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When Is Much, Too Much?

After the plethora of new motorcycle announcements at the German Intermot and the Italian Eicma motorcycle exhibitions, you have got to ask yourself “why”.

It’s not the amount of new motorcycles that is making me ask this deep thought-provoking question, but what is happening at the top-end of the super sportsbikes; the search for more and more power.

Ducati 1299 Panigale S

Ducati 1299 Panigale S

If you consider that many sportscars have around 200 hp, a motorcycle weighs 2 or 3 times less. So the performance these bikes have nowadays is impressive, that’s for sure, but they are also incredibly high. Maybe too high.

Apart from some German motorways, there are no places on earth where you can use the power these bikes have, legally that is. So unless you spend most of your time on tracks, you would not be using the power these bikes generate. But you will have paid for it.

So the question remains, why? Why would manufacturers start a race to who has the most power. And it’s exactly what it has become; a marketing race for the manufacturers so that they can say their motorcycle is the most powerful one; bragging rights.

Some countries have limited the amount of power a motorcycle is allowed to have. France for example, power is limited to 100 hp. Granted, it’s a stupid law, since as we know, hp is nice but torque is far more important. Obviously a higher horsepower equates in general to a higher torque, but still….

If you had all the money in the world and your name is Jay Leno, would you still buy a motorcycle that has 200+ hp? Knowing that you can’t really use it (legally). Would you?

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Schuberth is one of the top quality helmet manufacturers at this moment. Their helmets are high quality, innovative and you can find them not only in the motorcycle world, but also in car racing (just look at the Formula One races) and even in the fire fighter communities around the world.

They are also very expensive and in case you were wondering, yes, they are German. And like with most German things, they are well built, and made to last.

Schuberth has different motorcycle helmet lines, all beginning with a letter indicating the type of helmet (S for sports, SR for racing, C for flip-up/modular, J for jet/open face, etc). Schuberth are also known for their female helmet models. For example, their latest flip-up helmet, the C3Pro also exists in a C3Pro Women version.

Schuberth M1

Schuberth M1

At the German motorcycle exhibition Intermot, Schuberth showed their latest model range, the M range. M stands for Metropolitan, therefore it’s a jet/open face type helmet.

As we know by now, jet helmets are more prone to being dangerous (compared to integral/full face helmets). But Schuberth would not be Schuberth if they did not try to minimize any dangers. Therefore the M1 helmet is designed in such a way that it’s safer than a conventional jet helmet. You can see from the photo above that the cheek area offers better protection than conventional jet helmets. More of the face is covered, but the mouth & nose part remains uncovered.

Schuberth-M1-2

The M1 comes in seven different colors, and the quick release visor comes in five different colors. The built-in sun visor, also available in five different colors, can be used without the normal visor, hence the quick release mechanism for the main visor.

Schuberth-M1-3

The helmet is equipped with a very good ventilation system, with a rear extractor vent that can be closed. But the M1 is also pre-equipped for the integrated wireless communications package from Schuberth called the SRC-System. In fact, the wireless communication device comes from the American Cardo systems. The inside of the helmet has a built-in antenna that will greatly enhance communication quality and range.

In the following photo you can clearly see the SRC installed in the back of the helmet.

Schuberth-M1-4

As jet helmets go, the Schuberth is beautiful, and safer than most. Top notch, but expensive. No prices have been released so far, but expect it to be in the $300 to $400 range.

Schuberth M1 with sun visor only

Schuberth M1 with sun visor only

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Electric motorcycles and scooters, as the type name implies, run on electricity. Obviously, the two wheelers don’t have a very long extension lead plugged into a socket, but instead they run on batteries.

But normal 12V motorcycle batteries as we know them will not supply enough power to propel the bike any further than a mile or two. No, to be able to ride a reasonable distance on an electrically powered two wheeler, you need more batteries, and these batteries need to have a higher energy.

Take for example one of the top American electric motorcycle manufacturers, Brammo. This is what a Brammo will look like if you cut it open:

Brammo-Batteries-1

Those blue things are the batteries. They are Lithium-Ion batteries, and they are not 12V but 103 Volt (with a max voltage of 117.6V). They supply a total capacity of 9.31 kWh, with a peak of 10.2 kWh.

Brammo-Batteries-2

It’s the battery pack capacity that counts for electric motorcycles. The higher the number, the more power it has.

But to recharge so many batteries requires special equipment. Depending on where you plug your bike in (known as Level 1, 2 or even 3 charging) you can fully charge your bike in 3.5 hours or 8 hours (in the case of level 1, your household electrical socket).

But all those batteries make the bike heavy. If you look closely at the photos, you’ll see that the engine is the smallest part, in sharp contrast with its ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) cousins. The biggest volume is taken up by the batteries. In total, the Brammo Empulse weighs 460 lbs (some 213 kilos).

But despite the heavy weight, the Brammo can still deliver an incredible 90 Nm of peak torque, more than most sportsmotorcycles.

