Road Rider Blog

A helmet is a helmet is a helmet – as long as it’s approved?

No, not really.

Here is a fascinating story from the New York Times, sent in by regular reader Lars. It’s worth reading and considering.

Sorting Out Differences in Helmet Standards
Published: September 25, 2009

THE surest way for motorcycle riders to avoid joining the rapidly growing ranks of fatality statistics — up 144 percent since 1997, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — is to wear proper head protection. A helmet increases the chances of survival in an accident by 37 percent, the safety agency says.

Picking the helmet that provides ideal protection is not easy, however. While all helmets sold for road use in the United States are required to carry the stamp of a federal safety standard established by the Transportation Department, riders may also find an independent certification label, from the Snell Memorial Foundation, on many helmets they are considering.

The certification by Snell, a nonprofit research and testing organization financed by helmet makers, is not mandatory for road use but it is for some racing series, which can lead consumers to assume that a Snell-compliant helmet is safer — an assumption that is not agreed upon by researchers.

Even knowing the differences between the standards is not enough: on Oct. 1, helmets meeting a new Snell test, M2010, with revised force limits, can go on sale, probably adding to the confusion among helmet shoppers.

The debate in the helmet industry and the scientific community about just what constitute the best design criteria for a motorcycle helmet — especially for riders with smaller heads — has been going on for years.

The conflict is between scientists and helmet designers who prefer the government-mandated helmet standards of the United States and Europe, up against the current Snell standard, called M2005, which Snell says provides “premium levels of protective performance.”

Many head-injury scientists, motorcycle-accident researchers and helmet makers say they are concerned that the “premium protection” proffered by current Snell-certified helmets may not be better after all. They argue that current Snell-rated helmets are too rigid and unyielding to properly absorb impact energy in the great majority of motorcycle crashes, subjecting riders to preventable brain injuries.

Why is this a concern, considering that the new M2010 standard — a major revision that addresses some of the objections scientists and helmet makers have raised for decades — is coming next week? It stems from the fact that the Snell Foundation will continue to certify helmets made under the Snell M2005 standard until March 31, 2012. There are now hundreds of thousands of pre-M2010 Snell helmets on rider’s heads, in garages and on retailer’s shelves, and hundreds of thousands more that will be made in coming years — which means that riders, especially those with smaller heads, will have to pay close attention when buying a helmet.

In one test the Snell M2005 standard requires each helmet to withstand two successive impacts against an orange-sized steel hemisphere without subjecting the aluminum “headform” inside to more than 300 times the force of gravity, or 300 g’s.

Hugh H. Hurt, a researcher who developed the Head Protection Research Laboratory at the University of Southern California, and author of the Hurt Report, a seminal study of motorcycle crashes, calls the current Snell M2005 standard “a little bit excessive.”

“What should the limit on helmets be?” Mr. Hurt asks, referring the g-force levels. “They should be softer, softer, softer. Because people are wearing these so-called high performance helmets and are getting diffuse brain injuries — well, they’re screwed up for life. Taking 300 g’s is not a safe thing.”

James A. Newman, a former director of the Snell Memorial Foundation, considers the Snell tests obsolete. “If you want to create a realistic helmet standard, you don’t go bashing helmets onto hemispherical steel balls. And you certainly don’t do it twice,” he said.

Mr. Newman has estimated an impact of 200 to 250 g’s to the head corresponds to a severe brain injury, that a 250 to 300g impact corresponds to a critical injury, and that a hit over 300 g’s is often not survivable.

“Over the last 30 years,” Mr. Newman said, “we’ve come to the realization that people falling off motorcycles hardly ever, ever hit their head in the same place twice. So we have helmets that are designed to withstand two hits at the same site. But in doing so, we have severely, severely compromised their ability to take one hit and absorb energy properly.”

Scientists and helmet makers have also objected to the Snell M2005 standard’s requirement for impact-testing all helmets with a headform of the same weight, regardless of the helmet’s size. Even Ed Becker, executive director of the Snell Foundation and its most outspoken defender, agrees that the weight of a wearer’s head is of great significance in helmet design. “These headform issues of mass and geometry are crucial. The mass determines the total momentum that must be exchanged in an impact.” The mandatory Transportation Department, or D.O.T., standard has dictated graduated-weight headforms since 1988, forcing makers to tailor the impact-absorption qualities of a smaller helmet to the lower levels of inertia produced by a smaller head. The European standard, mandatory in Europe, Britain and a total of over 50 countries, has required graduated-weight headforms since 1983.

David R. Thom, a respected helmet-testing scientist who operates Collision and Injury Dynamics in El Segundo, Calif., said of Snell’s one-weight-fits-all approach: “They are not in touch with reality.”

The standards disagreement has prompted some riders and racers to choose helmets that do not carry the Snell certification label — even though the most expensive and respected helmet brands available in the United States are predominantly Snell-certified. It has also inspired some helmet manufacturers, especially European makers, to forgo Snell, preferring to build their helmets to what they consider the more-appropriate American and United Nations ECE 22-05 standards.

In one comprehensive study of real-world impact performance based on research done for Motorcyclist Magazine, presented by Mr. Thom to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, a $79.95 helmet certified to Transportation Department standards performed the best of the 32 tested, withstanding the most violent hits while transmitting as much as 67 g’s less impact force to the headform than a $400 Snell-certified helmet.

The M2010 Snell standard will drop its maximum allowable g’s from 300 to 275. It will also adopt graduated-weight headforms.

According to Mr. Becker, the M2010 standard was designed in consultation with helmet manufacturers, to allow a single helmet design to pass all the world’s major standards. As it stands now, a Snell M2005-certified helmet may also pass the D.O.T. standard, but is unlikely to pass the ECE 22-05 standard used in European countries. Manufacturers must re-engineer their Snell M2005-rated helmets, making them “softer” in order to sell them in Europe.

So Snell M2010 helmets will, according to Snell, fall in line with both the D.O.T. and ECE 22-05 standards. As of now, no manufacturer has announced to market helmets that meet both Snell M2010 and the European standard.

It’s difficult to tell a Snell M2010 helmet from the outside; the label on the back of most helmets simply says Snell. But deep inside, stuck somewhere on the inner foam liner, should be a detailed Snell sticker that will reveal the specific Snell rating.

Of course, a rider can also do what some outspoken scientists have recommended for years: simply choose a non-Snell-rated helmet.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming


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Road Rider Blog

Another month as passed which means another new lot of prizes

Congratulations to Doug and Stuart who won last months giveaways

Remember anyone who leaves a comment on any blog post within the month goes into the draw.

This months freebies:
1. Charley Borman’s Race to Dakar on DVD
2. A hardcover edition of Dave Nichols’s One Percenter – The legend of The Outlaw Biker.

Go for it! And remember, check here every month to see what we’ve found
to give away – it could well be a one-off that you’ll never find
anywhere else.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

It’s an old song, but Bob Ferguson sings it like a bird!

Hello Bear,
This has to be the greatest motorcycle mag ever and I read it from cover to cover and back again except for certain things in ‘Readers Rite’. I started to dislike certain trends I was witnessing, especially in the columns given over to the readers in which they can put their ‘two bobs worth in!’ Usually as soon as I realise what the writer is going on about and it’s just a whining whinge I usually skip the letter and go on to the next one. The thing that prompted me to write was the letter by ‘Pete’ of West Pennant Hills NSW. In it he complains about a lady rider, who in my mind handles to the overtaking of road trains in a very appropriate manner – lets face it, these things are an abomination in themselves. The way she overtakes is infinitely better than hanging around on the wrong side of the road sat on a few kays more than the speed of the truck she is overtaking. My advice is if you decide to overtake then give it everything you’ve got and get it over with as quickly as possible then get back on your own side of the road and slow down (If the truck you have just overtaken allows you to!) All in all, good advice I say.

Where do these whingers come from? I suppose he whinges and ‘tut tuts!’ whenever he sees a motorcyclist dressed inappropriately too, eg the shorts and thongs brigade. Which brings me to the point of the letter. Whilst on a trip (last October) I was busy parking my trusty stead on Glebe point road, a young and rather gorgeous young lady pulled in besides me on her scooter.(I didn’t know angels rode scooters! but there you go!). Just as she began to manoeuvre her scooter next to me an old fart of a Ulyssian pulled up in front of her and began berating the young woman for being dressed, or rather undressed, the way she was. He was the ‘pseudo bikie type’, you know all leathers and badges, on his Japanese Hardley a Davidson. I suppose he had to shout to be heard over the din coming from the exhaust pipes. The profanities were obscene and he told her in no uncertain terms that it was people like her that were giving motorcyclists a bad name. He then proceeded to ride off.

The poor girl looked bemused and asked me what was that all about. I tried to explain that there is a bit of a debate going on in riding circles about people riding dressed inappropriately, and she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I was, until recently a member of Ulysses, and I decided not to remain a member because of the attitude of some of the membership. The types who big note themselves about what you should wear and even put you down for the machine you ride. It’s fun for the first five minutes but it gets tiresome when it happens all the time. Now I ride alone or just with a few friends; who have also become cheesed off with the pompous self righteous few who seem to gain kudos by spoiling it for the many who happen to believe in live and let live. You all know who I mean don’t you!

It is tragic that anyone has to suffer a gravel rash tattoo. But they know the risks. They don’t need anyone spoiling their day by having their opinions forced down their throats ad infinitum. Being a motorcyclist, live and let live should be well imbued in our psych. The old fart of a ‘wanna be if he could be’ did not endear himself to the young squid, and I doubt if she would ever join Ulysses – should she make it that far in 20 years. (She cracked up when I explained what is meant by a squid). I just wish motorcyclists could chill out and enjoy the sport they have without forcing their opinions and self righteous bullshit down other peoples throats.

Bob, UPPER Orara NSW

Hi, Bob, and thank you for your e-mail.
Yeah, how you overtake a road train is a bit of a personal choice, isn’t it. Anyway, I hope you liked my response. That dog story has been useful. I’ve even used it with a CHiPS officer who pulled me over for speeding. He let me off, although he did warn me not to expect it to work a second time!

Now, I think I may actually have to take some responsibility for what this old bloke in Glebe did – I’ve been advising people that, instead of writing to me and complaining, they should offer advice to anyone they see “underdressed” who doesn’t seem aware of the danger.
I did mean for them to do it politely and appropriately, though… some people don’t seem to know the difference between “righteous” and “self-righteous”.

I’m going to put your note on our website. I think it will gather a few comments.

As for Ulysses, it’s a broad church. With some 27,000 members there will be all kinds – maybe you should give them another chance, with a different group?

Best regards,

The Bear

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Big story or bull****?

Here’s an interesting story from What do you think of it, applied to magazines like Australian Road Rider and Cruiser+Trike (and this website)?

There was a time when, what you got out of the paper or the publication was the sole product of the news brand and the journalists responsible for telling the story to the masses. The millions of people out there? They were simply consumers, maybe helping to enrich the content through an eye-witness account or some inside information. But their participation was strictly left to the journalist, and the editor.

Today, there’s a new form of journalism that materializing right before our eyes. It’s called Citizen Journalism, and it’s shaking the news tree like never before. Think about it…there are millions of people out there…each with a story, a new perspective, a different experience. With the propagation of modern technology like cell phone cameras, computers and the wealth of outlets the Internet provides, how people get their news is rapidly transforming from one stoic voice to the cry of millions of passionate people looking to be heard.

While the traditional news media has scoffed at the idea that common, everyday citizens have the power to enrich how issues and events are covered, the world is seeing examples of it everyday. The fact that consumers are everywhere, that virtually nothing that happens goes unseen, is creating a market for what’s witnessed and bringing to life those first-hand accounts, adding depth and detail to a story.

Saying it is all fine and well, but what are the examples of Citizen Journalism, what’s the proof that traditional news media and professional journalism aren’t still in the drivers seat? There are hundreds of examples out there but let’s just focus on a few.

The shootings at Virginia Tech just a few short years ago, the images from this horrible event weren’t captured by a reporter and his trusty cameraman, but instead crudely captured on a cell phone camera…by a student…in real time. The bombings of The Tube in London, the crash of U.S. Airways Flight 1549…all examples of where everyday citizens have taken the lead on a major story, just by being there and having the technology to record the events that would create history.

But, these are major stories and not all news is of this variety. What’s great about Citizen Journalism is that it doesn’t have to be a headline story or big breaking news. In the digital press, Citizen Journalism can show up as a comment to an article, a piece of local news, a first-hand account of a local town board meeting. There are virtually thousands of avenues that Citizen Journalism can take.

Still, it can be an uncomfortable proposition for a publisher, allowing readers and interested citizens the chance to speak their minds. After all, it’s your brand that’s behind the story. But it can be controlled, your digital publication getting its proverbial feet wet by allowing simple reader comments to start. Or setting up an open source dialogue between Citizen Journalists and staff journalists. Over time, Citizen Journalism can evolve and become a valuable part of your content, supplementing stories and creating new venues for readers to explore.

Regardless of how uncomfortable the thought of allowing average citizens to create content for your publication, it’s happening. Those who accept the change and embrace the propagation of Citizen Journalism, have the opportunity to do so at their own pace. Those who resist, will eventually fall by the wayside, their content diminished by the richness of their competitors.

Drop us a line with your opinions (see, it’s starting already!).

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

You’ll be relieved to see that we’re cranking the kickstarter of our website at last, preparing to fire her up again and get rolling. Not before time, we know.

The Road Rider website has been neglected for months, but now that I’ve got my head around the magazine and my hand around the throat of its deadlines, I can turn some attention to the pixel-packed pages that complement the paper. 

This little blog is me confirming I’ve turned the kill switch to ‘on’, ensured the battery is charged and the fuel fresh, and have fired her up. The VACC news story is the first part of the oil change to get something new and good into the crankcases, and we’ll have more content rolling in soon until we’re at cruising speed again. 

I’ll even try to figure out how to get my surname spelled correctly, but I don’t think they trust an editor to do that himself. I wouldn’t.

Meanwhile, though, I’m out of here for a couple of days. There’s a bike to be tested and a long loop via Canberra on the cards, with a first taste of Yamaha’s new FJR1300 along the way. Riding the keyboard doesn’t hold quite the same attraction, so I hope you’ll forgive my quick g’day here before I head off again. 

Road Rider Blog

Another month as passed which means another new lot of prizes

Congratulations to Bruce and Peter who won last months giveaways

Remember anyone who leaves a comment on any blog post within the month goes into the draw.

This months freebies:
1. Charlie Borman’s edition of “By Any Means”
2. A Raven Hood Motocycle Cover – Waterproof, Breathable, Full Synthetic

Go for it! And remember, check here every month to see what we’ve found to give away – it could well be a one-off that you’ll never find anywhere else.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Never let it be said that I don’t give credit where it’s due. UIt seems that things in Victoria are getting so bad that even the normally supine MRA Vic is developing some backbone. Here’s a press release they’ve put together, and a good one it is.

Contributory Negligence?

Disturbing reports have emerged that the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) is penalising some seriously injured riders with serious injury payouts automatically reduced by up to 50% for “contributory negligence” – even though they have not committed any offences. The concept of “no fault” appears to be inappropriate, with riders presumed by the TAC to be negligent simply for riding a motorcycle or scooter.

MRA President John Karmouche today called on the TAC to tell the truth about its treatment of seriously injured motorcycle and scooter riders.

Mr Karmouche stated, “we recently became aware of an allegation that the TAC was attempting to reduce compensation to riders where they determine the clothing being worn is not meeting TAC standards. We are aware of incidents where the protective clothing was highly unlikely to reduce injuries. The TAC representative on the Victorian Motorcycle Advisory Council (VMAC) stated that she was not aware of this.”

“Since that time, information has emerged to confirm that although the individual concerned may not have been aware of this, the TAC is indeed regarding a lack of “protective clothing” as contributory negligence – despite the absence of any standard stating exactly what protective clothing is. The incidents uncovered appear to be merely the tip of the iceberg. Using the same principle we must now ask whether drivers of older cars that lack modern safety features and bicycle riders wearing Lycra and bicycle shoes will also be penalised?

Mr Karmouche went on to say it appears that riders are seeing a pattern of secrecy and misinformation again emerging from the TAC.

“Riders have engaged in consultation with the TAC in good faith. It appears that the TAC have chosen to withhold information and misdirect questions”, said Karmouche.

There is a reasonable provision for the TAC to deny loss of income claims where a serious offence has been proven. However, reducing compensation to injured riders when no offence has been alleged is reprehensible.

Well, it’s a pity they couldn’t have picked this up earlier – this story was actually broken in the Ulysses club magazine “Riding On” – but I quite agree. Now, what are you going to do about it, MRA Vic?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Another month as passed which means another new lot of prizes

Congratulations to Bruce and Peter who won last months giveaways

Remember anyone who leaves a comment on any blog post within the month goes into the draw.

This months freebies:
1. Charlie Borman’s edition of “By Any Means”
2. A Raven Hood Motocycle Cover – Waterproof, Breathable, Full Synthetic

Go for it! And remember, check here every month to see what we’ve found to give away – it could well be a one-off that you’ll never find anywhere else.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Another month as passed which means another new lot of prizes

Congratulations to Bruce and Peter who won last months giveaways

Remember anyone who leaves a comment on any blog post within the month goes into the draw.

This months freebies:
1. Charlie Borman’s edition of “By Any Means”
2. A Raven Hood Motocycle Cover – Waterproof, Breathable, Full Synthetic

Go for it! And remember, check here every month to see what we’ve found to give away – it could well be a one-off that you’ll never find anywhere else.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

“Please find attached a news release regarding a new road safety campaign aimed at motorcyclists and headed up by five-time 500cc MotoGP World Champion Mock (sic) Doohan,” said the press release from Hughes PR. It included this “fact sheet”. My comments are in red.


• Motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to be killed on SA roads than motorists (I’d love to see the statistics which led to that conclusion. We’ve now been told it’s six times, twenty times, thirty-four times, etc etc. None of these figures that I’ve seen have been backed by credible statistics.)

• Between 2004-2008 there were 94 fatalities, 861 serious injuries and 2826 total casualties from motorcycle crashes (I bet that smoking/drinking/football/you name it caused more fatalities.)

• In 2007 there were 10 fatalities, 174 serious injuries and 620 total casualties from motorcycle crashes (As above.)

• In 2008, motorcycle fatalities increased to 17 and motorcycle injuries accounted for 10% of all compulsory third party (CTP) claims costs (And what percentage was caused by cars?)

• So far in 2009, 12 motorcyclists have died on our roads (That’s terrible. Any death is terrible. And who caused the majority of the crashes that led to death? Drivers, that’s who. This is a checkable statistic. Why didn’t you include that – AND AIM YOUR CAMPAIGN AT THEM?)

• The fatality rate for motorcyclists has remained stable throughout the 2000s, however, total fatalities for all drivers has trended downwards, leaving motorcyclists as an increasing proportion of fatalities (The number of motorcyclists grew almost exponentially in that time, as did the distance they covered. This is a meaningless statistic.)

• In 2008, motorcycle crashes cost the CTP fund $43 million and in the five-year period between 2004-2008, motorcycle crashes cost the CTP fund $185 million (You’re saying you can’t afford to fund your own statutory authorities? Or what?)

• Males between 20 and 45 are the most vulnerable motorcyclists on the road. (Bet they’re not, especially when you include dirt “roads”. Bet the most endangered group is younger.)

• Motorcycling is increasing in popularity, with motorcycle registrations having increased significantly between 2007 and 2008, with registrations of the fuel-efficient scooter increasing by 232% in metropolitan Adelaide (And this is … bad? By the way, it just proves my point about the increase in riders, above.)

• 35 per cent of motorcycle crashes where the motorcyclist is at fault show they hit a fixed object such as trees, stobie poles or parked vehicles. (They wouldn’t be serious crashes if they didn’t hit something.)

• 58 per cent of motorcycle crashes where the riders is not at fault occur because of collisions at t-junctions or right angle turns, indicating a need for greater vigilance on behalf of other drivers. (Hallelujah! Although of course you mean “on the part of other (?) drivers”)

• Drivers report seeing motorcyclists everyday but say they are more cautious because of the motorcyclists vulnerability and perceived sense of unpredictability. (Ha ha ha ha haa… oh, I really needed a good laugh after all that nonsense above.)

• Motorcyclists are aware of their vulnerability and claim they adhere to safe behaviour, however admit to relaxing this behaviour if they believe they are in control or because they want to experience the thrill of riding “dangerously”. (Look, I’ll wear this one. Sure.)

• Motorcyclists are aware of the needs and benefits of safety gear, however, most rarely wear the entire kit – even if they own it (Unlike you; you always wear a raincoat and take your umbrella if it looks like rain, yeah?)

Why do I even bother to read these things? Because they make the road even more dangerous for you and me, I guess…

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Here’s an interesting idea from Motorcycling Australia, which now styles itself “Australia’s peak body for motorcyclists”. Has anyone told the Motorcycle Council about this?

Anyway, here’s a quick paraphrase of the press release:

When it comes to road crashes, motorcyclists and scooter riders are vulnerable and restrictions on the use of bicycle lanes should be lifted.

“There has been an enormous investment in creating safer lanes for bicycles in capitals and major cities across the country,” said Motorcycling Australia’s Dan Rotman, “but riders of scooters and motorcycles- Powered Two Wheelers (PTWs) – are locked out of them because of legislation and regulation.”

He said that there had rightly been an effort to protect bicycle riders from other traffic, but that legislators and road constructors seemed to have forgotten that riders of PTWs were even more vulnerable than bicyclists.

“While injury trends for bicycle riders and car occupants are in decline, riders of PTWs remain highly vulnerable, and part of the solution could be extending the use of bicycle lanes in selected locations,” Rotman said.

Bicycle and PTW riders have a lot in common – a similar exposure to risk, size and footprint – and much of the new bicycle lane infrastructure could safely and easily accommodate both user groups.

“Not every bicycle lane would be appropriate,” Rotman said, “but there’s a great opportunity to conduct a trial to establish how and where the protection of these exclusive lanes could be extended to all vulnerable road users.”

Motorcycling Australia said that it would like to work with bicycle user groups, the MRA, car user groups and Government to work out how this could be best achieved.

For more information check out

Remember Laugh In?

“Interesting… but…”

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

It’s cold in the motorcycle business, but not all that cloudy

The biggest motorcycle show in the world is off and running again, and there is no reason to believe that they’ll get fewer than the half million visitors they had last year. Advance bookings from punters are actually up.

It’s not looking too shabby from the exhibitors’ side either. Despite the fact that Honda and Yamaha did a no-show this year, choosing to launch their new bikes more cheaply at the Tokyo (car) show, the halls are full and buzzing. Admittedly a lot of the buzz is in Mandarin – there are lots of Chinese stands, and one of the biggest pieces of news was that the Milan show people will help the Chinese to run a show in Canton next year.

Yes, we have an invitation – that should be interesting!

Of course the main news was bikes, bikes and more bikes. But what I didn’t expect, and nobody else did either, was that the biggest news would be from one of the smaller and definitely more troubled local manufacturers. Moto Guzzi outshone even BMW’s flash new six cylinder “sports tourer” with no less than three “studies” based on the V12 and designed by no less than Pierre Terblanche. The ex-Ducati star designer outdid himself with these minimalist machines. Mind you, he was a long way from certain that the bikes would see production.

“The ways of management are inexplicable…” he said when asked, echoing the feelings of many of us moto-scribblers.

There were also a couple of V7 specials on the stand which attracted almost as much attention. On the public days it was almost impossible to see anything on the stand, the crush of fascinated punters was so solid.

I don’t mean to take anything away from BMW’s latest design study. That across-the-frame six cylinder bullet with its sobering resemblance to Star Wars bounty hunter Boba Fett would be a very welcome addition to the range from the buyer’s point of view – even though it’s hard to work out if BMW really needs another sports tourer… Nothing more was ever seen of the prototype bike that stood in the same place last year, the Lo Rider, so we can but hope that the six will fare better.

Mind you, the bike looked a runner – and the investment in the engine would have to be recovered somehow! I think they’ll build this one.
The R1200GS got a general upgrade ready for the 30th birthday of the GS (or initially G/S) sticker.

Honda’s BMW competitor, the VFR1200F, didn’t make it to the show but the Japanese didn’t exactly set the word on fire this year anyway. The upgraded ZX-10R from Kawasaki, with 188 horses and 208kg wet was welcome, certainly, but not especially different from the bike it succeeds. Suzuki’s star of the show was the GSX 1250 FA, a sports tourer that will win a lot of friends but that isn’t actually terribly… new, you know. It was flanked by the M800 cruiser and the updated GSF 1200 Bandit.

Whew! I need some sleep. More from Milan and EICMA in a couple of days!

