming so you can listen to your phone’s music through the GPS and operate track selection via the buttons on the GPS or the multi-controller on the handlebars of some modes.

If you pair your smartphone and download the Garmin Smartphone Link app, you can also receive live traffic and weather reports. Apparently this feature is also works on the current model.

Map updates will be free and you can also get a car installation kit for the Navigator VI.

Free Navigator V

Meanwhile, BMW Motorrad Australia is running out the old Navigator V, valued at $1200, by offering it for free when you buy a new 2016 motorcycle.

Navigator V

The offer is only available on the following models while stocks last: R 1200 GS, R 1200 GS Adventure, R 1200 RT, R 1200 R, R 1200 RS, F 700 GS, F 800 GS, F 800 GS Adventure, and their C 650 Sport and C 650 GT maxi-scooters.

  • Do you still use a GPS, or do you just use your smartphone? Leave your comments below.

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Concern over motorcycle-only checkpoints

Fri, 27/01/2017 - 6:00am

Motorcycle-only checkpoints by police and transport department officials are not officially called such in Australia, but they do happen.

We have been caught up in two and have had readers report of other incidents where a vehicle checkpoint discriminates by only pulling over motorcycle riders, letting all other vehicles pass.

It may not be called a “motorcycle-only checkpoint”, but that is what it amounts to and it is social profiling.

While Australian authorities claim they do not officially practise racial profiling, there seems to be no such ban on social profiling.

Born in the USA

Motorcycle-only checkpoints also exist in the United States where the American Motorcyclist Association and Motorcycle Riders Foundation are trying to have the practice outlawed.

According to David “Double D” Devereaux who posted an article for Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys, Motorcycle-only checkpoints or “MOCs” have existed in several states since 2007.

An American motorcycle-only checkpoint (Russ david lawyers)

He says they were established after a New York officer died in a crash trying to catch a speeding motorcyclist.

NYPD believed the operation was so successful, they proudly preached about it to other law enforcement agencies around the country.

However, Americans hate anything that restricts their freedom, so they fought the law in several states and won.

Last year, 19 states banned MOCs, but the AMA and MRF are still pushing for a federal ban as MOCs still exist in several states.

“Cloaked under the justification of safety, motorcycle-only checkpoints unfairly target motorcyclists and motorcycles as a form of transportation,” David writes.

The AMA says MOCs are “discriminatory, forcing riders and their passengers to do something not asked of other citizens, simply because we choose to travel on two wheels, or three, instead of four”.

The AMA believes the money used for these operations could be better spent supporting programs that conduct rider education, reduce distracted driving and encourage motorist awareness of motorcycles.

AMA Board Chair Maggie McNally-Bradshaw issued this statement:

“The AMA strongly condemns the profiling of motorcyclists by government agencies and has long championed the undeniable fact that the vast majority of riders and enthusiasts are upstanding, law-abiding citizens. Several states have considered bills aimed at curtailing the profiling of motorcyclists by law enforcement agencies and others. The Board believes this is an important issue facing everyone who rides, and the AMA remains at the forefront in promoting the motorcycle lifestyle and protecting the future of motorcycling.”

Checkpoints in Australia

In Australia, we witness similar MOCs, even if they are not called that. Some are blatant such as this roadblock of the Finks MC in Victoria.

Vic Police roadblock the Finks

Police and transport officials check riders’ licences and vehicle and helmet compliance.

While there are no police or department statistics provided in Australia, David says the American experience is that few citations are issued relative to the number of riders pulled over.

For our own safety, it is important that police and relevant transport officials conduct inspections to rid the roads of unlicensed motorists and dangerously unroadworthy vehicles.

But surely checkpoints that discriminate against motorcycle riders only is morally wrong.

Also, if police and other officials are going to conduct all-vehicle inspections, there should be some consideration for leather-clad motorcyclists held up for long periods on hot summer days.

The least they could do is provide water and shade, and treat innocent citizens with some respect.

(Top photo courtesy of BMW MCC Victoria member, Chris Renwick)

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Grand Prix bike display at Phillip Island

Thu, 26/01/2017 - 4:00pm

Twenty-four historic two-stroke Grand Prix motorcycles have arrived as a permanent exhibit at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit just in time for this weekend’s Island Classic.

The display of the Grand Prix bikes opens today at $17.50 for adults and $8.50 for children. However, entry will be discounted to $9.50 for Island Classic patrons this weekend.

They were found by Andrew Fox and bought from two Italian private collectors by Melbourne’s Fox family, owners of the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit.

The collection consists of 15 Aprilias and nine Cagivas raced in Grand Prix between 1987 and 2003 by racers such as Valentino Rossi, Max Biaggi, Loris Capirossi, Eddie Lawson and John Kocinski.

Jeremy McWilliams, John McGuinness and UK IC crew with Jeremy’s Aprilia RSV500

Andrew says the bikes are “all in perfect condition and I believe we have the finest collection of Cagivas anywhere in the world”.

He says they decided to search for a significant collection after last year securing rights for the MotoGP and World Superbike for another decade.

“We are the only circuit in the world with 10-year tenures on both these world championships and this collection launches our desire to build a world-class exhibition of grand prix motorcycles that befits our circuit,” he says.

Aprilia Grand Prix collection

The Aprilias include world title-winning machines of Rossi in 1997 (125), Biaggi in 1995 (250), Capirossi in 1998 (250) and Marco Melandri (250) in 2002.

Aprilia RSV 125s on display 39 Alex Gramigni, 2 Kazuto Sakata, Black 4 Sakata, Red 4 Roberto Locatelli

There are also three RSV500s in the collection, including the Aprilia Jeremy McWilliams rode to pole position in the Australian GP at Phillip Island in 2000.

The Alessandro Gramigni bike of 1992 was the machine Aprilia won its first world title on in 125cc. Kazuto Sakata also had success on the 125cc bike of 1994 and 1998. 

Rossi’s 1997 Aprilia RSV125 is a treasured member of the collection. The bike rode the Italian to 125cc dominance with 11 victories, 13 podiums and a world title and launched his career on the world stage. He took two titles with Aprilia, in the smaller classes (1997- 125cc; 1999 – 250cc), before he moved up to 500cc racing and increased his world championship count to nine. 

