Feeling lucky? Why not ride on a frozen lake!

Word comes from the States that two men were arrested on Friday, as one rode a motorbike across a frozen lake, breaking the ice and falling underwater.

Four men were taking turns to ride the bike at Fairview Lake, Oregon. The bike eventually went underwater, but all four men remained uninjured and somehow bone dry. Two of the men were co-operative and left the scene, but Jason Layton (31) and Brett Mowlds (25) were arrested after alledgedly being absuive towards officers.

Multnomah County Sheriff's Deputy Paul McRedmond offered this advice: "Don't ride your motorcycle on lakes you might think are frozen over, because they aren't in Oregon. Lakes are not highways."

McQueen motorbikes made to order

Good Monday morning to you all! It might be too late for Christmas present ordering, but here's some news of an interesting new model.

A small Oxfordshire manufacturer are producing replicas of a Metisse bike that was customised and raced by the late actor and bike fanatic Steve McQueen.

A team of four in Carswell, near Farringdon, have made a limited edition of 300 Desert Racer models that faithfully represents McQueen's original bike that he rode competitively in the mid 1960's, complete with his signature. The bike retails at £12,999 exc VAT.

McQueen and his friend, the Great Escape stunt rider Bud Ekin, bought the Metisse Desert Racer frame and customised it. The bike was then used in competitions in the Californian desert in 1966 and 1967.

Gerry Lisi, owner of Metisse, said: "It was mostly a competition bike, used in motor-cross racing and trials. It is a bike from the sixties and Steve McQueen was particularly fond of it. He said it was 'The best-handling bike I've ever owned and the power, it's like supersonic'."

Story from BBC Oxfordshire.

Bikes available from Metisse-Motorcycles.com.

Northwinds and the smell of rain

Today's article comes courtesy of UKBike member Mike, who shares his views on winter riding...

South Downs, New Year's Day 2002 - shade...

...and sunlight

Northwinds and the smell of rain

Winter riding.

Some do, some don't – and it's a subject that tends to polarise opinion quite radically: over the years, there has been a lot of acrimonious debate and name-calling in the letters pages of the biking press, along with an awful lot of written material about how to lay a bike up for the cold months or, alternatively, how to survive out on the road.

In many respects, I view the question as being not so much one of whether you ride all year round as why you ride at all. It just so happens that bad weather – in other words, a certain amount of adversity – is a good catalyst for separating points of view on what motorcycling is all about.

There can be no doubt that increased prosperity (...albeit that may be on the way out...!) and various economic and social drivers have resulted in significant changes to attitudes and expectations. It is commonplace to have multi-vehicle ownership and a choice of transport. There is a great deal more reliance on the convenience and use of cars to ferry around children, partners, friends and purchases. And there is a much higher expectation of comfort and ease while doing so.

There is, in fact, a fairly valid argument that it is demonstrating nothing but sheer bloody-mindedness to stick to two wheels come hell or high water – especially when there is no need to do so. There isn't even the economic argument that bikes are cheaper anymore: except in the very small-capacity arena, any ownership and running cost differential is negligible. In fact, it's more expensive per mile to run a big-bore sportsbike than a clean, green family runaround.

All of which is fair enough, except... why was it again that you ride at all?

The answer probably won't be: because it's a practical, everyday form of transport that can be made to do pretty much everything necessary – although it can be and in some cases most certainly is. Equally, it probably won't be: because there are few other ways to successfully negotiate our increasingly-crowded roads and towns – although, again, it's a valid reason and the decider for some people. In all likelihood, the answer that comes back will be: because I enjoy it.

Good answer, other than "enjoy" being too anaemic a word to properly describe the depth of feeling that biking inspires – or, at least, should inspire. That'll basically be because there is nothing which beats the freedom and exhilaration of being on two wheels. It's an experience to be enjoyed, treasured even: the chance to be a part of the world rather than watching it pass by through a window.

Okay, then: so what is it that stops you from getting that same enjoyment out of winter riding?

To borrow an almost perfect quote, "Four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul". Is it noticeably improved by adding "...unless it's a bit damp, or cold or possibly just cloudy but might rain later, in which case take the car to be on the safe side"? Possibly not. In any case, weather can be a capricious beast, especially in Britain, especially lately, where the winters have been mild and wet... and so have the summers.

Clothing technology has improved significantly, even over the last decade: waterproof, thermally-lined garments that genuinely do work are readily available. I spend a lot of my winter riding time quite comfortably warm and dry (...something that wasn't necessarily the case back in the eighties and nineties!). Of course there are cold snaps and hard frosts, not days when a hundred-mile thrash would be my first thought, but riding for business or pleasure is still eminently possible. In a bad year there are perhaps a handful of days when there is ice or snow deep enough that I might take the train to work instead of the bike. In a good year there aren't any.

