69 years of local Holden manufacture has come to an end
But it's not the end for the firm...
It was back in 2013 that we first reported on this sorry tale. Like many people, we were hoping for some kind of reprieve for this great company that was founded in 1856, and has been engineering cars since 1948. But clearly that wasn't to be. Today, 21st October 2017, the final vehicle (a red Commodore) rolled off the Holden production line in Elizabeth, South Australia.
It's not game over for Holden, mind. The firm will continue to import cars and will occupy itself in other automotive areas. But vehicle production is no more, and beyond the immediate impact of factory job losses, it's a sad day for Australia—albeit one that was long expected.
The Elizabeth plant opened in 1963. At the height of production (2003 - 2005) 780 vehicles per day were built. In 2005, over 60,000 vehicles were exported, mainly to the Middle East and North America. However, in the last few years that number has been dwindling. And in the past 12 months, just 175 cars were produced daily.
The workforce has, naturally, also been downsizing. In 2013, when the announcement was made regarding the imminent end of production, there were around 1,750 staff on the payroll. During the intervening four years, around 800 staff retired, or left, or took redundancy packages. Beyond that, thousands of jobs in external service businesses that served Holden are now also gone, or in jeopardy.
However, around 700 Holden jobs, we hear, are to remain, many of them in the design and development department which will continue to enjoy a very significant input into the creation of new models that will be built overseas and imported onto the Australian mainland.
Meanwhile, not everyone down under is teary-eyed about the factory closure. The Australian government has spent billions in subsidies and "hand outs" to the firm; money that's been hitting the "average" Aussie tax payer hard. A relatively small, but vociferous group of citizens is glad that the Holden local manufacturing era has come to an end and is looking for (but not necessarily expecting) a corresponding drop in federal taxes.
Up until 2016, the Ford Motor Company was building cars in Australia. Toyota closed its factory a few weeks ago. Over the decades, many other companies operated vehicle manufacturing plants in Australia including British Leyland, Nissan, Renault, the Rootes Group (Hillman, Singer, Sunbeam, Humber) and Volkswagen.
See: Sump Classic Bike News, December 2013 for more on this story
News has only just reached us that John Nelson, ex-Meriden Triumph Service Manager and a goldmine of information on both the machines and the firm's commercial machinations died on 23rd September 2017 aged 92.
We knew John a little and visited him once or twice at his home in Nottinghamshire where, in a heated garage, he kept his beloved 500cc Triumph that he'd owned for decades.
He spent much of his retirement years as a guest speaker for motorcycle clubs and suchlike, and he was for many years the patron of the Triumph Owners' Motor Cycle Club (TOMCC). He also wrote Bonnie: The development history of the Triumph Bonneville, which is pretty much a must-have publication for hardcore Triumph fans.
At his home, he kept many old factory records, company brochures and sundry literature, and he was always "on hand" at the end of his telephone happy to talk to us about the bikes and the business of bikes.
He confessed once that as a young man in the early 1950s and new to Meriden, he found himself "awed and terrified" by the formidable figure of (then) Triumph Supremo Edward Turner—who Nelson described as a great and complex man who he "very much admired".
John Nelson's last position at Triumph was Managing Director of the Workers Cooperative. It was a fairly short-lived role, and one that was not really suitable to his talents. Nevertheless, he accepted the position and in doing helped maintain morale and continuity and provided much-need stability during those heady years.
We last spoke to John a few years ago when he fielded some questions regarding Triumph production numbers through the 1960s and 1970s. He said that he was slowing down a little now and was not really available for any more speaking engagements, and understandably he sounded a little tired, but not dispirited.
Genial, generous, softly spoken and ever the motorcycle enthusiast, he was also a great admirer of John Bloor's Hinckley Triumph and regretted only that Meriden Triumph had failed to bring the company into the 21st century.
"The firm had the right ideas and some great engineers," he told us during an interview. "It was only the management that was in question."
And how did he enjoy his time at Meriden? "It was wonderful," he said. "Just wonderful." It was at Triumph that he met his wife, June.
John Nelson is survived by June, three children, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A funeral will be held at Gedling Crematorium, Nottingham, at 2.30pm on 30th October 2017.
Wirral-based helmet manufacturer faces a new future
Product to be launched at the November 2017 EICMA Show
Davida has produced a "teaser video" suggesting that the Wirral, Merseyside-based firm is about to launch its first full-face crash helmet. By definition, teasers don't give much away, and this strip of digital celluloid is showing little more than Alan Birtwistle (British Dirt Track Athlete & DTRA Champion) doing the usual unlikely teenage stuff aboard a Honda CFR450 on the mean streets of Birkenhead or Salford or similar. But it looks clear that the helmet on his noggin isn't like anything seen before from the world-famous firm founded in the 1970s by Dave Fiddaman.
Being Britain's only and long-established manufacturer of traditional lids (Jets and "pudding basins"), a full-faced crash helmet marks a giant step into the future (or at least into the present) for the company, and we imagine there was years of head scratching, coffee overdosing, serviette scribbling and disturbed sleep before this one got the green light. But we're speculating, of course. We've got no inside track into the machinations of the firm.