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

You’ll be relieved to see that we’re cranking the kickstarter of our website at last, preparing to fire her up again and get rolling. Not before time, we know.

The Road Rider website has been neglected for months, but now that I’ve got my head around the magazine and my hand around the throat of its deadlines, I can turn some attention to the pixel-packed pages that complement the paper. 

This little blog is me confirming I’ve turned the kill switch to ‘on’, ensured the battery is charged and the fuel fresh, and have fired her up. The VACC news story is the first part of the oil change to get something new and good into the crankcases, and we’ll have more content rolling in soon until we’re at cruising speed again. 

I’ll even try to figure out how to get my surname spelled correctly, but I don’t think they trust an editor to do that himself. I wouldn’t.

Meanwhile, though, I’m out of here for a couple of days. There’s a bike to be tested and a long loop via Canberra on the cards, with a first taste of Yamaha’s new FJR1300 along the way. Riding the keyboard doesn’t hold quite the same attraction, so I hope you’ll forgive my quick g’day here before I head off again. 

Road Rider Blog

No doubt you’ve noticed the travel
stories about America
that run in both ARR and Cruiser. We’ve had a mixed reaction to them, with some
readers dying to take the trip themselves and others annoyed because we’re not
covering Australia

Okay. Apart from the fact that there is
no other motorcycle magazine in this country that runs anywhere near as many
stories about Australia as we do, we also write about places that are not just
the obvious travel destinations. When did you last read in any other magazine
about riding to,  say, Woomera?

There is also a wealth of Aussie travel
information in both the Hema Maps motorcycle Atlas and my book “On the Road
Again”, all provided by me.

And then there’s the fact that we really like
the US.

Even when, as happens occasionally, their dollar is inexplicably worth two of
ours. And we still reckon that it’s a great destination – and not necessarily
expensive. On our swing through the South last year, Mike and I found a pork
restaurant where we got a huge helping of roasted meat plus potato salad plus
coleslaw or beans plus a beer, all for ten bucks – hey, you’re not going to get
that for even $20 in good old Pacific Pesos back here!

And check this. On a trawl through the Internet to find some
info about Vegas (yes, Leanne of all people is going there for a nudge nudge
conference) we came upon this review of Circus Circus:

“…from 11 a.m. to midnight, a different circus act performs
on the midway above the casino. Once we saw a man spinning with towels in his
mouth. On the other end of the towels were dogs, swinging through the air. Now
that’s entertainment!”

Is there any doubt that America still leads the free

The US
is an absolute top motorcycle travel destination. You’ll be reading more about my
recent ride in California
soon – and no apologies! Especially when it now costs less than $A1000 to fly
to LA and back.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Chinese utes have done badly in safety tests. Nobody tests bikes.

Australia’s peak motoring organisation, the Australian Automobile Association, has called on new car buyers to ensure safety is a priority in making their purchases, following the release of poor safety ratings for three low-cost imported utilities.

Australia’s leading independent vehicle safety advocate, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), today released its crash test results for two Great Wall Motors (GWM) utilities – the SA220 and V240…

The heavily promoted GWM utes scored only 2 stars out of 5… ANCAP described the ratings as poor.

AAA’s Director of Technical Services, Craig Newland, said the low crash test safety ratings showed consumers needed to look at a variety of factors in making their new car purchase.

The GWM vehicles have been heavily promoted in Australia on the basis of cost, not safety, and consumers need to weigh up issues such as safety against the cost of these vehicles,” Mr Newland said.

“Australia has a wide range of 4 and 5-star passenger vehicles and ANCAP only last month issued its first 5-star rating for a light commercial van in the Mercedes-Benz Viano and Vito, so these results are going against the trend towards increased safety for occupants,” he said.

“The results are a cause for concern at a time when we are seeing safer vehicles available for consumers.”

Might be worth re-thinking the decision to buy a cheap Chinese trail bike.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Ah, poetry to soothe the savage beast

Bill Dettmer from Melbourne sent me this wonderful pastiche on one of our best-loved poems. I couldn’t resist sharing it with you.


Apologies to A.B. “Banjo” Paterson
Cirrhosis of the liver

There was movement down the local, for the word had passed around
That the biker called ‘Old Brett’ had got away,
He had modified his cycle – he weighed a thousand pound,
Pulled Dave’s bird, Joan, was off to have a play.
All the tried and noted bikers from the stations near and far
Had parked outside the homestead overnight,
For the bikers love hard riding where the motorcycles are,
And the Traillie’s snuff the battle with delight.

There was Harrison, who had his piles said ‘pardon’ then threw up,
The old man with his hair as white as snow;
But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up -
He would go wherever bike and man could go.
And Clancy in his sloppy joe came down to lend a hand,
No better bikeman ever held the ‘bars;
For never bike could throw him while the footpeg’s bolts would stand,
He learnt to ride while dodging through the cars.

And one was there, a yobbo on a small and weedy beast,
It was something like a race-bike undersized,
With a touch of old Ducati – three parts Yamaha at least -
And such as are by mountain bike-men prized.
It was hard and tough and wiry – just the sort that won’t say die -
It had tyres with a slick and balding tread;
But it bore no badge or trademark, just a splash of old meat pie
On the mudguard that was painted ‘Postie’ red.

But still a rough old 2 stroke, one would doubt its power to stay,
And the old man said, “That bike will never do
For a long and tiring ride – lad, you’d better stop away,
Those hills are far too rough for such as you.”
So he waited sad and wistful – only Clancy stood his friend -
“I think we ought to let him come,” he said;
“I warrant he’ll be with us when he’s wanted at the end,
For both his bike and he are mountain bred.

“He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko’s side,
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,
Where the foot rests strike up firelight from the flint stones every ride,
The man that holds his own is good enough.
And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home,
Where the river runs those giant hills between;
I have seen full many bike-men since I first commenced to roam,
But nowhere yet such bike-men have I seen.”

So they went – found Joan and biker by the big mimosa clump -
They raced away towards the mountain’s brow,
And the old man gave his orders, “’Geez’ ‘e’s givin’ her a pump,
No use to try for fancy riding now.
And, Clancy, you must wheel him, try and wheel them to the right.
Ride boldly, lad, and never fear the spills,
For never yet was rider that could keep that bum in sight,
If once they gain the shelter of those hills.”

So Clancy done a wheelie – he was racing on the wing
Where the best and boldest riders take their place,
And he raced his stock-bike past them, and he made the ranges ring
With the exhaust, as he met him face to face.
Then they halted for a moment, Joanie gave Old Brett a pash,
Brett saw his well-loved mountain full in view,
And he charged between the stock-bikes with a sharp and sudden dash,
And off into the mountain scrub he flew.

Then fast the bike-men followed, where the gorges deep and black
Resounded to the thunder of their treads,
And the mufflers woke the echoes, and they fiercely answered back
As onwards Brett and pillion wildly sped.
And upward, ever upward, the wild bikes held their way,
Where mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide;
And the old man muttered fiercely, “We may bid old Brett good day,
And it looks like Dave has lost his future bride.”

When they reached the mountain’s summit, even Clancy took a pull,
It well might make the boldest hold their breath,
The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full
Of wombat holes, and any slip was death.
But the man from Snowy River let the Kwaka have its head,
And he swung his ‘bars around and sculled a beer,
And he raced it down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,
While the others stood and watched in very fear.

He sent the flint stones flying, but the rider kept his feet,
He cleared the fallen timber in his stride,
And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat –
It was grand to see that mountain bike-man ride.
Through the stringybarks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,
Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;
And he never drew the brakes on till he landed safe and sound,
At the bottom of that terrible descent.

He was right upon Old Brett as they climbed the further hill,
And the watchers saw the pillion sitting mute,
Saw him ply the Kwaka fiercely, he was right upon him still,
As he raced across the clearing in pursuit.
Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met
In the ranges, but a final glimpse reveals
On a dim and distant hillside the wild biker racing yet,
With the man from Snowy River at his heels.

And he ran Brett single-handed till their beards were white with foam.
He followed like a bloodhound on the track,
Then he gave old Brett a beatin’, and he grabbed the bird called Joan,
And alone and unassisted brought her back.
On his hardy Kawasaki with Joan up against back and he was,
Pumped and caught the musky scent of her;
She had pluck, was still undaunted, and her breath was fiery hot,
She dropped her hands down south and gave a purr.

And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise
Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,
And where around The Sloppy Joe the reed beds sweep and sway
To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
The man from Snowy River is a household word today,
Cause he thumped Dave too and made young Joan his bride.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

You often read about the reasons why various people ride their bikes.

There are many good ones, and I reckon they are all correct – for those particular riders, and for many others as well.
But it’s rare that you see one of the reasons presented as beautifully and thoughtfully as it is in this clip. Thank you, Peter Hawker, for sending it to me. And please note that it was made by… no, I won’t spoil it for you. Play it through to the end, and I suspect you will be truly surprised.
I’ll be surprised if you watch it to the end with dry eyes.
All the best, and happy riding.
The Bear

Road Rider Blog

Well, on Tuesday the 28th of April we launched Cruiser+Trike in style at Sydney specialist bike shop Deus ex Machina – incidentally the people who built our cover bike.

The evening was terrific, many thanks to Greg and his staff at the Deus café. If the immediate reaction was anything to go by we’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head. And here’s an interesting statistic: we had nearly 800 subscriptions before anyone had even seen the magazine! Seriously, I feel truly humble (not a common emotion among bears…).

The magazine has now been out on the stands for two days, and I’m already getting mail. All good, so far! We look forward to satisfying all of your expectations over the months and years to come. Thank you all for your faith.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Maybe it’s a side effect of advancing age, but I enjoy the ramblings of the Republican American writer P.J. O’Rourke. Unlike most conservatives he comes up with quite a few fresh ideas, and manages to serve up even the slightly stale old ones in an attractively humorous new coating.

In his recent book of collected articles and columns, “Driving Like Crazy”, he tells of a bike tour that he and some friends went on in 1979, and muses on danger as an element in the attraction of motorcycles, and the effect this has on riders.

“Motorcycles are dangerous,” he writes to non-riders. “You should be scared of them… people who ride motorcycles are doing something that’s so scary in the first place that they are statistically unlikely to be scared of you…”

He thinks that both Thomas Keneally and Stephen Spielberg missed a vital aspect of Oskar Schindler’s character in both the original book and then the film “Schindler’s List”.

“Oskar Schindler had been a successful motorcycle racer,” writes O’Rourke. “[So] There’s no mystery about what he did at his factory. He felt like it. And there’s no mystery why he wasn’t afraid of the Gestapo. He wasn’t afraid of anything. Pencil-necked punks in fake leather raincoats…”

And while he admits that “the appeal of the motorcycle is not rational” and despite the danger, he’s very much in favour of being able to yield to the siren call of the powered two-wheeler.

So am I. Oh, maybe I should have mentioned right at the beginning that I’m currently riding a Harley-Davidson V-Rod Muscle. I should probably be scared of it, or at least of what it keeps telling me to do… but I’m having too much fun.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

You may have noticed over the past few days some new buttons
have popped up on the blog and new item pages.

The buttons under ‘Share this’ help you send that particular
news item or blog to friends through email and social networking sites like
Facebook, Myspace and Twitter. You can also bookmark the page, print it off or
post it on your own blog if you have one.

The ‘RSS Feed’ buttons let you subscribe to Bear’s Blog or
news items so that we can let you know when the website is updated. Clicking on
the left button will let you subscribe on your computer (through the web
browser). If you have a web-based service iGoogle, My Yahoo or myAOL, you can
click on the plus symbol to subscribe directly to these.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

The Census, it seems, doesn’t want to know about us


Were you annoyed by the exclusion of motorcycles from the Census? You weren’t alone. Here’s a typical letter from a reader. I got lots of these!

Hi Bear,

If we ever needed evidence that people who prefer 2 wheels to 4 don’t count, the govt. made it very clear in the census. They told us the census details were needed to improve infrastructure……blah blah blah.

Then I get to Q.54 “How many registered motor vehicles owned or used by residents of this dwelling were garaged or parked at or near this dwelling on Census Night?”  Then the note “Exclude motorbike and motor scooters.”

I think to myself they must ask for that separately on the next page – WRONG!

Just makes you realise that just like now they don’t want to consider us in the future – other than of course to rip us off whenever possible.

Steve Evans



One possibility you haven’t considered, Steve, is that since motorcycles and scooters take up so little room, they don’t even need to be factored into future transport planning… no? No, I don’t believe that either.

This question came up at the last census, too, and I chased down a response from the people who put the questions together. If anything, clearing this up made it worse.

“Nobody asked,” was the response. Nobody asked about bike and scooter ownership. And the people who did ask about vehicles, only wanted to know – specifically – about cars. Couldn’t be bothered with bikes.

“Well, I’m asking!” I said. But it seems that I’m just not important enough to get my own question into the census. I’m not (thank heavens, really) a government department or a planning authority or anything useful like that. I’m just a taxpayer trying to do the right thing.

So there you have it. Until someone who has the clout cares enough to ask for bikes to be included, they will miss out in the Australian census.

At least they did ask us if we went to work by bike.

This whole thing is symptomatic of the car-focus of Australian transport planners, of course. How can we get them to take bikes and scooters, which could do so much good, seriously as part of the transport mix?

Well, I guess it’s the old story – write to your parliamentary representative, both State and Federal, and copy the letter or e-mail to the respective transport and roads ministers. It’s up to us – nobody else is going to do this for us.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming



Road Rider Blog

Here’s a story from Cycle Canada magazine that I thought you might enjoy.

“When New York-based trauma surgeon Dr. Mark Gestring started noticing that the motorcycle crash victims he was seeing in the E.R. were getting older, he and some colleagues at the University of Rochester Medical Center decided to do a study. They wanted to find out whether or not it was Gestring’s imagination that less and less of his patients were stunt riding kids and more and more, baby boomers and seniors, many of whom had been riding powerful machines beyond their capabilities. Gestring’s team gathered ten years worth of motorcycle accident related hospital statistics and found that from 1996-2005, the average age of a person injured on a motorcycle increased from 34 to 39. The fastest growing group of all the injured riders in the study was in the 50-59 range. The group in greatest decline, 20-29.

“Peter Jacobs, president of the Motorcyclists Confederation of Canada, claims that he sees a similar pattern here in Canada.

“’It’s a consequence of the baby boom generation,’ said Jacobs in Toronto Star interview. “’People were into riding when they were young, they stepped away when they had their families and now they’ve got a nest egg, so they buy a bike and get back into riding.’

“He doesn’t believe the study’s findings fully apply here though, adding that Canadian motorcyclists tend to generally be safer riders and, unlike the U.S., Canada has universal helmet laws. But he does agree with the study’s main finding that aging motorcyclists are at greater risk and therefore need to exercise greater caution.”


Does the word “sanctimonious” come to mind there? But it’s not Cycle Canada that has the real problem here.

To start with, the actual number of older riders is rising faster than the accident rate – and that’s true in the US, in Canada and in Australia. So the raw figures don’t tell the whole story – in fact, older riders are safer. Gestring’s result is – well, I almost used a naughty word. It’s meaningless. It’s like saying that living is more dangerous today than in the Middle Ages because more people die every year. Err… there are a lot more people alive these days.

But let’s not quibble. Let’s do something constructive instead. Here’s my press release.

“When Peter Thoeming noticed in a Sydney Morning Herald cover story that Australia’s hospitals cause 4550 unnecessary deaths a year, he and some colleagues decided to do a study. Unfortunately, so far there has not been any funding forthcoming from the gummint…”
Physician, look to thine own backyard.

And Peter Jacobs, look at the figures before you insult what I presume is your parents’ generation.


Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Things are not going smoothly at Moto Guzzi – here’s the inside story!

Despite the bad weather and rain about 1,500 Italian and European motorcyclists rallied to the support of the factory workers concerned at the possibility of closure of the historic Moto Guzzi factory in Mandello del Lario. The protest was supported by the local council who closed the street outside the factory for 3 hours and allowed camping in the grounds of the lakeside park. The parking area opposite the station was closed to cars and completely filled with motorcycles as was the closed section of roadway. Three booths were allowed to sell essential refreshments and, naturally, the event t-shirt. The complete supply of t-shirts carrying the ‘Moto di Protesta’ logo was sold out. ‘Moto di Protesta’ is a play on words that can be freely translated as ‘Motorcycle Protest’ or ‘Protest Movement’.

Brief speeches were made by union representatives and the mayor of Mandello before a parade of over 1,000 motorcycles parted for the ride to the administrative office of the Province in nearby Lecco. The parade was assisted by the support of local and state police and the Carabinieri to control traffic and escort the riders. With improving weather the parade returned from Lecco led by two State Police incongruously mounted on BMWs.

Due to the economic crisis and low production the factory, which has maintained almost continuous production since the foundation of Moto Guzzi in 1921, is temporally closed for 3 weeks. Under the Italian system of social support factories can program a temporary closure and workers receive a Government subsidised three quarters pay. Whilst hardly a satisfactory situation this is better than unemployment benefits, reduces the probability of permanent sackings and allows the workers to return to their jobs after the programmed closure.

Two days before the protest Roberto Colaninno, President of the Piaggio Group, in a pre-emptive response declared “We will not close the plant at Mandello of the Lario but will make important investments in industrial and technological restructuring and in the way of new models and new lines of product on which we are working.”

The representatives of the workers trampled by the crisis naturally have a different point of view.. “The proprietor is in fact trying to empty the factory” according to Mario Venini (trade union spokesman), “centralising the project offices in other sites of the Piaggio group such as Noale (Venice) and Pontedera (Pisa) and leaving to Mandello only the production line assembly of the motors and the final assembly of motorcycles. In this way marque of the Eagle (sic – Moto Guzzi) seriously risks to lose own identity, without considering that approximately a third of the 150 dependants risk to loose their jobs.”

The existing staff levels are already a far cry from the early 1950’s peak of over 1500 workers. It is a simple fact that no production machinery remains at the factory. Much of what remained when Piaggio took control was already obsolete and in bad condition. A good part of the machinery was simply scrapped and the rest sold. The facilities at the factory are now reduced to the assembly lines previously mentioned and most of the factory buildings are now empty shells. One can only hope that the market for Moto Guzzi improves allowing the projected development to take place. There is a possibility that other brand models may be assembled at the factory which needs a minimum production of over 10,000 units to be considered viable. Some new Guzzi models, or at least variations on existing models, are likely to be displayed at EICMA at Milan in November. The new 8 valve motor (4 valve heads) after some minor teething problems has now proven to be a robust and reliable engine and can be expected to spearhead the product range for the next year or two.

Unfortunately the cause of Moto Guzzi has not been helped in the past by a series of bad management decisions and simple mismanagement. Amongst these can be cited the failure to produce a road going version of the MGS, particularly in light of the wins at Daytona, and the decision to develop an automatic gearbox for the Aprilia Mana instead of the Moto Guzzi California. The American Market in particular has be requesting an automatic version of the California ever since the demise of the much appreciated Moto Guzzi V1000 Convert. Further strain has been placed on the marque by the late release of accessories. The Bellagio, for example, was on the market for over a year before any accessories were available. Marketing and planning executives have demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the Moto Guzzi client and failed to capitalise on the loyal following of Guzzisti around the world.

After the protest ride the motorcyclists assembled in the market square to enjoy an afternoon and evening that amounted to a small rally with several hundred motorcyclists remaining for the night. The motorcyclists and many locals enjoyed good food prepared by a local non profit organisation. The evening entertainment commenced with Simone and Tamara Marchetti ( projecting film of their South American adventure on a Moto Guzzi California. Simone and Tamara inspired the crowd with their example of long range touring in remote and difficult locations. The evening’s entertainment was completed by the energetic ‘Bepi and the Prismas’ (Moto Guzzi Rock and Roll) and the ‘Train Time Blues Band’. Despite the serious nature of the event a good time was had by all. In the end that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it.

In a meeting with executives of the Piaggio Group on the 22 September the unions representing the employees were advised that 50 places would be cut. This removes nearly all of the office staff from Mandello and reduces the factory and logistics staff by a small number. These cuts allow a break even production of 7,000 units. As current sales worldwide are in the region of 7,000 units per annum the target would seem to be realistic. As the economy improves over the next few years Guzzi should be in a good position to expand sales beyond the magic 10,000 level. It should then be able to capitalise on the release of new models timed to be available as the motorcycle market improves.

In other sad news from Italy; Moto Morini filed for voluntary liquidation on the 23 September and is currently seeking a financial partner to help keep the motorcycles in production. This does not mean that the company is bankrupt but it does mean that they have severe cash flow problems and are currently unable to meet outstanding debts to suppliers. The move is in fact calculated to avoid bankruptcy and allow time to find a solution to satisfy the creditors. The company employs 65 people who are still producing the motorcycles, predominantly the Granpasso and the Corsaro.

One can only hope that a solution is found which allows the company to stay in production and protect the positions of employees, the dealer network, and naturally owners of motorcycles from this exciting and innovative small company.

My sincere thanks to Peter Bradley, who sent me the above report. He also sent the pictures.


Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Another month as passed which means another new lot of prizes

Congratulations to Stephen and John who won last months giveaways

Remember anyone who leaves a comment on any blog post within the month goes into the draw.

This months freebies:
1. Ewan McGregor and Charley Borman’s Long Way Round
2. Barry – The Story of Motorcycling legend Barry Sheene

Go for it! And remember, check here every month to see what we’ve found to give away – it could well be a one-off that you’ll never find anywhere else.
Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

What will happen to printed newspapers and magazines – like ARR?

My daily update on the staggering craziness of the world is, first, my local daily paper and, second, the web feed Slatest. The paper essentially keeps me up to date with the latest moronic kneejerk reaction by my State government (no, I didn’t vote for them but I live here…) and public opinion, via the letters page. The web tells me what’s happening in the big wide world. Well, mainly in America.

Now it’s been considered a truism that we follow the Yanks – everything that happens over there, happens here a few months or a year later. Of course I’m still waiting for us to get our independence from the UK after more than two centuries, and it will be interesting to find we have a black head of state (Noel Pearson, anybody?) but in many ways that really has been true. Motorcycle fashions are a case in point.

But I wonder whether we’ll follow America in the way we deal with the print media. Here’s a short piece from this morning’s Slatest. The McArdle person appears to be a blogger, and is no apparent relation to infamous Australian BMW outfit rider Chris McArdle.

Hi, Chris.
“McArdle: The Newspaper Business is Over. Period.
“The numbers are grim: over the past six months, circulation at the top 25 newspapers has declined by more than 10 percent. The Washington Post’s numbers fell by more than 6 percent, while the New York Times’ dropped by more than 7 percent, making it the third most-read paper after the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. This isn’t a sign that the newspaper business is changing, Megan McArdle says. It’s a sign that it’s over.”
US magazines, including motorcycle magazines, are in a similar position. Heck, so are most motorcycle magazines here in Australia (except ARR and C+T, phew and thanks to you) although Australian newspapers are holding up much better.

But what do you think? Is the era of the printed word really over? How are you changing your reading habits? Why are Australaian papers, and our two magazines, holding up?

I’d love to get your feedback and ideas.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Sometimes you really do have to wonder where academics and bureaucrats get their priorities from. Here’s a quote from a Sydney Morning Herald story, published today (14-8-9). It concerns a proposal by a couple of La Trobe University academics to introduce so-called “telematic technology”, with all vehicles fitted with tracking devices.

“The devices… would feed information to a database that would then level charges, which would vary according to vehicle type, the road being used and the time of day.

“[One of the academics] said that by charging more for busier roads and during peak hours, motorists would change their travel habits and ease congestion, which is projected to cost $20.4 billion by 2020 unless action is taken.”


What I’m hearing here is not that the roads are there for us, to get us to where we need to be when we need to be. It’s not the road network that needs to be fixed. No, it’s us, the road users, who need to be penalized until we can’t afford to even get to work or get the kids to school any more. Make no mistake about it, that’s what this means. If we’re priced off the road there’s no more congestion! Bingo!

The fact that people don’t drive or ride in peak hour for fun seems to have escaped these blokes. We don’t choose to do this, we need to drive because public transport is rubbish or overloaded already, or because there is no public transport where we live or work, and for any number of other reasons.

Let me repeat that. We need to drive or ride. Making it prohibitively expensive is going to make our lives harder, and more unpleasant.

What do you reckon, is mum going to start dropping the kids at school an hour or so early (and who will look after them?) to avoid congestion tax? Is dad going to go to work an hour late (and what will his boss think of that?) for the same reason?


What they will do is scrape up the extra money, because they have no choice. It’s yet another tax, and on some of the people who can least affords to pay it.

Oh, and if you don’t like that idea, our friendly academics have an alternative ready to reduce congestion. Increase petrol excise by 10 cents a litre. The effect is the same, a tax on working people, but I guess at least we save the enormous expense of fitting those tracking devices so Big Brother knows what we’re doing.