Valentino Rossi’s first world championship bike Aprilia RSV 125 1997

But it was the quarter-litre class where Aprilia really made its mark on the world stage. 

Biaggi scored three consecutive 250cc world titles for Aprilia from 1994 to 1996. His 1995 bike which scored eight wins and 12 podiums is a highlight of the collection.

Biaggi’s 250cc World Championship bike Cagiva Grand Prix collection

The Cagiva bikes of the Phillip Island collection represent 500cc racing from 1987 to 1994 with riders including Lawson, Kocinski, Randy Mamola, Alex Barros, Doug Chandler and Aussie Mat Mladin, who was plucked straight from an Aussie superbike-winning season in Australia to go GP racing in 1993. 

The nine bright red Cagivas on display include the race-winning machines of Lawson who scored the first Cagiva victory in Hungary in the wet in 1992 and Kocinski who led the final Cagiva charge in 1993 and 1994 with wins in the US and Australia.

John Kocinski’s Cagiva V594

During that eight-year period, Cagiva scored three wins and a total of 13 podiums, before withdrawing from competition at the end of 1994 due to the financial squeeze of competing at the highest level of road racing – ironically after its best  year of competition when Kocinski won at Sydney’s Eastern Creek and finished third in the championship. 

The story of Cagiva is a true Italian melodrama that started in 1978 with an ambitious plan by the two Castiglioni brothers from Varese, Gianfranco and Claudio, establishing an Italian team to go 500cc racing and take on the all- conquering Japanese makes.  They purchased the old Aermacchi factory beside Lake Varese and renamed it Cagiva, after their father CAstiglioni GIovanni of VArese.

The 15-year Cagiva 500cc campaign ended due to lack of funds just as the brand was tasting 500cc glory and success.

Five of the Cagivas on display 11 John Kocinski, 5 Doug Chandler, 7 Eddie Lawson, I Marco Papa, 18 Randy Mamola Phillip Island Classic

Visitors to the Phillip Island Classic this weekend are in for some rare treats, highlighted by demo laps of the rare and innovative Britten V1000 motorcycle from the early 1990s.

Fittingly the bike, designed and hand-built by Kiwi John Britten, will be ridden by nine-time New Zealand superbike champion Andrew Stroud, 49.

The Island Classic begins with practice and qualifying tomorrow (January 27) and on the Saturday and Sunday there will be 56 races, starting with pre-WWI machines and taking in different eras and capacities. Sidecars will also join solos on the program.

The annual event also includes the International Challenge, with Australia taking on defending champion United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand and America.

Riders in action will include the UK’s Jeremy McWilliams, John McGuiness and Peter Hickman; Australia’s Cam Donald, Steve Martin, Shawn Giles and Jed Metcher; Ireland’s Cormac Conroy and Hilton Hincks, US new recruit Barrett Long and Kiwis Damien Kavney and Damian Mackie.

Jeremy McWilliams and Jed Metcher (Photo Russell Colvin)
  • Dates: Friday to Sunday, January 27-29
  • Tickets: On sale at and at the gate
  • Prices: advance three-day adult pass $80 and children 15 and under free.
  • On-circuit camping: four nights for $75 per person, purchased in advance.
  • Times: gates open at 8am each day, qualifying and racing from 9am.

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Celebrate Australia Day with motorbike quiz

Thu, 26/01/2017 - 7:00am

We’d like to celebrate Australia Day with an all-Australian motorbike trivia quiz.

We also have questions about Aussie bike clubs, charities, racing legends and True Blue Aussie bike culture.

If you’re a real Aussie and a dedicated motorbike rider, then it should be an easy quiz.

See if you can get 10 out of 10 and then share the result with your friends on Facebook or Twitter by clicking the relevant button at the end of the quiz.

As you answer the questions, the right answer will be highlighted with green and the wrong answer in red.

We trust you not to cheat with Google or Wikipedia!


Note: There is a widget embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's widget.

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Celebrate motorcycling on Australia Day

Thu, 26/01/2017 - 6:00am

There are a lot of reasons for motorcycle riders to be thankful on Australia Day.

  • Most parts of Australia have year-round riding weather, not just on one day!
  • We have a host of great riding roads.
  • Our forests, beaches, outback and deserts offer some of the greatest adventure riding in the world.
  • Most country people are welcoming of riders dropping into their towns.
  • New helmet laws now allow us greater access to more and safer Euro-approved helmets.
  • Many states now have or are considering introducing lane filtering.
  • We have one of the widest varieties of motorcycle model choices in the world.
  • Authorities still rate us as second-class citizens.
  • Planners forget about us when it comes to infrastructure planning such as roads and parking.
  • Some drivers bully us on the roads.
  • Road safety Nazis selectively pick on us with their scaremonger campaigns.
  • There is an epidemic of ever-decreasing speeds on our roads.
  • Police target riders for discriminatory licence and vehicle checks.
  • Insurance companies gouge us on premiums and compulsory third party.
  • Our road rules annoyingly vary from state to state (although this is gradually changing).

It could be worse.

  • Paris, for example, is preventing older motorcycles from entering the city.
  • Some Asian and Mid-East cities ban all motorcycles or impose a curfew.
  • Some countries also ban women from riding for “modesty” reasons!
  • In Malaysia, 26 unmarried couples have been arrested for riding together on a motorcycle.
  • And Trump’s America wants to impose tariffs as high as 100%, making bikes more expensive.

We have a rich motorcycling history that deserves to be celebrated on Australia Day.

With its vast distances and rugged terrain, motorcycles were popular at the start of the last century and we even had a thriving motorcycle manufacturing industry, particularly during World War I when supplies of British motorcycles dried up.

While we have not had a motorcycle manufacturing industry for some time, Australia once built many motorcycles such as Lewis, Pasco, Blue Bird, Bullock, De Luxe, Peerless, Invincible JAP, Whiting, Mostyn, Rudge, FN and Norton.

Lewis motorcycles

Robert Saward wrote A-Z of Australian-made Motorcycles which details 396 brands of motorcycles, most of which were assembled here from imported engines and frames.

In 1928, the Auto Cycle Council of Australia was formed to represent the interests of motorcycle clubs and state associations at a national level. It is now called Motorcycling Australia which represents motorcycle racing.


Australians were among the first in the world to start racing motorcycles. Many believe the first speedway meetings were held in Australia and our speedway riders travelled to the UK to pioneer the sport.