However, in an age where personal safety is practically a fetish, it seems likely that Davida has nowhere else to go if it wants to continue to grow amid hungry competition, or possibly even stay solvent—and we can imagine one or two other up-to-date biking products slow cooking on the Davida back burner [You're speculating again, dummy - Ed].
Regardless, something new and interesting appears to be coming, and Davida will be launching the lid at this year's EICMA Show (Esposizione Internazionale Ciclo Motociclo e Accessori) aka The Milan Show that runs from 7th - 12th November.
But is a full-faced helmet going to dilute the identity and cachet of the firm? We don't think so. Full-faced lids have been around for so long that they're a tradition too. If anything, it's the competition that should be worried.
Bonhams flogged the bike in 2007 for seventy grand plus change
The firm's just sold it again for considerably more...
Auction house Bonhams is sounding pleased and upbeat regarding the results of the firm's sale at Stafford on Sunday 15th October 2017. The top selling lot (Lot 223) was the (immediately) above 1,068cc Henderson Model C Four which achieved £113,500 including premium. The bike was carrying an estimate of £70,000 - £90,000.
Manufactured in 1914, the Henderson's first owner was Frederick Burnett of 11 Grindlay Street, Edinburgh, Scotland. When World War One kicked off, Burnett was posted to Norfolk and took the motorcycle with him.
In 1960, the bike was still in Burnett's hands, so to speak, albeit stored in an Edinburgh cellar. A Scottish collector named Michael Mutch presently acquired the Henderson and displayed it at the Myreton Motor Museum in East Lothian, Scotland. The following year the motorcycle was entered in a Vintage Run organised by The Perth & District Motor Club where the bike and rider took a Finisher's Award.
A "sympathetic restoration" followed, and the Henderson was once more displayed at the museum where it stayed for many years. But that's not quite the end of the tale. It seems that US collector Peter Harper bought the bike some time after (no details), and the motorcycle was sold again in San Francisco at the May 2007 Bonhams Sale. The price was $93,600 (£70,382) including premium. Therefore, in the intervening decade the value has increased by £43,118, or roughly £4,300 per annum. Not a bad return for holding onto (and presumably enjoying) a prize example of vintage Americana.
The next owner brought the Henderson back to the UK and later entered it in the 2013 Pioneer Run. That was the last year the bike carried "road tax". We don't have information on who bought the Henderson at Stafford on 15th October 2017. But it would be nice to think that it's going to remain here, ideally in Scotland.
Features of the Henderson includes a Powell & Hanmer acetylene lighting system, a Gloriaphone hand-operated klaxon, a Cowey Engineering Co Ltd 0-80mph speedometer, and a Brooks leather saddle. A large quantity of documents were also provided including a Pioneer Run Certificate, a V5C registration document, various old MOT certificates, and assorted technical literature.
The bike has been restored and, following long periods of inactivity, it's been recommissioned. But that restoration, note, was many years ago (in the 1960s as far as we can tell), so it's since acquired a reasonably convincing and appropriate period patina that most people would accept and be happy with (purists look away and be silent, please).
Another satisfying result for Bonhams was the 48 piece Ivan 'Millennium Man' Mauger speedway collection which included a 1969 Jawa Model 890 Speedway Racing Motorcycle which sold for £18,400; a 1977 Jawa DOHC four-valve speedway racing motorcycle which hit £17,250; and a 1971 Jawa long-track racing motorcycle which pulled in £9,775.
That collection, by the way, is said to have achieved a 100% sell-through rate. The total raised was £140,000, an unspecified amount of which will go to the Speedway Riders Benevolent Fund.
Here are some other significant results:
Lot 228. 1932 Brough Superior 981cc SS80 De Luxe, £107,900. Est: £55,000 - 65,000
Lot 224. 1911 Pierce 688cc Four, £107,900. Est: £80,000-120,000
Lot 225. 1912 Pierce 644cc Model 12 Single, £89,980. Est: £45,000 - 55,000
Lot 204. 1972 MV Agusta 750S, £84,380. Est: £50,000 - 60,000.
Lot 322.1950 Vincent 998cc Series-C Black Shadow, £79,900. Est: £70,000 - 100,000
Lot 244. 1949 Vincent 998cc Series-C Black Shadow, £70,940. Est: £50,000 - 60,000
Lot 236. Ex-Bill Beevers 1955/56 Norton 500cc Manx, £64,220. Est: £30,000 - 35,000 (not to be confused with the 348cc Bill Beevers Norton below)
Lot 222. c.1978 MV Agusta 837cc Monza, £66,460. Est: £35,000 - 45,000
Lot 278. Finally, the ex-works, Jorge Lorenzo, 2007 world championship-winning, 2007 Aprilia 250cc RSW grand-prix racing motorcycle sold for £101,180.
Also price check these more modest lots...