And let me just say that I have a very simple way of answering the question I asked at the beginning of this blog. Are the roads there for us, or are we here for the roads? Well, we paid for the roads. They didn’t pay for us.

Damn these people. And the worst thing is that we pay for this mindless, heartless nonsense with our taxes.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

The untimely death of the editor of Two Wheels has shocked us all

When veteran motorcycle scribe Bob Guntrip introduced me to the gangling,

intense and above all tall young man he’d brought to our regular midday get-together, I had no idea what a major role my unexpected lunch companion would play in motorcycle publishing in this country.

In those days, Jeremy Bowdler was working on a variety of magazines for Mason Steward Publishing, one of them being Playboy, in direct contradiction of his surname. But I suspect that even then, it was the motorcycle magazine that Bob put together that interested him most. It was an odd little buyers’ guide, and like many other bike mags it was eventually absorbed by Two Wheels, but I think it was Jeremy’s introduction to the industry that was to occupy him for the rest of his all too short life: motorcycle publishing.

We met again at various motorcycle functions, and Jeremy came to the first of the now somewhat legendary Readies Rallies with the wonderful woman who was to become his wife, Jan.  They attended subsequent Readies’ as well; notably, Jeremy dressed as Gainsborough’s Blue Boy for the one held at Providence Portal in the Snowy Mountains.

Out of respect for his legacy I’ll leave the photos in the files…

For many years Jeremy and I carried on the habit of lunching together, and it wasn’t really until Two Wheels’ move to News Magazines that we let that slide. I always valued Jeremy’s  clear-sighted and utterly unsentimental approach to the industry.
He contributed an enormous amount to motorcycling in this country, especially with his continuing concern about rider safety.
Jeremy leaves a large gap in the ranks of motorcycle scribes in Australia.

My thoughts, and the thoughts of all of us here, are now with Jan and her and Jeremy’s two daughters.  We wish them the courage and fortitude that we know they will need to see them through this dark time. Fortunately we know that they are surrounded by good friends who will do all they can to help. We are ready to do the same, in any way we can.

Jeremy is of course not the only motorcycle journalist we have lost recently, but he is the one whom I, for one, would least have expected to pass on. He was – or seemed, certainly – always hale and healthy and never seemed to lack energy.

Jeremy, I am not a praying man – indeed, I am not religious at all – so it would be hypocritical of me to say that I’m praying for you, or that I hope to see you somewhere over on the other side. But I will certainly remember you.

Rest in peace, JB.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Try selling to them…

A few years ago, inspired by the large number of empty shops in Sydney’s CBD, I went to one of the more innovative bike importers with an idea. Why not, I suggested, set up simple displays in some of these shopfronts – just some posters and a few bikes or scooters – and use them to either actually sell bikes, or just to refer potential buyers to the nearest bike shops? It would have been an opportunity to reach potential buyers who would never think of setting foot into a suburban bike shop.

That idea now has a name, it seems. It’s called a “pop-up store” and is being used, among others, by eBay to allow shoppers to actually see and touch products before ordering them.

Nothing came of my idea at the time – another case of bears being ahead of the times – but it made me think a little bit more about a recent story we ran in Cruiser+Trike. We looked at buying your accessories on-line (usually from the US) or in a local shop, and concluded that the choice between them is a case-by-case matter. Sometimes it will be better (and possibly cheaper) to buy on-line from overseas, at other times you’d be smarter to stick to your local bike shop.

But the story in the Financial Review which tipped me off to the “pop-up store” name also noted something else that I thought worth passing on. It seems that retailers are fighting back against on-line shopping in an interesting variety of ways.
Let me quote a few sentences.

“Retailers are… trying to make shopping seem fun and exciting… The Walt Disney Company… is rumoured to be redesigning its stores to attract shoppers looking for entertainment, with new features such as magic mirrors, which allow children to play with Disney characters… Stores are also trying to lure customers by offering services that are not available online…”

Now it seems to me that motorcycle shops would be the perfect places to try this.

Apart from improving the standard of service overall (which is something I’ve been banging on about for years, and am frankly tired of pushing), how about making shopping seem fun and exciting? How about providing entertainment? And offering some services that are not available online?

Let’s see, maybe they could encourage the sales force to tell potential buyers what they can do with the bike – other than just imitating the racer du jour? Maybe a selection of pamphlets describing day tours in the general area of the shop, or some recommendations for motorcycle-friendly cafés and good roads to get there? How about a wide screen TV (even my local café has one) showing something other than last week’s racing? Or how about offering a loaner bike when customers leave theirs for service or to have accessories fitted – free of charge?

I know some bike shops already do these things and more. Funny how I hardly ever seem to encounter them, though…

The point, of course, is that these things will make it easier to sell bikes, accessories and services. And that’s something we really need to do in these rather grim days.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Found a fascinating article from The Wall Street Journal that explains the way the bureaucracy keeps us in line. The Victorian crowd seems to be particularly expert at this.

“Deer Still Prisoners to Cold War Borders

“A red deer called Ahornia apparently never got the memo that the Iron Curtain doesn’t exist anymore. The deer lives in the mountains that were once the site of the electric fence that stood between West Germany and Czechoslovakia. Where the fence once stood is one of Europe’s largest nature sanctuaries, and while all sorts of animals have moved in, the Ahornia have mostly refused to cross the long-gone border. “The wall in the head is still there,” a producer of nature films said. The amazing part is that the deer alive today were born long after the fence wasn’t there anymore. Yet deer have an impressive collective memory of their trails that is passed through generations, so stopping at the border continues to be passed on. A few rebel Ahornia have made it to the other side, and experts say it’s only a matter of time before adventurous young ones begin to explore beyond the imaginary fence.”

A bloke called Jim Finley explained this on the website Slatest.

“Learned helplessness, they call that. If an animal (or person) is stuck in an unpleasant situation for long enough and tries unsuccessfully to escape it enough times, they give up, and then don’t escape it even if it becomes easy to do so. The original experiment was with dogs. The experimenters would put a dog in a small enclosure with a metal floor and high sides, then give it electric shocks through the floor at random intervals. At first the dogs would go into a frenzy trying to get out, but eventually they’d give up and just stand there whimpering and shivering while they got shocked. Then the high sides of the enclosure were replaced with ones low enough for the dogs to easily get over, but the dogs would still just stand there shaking and whimpering and get shocked without trying to get out. A grim experiment – I couldn’t do it. Some abusive situations produce similar results in humans; I think it’s related to Stockholm Syndrome.”

“Some abusive situations produce similar results in humans”, eh? See how it’s done in our case? Treat motorcyclists like outcasts, charge us “road safety levies” that nobody else has to pay, tell us porkies about how dangerous riding is, show us television commercials that misrepresent riding, demonise us as drug-selling bikies (and don’t listen to reason, because that’s not what you’re after) – and eventually we won’t even complain any more. We’ll just stand there whimpering and shivering.

Don’t put up with it. Complain to their political masters, as hard and as often as you can. Stop them!

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Here’s an interesting piece from the internet news service Slate.

“Red-light cameras aren’t just municipal moneymakers, according to a new study. They also save lives, reports the Washington Post. The presence of red-light cameras at intersections in 14 cities reduced fatalities by 13 percent over a five-year period, the study found.
“In Washington, D.C., the cameras lowered deaths by 26 percent. “We’re hopeful this will stop some of the backlash against cameras,” said Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that carried out the study by examining police reports. “Much of the attention to victims of the camera has been paid to people who received tickets. Hopefully, this will return the focus to the people who have been killed or injured by red-light running.”
“The police reports showed that 64 percent of the people who died in red-light running accidents were not the people driving the cars, but other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. One downside to the cameras: They increase the number of (usually less serious) rear-end collisions as drivers screech to a halt to avoid an incriminating snapshot.”
That last one might look like a bit of a worry for motorcyclists, of course – but it seems that we don’t have to worry. The only people killed so far seem to be “the people driving the cars… [and] other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists”.
Motorcyclists must be too smart for them… just as well, really, because the “usually less serious” rear-enders are usually very serious for us!
Can’t wait for a report that assures us that speed cameras… sorry, “safety cameras” are saving lives too.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Vote and win!

What’s the best bike road you’ve ever ridden? Come on, it’s a simple enough question. We all have favourites, and sometimes those favourites are not at all what someone else might expect. For example, my favourite movie is Julie and Celine Go Boating, or Phantom Ladies Over Paris. Never heard of it? It’s your loss. But I must admit that I’m the only person I know (or have ever heard of) who even likes this film.

So we’re not going to impose anything on you. In the interest of democracy, we’re going to ask you to vote instead. Oh, and I do understand that your “favourite” road might not necessarily be the “best” road you’ve ridden. If there is conflict within your mind about this, and I imagine that, as always, there will be for some people, go for “best”.

Ready to rock? Just answer this question:

What is the best motorcycle road you have ever ridden (anywhere in the world)?

Answers will appear on this website. Make sure you identify the road properly. For example, you might write “Silver City Highway (B79), NSW Australia, Wentworth to Broken Hill”. You might, but we hope you won’t because that road is so boring we’re falling asleep just thinking about it.

Okay? All set? Get your answer in soon and we’ll announce the results on this website and possibly in ARR.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Well, it’s been a couple of interesting days. I managed to put in some time with Arlen Ness (read all about it in Cruiser) and Mike Corbin (read all about it in ARR). When I arrived at the Corbin “base” in Hollister (yes, that Hollister, from The Wild One) – Mike said “I thought it would be cool to have a Hollister address” and of course it is.

Mike looked at the Honda Fury’s seat (which is actually fine) and effectively told me that I wasn’t leaving without a Corbin seat on the bike. They were working on one, and had the basic moulding done – so while Mike showed me and my US sales manager Stacey around the very impressive factory, and bought us lunch, his faithful minions finished the seat and also manufactured a bracket that allowed me to carry the Andy Strapz AA Bagz which holds almost all of my worldly goods. They didn’t yet have a moulding for the pillon seat, but these guys are good – and quick!

Is it more comfortable? Well, tomorrow’s ride through Death Valley will be the proof of the pudding, but even today’s ride was terrific.

By the way, do you have any idea now much terrific stuff (like panniers for bikes that were never meant to have panniers) Mike Corbin makes? Check out the web site.

You know, I’m picking up all sorts of useful stuff while travelling super-light on the Fury. For example, you don’t need three pairs of underpants. If you take the right kind, you only need two.

I’m going to have to revise my advice on some of these subjects…

And talking of advice, is the Fury a knockout or what? The last time I rode a bike that attracted so much (positive) attention it was the pre-production 1100 Katana…

Okay, time to find somewhere to eat here in Mariposa, California. Tomorrow, Yosemite and then Death Valleys.

You’re sure you’d like my job?

It’ll be cold, and then it’ll be hot…


Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

The locals fly the flag – a bit, anyway

The Milan Motorcycle show, better known as EICMA, is amazing. I don’t just say that because they fly me over here every year to enjoy the madness; it’s true. The halls are huge – in total, the floor space the bike show uses is something like six times the total hall space at Jeff’s Shed in Melbourne – but it’s not just that. There are not just one or two but four small racetracks laid out next to the halls, and instead of a few blokes jumping dirt bikes the top stunt riders in the world (including Chris Pfeiffer) amuse the punters.

I wrote about some of the headline models last time, but of course there’s always a lot more going on. Take the re-launch of Ossa – yes, the cloverleaf brand from Spain is back, albeit only with a pretty unimaginative trials bike. On of the American journalists put it into perspective when he called it another t-shirt company with a bike – like Indian…

Ooh, smacks for the Bear…

Apart from the Terblanche Guzzis, the big news from Italy was an all-new Multistrada from Ducati. It’s grown to 1200cc and puts out a most impressive 150 horses, and with upgraded suspension and a dry weight below 200kg it’s clearly meant to finally tackle BMW’s GS.

Ducati did quite a bit of upgrading on the rest of the range, too, as well as introducing the new “baby” Hypermotard 796 with 81 horses.
BMW’s satellite brand, the Swedish/Italian/German Husqvarna, launched a very sweet-looking 630 supermotard. That was matched by KTM’s Duke 690R with 72 horses and less than 150kg weight.

Benelli is taking advantage of the deep pockets of its new Chinese owner; the marquee showed the new TNT R 160 with just exactly that many horses, a dry clutch and a lot of carbon fibre.

Aprilia’s RSV4 R offers precisely the same power from only 1000cc, and presents as the people’s version of Max Biaggi’s Superbike. MV Agusta doesn’t seem unduly concerned by Harley-Davidson’s decision top put the company back on the market. It showed an upgraded F4 on a substantial stand that also included a full-on desert racing “Lucky Explorer” Cagiva.

You’ve seen most of the news from America, including the new touring Spyder from Can-Am and the upgraded Harley range, but there’s more to come. The Hammer S from Victory is a factory chopper rider’s factory chopper with 1721cc, 97 horsepower and 153Nm torque.

And of course the place is absolutely full of scooters, including a new electric-powered three wheeler from Peugeot which will remain a mystery to me (and you) because the tight-lipped girl on the desk refused to give out a press kit to anyone who wasn’t Italian…See you back in Oz!

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Is everything fair in love and war… well, apprehension of “lawbreakers”?

Here’s a letter from Dave Williams. Now he sent this to several magazines, which precludes it from being published in either ARR or C+T – we believe that if you want to tell our readers something then they deserve to be addressed directly – but I just couldn’t help putting it on the web.

Why? Because I’d like to get your responses.

Does Dave have a point? Considering that he was breaking the law, does he have the right to criticize the actions that the boys in blue took to apprehend him? On the other hand, did the boys in blue have the right to risk their own and other people’s lives in order to catch Dave?

What do you think?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Ground Floor, 277 William St.


Please find enclosed a cheque for $503.00.

This is for Traffic Infringement Notices 50619931 5 & 34349041 6…crossing centreline and 131kms ph in 100km zone……Cann River to Orbost…October 15 2009.

Yes, I know you patrol this road passionately during the start and end of your financially lucrative Victorian tourist attraction,….which is more commonly referred to….as the annual motorcycle pilgrimage to Phillip Island!……

I am 48 years old, with over 25 years of road riding experience under my various two wheels. I have been coming to Phillip Island on a regular basis since the inaugural ‘Gardner’ GP’s of ‘89 & ’90. I also know the other various routes……traveled them all many times!…Cann Valley,.Omeo,. MittaMitta, including . the dirt through Sassafras Gap on a ‘916!…..

In fact, I have only recently completed an overseas trip through the UK & Europe on my Australian registered motorcycle, traveling over 9000kms in a little over 2 months…..where, ironically,….you would have been ‘run over’ in the ‘slow lane’ for doing 130!…lol!!

So I am not a pimply faced 19yo riding a LAM!

The ‘freight train’ I was leading, ( if you ride within a group of sportsbike riders…u know what I mean) … were maintaining a constant 130, overtaking safely ( although illegally in this vastly overlegislated land of Australia which has sadly become only a shadow of the ‘Oz I was born in!)…
but please,… don’t get me wrong!…. These ‘Jacks’ were extremely obliging…..even tried to find a piece of wood for the sidestand of my old ‘851!…..We even had a laugh…..about me taking it for the ‘team’…….and his admittance he was actually trying to nab all 5 of us!…….

Now you know the background….. THIS IS MY GRIEVENCE!!!

Where has this particular unmarked Ford Territory come from? Although he stated he was traveling toward me…..nobody in the group could recall passing this vehicle…Obviously, he was lurking in the undergrowth…. awaiting his prey??! …Sneaky, revenue raising!….but with the opportunity to have some legal fun….’cause I gottabadge!!..

Subsequently, he successfully did his best impersonation of ROADRAGE I had seen?!…Firstly, ..the unmarked vehicle did not display the ubiquitous ‘blue lights’ until after he had finally caught me, that is,… the one in front?!!… ‘patsy’ leading??!…..Yet… …severe carnage could of occurred for both myself and my equally experienced fellow riders! My following cohorts, unaware, due to the non display of identification of the supposed police vehicle involved, all thought some idiot was out to get some motorcyclists for some reason, possibly for overtaking him earlier!… As he attempted to overtake each one of us, he came perilously close to wiping out, not only me, but two other riders behind me!!…He had overtaken two motorcycles over centerlines having to resort to having his outside wheels in the gravel on the righthand verge of the road!…This was not done once…but 3 times!! All because he wanted to gather in the leader?!?

The way that guy drove was absolute bullshit!!…

– why were no sirens or lights utilized until he finally managed to catch me…..he told me that he had been pursuing us for about 5-10kms?
– Why did he not show me the supposed locked in speed?
– Are ‘ in car ‘ Police audio and video utilized in Victoria?…If so, I was not advised of this.
– Why not radio ahead when it is obviously dangerous to pursue in this area on the Princes Hwy?
– Furthermore, if he had have come from the opposite direction as advised, he would have had to been doing some crazy speeds to catch us!..Remember, we are traveling at 130 in the opposite direction. He still has to safely turn around and then engage the normal highway traffic on a road that constantly winds for over 80kms??!
– I also noted that both Officers were not wearing reflective jackets.

Does law enforcement “Victorian style” mean endangering the lives of experienced motorcyclists that have covered more miles….than his junior Officer will probably cover in two of his own lifetimes??!

Please spend this money wisely…..and also please note, a copy of this letter has been sent to Australian Motorcycle News, Road Rider, & Ulysses Club……

.&….. I would also be interested to hear if anybody else traveling to the GP had any similar experiences with these licensed ‘Cowboys’….that carry a ‘blue bankcard’!!

So, if you wish to respond ( which I doubt! )….or act upon this letter ( which I further doubt! )…..I will provide more detail….witness statements included.

Yours faithfully.
Dave Williams
23 October 2009

Road Rider Blog

The Census, it seems, doesn’t want to know about us

Were you annoyed by the exclusion of motorcycles from the Census?

You weren’t alone.

Here’s a typical letter from a reader. I got lots of these!

Hi Bear,
If we ever needed evidence that people who prefer 2 wheels to 4 don’t count, the govt. made it very clear in the census. They told us the census details were needed to improve infrastructure……blah blah blah.
Then I get to Q.54 “How many registered motor vehicles owned or used by residents of this dwelling were garaged or parked at or near this dwelling on Census Night?”  Then the note “Exclude motorbike and motor scooters.”
I think to myself they must ask for that separately on the next page – WRONG!
Just makes you realise that just like now they don’t want to consider us in the future – other than of course to rip us off whenever possible.
Steve Evans
One possibility you haven’t considered, Steve, is that since motorcycles and scooters take up so little room, they don’t even need to be factored into future transport planning… no? No, I don’t believe that either.
This question came up at the last census, too, and I chased down a response from the people who put the questions together. If anything, clearing this up made it worse.
“Nobody asked,” was the response. Nobody asked about bike and scooter ownership. And the people who did ask about vehicles, only wanted to know – specifically – about cars. Couldn’t be bothered with bikes.
“Well, I’m asking!” I said. But it seems that I’m just not important enough to get my own question into the census. I’m not (thank heavens, really) a government department or a planning authority or anything useful like that. I’m just a taxpayer trying to do the right thing.
So there you have it. Until someone who has the clout cares enough to ask for bikes to be included, they will miss out in the Australian census.
At least they did ask us if we went to work by bike.
This whole thing is symptomatic of the car-focus of Australian transport planners, of course. How can we get them to take bikes and scooters, which could do so much good, seriously as part of the transport mix?
Well, I guess it’s the old story – write to your parliamentary representative, both State and Federal, and copy the letter or e-mail to the respective transport and roads ministers. It’s up to us – nobody else is going to do this for us.
Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Trailer Trash

You know all those mattresses you see strewn along the highways and
byways of this great country…well they all fell off the back of
someone’s trailer. Mostly, you just see them lying damp, stangely
folded and forlorn on the hard shoulder, taking their secrets to the
grave with them and with a bit of luck you won’t have to do much

After years of noting all these mattresses, and in lieu of actually
seeing how they got there, I used to think they were discarded by UFOs
until the day a mattress actually flew off a trailer in front of me,
cartwheeling past my shoulder causing a certain amount of panic from
not just me, but from everyone behind.

Another time, riding the Sonoran desert in the USA, a haybale fell off a Ute indian’s ute and I missed it by a short stalk.

Cuppa has never shut-up about the dinghy that came loose from a trailer
and nearly took her head off, and another mate was forced to jump a bag
of concrete at Allambie. It wasn’t pure Chad Reed, he confessed, but he
managed to keep the bike on its wheels.

There’s a theme here.

Since the decline of the Boy Scouts, the art of knot tying has died.
Tie-died, in fact. No-one knows how to secure a load. Where do you
think the expression “it fell off the back of a lorry” came from?

So the moral is, when you’re out on the road never, ever, as God is
your witness, follow along behind a trailer loaded with moving stuff
tied down with slippery washing line rope by people who were irritated
and exhausted at the time they did it. “She’ll be right, let’s go..”
you can hear it can’t you.

Hanging back is not an option, since from the previous stories most
stuff that falls off bounces up and over. You might be hanging back
just enough to cop the finish of the bounce.

So if you see a trailer ahead, get past it as quickly as you can. And
if you see the sofa inching its way off the back give the driver a
signal so some other poor biker doesn’t end up sitting down someplace
they did not intend.

Road Rider Blog

Okay, here’s the deal.

We get a lot of stuff either to test, or at launches, or just out of the goodness of the bike industry’s hearts (no, seriously). Some of it we truly love, like the Ducati USB drive I have with my name engraved on it. You ain’t gettin’ that. But some of it gets a bit… well, duplicated. Or we feel a bit bad about hanging onto it. Or our garage reaches bursting point. Or whatever.

Obviously we wouldn’t want to sell this, because we didn’t pay for it in the first place. Equally obviously we don’t want it just lying around because that’s not fair to the people who gave it to us. They want some value from it, see it out there, and if it gets exposure here on the website then so much the better.

So… we’re going to give some of it to you. Every month, we’ll announce the giveaways in the Road Rider newsletter and put something up here on the website. Anyone who leaves a comment on any blog post within the month goes into the draw. We’ll pull a name out of the hat and advise the winner at the same time as we post the next item.

Just to kick things off big time, we’re offering two items:


1. The hardcover edition of Ewan McGregor and Charley Borman’s amazing ride around the world, Long Way Round: Chasing shadows across the world; and

2. The DVD of the the Troy Bayliss story, Troy’s Story, narrated by Ewan McGregor with exclusive interviews and special features.

Go for it! And remember, check here every month to see what we’ve found to give away – it could well be a one-off that you’ll never find anywhere else.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

I have not seen so much meat…

Since a grateful reader organised a tour of the Riverstone abattoirs for me.

At Fogo de Chao in Minneapolis, feral waiters with huge iron skewers roam the restaurant, eagerly looking for any opportunity to top up the mound of perfectly cooked steaming animal parts on your plate.

Outside it was cold, but in there it was hot, and getting hotter.

Welcome to America. It might look from the economic statistics as if the US economy is on the skids, but somewhere like Fogo de Chao or, for that matter, at the Victory Motorcycles factory in Spirit Lake, Iowa you definitely wouldn’t think so.

The Americans have not lost a bit of the fierce, aggressive drive that has pushed them to where they are – still the leaders of the Free (and just about all the rest of the) World. At the headquarters of Polaris, Victory’s parent company, we were treated to a review of the outstanding performance Polaris has chalked up all over the world. Then we met the Victory development team, a seriously impressive and above all young group of people who are working on stuff that they unfortunately hid while we were there – but I’m betting it will be amazing.

All in all, let me just say: keep an eye on Victory (and the rest of Polaris) and keep an eye on Australian Road Rider and CruiserClassic+Trike, where a few stories about this trip will be appearing.

I’ll try to put together a quick blog about my ride of the Judge, Victory’s new lighter, slimmer fun machine, out in the Californian mountains. I never realised that Palm Springs, Heaven’s Waiting Room, could be so much fun.

 Meanwhile, what’s this on the skewer? Really? I didn’t even know you could eat that part of the animal… just give me a few slices…


Road Rider Blog

As if being a motorcyclist isn’t enough

I’ll bet you sometimes feel that motorcyclists are considered, shall we say, less than completely worthwhile members of society. Someone says “temporary Australia”, someone cuts you off in traffic after making eye contact, your local authorities spend millions of dollars on cycle paths and not a single buck on motorcycle facilities… it can all add up.

But consider me.

I’m a motorcyclist, and I get all that. At a recent school function one of the other dads actually called me a temporary Australian. But for me, that’s not all. As if being a motorcyclist isn’t enough, I’m also a member of “the media”. And if you think you’re reviled for riding a bike, you should hear what we get for riding a word processor.

Most of the time I defend myself and my fellow scribblers by reminding people not to shoot the messenger, and so on, But there are times when I run out of defences… like right now, for example.