Over the years, Australia has had many motorcycle champions. MA notes our first world champion as speedway rider Lionel Van Praag in 1936.

Here is MA’s list of champion Aussie riders and teams, something definitely worth celebrating on our national day:

RIDERS Lionel Van Praag

1936 Lionel Van Praag, Speedway

1938 Bluey Wilkinson, Speedway

1951/52 Jack Young, Speedway

1957 Keith Campbell, Road racing (350cc)

1961 Tom Phillis, Road racing (125cc)

1969 Kel Carruthers, Road racing (250cc)

1979/81 Barry Smith, Road racing (Formula TT)

1983 Steve Baker, Speedway (under 21)

1987 Wayne Gardner, Road racing (500cc)

1992 Leigh Adams, Speedway (under 21)

1994-98 Michael Doohan, Road racing (500cc)

1995/2004/06/09 Jason Crump, Speedway (under 21)

1996/2005 Troy Corser, Superbikes

1997 Shane Watts, Enduro (125cc)

1997 Peter Goddard, Endurance Road Racing

2000/01/03/04 Stefan Merriman, Enduro

2000/02 Warwick Nowland,  Endurance Road Racing

2001/06/08 Troy Bayliss, Superbikes

Troy Bayliss

2001/08 Andrew Pitt, Supersport

2001 Heinz Platacis, Endurance Road Racing

2003/08 Chad Reed, Supercross

2003 Chris Vermeulen, Supersport

2004 Karl Muggeridge, Supersport

2007/11 Casey Stoner, MotoGP

2009 Jay Wilson, Junior Motocross

2009/10 Darcy Ward, Speedway (under 21)

2009 Steve Martin, Endurance Road Racing

2010 Mick Headland, Jesse Headland, Track Racing Sidecar (1000cc)

2011 Darrin Treloar, Jesse Headland, Track Racing Sidecar (1000cc)

2012 Caleb Grothes, Junior MX (65cc)

2012 Chris Holder, World FIM Speedway GP

2013/14 Matthew Phillips, Enduro (Junior/E3)

2014 Jett Lawrence, Junior MX (65cc)

2015 Matthew Gilmore, Youth Speedway World Cup (250cc)

2016 Matt Phillips, Junior Enduro GP

2016 Toby Price, Dakar Rally

Toby Price Teams

1974 Pairs Speedway, 2nd

1976 Team Speedway (Phil Crump, Billy Sanders, Phil Hearne, John Boulger), 1st

1990 Pairs Speedway, 2nd

1994 ISDE Junior Trophy, 2nd

1995 ISDE Junior Trophy (Ian Cunningham, Shane Watts, Shawn Reed Jamie Cunningham), 1st

1998 ISDE World Trophy, 3rd; ISDE Junior Trophy, 3rd

1999 Team Speedway (Jason Crump, Leigh Adams, Ryan Sullivan Jason Lyons, Todd Wiltshire), 1st; ISDE World Trophy, 3rd

2001 Team Speedway (Jason Crump, Leigh Adams, Ryan Sullivan, Todd Wiltshire, Craig Boyce, Jason Lyons), 1st

2002 Team Speedway (Ryan Sullivan, Todd Wiltshire, Leigh Adams, Jason Crump, Jason Lyons), 1st

Jason Crump and Troy Bayliss

2003 Team Speedway, 2nd

2006 Oceania Motocross (Nathan Brochtrup, Lee  Ellis, Josh Strang, Kirk Gibbs, Chris Hollis, Cody Mackie, Ryan Marmont, Joel Passlow, Harley Quinlan, Tye Simmonds, Todd Waters), 1st

2006 ISDE Junior Team  (Christopher Hollis, Joshua Strang, Blake Hore, Darren Lloyd), 3rd

2007 Team Speedway (Ryan Sullivan, Rory Schlein, Leigh Adams, Jason Crump, Chris Holder, Dave Watt), 3rd; Oceanic Motocross (Craig Anderson, Troy Carroll, Lee Ellis, Jay Marmont, Jake Moss, Cameron Tatlor, Danny Anderson, Lewis Stewart, Kristy Gillespie, Ashlea Bates, Adelia Barton, Tye Simmonds, Ross Beaton, Luke Arbon), 1st

2008 ISDE Junior Team  (Jarrod Bewley, Geoff Braico, Blake Hore, Andrew Lloyd), 2nd

2009 Junior Motocross (Tye Simmonds, Jay Wilson), 1st; Track Racing Sidecar (Mick Headland, Paul Waters), 1st; Team Speedway (Leigh Adams, Jason Crump, Chris Holder, Davey Watt, Troy Batchelor), 2nd; Women’s Team (Jacqui Jones, Alison Parker, Jemma Wilson), 3rd

2010 Junior MX (Wilson Todd, Mitchell Evans, Joel Dinsdale, Scott Mann, Matt Phillips, Errol Willis), 3rd

2011 ISDE Womens Team (Allison Parker, Jess Gardiner, Jemma Wilson), 3rd; ISDE Mens Team – E2 Class (Toby Price, Matthew Phillips), 1st; MXoN (Chad Reed, Brett Metcalf, Matt Moss), 3rd; Speedway World Cup (Jason Crump, Darcy Ward, Chris Holder, Davey Watt, Troy Batchelor), 2nd

2012 ISDE Womens Trophy Team (Jess Gardiner, Tanya Hearn, Tayla Jones), 3rd; Speedway World Cup (Chris Holder, Davey Watt, Jason Crump, Darcy Ward, Troy Batchelor), 2nd; Speedway World Cup U21 (Darcy Ward, Sam Masters, Dakota North, Alex Davies, Nick Morris), 2nd

2013 ISDE Womens Trophy Team (Jess Gardiner, Tayla Jones, Jemma Wilson), 1st; Speedway World Cup (Darcy Ward, Cameon Woodward, Jason Doyle, Troy Batchelor) 3rd

2014 ISDE Womens Trophy Team (Jess Gardiner, Tayla Jones, Jemma Wilson), 1st; ISDE Junior Trophy Team (Daniel Sanders, Tom McCormack, Lachlan Stanford, Scott Keegan), 3rd; Speedway World Cup (Chris Holder, Darcy Ward, Jason Doyle, Troy Batchelor), 3rd