▲ Lot 131. 1966 650cc Triumph TR6 Trophy. £4,025 including premium. This bike was listed with just two owners from new. Restored. Rebuilt. Hyde 7-plate clutch. Stainless 'guards and spokes. Boyer ignition.
▲ Lot 251. 1988 Peraves Ecomobile. Tandem seating. Kevlar bodywork. BMW K100 engine. "Geared for 150mph, and smoothest at 100 - 120mph." The hammer came down at £11,500. Premium is included. This is the motorcycling future that never was. Yet.
▲ Lot 216. 1963 348cc BSA B40. Running condition with Netherland registration papers, this little Beeza fetched £2,990 including premium. Not original, but looks like a decent little rider's bike.
▲ Lot 118. 1956 Triumph 197cc Tiger Cub. £4,025 including premium. Nice little Trumpet shows that Cub prices are holding reasonably well.
Beyond the very respectable Henderson sale, Bonhams is claiming a 95% conversion rate both with regards to lots shifted and value. The overall turnover was £2,752,416. That compares to £1.6million at Stafford October 2016. And to widen the context, Bonhams turned over £2,132,257 at Stafford in April 2017, and £3,454,501 at Stafford April 2016.
Overall, it looks like Bonhams has plenty to crow about. Over the next few days we'll be analysing the sale further. Check back to see what updates we have, if any.
▲ Bernard (Ben) Noble, third owner of this illustrious hard-boiled 348cc Manx Norton which has seen more action than John Wayne. It's up for sale, and it could be a great bargain.
Dee Atkinson & Harrison are the auctioneers
Saturday 4th November 2017 is the date
Here's a bike with chequered history, much of it within sight of a chequered flag. It used to belong to Sheffield-born racer Bill Beevers who notched-up 43 TT races between 1933 and 1960 and was awarded 27 replicas (bronze or silver "Finisher's Medals").
Beevers was 55-years old when he fought his last race riding this bike. In his time, he competed in the Lightweight, Junior and Senior TT. In 1936 he rode in the Ulster Grand Prix, and he left his calling card in Belgium, Holland, Brazil and on many other circuits. If there was a major race between the early 1930s and the end of the 1950s, there was a pretty good chance Bill Beevers was in it, and innit to winnit.
Eventually the FIM took away Bill Beevers' licence (shame), and he was unable (but perfectly willing) to race. So he opened a motorcycle shop in Firth Park Road in the Page Hall district of Sheffield. There he sold BMW motorcycles and Isetta bubble cars. Later, he became the first motorcycle dealer in the area to take on a Honda franchise.
▲ Bill Beevers with what looks to us like a Norton International (unless you know better?). In his day, this man was a very serious contender and is fondly remembered by his fans and customers. He later sold bikes and retired to the IOM. Sadly, he's no longer on the circuit.
That same year, the British MOT (Ministry of Transport) test was introduced, also known as the "Ten Year Test" due to the fact that most vehicles over ten years old were (then) required to be checked for road-worthiness. Bill Beevers was once again in the vanguard and opened an MOT testing station.
He was well known in the locality, not simply for his motorcycle shop and racing successes, but also for the E-Type Jaguar he owned. Sometime after he established the shop, he gave or sold the business to his nephew and retired to the Isle of Man with his wife Lily, or Lilly. Later the business was sold to a non-family member. That business is still trading as an MOT station (and if you know anything else about Bill Beevers, or if you spot an error here, we'd be pleased to know about it and put it right).
The next owner of the Norton was Noel Stephenson from the village of Preston, east of Hull. He campaigned the bike in five Manx Grand Prix races between 1961 and 1965. Stephenson retired once (1961), and had his best shot at 12th place (1964).
Then came Bernard (Ben) Noble who hailed from Driffield, East Riding of Yorkshire, who bought the bike in 1965 or 1966. Noble had raced a BSA Gold Star in the 1964 Manx Grand Prix but didn't finish. It's said that it was that Goldie that funded the purchase of the Norton. It's also said that Noble was "the first member of the Driffield and District Motor Cycle Club to compete at the TT, and he was given £5 by the club to help with his expenses."
▲ Bernard (Ben) Noble at the office. We know almost nothing about his racing history, so please clue us in if you're more enlightened. But if there was track, and if he had wheels, he was usually somewhere in the pack.
Riding the Manx, Noble competed in dozens of other races at Darley Moor, Cadwell, Oulton Park, Scarborough, Croft, Mallory, Brands Hatch—and, of course, the Island. Naturally, the bike evolved over the years with gearbox changes and even a complete engine switch. Consequently, it's not clear exactly how much of this bike would be recognised by Beevers or Stephenson. So it's a moveable and changeable feast, and buyers will need to factor that into whatever value they place upon these wheels.
The bike is being sold exactly as it last raced in 1996 with an 8-inch twin leading shoe front brake, a 7-inch rear brake, both wheels laced to 19-inch rims (with Avon tyres), an 1-3/8th Amal GP carburettor, a metal 5 gallon tank, a spare fibreglass 3-gallon tank and "the distinctive red fairing that Ben always used".
