Motorcycles

Harley-Davidson sales tank in Q1 2018

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Harley-Davidson announced Q1 figures which saw its US based unit sales (c 50% of group) fall 12% with global sales down 7.2% YoY. H-D is often regarded as a canary in the coal mine for discretionary spending. 30 day delinquencies continue to rise in Q1 2018 @ 3.31% the highest in 6 years. Harley wrote,

The U.S. 601+cc industry was down 11.1 percent in the first quarter compared to 2017. Harley-Davidson’s first quarter market share was 50.4 percent in the U.S. The 601+cc industry in Europe was down 7.3 percent in the first quarter compared to 2017.  Harley-Davidson’s first quarter market share was up 1.3 percentage points to 10.4 percent in Europe.”

Highlights:

Revenue up 2.7% despite 9.7% lower shipments

Gross margin 34.7%, down 1.0 pt.

SG&A up

Restructuring charge of $46.8 million

Operating margin of 12.7%, down 5.1 pts.

Harley reported 243,000 units in 2017 (-6.7% on 2016) and it is shooting for mid 230,000s for 2018. This despite some stunning new models. The problem with a divine franchise is that complacency kills. The competition is much fiercer and the prices of its bikes are for the better heeled who seem to be cooling them

 

Marc Marquez memes have mutated

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The memes have already started for the dodgem car race style of Marc Marquez. The fallout from this is likely to be huge. He is without doubt the greatest talent on track. To be able to do a ride through penalty after only 6 laps of a short track and still come out of pit lane ahead of a 5x world champ Jorge Lorenzo who is riding the most powerful bike on the grid speaks volumes about his skill. Yet he punted the 21 year veteran of the game who has more fans, history and records than most of the grid combined. Marquez will soon feel like the the barber in The Untouchables who cut Al Capone while shaving him. Deliberately cutting up Capone in front of the mob isn’t something they’ll forgive easily. The booing in Argentina was severe. Marquez is a 6x world champion but the question is can he act as one when it matters? He may have been forgiven in 2015 but not after yesterday.

Marquez said the move on Aleix Espargaro earlier on was far harsher than that on Rossi, just that the latter crashed in a racing incident (in his view “nothing crazy”) that copped the biggest penalty. Marquez tried to cover his mistake saying, “Honestly speaking I don’t care, I’m just focussed on my box and I know what happened. Of course today I did a few mistakes – a few of those mistakes were from Race Direction and a few were mine. And I recognise and will try to improve for the future.”

Yamaha Movistar Team boss Lin Jarvis said,

“I think it’s pretty obvious from anyone watching the TV images that it’s a move that is totally unacceptable…So it was the number X of many moves that were unacceptable throughout the weekend. We had issues in free practice when he very nearly missed Maverick one time…There have been several incidents against other riders – not our riders – but other riders throughout the weekend. In the race there was a big one with Aleix. There was another one with Nakagami and then with others. Finally he ran Valentino off the track. That’s just not acceptable – period.”

Rossi also sounded off after the collision,

“I’m okay but this is a very bad situation because he destroyed our sport, because he doesn’t have any respect for his rivals, never…If you take for example what’s happened this weekend, one by one these things can happen to everybody. You can make a mistake in braking. You can touch the other guy. Happens. This is racing…

…But from Friday morning he make like this with Vinales, Dovizioso. He made like this with me on Saturday morning. And today in the race he go straight into four riders…He does it purposely – and it’s not a mistake – because he points the leg, between the leg and the bike, because he knows that he don’t crash, but you crash. He hopes that you crash.

“So, if you start to play like this, it’s like you raise the level to a very dangerous point… Because if all the riders race like this, without any respect for the rivals, this is a very dangerous sport and it can finish in a bad way

 [His apology is] a joke. First of all he don’t have the balls to come in my office alone, but he come like always with his manager, with Honda, in front of all the cameras because what is important for him is this. He don’t care about you…So I don’t want to speak with him. I don’t want to see him close to me because I know it’s not true what he say to me…I hope that he is clever enough to don’t come…

MotoGP is worried that it is without a star to replace Rossi when he retires in several years. So much of the sport’s growth has been down to him. Marquez was supposed to be the coming rider to fill his boots. In skill he has it in spades, his ability to smile for cameras is a strong suit but these incidents against the man he was supposed to replace will create headaches for race organizer, Dorna Sports. He is now a villain and rebuilding that image looks like a lost cause. All smells a bit like the Aussie Cricket team antics in South Africa.