2015 FIM World Junior Motocross Championships (Hunter Lawrence, Cooper Pozniak, Rhys Budd, Bailey Malkiewicz, John Bova, Regan Duffy), 3rd; Trial des Nations International Trophy Competition (Chris Bayles, Tim Coleman, Kyle Middleton and Colin Zarczynki), 3rd; ISDE Junior Trophy Team (Daniel Sanders, Broc Grabham, Tom Mason, Tye Simmons), 1st; ISDE Women’s Trophy Team (Tayla Jones, Jess Gardiner, Jemma Wilson), 1st; ISDE Senior Trophy Team (Daniel Milner, Matthew Phillips, Lachlan Stanford, Glenn Kearney, Beau Ralston, Josh Green), 2nd (Provisional); FIM Team Speedway Under 21 2015 World Championship (Max Fricke, Brady Kurtz, Nick Morris, Jack Holder), 3rd

  • (If we have missed any, please advise us and we will add it to the list.)

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Victory Motorcycles now collector bikes?

Wed, 25/01/2017 - 4:00pm

The recent announcement that Victory Motorcycles is ceasing production seems to have started a rush on sales of the bikes in Australia with some wanting them as a collector item.

Sales people tell us that some customers and the odd collector or two are snapping them up.

There are plenty of demo deals and discounts on offer and stock is selling quickly. It comes as both Victory and Indian launch “Australia Day” sales with 20% on apparel and accessories from tomorrow to Sunday.

However, Victory Motorcycles Australia did not wish to comment on sales or the winding down of the company.

They said they stood by the statement made last week by Peter Alexander, Managing Director Polaris Industries, Australia and New Zealand.

Peter at a Victory owners’ ride

Peter said they had become“the largest unit volume market for Victory outside North America” in just eight years.

He also said emphasised that the Australian dealer network was “committed to continue to supply parts, service and warranty to ensure this happens”.

That seems to have satisfied the punters who are lining up for the bikes and emptying the showroom floors.

And it makes lot of sense.

They are good bikes, especially the new Octane. It is definitely a collector bike.

Octane a collector

And they still have the backing for the next 10 years of parent company Polaris Industries, an industrial giant.

After 10 years, we can’t image they would walk away from a lucrative spares market, nor would aftermarket suppliers.

Customers tell us they hope and believe that Polaris will restart production at some time in the future.

However, there is talk of selling off “factory inventory, tooling, and other physical assets, and the cancellation of various supplier arrangements”.

So it does sound final … making their bikes more valuable as collector items.

Victory riders

Dealers tells us many of the customers are already Victory owners wanting to get a new bike now.

Victory comeback?

While the factory has ceased production, it is believe there is still a large stockpile of bikes in America still to be shipped out and as many as 120 could be heading to Australia.

In fact, the Victory name won’t disappear. At least not straight away.

It seems the big Victory signs will remain on the Polaris-owned dealerships in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth as they want owners to know they are still servicing them.

2016 financial result

Meanwhile, Polaris Industries has this week announced a total sales drop of 4% to $US4.5 million last year while motorcycle sales were actually up 1% to $708,497.

However, that seems to be largely the result of “significant progress” in Indian Motorcycle sales which recorded “mid-twenty percent growth”.

Victory must have been letting the side down badly as motorcycle shipments in 2016 were down 35%.

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Kawasaki Ninja 650L for sporty novices

Wed, 25/01/2017 - 1:00pm

Kawasaki continues to lead the Australian market in learner-approved motorcycles with the launch of the Z650L and the Ninja 650L.

We attended the launch of these two bikes last week and raved about the Z650L as a bike for novices, commuters, weekend warriors and returned riders. At $9699 (plus on-road costs) it’s an irresistible naked bike.


But if you like your bikes with a fairing, then the Ninja 650L may be more your preference.

It costs an extra $300 in Blizzard White or $10,299 in Kawasaki Racing Team colours of “Ebony and Lime Green”.

The Ninja 650L is basically the same bike as the Z650L, but with a fairing, slightly lower bars, a smooth seat covering (presumably so you can slide around in the seat, Rossi-style), a larger set of instruments and an extra 6kg of weight.

However, it’s 20kg less than the previous model, with half of those lard savings in the new frame. The other weight savings are in the wheels and swingarm.

Everything else is like the Z650L. In fact, you almost sit in the same position, even though it’s a faired “sportsbike” as the handlebars are only minimally lower.

Both come with a lot of standard stuff that are them great value as well as eminently suitable novice bikes: twin petal-shaped front discs, ABS, multi-function instruments with a host of information, a stubby underbelly muffler, adjustable levers, gear-position indicator, LED taillights and an assist and slipper clutch to avoid embarrassing and dangerous rear-wheel lock-ups.

While a full-powered Z650 is not yet confirmed, there is a full-powered Ninja 650 available now at the same price.

Instead of 37.8kW, it has 50kW and it has 7Nm more torque at a peak of 66Nm.

But don’t think you can buy the LAMS version and later grind off the throttle stop. There are ECU differences between the bikes and your grinding efforts could result in not only voiding your warranty, but also making your bike illegal and impossible to resell. It could also blow a whole in the piston!

Both the Z650L and Ninja 650L come with a host of genuine Kawasaki accessories such as a single seat cover, tank bag and frame sliders. Since the Ninja has a fairing there is also a blank plug to fit a DC socket to power your GPS or phone.

Action photos by Nick Wood. Detail photos courtesy Kawasaki.

Riding both these bikes through Sydney traffic out to Wiseman’s Ferry and back on sometimes damp roads revealed substantial differences, even though suspension is the same and dimensions are similar.

The Ninja 650L is slightly shorter and taller with a more relaxed rake and trail just 10mm longer.

The Z feels lighter and snappier in the front end, changing direction faster for flicking it through the traffic and a series of tight S bends.

However, the Ninja is more stable at highway speeds and sits nicely in the traffic without much buffeting from heavy transport.

Despite a very upright riding stance, the windscreen provides a nice stream of clean air. No turbulence. It can be adjusted to three positions with tools, but I found it fine in the lowest position.

It takes some of the wind pressure off your body at highway speeds allowing you to ride for longer than the naked version without getting tired.