In front of me I have a story from the Sydney Morning Herald entitled “Runaway road toll blamed on rise in motorcycle use”. It quotes the director of the NSW Government’s Centre for Road Safety, a certain Soames Job, who apparently said that “a major cause of the sharp increase in the road toll – up from 321 deaths in 2008 to 415 deaths in 2009, as of Wednesday – was the increase in ‘two-wheeled vehicles’.”

Deaths are up 96, a terrible toll. But the story goes on to say that motorcycle fatalities are 65 as opposed to 44 in the previous year. That’s an increase of 21, if my arithmetic serves me, leaving eight additional fatalities among bicyclists and the rest – 68 – to be spread among pedestrians and the occupants of cars.

Now, I feel safe in assuming that in that year, neither the use of their feet by pedestrians nor the use of cars by their drivers has seen much of an increase. But there are lots more bicycles out there, as well as lots and lots more scooters and motorcycles. So in fact the increase in two-wheeled rider fatalities can be explained simply by the increase in the use of two-wheelers. I’ll bet that there is no increase in the rate of fatalities per kilometer travelled – unlike the rates for walkers and drivers.

And yet we get it in the neck with that headline and the story.

The journalist who wrote the story, and the sub who wrote the headline, simply took Mr Job’s interpretation at face value. No attempt to get behind it, no attempt to tell the truth.

No wonder people get annoyed with the “media”.

Oh, and there’s an agenda behind this as well, of course. Mr – sorry, “Dr” Job has “raised the possibility of new laws requiring the riders of mopeds [there are no mopeds in Australia] and motor scooters to wear protective clothing in addition to helmets”.

Protective clothing won’t save your life. But hey – why not stick riders with yet another restriction that doesn’t work?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

A report from the Victorian Auditor-General has backed the technology, which brought in about $211 million revenue for the government in 2009-2010

Road safety cameras – speed and red light — improve road safety and revenue is not the primary purpose of the program, according to a report released by the Victorian Auditor-General (VAG).

In the 90-page report, the VAG identified a number of so-called road safety camera misconceptions which included:
•   The purpose of the road safety camera program is to raise revenue;
•   Low-level speeding is safe;
•   Road safety cameras don’t reduce road trauma;
•   Road safety cameras are sited to maximise revenue;
•   Speed cameras should not be placed on freeways because freeways are safe; and
•   The cameras are faulty, as shown by the fines withdrawn from the Road Safety Act 1986.
The VAG then countered these so-called misconceptions with its own ‘evidence’.
“This report, tabled in Parliament today, found Victoria’s speed and red-light cameras are focused on road safety, not raising revenue,” stated Victorian Deputy Premier and Police Minister Peter Ryan. “Auditor-General Des Pearson has independently validated the state’s road safety camera program and quashed the common misconception these cameras are revenue raisers.”
However, the report does admit that ““Any program that aims to deter dangerous and risky behaviour through the use of fines will generate revenue,” fine so far, “but this is demonstrably not the primary purpose of the road safety camera program. In fact, more revenue could be raised through tightening operational policies that provide for some leniency to speeding drivers and therefore reduce the number of infringements issued.” Really? This would be the leniency that currently allows a margin of error of 3km/h, a speed differential so small that you can’t see it on your speedo dial, would it?
According to Mr Ryan, the report “underscored the fairness” of Victoria Police’s approach to issuing infringements from the road safety camera program.
The VAG concluded that the ongoing use of road safety cameras as an enforcement tool remains appropriate. The report continued: “The supporting technology used and the way the camera system operates provides a high degree of confidence that infringements are issued only where there is clear evidence of speeding or red-light running.

And that’s it? That’s a road safety program? Fine everyone who speeds and everything will be all right? Don’t make me laugh. And don’t believe these people, either.
Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

A long way away, with only one pair of spare underpants

Well, here I am in a bar writing my blog. In a way I had always imagined that this was the way my life would pan out, sitting in a bar somewhere with a beer – High Sierra Pale Ale in this case – earning my living…

Yes, you’ve worked it out, I’m in the US. Specifically in San Francisco, one of my favourite places in that great country. Sadly I’m not wriring this in Specs, my favourite bar here, because the light is just too bad in there. Never mind, this place is okay too down here by the Embarcadero.

So, I hear you ask, what are you doing in a bar by the harbour in San Francisco, Bear? Why aren’t you in the office like everyone else? How come you get to goof off and drink High Sierra while the rest of us are, like, working?

Oh, the load of sheer jealousy I hear in those tones…

Let’s make it worse.

I am here to ride a bike, of course. I collected it a few days ago in Los Angeles and I rode it up here by way of a friend’s place and the Big Sur Highway. The friend is Clement Salvadori, who is sort of the US West Coast version of me – he writes for bike magazines and puts together touring books, and he lives in a wonderful house built by his wife Sue. And the Big Sur Highway is… glorious. Imagine the GOR ten, twelve times as long and hardly broken by towns. Anyway, you’ll read more of this in ARR and especially Cruiser.

Why especially Cruiser? Because the bike I’ve been riding is a Honda Fury.

Yep, the factory chopper that nobody could believe would be made by Honda. I won’t give too much away at this stage, but let me say that I cleaned up a Cavalcade 1000 on the coast road and a BMW K1300S in the hills on it. Yes! And I’m not even quick! Oh, all right, the bloke on the Beemer was a weekend rider – at best. But it was funny watching him check the mirrors repeatedly to make sure that was really a chopper sticking to his tail! And the Kawasaki rider was trying, seriously.

I was admittedly in “light” mode chasing the BMW, my luggage back in the hotel in Monterey. Luggage? On the Fury? Well, I’ve got one of Andy Strapz’s AA Bagz on the minuscule pillion seat, and I’m wearing a Honda backpack. That probably looks a bit weird, but it works. Mind you, I’m down to the basics: one change of underwear and the smallest computer I could find. Plus cameras, maps, Old Bloke stuff like glucosamine tablets and a light jumper to wear under my Tiger Angel Guardian suit when I cross Tioga Pass in a couple of days – it was snowing there when I last looked.


But I’ll fill you in some more when I get to the other side – and the 44 degree temperature of Death Valley…

Here’s to motorcycling.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Well, it’s come to this: motorcycle-mounted paramedics in Sydney are being spat at
and insulted by pedestrians on their way to urgent cases. These blokes have
saved a lot of lives because they can get to someone very quickly after they’ve
suffered (especially) a heart attack. The quicker you get medical attention,
the less likely you are to sustain brain damage or die.

They don’t just do a good job, they do a life-and-death job.
And yet

I don’t know whether aggression against bike paramedics has
increased since the launch of the State government’s hysterical anti-Bikie
campaign, but I’ve never heard of anything like this before. What it looks like
to me is a government well past its use-by date trying to create a sense of
fear – because a scared community is more likely to stick with the devil it
knows, come election time. And all motorcyclists are suffering.

From South
Australia, for instance, I’m getting reports of Ulysses
Club members being refused service in pubs. For those who don’t know about this
organisation (about two or three of you, I’d say), it’s an almost painfully
respectable social club made up of motorcyclists aged at least 40. Not a major
threat to public order anywhere, except perhaps if the glucosamine supplies run

It’s very easy for the government to say that of course
they’re not the intended target of the various campaigns, but if you fling
enough mud a bit of it will always stick – and not just to your intended

Maybe you’d like to consult Brendan Nelson’s excellent guide
to affecting the political process (in ARR #53) and let your representative
know that you don’t appreciate this. The paramedics certainly don’t.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Yesterday, I saw a travelling kitchen. Well, not really. It was a brand new BMW done up exactly like my rich friend’s Smeg kitchen. Matt grey tank, muted brushed aluminium, a few shiny chrome bits, a vast expanse of muted grey toned fairing … I was expecting to find a bank of temperature control knobs if I looked hard enough. The bike’s styling was deliberately and definitely “Kitchens Today”…but, oh no, the rider continued the horrid contemporary theme. Matt grey helmet, muted grey jacket with darker grey bits, grey and darker grey gloves…it was a look that made me shudder. Bikes and riders are going yuppie kitchen!

We already have the trend whereby designers are doing their very best to make motorcycles look like cars. Witness, just as an example, the latest Honda VFR 1200 R – even if it is loaded with tasty engineering miracles, it couldn’t look more car-like if it tried. Integrated LED blinkers, clean frontal profile, great slab sides, a v-shaped chrome strip that is also used on Honda’s scooters. And it is huge! It’s called “stately presence” and it makes me sick. To name just a few, BMW, Yamaha and the aforementioned Honda sports tourers are looking more like cars and kitchens with every incarnation. I would not be surprised to see Honda unveil a four-wheeled bike one day complete with take-along cooker and polished wooden floorboards.

Okay, we know the motorcycle industry is still apologising for all the fun us oldies had on bikes when we were wearing fringes, doing the ton and being antisocial on bitsas. And we do applaud the leaps forward that mean we are less likely to be stranded on a lonely road somewhere courtesy of dodgy electrics from Joe Lucas, Prince of Darkness. Modern brakes are sensational. Suspension is incredible, and you have the majority rule of opening the garage door in the morning and not discovering a slippery oil puddle that oozed from your beloved’s give-or-take-a-half-inch machining and seals. We are totally grateful for all that. It’s keeping us safer and ramping up the ride enjoyment level. Today’s bikes can make you a better, higher skilled rider.

It is obvious that by producing handsome, limousine motorcycles as opposed to soul-stirring bikes, the mainstream manufacturers are trying to rope in the yuppies who are driven by the same thing that makes them buy BMW and Mercedes cars. Status. I suspect the designers working on bikes are on secondment from the car branch. Why else would all the onboard electronic gadget plugs and airbags be getting a second look?
I think some manufacturers are trying to sell our souls here.

I’m not suggesting a return to the horrid “someone’s thrown three cans of paint” colour schemes of the 80s, where riders looked like travelling roman candles. Simplicity has always been king. There’s nothing like a beautiful, fire engine red or glossy black bike with its engine on show in all its raw glory to make your pulse throb. Why else would there have been such a swing to naked bikes? To Italian exotica? Why else do you see customised to the enth-degree Harleys and Bruiser Cruisers everywhere?

It’s because the soul of the biker is in the soul of the engine, in the curves of the tank, the shape of the gearbox, in lashings of chrome on headers and mournful sounding pipes, the air intake, the oil tank… a headlight that sticks out in the breeze, for heaven’s sake, not halogens moulded in like an oncoming Ford Fiesta.

I suspect many of us are yearning for a return to our roots. I think that’s why Triumph is doing so well, and why, when it is released the new Honda CB1100 Four homage to the CB750 will be a sell-out.

We want to see the engine, hear it, feel it and smell it. We understand we are going to be alternately cold, hot, wet, wind-blasted and uncomfortable – we don’t want a roof! We definitely don’t want some car designer to separate us from the primal thrill of the motorcycle.
If I could hurl one phrase at the designers who are straying over to the Dark Side it would be this … show us yer bits!


Road Rider Blog

Interesting note here

From regular reader
and pollie stirrer Peter Hawker

-about the way the French government is making reflective patches on bike clothing mandatory – but only on bigger bikes (which are less often involved in accidents – go figure).

Peter’s mid-range bike was written off after a collision with a P plate driver at night in wet conditions. The driver identified the motorcycle on approach but moved into Peter’s lane anyway when he was less than 10 metres away.
“I was fully geared up in armoured ride gear and only had a dull headache after being back slammed onto the road after the collision,” writes Peter. “The P plater was charged and my safety gear enabled me to continue as if nothing had happened, though I had to ride the buses until insurance was sorted.”
Here’s Peter’s take on the French decision.
I am concerned about what the French pollies have done, especially when it does not encompass all riders of both motorised and manually powered scooters, bicycles and motorcycles, or perhaps even pedestrians for that matter.

All my synthetic ride gear has a lot of silver iridescent piping around many of the seams and is even highly visible inside a room during the day when sunlight strikes it. Some of my jackets even have hidden interwoven iridescent patches that become visible at night when lights shine upon it. My soft luggage also has iridescent patches on it.

I often notice people riding on scooters in particular but also motorcycles with their fluoro vest, but no actual personal protective ride gear and in fact they’re often in shorts and t-shirt with thongs on. Why they wear the brain box is beyond me with nothing inside to protect. Oh that’s right, the law requires it.

I am all for personal choice if people want the false feeling of safety in a fluoro vest, lost among all these people wearing fluoro/dayglo clothing and/or vests on a daily basis. Council worker, courier, truck driver, police officer, ambulance, fireman, traffic controller, construction worker, cleaner, postal officer, first aider, road construction worker, event volunteer… and it seems that the list continues to grow almost monthly.  

The risk in this is the desensitisation of the general public from taking notice of fluoro clothed people as it becomes a general clothing article, instead of a safety awareness tool.

As for police calling for mandatory fluoro personal protective gear… It really amuses me when you rarely ever see a motorcycle police officers riding with a protective jacket on, let alone a fluoro vest (NSW). Usually they’re in short sleeve uniform shirts in summer, seemingly bullet proof. Just another bunch of squids in my eyes.

Fluoro may be fine for some, but rider position is paramount in defensive riding skills and I also notice how the fluoro wearers often place themselves in blind spots.

My old bike was mostly white and rose coloured and my current larger bike is black. Both being 95 models have the headlight hard wired and yet I immediately noticed how my larger bike is given much more respect over my multi coloured mid-size bike, even though it is pearl black.
Peter Hawker

So wear fluoro all you like, but whatever you do: don’t depend on it!

The Bear

Road Rider Blog

Want to know when your bike was mentioned in Australian Road Rider? Or which road to take in some part of Australia you have never explored before? Or, indeed, whether we’ve written anything about that gadget you’re eyeing covetously?

Well, no longer do you have to scrabble through back copies (or write to us and ask us to scrabble through back copies).

The ARR Index has been updated, all the way to issue #57! Go check it out now!

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Police pull over riders to give safety lectures

Motorcyclists are being stopped by UK police under a controversial government-backed initiative to improve road safety. At least two police forces have begun campaigns that involve stopping riders who have committed no offence in order to give a lecture on safety. Hundreds of motorcyclists have already been stopped by Sussex police and Nottinghamshire police, and the Department for Transport wants all forces to adopt similar methods.

Officers flag down riders and give advice on visibility, speed and road behaviour before handing out high-visibility vests, jackets and backpacks. Chief Inspector Andrew Charlton, Nottinghamshire’s head of roads policing, said motorcyclists had by and large been happy to co-operate and had welcomed the advice. The force plans to step up the campaign.

Critics have said that car drivers are in greater need of road safety advice…”

But it’s the comments I really enjoyed.

Arcot Ramathorn wrote: “Can I give them friendly advice on crime fighting?”

Ian Beech seemed to agree with that feeling: “As a retired Police Officer, Ex-Traffic, qualified Class 1 Rider having held a full M’Cycle license for somewhay over 40 years, I await being pulled over on my Bike with some interest. I may even be able to hand out some words of advice of my own!”

Eric West was a little more blunt: “This is outrageous. The police do not have special powers to detain and annoy. Equally troubling, we’re subsidising dozens of fat donut eating safety-nazis rather than hiring useful people like teachers, firemen, nurses. A waste of time and a dreadful infringement on personal privacy. Oh, and of course people are polite. It’s natural to fear arrest or the possibility of having your DNA taken or being charged with some trumped up offense. Our police are pigs.”

Similar response from fred smith who wrote: “Interfering morons. What if the person doesn’t want a lecture, has he got the right to tell them to bog off? What if he’s on his way to an appointment. Is there no end to this corrupt Junta’s interference in our every-day lives?

I’ll leave the final word with Andrew Thomas: “It’s the dozy old fools in cars who need lecturing on road safety. Maybe then the bike accident statistics will come down.”

So what do you think?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

A couple of things went wrong today.

Well, actually, more than a couple. It was a thorough bastard of a day.

I came home angry, which is not a good way to be at any time – but possibly worst at the end of a long work day when you’re rolling in to home and the company of your family.

So just in case you had a bad day too, and you’re feeling angry, I found a few cute little sayings about motorcycling to cheer you up and get you thinking positively again. They worked for me; hope they work for you.

  • Midnight bugs taste best.
  • Saddlebags can never hold everything you want, but they CAN hold everything you need.
  • Home is where your bike sits still long enough to leave a few drops of oil on the ground.
  • The only good view of a thunderstorm is in your rearview mirror.
  • Bikes don’t leak oil, they mark their territory.
  • Never mistake horsepower for staying power.
  • If you don’t ride in the rain – you don’t ride.
  • A bike on the road is worth two in the shed.
  • Young riders pick a destination and go. . . Old riders pick a direction and go.
  • A good mechanic will let you watch without charging you for it.
  • Sometimes the fastest way to get there is to stop for the night.
  • Winter is Nature’s way of telling you to polish your bike.
  • Well-trained reflexes are quicker than luck.
  • The best alarm clock is sunshine on chrome.
  • A friend is someone who’ll get out of bed at 2 am to drive his pickup to the middle of nowhere.
  • Never be ashamed to unlearn an old habit
  • Maintenance is as much art as it is science.
  • If you ride like there’s no tomorrow – there won’t be.
  • Gray-haired riders don’t get that way from pure luck
  • No matter what marque you ride, it’s all the same wind.
  • Only a Biker knows why a dog sticks his head out of a car window.

Did any of that cheer you up? The one that worked best for me was the one about the best alarm clock being sunshine on chrome.

See you on the road.

The Bear

Road Rider Blog

Problems with ethanol

How about a fuel tank that rusts out?

Every now and then I’m accused of being alarmist over the increasing use of ethanol-laced fuel. Well, I’m not alone. Try this story from the New York Times, by TUDOR VAN HAMPTON. The emphasis (sentences in bold) is mine.
IT was not such an extraordinary wish, really. All Sam Hokin wanted to do was fill his motorcycle with gasoline.

The problem was, he wanted just gasoline in the tank, not a blend spiked with ethanol. Though ethanol proponents say that vehicles like Mr.
Hokin’s BMW K75, a 1991 model, will tolerate the brew known as gasohol pumped at most filling stations, he insists on finding alcohol-free fuel.
Mr. Hokin, a physics teacher and Web site developer, is not alone.

Many owners of boats, snowmobiles and garden tractors, and users of yard tools like string trimmers and chainsaws, say they would prefer buying gasoline that contains no ethanol. Online forums and car-club newsletters teem with complaints of poor performance and breakdowns attributed to gasohol.

Restorers of vintage cars point to problems caused by the decay of older rubber components like seals, gaskets and flexible fuel lines, which can deteriorate when exposed to ethanol-blend fuels. Some replacement parts are available in modern materials that resist alcohol damage, but not all are.

“It’s really a problem, and unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about it,” said Keith Flickinger, curator of the Nicola Bulgari collection in Allentown, Pa. “Not a lot of people are making high-tech stuff for the antique cars.”

There is no simple remedy for this situation, either. If anything, the pressure to develop the market for renewable fuels is making 100 percent gasoline more of a challenge to find.

Some 70 percent of the gasoline sold in the United States contains ethanol, according to the American Coalition for Ethanol, most of it at a concentration of 10 percent, known as E10.

The shift toward alcohol-dosed gas began after the oil shocks of the 1970s and accelerated in the 1990s with a federal mandate that fuels contain a minimum level of oxygen, a measure intended to reduce carbon monoxide emissions. Alcohol blends helped to meet that requirement, and as a side benefit raised the gasoline’s octane rating — a potential performance advantage.

In January, the Environmental Protection Agency approved gasoline-ethanol blends up to 15 percent ethanol, called E15, in cars, light trucks and sport utilities built after 2000.

The E15 waiver raised a decades-old cap of 10 percent on ethanol blends for general use. Even at that higher federal limit, the ability of fuel producers to meet Congressional mandates calling for much higher volumes of renewable fuels is not assured. The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act requires producers to increase renewable fuel production eightfold — to 36 billion gallons by 2022, from 4 billion in 2006 — with 21 billion gallons coming from advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol.

“The 10 percent fuel blend was essentially a wall,” said Chris Thorne, a spokesman for Growth Energy, an ethanol industry group. In 2009, Growth Energy filed a petition with the E.P.A. to raise the ethanol blend cap to 15 percent for all vehicles, regardless of vintage.
In reviewing the petition, the E.P.A. collected vehicle test data and sifted through more than 78,000 public comments.
Ethanol supporters argued that the E.P.A. should approve E15 across the board. “There is a mountain of data behind this,” Mr. Thorne said. “We think E15 should perform in all vehicles.”

Still, many consumers would rather not have any alcohol in their gasoline. Their reasons include reductions in fuel economy — a gallon of ethanol contains about one-third less energy than a gallon of gasoline — and alcohol’s affinity for moisture, which can cause a multitude of engine problems.

The frustration of searching for alcohol-free gas for his BMW motorcycle led Mr. Hokin, who lives in Madison, Wis., to an increasingly popular solution: he started a Web site,
But in his quest to help other hobbyists around the country find 100 percent gas, Mr. Hokin encountered something he did not expect — a barrage of political debates on his site.

“What I didn’t want it to become is an anti-ethanol gathering place,” Mr. Hokin said. “The reason I made the site is so I could go tour on my motorcycle and get pure gas.”

It could be some time before regulatory hurdles, lawsuits and technical matters are resolved and E15 arrives at filling stations. But heated discussions on Mr. Hokin’s Web site provide an indication of how emotional the ethanol issue can be.
Even auto racing series have taken a stand. IndyCar, organizer of the championship for Indianapolis 500 cars, and the American Le Mans Series for endurance racing were early adopters of ethanol blends, approving the use of concentrations up to 100 percent ethanol.
Since the beginning of the 2011 season, Nascar’s top three national racing series have been using a Sunoco blend of E15 rated at 104 octane. Nascar has reported a small horsepower improvement — less than 1 percent — and a slight reduction in fuel economy.
The race-sanctioning group acknowledges that the switch in fuels was driven by factors other than on-track performance.
“Any replacement to the percentage of carbon fuels is going to help lessen the dependence on foreign oil,” said John Darby, managing director of competition at Nascar. “We could let the debates go on forever or try to be more proactive. We wanted to be ahead of the game, to do something.”

The decision made by the E.P.A. in January expanded an earlier waiver, announced in October, that covered vehicles 2007 and newer. The broadened ruling covers vehicles back to 2001, reflecting the E.P.A.’s stance that E15 fuel would not harm the emissions equipment on those vehicles, but it declined to allow the higher gasohol blend for vehicles from the 2000 model year and earlier. The agency also is not allowing E15 for heavy-duty vehicles, motorcycles, snowmobiles, boats and lawnmowers of any model year.

“In our judgment, 2001 and newer cars have more ethanol-tolerant fuel systems, evaporative emissions controls, internal engine components and catalysts,” an E.P.A. spokeswoman, Cathy Milbourn, wrote in an e-mail.

Running higher ethanol blends is especially a problem for catalytic converters, which are susceptible to premature failure resulting from higher exhaust temperatures. Ethanol’s higher oxygen content, compared with gasoline, tends to raise combustion temperatures. That can increase the formation of smog-forming gases, mainly nitrogen oxides, which catalysts are designed to clean up.

Vehicles made before 2001 “may have been designed for only limited exposure to E10 and consequently may have the potential for increased materials degradation with the use of E15,” said the E.P.A. in its original waiver decision last fall.

When used in lawnmowers, leafblowers and other equipment not designed to run on gasohol, the extra heat and added emissions are a safety issue, according to groups opposing the E15 waiver.

“All of us are O.K. with ethanol, all of us are O.K. with designing new products,” said Kris Kiser, spokesman for the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. “We don’t want anybody hurt. That’s our beef.”

The power equipment group, along with automakers and boatbuilders, is challenging the waiver in a lawsuit filed Dec. 20 in federal appellate court.
The E.P.A. is writing a pump-labeling rule to warn drivers against putting E15 in vehicles not covered under the waiver. Regulators expect to issue a final rule in the spring, Ms. Milbourn said.

In addition to emission controls, fuel systems are at risk with increased ethanol levels in cars not designed to withstand the corrosive effects of alcohol-based fuels. Especially in older vehicles using carburetors and flexible fuel lines, ethanol poses particular challenges to those hoping to keep vintage cars on the road.

As E10 has worked its way into the nation’s fuel supply, old-car restorers have taken to rebuilding carburetors, whenever possible, with larger jets to let more gasoline into the engine.

With standard jets, the usual problem is drivability, Larry Claypool, a mechanic and restorer in Frankfort, Ill., said. “The cars have hesitation or surging — symptoms of running lean.”

