When is a pothole not a pothole? When the local authority says it is, and that depends on how much dosh is in the kitty. Lambeth Council in London, for instance, used to take responsibility and fill 'em in when they had a depth of at least 0.98 inches (25mm). But now they won't spread the asphalt until the hole has turned into a crater at least 1.57inches (40mm) deep. And that means that your claim for suspension damage to your classic heap is likely to be rejected if you can't meet the new rules.
Of course, you personally don't subscribe to the modern compensation culture and don't hold out your hand for every grievance that comes your way. You're not that kind of guy. Or gal. Then again, you've paid for your share of the road and have a right to expect value for money. But with the goalposts shifted, you could find yourself more easily shafted.
So why the move? Cost. The damage to Britain's roads caused by "bad weather" has reached a new crisis. Claims are rising. Council's are increasingly cash strapped. So the simple answer is to rewrite the rules. It's claimed that it would take about £13 billion to fix all the holes, but that could drop substantially with a bit of jiggery-pokery in the legal department.
It's worth mentioning that this has been going on for a long time, and that different councils apply different rules. But the underlying point is that your private definition of a pothole might not chime anymore with your local council's. So if you fall off in a pit of less than 1.57 inches, avoid the temptation to nip home and come back with a pick, shovel and vernier gauge and make the hole a little deeper.
That, of course, would be illegal.
The estimate was $70,000. But this particular 400cc Husqvarna Cross, thanks to the Steve McQueen connection, sold for $144,500 (see Sump news, January 2011).
This 1971 machine is said to the be same model, but not the same bike, that appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with a shirtless McQueen at the helm. It was sold by the McQueen estate in 1984, and passed through two owners before being acquired by the "current" vendor. McQueen died on 7th November 1980.
A bill of sale and other evidence of the bike's provenance was sold with the Husky, along with a spare spark plug still taped to the handlebars— supposedly by McQueen. The frame number is MI3845. The engine number is MI3845.
Sounds like a crazy amount for a Husqvarna. But what price celebrity idolatry? Well, $144,500 in this instance.
— Girl Happy
Due to come into force in 2013, the EC Consumer Rights Directive could, if implemented in full (as it stands), play havoc with the business affairs of online dealers of classic motorcycles spares, and even bikes.
In simple terms, provisions within the directive will require online traders to sell their products in all EC markets whilst also being responsible for the cost of return postage for goods returned within 14 days if the value exceeds £35.
No big deal? Actually, it could be a very big deal for many traders, a large number of whom are hardly making a legendary online killing but are merely eking out a living on pitifully small margins.
Aside from the obvious return postage costs issue, internet sellers could be penalised if their business model simply doesn't cater for trading outside of their national borders—perhaps due to a limited infrastructure, staffing/language problems, or under-capitalisation, or because the terms of their business franchise simply doesn't permit expansion into other European regions.
Exactly how the finalised rules and clauses will be implemented isn't clear. Numerous interest groups are hotly contesting the provisions, and indeed it's by no means clear that the EC architects have thought through the problems that will be played out in the real world trade arena —and, no doubt, in the Courts.
In the meantime, classic traders will do well to keep an eye on news related to this directive.
Additionally, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has recently been given new teeth with which to bite online businesses whose marketing material isn't "legal, decent, honest and truthful". The ASA also has also been granted powers to remove offending advertising material on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
However, editorial comment and freedom of opinion is maintained and assured, which means that we can still lie through our teeth about pretty much any product or service, as long as it's not in an advert.
Whether or not the ASA's bite is bigger than its bark remains to be seen. But it's clear that the anarchic free-for-all era of dodgy online marketing is under serious challenge. Then again, it's going to be a nightmare for any authority to actually police—as the British (and world) Courts have been vociferously lamenting in recent months and years.
The internet as we know it could be headed towards a major impasse. Better not put all your online eggs in the same shopping cart.
It's almost always a shame when a business goes bust, not least in the motorcycle world. But that's exactly the fate of Big Dog Motorcycles founded by Sheldon Coleman Jnr and based in Wichita, Kansas, USA.
What happened? The falling economy is what happened. As we understand it, a major creditor has forced the company into bankruptcy. Worse still, existing warranties on bikes sold—many in Europe—might not be honoured.