So is it the road conditions? It is a common misconception that riding in winter is akin to spending a day at the DoT skid-pan, that every corner is a lethal hazard coated in wet slime or ice and that the only option for a biker is to wobble round like a novice taking the CBT cone section.

In fact, it's nowhere near as bad as that. True, it's not wise to expect to explore the upper levels of a litre bike's performance envelope, but the grip and feel of modern tyres and chassis is quite phenomenal these days. Learning to use it is a good argument in itself, as is being able to read road surfaces, to ride smoothly and with control, assessing and understanding limits. Certainly, the roads can be harder to negotiate and some judgement is required – but regular riding in poorer conditions is guaranteed to improve machine control and confidence. Not only that, but the improvement in riding skills will pay dividends come the spring.

Perhaps it's the thought of road salt and acid rain turning a once-shiny motorcycle into a rotted, rusted hulk? To be fair, that used to be quite a serious problem to keep on top of, and decent build quality and finish was far and away the best reason for buying a Honda.

Even so, it' s always been possible to spray everything with WD40 (or ACF50 for the wealthy), let the grime build up on top of that and clean it all off when the weather improved. A bit of elbow grease (effort involved largely depending on age of machine...) on the fasteners and cheaper alloy parts usually gets it all looking ship-shape again. In any case, motorcycles are meant to be used - it does them no favours at all to stand around idle for months on end – and it doesn't hurt any if they look like they've been used, too.

Or perhaps – and maybe the only excuse that really holds water – it's that there isn't much of a social scene going on: fewer ride-outs, gatherings, friendly faces parked up at the local coffee stop. Does that fundamentally affect the enjoyment of riding, though? It shouldn't, unless it isn't the riding that mattered in the first place. Fair enough, if it's buying into the motorcycle lifestyle rather than the bike that motivates an individual and full marks for admitting that to be the case. Of course, you always have the option of organising something yourself...

My take on it is: there's absolutely nothing that stops me getting the same amount of enjoyment out of winter riding. In some ways, I even prefer it – it gives me a stronger bond with my bike, in the way that shared experiences always do – and there's as much satisfaction to be found in precision as there is in speed. The roads are usually quieter out of town and there's a special, stark beauty to the landscapes and the skies that isn't found at any other time. A more sedate season, true, but not one without charms of its own.

There are certainly others out there who – for whatever reasons of their own – can be seen every day, as I am, mixing it with the elements. Hopefully they're all wearing the same kind of grin under their helmets from doing so. It's quite noticeable that the percentage of waves, nods and acknowledgements from fellow bikers goes up dramatically over the winter months...

If you don't agree and it's not for you, well, that's fine. I'm not seeking to change your mind or tell you that's wrong. All I'm saying is that you might want to ask yourself the question and give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised by just how much fun it's possible to have on two wheels, whatever the weather. And if not, that's fine too. It suits me enormously to have a large number of good-as-new, never-seen-rain, low-mileage machines available on the secondhand market...

- Mike Liassides a.k.a. endemoniada_88

New bike test module for Northern Ireland

This one slipped through the net...

Last Monday (8th) saw the introduction of a new bike test module for learners in Northern Ireland. Previously the test consisted of a theory module together with an on-road practical examination, but this has been extended with a third module of motorcycle manoeuvres.

The 30-minute test is the result of an EU directive, and consists of:

  • A slow riding exercise, with the candidate riding alongside the examiner at walking pace.

  • A slalom and figure of eight exercise.

  • Walking and ridden ‘U’ turn exercises and use of the motorcycle stands.

  • A curve, ridden in second or third gear at a minimum speed of at least 30 km/h (18.75mph).

  • A combined avoidance and braking exercise at a minimum speed of 50 km/h (31.25mph).

  • An emergency braking exercise at a minimum speed of 50 km/h (31.25 mph).

The new module was launched by NI Environment Minister Sammy Wilson, himself a keen biker, who said: "It is important that motorcyclists are fully equipped for the challenges they will face on the road. The new motorcycle manoeuvres test will enable examiners to test core skills in an off-road environment."

Hells Angels "suffering from bad public image"

Today's American story special continues with news that the famed 'one percenter' international bike gang Hells Angels is worried about their public image, and is encouraging its members to take up more charity work.

According to a leaked e-mail that has been read in court in Ventura County, southern California, a Hells Angels member called for the West Coast chapters to do more charity fundraisers alongside their underworld criminal activities to improve the club's image, with emphasis on fundraisers that would benefit families.

The e-mail was part of a testimony in the trial of Brandon Thomas Mundell, a Hells Angels member who is charged with assault with a deadly weapon and driving while intoxicated, following an alledged fight with rival bike gang members at a bar in Newbury Park, California, back in January 2006.