▲ Ben Noble's lid getting a haircut. Or maybe it's some kind of pre-race check. Or maybe numbers and stickers are being applied. Either way, that lid could be yours for around £15,000 - £20,000, and you'll get a 350cc 1960 Manx Norton chucked in.
Also, interested/prospective purchasers will notice the webbing wrapped around the rear frame used to absorb the odd oil leak and so prevent it from coming into contact with the rear tyre. And while we remember, Noble's pudding basin crash helmet will go with the bike.
The auction estimate is £15,000 - £20,000 which doesn't sound much for a bike with this much history behind it. But then there's the question of the engine swap.
Meanwhile, see the bike immediately below for another auction lot in the same sale that caught our attention. The auction address details for both bikes are down there somewhere.
Beeza pre-war single carries a low estimate
Would suit a rider from (Kingston upon) Hull
It was manufactured for just a couple of years between 1937 and 1939, and it was hardly the most glamorous model in the BSA range. Nevertheless, the 249cc OHV B21 De Luxe was good, solid, reliable transportation for the working man (or woman) of the day and could haul a rider around at maybe 45 - 50mph—which was a respectable enough velocity in those pre-war, cobblestone, gritty and grimy years.
Originally, the bike was a 3-speed hand change model, and if you know your Beezas, you'll see Val Page's fingerprints all over this piece of everyman engineering.
This example was registered in Hull (or Kingston upon Hull if you prefer), in the East Riding of Yorkshire. And it appears that the bike has pretty much remained in that locality through to the present day. The registration number is FRH 316, and we don't know if that's original or transferable or non-transferable (but we have our suspicions).
In 1940, a certain Sidney Wilson was the registered keeper (or custodian if you prefer). James Wilson took over in 1950; possibly the son of Sidney. The last tax disc on the Beeza dates from 1958.
Nothing much is known about the bike for a few decades until a certain Andre Lauet sold the B21 to a certain John Dawson. That was in 1982, and the price was £250. Dawson, we understand, added the bike to his collection, and it's been languishing since then and no doubt hoping to see a little more action on the street before the apocalypse, etc.
In unrestored condition, this BSA is said to "appear very complete and original" but prospective buyers will have to do a little snooping and exploring of their own in the usual way. The original RF60 logbook is available, and there's also a V5C on tap. But take note that the frame and engine number are listed the "wrong way around". You can figure out what that means without further explanation.
▲ In 1937, Valentine Page, one of Britain's greatest motorcycle designers (if not the greatest) was commissioned to revamp BSA's "ageing" range of singles and twins. What followed was a new lightweight B Range and heavyweight M range.
▲ With a bore of 63.5mm and a stroke of 78.7mm, these sprightly 249cc sports singles gained foot gear change from 1938. Brakes were notional rather that practical, but fuel consumption was a very reasonable 70 - 80mpg in the right hands. Investability? Not great. Riding fun? Lots.
If you're a romantic at heart (and most classic bike riders/owners are), and if you live in or around the Hull area, this modest motorcycle will probably have a particular charm and appeal. It looks to us like a perfect oily rag specimen, and we suspect it wouldn't take more than a few afternoons to get it rolling—and the notion of it put-put-putting again around the quaint old cobbled streets of what was once England's greatest fishing ports makes us reach for the Kleenex.
One more thing: the bike carries a SUMP: NO RESTORATION order, so don't say you haven't been bloody-well warned.
It's going to be auctioned by Dee Atkinson & Harrison on Saturday 4th November 2017 at Sledmere House, Sledmere, East Yorkshire which is a Grade 1 listed stately pile roughly 27 miles from the mean streets of Hull. The postcode is YO25 3XG.
Interestingly, the estimate is just £600 - £800, so if you can bag it for anywhere near this price, you'll probably have another very nice little toy to play with. We might even put in a bid ourselves. And if we do, and if you outbid us, you're dead.
UPDATE: There was some question of whether or not this bike was still for sale. Having routinely checked the company website, we noticed that it was no longer listed. But we've since contacted Dee Atkinson & Harrison and have been assured that the BSA B21 is indeed available. It will soon be listed in an online catalogue, we hear. Look for lot number 1020.
9th December 2017 is the date
The National Motorcycle Museum is the venue
H&H Auctions has announced the latest entries for the firm's forthcoming sale on 9th December 2017 at the National Motorcycle Museum.
The (immediately) above Indian Scout 741 will be on offer with an estimate of £15,000 - £17,000. Indian prices have for some time been all over the place. Actually, most classic bike prices have been all over the place as the quirks of the information age continue to manifest themselves in the most unlikely ways.
Nevertheless, in this instance we think H&H's expectations are fairly reasonable (as much as any expectations are reasonable these days). The Scout is an older restoration. It's got matching numbers, is ride-able, and has an Indian Club Dating certificate.
These 42-degree, 750cc V-twin flatheads produced around 22hp (claimed)and were good for around 85 - 90mph under the right conditions. The US Army took around 30,000 bikes, many of which returned to civvy street post-war and were rebuilt, repainted and redeployed. Today, there are plenty around.