Grand Theft Moto

Current Moto GP World Champ Marc Marquez relived the video game Grand Theft Auto (Moto) in Argentina. He was the quickest rider by a good 1-2 seconds a lap throughout the entire weekend. Yet the red mist from his own screw ups got the better of him during the race seeing him collect three penalties – a ride through penalty for stalling on the grid (as above).

After serving the ride through he was lucky to escape penalty for ramming Aleix Espargaro on the charge back through the field.

Then Marquez received a one position penalty for overtaking on the grass.

Then he clattered 9-time World Champ Valentino Rossi needlessly out of the race when he would have swallowed him safely in two corners to take 5th position after he which he was handed a 30 second penalty which knocked him back out of the points.

It was an ugly display. It was almost a reversal of the 2015 Malaysian GP when Marquez, out of reach of the title, carved up Rossi in a way that wasn’t racing but ensured he’d lose time to eventual World Champ Jorge Lorenzo (who in that race wasn’t penalized for overtaking on a yellow flag). Rossi ran Marquez wide in an attempt to stop him playing games and allow a fair fight for the championship Before the latter crashed in the infamous ‘kicking incident’.

Rossi was relegated to the back of the grid for the final race and lost the championship as a result. He almost caught up through the field in the final race in Valencia but even then Marquez cut up his own team mate Pedrosa in the dying laps to slow Rossi, denying a 10th title. When the Spanish King crowned a Spanish 2015 world champ in Spain and a Spanish crowd booed at the lack of sportsmanship it told us everything how the fans felt at the poor governance showed by the race organizers, Dorna.

While Marquez did go to apologize to Rossi for his blatant stuff-up in this race his team wasn’t having any of it.

Race Direction actually ruined the entire Argentina race for pole sitter Jack Miller by him being the only one to opt for slicks and all others on rain tyres. They stopped the race as all others dived to change to slicks causing a restart which ruined Miller’s chance of winning through a better strategy. Marquez should have started from the pits after the stall but Race Direction botched that too.

Throw in Marquez’s multiple indiscretions and one wonders how he wasn’t black flagged. Rubbing may be racing but Marquez was ramming not riding. Will he be summarily punished? Yes, Marquez is without a doubt a far better rider than anyone else out there but he needs to work on winning at all costs.

 

He’s not called ‘Jackass’ for nothing

Aussie Jack Miller, affectionately known as ‘Jackass’, finished in his first ever pole position at the Argentinian MotoGP after risking slick tyres in the wet conditions. If anyone wondered why MotoGP is so much better than the politically correct F1 this is why. Talk about putting it on the line!

Truly inspiring

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The video speaks for itself. U.S. veteran Jason Zaideman, along with other veterans who work at Operation Combat Bikesaver volunteer their own time and money to put back the lives of other vets who’ve suffered trauma on the battlefield. Jason didn’t get to finish the bike he was building with his combat veteran father due to his death but mixed his ashes in the paintwork to make sure he was part of the finished product. Truly inspiring.

Stars of the Tokyo Motorcycle Show 2018

Ducati Panigale V4S

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The absolute star of the 2018 Tokyo Motorcycle Show was the Ducati Panigale V4S. 214hp, 174kg. It not only raises the game but doubles down. Completely customizable bike which has basically bombed the goalposts of what is technically possible. It is a Ferrari La Ferrari on two wheels.

KTM 790 Adventure

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Austrian makes KTM has effectively made a Paris-Dakar bike with a bigger motor and light weight. It should totally devour trails versus the competition.

Husqvarna 701/401

Both Vitpilen and Svartpilen models should sell like well in Japan.  Compact size, well appointed and funky Swedish design even though it is built in Austria.

BMW 850GS Adventure

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BMW has a problem in Japan. It has seen some of its older riders find that the R1200GS is too much to handle as they age so some switching to the 310GS. This should be a good half way house. Lighter and more powerful with well appointed LCD screen.

Triumph Bobber

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Triumph has really got its act together. Properly decent bike range with unique product which Harley should be copying. Harley has been struggling in Japan because it I s stuck in the 70s when it should be going back to the 1930s-40s like the Bobber.

Harley FatBob 114

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Almost 2000cc gives ridiculous torque. A sensible departure from the current range which suffers from the divine franchise. It looks like it is a decent replacement for the V-Rod but they neeed a proper Bobber bike. The Japanese don’t seem to like it.