The global bike club is synonymous with serious crime, dating back to the notorious Altamont Free Concert of 1969. Last month, seven men belonging to the rival Outlaws gang were found guilty of murdering Gerry Tobin, a Hells Angels member who was killed on the M40 after attending a bike festival in Warwicksire.

Buy a Harley, get a stake in the company for free!

A Harley-Davidson dealership in Milwaukee, US of A is offering shares in the iconic bike manufacturer with any purchase of a 2008 or 2009 model HD.

The stock offer is the latest move from the bike industry to spark publicity amidst the tough global economic conditions which have hit sales, production and ultimately jobs.

Harley-Davidson has been listed on the NYSE since 1987, and by the close of trading on Friday the share price was USD$16.31. Considering that the share price was USD$48.14 in December 2007, it is clear that Harley have suffered in the downturn, but many analysts feel that the share price is undervalued, making this offer in Milwaukee pretty enticing...

New 2009 rider equipment range from BMW

This week BMW Motorrad unveiled their 2009 range of rider equipment, which they describe as "renowned for its innovative design, technical capabilities and outstanding durability and safety".

The highlight of this new range is probably the new System 6 helmet, an upgrade to the System 5 which was recently awarded a 5-star rating in the SHARP helmet safety tests.

The System 6 was launched at the Intermot bike show back in October, and BMW describe it as a "highly attractive, modern design with a number of advancements including superior size and weight". The chin strap contains an integrated neckband that stops the helmet from twisting, whilst an anti-fog double glazed visor comes as standard.

BMW have also launched the Trailguard suit, a re-design of the Santiago suit that has all-terrain riding and greater rider comfort in mind. Back, shoulder, elbow, hip and adjustable knee protectors provide additional protection.

More details on the equipment range can be found at www.bmw-motorrad.co.uk.

Robbie Knievel to jump a volcano

Earlier this week it was announced that Robbie Knievel, son of the legendary Robert Craig 'Evel' Knievel, is to jump the refurbished Mirage volcano on Las Vegas strip.

The volcano 'erupts' once an hour every night, and was re-opened on Monday following a $25million facelift. The 46-year-old will jump on New Years Eve as part of a television special.

Knievel said: "We pretty much own Vegas. I'll shut the (Las Vegas) Strip down for the third time."

Knievel also stated that this is likely to be his last stunt in the US.

Take a theory test online now!

Even the most hardened biker might learn a thing or two by spending a bit of spare time taking a practice motorbike theory test.

As of September 2007, 50 multiple choice questions are asked in 57 minutes, and the pass mark is 43 out of 50.

Are you good enough to pass? Or rather, should you be on the road?!
Take the test at www.all4bikers.com/theory.

Honda's future UK plans in doubt following F1 pull-out

Last week's announcement that Honda have pulled out of Formula 1 racing has led to speculation about the Japanese giant's future plans, both in terms of sporting involvement and vehicle production.

Despite figures from the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) showing that bike sales have steadily increased since August, the economic downturn has put jobs at risk across the motoring industry.

Honda recently revealed that workers at their Swindon production plant have had their hours reduced in an effort to avoid redundancies, while staff at the Brackley, Northamptonshire plant (closely linked with the F1 team) have been hit harder, as they have been told to expect some lay-offs towards Christmas.

Neil Tuxworth, head of Honda Racing, told the BBC on Friday that Honda will continue to be involved in the 2009 British Superbike season, with Glen Richards and Josh Brookes lined up to race for the team.

Easy pickings for bike thieves

Man with bike - distorted for privacy

One problem with living in the information age is that some people are less careful than others when it comes to protecting their personal details online.

Now it seems that the motorbike world is no different, as news comes from Scotland that bike owners are "putting out the welcome mat" to thieves by posting photographs and other information to blogs and social networking sites.

The warning comes from Constable Colin Brough of Tayside Police, who said:

"We have clear indications that motor bike thieves are looking at classified ad sites to target bikes to steal. Unfortunately, some people put too much information on their posting, including photos of the bike that also show the shed or garage door behind and whether there is much in the way of security.

The thieves can then look up the exact location of the bike and we believe they are turning up, with tools if necessary, to break in to the garage or shed and steal the bike."

Many bikers use blogs and social networks to discuss all things motorbike, and Constable Brough says that thieves are trawling through these web pages for targets:

"Many bikers have blogs on these sites that include a lot of information about them, often with photographs showing them on their motorcycles. A lot of these photos give strong clues as to the location of where these bikes are being stored and where they can potentially be stolen from."

Friday poetry corner

Tis the end of another week. We recently received a poem from Jeff Mason which we'd like to share with you.