I’m 182cm (6’) tall and found I had reasonable fairing protection in the rain and although the seat-to-footpeg distance is a little short, my knees had plenty of room on the nicely sculpted tank.

The 790mm-high seat (same as the Z) is very narrow, so this should fit a wide range of riders.

Both bikes are beautifully presented, but a faired bike often shows up problems with cheap fit and finish.

I inspected the five Ninjas in the press fleet and every one had uniform gaps between the panels on both sides of the bike, a testament to the Japanese factory’s quality control.

The paintwork is also good quality and the KRT graphics are very appealing.

I’ve never been one for white bikes, but this one is attractive with a nice piece of black plastic across the middle and bottom to break up the mass of white fairing.

At the heart of the Z605L and Ninja 650L is a 649cc parallel twin with a counter-balance shaft so it feels quite smooth at most revs. However, it tingles through the bars and footrest at high revs and can be a little uncomfortable after a long day in the saddle.

The engine is quite torquey and flexible which is very forgiving for novice riders. You won’t have to tap-dance through the gears to encourage lively performance.

However, if you do love using your gears, you will be greatly rewarded with one of the smoothest gearboxes of any bike.

It’s almost faultless. You should never miss a gear and neutral is easy to find.

There is also an assist and slipper clutch so you don’t totally botch downshifts and dangerously lock up the rear wheel for more than just a split second.

Both bikes are geared low so you can easily find you’ve hit sixth gear by about 80km/h. From there you can still overtake safely without having to shift down.

However, if you suddenly need more speed, you can quickly bang down a gear without having to use the clutch.

Brakes are also very effective and will be welcomed by novice riders.

The ABS is smooth and worked well in the wet road conditions while the 300mm twin petal-disc front brakes are almost an overkill for a bike this size.

Thankfully there is plenty of feel and progression in both the front and back brake levers.

Suspension is only adjustable for rear preload so you can set up the bike for your weight, luggage and/or a pillion. I found the middle settings fine for my 75kg frame.

It’s a little plush, but it nicely soaks up the urban potholes without bouncing around. It also felt calm and composed on the bumpy corners around Wiseman’s Ferry.

This is no track bike, but a well-suspended machine for normal everyday riding.

While litre and 600cc sportsbikes are going out of fashion as fast as they can accelerate, faired novice bikes like the Ninja 650L and the Ninja 300 are still selling very well.

Kawasaki Ninja 650L and Ninja 650
  • Price: $9999 (Blizzard White), $10,299 (KRT Ebony and Lime Green) plus on-road costs.
  • Engine: 649cc liquid-cooled, 8-valve, DOHC parallel twin
  • Power: 37.8kW (50kW) @ 8000rpm
  • Torque: 59Nm (66Nm) @ 6500rpm
  • Bore x stroke: 83 x 60mm
  • Compression: 10.8:1
  • Transmission: 6-speed, chain drive, wet multi-disc clutch
  • Tyres: 120/70ZR17M/C (58W); 160/60ZR17M/C (69W) Dunlop Sportmax
  • Rake/trail: 24.5°/110mm
  • Suspension: 41mm telescopic forks, 125mm travel; offset laydown single-shock with adjustable preload, 130mm travel
  • Brakes: twin semi-floating 300mm petal discs with dual-piston callipers (front), 220mm petal disc with single-piston caliber (rear), ABS
  • Length: 2055mm
  • Width: 740mm
  • Height: 1135mm
  • Wheelbase: 1410mm
  • Clearance: 130mm
  • Seat: 790mm
  • Wet weight: 192kg
  • Fuel tank: 15 litres

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Should we ban learner drivers from bike roads?

Wed, 25/01/2017 - 6:00am

Should learner drivers be banned for narrow, twisting and dangerous motorcycle roads for the benefit and safety of the learner and motorcycle riders?

Learner drivers should be avoided at all costs. If you think most car drivers don’t see motorcycles, then it is 10 times worse for learner drivers.

We all have to learn at some stage and it is important that we exercise some patience and caution with learner drivers.

If a learner obstructs your progress, stay back, but give them a gentle beep on the horn or a flash of the lights so they know you’re there.

What really annoys us here at Motorbike Writer is when experienced, licensed drivers take learners (often their children or a relative) to well-known motorcycle roads to practise.

These supposedly experienced drivers could be forgiven if the reason for choosing a motorcycle road is to make their “student” aware of motorcycles on the road.

However, the behaviour of these “instructors” seems to suggest they just don’t care.

This is one of the inherent problems with licensing requirements of a certain number of hours with an “instructor”. That instructor could be a parent with bad driving skills and even road rage issues!

Learner drivers with no idea

On several occasions, we have witnessed learner drivers on narrow, twisting motorcycle roads and they (and their instructor) usually don’t have any idea we are there.

If they did, surely the instructor would suggest they pull over or indicate for a rider to go around them.

Instead, they hold up riders and other traffic in a dangerous display of learner ignorance and instructor arrogance.

This causes riders immense frustration and often leads to dangerous overtaking which can also startle a learner driver and put them in an equally dangerous situation.

While we want learner drivers to experience as many different road conditions as possible, motorcycle roads are, by their very nature, narrower and twistier than other roads and therefore more dangerous.

Perhaps it is time to ban learner car drivers from popular motorcycle roads, at least on weekends when these roads are crowded with riders.

Or better still, train the trainers properly. To all parents of learners, please instruct your child to look for riders and to have some consideration.

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Call for motorcycle road craft courses

Tue, 24/01/2017 - 5:00pm

Australian riders are desperately short of road craft advanced riding courses after the closure of a subsidised course on the Gold Coast five years ago.

Rider Tod Parkes asked us if there were any road craft courses available to teach advanced survival skills to licensed riders in the real world of riding.

We did some research and found a few, such as HART, Motorcycle Riding School and Top Rider, but there are not near as many as there are licensing courses for learners.

SMART road craft course

One of the best dedicated motorcycle road craft courses held on public roads was the Safe Motorcycle Advanced Rider Training course.

It was established and subsidised by the Gold Coast City Council in 2007 and endorsed by Mick Doohan.

Funding was cancelled in 2012 because councillors believed it was subsidising riders who were not ratepayers.

It was a very shortsighted decision considering the course was held in the Gold Coast hinterland where riders from all over Australia were coming to ride and spend their dollar.