The firm was founded in 1994 and built its 20,000th bike in the year 2000. The company offered a huge range of options for its Pro-Street and Chopper style range, all with macho names such as Mastiff, Pit Bull, Bulldog and Coyote, and powered by massive V-twin engines. Prices were between $22,500 and around $35,000.
At its peak, Big Dog had 300 staff and built around 5000 bikes in a single year (2005). But slowly, business dried up leaving unsold machines in showrooms and the management desperately seeking to recapitalise.
Not your thing? Well, different strokes, etc. Let's hope that someone comes along with a big cheque book and refinances the firm and puts these bikes back on the production line.
In the meantime, the remaining 22 employees have been hired to support a new outfit intended to supply parts and accessories for existing machines. It's a mess, for sure. But there's a little light at the end of the tunnel.
— The Third Man
The Sheriff of Cambridge, Nigel Brown OBE, a long time supporter and friend of Norman Hyde, has recently taken delivery of the Hyde Harrier Jubilee prototype.
Ex-Meriden Triumph development engineer Norman began the project two years ago to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the original Hyde Harrier and the 50th anniversary of the Bonneville.
The basic Hyde kit includes a replacement frame/swinging arm, fuel tank, seat unit, rearsets, rear mudguard and prop stand. The price is £3995 plus VAT.
The Sheriff's bike, however, has modifications that include a Wiseco big bore kit (taking the engine out to 904cc), a stainless steel exhaust from Harris Performance, PVM wheels, AP Lockheed radial brakes, Ohlins suspension and Keihin smoothbore carbs.
If you want to build one, you'll also need a donor Hinckley Bonneville. For more details, talk to Warwickshire-based Norman on 01926 832345. He's a friendly bloke and will explain exactly why you need one.
— Del Monte
That's one hell of a milestone, especially when you remember how the sceptics told us that John Bloor was never going to resurrect the Triumph brand. To tell the truth, we were a little doubtful ourselves. When Meriden shut up shop, there didn't appear to be much to resurrect, except a badge on a petrol tank and a back catalogue of oily machines dating back to the turn of the last century.
But fast forward to 2011 and we see that sometimes that's all it takes— along with a large private fortune, a lot of grit and determination, and a world-class design and engineering team.
Too mark the occasion, comedian Ross Noble (whoever the hell he is) is planning to ride a Triumph Speed Triple (decked out in the above commemorative livery) across England, Scotland and Wales, with no mention of Northern Ireland.
The tour kicks off on May 24th 2011 and will end up in Ross's home town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He's expecting the jaunt to last seven days.
Apparently, the man has been hitting the stand-up comedy circuit for the past twenty years, but this ride is no joke. It forms part of his "Sit down tour" and will raise money for the charity Riders for Health which campaigns to provide medical support in rural Africa.
If you want to follow the tour through his Twitter feed (whatever the hell that is) you can get it here: @therealrossnoble.
Anyway, Hinckley Triumph—or should be start calling it just "Triumph" now—has made its mark. Let's hope it goes from strength to strength and smashes through the one million barrier sometime in the not too distant future.
Congrats, and all that. to John Bloor and Co.
The 1954 AJS E95 “Porcupine”. The AJS factory made only four of these DOHC, 500cc works racers (as distinct from the earlier E90 version), and Bonhams has got one on its books.
On August 18th 2011, it goes under the hammer at Carmel, California; Clint Eastwood's neighbourhood—and, apparently, one of the most dog friendly towns in the US of A. The estimate is a cool $750,000. The bike, we hear, used to live in the National Motorcycle Museum, but will probably end up in Jay Leno's shed.
Bonhams CEO Malcolm Barber said, “It is arguably the most beautiful, graceful and innovative racing motorcycle ever built, the perfect blend of technology and art. Comparisons are impossible but bikes of a similar caliber – rarity, significance and worth—could include a 1915 Cyclone Board Track Racer, 1955 Moto Guzzi V8 or a mid-1960s RC Honda Grand Prix. This AJS is an utterly important machine whose appearance at auction cannot be underscored enough.”
We can't say amen to all of that because we think it's one of the ugliest bikes we've ever seen. But this 55bhp beast has a reputation and provenance, and with those, you don't need good looks.
Wouldn't kick one out of the garage on a cold night, mind.
