Top 10 Ups and Downs of 2010

The moto world takes us on a roller coaster ride!


We're just a heartbeat away from the first days of 2011, so now seems as good a time as any to reflect on the many happenings that impacted the two-wheeled world in 2010.

Certainly some monsters reared their heads, and the fragile economy continues to hamper a rebound in the moto industry at large, but a few highpoints bear noting, too.

The following collection of events, as well as mounting changes, that reshaped motorcycling in 2010 – or will and may soon alter motorcycling in the future – is by no means a comprehensive list.

If you can think of a significant event or item, good or bad, that we should’ve included, feel free to let us know and make yourself heard in the Reader Feedback.

Here’s to an even better year in 2011!

Down! – Liquidation of Buell Motorcycles – final nail in the coffin

Ups and Downs

Although Harley’s shuttering of Buell occurred in mid October 2009, and was already old news by the beginning of 2010, there was still the matter of selling off everything Buell. Auctioning/selling of approximately 1,000 company assets took place from January 28 to February 28, 2010.

Ups and Downs

The bright spot in this is that though we mourned the end of Buell Motorcycles, it wasn’t Mr. Buell that ceased to exist. After the end of the company bearing his name, Erik Buell’s resilience surfaced rather quickly.

It was only a matter of few weeks after Harley announced the end of Buell that Erik heralded the beginning of Erik Buell Racing Company. And this past September Buell announced a forthcoming street bike, called the EBR 1190RS, from his new company. Buell also found time to realize another dream. A long-time musician, Buell’s band, the Thunderbolts, released its first album, titled Anthem.

Buell bikes seemed to strike that love it or hate it chord with riders, but most every two-wheeled enthusiast admired the determination and passion that fired Erik Buell’s drive to create an American sportbike company.  We surely haven’t heard the last from him.

Related Reading
Liquidation of Buell Motorcycles Announced
Erik Buell Racing makes first sale
Buell 1190RS Streetbike Teased
Erik Buell and the Thunderbolts “Anthem” Album Review
All Things Buell on Motorcycle.com

Up! – Elena Myers Takes First Pro Win for a Woman in AMA Road Racing

Ups and Downs

Sixteen-year-old Elena Myers achieved a history-making race win in the AMA Supersport Championship series on May 15, 2010.

Prior to Myers’ win during the 4th round of the 2010 AMA Supersport Championship held at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, no female road racer had claimed a win at the pro level in AMA championship road racing.

Ups and Downs

When the young lady racer turned 16-years-old in November 2009 she became eligible to race professionally in the AMA. In March of this year she made her professional debut in the AMA Pro SuperSport class, taking a 7th-place finish in races 1 and 2. Myers also claimed the status as the youngest pro female racer to compete on the Daytona track.

Following Daytona, the diminutive dame posted a series of respectable finishes throughout the season. Myers, whose AMA race number is 21, managed a 4th-place showing in SuperSport race 2 at Auto Club Speedway in March; a 5th-place in Race 2 at Road Atlanta; her win at Infineon in May; a top-10 finish in August during the AMA Pro Superbike Nationals race weekend at Virginia International Raceway and took 5th place in SuperSport Race 1 at the season closer in September.

These solid results, however, were often followed or preceded by much less impressive finishes during the same round.

Lil’ Miss Elena impressed Motorcycle.com years before turning pro, when she caned the big boys while riding her 125 GP bike around Thunderhill Raceway during a trackday event. Be sure to read former editor Gabe Ets-Hokin’s Racer Girl sidebar on page 3 of the 2005 Open Supersport Shootout Even then Elena was already showing winning form.

You go, girl!

Related Reading
Elena Myers nets historic first win
Elena Myers to Ride Rizla Suzuki GSV-R
ElenaMyers.com

Down! – Tough Times Means Job Losses at Harley-Davidson

Ups and Downs

In early May, as Harley-Davidson scrambled for ways to cut over $50M in costs, the company announced that moving out of its home state of Wisconsin was an option, albeit not its first choice.

Ups and Downs

Like many large corporations had to do during the long-running eco crunch, H-D had to look to reduce a big chunk of overhead, specifically employee wages and salaries.