That is not a problem on later models. “In the newer cars that have electronic fuel injection and oxygen sensors, a sensor reads the exhaust and tells the computer to change the mixture,” said Rod Dahlgren, a classic car collector and restorer in Napa, Calif. “A carburetor can’t do that.”
Changing to larger carburetor jets is one way that racing teams are achieving higher horsepower figures with E15, Mr. Darby, the Nascar official, said. “The auto manufacturers — to meet their fuel-economy standards — with their onboard fuel injectors will lean out the mixture,” Mr. Darby said. “As it relates to a racing engine that is mechanically tuned, the teams will richen the fuel that the engine sees a little bit.”
Condensation in the gas tank is another problem in older cars, especially ones that are driven infrequently. In cars with vented gas caps, moisture can readily enter the fuel tank and contaminate the supply.

Because ethanol, like vodka and other grain alcohols, mixes with water, it can separate from gasoline in the tank, causing the engine to stall, or worse, increase corrosion.

“I just got off the phone with a guy in Texas who is looking for a new gas tank for his ’58 Cadillac,” Mr. Dahlgren said. “The car is sitting in the garage, and all of a sudden, it starts to leak. It’s not a good scenario.”

In an effort to combat corrosion and fuel degradation, some restorers will fill up with 100 percent gasoline before storing cars for long stretches.
Mr. Flickinger, the Bulgari curator, goes a step further, occasionally filling the collection’s cars with 115-octane racing fuel. Though it may not be legal for cars driven on public roads, it keeps the engines clean and improves performance.

“Everything comes to life,” he said. “It’s like giving it something good to eat.”

Mr. Dahlgren, the California collector, is concerned about owners who prefer to drive, rather than just display, their vintage machines.
“More and more cars have been relegated to the garage because we don’t want to damage them with the fuels out there,” he said. “It’s really a shame, especially when you consider how few of them are left. We’re trying to preserve history.”

Road Rider Blog

Can this be the beginning of the end for speed cameras?

According to a news item sent to me by reader Gary Pearce, a Conservative government in the UK would stop funding new fixed speed cameras
Theresa Villiers, the party’s transport shadow minister, speaking at the party conference in Manchester, attacked fixed speed cameras.

“Under Labour they’ve almost trebled. The truth is the fines they generate are blinding Labour to the proven merits of other better ways to keep our roads safe: like education, like vehicle activated signs, like traffic police.”

In a move that would affect the introduction of computerised average speed automatic numberplate recognition cameras, she said a Conservative government would not provide central funding for new fixed speed cameras, and would publish data on the effectiveness of the existing ones. “If local authorities want new cameras they’ll have to prove nothing else works better and they’ll have to find the money themselves,” she said.

Villiers added the Tories would abolish the partnerships that currently run speed cameras, and make their use more transparent. “That means publishing the information that’s now kept secret on each speed camera’s record on safety and on fines, so local communities can judge for themselves whether a camera should stay or whether it should go,” Villiers said.

“I believe that fixed speed cameras have reached their high watermark in this country. It’s time to put a stop to Labour’s cash cow camera culture,” she added.

Hmm. How do you think that would translate to Australia?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Finally someone’s doing something, but not here – yet!

I don’t normally pinch stuff from the web but I couldn’t resist this one. It’s from the Sunday Times in England, and my only comment is: we need something like Big Brother Watch here! Who’s going to put up their hand to get it going? I’ll support it in any way I can.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Think tank: Be warned, Big Brother, I’ve got my eye on you
Matthew Elliott begins a campaign against our surveillance state

Matthew Elliott
In June, Stewart Smith, who suffers from arthritis, was handed a £50 fixed penalty notice after dropping a £10 note in the street. Last year Gareth Corkhill, a father of four, had to pay £225 and got a criminal record when magistrates found him guilty of leaving the lid of his wheelie bin open by a mere four inches. Last month Stephen White’s sister Helen was rung several times and visited at her house by police officers wanting to know the whereabouts of her trainspotter brother, who had been using her car while taking pictures of trains in Pembrokeshire.

What is going on? Over the past 10 years our government has become increasingly overbearing, creating a nation of criminals out of good British citizens. We are subject to ever more officious laws and intrusive means of surveillance. Britain has 1% of the world’s population but about 20% of its CCTV cameras; it has one camera for every 14 people in the country. Last year local authorities, the police and the intelligence services made 504,073 requests to access private e-mail and telephone data — that is nearly 10,000 requests every week.

Documents leaked earlier this year revealed that GCHQ, the government’s spy centre, had already awarded £200m to suppliers as part of Mastering the Internet, a mass surveillance project designed to enable the monitoring of all internet use and phone calls in Britain.

An Englishman’s home is no longer his castle: some 266 laws now grant the state the right to enter private homes. And if they can’t get you on tape, online or in your home, in recent months a slew of websites has appeared encouraging citizens to shop people dropping litter or acting suspiciously. Just as in Orwell’s dystopia, Britain is being turned into a nation of narks.

It is time to fight back. The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) has already led the field in exposing the outrageous waste of taxpayers’ money and malpractice throughout all levels of government. Our campaigns on MPs’ expenses, the growth of the quango state and the rise of public sector fat cats have helped to shape public opinion and the policies of both the government and opposition. Now we are launching Big Brother Watch as a check on the surveillance state.

The campaign will be headed by Alex Deane, a barrister and David Cameron’s first chief of staff, supported by Dylan Sharpe, Boris Johnson’s press officer for his London mayoral campaign.

Big Brother Watch plans to produce regular investigative research papers on the erosion of civil liberties in the UK, beginning with a detailed investigation of the ways in which individual local authorities have encroached upon the lives of the ordinary British citizen, whether it be placing microchips in rubbish bins or snooping on your private telephone records. We will name and shame the local authorities most prone to authoritarian abuses.

We will also champion individual cases. We want to use the legal system to help the man in the street fight injustice and regain his personal freedom. We are building up a legal fund to back cases in which we feel a key principle is at stake.

Not many people realise they can use the Freedom of Information Act to demand to see data held about themselves by the authorities. The Human Rights Act, which came into force in 2000, makes it unlawful for any public body to act in a way that is incompatible with the European convention on human rights. The convention includes the right of access to documents and we want to help people to use this and other provisions to extend our right to government information.
In the same way that the TPA has pioneered the use of the Freedom of Information Act to bring transparency to government spending and expose the full horrors of the wastage, wages and expenses of our public representatives, we intend to unearth the reality of the Big Brother state.

Last year the TPA produced a report that put the total cost of Big Brother government at about £20 billion — or almost £800 per household. We want Big Brother Watch to become the central hub for the latest on personal freedom and civil liberty — a forum for information and discussion on something that directly affects British citizens in their everyday lives.

Big Brother Watch also aims to expose the extent to which the web has become the first line in state surveillance. Recent examples of web companies being leant on to release personal data have opened the floodgates for the co-opting of internet activity into the state’s control. Safeguards are needed before it’s too late.

We hope Big Brother Watch will become the gadfly of the ruling class, a champion for civil liberties and personal freedom — and a force to help a future government roll back a decade of state interference in our lives.

Matthew Elliott is chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance and founder of Big Brother Watch (

Road Rider Blog

Like its namesake, the one from Samothrace, Victory Motorcycles is spreading its wings.

Unlike the statue, it does have a head: in Sydney that’s motorcycle industry veteran Ezio Forcella. After a lengthy stint marketing Moto Guzzi and Aprilia, Ezio has come to Victory and dived right into the deep end by establishing the new store.

It’s been a long, hard job; I visited Ezio a couple of times while the store was being built and he was flat out each time, but it’s been worth it. I’ll let Victory Managing Director Peter Alexander introduce it:

The new Victory Motorcycles store has opened its doors in Sydney. It is our second company owned store, with the first being our Melbourne store on Elizabeth Street. Victory Sydney is at 554 Parramatta Road, Ashfield, about 8km from the Sydney CBD.

“We’ve upped the ante in Sydney with over 1200 square metres of premium showroom and workshop space.

“The showroom has dedicated constellations for all variants in the Cruiser and Touring model range, huge accessory display areas, and designated customer areas including delivery bays, coffee bar and a state of the art multimedia area with interactive features such as iPads.

“The dealership has easy access with a turning lane on Parramatta Rd to our drive way and access to plenty of parking with bike parking available under cover.”

And the opening party, on the 29th of January, was an absolute knockout. I won’t go into too many details because I don’t want to make you jealous, but I know that along with the other guests, the 80 Victory owners who rode up from Melbourne to celebrate the opening were stoked.

I’m already getting people who don’t know the first thing about bikes but know that I’m involved with them, coming up to me and saying “what’s that new big bike shop out there on Parramatta Road?”, so there is no doubt it’s being noticed.

And it made me think a bit about the current internet versus bricks-and-mortar shopping arguments; more of that soon in another blog.


Peter “The Bear” Thoeming


Road Rider Blog

Pathetic policing prevents positive perceptions…

It sounds as if the recent Ulysses Club AGM at Albany was a roaring success, and I can only apologise once again for our absence. We just couldn’t make the sums work.

But it sounds as if someone who was there would possibly have been better off staying away, namely the WA police.

Here’s an extract from a letter sent in a friend of mine, Terry Mills. Terry runs the wonderful (I am not kidding, and unfortunately I don’t have a share or get a kick-back) Borneo Biking Adventures tours ( I had convinced him that he should take a stand at a Ulysses AGM and he loved it. But there was something he wasn’t impressed by…

“Several Motor Cycle Police Patrolmen had been sent down from Perth to control the marauding gangs of Ulysses biker thugs terrorising the sleepy streets of Albany” he wrote. “Their first job on Monday morning was to find a roundabout with confusing road markings and book dozens of unsuspecting bikers new to the town.

“What a way to alienate 3500 delightful old bikers and what a totally wasted Public Relations opportunity.

“How much better for the Police to man a trade stand at the event and offer training courses and perhaps escorted ride outs.

“As an outsider looking in, it seems the Western Australian Police Force see themselves as being there to wage WAR against the general public rather than to serve them.

“What a shame.”

What a shame indeed, and disregarding Terry’s comment about “delightful old bikers” I can only say I entirely agree. Shades of the stupid over-zealous enforcement at Coffs Harbour. Oh, and while I think of it, the WA coppers could have put some of that effort into finding out who had strung wire at rider’s neck height across one of the access roads…

The Ulysses Club contributes an enormous amount to wherever they go, and not only in money. What do you have to do for some of these people?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

MV Agusta to be sold

Harley-Davidson, Inc. has announced decreased revenue, net income and earnings per share for the third quarter of 2009 compared to the year-ago period, although the slowdown of retail sales is not as great as it was in the second quarter.
Sales are down some 10 per cent in Australia which compares well with worldwide retail sales. These declined 21.3 percent in the third quarter compared to last year, and were accompanied by an 84.1 percent reduction in net income.

The Motor Company also unveiled major elements of its revised business strategy to drive growth through a single-minded focus on the unique strengths of the Harley-Davidson brand. How is that going to happen? Well, the Board of Directors has decided to close Buell and sell the recently-bought MV Agusta.

“While the environment remains challenging for us, we are mildly encouraged by the moderation in the decline of dealer retail Harley-Davidson motorcycle sales,” said Keith Wandell, Chief Executive Officer of Harley-Davidson, Inc. “And moving forward, our strategy is designed to strengthen Harley-Davidson for long-term growth and deliver results through increased focus.

“As our announcement regarding Buell and MV Agusta indicates, we are moving with the speed and decisiveness required to bring our business strategy to life,” said Wandell. “The fact is we must focus both our effort and our investment on the Harley-Davidson brand, as we believe this provides an optimal path to sustained, meaningful, long-term growth.”

So Erik Buell, America’s Bellerophon, will no longer be able to ride his Pegasus. The flying horse, in various versions, has been the logo of the sports bike manufacturer since the beginning – but this is, it seems, the end.

Effective pretty much immediately, the Motor Company will stop production of Buell motorcycles. Remaining inventories of Buell motorcycles, accessories and apparel, while they last, will continue to be sold through authorized dealerships. Warranty coverage will continue as normal for Buell motorcycles and the Company will provide replacement parts and service through dealerships.

The decision will result in a reduction over time of about 80 hourly production positions and about 100 salaried positions at Buell. Employment will end for a majority of Buell employees in the week before Christmas.

“Buell and MV Agusta are great companies, with proud brands, high-quality exciting products and passionate enthusiasm for the motorcycle business,” said Wandell . “Buell has introduced many innovative advancements in motorcycle design and technology over the years and MV Agusta is known in Europe for its premium, high-performance sport motorcycles. However, our strategy to focus on the Harley-Davidson brand reflects the fact that we believe our investments in that brand are a better utilization of overall company resources”..

Watch for a pictorial review and tribute in Australian Road Rider soon.

This message from Erik Buell is one of the most touching things I’ve ever seen.

Long live the name, even if production has ceased.
Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Another month as passed which means another new lot of prizes

Congratulations to Steve and David who won last months giveaways

Remember anyone who leaves a comment on any blog post within the month goes into the draw.

This months freebies:
1. Charley Borman’s Race to Dakar
2. The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Travel by Dale Coyner

Go for it! And remember, check here every month to see what we’ve found
to give away – it could well be a one-off that you’ll never find
anywhere else.
Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

And I’ll see you on the road in ’10

The motorcycle industry is still suffering as I write this, but I hope it is in the process of recovering – I’m waiting for the 2009 sales figures and will pass them on when I get them. But it’s important to remember that we, the riders, are not suffering nearly as much. In fact we’ve had a bit of a bonanza with some amazing discounts.

It will get more expensive as the year wears on, and the manufacturers try to claw back some of the money they’ve lost. Yes, they have taken a pretty spectacular bath; one Australian subsidiary lost $33 million in 2009… although worldwide the company lost more than a billion.

Prices are one thing. The unceasing onslaught of restrictive legislation, mainly from State governments, is another threat and it’s one we intend to fight as hard as we can this year. With your help I hope we can roll back some of the more punitive and nonsensical laws and regulations.

But the main thing is to remember to have a good time as we roll into the second decade of the 21st Century.

After a really big and extremely busy year, what with launching Cruiser+Trike and finally (I hope) completing the last of my major non-motorcycle writing projects, I’m declaring 2010 the year of The Rides.

I’ll see you on the road!

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Are pointers better than numbers? You tell us!

Gary Van den Driesen from Chewton in Victoria wrote, wondering if he is the only rider left in the world who cannot see anything good in the almost universal adoption of digital speedometers.

“My first experience of this was 20 years ago in a mate’s Ford Fairlane; I had trouble then in keeping a constant speed, and nothing seems to have changed in the interim.

“I have been told that digital speedos are more accurate than analogue ones but surely that advantage applies only over ancient mechanically driven speedos, and not the electronic versions that have been around for years?

“Is it not easier to use peripheral vision to maintain a constant speed via the position of a needle, rather than have to focus on ever-changing numerals? Try maintaining a speedo number (in the interest of accuracy remember!) and not much attention remains for traffic.

“I am not a troglodyte. If anything, I am an early adopter of new technology. But I will not buy any vehicle, no matter how good it may be, if it has such a device.

“By the way, if digital speedos are so damn good, why then are almost all tachometers still analogue?

“I have held this view for many years. It was, however, the article on the undoubtedly excellent Kawasaki 1400 GTR (ARR no. 59) that proved to be my personal ‘final straw’. The journalist says on page 93 “The instrument panel looks a little dated with the analogue speedo and tacho, where a digital speedo would freshen things up”.

“I am afraid it was the “freshen things up” attitude that got to me, and confirmed my opinion that these things are basically just a fashion statement – hopefully one that will run its course before I am too old to ride!”

Well, Gary, I’ve got to admit I like digital speedos – just as I like analogue rev counters. To me it’s easier to see the speed when it’s a number, but better to see where in the rev range I am by seeing it represented on a scale. Best of both worlds, to me. But let’s see what others think!

“I acknowledge that it may be easier to see what speed you are doing when the speed is expressed numerically rather than as – what, analogically?” Gary replied. “But I am not convinced.

“However, I stand by my assertion that it is difficult, even with a low powered vehicle, to maintain a speed number; if you are piloting a high powered vehicle it becomes almost impossible to do so – even cruise controls can’t do it consistently.

“As we all know, Victoria has a very low tolerance for error in this respect. I know how accurate the analogue speedos are in my car (100%) and on my bike (95% optimistic) and I pilot them accordingly. So far, no speeding tickets.

“But I suspect that if I regularly rode something like an R1 I would either (a) crash it because of over-attention to the digital speedo or (b) lose my licence because of under-attention to it.

“And yes, I would like to know if other baby-boomers think I am missing the point!”

Gary, I absolutely agree with you about the difficulty of maintaining a steady speed, but I don’t understand how an analogue speedo helps? To me, a number is easier to read accurately than a needle bobbing around on a scale.

“Good point, Peter” replied Gary. “I believe that every operator whose vehicle has an analogue speedo becomes very familiar with what the vehicle is doing purely by the needle’s location on the dial (as I said before, this merely needs to be kept in one’s peripheral vision). Even when confronted with an unfamiliar vehicle, an initial glance is enough to see where the needle position is going to be for any given speed (eg usually at 10 or 11 o’clock for 100 km/h). The throttle is then used to maintain the needle at that position, rather than reacting to changes in the numerals.

“Look Peter, let me put this another way. Here is a challenge for those of you with digital speedos… Find a decent stretch of country road, say 10 kilometres or so. Now, avoiding cruise control, maintain a steady 100 km/h over that stretch. You are not allowed to drop below 97 or rise above 103.

“I am a competent driver and I cannot pass this test while also watching the road. And I bet nobody else can either…”

So there’s a challenge. What do you think – could you meet Gary’s challenge – and does it matter? After all, you don’t need to stay exactly on a certain speed to avoid being booked…

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

…and more figures we simply don’t believe.

Here’s another press release from the National Motorists Association of Australia (NMAA) that’s worth reading. Especially in the light if the tragic crash just recently where a truck crossed to the wrong side of the road and killed a motorcyclist and his son, who was riding pillion. This crash happened in Tasmania, but it could happen – and similar things do happen – anywhere in Australia.

Please note that the figures for fatality reduction using speed-limiting GPS come from MUARC, whose figures we… well, let’s say “doubt”. We think these devices would increase the road troll, especially among motorcyclists.

I’d be very interested in your comments.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

National Road Safety Strategy betrayed

The National Road Safety Strategy has been betrayed by the NSW government.

Ten years ago the NSW government made a solemn commitment to the National Road Safety Strategy to reduce road fatalities by 40 per cent, based on 1999 road statistics.

It was recognised by the National Road Safety Strategy that nearly half of the reduction, 47.5 per cent to be precise, would come from government expenditure on road improvements such as divided carriageways. However, our state government failed to make this expenditure.

Instead of expending money on road improvement, the state government decided to focus on one issue: speed detection. With this contrived strategy, the government converted the roads portfolio from being a need for expenditure to being a cash cow for the State Treasury. We have reached the end of a decade of raising revenue from speeding instead of focusing on road improvements and other important factors in improving road safety. The horrific reality is that the population has suffered higher vehicle accident rates and far higher road fatalities than if the previous rate of reduction of fatalities up until 1997 had been maintained.

The focus of enforcement is imbalanced and ineffective, being primarily focused on speed. The reality is that exceeding the speed limit causes a very low percentage of road fatalities. Australian university research has shown that preventing every vehicle from exceeding the speed limit by means of GPS speed controllers would reduce road fatalities by less than 8 per cent and reduce road injuries by less than 6 per cent. It is not appropriate to focus on the cause of less than 8 per cent of fatalities and to ignore the causes for 92 per cent of road fatalities.

The National Road Safety Strategy recognised government expenditure on road improvements, such as divided carriageways, is the most significant means of reducing road deaths and injuries. The state government’s decision to not spend the money on road improvements was an act of betrayal to the National Road Safety Strategy and the public in general.

Divided carriageways on main roads are essential. An example of this construction is the concrete Jersey barrier on Mount Ousley Road. It separates oncoming traffic with a concrete barrier. This barrier effectively prevents most head on crashes that are so devastating to human life.

Providing divided dual carriageways on the Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne is reported to have reduced road fatalities by 80 per cent.

NMAA spokesman Michael Lane said “The only thing protecting oncoming traffic on most of our main roads is a line painted on the road surface. It’s cheaper for the government to blame the drivers than to make the roads safer. The state government should be improving our road network by providing more overtaking lanes and divided dual carriageways.”

“The small reduction in road fatalities in the past decade is directly attributable to improved vehicle safety that has been provided by vehicle manufacturers. Examples are ABS brakes, air bags and curtains, seat belt reminders and electronic stability control,” Mr Lane said.

Nationally, road fatalities increased by 60 over the previous year. However, in NSW road fatalities increased by 85 over the previous year.

The NMAA calls for improving road safety by three courses of action
• a vastly improved standard of driver training, requiring P-platers to complete a defensive driving course before being granted a full licence
• increased expenditure on roads, such as providing divided carriageways and more overtaking lanes
• employment of more highway patrol officers enforcing all of the road rules, not just the one road rule (speeding) where technology allows the most tickets per hour to be issued.

Mr Lane said “The decade has ended with a horrific toll of human lives on our substandard roads in NSW. Now watch the government spin doctors swing into action as they blame the public as the sole cause of all those fatalities. The government’s next proposed course of action is to increase state revenue with covert speed cameras and to allow private contractors to operate them. The state government has reduced the number of highway patrol officers to cut costs and now wants to use contractors.”

“The NMAA is concerned that the state opposition’s main pressure on this issue is that Labor has not rolled out the speed cameras fast enough.” Mr Lane said “I would suggest that both parties are united in their betrayal of the NSW public by seeking revenue over safety. Both Liberal and Labor need to be pressured through the media into a change of policy. I can’t see any good in having the opposition intending to do the same thing if elected. The state government cannot be allowed to use the excuse of waiting for the next National Road Safety Strategy to be published when the job of the last ten years is unfinished.”

Mr Lane said “The state’s road revenue strategy has cost hundreds of innocent lives each year for the past decade. We deserve better government than this.”

Road Rider Blog

You’ll be relieved to see that we’re cranking the kickstarter of our website at last, preparing to fire her up again and get rolling. Not before time, we know.

The Road Rider website has been neglected for months, but now that I’ve got my head around the magazine and my hand around the throat of its deadlines, I can turn some attention to the pixel-packed pages that complement the paper. 

This little blog is me confirming I’ve turned the kill switch to ‘on’, ensured the battery is charged and the fuel fresh, and have fired her up. The VACC news story is the first part of the oil change to get something new and good into the crankcases, and we’ll have more content rolling in soon until we’re at cruising speed again. 

I’ll even try to figure out how to get my surname spelled correctly, but I don’t think they trust an editor to do that himself. I wouldn’t.

Meanwhile, though, I’m out of here for a couple of days. There’s a bike to be tested and a long loop via Canberra on the cards, with a first taste of Yamaha’s new FJR1300 along the way. Riding the keyboard doesn’t hold quite the same attraction, so I hope you’ll forgive my quick g’day here before I head off again. 

Road Rider Blog

The best of intentions can easily lead you astray if you don’t bother to test your ideas, and to use proper discretion. Victoria’s TAC, are you listening? Are you reconsidering your stupid “fear and loathing” advertising campaign yet? You ought to be, as this story abstracted from the US Advertising Age (Thursday, March 4, 2010) suggests.

Ads Intended To Curb Binge Drinking Cause Binge Drinking

A new study out of Northwestern University’s esteemed Kellogg School of Management shows that advertisements crafted by public interest groups that are intended to stop or curb binge drinking on college campuses are only contributing to the problem. “It has long been assumed, of course, that guilt and shame were ideal ways of warning of the dangers associated with binge drinking and other harmful behaviors, because they are helpful in spotlighting the associated personal consequences,” Advertising Age reported. “But this study found the opposite to be true: Viewers already feeling some level of guilt or shame instinctively resist messages that rely on those emotions, and in some cases are more likely to participate in the behavior they’re being warned about.” The study is based on more than 1,000 interviews with students, and professors associated with it believe it has implications outside of binge drinking advertisements. The lesson is that advertisements should be positive, with their messages toned down; trying to take advantage of feelings of guilt or shame will only turn viewers against the ad. The study will be published in the Journal of Marketing Research.

And so say all of us. Ill-considered, condescending campaigns like the TAC’s (showing badly hurt riders and so on) are capable of doing enormous damage. That’s what I think, anyway. How do you feel about it?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

I was down
at the newsagent’s this morning, talking care of my usual chores – you know,
putting copies of ARR and C+T in front or on top of all the other bike
magazines – when I saw a cover that stopped me in my tracks.

It was one
of the “comics”, as Lester refers to them, the magazines devoted to pages and
pages of small ads flogging second-hand bikes or end-of-range runouts that the
shops haven’t been able to sell off the floor. The cover, at first glimpse,
looked very familiar.