Kawasaki Z900RS

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Actually this is the #1 selling big-bore bike in Japan. It harks back to the 1970s when the Z-1000 was king. A modern day interpretation of a classic. Sold out in Japan til next year. Amazing to see how many custom shops were playing with this bike. Best of the Japanese.

Honda CB1000R

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Honda finally showing it has a pulse. It may make 18 million bikes a year but it has a deadly dull product range. The CB has modernized a classic. Not quite a Kawasaki Z900 but it is something that should sell equally well. I’ve never wanted a Honda but this is something worth considering. 140hp motor.

Yamaha Niken

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Essentiallyba quirky 3-wheeler with a bomb in it. It won’t be for purists but it takes the maker down a unique path. Yamaha will sell a lot of these to bikers who are coming back to it now the kids have left home. It’s a safe alternative.

Two bikes that should be built:

BMW R-32 Heritage

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Two years ago CM told BMW Motorrad management that the K1600 Bagger was a waste of time. If people want a cruiser they’ll opt for a Harley, Indian or Honda Gold Wing

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It was an excuse to find a chassis for the 6-cylinder motor. Nothing else. That’s never a good reason. It is a technical tour de force with a million buttons which press none where it matters. However the success they’ve had with the RNineT is admirable Still a modern day version of the R-32 is what it must produce for the purists. It would be special. Does it have the guts? The K1600 should be made into an S with 200hp+

Suzuki GSX-R

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Suzuki invented the racer replica market in 1987. A mint 30yr old GSX-R750 sells at a premium to a brand new one today. The current GSX-R gets rave reviews but it has no unique qualities that sets it apart from its competition. CM’s suggestion is to encase it like above. The people in their 40s who can afford it would fall over backwards to buy the poster on they once had on their wall as a teen. CM did. Suzuki toyed with the concept in 2015 with the GSX 1200 but it was a half-baked job with a pokey 100hp. A retro GSX-R1000 will crush it and revive a brand that has seen its sales halve inside a decade.

Motorcycle theft

Motorcycle theft in the UK is becoming an increasingly bad problem. As this video shows, thieves will steal in the middle of the day. Here are some of the stats by one of the local insurers, Bennett’s.

In 2016, powered two wheeler (PTW) theft rose by 16%. 27,217 machines of all kinds were reported stolen (that’s 523 a week!) and only two out of five were recovered. 25 years ago, scooters accounted for less than 1% of all two wheeled theft; today over half of all the bikes stolen are scooters and mopeds. In London alone, where 4776 larger machines were taken, an increase of 620% meant 6165 mopeds and scooter owners lost their transport.”

The explanation for all this is really quite simple; the interest in motorcycling is huge all over the world, and wherever there’s constant demand – in this case for used machines and spare parts – organised crime is never far behind. At the moment, it’s a battle that the government and police have every intention of winning as soon as possible…However, these new gangs aren’t unique to the UK, and are common in most cities of the world at this time. Many of the continental gangs use stolen scooters and motorcycles as the new currency for buying and selling drugs, and the fear is that this may be the case in the UK. Violence as displayed on YouTube and CCTV footage indicates many gang members themselves may be drug users. Because of this, the police caution against heroism, but do appreciate all the information on these gangs that they can get.

Take a look at this shameless attack on a dealer during operating hours. One can see how thieves would need to be “meth’d“ up to do something so brazen. Good to see the dealers win the battle but the police will back down on any chase of motorcycle thieves if they remove their helmets because of fear of causing death or injury to the criminal. Most bike owners who had their pride and joy stolen would most likely relish broken limbs of the perpetrators.

The UK’s 41 ports handle 9000 container movements every day, and are expected to load at least 12 stolen cars and motorcycles bound for Africa, India, South America, Asia and Europe. The police are likely to check one in every 200, whose manifests will often simply state ‘household goods’ or ‘spare parts’. In just one container, on just one day, in just one port, police found 12 stolen machines worth £70,000, its contents listed as ‘spare vehicle parts”

Affordable tracking devices have become hugely successful in recovering many machines this year, the most popular of which are claiming over a 90% recovery rate. Ironically though, thieves are now using their own cheap tracking devices to find their prey that they fix to a machine and track to its home without spooking owners. If they steal the bike they can use the device again.”

Ironic that the criminals are using technology that is meant to deter theft by leading one to the owner’s home to make a cleaner ‘get away’.

Doesn’t look like the battle to lower theft in the UK can be won without the police being able to dish out far harsher penalties to the criminals. Whistling in the wind won’t stop this.