Reliability wasn't the 741 Scout's strongest selling point. But the bikes were reasonably nimble, easy to work on, strong general performers, and in their day were riding a high wave of popularity thanks largely to the racing successes of Indian rider Ironman Ed Ktretz (1911 - 1996) who won the first Daytona 200 in 1937 piloting an Indian Sport Scout. Ktretz later worked as an army motorcycle instructor, and when the shooting stopped he founded his own Indian dealership.
In 1940, Indian introduced full-skirted fenders which instantly divided the Indian camp—and split public opinion in general. The 1930s had been an age of streamlining, and Indian finally caught the bug and made the full-skirted concept its own.
The Scout 741 above, however, features more abbreviated fenders and looks to have been modified in numerous ways, not least with regard to the exhaust system and extra chrome plating. The price new would have been around $390.
As an investable motorcycle, we don't see a lot of headroom with this lot. Not at this price, anyway. But Indians are always in demand, and long term the prospects look reasonably good. However, they are fun to ride, have pretty good parts back up, enjoy a good club scene both in the UK and overseas.
Other new entries at this sale include the following bikes:
1989 Benelli Sei
Estimate: £16,000 - £18,000
1981 Yamaha XS1100 Combination
Estimate: NO RESERVE
1969 Triumph T120 Bonneville
Estimate: £8,000 - £9,000
c.1977 Honda CB400 F
Estimate: £5,000 - £6,000
Russian main man is now a fashion icon
Matchless London gets political with its "Heroes Collection"
Yes, we know; faking-up images of world leaders wearing crash helmets and other items of biking apparel is the other thing you're supposed to grow out of when you're in your teens. But when we heard that Matchless London is soon to be retailing a Putin bomber jacket, we felt compelled to reach for the mouse and open Photoshop.
But why shouldn't the Russian antidote to Donald Trump get himself inside a bomber jacket? When you think about it, there's no reason at all. He's got a million bombers, so he ought to have a jacket to go with them. It's just one of those things that we've never thought about, s'all.
So what's the full story to this modern fable?
Well if you can remember as far back as 2010 or 2011, you might recall that the President of the Russian Federation (who was 65-years old on 7th October 2017), joined a Ruskie motorcycle club called the Night Wolves. It was some kind of PR thing that, like pretty much all Putin PR things, looked kinda dumb (but was no dumber than most of the dumb stuff that the other world leaders get up to).
Anyway, riding a three-wheeled Harley-Davidson (not a Ural or a Cossack, take note), Putin sallied forth dressed in a suitably menacing outfit (which looked suspiciously like a Spetsnaz assault suit or something), but was clearly minus a leather jacket.
Matchless London, it seems, later caught a whiff of that story, checked with its accountants, and duly created something appropriate for the Russian leader to wear on those long dark, freezing nights with the Wolves. So now we have the Putin bomber jacket (but it's not clear if Vlad the Lad has actually been given one for his wardrobe).
▲ Vladimir Putin riding with the Night Wolves. To Matchless London he's a modern hero, and millions of Russians agree. Harley-Davidson, however, probably has mixed feelings over this particular Hog ride. Check this www.newsweek.com link for more on this story.
Manuele Malenotti, the managing director of Matchless London apparently said (but we're not sure if we can believe it), "Matchless London is famous for its luxury jackets inspired by real and fictitious super heroes—from Marlon Brando to Arnold Schwarzenegger and from Batman to James Bond.
"We consider Russian President Vladimir Putin a modern superhero as well, giving personal respect to his strong character, brutal image, sense of humour and calmness as a world leader. As a 65 year old, Putin rides horses, plays ice hockey and practices judo, among other things. This is not the usual routine even for much younger leaders. And yes, he runs Russia, the global super powerhouse."
Well there goes a true Putin acolyte (who's conveniently forgotten some of the other things that Mr P gets up to when he's not kicking-ass on his Harley-Davidson).
The price for this piece of sycophantic cowhide is £1,286 ($1,699). Matchless London told us that it's made from some new kind of "innovative" leather (we'd tell you more, but who needs a cuppa with polonium-210 instead of sugar cubes, huh?). The jacket is supposedly good for "up to" 40-degrees below, but we reckon that even Iron Man Putin will feel his testicles shrivel long before the thermometer drops that low.
If you want one of these jackets, forget Christmas or sooner. It won't be available until January 2018.
Matchless London is owned by the Malenotti family who bought the brand and rights in 2012 and had since upset pretty much every Matchless classic bike rider on the planet. Luckily, the founding Collier Brothers died long before they could witness what happened to one of the world's great motorcycle marques. Lucky Hitler ain't still alive, huh?
More on the Matchless London brand
Travis Pastrani back-flips a bike on the Thames (but does anyone care?)
Classic Bike Live, East of England Showground reminder. 28-29th/10/17
Rumble e-bike. Orders now welcomed. 44mph. 50-miles. 3-4 hrs. $3,495
Ujet electric scooter Brussels launch. 28mph. 90 miles. 2 hr charge
Skully crash helmets new ownership. Fresh start? Or tainted brand?