Now you
need to know that I’ve just been to the US to ride Honda’s new chopper, the
Fury, for Cruiser+Trike. First ride by an Australian motorcycle writer, folks,
and the first time anyone put a decent bit of distance on the bike: I did 2000

It is a
knockout both to look at and ride, and going by the reaction I got from
everyone who saw it – riders and non-riders alike – then it will sell its
wossnames off. But here it looked like the Fury was on the cover – of another

A closer
look disabused me of that idea. The bike was actually a specially-built
chopper, although it did look remarkably like the Honda – even down to the
shape of the tank and the front guard.

But here’s
the crunch: the bike on the cover was advertised for $39,000. The Fury will
probably cost half that, or less. And it will come with a full factory
warranty, Honda’s usual reliability etc etc.

The line
forms on the right, folks!

Oh, that’s
after we get ours. We’ve put our hand up to customise one.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Remember Austen Tayshus’ routine? Now it’s your turn!

Yes, venting your spleen can make you feel a whole lot better. I’m going to be away for a while (EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, and then a short break in the UK to check out the rebuilt Birmingham motorcycle museum etc) so I thought I’d leave you a task while I’m gone.

Write in and tell us what you really hate about motorcycling.

I just read this morning about the criminal gang Notorious in the paper – and it was referred to as a “bikie gang” even though the members never go near bikes and there is no connection with motorcycling in the gang’s operations.

I hate that.

We just recently had someone write in to tell us that the bill for servicing his bike included a charge for checking the battery and cleaning the battery terminals. When he took a look he found a very much uncleaned battery with extremely grotty terminals. On mentioning this to the shop, he was told that the bill was computer generated and the battery must have been missed.

Ooh, he hated that!

And so on. What are your pet hates?

Maybe bloggers who ask you what your pet hates are?

Come on, write in – and tell your friends to do the same. Let’s get a really good list of motorcycling hates together. Could make a story for ARR?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

“Motorcycling has lost none of its attraction”

The Vietnamese people use a simple scale from one to ten to judge events, things and feelings. Number 1 is the worst, number 10 is the best. Going with that measurement, next year will be the best one yet.

Let’s hope so.

The problems of the international banking system certainly cast a pall over the motorcycle industry in 2009. We in Australia have been relatively well off; our market is down, but not disastrously. It’s more like a correction after several years of very strong growth. Things have been considerably worse overseas, especially in the US.

What we need to remember, though, is that motorcycling has lost none of its attraction just because the bankies stuffed up. It’s still economical, enjoyable, time-smart and a great way to express yourself. There is no shortage of new bikes – the total number may be down, but if there’s anyone out there who can’t find exactly what they’re looking for (albeit at a price, but it was ever thus) then they’re just plain too fussy.

So I reckon it’s going to be a pretty good year if we only let it!

Just as well. The past year was not really a keeper. Apart from the Big Money Shamozzle or whatever it was called, 2009 also held some more intimate tragedies. Here are just a few.

The greatest shock was the death of David “Davo” Jones, one of the best-loved motorcyclists in Australia. Davo, who rode the new 1400GTR Kawasaki across Australia and back for us, leaves not only a grieving family but also a devastated long distance riding community.
We lost a good friend, and many people lost an irreplaceable mentor.

Very sadly, we also just lost Peter Smith. I’m going to his funeral tomorrow.

Better known as Mr Smith, he enlivened first the pages of BIKE Australia and subsequently Two Wheels with his own anarchic brand of gonzo “journalism”.

Smith was an original, and we shall not see his like again – we’ll have a bit of a tribute in ARR in the New Year.

And Pete Lawrence from Adelaide has news of a truly despicable theft.

“Ian Corlett, late secretary of the SA Historic Motor Cycle Racing Register, passed away just before Easter 2009.

“In a sad postscript to his death, Ian’s 1912 Triumph racer was stolen from a locked garage at his family’s home in Adelaide in September 2009. Ian’s restoration of this bike was a labour of love over a 10 year period. Its last outing was in the parade laps at the 2009 Adelaide Clipsal 500. Ian’s Triumph was displayed in pride of place inside the Church at his funeral.

“His family are quite distressed at this loss, and would love to see this tribute to Ian’s love of motorcycling returned to them.

“If you see this distinctive and rare Triumph, or any bike which you suspect may be Ian’s Triumph, please report the sighting to BankSA Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.”

But that’s all the sadness you’ll get out of me. Now’s the season to be jolly – until ’10 kicks in! It’s going to be a huge year, folks, with lots of projects, trips and other plans.

Hope I survive it.

With good will to all womankind and mankind and whatever other kind there is out there, and all the best wishes to you and yours, your Bear.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Faster unfaired

This little story from Cruiser+Trike 5 will give you a chance to show just how much you know about motorcycle history…

Harley-Davidson built this EL record bike to promote the power and performance of the recently introduced 1936 overhead valve, 61 cubic inch knucklehead engine. The bike was equipped with twin carburettor and a fuel mixture of alcohol and benzoyl boosted output to 65 horsepower at 5700rpm. The little fairing is actually a half petrol tank.

According to the factory, this bike may well have been the first time streamlining was used in the United States for motorcycle speed record purposes.

Ironically, it didn’t work. When H-D’s factory race team member Joe Petrali set about practice runs at Bonneville Salt Flats, he experienced serious high-speed wobbles several times. The engineers at the site suspected that the streamlined bodywork was the cause. They removed it and taped a conventional seat onto the frame instead.

And lo: that did work. On the 13th of March 1937, Petrali broke the record of 123mph, which had stood since 1926, with two-way timed runs averaging 134.83mph. He bettered that the next day with averaged runs of 136.85mph. Runs were timed electrically by John LaTour, the same man who timed Sir Malcolm Campbell’s record attempts. The record was authenticated by E.C. Smith for the American Motorcycle Association.

Now here’s the trick: one of the assertions in the story above is incorrect. Which is it? Can you work it out – without looking it up? The answer is below. Don’t peek, now!

Answer: The record runs were made at Daytona Beach, not Bonneville.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

This is one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to write. David “Davo” Jones, he of the transcontinental rides, the FarRiders, the GTR forum and so much else, has died as the result of a bike crash.

Davo was in the United States living his dream – he was taking part in the Iron Butt ride, one of the few Australians ever to get the nod for this invitation-only event. It seems he was only about 65 miles from the end of the ride when he collided with a deer. He suffered a broken hand, and head injuries from which he died in hospital in Coeur D’Alene.

This is where the story becomes bizarre. The State Trooper who attended the crash reported that Davo had not been wearing his helmet.
While I certainly don’t want to question the Trooper’s report – after all, he was there – I simply cannot understand this. Davo was one of the most safety-conscious riders I have ever known. When we planned his ride across Australia and back for ARR to assess whether the Kawasaki 1400 GTR really was a “transcontinental” motorcycle, both his and my priority at all times was safety. He could have done the ride much faster, but at a risk – and we decided that that risk was simply not worth it. Davo was a father figure for many riders, and one subject on which he knew no compromise was safety.

I just can’t believe that this was the same man who was supposedly out there with his helmet strapped to the back of his bike. My first reaction was – maybe he’d swapped bikes with someone else, for some weird reason, and it was the other person who crashed. Silly, I know, but you reach for the strangest explanations when reality doesn’t make sense.

To bring the whole thing into absolute relief, it seems that one of the doctors treating Davo said that if he’d been wearing his helmet, his worst injury would have been the broken hand.

But enough of that. All of our thoughts now are with Davo’s wife Wil and the rest of his family. The wider motorcycling family, including the Ulysses Club and Davo’s own beloved FarRiders, has been inundating his son-in-law Jim with offers of help. We’ll help, too, in any way we can – and eventually, with the agreement of the family, we hope to organise some kind of memorial for Davo. Probably something relating to road safety.

In the meantime, all I can really do is write “goodbye, mate… I’ll miss you”.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Even light beer might be out for you in the “sunshine State”

We’re doing some checking into this move to zero blood alcohol for Queensland riders, but in the meantime here is a letter sent by one of our readers to the Queensland Minister for Transport in response to the call for tenders to “research” this “innovative” move.

Read it, and get stuck into writing something similar if you value your freedom!

The Minister for Transport.

Good morning, Ms Nolan.

I write with regard to tender document RSSM 0610: To investigate the lowering or complete zeroing of BAC ( Blood Alcohol Content ) for motorcyclists. I have to ask why.

Are m/cyclists more likely than the general motoring public to operate while intoxicated ? I’ve looked at what data I can find on line and yes, riders are over-represented for crashes on a percentage basis compared to drivers but I see nothing to indicate that we – I’m a rider and have been for 40 years – are more likely to operate drunk. I think you’d find ” don’t drink and ride ” stronger among bikers than the equivalent would be among motorists.

Please consider that when we crash we almost always only kill or maim ourselves and the very rare pillion. When drivers meet the same fate they can have a vehicle full to over-flowing with passengers – two examples of car-loads of young people in major crashes recently come to mind. While on that point why not bring in a law that there should be no more than 2 people under the age of 25 in a vehicle at any one time ? Think how many lives and how much heart-ache that would save. When we crash it is usually into something fixed – trees, power-poles, barriers, etc, and when we crash with cars the responsibility is often shared. In any case the driver walks away. We don’t take out groups or even single pedestrians. So why are we being targetted ?

I offer this for your reflection: I’m 65, semi-retired. I own a large touring motor-cycle. When my wife and I go out on the bike, which we do as often as we can, we like to stop for lunch at a country pub. She has a soft-drink, I get a pot of Gold. We loosen or remove our riding gear, relax, have our meal, then either talk to locals or walk around the town before getting back on the bike. Find me a problem in that. If this investigation were to turn into a law I would be sitting there nursing a soft-drink while watching a motorist load his wife and kids ( up to a total of 8 people in some cases ) into 2 tonnes of 4WD and then drive off with a BAC of up to .049. Do you not find something odd or droll in that comparison ? It also means that if I were to persist with my harmless activity of having a single beer, after legislation I would become a criminal. THAT MAKES ME EXTREMELY BLOODY ANGRY ! IF SAID 4WD DRIVER IS CONSIDERED SOBER ENOUGH TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR UP TO 8 OTHER PEOPLE THEN WHY AREN’T I CONSIDERED SOBER ENOUGH TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR A MAXIMUM OF 2 ? I’m not apologising for the upper case – I’m ropable and I need you to know it. I loathe discrimination and I equally loathe being patronized. And for God’s sake don’t give me that line about ” If it only saves one life. . . .”. If that was a working philosophy there are dozens of ideas you could legislate into practice and damn well you know it ! I have to say that the whole idea reeks of political expediency.

I’ll finish with the following : If the Executive wants to go down this legislative path then let them have the courage to make it zero BAC for ALL road users. One in, all in and damn the electoral consequences, eh ? Truck drivers already have to be at zero and at first sight that seems fine: Being in charge of 60 to 70 tonnes of machinery means that of course the driver should be dry. His operation can have a devastating effect on others; but so can a car driver’s and there’s a lot more of them. Of course, we know that it wouldn’t stop intoxicated riding or driving any more than the present legislation does. Law-abiding people obey the law, the others don’t. It’ll just makes more work for the police and the judiciary ( and the bloody lawyers). Think of all the challenges when drivers or riders are booked and found to have taken no more than medicine. Will you also legislate to ensure that the alcohol content of such pharmaceuticals is shown prominently on the label ? Will we have an on-going public awareness campaign to warn of the dangers of alcoholic medicines ? I’m sure the greater population knows and accepts that you can’t legislate for stupidity so please don’t inflict ineffectual restrictions on other-wise law-abiding people by trying to do the impossible.

I will post this today. After 7 calendar days I will be sending copies of it, with only variation being suitable form of address to the Editors of all Qld papers, the Brisbane Times on-line, to each State Parliamentarian and into any pertinent, on-line discussion forum that I find.

Thank-you very much for your time. I wish you well. Sincerely,

Ross Halpin

What do you think about this business?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Sydney riders, listen up! This could save your license

We have obtained some info about a covert operation running out of the NSW Police Traffic Services unit at Eastern Creek.

The Boys in Blue have two Honda Blackbirds which are set up with radar and camera for mobile detection of speeding vehicles (spell that m-o-t-o-r-c-y-c-l-e-s. One of the ‘Birds is blue, but we don’t know the other colour.

It seems that this is a top secret operation; some of the Highway Patrol blokes we know hadn’t even heard of it – and they ride the “proper” stickered-up Police bikes!

Remember when the cops had Mini Coopers? They were frequently accused of “pushing” drivers to speed. Well, from what we’ve been told those days might be back with the advent of these bikes.

“They follow you and sit quite close to you,” says our informant, “which in turn makes you accelerate away from them, which is the time they lock you in on the radar and snap away. [Expletive deleted]”

When you receive the penalty notice it comes with a letter explaining you have been nabbed by a covert unit. Presumably this would come from the State Debt Recovery Office?

Oh, and this “new” method of keeping us all safer is allegedly not restricted to the two Blackbirds. There are some Plain Jane cars out there as well with the same equipment, but we haven’t been able to find out what type they are.

“They are only supposed to be patrolling the main roads,” according to our informan, “as in the M4, M7, M5, M2 and the F3, but knowing these [expletive deleteds], they could be anywhere!”

So don’t let anyone hustle you into speeding. Obey the law, the way we know you always do! Right?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

You’ll be relieved to see that we’re cranking the kickstarter of our website at last, preparing to fire her up again and get rolling. Not before time, we know.

The Road Rider website has been neglected for months, but now that I’ve got my head around the magazine and my hand around the throat of its deadlines, I can turn some attention to the pixel-packed pages that complement the paper. 

This little blog is me confirming I’ve turned the kill switch to ‘on’, ensured the battery is charged and the fuel fresh, and have fired her up. The VACC news story is the first part of the oil change to get something new and good into the crankcases, and we’ll have more content rolling in soon until we’re at cruising speed again. 

I’ll even try to figure out how to get my surname spelled correctly, but I don’t think they trust an editor to do that himself. I wouldn’t.

Meanwhile, though, I’m out of here for a couple of days. There’s a bike to be tested and a long loop via Canberra on the cards, with a first taste of Yamaha’s new FJR1300 along the way. Riding the keyboard doesn’t hold quite the same attraction, so I hope you’ll forgive my quick g’day here before I head off again. 

Road Rider Blog

Slow news day or not, only Channel 7 carried a report on our Rally outside State Parliament in Sydney on Tuesday – but it was a good segment, managing to present our case fairly sympathetically.

Of the newspapers the following day, only the Sydney Morning Herald carried a piece… in its The Diary social pages.

But we did get somewhere. When the rally had dispersed, the minister responsible for the Motor Accident Authority, Michael Daley, met with Rob Colligan, chairman of the Motorcycle Council of NSW and speaker at the rally, and promised to make available the data used by the insurance companies to set the new prices. Mr Daley said while a third of the state’s 170,000 motorcycle owners will pay more for their green slip, more than 50 per cent would pay less, and 12 per cent would face an increase of $10 or less.

It’s good to see that something positive is happening, but keep writing those letters. The besieged Ms Kenneally needs to be reminded of the voting power of thousands of motorcycle riders.

Road Rider Blog

Yep, the latest news is that
bikies are even worse for the country and for each of us individually than the
various governments had thought. Recent figures estimate that rather than
killing one bloke at Sydney Airport, they kill 4550 each and every year. Worse
yet, they knock two years off your – yes, your! – lifespan. Time to do

Oh, sorry. That’s hospitals that
kill 4550 people each year, and the current standard of health care that
reduces all of our lives by two years. Not bikies at all. Whew. That’s great.
Now we don’t need to do anything about it.

If you’ve ever needed to have the
government’s bikie panic put into context, that should do it.

But why was the official reaction
to the bikie “threat” so severe, while nothing at all seems to be being done
about the vast number of unnecessary deaths in hospitals?

Why are doctors pushing “road
safety” scare campaigns that, let’s face it, affect very few people when they
can’t even keep people alive in their hospitals?

What is it about motorcycles and
motorcyclists that brings out the red-eyed control freak in officials of all

I’d like to see everyone who has
any input into motorcycle laws and their enforcement pass a simple test. I’d
like them to prove that their mum or dad never forbade them to have a bike when
they were young.

Yes, I think there must be some
jealousy there somewhere.

How else do you explain it?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

just seen the June Australian magazine circulation figures. About a
quarter of the magazines checked by the Audit Bureau of Circulations
(ABC) have seen increases, the other three quarters have lost sales.

Not to
drag this out for too long, Australian Road Rider’s circulation has
grown by 4.54% to 21,971. We are the only motorcycle (in fact, the only
motoring-type) magazine to have increased sales. Australian Motorcycle
News, the closest comparable magazine on the market, lost 6.69% with
sales dropping to 21,001.

means we’re the best-selling pure motorcycle magazine in Australia once
again. And we have you to thank for that. Thank you, thank you, thank

assured that we feel suitably humble that you should take us to this
position, and that we will do our best to keep providing you with the
content, the look and the attitude that you obviously want.

I’m not
counting the trader-type publications, which contain mostly classified
advertising. As it happens, both of them outsell us but both of them
also lost sales in June. Motorcycle Trader is down 2.93% to 26,945,
while Just Bikes has lost 3.65% to finish at 33,692. I’m also not
counting dirt bike magazines, although only one of them (ADB) is
audited anyway, and it lost 2.64%. Two Wheels is not audited and I’m
not going to speculate on its sales although there is no doubt in my
mind that they are well below ours.

two big motoring magazines have copped a hiding with Wheels down 17.93%
to 55,868 and Motor down 20.16% to finish at 35,160. Mind you, Diabetic
Living is up 18.58%, and Sporting Shooter is up 9.05%. It still only
sells 13,963 copies.

biggest growth for a mass circulation magazine was seen by Famous,
which went to 80,593 sales for a growth of 20%. Yeah, yeah, I know – I
don’t care either…

Anyway, thanks again for taking us ahead.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Another kneejerk reaction from the Queensland government

Incapable of interpreting statistics and unable to come up with sensible idea, the Queensland State government has flagged the idea of zero alcohol limit for Queensland’s motorcyclists. Promoted as a response to that state’s worrying road toll statistics for 2009, it is in fact more like a populist attack on a pretty much defenceless minority group – motorcyclists.

Motorcycle statistics are showing a rise over the last five years, but the numbers are far below the increase in motorcycle use. In other words, it’s like employing more people in your company and then complaining that the wage bill has risen.

Once you consider the full figures, it looks as if motorcycling is actually becoming safer. But it’s also looking as if the Queensland government would prefer to wipe motorcyclists off the map entirely – witness the nonsensical decision to require potential riders to have a car licence for a year before they can apply for a bike or scooter permit.

And they’re reviving the idea of radio tags for bikes, an invention George Orwell would have loved for his book 1984.

According to the Brisbane Murdoch paper, the Courier Mail: “Queensland Transport is investigating the benefits of a zero alcohol limit as part of its four-year motorcycle safety strategy, along with new technology to prevent bikes escaping speed camera detection.

“Radio Frequency Identification Devices are being developed to help overcome the problem of motorbikes not having a front registration plate by allowing bikes to be identified through other means.”

And it’s never really hard to find someone who hasn’t thought things through to make a comment, is it?

Also in the Courier Mail, the clearly confused Terry Walker of the United Motorcycle Council of Queensland said: “Make it zero tolerance on the road everywhere. But certainly we’d support a zero limit for bikers because you need to be as alert as possible when riding.”

And make motorcyclists wear yellow hats while you’re at it, Terry. And when they’re not on their bikes, make them ride in the back of the bus.

Mate, think before you comment: anything that discriminates against riders only makes it easier to target them.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Every now and then some snippet from the interwebs really hits a nerve with our readers,

and I suddenly get a stack of e-mail referring me to some news that’s pretty much always interesting.

Not like this one, though. This isn’t just interesting – it’s revolutionary… but it’s also something that we’ve all known all along.
The item is an article by Todd Halterman on an American motorcycle insurance site. It’s called “This Is Your Brain on a Motorcycle”. Here it is in full; I couldn’t bring myself to abbreviate it.

Riding a motorcycle every day might actually keep your brain functioning at peak condition, or so says a study conducted by the University of Tokyo. The study demonstrated that riders between the age of 40 and 50 were shown to improve their levels of cognitive functioning, compared to a control group, after riding their motorcycles  daily to their workplace for a mere two months.

Scientists believe that the extra concentration needed to successfully operate a motorcycle can contribute to higher general levels of brain function, and it’s that increase in activity that’s surely a contributing factor to the appeal of the motorcycles as transportation. It’s the way a ride on a bike turns the simplest journey into a challenge to the senses that sets the motorcyclist apart from the everyday commuter. While the typical car-owning motorist is just transporting him or herself from point A to point B, the motorcyclist is actually transported into an entirely different state of consciousness .

Riding a motorcycle is all about entrance into an exclusive club where the journey actually is the destination.

Dr Ryuta Kawashima, author of Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain, reported the outcome of his study of “The relationship between motorcycle riding and the human mind.”

Kawashima’s experiments involved current riders who currently rode motorcycles on a regular basis (the average age of the riders was 45) and  ex-riders who once rode regularly but had not taken a ride for 10 years or more. Kawashima asked the participants to ride on courses in different conditions while he recorded their brain activities. The eight courses included a series of curves, poor road conditions, steep hills, hair-pin turns and a variety of other challenges.

What did he find? After an analysis of the data, Kawashima found that the current riders and ex-riders used their brain in radically different ways. When the current riders rode motorcycles, specific segments of their brains (the right hemisphere of the prefrontal lobe) was activated and riders demonstrated a higher level of concentration.

His next experiment was a test of how making a habit of riding a motorcycle affects the brain.

Trial subjects were otherwise healthy people who had not ridden for 10 years or more. Over the course of a couple of months, those riders used a  motorcycle for their daily commute and in other everyday situations while Dr Kawashima and his team studied how their brains and mental health changed.

The upshot was that the use of motorcycles in everyday life improved cognitive faculties, particularly those that relate to memory and spatial reasoning capacity. An added benefit? Participants revealed on questionnaires they filled out at the end of the study that their stress levels had been reduced and their mental state changed for the better.

So why motorcycles? Shouldn’t driving a car should have the same effect as riding a motorcycle?

“There were many studies done on driving cars in the past,” Kawashima said. “A car is a comfortable machine which does not activate our brains. It only happens when going across a railway crossing or when a person jumps in front of us. By using motorcycles more in our life, we can have positive effects on our brains and minds”.

Yamaha participated in a second joint research project on the subject of the relationship between motorcycle riding and brain stimulation with Kawashima Laboratory at the Department of Functional Brain Imaging, Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer at Tohoku University.

The project began in September 2009 and ran until December 2010, and the focus of the research was on measurement and analysis of the cause and effect relationship involved in the operation of various types of vehicles and brain stimulation. The study measured changes in such stimulation over time by means of data gathered from a long-term mass survey.

The reason for Yamaha Motor’s participation in this project is pretty obvious and not a little self-serving, but further research into the relationship between motorcycle riding and brain stimulation as it relates to the “Smart Aging Society” will certainly provide some interesting results.

The second research project was divided into two time periods throughout 2009 and 2010 compared differences in the conditions of brain stimulation as they related to the type of vehicle and driving conditions. A second set of tests measuring the changes in brain stimulation over time involved a larger subject group.

Yamaha Motors provided vehicles for the research and made its test tracks and courses available for the study. What the study revealed is that what you’re thinking about while you’re riding – and your experience on the bike –  changes the physical structure of your brain.

Author Sharon Begley concurs with Kawashima’s findings. In her tome, Train Your Mind – Change Your Brain, Begley found much the same outcomes.

“The brain devotes more cortical real estate to functions that its owner uses more frequently and shrinks the space devoted to activities rarely performed,” Begley wrote. “That’s why the brains of violinists devote more space to the region that controls the digits of the fingering hand.”

And you may also get some mental and physical benefits from just thinking about going for a ride on your machine.

A 1996 experiment at Harvard Medical School by neuroscientist Alvaro Pascual-Leone had volunteers practice a simple five finger exercise on the piano over five days for a couple of hours each day. Pascual-Leone found that the brain space devoted to these finger movements grew and pushed aside areas less used.  A separate group of volunteers were asked to simply think about doing the piano exercises during that week as well, and they dedicated the same amount of “practice time.”

Pascual-Leone was somewhat taken aback to discover that the region of the brain which controls piano playing finger movement expanded in the same way for volunteers who merely imagined playing the piano.

Along with the obvious benefits of riding motorcycles; like saving money (motorcycle insurance is relatively inexpensive), motorcycles take the edge off the grind of the daily commute, and that appears to make your brain a better place to be…

Thanks again to all the people who sent me links or copies of this, and thanks to Tod for writing it!

