HOW WAS THE MOTORCYCLING YEAR FOR YOU?
A RESUME OF THE MOTORCYCLE YEAR
In these fast changing information loaded times, it's good to remind ourselves of what has slid through these past months.
Is our chosen leisure pursuit, obsession, sport, in good shape as we enter a year when political uncertainties are sure to influence the broader spectrum of peoples lives? At least, if the economic analysts can be taken at their word, we'll not be paying as much to fuel up for some time to come as oil prices are set to remain low: but as with all economic twists and turns there are downsides as well as advantages.
On the up
For the second year motorcycle sales and registrations have shown an increase. In 2013 just over sixty thousand new two wheelers were sold in the motorcycle and moped category, an increase of almost three per cent over 2012 - scooter sales registered a ten per cent decrease.
At the end of November this year over sixty seven thousand new motorcycles and mopeds were sold, and there may be a number of riders out there hoping for a shiny new one as a Christmas present, or will be browsing the showrooms to treat themselves – the trade and industry association are hoping to hit the seventy thousand mark. The scooter market also showed an upturn this year with a sales increase of almost four per cent over 2013.
New bike sales mean more machines coming onto the used market through the on line sales sites, dealer showrooms and auctions. This increased consumer activity will also have been reflected in more sales of riding gear and 'bolt on' goodies such as sat navs and cameras. All bringing a smile back to the faces of those whose livelihood is connected to the health of the bike trade. A section of the economy that took a battering in the recent recessionary period.
Cheap fuel, cheap money
Now, in additon to cheaper fuel, consumers still have access to cheap money. But this was not necessarily reflected in offers from some of the big manufacturers, with APR interests rates around the 9% mark. Contrast this with what car companies are pushing. With bank interest rates held at 0.5%, 'could do better' might mark the report card here. But Triumph, Suzuki, and BMW have followed the general trend in devising two and three year lease type deals, where the purchaser opts to buy the machine outright at the end of the fixed period or continues the agreement with a new bike being provided.
For the second year running the weather was reasonably kind; even though our expectations will never be satisfied. We should accept that we are a northern hemisphere island with two land masses affecting our weather too. Unfortunately I chose the 'wrong' period take off on a bike tour of NW Ireland and the Hebrides. Unsettled would be the meteorologists term for what I experienced.
More importantly the weather curtailed the NW200 races in Northern Ireland and in May a very wet Thundersprint at Darley Moor Circuit in Derbyshire meant that promoter Frank Melling was forced to call it a day for this popular event in the biking calendar. The previous year's event, held at the race circuit on Anglesey was also affected by inclement weather, and the losses couldn't be sustained.
Showtime - or not!
The three BMF shows also came to a end with the cancellation of the Tail End at Peterborough in September. The promoters were losing money because of reduced attendances, and it remains to be seen whether the BMF decide to revive their show programme in some way. As we questioned at the time we reported the news:
'too many shows, too few motorcyclists?'.
Time for TT
Not all was negative. Halfway across the Irish Sea the TT and Classic TT drew more and more people onto the Isle of Man where Michael Dunlop and the BMW team demonstrated their dominance. But also of interest were a clutch of newer and younger riders nudging up the results tables. The people's favourite Guy Martin didn't secure that elusive win, but as he is now carving out a 'second string' career as one of TV's most eccentric and likeable presenters; will this detract from being signed to a race winning team for the 2015 event?
Wemoto continued to sponsor Isle of Man based racer Dan Kneen. Following a series of crashes and injuries in 2013, this year he returned to form and stayed on the bike; winning the Ulster Grand Prix and winning the Irish Superbike Championship. For the 2014 season Dan has been signed by Millsport Racing and will be on board their Suzuki machines.
Wemoto were also involved in the Isle of Man through their sponsorship of the Jurby Festival at the Classic TT. This show and rally organised by the Vintage Motorcycle Club (VMCC) draws thousands of spectators to the airfield race circuit on the island. The sun shone and the Wemoto crew were kept busy working the crowd with promotional freebies.