Lonnie Isam Jr, Motorcycle Cannonball Run founder has died: 1969-2017
September reveals further bad tidings for new UK bike sales
Adventure Sport and 651cc to 1,000cc registrations are, however, up
It ain't as complicated as our headline might make it sound. So stick around for another minute or two, if you will. The basic story is that new motorcycle sales in the UK are, overall, continuing to decline. But not all manufacturers are on the downward slope, and not all bike categories or engines sizes are off the front burner.
For September 2017, total new bike sales are down 23.6 percent when compared to September 2016 where 16,002 bikes were sold. The overall number of new bikes sold last month in the UK was 12,226. That's a drop of 3,776 units. Around 85,000 new motorcycles were sold in the UK between January and the end of September.
And September ought to be a good month. Why? Because in more recent years, this is when the home market gets a second registration plate change (March being the first plate change). You might expect to see a mild fluctuation, year to year. But a fall of nearly 4,000 bikes goes way beyond a seasonable blip.
So okay, there are other factors affecting the sales figures, such as the recent switch from Euro 3 to Euro 4 emissions standards which led to various issues of supply, demand, overstocking and "pre-registration". Nevertheless, even when you factor in these modifying influences, new UK motorcycle registrations are down again.
Honda Motorcycles, however, bucked the trend. The firm was top of the heap with a 9.3 percent growth. Yamaha, meanwhile, flogged fewer bikes in September and saw a 19.5 percent fall. The firm took second place on the new bike sales podium. BMW fell 13.6 percent and took bronze.
And Triumph? Well our Anglo-Saxon homeboy came fourth and was down by 21.9 percent. The other September consolation prizes go to Kawasaki, Lexmoto, KTM, Harley-Davidson and Suzuki (pretty much in that order).
▲ You need to watch stats and block graphs and suchlike. Yamaha's XT1200Z Super Tenere didn't really outsell BMW's R1200GS in September 2017. But looked at more "holistically", this is the UK new bike sales podium for last month. Adventure sport and big bikes are up. Everything else must try harder. Triumph came fourth.
But remember, these are just September 2017 numbers. Triumph, for instance, is actually having a great year overall thanks in part to its chronically successful Bonneville range (which includes the new Bobber). It's simply that for this month, for whatever reason, Hinckley saw a sales reduction when compared to the same month last year. It happens.
In terms of which bike styles and engine sizes are in vogue, and which are out, only the adventure sports bike market (as championed by the currently all-conquering 998cc Honda Africa Twin) raised its game with 665 bikes sold. Everything else was down. As for engine capacities, the 651cc - 1,000cc sector grew by a modest 1.3 percent.
What does it all mean? Who knows? It just seems to get worse and worse, and we suspect that Brexit (always a convenient whipping boy) has little or nothing to do with it. But the western world is continuing to polarise, and market stability looks a far off dream—and there's been some weird Biblical planetary alignment going on, and no doubt the pundits and economists and religious leaders have other explanations. We're drawing no conclusions.
But for what it's worth, the UK car market is also down. For September 2017, the drop is 9.3 percent when compared to September 2016. And over the past twelve months, the drop is 3.9 percent. Unsurprisingly perhaps, electric and hybrid car sales are up. Diesel is way down. Petrol is still king.
Amen to that.
British Home Secretary's under 18 acid test
New legislation to stop people doing bad things
UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd (image immediately above) has devised a cunning way to halt the modern national phenomenon of scooter jacking. Speaking at the recent Conservative Party Annual Conference in Manchester, 54-year old Rudd (MP for Hastings & Rye) has proposed "drastically limiting" the sale of acid to under 18-year olds. Or, looked at another way, 19-year old scooter jackers will still be at liberty to purchase as much acid as they desire, and then hand it over to younger siblings and friends to deploy at will and at leisure.
Of course, the police will correspondingly enjoy new powers to explore the reasons why anyone is carrying acid in public and, if necessary, arrest them for possession of a dangerous substance—never mind that the coppers already have such powers and it hasn't done much prevent the hundreds of acid attacks that have taken place so far in 2017—and we include the revenge attacks usually perpetrated by disgruntled lovers and husbands, the majority of whom are of Asian ethnicity.
Once again, the government knee-jerk reaction has focussed upon the method of the crime rather than the underlying problem—which is simply that scooters and motorcycles are easy to locate, easy to steal, easy to hide, and easy to dispose of (in whole if not in parts).
Rudd has been quoted as saying, "Acid attacks are absolutely revolting. We have all seen the pictures of victims who never fully recover—endless surgeries, lives ruined. So I am also announcing a new offence, to prevent the sale of acids to under-18s."
This, take note, is the same woman who has just announced a clampdown on people repeatedly viewing forbidden jihadist internet site material by threatening them with a proposed 15-year prison term. "I want to make sure those who view despicable terrorist content online, including jihadi websites, far-right propaganda and bomb-making instructions, face the full force of the law.”