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Smelly helmet tells rider when it’s damaged

Here’s a beaut bit of news from The Sunday Times in Britain.

Coming off a motorbike is painful enough, but having to then scrap an expensive helmet leaves a bruise in the wallet as well. The need to take this precaution could soon be over with the development of helmets that let you know when they need replacing.

Researchers have made microcapsules that give off a pungent smell when they break open. These are put into the helmet’s foam and crack during any serious impact that could damage the interior of the helmet.

“If cracks form, smelly substances are released,” says Christof Koplin, a scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials in Germany.

Koplin says the technology can also be used for cycle helmets. “Cyclists often replace helmets unnecessarily because they cannot tell if they are damaged,” says Koplin. “The capsules eliminate this problem.”

The foam in helmets is designed to compress and crack in an accident, absorbing the impact before it reaches the rider’s skull. Once it has compressed, it loses its impact-absorbing capability, so manufacturers advise riders to replace their headgear after any serious crash — even if the helmet appears undamaged.

I offered this item to some friends for comment, and got responses neatly sorted by sex.

“Sounds good,” said the males.

“Urrgh! Smelly hair!” said the females.

What do you think?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Figures released by
the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) show 55,500 motorcycles,
scooters and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) were sold in the six months to the end
of June – a 14 percent decline compared to the same period in 2008.

“This result
reflects the impact of broader economic conditions,” FCAI Chief Executive
Andrew McKellar said. “Motorcycle sales are now at the level we would
expect them to be and are broadly consistent with the trends in new car

Road bikes lost only
13.4 percent of sales compared to last year, with 20,763 sales. Scooter sales
fell 29.3 percent. Cruisers remained the strongest selling road bikes with 22.5
percent of the market followed by 250s on 15.5 percent and supersport bikes on
12.5 percent. Interestingly, Suzuki, with 3563 sales, actually led the road bike
market in front of Harley-Davidson with 3548 sales, with Honda third on 3477.

So… yes, sales are
down and there is clearly more pain to come by way of unemployment, although it
looks more like 7.5 percent rather than the 11 percent the Americans expect.
But all the Hanrahans who reckoned we were “rooned” might like to have a look
at the general economic indicators.

Westpac-Melbourne Institute index of consumer sentiment rose by 23 percent in
the past couple of months, to its highest level since December 2007. New
Housing loans are at a 16 month high. House prices are up everywhere but Perth.
And the Reserve bank’s estimate that real gross domestic product would shrink
by 1 percent in 2009 is about to be revised – probably to growth of half a

Things are tough in
the rest of the world, true. But Australia, probably more by luck than good
management, has avoided the worst of the recession.

Most of the
motorcycle industry seems to agree.

“All things
considered we’re doing quite well,” says Harley-Davidson’s Adrian O’Donoughue.
Honda’s Tony Sesto reckons that “for the remainder of the year, we have a
couple of all-new bikes to look forward to” and that will stimulate sales. For
BMW, Cameron Cuthill sees that “the outlook for the remainder of the year looks
very positive”. Over at Triumph, Mal Jarrett is “particularly pleased to be in
a positive position, given the current economic climate”.

Obviously I can’t
see the future, but the glimpses I get are pretty positive. I’m going to stop
worrying, and I’m going to book a doozy of a holiday.

Want to join me?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Insurance company Budget Direct has done some research on attitudes towards bicycles and by bicyclists. It makes interesting reading (I’ve edited it a little), and in many cases you can substitute “motorcycle” for “bicycle”…

“There is no doubt that Cadel Evans winning the Tour De France will increase the number of cyclists on our roads.  The following results prove that better education needs to start now!
“Disturbing results prove an ‘at your own risk’ mentality exists in the motoring community as 44% of drivers believe that while cyclists have a right to use our roads, their safety is their own responsibility, ignoring that all road users have a responsibility for each others’ safety. “Furthermore, only 19% admit that motorists need to change their views about cyclists on our roads says car insurance provider Budget Direct.
“On the contrary, 32% of cyclists say that motorists need to change their views in regards to safety and learn to be patient, while 26% state that governments promote cycling because it eases traffic congestion, so all road users need to be aware of road safety.   
“Spokesperson for Budget Direct Richelle Ward said the alarming results uncover a negative driver mentality that needs to be addressed now or we risk unnecessary accidents.
“Unnecessary swerving, abuse, and lack of consideration due to driving too close, or disregarding road rules are immature and dangerous behaviours conducted by both motorists and cyclists. Both need to show more respect and stop putting lives in danger,” Ms Ward said.
“The results also found that, 59% of motorists felt that a lack of allowance for bikes on our roads is the most difficult issue facing cyclists, a further 34% say that motorists’ own awareness in regards to cyclist’s safety – including not keeping a safe distance and not being aware of bike-related road rules –  is what makes cyclists vulnerable.
“Cyclists, on the other hand, agree lack of allowance for bikes is a problem (39%), although a whopping 51% are concerned about motorists’ awareness in relation to cyclists, predominantly due to a need for motorists to keep a safe distance (35%), and motorists’ poor understanding of road rules making sharing the road difficult for cyclists (16%).”    
All interesting stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. But isn’t it funny that nobody ever made this kind of fuss when an Australian won a motorcycle world championship…
Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

You’ll be relieved to see that we’re cranking the kickstarter of our website at last, preparing to fire her up again and get rolling. Not before time, we know.

The Road Rider website has been neglected for months, but now that I’ve got my head around the magazine and my hand around the throat of its deadlines, I can turn some attention to the pixel-packed pages that complement the paper. 

This little blog is me confirming I’ve turned the kill switch to ‘on’, ensured the battery is charged and the fuel fresh, and have fired her up. The VACC news story is the first part of the oil change to get something new and good into the crankcases, and we’ll have more content rolling in soon until we’re at cruising speed again. 

I’ll even try to figure out how to get my surname spelled correctly, but I don’t think they trust an editor to do that himself. I wouldn’t.

Meanwhile, though, I’m out of here for a couple of days. There’s a bike to be tested and a long loop via Canberra on the cards, with a first taste of Yamaha’s new FJR1300 along the way. Riding the keyboard doesn’t hold quite the same attraction, so I hope you’ll forgive my quick g’day here before I head off again. 

Road Rider Blog

Earnestness and self-righteousness are not restricted to car drivers and bicyclists, although they (and especially the latter) seem to abound in both. We get them in the motorcycle fraternity and sorority as well. Currently there’s a bit of a to-do about wearing coloured clothing, which I guess I stirred up in the first place but which has well and truly got away from me.

Just to set the record straight, I do not advise anyone to not wear brightly-coloured clothing, even fluoro vests. All I say is that you shouldn’t rely on this stuff to keep you safe. That takes a bit more than just advertising your presence to those few drivers who actually care about us.

But there are riders who would cheerfully damn anyone who doesn’t dress like an organ-grinder’s monkey, and who are (advertantly or inadvertently) encouraging government authorities to think about mandating it. You might have seen that the Victorian TAC intends to discount compensation payments for riders who were not wearing padded safety gear when they crashed; how long will it be before that includes day-glo clothing as well?

What the people who are so keen to tell other riders what to do are forgetting is that motorcycling is a recreation that is meant to be fun. I have spent many (far more than I care to remember) years trying to reinforce that in everyone’s mind, and to make it possible for as many people as I could to have a good time on bikes.

Please, all of you: go for a ride. Enjoy what you do. Leave other riders alone – except at a personal level, where I think it is an excellent idea to take someone aside and suggest they improve their riding, clothing or attitude.

But while lots of people seem to be happy to write letters and give the gummint ammunition to reduce our freedom, very few seem to have the guts to put their ideas into practice face-to-face.

That’s no fun, eh?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Hello Australia – believe it or not, this is the first time I have been in South America. The closest I’ve come previously was a trip through the Panama Canal – and the less said about that, the better…

I’m in a place called Puno, in Peru, waiting for the Compass Expeditions tour I’m going to join for the next couple of weeks. We’re going to ride some amazing roads up here in the Andes and see places I’ve long wanted to look at, including Macchu Picchu and the Nazca lines.

I must admit that I was a little worried about he trip over here, flying from Sydney to Auckland, Santiago, Lima and then Juliaca, just up the road from here. It turned out to involve 4 hours sleep in 44 hours’ travel, but somehow I was still human when I got off the plane. That’s when the altitude sickness got me. It gets higher a bit later on the trip, but it’s high enough even here to make you feel like a very tired kitten. I’m on Sorojchi Pills which contain mostly aspirin, but promise to be la solucion contra el mal d’attitude. I’ve only just taken my first pill after a full day here, because I thought I could tough it out. Seems I can’t; it’s like flu with a couple more symptoms, like sleeplessness…

I did have a wander through the narrow and exotic streets of Puno, and discovered that they really do serve guinea pig. Should I try it? I’ve eaten most other things, even though I was fooled in to tasting dog by a Chinese guide who insisted that it was pork.

The Compass tour will arrive here this afternoon from La Paz, and I’m looking forward to meeting my fellow riders. When Mick from Compass invited me along on one of their trips I kept moaning about how I didn’t have time, so he’s made this as time-effective as possible. I’ll be eternally grateful to him for building in a couple of days to acclimatise to the altitude, though!

From what I’ve seen of the country so far – from the air and then the three-quarter hour drive from Juliaca – it’s very dry and very hilly. The road seemed pretty good out in the country, but absolutely appalling in towns. I have no idea how the spindly three-wheeled motorcycle taxis manage it without breaking into several pieces.

The prestige bike here is a 125 Honda; most of the others seem to be Chinese, although I’ve never seen most of the brands before – even in China! I’m pleased to say that I’ll be riding a BMW F650GS, one of my favourite dual purpose bikes. Not sure how I’d go on a Chinese 125, even if it was hand painted in several clashing colours, as many of them here are.

Not sure if there’s a helmet law, but if there is it’s only the flash riders on their near-new Honda’s who bother to obey. Among the others, the Inca trilby is popular.

I think it’s time for me have a bit of a lie-down again.

Catch you soon.

Greetings from Lake Titticaca,

The Bear

Road Rider Blog

A proper show of helmets!

Many hundreds of motorcycle riders jammed the pavements on both sides of the road outside Parliament House, in Macquarie Street, Sydney today to protest against the outrageous rise in CTP costs that we face.

There were plenty of angry faces in the crowd, and we had every right to be vocal about our dissatisfaction that there has been no sane and reasonable response by those in government to our complaints about the unmitigated insurance company CTP money-grab.

The Riders Against Bureaucracy, and we hope ARR, had done a good job spreading the word about the rally and in making sure the riders and the media showed up. Well, we certainly showed up so let’s see how much coverage we get on what should be a slow news day and how much impact we make on those who have the power to do something about this.

Rob Colligan of the MCC made a great speech about the unfair increase in CTP rates – in some cases over 100% more – and he managed to remain rational about the situation, pointing out one bit of idiocy after another and calling on the state government, any government – to take up the case on our behalf.

There were cheers, boos and, when prompted, an unmistakable show of helmets by riders who are demonstrably fed up with bending over and taking such bureaucratic unfairness. It was a great show of solidarity. People watching were in no doubt that we were not happy. “We want action!” – was the rally cry.

Lines of bikes were parked three deep along the roadway behind the Hospital and riders made their way on foot to the pavement outside Parliament House where the Dykes on Bikes acted as marshalls for the milling riders. There were Ulysees Club members, Vietnam Vets and, with their own special police escort, members of the Nomad MCC. Many motorcycle riders continually circled the block to call further attention our message.

There were plenty of police on foot, on bikes and in cars as riders stood waiting to hear from the political speakers who had been invited. One after another, Rob Colligan, called out their names and invited them to take the microphone:

The Premier of NSW, Kristina Keneally – no show.
The Minister for the MAA, Eric Roozendaal – no show
The Minister for Roads, David Borger – no show
The Leader of the Opposition, Barry O’Farrell – accepted, but no show
The Shadow Minister for Transport – declined

The only politician who did brave the crowd and was willing to hear our message was The Shadow Minister for Roads, Andrew Stoner, who received a, let’s say, cynically welcome reception. We warmed to him however, as he seemed to understand the situation and as a Liberal/Country Party member promised to make sure that in future correct data was submitted on our behalf.

While what we all did today was satisfying and many of us got some rage off our chests, we cannot stop this campaign. If you are angry about CTP price rises, write to the Premier and write to the State Opposition expressing your dissatisfaction. Remember, we vote!

Road Rider Blog

The Moto Guzzi NTX story was not one of our brighter moments…

“Dear Mr Bear,” wrote Guzzi Phill from Mackay in Queensland, “I was really pleased to see you had an article about the new Moto Guzzi NTX, however someone really needs a kick in the smalls;

“The main picture on page (106) is of a standard Stelvio – not the NTX; in fact most of the photo’s have been lifted from elsewhere. And then not only do I read that your astute tester recommends an extra Tooth on the Rear Sprocket, but your proof reader/layout person compounds the mistake with a picture of a Stelvio and boxed text clearly showing the typical Guzzi Shaft Drive – not to mention the lack of the ABS rotor on page (109) etc.
“I’d come to expect much better from this excellent periodical – not this loosely pulled together edition of “careless” inaccuracies.”

Umm… yep. Quite right.

We had come to expect more from ourselves as well, Phill.

We screwed up, big time. And just to make sure that the blame lands where it deserves to land, we all screwed up: Stuart, who wrote the piece; Terri, who subbed it and wrote the boxes; and I, who supplied the wrong photos and didn’t pick up the shaft drive error.

No excuses. We are truly sorry, and we will do our best to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We’ll find out just what it is that Stuart has against shaft drives, and we’ll get Terri a new set of glasses, and as for me – what can I say? It’s cheap bourbon again for the Bear…

Road Rider Blog

There’s a job to be done out there, and only you can do it.

I saw on the cover of the Sydney Daily Telegraph this morning…

That they’d done another one of those “which commuting mode is quicker” stories. They featured a bicycle, a car, train, bus, even a ferry. Spot the one or two that are missing.

This was the last straw for me. Where was the motorcycle, or at least the scooter? I don’t blame the Telly. I blame the motorcycle industry.

What are you blokes doing?

Wake up, Jeff!

Every motoring and transport journalist, every urban affairs writer on every newspaper, every news magazine, every TV station as well as every external affairs person at every State government authority concerned with transport should have the number of a motorcycle industry representative on speed dial. Every one of these people should have a contact in the industry on their e-mail list.

 Then, just to make sure, every time something happens that’s relevant, every one of those people should be contacted with the views of the motorcycle industry. Take a lesson from the various state-based Bicycle Institutes, if they’re still called that. Get the industry some recognition out there. Get in the face of everyone who writes about transport. Make sure that we’re constantly seen as part of the answer, not part of the problem.

Does that sound as if it would be expensive? Quite apart from the value for money question, look at it this way: most of the motorcycle importers belong to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.  I don’t know how much it costs them, but I suspect it’s not an especially good deal.  What do they get? Representation on government committees that listen, nod their heads and then do what they want to do anyway. Sales figures. I suppose they’re useful.

But it would cost considerably less, I’ll bet, to employ a PR agency or, even better, a dedicated PR person who’s a rider and who understands what the interests of the industry are, and why. Brief him or her properly and turn him loose.

It’s not as if the papers won’t listen. When I wrote the City of Sydney’s motorcycle and scooter plan, In was interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald.  I told them that I thought it would make sense to eliminate tolls for bikes and scooters.

That comment made it through to the final story, and was reported quite even-handedly. The reported didn’t sneer at the “bikies” wanting something for nothing; he treated th ide as an interesting thought that should be out there.

And that’s just me, slipping a comment into an interview about something quite different. What could a properly trained PR person do?

I’m sick of this. The motorcycle industry makes its living from selling motorcycles, accessories and whatever. It can find money for racing (although not much these days) but it can’t find the money to work towards a sustainable future for motorcycling as a whole in public forums.

This is not a job for a rider-based volunteer organisation. This is a job for the industry. It’s time you gave some serious thought to becoming involved, because otherwise we will find that motorcycling is condemned to a slow decline and eventual death  – and nobody will care, because nobody knows just how much motorcycling can contribute to a city, just to take one example.

Clover Moore and the City of Sydney have done a lot for motorcycling. More than the industry’s done, as far as I can see. I’d be delighted to be proved wrong, but I doubt I will be.  Come on, people, get your act together.

Maybe next time the Telly or anyone does one of those commuting contests, we’ll see a bike and a scooter in it – I know something, and that is that one or the other will win!

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

I promised you that I’d occasionally use this column as a way of promoting rallies, and – wait for it – I’m actually going to do it! Right now! Who said “that makes a change” back there?

Get into hot water

The 22nd Ragged Fringe rally will be on the weekend of the 12th and 13th of September at Bretti Reserve, about 33 km north of Gloucester on Thunderbolt’s Way. Run by the Moto Guzzi Owners Association of NSW it is a back to basics rally but hot water, tea and coffee will be available. More information and bookings: The Secretary, MGOA of NSW, PO Box 392 Camperdown NSW 1450. Cost is $15 including a badge.

Get a plate

Don’t Moto Guzzi owners have anything else to do? The annual Spaghetti Rally will be held over the weekend of the 24th and 25th October 2009 at Edi Cutting camp ground on the banks of the beautiful King River in Nth Eastern Victoria, 10kms N/W of Whitfield in the King Valley. Organisers are the Moto Guzzi Club of Victoria.

Entries cost $25 for adults and $15 for children, and include the tradional feed of spaghetti on the Saturday night with a trophy going for the best/ugliest/strangest/most original plate. This will be a return to earlier Spag rallies where many punters used the side cover from their bikes as a plate, along with hats, hubcaps, headlight shells etc!

Check the club website for details and updates or contact Neil Hornsby for further information on 0402 784 745.

Get fishing

At the Fish Holes Rally on November 13th, 14th and 15th. To find the South West Touring Club’s rally, follow the signs from the Shell servo at Portland, Victoria. Fully catered, no B.Y.O. Showers and Toilets. Gymkhana, music Friday night and bands Saturday night. No glass, registered bikes only, no cars, no walk-ins. Entry fee prepaid $18.00 or at gate $ 20.00.

Enquiries David & Julie,  08 8723 2991 / 0412 838 765, Trevor 0418 528 002.

This is a good opportunity to get the word out, rally organizers. Just drop me a line to

Get answers

Oh, by the way, we’re pleased to get comments on my blogs and others like to read them, but I don’t always get a chance to read them straight away. They also don’t allow direct answers. So if you want to ask a question please use the e-mail address above.

As for you, Spear, I’d call Yammy Venture a touring cruiser; and Ted E Bear, I’m afraid the outfit has gone to a good home in Queensland.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Hi there, and welcome to the very first Bear’s Blog on our new website. I’ve spent almost all of the past week at the Ulysses Club AGM in Penrith, and managed to meet the usual cross-section of ARR readers. Thank you all for coming over to see us.

We also sold quite an amazing number of subscriptions for our new magazine, Cruiser+Trike. Not bad for a publication nobody has even seen yet! I guess we must be doing something right for you to trust us that much.

We auctioned off a complete set of Australian Road Rider on the stand, with the proceeds of $180 to our adopted charity MARI which looks after downed riders. The incidence of depression among these people is disturbingly high, and MARI takes care of them – initially at Sydney’s St Vincents Hospital, but soon elsewhere as well.

While I think of it, let me congratulate the entire motorcycle community, riders and industry, on your – our – reaction to the Victorian bushfires and the Queensland floods. I’ll just mention one initiative, we simply don’t have room for them all: Harley-Davidson riders and shops collected $40,000 and the Motor Company matched that to come up with a total of $80,000.

You’re a great bunch of people, all of you, and more power to your arms!

Well, I’ll come up with something a bit more amusing for my next blog – just be sure you check here regularly. You never know what I’ve dug up (so to speak).

Oh, and while I think of it: anyone who wants to promote a rally, just drop me a line and I’ll plug it here.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Here’s your chance to see BMW’s fantastic new S 1000 RR superbike in the metal! IT
will be doing the rounds of BMW shops and sports events from right now until
October. Make sure you get along to the venue nearest to you, and check it out!


25 Southbank
Motorcycles Southbank VIC


5 Fraser
Motorcycles Concord NSW

6 Procycles St
Peters NSW

8 – 9 ASBK
Rd 4 Eastern Creek NSW

11 Procycles
Hornsby NSW

13 Worthington
Motorcycles Kariong NSW

15 Eastern
Creek Ride Day Eastern Creek NSW

18 Brisan
Motorcycles Newcastle NSW

20 City Coast
Motorcycles Wollongong NSW

22 Rolfe
Classic Motorcycles Philip ACT

27 Adelaide
Motors Fullarton SA

29 – 30
ASBK Rd 5 Mallala SA


8 Auto Classic
Motorcycles Victoria Park WA

11 – 13
Perth Motorcycle Show Perth WA

22 Morgan
& Wacker Newstead QLD

23 Morgan
& Wacker Southport QLD

24 Coastline
BMW Caloundra QLD

28 Mackay
Motorcycles Mackay QLD


3 Euro Cycles
Townsville QLD

5 Westco
Motors Cairns

16 – 18
Moto GP Phillip Island VIC

21 Phillip Island
Ride day Phillip Island VIC

27 Seaside Moto Cycles
Ballina NSW

29 Rock Motorcycles Port Macquarie


3 Blacklocks
Prestige Albury NSW

9 Launceston
BMW Launceston TAS

20 – 22
Sydney Motorcycle Show Olympic Park NSW

28 – 29 ASBK Rd 7 Venue TBC

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

In East Germany, they had the STASI to do it. In America, they used the House Un-American Activities Committee. In Western Australia they haven’t got a name for it yet, but you’re being asked to do the same thing – inform on your neighbours.

The idea is that upright, decent Sandgropers should keep a note of what “the bikies” are up to – whom they meet for a drink, who comes to see them, where they might go for a ride and such – and ring the government’s bikie snitch line to turn them in. This is for activities that are not in themselves illegal, you might note.

There are few better ways of turning a community against certain members than by getting everyone to watch them, and inform on them. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, it’s been demonstrated over and over again that the average bloke and blokette in the street simply can’t tell the difference between a patch club member and a Ulyssian or other perfectly ordinary motorcyclist.

Actually, I suppose you could have a bit of fun with this.

Ring, ring. “Bikie Hotline, whom would you like to denounce?”

“It’s my neighbor Frank. He’s a patch club member; he wears a patch with an old bloke on it and the words ‘Grow Old Disgracefully’, believe it or not. Last night he came home at nearly midnight, and that bloody GoldWing of his makes a sort of whistling noise when he rides it into the garage. Oh, and the garage door squeaks as well, I’m sick of it. And last weekend he and some mates went out on a poker run, supposedly to raise money for the Children’s Hospital. Hah! A likely story. Can you come and sort him out?”

“Certainly, sir. We’re here to keep the Western Australian community safe from this kind of scum.”

Markus Wolf and Senator Joe McCarthy would have been proud of the WA government. The rest of us should probably be a little ashamed.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

How long are we going to put up with this?

The Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads has tender number RSSM0610 out for the “Investigation of Zero Blood Alcohol Concentration for all Motorcycle Riders in Queensland”.

It is to “Provide research services to inform the development of government policy in relation to possible road safety benefits of introducing a reduced general limit (as defined in s.79A Transport Operations Road Use Management Act 1995) or zero blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for all motorcycle riders.”

I don’t think it is really necessary for me to go into details why this is a totally unacceptable project. Resons include punishing the victims, loss of civil liberties and so on and so on.

Let me just say this: if you put up with this, you deserve everything the bureaucrats hand out to you.

Stand up for yourselves, Queenslanders, as the Taswegians stood up for themselves when the government tried to impose a “safety” levy down there. Unlike the supine Victorians, who copped it. Stand up for yourselves and insist on being treated like adults, and like everyone else on the road.

Or suffer the consequences.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

I promised you some comments about the current internet versus bricks-and-mortar shopping argument.

This is a subject that anybody in business needs to take very seriously, including magazine publishers; our publishers are getting in there with an electronic version of Australian Road Rider, both iPad and computer friendly, which will launch soon.
But what about the motorcycle industry? We’re going to do a serious story about this in ARR soon, but in the meantime, here are some thoughts.
It’s clear that more and more people are shopping on the internet. Gerry Harvey did his bit for online shopping by drawing attention to the disparity in prices, something that I just… suspect he didn’t intend. But there can be other advantages, too, including quick delivery.
It is, however, easy to get carried away with the advantages. There are disadvantages, too. You can’t (directly) see and feel the goods; you don’t know that you can trust the seller; you may find that the bike accessory you’ve bought fits the US version of your bike, not the Australian one; you may be stuck with something that runs on a different voltage, or that is superseded, or just plain wrong.
And you’d better be sure that the instructions are comprehensive and understandable, because  you can’t just duck down to the bike shop and get things cleared up for you.
Ah yes, the bike shop. I hear a lot about profiteering by bike shops. All I can say is that their owners must be bloody good actors because they don’t seem all that prosperous to me. Nobody I know who runs a bike shop drives around in a Bentley.
So please keep this in mind: if the bike shops disappear, which they could in the highly unlikely event that most motorcycle-related purchases switch to the web, your everyday life as a motorcyclist is going to become a fair bit harder. Not just because you won’t be able to get your bike serviced, either.
But more on that subject when we compile our big retail report!