In September labor unions ratified a seven-year contract with H-D, set to begin April 2012, which created a two-tier employee system and set wage ranges, as well as holding off pay raises for most employees until the last couple of years of the agreement.

On Sept. 14 Harley accepted the union’s offer, part of which included a workforce reduction of 325 employees. Harley anticipates the new labor agreement will save the company $50M beginning in 2013. Only three days after H-D accepted the contract terms, the state of Wisconsin offered The Motor Company a $25M tax credit to entice the company to remain in the state.

Ups and Downs

Planned labor force cuts included in the new agreement with unions may have meant that H-D wouldn’t qualify for the tax credit, and so the company chose to eliminate at least 575 jobs, anticipating that an estimated $50M cost savings should prove a better deal than the $25 million Wisconsin offered.

Harley wasn’t the only business seemingly forced to make such drastic moves because of the recession. But you have to wonder just how bad off H-D was that it still needed to clip hundreds of jobs after divesting itself of MV Agusta, dissolving Buell Motorcycles and receiving $2.3B from the Feds during 2008-2009?

Equally curious is that on the heels of H-D’s hard times, MSRPs on many of its motorcycles remain high relative to the competition. Harley’s financial woes aren’t likely resolved by simple price slashing in order to move more products to help boost the bottom line, but could more competitive pricing hurt?

But what do we know? Despite Harley’s current predicament, it still commands the largest share of the U.S. motorcycle market.

Related Reading
Feds loan H-D $2.3B
H-D may leave Wisc.
H-D, Unions reach agreement
H-D Unions ratify new labor contract
Wisc. offers $25M tax credit to Harley
Harley declines Wisc. tax credit offer
2010 H-D Road Glide vs. 2010 Victory Cross Country
2011 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide Review
2011 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero Review
All Things Harley-Davidson on Motorcycle.com

Up! – Victory Motorcycles Posts Big Gains in 2010

Ups and Downs

A bright spot this year is Victory Motorcycles.

The other maker of American cruisers reported a 10% increase in U.S. sales during the second quarter, and in Q3 the company posted $20.1 million in sales. That’s an increase of 116%, more than double the $9.3 million in sales from the same quarter in 2009. Unit sales in North America increased more than 50% in the third quarter 2010, while sales outside of the States were up 100% in that same period according to Victory’s parent company, Polaris Industries.

Ups and Downs

The third quarter boon marks the fourth consecutive quarter of increased sales and market share. Much of that success, says Victory, is courtesy of rising demand for its Cross Roads and Cross Country bagger models.

Seen in various reviews on this site, the Cross bikes represent excellent value in the expanding bagger segment.

Compared to many of the major brands sold in the U.S., Victory moves far fewer units overall than its Midwestern neighbor, Harley, or an equally big player like Honda.

However, such a monumental increase in sales, regardless of market share, when so many others continue struggling is great news. At this point in the American motorcycle market, we’ll take good news when and where we can get it!

Related Reading
2011 Bagger Cruiser Shootout
Victory Q3 sales report
2011 Victory Cross Roads Review
2011 Victory Lineup Reviews

Down! – All New Motorcycles in Calif Must Clearly Display EPA Label

Ups and Downs

A new law signed by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger mandates that exhaust systems on California state-registered motorcycles built after Jan. 1, 2011 and aftermarket exhausts produced after January 2013 clearly display a label of EPA approval.

The law is clearly a knee-jerk, band aid-type-fix reaction to excessively loud systems. The reality is that OEM exhausts meet EPA approval and are labeled as such. However, the labels aren’t always readily visible.

Ups and Downs

As a result, a rider with an exhaust system that doesn’t clearly display an EPA label but otherwise meets noise emissions standards may get citied by an officer of the law for having an illegal exhaust. Furthermore, motorcycle manufacturers may have to alter the exterior of systems on certain models specifically to meet this new California regulation.

This may lead to a change in the manufacturers’ production processes, etc., which in turn may lead to an increased MSRP for bikes coming into California. Or worse, it might even mean an across-the-board price hike since it’s easier and less costly for an OEM to make one version of one model than multiple versions. A rider in Florida, for example, may pay extra for his new bike just because the OEM had to tailor the model to California specs.