That, at least, is the quote she's credited with. But we haven't heard it directly.
▲ As reported in The Indian Express and other newspapers, 200 London delivery riders held an anti-acid attack demo on 18th July 2017. Their messages has clearly reached the right ears, but does the space between those ears really know what to do? We don't think so.
All the government now has to do is figure out which substances will be covered by the new laws. Hydrochloric acid is, of course, a given. Ditto for sulphuric acid, nitric acid and phosphoric acid. But then there's acetic acid (in vinegar and ketchup); citric/ascorbic acid (in general cooking); lactic acid (used for making beer and vegan cheese); tartaric acid (used as a leavening agent in baking); and carbonic acid (for soda water, etc).
Don't forget tannic acid used in wood stain, and dozens of other noxious alkaline products such as ammonia and caustic soda which have all kinds of "legitimate" domestic uses and which, logically, ought to be covered by the same dubious legislation. And if Rudd can sort that out with a meaningful executive directive that will make sense in front of a judge, then she's a better man than us.
Beyond that, there's no point in framing new legislation if the frame can't contain the bigger picture. And that picture is simple: people steal scooters because they can. Fix that problem, and the scooter jacking issue will go away—but the usual scumbags will doubtlessly pop up somewhere else until wider social problems and issues are adequately addressed (poverty, unemployment, overcrowding, religious fundamentalism, multiculturalism, and too much crap on TV, etc).
The moral here? That's simple. When the country is headed to hell in a handcart, there's nothing like a swift knee-jerk reaction to put the world to rights. Are we right?
Way ta go, Amber.
See also: Classic Bike News August 2017
See also: Acid attacks. What should you do?
See also: London scooter acid attack solution
▲ These stats reflect the ongoing sales decline of Bauer Media magazines over a 10 year period. Classic Bike and Ride Magazine are doing best. Practical Sportsbikes was launched in 2012, so the stats show its slide over a 5 year period. See below for the 2016 numbers.
Bauer Media's six biggest bike titles are down again
Morton Media steadfastly refuses to have its sales ABC checked
UK motorcycle magazine sales are continuing to fall under the weight of the internet steamroller. A decade ago, Motorcycle News (aka MCN) was flogging around 120,000 copies per week. Here at Sump, we can well remember a time when MCN was pushing around 200,000 copies every seven days. More recently, the world famous title has been giving copies away with issues of Classic Bike in an effort to bolster the appeal of both titles and keep advertisers happy.
Since 2016, MCN has seen an 11.5% drop (down to 64,278 weekly sales). Bike Magazine, over the same period, has fallen 1.9% (33,740 per month). Performance Bikes is down 9.6% (13,758 per month). Ride is down 2.8% (31,022 per month). Classic Bike is down 9.7% (33,546 per month). Practical Sportsbikes is down 9.3% (18,017 per month).
It has to be said that all the titles except Classic Bike and Practical Sportsbikes are claiming matching reader numbers with their digital editions, but we're not sure if there's a reliable way of checking the figures.
▲ Still no independent stats regarding Darth Mortons' bike magazine and newspaper sales. But our best guess is that the company is also looking at significantly falling print numbers and diminishing returns.
Meanwhile, Morton Media is facing similar sales woes and is struggling to keep its number buoyant. But the Horncastle-based empire, which publishes numerous motorcycle titles including Old Bike Mart, The Classic Motorcycle, Classic Bike Guide and (more recently) Back Street Heroes has also been busy giving away copies of its titles (including Old Bike Mart)—all of which it heavily uses to promote the various bike shows and autojumbles owned and managed by the firm.
In other words, Mortons desperately needs the maximum number of eyes on its pages to keep the tills ringing, so giving away copies such as Old Bike Mart and Motor Cycle Monthly is a necessary evil. We'd give you exact sales numbers of the titles that are not being given away, except that the Empire still refuses to have its sales checked by the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC)—and you can read what you want into that.
Certainly, of the Mortons advertisers that we spoke to, many reported significantly reduced responses and sales of products or services. But without further (and unrealistic/uneconomic) analysis, it's impossible to uncover the causes. The falling response claim, take note, was similar with Bauer titles.
On the plus side, from an advertiser's point of view, advertising costs in the bike mags and biking newspapers have also fallen over the past decade or so. Magazine production costs, meanwhile, have more or less correspondingly dropped—and pretty much all the print magazines are running with what we'd call skeleton crews. But how long the situation can continue is anyone's guess.
We're not suggesting for a moment that print magazines in the biking sector, or any sector, are in terminal decline. But a rationalisation of some kind is undoubtedly coming.
Vive le Sump, we say.
See: Sump Motorcycle News February 2016
Emphasis on structural and non-structural issues
"Keep dangerous vehicles off the road, "— ABI
Think you know your A, B, C and D? Well think again because it's now A, B, S and N. We're talking about insurance write-off categories which, in order to reflect modern car repair techniques, solutions and problems, are changing.