We also pitched up at the two Stafford Classic shows this year: where the exhibition halls were busy and stands crowded. The classic scene is in good shape, interest increases year on year, with Japanese classics provoking more and more interest. We also 'met the public' at the Motorcycle News Excel show in London, and took our stands to a couple of smaller shows in the north of the country. It's good for a web based organisation to get out of the warehouse and speak to the people who are our customers and potential customers.
Bros - When will I be famous?
Mr and Mrs Marquez two boys have inherited a unique genetic pattern from their parents. Setting them up to be the first same year sibling world champions in Moto GP and Moto 3. But only a little way down the results table the Espargaro brothers were at sixth and seventh. Is there something unique about Spanish mums and dads that we don't (yet) know about?
The number of bikes on the Moto GP grid looked sad at times in 2014. Despite Dorna, the owners, introducing new non-factory classes to try and tempt more teams and entries, the level of financial and sponsorship commitment to this section of the sport restricts participation, and as the season unfolded rumours as to what teams and riders would survive for the 2015 season were rife. Let's hope the return of Suzuki to the paddock will liven up proceedings.
Take a BSB break
No such problems for the British Superbike series, where the evergreen Shane Byrne ruled the results, and full grids guaranteed exciting dicing throughout the season. I only managed to get to one BSB meeting this year; the nerve jangling opener at Brands Hatch – and that was for the spectators. For the remainder of the season ITV4's Wednesday night coverage provided an injection of bike racing excitement. They are showing a 2015 season preview on Xmas Eve at 16.00 - take a break from the other stuff.
Browsing the websites; new and re-formed teams and the rider go round will make the 2015 season one to anticipate. They are also introducing the KTMRC390 Junior Cup series for young racers. A one make series for 13 – 17 year olds on identical race ready bikes. These classes encouraging and giving race experience to young riders is essential to bring new blood into the sport.
In addtion to getting wet on an early summer tour I was fortunate enough to ride a number of new manufacturers bikes through the year. The Triumph Bonneville to cover the Yorkshire section of the Tour De France cycle race course, in glorious sunshine. And Hondas NC700, a reasonably priced lighweight bike that encompasses the cliché 'all rounder', and introduces at last a motorcycle with decent fuel consumption figures.
New models, anticipated and hyped, were on show at the Cologne and Milan shows, and then at Motorcycle Live at the NEC; where attendance was up by a healthy ten per cent. Just flicking through the programme for this show convinces that there has never been more choice in the market for two wheelers. It doesn't matter what your ride preference might be, there is a bike that will fufill your wishes, desires, or just plain needs. Take a scroll through a few of the manufacturers websites and you'll see what I mean. And because new markets are developing throughout the world, are we experiencing an unparalleled period of consumer choice as we head towards 2015?
Who among us realises that the Compulsory Basic Training test and certificate has been around now for more than thirty years (December 1990)? Its introduction is credited with curtailing the number of crashes and injuries or worse experienced by young riders. And talking of young people choosing to learn to ride a motorcycle or scooter, there was a hiatus early this year when the figures for young people taking the motorcycle test dropped dramatically in the period following the introduction of new licence and power restrictions in January 2013.
Fortunately the figures for the numbers of younger people taking their bike test has begun to recover. With comment on the Department for Transport website indicating this may coincide with improved economic circumstances for some people – full stats can be viewed at www.gov.uk/organisations/department-for-transport
New Year's resolutions
Resolutions and predictions will be rife as the old year closes. The only certainties we'll be able to rely on will be that acres of newsprint and hours of broadcast time will be devoted to an election campaign which is sure to begin immediately after the Xmas and New Year festivities and break is over. But as the dark days of winter begin to recede through the early weeks of the new year, motorcyclists thoughts turn to warmer dryer miles. Plans for touring, club meets and ride outs, racing and spectating, restoring and rebuilding, and show going will be laid. Whatever strand of activity you engage in we wish you a safe and very enjoyable biking year in 2015.
Any thoughts or comments from your motorcycling year email us at email@example.com
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