Riders spend their dollar on the coast hinterland

Any crashes in the area actually became a burden on the Gold Coast local emergency services and health infrastructure.

Gold Coast police traffic branch officer in charge Snr Sgt Bradyn Murphy has said the course contributed to reducing the region’s motorcycle rider toll from 25 in 2007 to four in 2012.

It has since increased into the double digits again.

“If it’s a matter of money for council, I’m sure people wouldn’t mind paying at least $100 when you consider what other courses cost,” he said.

“What price do you put on your life? It’s like an insurance policy.”

Councillor Dawn Crichlow, who chaired the relevant committee when SMART was operating, had hoped to reinstate the award-winning training course.

However, it now seems a dead issue.

“There are no plans to reinstate the rider training courses,” she now says.

“We are working with Police and Transport and Main Roads as part of our joint road safety taskforce, around motorcycle driver behaviours and education – we are promoting a number of private providers of motorcycle safety education.”

One of their initiatives is this safety brochure as part of their 2015-2020 road safety plan.

Tod says that since SMART closed, he has been searching for a similar course that “doesn’t just focus on track skills as the end point”.

Track-only courses

“It is really frustrating trying to find a course to do when I have already done an intermediate with Stay Upright and all the alternatives are based on the presumption I want to go faster at the track,” he says.

“I want to improve my road craft, to improve my feet-up turning, to iron out those bad habits, etc.

“There seems to be a huge gap in the market that doesn’t satisfy this.”

Learners get road craft lesson

All learner motorcycle courses include a section on road craft, but most advanced rider courses are track oriented or mainly held in off-road areas such as carparks.

Tod suggests riders be able to do a modified version of the police motorcycle training courses, but they are also based in off-road areas.

Apart from the courses mentioned at the start of this article, rider trainer James Canny, of Melbourne, says he offers one-on-one road craft training on the road.

Perhaps the reason for the scarcity of road-based road craft courses for advanced riders is that riders are not interested.

We have to do a course to get a licence so there are a plenty of learner trainers available.

However, advanced riding courses are not mandatory and perhaps many licensed riders believe they already have enough road craft skills.

  • Have you done a road-based road craft advanced course for licensed riders? We’d like to hear about your experiences and recommendations. 

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Mythbusters: Old motorcycle myths

Tue, 24/01/2017 - 6:00am

There were no training courses for riders when I began riding, so we learnt a lot of misguided motorcycle myths from our friends.

Thankfully, there are plenty of riding schools and correct information available to young riders today to dispel some of the ridiculous motorcycle myths we believed back in my day.

Here are 10 motorcycle myths taught to me which we no longer believe to be true.

1: If it looks like you’re about to crash, lay the bike down.

  • BUSTED! We were even told that the police were taught how to lay the bike down. Clearly, if you are about to crash, you need to brake hard and leave the bike upright while slowing it as much as possible with the best traction available – rubber on tarmac. If you lay the bike down, it will slide a lot further with plastic and metal on tarmac. About the only time you may slow quicker by laying a bike down is on dirt where the handlebar, footpegs etc might dig into the earth better than knobby tyres.

2: You only need to use the back brake.

  • BUSTED! This myth came from a time when bicycles only had rear brakes and even the Captain America chopper from Easy Rider only had a rear brake. Of course we now know that when you brake, the bike shifts a lot of weight to the front tyre and lightens the back wheel, so you have more stopping effect with the front, rather than the rear. The best advice is to use both brakes for maximum stopping effect.

3: Wear elasticised boots, not lace-up boots.

  • BUSTED! This notion came from tales of people getting their laces caught in the footpegs and not being able to put their foot down when the bike came to a stop. However, lace-up boots are fine if you tuck the laces inside. The problem with elasticised boots is that if you fall off, they will easily slip off as you slide down the road.

4: You only need a jacket under 20C.

I wished I had a Harley Triple Vent jacket back in the ’70s!
  • BUSTED! Motorcycle jackets are not just designed to keep you warm, but mainly to protect you. Old motorcycle jackets had no airflow and were hot even in warm weather. A lot of today’s motorcycle jacket have ventilation so you can be protected in any weather.

5: Loud pipes save lives.

  • BUSTED! I know I’ll cop a lot of flak for this and people will say a loud pipe saved their life, but there is no empirical evidence to prove it. In fact, many modern drivers have the windows wound up and stereo blasting in their air-conditioned cars, so they can’t even hear emergency services sirens pointed at them, let alone an exhaust pipe that is facing away from them!

6: The best motorcycle training is fanging around a paddock.

  • BUSTED! Back in the days before track days, this may have been the only place you could practise some riding skills. However, the best training combines both off and on-road skills. Road craft is just as important as bike control.

7: Never ride in the rain.

  • BUSTED! There were three reasons I was told never to ride in the rain – it rusted the bike, the roads are too slippery and there is no way to stay dry. Modern bikes are treated for rust prevention, modern tyres are much grippier in the wet and today’s motorcycle gear is very protective.

8: Speeding riders rarely get pulled over.

  • BUSTED! BUSTED! BUSTED! I think this myth started among my peers because we got away with it by riding late at night out in the bush. We also thought bikes were too small to be detected by radar. However, modern radar detection devices will even detect a speeding bicycle.

9: Motorcycle riders get all the women.

  • BUSTED! We don’t get ALL the women; just the good-looking ones, like Mrs MBW!

10: Bikers are temporary citizens.

  • BUSTED! You and I are shining examples of this being a myth. Yes, you are more vulnerable, but with some training, you can be a safe and long-term motorcyclist.

Do you have any motorcycle myths that you were taught when you began riding? Leave your comments below.

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Kawasaki Z650L great for novices

Mon, 23/01/2017 - 5:00pm

Kawasaki does the new Z650L a disservice by referring to it as a learner motorcycle.

This is a bike that will not only suit learners, but also novices, returned riders, commuters, weekend warriors and people who are honestly not all that fussed with tech specs, but just want to ride a fun bike!

For just $9699 (plus on-road costs), these mature and discerning riders will receive a stylish naked bike that handles, rides and performs well for the money.

Action photos by Nick Wood. Detail photos courtesy Kawasaki.

In fact, you get a lot of standard stuff for your cash: twin petal-shaped front discs, ABS, multi-function instruments with a host of information, a stubby underbelly muffler, adjustable levers, gear-position indicator, X-shaped LED taillights and an assist and slipper clutch to avoid embarrassing and dangerous rear-wheel lock-ups.