Currently here's how the old categories apply:
Cat A: Write off. Burned, smashed, dropped off a cliff. No usable parts
Cat B: Seriously damaged. Some parts may be salvaged
Cat C: Major damage, but can be repaired (albeit uneconomically)
Cat D: Safe to drive, minor issues, but not economic to repair.
Here's how the new categories will apply:
S: Structurally damaged repairable
N: Non-structurally damaged repairable
Put simply, the A and B categories are pretty much the same as before. The real difference lies in the new S and N categories which are intended to differentiate between structural and non structural issues.
For instance, the "old" Cat C could involve a car that's had damage on all four corners (lights, bumpers, panel scratches, bent wheel rim), is not driveable at present, but is otherwise sound enough and worth sorting out. Alternately, you might have been looking at a motorcycle with lots of similar scuffs and panel damage and maybe bent stanchions.
Meanwhile, the old Cat D category might have involved a car with superficial damage that would cost more than the value of the vehicle. Ditto for a motorcycle. Often, this category reflects labour costs as opposed to parts costs.
The new S and N categories will now draw a clearer line between "trailer away" and "drive/ride away". In both instances, S and N vehicles will be allowed back on the road subject to the usual inspection.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) tells us that the aim is to keep "dangerously repaired vehicles" off the road. And apparently, due to the complexity of modern car and motorcycle engineering, "motorised death traps" are becoming an increasing problem. Safety cells are being compromised. Electronic control systems are being bodged. Many modern alloys require specialised welding. And qualified motor engineers are, we're told, in short supply. In short, the days of the back street bodgers are supposedly numbered.
Or is this new orthodoxy nothing but a shrewd and timely move by the motor manufacturers intended to at least partly limit the supply of repairable vehicles thereby encouraging more new car and motorcycle sales? Or is that too cynical? You decide.
As with all systems, the A, B, S and N categories are bound to be imperfect with considerable overlap (and maybe even underlap). But broadly speaking, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the motor industry (and we include the motorcycle industry) has welcomed the changes.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how the insurance companies will handle cover on Cat S and Cat N returnees.
Watch this space.
"700" anti-bike theft protesters ride in Bristol. Saturday 30/9/17
White Helmets Display Team held their final show. Saturday 30/9/17
Italian Tacita unveils T-Cruise electric cruiser. 3 models. £8,000 - £21,000
Triumph's £4 million Hinckley visitor centre opens. 5-days a week. Free
Birmingham cops mark with "tickets" unlocked bikes. Wise? Not wise?
KTM knocks £700 from RC125 (now £3,599) and RC390 (£4,399)
Royal Enfield opens £97 million 3rd factory in India. 300,000 bike capacity
Ex-Racer Colin Seeley's Spitfire ride: £2,550. 20mins. Biggin Hill. 19/9/17
Watsonian-Squire reports increased demand for sidecars. Business up
Holeshot Racing's theft near Leeds. Two Hayabusas and van torched
Isle of Man Steam Packet: "4,237 bikes to 2017 Festival/Manx. Up 5.6%"
15,000 Moto Guzzistas flocked to Mandello del Lario factory. Sept 2017
4th Motorcycle Live event at the National Motorcycle Museum. 4/11/17
13% drop between 2015 and 2016
Fatalities rise for other road groups and users
According to Department for Transport stats, motorcyclist deaths have fallen from 365 in 2015, to 319 in 2016. That's a drop of 13 percent. What makes the stats more significant is that bikers were the only road-going group to show a drop over this period.
So what's behind the improved news? Who knows? The increase in vehicle numbers with ABS and traction control might well play a part. Better tyre technology has also perhaps helped. Increased rider awareness is a possibility. And the type of bikes being ridden (cruisers, bobbers, adventure bike, as opposed to sports bikes) might have had a role to play.
Or is it simply that over the same period, there were 2% more bikers on the road? This reflects a school of thought which suggests that if you want to make the highways and byways safer for motorcycles, better have more of them scooting about thereby increasing their collective visibility. However, even if that was true in principle, the relatively small increase in numbers would probably make little difference in practice.
But you never know.
Meanwhile, 319 deaths is still way too many and continues to represent disproportionate losses. But it's the best number since 2006 when the current statistic capturing methodology was established.
Here are some more hard numbers between 2015 and 2016:
Total UK road fatalities: 1,792
Car passenger fatalities: 816 (up 8%)
Pedestrian fatalities: 448 (up 10%)
Motorcyclist fatalities: 319 (down 13%)
Cyclist fatalities: 102 (up 2%)
Other fatalities: 107 (up 4%)
Total UK road injured: 24,101
Slightly injured: 155,491
Total UK miles travelled: 324 billion
A lot of groups and organisations are claiming credit for the lack of kills. But the truth is likely to be a combination of factors.
And consider this if you will; generally speaking, over the past ten years (these latest stats notwithstanding), deaths on UK roads have fallen by 44%—down from 3,172 in 2006 to 1,792 last year.
You may take your hands off the 'bars and put them together for a minute or so in the usual manner, but only if you're stationary, please.