Even electric scooters use similar large amounts of batteries. Take for example the BMW C-Evolution:

BMW-C-Evolution-Batteries

Apart from the 12 cells (which by the way come from the electric car from BMW, the i3), there is one “normal” 12V battery located in the front housing which takes care of the normal electrical functions (dashboard, horn, etc).

The engine’s batteries, like the Brammo, are Lithium-Ion and supply 8 kWh. Recharging these batteries using a standard domestic 12A socket takes 4 hours (if it’s a 16A socket, it’ll take 3 hours).

The 12 cells supply 60 Ah and 133V, and the whole scooter weighs 265 kilos. But despite that weight, you get a torque of 72 Nm which is available all the time.

So as you can see, batteries take up the biggest amount of space on an electric bike. By far! Over the next few years, even decade, the batteries will start becoming smaller, lighter and packing more punch, allowing for longer rides. But until then, you will need to content yourself with riding 60 to 100 miles before requiring a charge. Far enough for a daily commute, not far enough for a weekend ride of the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap.

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Airoh ST 701

Airoh ST 701

Airoh presented at the Intermot motorcycle exhibition in Germany, their latest helmet the ST 701. The ST 701 is an integral, full face, helmet with some interesting features.

Airoh-ST-701

First of all, in the chin is an air vent that can be opened. So far, nothing new. But in this case, the air vent can be opened at 2 different levels; totally open, allowing for air to circulate throughout the helmet, and half open, that makes the air circulate only into the visor through special vents. This way you can blow away any fog during those cold days when you don’t want too much cold air on your head.

Airoh-ST-701

The same applies to the rear air vent, that has several positions for the air extraction.

Airoh-ST-701

The ST 701 has the Airoh quick & safe release system in case of an accident. If you have crashed, paramedics need to take care removing a helmet since the removable movements can cause permanent damage to your neck. Remember that a helmet should be fitted tight. So you can imagine removing a helmet from someone’s head can be a struggle.

The quick release system involves pulling the red tab, that releases the cheek padding. With the cheek padding gone, you can simply pull out the helmet since there is no more pressure to the head or neck.

Airoh-ST-701

Several color exist already for this helmet. However, the helmet is brand new and has not received DOT homologation, and has only just passed CE certification.

Airoh are working on bring it to the North American market.

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Stolen-Motorcycle-Just-Chain-leftBarring accidents, there is nothing worse than having your motorcycle stolen. Arriving at your bike hoping to ride away and finding an empty space is a very emotional moment – a moment of despair.

Professional thieves will take your bike no matter what, you can slow them down and more important, prevent it from being stolen by amateurs.

First, let’s look at this video to see how quickly a professional will steal your bike:

You see how quick that went? The bike had two locks…

Now let’s see what you can do about Sunday-thieves or opportunists.

  1. Garage: Get a covered garage. It’s more complicated to steal from a garage than from the street. You can even buy bike shelters that you can put in your garden if you don’t have a garage.
  2. Ignition Lock: The easy one. Make sure your ignition is in the “Lock” position. It’ll not do much, but it slows thieves down.
  3. Chains/Locks: Use big and heavy chains, or approved and very strong locks. You can see from the video that a professional will cut through chains/locks like you would cut through butter with a knife. But a big chain anchored to a heavy object will prevent thieves from grabbing your bike and placing it in a truck.Placing a chain from your rear wheel to a fixed position is the best you can do. Front wheels are more easily removed.
  4. Alarm: An alarm is a good thing, especially if it’s very loud. Once someone moves your bike, the alarm goes off. No thief wants to be seen next to a very loud siren. You can get really fancy alarms that will send you a text message once your bike is being stolen, allowing you the time to contact the police to file your report.
  5. Tracking: A tracking device hidden in the bike will not prevent it from being stolen, but might make its recovery faster and easier.
  6. Cover: Cover your bike. Often professional thieves look for motorcycles “on demand”, meaning they will have been asked to steal a specific brand. Covering your bike will make it more difficult to spot.

So there you are. Remember, you can’t prevent a season and professional thief from stealing your bike, but you can make it more difficult. And another good thing to do, get a good insurance.

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When you ask people what they think the top 5 motorcycle companies are, they will probably get 2 or 3 right. Most bikers know that Honda is one of the biggest, and that Harley is not a small fish. Some might add to that list Yamaha. And they would not be wrong, but very few bikers will know about 2 other enormous manufacturers: Hero and Bajaj.

But first let’s go back to the Top 5 list. According to Research and Markets the top 5 leading motorcycle companies in performance, strategy and competitive analysis (so not in raw sales figures) are:

  1. Honda
  2. Yamaha
  3. Hero MotoCorp
  4. Bajaj Auto
  5. Harley-Davidson

So again, let me say, it’s not in number of sales, but in their strategy, their performance and how they stack up in a competitive market.