— The Third Man
We admit it. We've always had a soft spot for scooters in general, and Lambrettas in particular. Named after the river Lambro near the Innocenti factory in Milan, Lambrettas disappeared from the UK in 1972 when the market shrank across Europe leading directly to factory closure.
The bikes, however, survived in India which, since the 1950s, had been assembling Innocenti machines and later developed a sub-brand, Lamby.
The story from there is long and complex and international, but the important news is that there will soon be brand new Lambrettas (the Ln125 and Ln150) back on British streets.
The new bikes, we hear, have all the right classic design cues, and will arrive with electronic ignition, "modern" suspension and brakes, galvanised steel panels, a four-stroke engine, and CV transmission. The price? £3300 including VAT.
Naturally, we're not going to be rushing out to buy one, but good styling and a cool set of wheels are always a treat for the peepers. So roll on Lambretta. Turn back the clock.
But what's more interesting is that scooters came to prominence back in the days when the country was poor and a little desperate and needed cheap transportation to mobilise the masses (hence India's interest). Well, the UK scooter market is currently booming—which is another indicator of just how hard times are for a lot of people. These Lambrettas might not be the cheapest hairdryers on the block, but it's not just fashion and nostalgia that's opened the door.
They'll be rationing petrol next.
They've been around for a decade and are one of the friendliest bike clubs on the block. They count 160 members among their number including ex-Norman factory employees and members of the Norman family.
But they're always looking for fresh blood. So if you want to spill a few drops and own a Norman motorcycle, autocycle or pushbike, you'd better get along to their next event which is this Sunday,15th May 2011. Starts at 9.30am.
The location is their usual spot at Willesborough Windmill, Hythe Road, Ashford, Kent. TN24 0QG. If you want to become a member, Gary Pilcher is the man (in the red leather suit) to talk to.
Here's a product we've been waiting a lifetime for; electronic 'clocks' to replace the unreliable mechanical Smiths and Veglia instruments as fitted to various British bikes including Triumph, Norton and BSA.
SRM Engineering in Wales, we hear, has teamed up with Smiths Instruments to create these updates, which means that you can trash those cables and drive boxes and go 100% digital on your classic heap.
In fairness to Smiths, it was very often the drive boxes (both speedo and rev counter) that caused the problems rather than the 'clocks' themselves. Regardless, this is the next leap forward—and we'll be getting a set for ourselves when we can afford them.
But that might not be in the immediate future because the suggested retail prices of these are £189.95 for the speedo, and £179.95 for the tacho. The speedo has all the usual functions, plus a built-in clock. Senders and sensors and whatnot are supplied, and the instruments will work with any 12-volt positive or negative earth system. Black-faced clocks and green-spot Norton versions are on the way.
— The Third Man
One of England's longest established and best known classic bike spares dealer is selling up. Founded in 1900 by Arthur Gagg, the business was originally a pet shop marketing anything from canaries (reputedly yellow painted sparrows) to monkeys, but soon discovered a more lucrative cash cow in the shape of motorcycle parts (after breaking a complete machine and flogging the spoils, or so goes the legend).
By degrees, the firm built relationships with all the major British bike factories and parts suppliers and established a thriving retail experience trading in pretty much anything and everything from Ariel to AMC to BSA to Norton to Panther to Triumph to Velocette to Vincent.
Fast forward 111 years, and grandsons Alan and Arthur have read the internet-writing-on-the-wall and are now looking for a buyer to take the whole shebang off their hands—except, that is, for the speedometer repair side of the business which they plan to continue as a separate entity.
Their stock is huge, and includes parts dating back to the 1920s—and probably earlier. If you want to "register an interest", drop 'em a line at the email address below and make an offer. But keep in mind that the price is likely to be high. This business is a little gold mine of NOS parts and hard to obtain items, and Alan and Arthur know it.
— Del Monte
Well it's nothing if not enterprising. A Cambridgeshire motorcycle shop has "come to the rescue" of local villagers by becoming both a post office and grocery store.
Blades Motorcycles, founded in Great Staughton in 2010 by owner Steve Hay is now serving everything from spark plugs to bread to postal orders, and is putting the heartbeat back into a struggling community
Blades already attracts a lot of motorcyclists to their dawn-to-dusk burger bar and seating area, and is hoping to attract even more kindred spirits. At present, there's a mix of enthusiasts from superbikers to classic bikers, and that's just the way they want it.