A more equitable way to regulate and therefore cite violators is to use an approved sound testing method on the spot when an official thinks a bike is in violation of noise emissions standards, as the AMA suggests the adoption of the recently drafted SAE standard. Perhaps not so convenient for police, but certainly not less convenient than making the bike’s owner or the officer crawl around the underside of an exhaust system just to see that it is in fact up to spec.

Related Reading
California SB 435 targets motorcycle exhausts
California Senate approves SB 435
Governor Schwarzenegger signs SB 435

Up! – Catalina Grand Prix Returns After a 52-year Absence and On Any Sunday “Part 2” in the Works

Ups and Downs

The last time motorcycles raced in and around the city of Avalon, Calif., located on Santa Catalina Island, was in 1958.

Dec. 3 – 5, 2010, saw the return of this once very important event to the island, and by most accounts the 2010 Catalina GP – with lead sponsor Red Bull – was a big success.

Racers shipped themselves and their machines from the shores of SoCal and as far away as Europe, to the small island port community that thrives on tourism. Even at premium rates for the weekend, hotel and motel rooms were hard to come by as thousands of spectators migrated to the island for the GP’s revival.

Ups and Downs

A total of 12 races took place, with a reported 800 racers registered to compete in at least 46 separate classes. From top-level pros to Average Joes on rickety vintage machines, the GP held something for everyone.

Racing on Santa Catalina Island began in 1951 with 1958 as the last year. The Grand Prix was considered an influential event in terms of bike sales following the race. Walt Fulton Jr. won the inaugural GP event aboard a Triumph Thunderbird.
 
Fulton’s son, and friend of the staff of Motorcycle.com, Walt Fulton III, is an accomplished retired racer in his own right. A former three-time winner at Daytona and team racer for both Harley-Davidson and Kawasaki, Fulton III was also a featured rider in the 1971 documentary On Any Sunday, and is the proprietor of Streetmasters Motorcycle Workshop.

Speaking of On Any Sunday, director Dana Brown, son of the original OAS director Bruce Brown, brought a film crew to Catalina for the 2010 GP to collect footage for what Brown is calling “the next ‘On Any Sunday’” film. Although the film project hasn’t secured full funding, filming is supposed to continue throughout 2011 with an anticipated release sometime in 2012.

Ah, the good old days are back!

Related Reading
Full Results of 2010 Red Bull Catalina Grand Prix
Filming Begins for New "On Any Sunday" Film
Catalina Island (California) Grand Prix Slated for 2010 Return

Down! – Another Year of Declining Bike Sales in the U.S.

Ups and Downs

This one’s pretty cut ‘n’ dry: Through the first nine months of 2010, total sales of ATVs, scooters and motorcycles were down 18.3% compared to the same period in 2009. This marks at least the third straight year of declining sales.

Despite positive global sales totals for some brands, sales specific to the States are dismal.

Ups and Downs

Although Yamaha Motor Co. (based in Japan) reported a 15% increase in net income for the first nine months in 2010 compared to the same period in 2009, its U.S. bike sales plummeted more than 50%. Suzuki didn’t fare much better, reporting a 37% decrease in U.S. sales during the first quarter of 2010 – Suzuki’s decision to not import all but one small displacement 2010 street bike to the U.S. contributed to the decline.

Honda’s second quarter sales report revealed something of a leveling off of losses in U.S. sales, as its 2010 Q2 numbers were essentially on par with the second quarter of 2009. According to Honda this stability is due in large part to sales of its new PCX scooter. Big Red is embracing the power of positive thinking, stating it expects to increase unit sales, from 97,000 to 103,000, by the end of its fiscal year in March 2011.

Harley-Davidson posted a decline of more than 9% for U.S. bike sales in its third quarter. However, with so many retail avenues (think merchandising) the company ultimately posted a healthy net income figure of $88.8 million over the third quarter compared to $26.5 million in 2009.
 