LAMS qualifier

To qualify as a Learner-Approved Motorcycle Scheme (LAMS) machine, it has to be under 659cc and less than 150kW per tonne.

The Z650L weighs just 186kg fully fuelled and has 37.8kW of power at 8000 revs and meaty 59Nm of torque at 6500 revs.

Kawasaki marketing guru Milo Dokmanovic refers to it as an “arm-tearing 649cc parallel twin” that is quick revving with “exceptional” corner pick-up and “so torquey it will slap you in the face”.

At the launch from Sydney to Wiseman’s Ferry and back, we were slapped in the face several times by the torque. It doesn’t have high-revving power, but it feels almost too grunty for a learner-approved bike.

It sprints off the line smartly at traffic lights and revs out quickly and smoothly with a muted baritone exhaust and farting induction roar.

The Z6540L is low geared which helps acceleration and you will be quickly flicking through the gears and into sixth by 80km/h.

At that speed, novices can perform safe overtaking duties without even having to drop it down a cog or two.

Silky smooth

Not that you would mind playing with the gearbox. This is one of the sweetest and most satisfying transmissions of any motorcycle.

The clutch is light for traffic duties, while the gearbox is quiet, slick and faultless with no “angel gears” and neutral easy to find.

The assist and slipper clutch works well, but if novices really muck it up and drop the clutch in too-low a gear, they will experience a short lock-up.

But most novices will be hard-pressed to get their gearshifts wrong.

The engine is flexible and torquey enough to accommodate bad gear selections but there is a handy gear-position indicator and an upshift reminder light on the instruments, anyway.

I even tried up and down shifts without using the clutch and it worked faultlessly every time.

Novices simply can’t get it wrong!

Feel the vibe

While it feels strong at low and mid revs, the Z650L starts to feel breathless and tingly at high revs.

After about half an hour on the highway it becomes a bit tiring and you may have numb fingertips by the end of a day’s touring.

The parallel twin engine features a 180-degree crankshaft and counter-balance shaft to take out most of the low to mid vibration, but it does still have a high-rev tingling.

That vibration makes the mirrors blurry at high revs. Otherwise, rearward vision is great as the mirrors aren’t just stylish, but practical since they sit out wider than your elbows.

Stylish Z

The multi-pointed mirrors and body shape are similar to other Kawasaki Z models which feature Japanese “Sugomi” styling.

The Z650L comes in “pearl stardust white” and “metallic spark black” with a beautiful anodised lime-green trellis frame or in all-black with a dark-grey frame.

Both look very attractive, but we’d love to see a black version with the gorgeous green frame.

The Z650L is a totally new motorcycle that stylishly replaces the obscenely named and equally ugly ER-6nL.

It looks aggressive from any angle. We even love it from behind with the tidy trail and that “X”-shaped LED taillight.

The only angle that is a little ugly is underneath where there is a large catalytic convertor.

Rider comfort

The rider’s seat is 790mm high, but very narrow, so it should suit a range of rider sizes.

While the seat-to-footpeg distance is a bit cramped, the rest of the ergonomics are very comfortable with only a slight lean toward the high and wide flat bars.

The seat, itself, is flat and firm with a grippy surface. It feels comfortable for a while, but by the end of the day I was quite sore in the saddle.

Pillions also have a small perch with only a seat sash to hang on, although there is a decent length to the foot pegs.

Controls are all standard and good quality.

The single instrument dial features an analogue tacho and a big digital screen with a host of information (speed, fuel gauge, range, average consumption, two trips, odo, clock, etc).

However, you have to lean forward and press the buttons on the instrument panel to scroll through some of the options.

Z650L handling

Our launch ride included a transport stage through Sydney traffic and some highway riding.

It was easy to lane-filtering through the traffic with the Z650L’s slim frame and high riding position providing good vision.

Queensland riders will like the fact that the water-cooled engine has a radiator fan that forces hot air straight down on to the ground, rather than on to your legs. This makes it a really cool bike to ride in slow-moving traffic.

Acceleration at commuter traffic speeds is very nippy and will get you out of any troubling situation.

As we speared off from the busy urban roads on to the twisting and sometimes bumpy country tar towards Wiseman’s Ferry we found the softish suspension actually soaks up the bumps fairly well.

Both front and rear suspension seem well matched to each other so there aren’t awkward “seesaw” moments if you hit a mid-corner bump.

I found the largely non-adjustable suspension suited my 75kg frame. The rear shock is adjustable only for preload which is handy for hefty riders, or for carrying a pillion or luggage.

At just 186kg, the Z650L is a very light and lithe bike that is flickable through traffic and a series of tight S bends. It changes direction quickly and gives good response through the handlebars.

The bars also turn wide without hitting the tank so you can do tight feet-up u-turns without a hitch.

Brake expectations

One of the greatest performance features of this bike is the brakes.

It’s almost over-braked for novices with twin 300mm petal discs on the front of such a light bike.

However, lever touch is progressive and sensitive enough for even single-finger operation. However, if you give it a firm pull, there is plenty of initial bite and feel.

Even rear brake touch is also sensitive and effective.

We invoked ABS a few times after a heavy shower made the roads very slippery and found it worked well without being jerky or abrupt.

Novices can brake hard and late for a corner, wash off the speed, lean it over and power out quickly using the engine’s meaty torque.

That makes it a very handy bike for weekend rides through twisting mountain roads where you will easily be able to keep pace with riders on more powerful machines.

Full power

A full-power Z650 will be coming at some stage and we suspect it will be the same price.

Novices who think they can simply grind off the throttle stop and turn this into a full-powered version may be in for a shock, though.

Don’t even think about it!

The engine also has a special map and if you grind off the throttle stop, you not only void your warranty and make the bike illegal, but could also blow a hole in the piston!

Kawasaki Motors Australia national sales and marketing manager Robert Walker says this is a “very important model”.

Since the Kawasaki Ninja 300 was the top-selling motorcycle in 2013 and 2014 and still sells well, you can understand his belief that this will also be a sales success.


The Z650L is a full-sized naked bike that will perform most duties and last a novice rider long into their riding career.