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

What if you went to the GP and couldn’t get a beer?

Here’s the letter Pat Lane wrote to the organizers of the Malaysian GP. He wanted you to see it. I sincerely hope it doesn’t cause another diplomatic incident like Paul Keating’s “recalcitrant” comment of a few years ago…

Dear Sir,

I made a mistake! Nothing new in that, I’m human I make them all the time.

However this one was monumental.

Having attended every motor cycle GP in Australia since 1989 (still got the very first Wayne Gardner T shirt to prove it) I decided for 2009 I would venture to Malaysia. Arriving Saturday, a mate and I made our way to K.L. found our hotel. Arranged and paid for A/C and towels as extras. We ate at a nearby market, had a few beers and went to bed early for a first up start on race day.

We arrived at the Sepang circuit just before 10.00am.

First issue an hour plus wait in line to purchase tickets. Those who pre booked tickets and didn’t attend on Friday or Saturday had the same wait.
Second at the entry gate we asked to surrender all bottled fluids before entry. Presumably so they could sell us more inside. Temperature at this time was about 32 degrees C.

Thirdly once inside we were asked to purchase coupons to be used to in exchange for food and drinks. Fortunately we decided not to purchase these. I saw a number of people at the end of the day with handfuls of these and nothing to spend them on.

Finally after three failed attempts to buy water or beer (we both had two goes at standing in lines that just didn’t move) at 2.30pm we were rewarded with two beers and two bottles of water from the one and only beer vender at the circuit. My mate missed the entire 250cc race while standing in line. Food outlets were either sold out or had lines that disappeared in the distance.

I brought a race program on exiting, which I read on the plane home, the foreword by the Malaysian Prime Minster had me laughing with rage when he stated Malaysians can match the world in international events and wished all fans to enjoy the 1Malaysia warm hospitality. His final comment “1 Malaysia” People First. Performance Now” may have some meaning to locals but my experience at this event would suggest the people first comment does not extend to people attending this event.

The best advice I could offer the event organizers is attend an Australian Moto GP and see first hand how its all done.

As I said at the start I made a mistake, one I won’t make in the future. From now on my Moto GP money will be spent in Australia.

Oh finally, the racing was great, Casey won, Vale is world champ and the 250’s are still alive. Great racing, but that’s put on by the FIM and Dorna isn’t it?

Pat Lane.

So… everything considered, it was a fail, right, Pat?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Last night, the rainblasted rider surfing through horrendous torrents that intermittently flooded the road and trying to see through horizontal rain, had no idea he had a guardian angel following him. He was probably glad the tailgaters had gone, and grateful for the car following at a respectful distance, unlike the 4WD that had barrelled up behind him drenching him in its wake as it rushed past. He needed a mate.

I only just noticed him at traffic lights. He was virtually invisible in the terrible conditions – black helmet, black jacket and a small, single rear light. I thought it a miracle he’d gotten this far on such a windscreen fogging, wiper blade challenging, side-pillar obstructing night.

I decided to follow at a respectful distance. A friend on his tail as he negotiated slippery roundabouts and pothole cratered roads. Ten kays later he turned off into his side-street. Safe. Good luck, buddy.

Have you ever done that? Have you ever shepherded another rider, either in your tin-top or on your bike?

I’ve done it many times with L- and P-platers that I catch up to on the road – most of them women, I have to admit. If they look comfortable, I give them the wave as I pass. If I sense anxiety, notice rigid neck, stiff arms, tight fingers and jerky lines, I sometimes just stay back and follow along behind, giving them a buffer by keeping impatient traffic off their pillion seats.

On freeways, when I anticipate a new rider will change lanes, I do so first to clear the way and wave them over. They soon get used to the manoeuvre and the thanks you get is to see their death grip relax and the posture subside into the regulation slump.

The secret, when following along, is not to make the rider feel they have to hurry up or compete. Two’s company.

I love riding in groups that have a designated sweep rider. And I’m grateful because it’s inevitably the fastest riders that volunteer and they sacrifice their usual smooth rhythm in exchange for protecting riders who can’t seem to stay at a set speed for more than ten metres. Following behind slower riders keeps you on your toes when corners are transformed into jerky tacks by riders who suddenly brake in the wrong places. But even though it’s a thankless task, everyone is grateful for the wingman (or woman)behind.

I ride solo a lot. On long rides I often come up on another rider and decide to settle in behind. Like half-distance in a MotoGP. Two of us now, in tune, making more of a statement to the traffic and connected by an invisible thread of comradeship. We might ride that way for hours, until the next servo when we’ll briefly, respectfully acknowledge each other and go our separate ways. We don’t have to talk. We just share the ride.

Did you ever stop to help a stranded rider? You don’t see breakdowns so often these days, and the incidents you do come across the rider is already on his mobile calling for help. But it’s worth stopping to check. They might just need fuel you can bring back for them. Or, some duct tape, zip ties or, once, my mini hacksaw was the exact tool needed to fix a Ducati’s fuel filter.

Make it a point of honour not to pass a stranded biker. One day it could be you.

Once, when my trusty bike’s battery shat itself on the Bells Line of Road, four hours from home and 30ks between towns, a rider towed me all the way to the next hamlet. We left the bike in a nice person’s garden.

His buddy pillioned me all the way to his home in Sydney where he exchanged the bike for tray-truck and we drove all the way back – four hours – to the garden where the forlorn bike had been left. We loaded it and he drove me home. It was part of biker Bushido, the biker code, which I repay every time I can. Like I did last night.


Road Rider Blog

Should bicycles be registered – and should riders need a licence?

What do you think of this press release Ive just received?

The Independent Riders’ Group (IRG) supports the Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s (VECCI) call for road bicycles to be registered. The technology exists. If vehicles that do less environmental damage should pay less then the cost to riders should be minimal. All other road vehicles must be registered for ID purposes and have third party insurance.

Bicycle registration will improve safety and law enforcement while reducing theft.

Pushbike riders who ride on-road should have a car or motorcycle licence to ensure a minimum level of skill and knowledge of road law. If a bicyclist does not have a vehicle licence they should do a course similar to a motorcycle or scooter training course.

Spokesman for the IRG, Damien Codognotto OAM, said. “We don’t think registering bicycles will make bicycling less popular. Motorcycle & scooter riders have had onerous restrictions and unfair taxes increased over the last decade and our numbers have doubled. Registered bicycles would still deliver a health benefit to the community. The question is the cost to the rider. It should reflect their role.”

Most motorcycle & scooter riders in Victoria have to pay the Transport Accident Commission $58 a year tax on top of all other road charges. There are over 150,000 road-registered, powered two-wheelers in this state. Many riders pay more to keep their bikes on the road than owners of huge 4WDs pay to keep their cars in traffic. The situation is clearly unfair and bad for both our environment and for bike safety since lower income earners cut costs to commute by bike.

Bicycle Victoria (BV) argues that most cyclists already pay car registration. That argument is as sensible and valid for motorcycle & scooter riders as it is for bicyclists. The IRG supports the Australian Motorcycle Council’s (AMC)call for road charges and taxes to reflect the benefits to society of our transport choice. Two wheelers reduce pollution, ease traffic congestion, free up parking space and don’t damage infrastructure.

Safety is an issue. Bicyclists tend to wear less protective gear than motorcycle & scooter riders. Casualty crashes involving two-wheelers are mostly caused by car driver error. But, in the last five years motorcycle & scooter casualty crashes have dropped 25%. On-road motorcycle & scooter riding has never been safer. Bicycle casualty crashes have increased.

The Victorian Auditor General (03 8601 7000), D D R Pearson, will conduct an audit of motorcycle safety in 2010/2011. The IRG will ask that he compare on-road powered two-wheelers with on-road bicycles to put the negatives and positives of all single tracked vehicles in traffic into perspective.

I’d be very interested in your comments on this one! It’s obviously highly contentious – does it have merit?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

You’ll be relieved to see that we’re cranking the kickstarter of our website at last, preparing to fire her up again and get rolling. Not before time, we know.

The Road Rider website has been neglected for months, but now that I’ve got my head around the magazine and my hand around the throat of its deadlines, I can turn some attention to the pixel-packed pages that complement the paper. 

This little blog is me confirming I’ve turned the kill switch to ‘on’, ensured the battery is charged and the fuel fresh, and have fired her up. The VACC news story is the first part of the oil change to get something new and good into the crankcases, and we’ll have more content rolling in soon until we’re at cruising speed again. 

I’ll even try to figure out how to get my surname spelled correctly, but I don’t think they trust an editor to do that himself. I wouldn’t.

Meanwhile, though, I’m out of here for a couple of days. There’s a bike to be tested and a long loop via Canberra on the cards, with a first taste of Yamaha’s new FJR1300 along the way. Riding the keyboard doesn’t hold quite the same attraction, so I hope you’ll forgive my quick g’day here before I head off again. 

Road Rider Blog

Another month as passed which means another new lot of prizes

Congratulations to Ross and Raymond who won last months giveaways

Remember anyone who leaves a comment on any blog post within the month goes into the draw.

This months freebies:
1. Ewan McGregor and Charlie Borman’s edition of “Long Way Down”
2. Blood, Swear & 2nd Gear – More Medicine for Motorcyclists book

Go for it! And remember, check here every month to see what we’ve found
to give away – it could well be a one-off that you’ll never find
anywhere else.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

No, not specifically because of the Ulysses Club AGM, although that will bring quite a few people to town.

The big boost has come from Lonely Planet’s decision to list Newcastle as one of the world’s top 10 cities. It has resulted in a 10-15 per cent rise in backpacker visitors alone, according to the local council.  
Newcastle Council tourism and economic development manager Simon McArthur told the ABC that the recommendation had brought thousands more backpackers to the city in search of local experiences they cannot find in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. The mind boggles a wee bit as to what those might be, apart from free punchups outside the pub*, but then what do I know?
McArthur added: “A lot of our backpackers are really, really happy being on our beaches because they’re there with all the locals enjoying it at the same time.”
He said many visitors swap Coogee or Bondi for Newcastle because “it’s not full of backpackers” and offers access to a more relaxed lifestyle. Of course now he and Lonely Planet have stuffed that up, but there you go.
The reason for this blog actually had nothing to do with Newcastle per se, as they say down in that arty-farty haven of backpackers, Sydney. No, it’s intended to apologise to our regular Ulysses readers for the absence of ARR and Cruiser+Trike magazines at the upcoming Ulysses AGM. I won’t go into too many details because, frankly, I would not like to be seen to be disloyal to the club (I am member #675, and was fortunate enough to be able to assist in its formation).
Nevertheless, I just want you to know that we were not invited to participate this year, to employ the “official” phrase. It was not our idea.
I’ll have to see you on the road instead.
Oh, by the way, many Ulyssians will find that their subscription comes due at about the time of the AGM. Please just re-subscribe by mail. We might have lost the opportunity o see you at Newcastle, but we’d hate to lose touch completely!
*This is a joke, okay? No, seriously, just a joke. Please don’t punch me next time you see me in a Newcastle pub, all right?

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Are Mark Twain’s jaundiced words appropriate in Victoria?

LOntime motorcycle safety activist Damien Codognotto OAM, of the Independent Riders’ Group, sent me this note about an article in Melbournes The Sunday Herald Sun. It appeared on Page 13, August 29, 2010.


“….In an overhaul of existing motorcycle licencing, the Brumby Government is considering a stricter testing, training and skills assessment to make it tougher to take to the road on two wheels. …”

Read the whole antibike propaganda page at . Make a written comment. Several other recent antibike stories are listed on the website. Vote Brumby’s state wreckers last this November.

The question is loaded. “Do you agree with the stricter (bike) tests?”
Yes, IF, you bring car drivers up to that standard first, otherwise NO. Car drivers cause most pedestrian, bicycle and motorcycle & scooter injuries even if too many drivers do not stop after a collision or near thing.

The statistics used are false, twisted or at best rubbery. Even the Victorian Motorcycle Advisory Council (VMAC)admits research to base motorcycle & scooter statistics on is virtually non-existent in Victoria.

How’s this one for a state where compliance with helmet laws is 99.9%? “…3% were not wearing a helmet.” They leave out that our road stats are inflated 40% with ‘off-road’ figures the 3% are likely cockies crossing from one paddock to another or bush bashers.

And they trot out that utterly bogus TAC tripe that road riders are 38 times more likely to be seriously injured than car drivers. Of course TAC won’t let you see the hard data or the methodology used to come to this extraordinary conclusion. I suspect it’s from O/S, probably North America. I suspect you could use similar nonsense to show car drivers are 38 times more likely to injure someone else rather than themselves.

The fact is that most pedestrian, bicycle and motorcycle & scooter injuries are caused by car driver error so a small improvement in driver skills and behaviour would result in a significant reduction in vulnerable road user casualties, including fatals. To reduce road trauma, improve drivers. Bring driver skills up to rider skill standards before another crackdown on road riders.

The fact is that in 5 years the number of legitimate road riders in Australia is up over 50%. Casualties are down 25%. Riding a motorcycle or scooter in traffic has never been safer in Victoria.

And powered two-wheelers are good for car drivers. Like bicycles, they cause less pollution, reduce traffic jams and take less car parking space. And they pay as much road tax as a 4WD.

But the antibike culture is rife in the trinity, TAC/Police/VicRoads. And police want their anti-association laws so any vilification of riders is fine with a lot of them. “With 34 motorbike fatalities on Victorian roads so far this year, 12 more than in 2009, Victoria Police Supt Neville Taylor said the death rate of motorbike riders was “a real issue’ …” Of course it’s a real issue just as who’s killing and injuring them is a (bigger) real issue.

But the numbers are too small to be statistically real. Twelve more dead in 2010 is a fact but if 40% were off-road (Victorian Accident Surveillance Unit at Monash) maybe 4 of these deaths should not be included so the propaganda seems more credible. And the increase may be an aberration, some could be due to the increase in kilometres travelled or riders out there or wet roads after the ten-year drought? we won’t know because they won’t do good research.

Think I’m over-reacting? the Herald Sun would have done its’ homework and got this lot right? Well how about this? “… They also allow a person to complete learner and licence tests on an automatic motorcycle, often a motor scooter with an engine capacity up to 250cc …” Hello! Anyone tell them about LAMs? If they got this very basic, well publicised fact wrong, what else is crook at the Sun Hun. This story is not about road safety, it’s about bikie bashing, even if you are a commuter on a scooter.

One thing I know is a fact, under the Bracks/Brumby governments the antibike culture in the trinity has come to the fore. The motorcycle community has copped a decade of kicking. The priority has been enforcement, restriction and tax.

Motorcycle & scooter riders can’t afford any more Brumby.

Okay, me again. Whether you agree with Damien or not you need to take his comments seriously; he’s identifying a real and present danger to us all. Yes, the rest of Australia might well follow Victoria (and it could be argued that Queensland is already well ahead). So what are we going to do about all this? Your comments are welcome.

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

We’re used to having things fly through the air and thwack into us while we’re out riding. You know, the usual nuisances; stones, very hard beetles, vast swarms of bees that kamakazi into you and leave your jacket and helmet oozing with furry honey. Or clouds of locusts so dense you end up covered in wing fragments and what looks like soft boiled egg. I once followed a coach down a really narrow dirt road and when I arrived white powdery dust had stuck to my Belstaff jacket and I looked as if I’d been dipped in flour ready to be fried. At the rest stop, the coach passengers all wanted to know my round Australia story. “I’ve been stuck behind your coach for 20 kilometres you turkeys.”

Then there critters we hit.

We dodge dogs, roos, and even emus. One of my girlfriends was once chased by an angry emu that seemed to thought she was competing for females and it finally succeeded in tipping her off the bike. Afterwards she painted a symbol of an emu on her tank to accompany the two painted kangaroos that also tipped her off – a record of her engagements, like a fighter pilot in WWII, but in reverse. Rider 0, Emu 1, Kangaroos 2.

While I was riding solo in Arizona’s Sonoran desert way, way out in Indian country around the back of the Cameron Trading Post, where there was nothing but bleached bones, creosote bush and cactus, a very large eagle whacked the back of my red helmet. Yes, it thought I was bleeding and wanted to finish me off. Wallop! It was quite a solid thud that sent me into a horrible wobble and made me “bird crazy” for the rest of the trip. Do you know how many eagles there are in the desert!

But even though they are scary, funny or messy, those things of nature you can understand.

What I cannot get to grips with are the people who deliberate throw things out of their car windows at me. Has that happened to you? I don’t mean the “tossers” of the Don’t Litter Australia ad campaigns who carelessly throw away lolly wrappers and soft drink cans that accidentally hit you on their way to despoiling pristine nature. I mean the people who edge up alongside, take careful aim and then fling a glass bottle or full can at you.

This has happened to me on half a dozen occasions – but never when riding with mates naturally, because, well, with Horehound by my side, God help them.

It’s not just heavy things that hurt, either. While I was waiting at traffic lights in Raymond Terrace once, a hoodlum flicked a lit cigarette butt directly at my face. My visor was open and he scored a direct hit into my helmet causing a certain amount of panic as the stinging object worked its way down into my neck roll.

Another time, at traffic lights again, a yobbo with his hat on backward threw his chewing-gum at me. When he saw how easily it stuck to my new textile jacket, he laughed, and his mates in the back wound down their windows to pelt me with PK too.

I’ve also had half a cup of milkshake hurled at me at traffic lights, and a newspaper while on the move – which of the lot was the most dangerous, because it wrapped itself round my visor and blinded me. It must have looked funny, but it wasn’t really.

Okay, the safest thing you can do when you are on your own is to keep guard up and accelerate the hell away from imbeciles like that, but why do they do it? Perhaps, since all the freeway overpasses have been fenced off they are in “brick flinging withdrawal”. I now understand how those truck drivers felt every time they saw people hanging around on an overpass.

Perhaps it’s time to fine people who throw things from vehicles. What do you think?

In the meantime, besides all the other things I watch for, I now watch for car windows gliding down, and body language within that signals I’m gonna get you with this pie!


Road Rider Blog

“I say, I say… do you like Kipling?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never kippled.”

of the things you seem to enjoy about ARR is my penchant for inserting
quotations into the stories with the slightest provocation and at every
opportunity. I picked up this habit many years ago when I first
realised that I was in fact A Bear of Very Little Brain and could use
all the help I could get when it came to Profound Thoughts.

I’ve always read reasonably widely, and it occurred to me that many
of the conundrums (conundra?) and frustrations (frustratia?) presented
to me by everyday life had been experienced before, by others who could
usually express and deal with them far better than I could ever hope to

Some, like the poet Robert Herrick, are pretty unfashionable while
others, like the poet Robert Zimmerman, are very fashionable indeed;
all are articulate and concise with their words (yes, I know, that’s
not something I’d ever be accused of).

Perhaps the most rewarding of those people has been Rudyard
Kipling, a figure either unfashionable or Disney-fied today but one who
well repays closer reading than he usually gets. He’s often
misinterpreted – the ‘lesser breeds without the law’ of the powerful
Recessional, for instance, are not the Third World’s native peoples –
but almost always has something relevant to say. Here’s one of his
lesser-known poems, and one particularly applicable to motorcyclists;
apart from being clearly relevant in the current Global Economic
Screwup, to me it addresses a tendency that’s all too common all around
us today. You know the one – it’s all ‘their’ fault.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings
Rudyard Kipling

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return.

Sounds like really good sense to me. Thank you, Mr Kipling…

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Many of you will know that I
produce a weekly motorcycle column usually called, predictably enough,
Motorcycle Weekly, for some 100 newspapers around Australia.

Well, it used to be 100
newspapers. Now it’s more like 80, because Rural Press, one of the newspaper
groups that used to run the column, has dropped it as a cost saving. This means
that I will be drinking generic bourbon from now on, an unacceptable situation.

So what do I want you to do about

Well, if your local paper (be it
the Wooglewomp Gazette or the Canberra Times) does not run the column, I’d like
you to contact them and ask them to. It’s available from Automotive
News Service, which is Australia’s
largest independent motoring news service. For over 50 years it has been
providing high quality, independent and unbiased automotive news to newspapers
in every Australian state as well as several overseas publications.
And it
distributes my column as well…

You can see how that’s going to
help me.

How will it help you?

Well, you’ll be able to read
somewhat different versions of the bike tests that appear in ARR and Cruiser,
but much earlier!

And it costs you nothing…

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

Okay, let’s sort the sheep from the goats. Here are some questions for you.

What is your favourite colour?

No, no, not that Monty Python crap again.

Here are some serious questions. Post your answers here. We will compile the answers and report back, probably in ARR. This is an opportunity to hand out some bouquets to the people who are doing it for you.

Why are we not asking for the worst brands as well? Because we aren’t interested in stirring up grudges and having to wade through complaints that may or may not have any justification. Frankly, we’re depressed enough right now with the way the price of single malt whiskey is going. Cheer us up instead! Maybe we’ll do a “worst of” sometime in the future, but for now we want to keep it positive.

Just one brand per answer, please! If you don’t know (for question 5, for example) just leave blank.

Which motorcycle brand sold in Australia do you rate as number one for:

1. Technical quality (the bike brand that works best and gives the least trouble)
2. Build quality (paint, welds, panel fit, comfort and durability of seat etc)
3. Spares and accessories supply (who has the best stock and supplies fastest)
4. Dealer quality (how well dealers look after customers, have the best staff etc)
5. Customer relations (how well does the company look after its customers)
6. Customer benefits (free road service, membership of club etc)
7. Warranty support (pretty self-explanatory)
8. Model range (not necessarily the biggest range, but the best – of road bikes)
9. Advertising (whose ads do you reckon actually work)
10. Technology (who offers the most advanced but still useful technology)
11. What is the air speed of a swallow? No, no, I told you…

Get your answers in by the end of July and we’ll draw half a dozen out and send you some goodies. What will they be? Who knows, but they’ll be good ones. Oh, and tell your mates about this – the more answers we get the better!

Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Road Rider Blog

In Gilbert & Sullivan’s Mikado, Lord High Executioner Ko-Ko has “a little list” of people who would never be missed if they were to disappear. I imagine you have one too; I certainly do.

You might be surprised, though, that the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) was not on mine, alongside all the people who are there including Sydney taxi drivers and smokers who ash their cigarettes out of the windows of moving cars.
Why was the RTA not there? It was certainly one organisation that deserved it, but I always thought that it would be pointless to include it. I thought the RTA was bulletproof.
So did the RTA, obviously.
Parliamentarians from both sides of the fence have been battling them for decades, but few ever got anywhere. Even when the organisation was “punished” for things like ridiculous overestimates of the traffic that would use proposed tunnels, it sure looked like all that happened was that a scapegoat or two was driven out (and then given a nice job somewhere else in government). The RTA itself went on.
The management of the RTA has been implacably hostile to motorcyclists and motorcycling. One chief executive was on the record as saying that, should motorcycles be invented now the RTA would never allow them on the roads. Arrogance? In spades.
When I tried, in the early stages of my work for Sydney City Council, to get some sense out of them about bike parking, they responded with wonderful circular arguments which led nowhere except to the maintenance of the status quo – no parking. We beat them in the end, but it was a hard slog (Thank you, Clover Moore). Intransigence? Tell me about it.
So it was very tempting indeed to join the other Munchkins dancing around the corpse and singing “Ding dong, the witch is dead” when the new O’Farrell government did a Ko-Ko on the RTA. It is clearly going to be emasculated and kept under control by being merged with Maritime Services and then put under a new super ministry.
But as always there are caveats.
One of the advantages of having powerful bodies like the RTA is that they can give ministers truly independent advice; that’s valuable. It’s just a shame that they couldn’t let go of their own limited agendas, and hubris overtook them.
Likewise, the RTA did do some good. I consulted for them for a while (talk about sleeping with the enemy!) and found them to be not a single organisation at all, but a series of more or less independent fiefdoms, each with its own agenda. The fiefdom looking after motorcycle safety did a good job, in my opinion – at least until its work came to the attention of someone higher up the food chain who couldn’t resist meddling.
Let’s hope that the good they did goes on; I suspect it will, because this government seems to have its head screwed on properly in its attitude to bikes.
So please excuse me. I’ve got to find some red shoes and practice that chorus: “Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead…”
Peter “The Bear” Thoeming



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