Number 1, 2 and 5 you will know, but 3 and 4 are mostly unknown to most North American bikers, and that is because they are not present in that market. Both manufacturers are from India, and their markets are Asia, Africa and South America. Markets where low displacement bikes that are sturdy and cheap are the chosen form of transportation.

Hero-MotoCorp-logoHero MotoCorp used to be a partner with Honda but in 2011 split from the Japanese company (they used to be called Hero Honda). Now, they are world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer in terms of sales.

They have also bought themselves into Erik Buell‘s company, so this new partnership will probably see Buell’s bikes sold through Hero’s shops, and possibly see Hero’s motorcycle start selling in the USA but with some redesign by Buell.

Bajaj-Auto-LogoBajaj Auto, despite the name having “Auto” is not an car maker but a motorcycle manufacturer from India. They are world’s 3rd largest and India’s 2nd largest in terms of sales.

Both manufacturers make small displacement bikes, typically 150 cc, although 200 cc is not uncommon. Sold for a few thousand dollars, these motorcycles are very strong, designed for the bad roads in many countries. Both manufactures are looking at expanding their sales base, and competing with the other, more known, brands on the Top 5 list.

But is the North American market ripe of brands like Hero and Bajaj. On the plus side, they are not fly-by-night operators, they have been in business for decades. They are enormous and have the money to develop many new bikes. But on the minus side, their bikes are unattractive and low power. But they are …. CHEAP.

Bajaj-Pulsar-200cc

Bajaj-Pulsar-200cc

So would you consider buying a 200 cc motorcycles for let’s say $1500? A bike that is sturdy that you can use as runaround and one that you will not mind if you drop it? Or would you prefer to pay double even triple for a more recognizable name?

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Motorcycle gear does not get created just like that. It is not like someone waves a magic wand, and presto, you have got some new product. It takes time, resources, patience and most important, it takes imagination.

Many people have ideas for motorcycle related products. They can be out for a ride, and something happens to them or their bikes, and they think about some item that could solve the problem in the future. But going from idea to manufacturing is an enormous step. The step is so gigantic that 99.99% of the people do not even bother.

The thought of drawing up their idea, getting financing, making it, shipping it, etc. It’s a nightmare. But thanks to the internet, one of the biggest headaches in the life of a new product is now reduced; that of financing.

Stack Of Cash

In the old days, if you wanted to make a new product, you needed to go to either a bank or an investor. But either way, you ended up leaving your shirt. Banks charge interest rates and investors want a piece of the action.

Today crowd funding has arrived and is giving the traditional financial institutions a run for their money. With web sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter (and a few more), if you have an idea, you put the idea in one of these websites, and ask the crowd to help fund it.

How Does It Work?

Once you have designed your product/idea, calculated what it will cost you to make, you go to one of the crowd funding sites. Once you have entered your product and the total amount of money you will be looking for, you need to let people know what they can get when they pledge money.

This is where the nifty part of crowd funding comes in. People pledge money, they don’t transfer money directly. The only time money is taken from your bank account is when the financial goals are met. In other words, if Joe is looking for $20,000 to make Gismogritzers, any money pledged will only be taken from the people who have pledged once there is $20,000 in the pot.

The pledges are usually different amounts, and with each different amount, the rewards are different. A reward can be for example if you pledge $1, you can a hand written postcard, or for maybe for $2 your name is listed in the credits on a web site. In other words, you do not need to pledge much money. On the other hand, if the idea for a product is attractive, and you are interested in having that product, you will usually be able to pledge money to buy the product at a lower price than when it goes into production. A kind of “early bird special”. But remember, no matter how much you pledge, you will only need to pay if the target is met.

So the person who had the idea does not have to hand over equity in their new company, nor have to pay monthly interest rates to a bank.

What Kind Of Products?

There are many different kinds of motorcycle related products finding their way into crowd funding sites. From accessories, to new technology, to books, to charity, etc. For example, one idea that was funded last week is an interesting book about a guy named Karl Allan who travelled around the world on his motorcycle. Not only has he got very interesting stories to tell, but he also collected many local food recipes which he explains in his book, and shows you how to make it.

Forks-Book

The book, entitled “Forks”, was put in the Kickstarter site for $20,000. In a few days (about a week), Karl managed to get the funds he needs to make, print, publish and distribute the book.

Another example was that of Joseph Campo in the United Kingdom. He wanted to make a web TV comedy series about a biker gang. He went to Kickstarter and got the funding to make the TV series (The Clandestine). He is now in his second season.

New motorcycle accessories can be found here as well. For example, Vololights, a way to warn drivers behind you that you are decelerating (by engine braking or down shifting), was looking for $50,000 to start production. They got $53,000.

But of course not all products find a crowd. Some may have a great new product idea but have not been able to sell the idea to the masses. Some have not so realistic financial goals, and a crowd will ‘feel’ this, and not bother.

But as you can see, it is not only a great way of putting new products out there, but also a great way for you to find something new and interesting.

Here are some of the crowd funding site that have motorcycle related items:

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