It also comes with a wide range of accessories that includes an instrument cover, soft panniers, frame sliders, tank bag etc.

Kawasaki Z650L
  • Price: $9699 (plus on-road costs)
  • Engine: 649cc liquid-cooled, 8-valve, DOHC parallel twin
  • Power: 37.8kW @ 8000rpm
  • Torque: 59Nm @ 6500rpm
  • Bore x stroke: 83 x 60mm
  • Compression: 10.8:1
  • Transmission: 6-speed, chain drive, wet multi-disc clutch
  • Tyres: 120/70ZR17M/C (58W); 160/60ZR17M/C (69W) Dunlop Sportmax
  • Rake/trail: 24.0°/100mm
  • Suspension: 41mm telescopic forks, 125mm travel; offset laydown single-shock with adjustable preload, 130mm travel
  • Brakes: twin semi-floating 300mm petal discs with dual-piston callipers (front), 220mm petal disc with single-piston caliber (rear), ABS
  • Length: 2065mm
  • Width: 775mm
  • Height: 1080mm
  • Wheelbase: 1410mm
  • Clearance: 130mm
  • Seat: 790mm
  • Wet weight: 186kg
  • Fuel tank: 15 litres
  • Colours: Pearl Flat Stardust White and Metallic Spark Black with lime green frame; Metallic Flat Spark Black

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World on Wheels offers free DVD

Mon, 23/01/2017 - 12:00pm

Australian-based motorcycle travel experts World on Wheels (WOW) are offering a free DVD of their trips so you can see just what you are in for!

Here’s the trailer.

The free DVD includes 12 five-minute videos of each of the WOW trips being offered in 2017.

They were edited by former Road Rider editor Mick Matheson who has produced several other videos for Motorbike Writer. He now works with wife Anne Baker in their professional video production company Phantom2 Media.

As a bigger taste of what you get on the DVD, here is the five-minute video of the Tacos and Tequila Tour we did with WOW in 2015.

The tour runs through Mexico, Guatemala and Belize before returning to Mexico. In a short cameo appearance, MBW gives a quick assessment of why we love riding these roads so much!

Most of the video here is shot by Mrs MBW from the pillion perch and it gives you a great idea of the magnificent scenery, food, people and roads.

For your free DVD, simply send an email to Mike and Denise Ferris of WOW.

Fred Hollows ride

Their response may be a little slow this week as they are heading to Bourke on Wednesday for their inaugural charity ride to support the Fred Hollows Foundation.

More than 30 riders are expected to join them with the hope of raising up to $50,000 for the Australia Day Weekend Ride to Restore Sight.

The Fred Hollows Foundation raises money for 20-minute sight-restoring operations that cost as little as $25 each.

Riders will visit a Foundation eye care clinic and the final resting place of Fred Hollows who died in 1993 after having restored the sight of an estimated one million people worldwide.

Sponsors have donated various fundraising motivational prizes for riders including a $100 voucher for the new Motorbike Writer online shop.

We wish all riders a safe journey. It’s going to be hot out there, so please read this article for tips on beating dehydration before setting out.

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Lane filtering a saviour in heatwave

Mon, 23/01/2017 - 6:00am

Heatwave conditions are bad enough for riders, but moving slowly in heavy city traffic makes it so much more important that you keep moving by lane filtering where legal.


Melbourne rider Ray Lindner describes his recent ordeal riding his Triumph Tiger XC in heatwave conditions in slow-moving traffic.

Share this article with your driver friends and maybe they will show more compassion in future and leave a gap for filtering riders, especially on hot days.

Not like this guy in the US!

Ray’s heatwave lane-filtering experience Ray with his Tiger

I got caught up in heavy traffic reduced to a crawl due to all but one lane being closed after a collision in the Domain tunnel.

I was on my way home from a trip and had ridden mostly hinterland roads among trees and farms and had a pleasant ride where it was much cooler than Melbourne.

The 38 degree heat that we had in Melbourne was difficult enough but having to keep the bike upright and crawl along a freeway was exhausting to say the least.

Not wishing to be melodramatic this became a fight for survival.

I have ridden the Himalayas, the Andes, Alaska, North-West Territories (Canada) and many other challenging areas but this day I felt to be at the greatest risk.

Had I just stayed behind any vehicle for the full time it took to reach and exit the tunnel I would no doubt have collapsed from exhaustion. That may have created yet another accident and/or the need for an ambulance.

I simply had to lane filter.

I admit here to even using the emergency lane for a couple of short periods as I really needed a break from wrestling with the bike.

Lane filtering was introduced to make motoring safer and not just to allow motorcyclists to get to their destination faster.

To the motorists who allowed me to lane filter, you have my deepest appreciation.

To those who do not understand why I needed to lane filter please consider the following:

  • I do not have air conditioning
  • I cannot reach for a bottle of water
  • My vehicle will not stand by itself like a car. I have to balance it.
  • I cannot idle along at 2 to 3 kph without dragging my feet to keep the bike upright. I need momentum.
  • Do not think that motorcyclists are being rude by lane filtering. We are not simply trying to beat you.
No need for filtering here

I am breathing in unfiltered exhaust fumes while most modern cars have cabin filters.

With trucks in every lane I was somewhat trapped at times and had to go across lanes to reduce my personal risk.

My only option would have been to park my bike in the emergency lane and try to hitch a ride to safety and this I certainly considered. Who would have understood?

I had drunk lots of water during the day but needed more but could not even get to the water that I was carrying and was surely becoming both dehydrated and fatigued.

To the motorists who think they understand lane filtering yet are annoyed by it and do their very best to block bikes by closing of any reasonable gap which might allow a bike to get through: On behalf of all motorcyclist and in the interests of safety please do not do that.

Towards the end of what seemed like an hour-long battle on the freeway I gave myself and a truck driver a hell of a fright during a misjudged manoeuvre and I would apologise and shake that driver’s hand if I could find him. As I write this, I shudder at the possible outcome and believe heat and fatigue were contributors.

I have been riding for over 40 years and have ridden many tough roads throughout the world but that ride will long be remembered as my greatest risk.

If ever I get in that position again I would have to use the emergency lane even more than I did and would accept any punishment sooner than put myself at risk of going under a truck due to exhaustion. 

  • Tell us about your lane-filtering experience. How are you getting on in the heatwave? Leave your comments below.

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