My Bike

Roll it out from the garage
Up upon the stand
Check the lights are working
And the keys they are to hand

Is there petrol in the tank
Do the indicators work
Will the engine kick to life again
Or will the neighbours smirk
The engine starts no problem
A ticking can be heard
I hope its not my timing chain
Rev the engine, don't say a word

Everything working normally
Put the helmet on my head
The boots are strapped and jacket donned
The gloves are black and red

A rev or two turn the choke lever off
Kick it into gear
Throttle up and away we go
Go fast and never fear
Pull it up to sixty
Kick it throught the gears
Ref it with the right hand
Throttle back to avoid the tears

Ninety fast approaching
There's a left hand bend ahead
Change down to take the corner
Go round it in my head

We're through the bend, we're laughing
A nice straight road I see
Twist the throttle back and grinning
Go faster tuck in the knee

Watch out keep straight and weary
Never mind the ruts
Go round the shiny puddles
Keep an eye out for any stray mutts

There's nothing in the mirror
The sky is clear and blue
The birds are out and singing
My bike is all in tune

I think I'll do an hour or two
The usual round will do
Out past Brands Hatch Circuit
Stopping for the loo

Approaching Gorse Hill summit
Its name was once Death Hill
Killed many riders years ago
Cafe racers made of steel

Turn left onto the A225
Throttle back avoid the spilage
Past the castle on the right
Go slow through Eynsford village

Approaching Otford, not so fast
Turn left on Pilgrims Lane
Soon be home now enjoyed the run
And the poem just the same

Pull it back, turn right and brake just here
Into Childsbridge Lane
Soon be back, the garage awaits
Or shall we go round again?

Survey reveals top distractions for bikers

A brief equation for you all this Wednesday morning.
Slow news day + pretty ladies = excellent excuse to post a picture of Girls Aloud.

A survey carried out by Bennetts Insurance reveals that 35% of motorcyclists admitted to taking their eyes off the road when passing a billboard poster for Girls Aloud's recent Kit Kat ad campaign (pictured above).

Paul Galligan, Bennett's director of stating the obvious, said: "It's very interesting to see how easy it is for motorists to take their eyes off the road and judging by the results, using attractive females is a very effective way of advertising."

33% of bikers had their heads turned by Eva Longoria's Magnum ice cream campaign, while Louise Redknapp's Triumph bra adverts also ranked highly.

NEC bike show 2008 picture special

We've just got back from the NEC Bike Show in Birmingham - what better way to start the week than with a picture special! Enjoy...

Friday news round-up: helmet safety, all-electric bikes and impotence

A brief round-up of bike news as we head into the weekend...

BMW System 5 helmet: rates highly with SHARP

First up, the Department of Transport's Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme (SHARP) have released their safety ratings of the most popular 'flip-front' helmets on the market.

Twenty flip-front helmets were tested, and SHARP claims that the safety performance of helmets can vary by as much as 70%. Helmets were awarded a rating of one to five stars, broken down as follows:

5: BMW System 5, Caberg Trip

4: AGV Longway, Caberg Justissimo GT, Grex RF2, Lazer Granville, Lazer Revolution, Nolan N103, Nolan N102, ROOF Boxer, Schuberth C2, Shark Evoline, Viper RS RS 101

3: G-MAC Concept, Shark Openline, Shoei Multitech, Viper RS V121

2: Airoh Matisse RS

1: Duchinni D601, KBC FFR

Head injuries occur in 80% of all motorcyclist deaths. Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick said:

"If all riders wore the safest helmets available fifty lives could be saved each year. We started the SHARP scheme to ensure that all riders have the best possible independent safety information on which to base their helmet choice."

Full helmet ratings across all makes, models and types can be found at the SHARP site.

The TTX01 (picture Gizmag.com)

A prototype unveiling with a difference, as the world's fastest all-electric bike is revealed at the NEC show. The TTX01 is road-legal in the UK, 100% emission-free, and can apparently do 0-60mph in 3.5 seconds. A limited number will go on sale in late 2009, costing £20,000.

The TTX01 will compete in the TTXGP, the first emission-free race event of its kind, to be held next June as part of Isle of Man TT season.

The prototype on display in Birmingham is built into a regular Suzuki chassis, but production models will have its own lightweight carbon composite chassis design. Two battery-powered electric motors, weighing 11 kilos each, provide 86 bhp.

Travelling at a moderate speed on a full battery charge, the TTX01 has a range of around 50 miles. The battery can be fully charged from a standard plug socket in under two hours.

Finally, news of a study in Japan showing that men who ride motorbikes are at risk of impotence and urinary problems as the vibration of the engine damages nerves in their penises.

The study of 230 riders who ride their bike for around three hours every weekend found that almost 70% had problems with erectile dysfunction or their bladders.

Both the design of bike seats and the vibration from the engine is said to restrict blood flow to the penis, as well as causing a decrease in growth hormones in the bladder and prostate which affect bladder relaxation.