Steve is himself a keen rider and has ambitious plans for the future. He's looking to host bike events and autojumbles, and is hoping to install a big screen to allow customers and visitors to watch motorcycle racing en masse.
But if you're in the area and want to pop along, you're politely asked to consider the neighbours and keep the racket down.
You can find Blades on the B645 near St Neots. It's "squeezed in" between the A1/A6 and the A14 at Brook Farm, The Highway, Great Staughton in Cambridgeshire PE19 5DA.
Telephone: 01480 860926
— Girl Happy
They were installed in the Spring of 2010, but these £800,000 and highly controversial rear-facing "average" speed cameras were left switched off for a year because of a simple, but typically stupid, oversight.
What happened? The road planners forgot to factor in a shortcut between two sections of the road. That made it impossible to calculate the distance, and that made it impossible to calculate the speed. And without that, any evidence of speeding would be tainted and inadmissible.
But now the council has fixed the bug by installing another camera unit, and that means you've got to watch it. Our feeling is that they'd better install some more cameras to closely watch the cameras because plenty of speed merchants have little regard for the fact that the A537 between Buxton and Macclesfield in Derbyshire, aka the Cat and Fiddle road, is one of the most dangerous stretches of tarmac in the country as far as bikers are concerned. A little criminal damage wouldn't surprise anyone.
Understandably, however, the local authorities wanted to do something to cap the death toll of roughly 10-15 bikers per annum, plus the hundreds of injuries to both the complicit and the innocent, hence the cameras.
Sounds like a real party-pooper, but it's worth keeping in mind that speeds of up to 120mph have been recorded on this stretch, and that most men (particularly young men) generally have only a limited control of their right hands, be it on a motorcycle, the pub, or elsewhere.
Shame that speed cameras are necessary. But sometimes they're necessary. Suck it up.
Most people on the British side of the Atlantic have never
heard of Polaris Industries (founded 1954). But Stateside, the firm is a huge player in the world of snowmobiles and all terrain vehicles, with 2010 sales of $1.991 billion.
The company, which also owns Victory Motorcycles (launched in 1998) has recently (19th April 2011) bought the assets and manufacturing rights to Indian Motorcycle (IML) and intends to "aggressively" market the brand as an "autonomous" enterprise underpinned by its financial, engineering and marketing muscle.
It's not the first time something like this has happened. Way back in 1969, AMF (American Machine and Foundry) bought Harley-Davidson, later selling the firm in 1981 in a management buy-out.
AMF (founded 1900) was a manufacturer of sports equipment, bicycles and even nuclear reactors. At one point, it was one of the largest companies in the USA—albeit with dubious, and increasingly untenable, commercial philosophies. Its fortunes declined in the 1970s and 1980s, and is today remembered primarily for its bowling equipment.
Many Harley riders felt that the AMF years were lean years that produced an inferior product racked with chronic underdevelopment and poor quality control. But it has to be said that AMF carried the baton to the next man in the Great American Motorcycle relay race and kept Harley viable at a time when it might otherwise have gone under.
But Polaris isn't AMF, and motorcycle engineering has changed markedly since the 1960s hammer-and-arc-welder production methods.
Meanwhile, Indian Motorcycle has long been underfinanced and struggling to make a serious impact in a market still dominated by Harley-Davidson. Moreover, Victory Motorcycles has already established itself as a rising brand that’s eating (or at least nibbling) into Harley's cake. It will be interesting to see whether this new acquisition actually puts any more pressure on Harley, or merely puts Victory and Indian at each other's throats.
Neither is it clear exactly what the position is regarding the Indian brand name, with various companies and individuals claiming limited manufacturing rights.
However, unlike (say) Triumph, which moved more or less seamlessly from Meriden to Hinckley, Indian's brand is a little more muddied. Various attempts to reintroduce the marque has left the buying public confused and unconvinced, and brand confusion is generally a surefire route to brand contempt.
Nevertheless, Indian is a very strong trademark with a higher recognition than Victory, both in and out of the motorcycle world, and it certainly looks like this could be Indian's best shot yet.
— The Third Man