Related Reading
U.S. motorcycle sales continue to decline
Yamaha Q3 2010 report
Harley Q3 2010 results
Honda Q3 2010 – 2011 report
Suzuki’s Q1 2010 report
Piaggio’s CEO Speaks Out on State of Motorcycling
State-of-the-Cruiser Address

Up! – Europe Rising: BMW, Triumph and Ducati Move Ahead in 2010

Ups and Downs

Counter the Big Four’s foundering motorcycle sales in 2010 with considerably more positive results from three of Europe’s biggest players.

Pieter de Waal, VP of BMW Motorrad USA, says that despite a halving of the U.S. motorcycle market since 2008, BMW’s market share has nearly doubled.

BMW had a smashing success with the S1000RR; it’s the bike BMW says is largely responsible for a 5% gain in U.S. sales and a whopping 20% gain in Europe. BMW says the RR makes up 20% of BMW’s sales volume.

De Waal calls the S1000RR a “runaway success,” pointing out that BMW exceeded the company’s target of a 10% share of the literbike market. Additionally, De Waal says that just 15% of riders purchasing the new German liter machine are BMW owners, which means that 85% of RR owners are conversions from other brands.

Seemingly in support of that statistic is De Waal’s claim that in 2010 85% of Japanese literbikes purchased in America were leftover, pre-2010 models, and that those units were usually heavily discounted.

Brit brand Triumph also boasts significant growth, though mostly in the global and U.K.-based markets.

Triumph says that it now moves a little less than 50,000 bikes per year, and to date has sold more than 100,000 models in the U.S. and 500K machines worldwide. Furthermore, the Hinckley, England-based company says that a little more than two years ago it had 3.1% of the global motorcycle market, which is now up to 4.8% – a significant growth.

Ups and Downs

For 2011 Triumph claims seven new models – although only the Tiger 800 and 800XC are truly all new – with a total of 23 models in the lineup.

Ups and Downs

In July, Ducati North America reported a cumulative sales growth of 7.5% for the U.S., Mexican and Canadian markets. In the U.S. alone, Ducati says that it saw a 4.75% increase in sales compared to July of 2009. Demand for the all-new 1198-superbike-engine-based Multistrada exceeded Ducati’s expectations during this period.

Following this upswing, August proved another banner month for the Bologna, Italy based company, as it reported a 24% increase in sales in the face of a 13% decline for the U.S. moto industry. Ducati said the new Multistrada, new 796 Monster, and the 848EVO that received significant upgrades over the 848 without an increase in MSRP, as big contributors to the growth.

With the recent unveiling of Ducati’s headline-grabbing Diavel, BMW’s new 6-cylinder K1600GT and GTL über tourers, and Triumph’s all-new inline-Triple middleweight Tiger 800 and 800XC adventure-touring-type models, these Euro bike makers should continue to make profitable gains – especially against the currently conservative Japanese brands.

Related Reading
Top 10 Hottest Bikes of 2011
Triumph Presents New Models, CEO at IMS
Triumph unveils Tiger 800 and 800XC at EICMA 2010
Ducati sales up 24% in August
2011 Ducati Diavel Review (Almost)
2012 BMW K1600GT and GTL Unveiled
2011 Ducati 848EVO Review
2010 Ducati Multistrada vs. 2010 BMW R1200GS
2011 Aprilia Shiver vs. 2011 Ducati Monster 796

Down! – NHTSA-funded Motorcycle-only Checkpoints Program: A backdoor to a federal helmet law?

Ups and Downs

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has made a $350,000 grant available to fund motorcycle-only traffic checkpoints.

Known as the Motorcycle Law Enforcement Demonstration Program, the grant will support up to five law enforcement agencies’ efforts to establish checkpoint programs modeled after one established by New York State. In 2008, New York State troopers set up 15 checkpoints near motorcycling events, pulling aside motorcyclists to educate them on safety issues as well as issue traffic tickets for violations such as riding without a license, use of unapproved helmets and use of illegal exhaust systems.

During a September 2010 Senate subcommittee meeting, NHSTA Administrator David Strickland stated that motorcycle fatalities are “moving in the wrong direction,” relative to a reduction of overall highway fatalities between 2004 and 2009. He also said that the most effective measure to help reverse the trend in two-wheel fatalities is to “assure that all riders wear a DOT-compliant helmet, which are 37% effective in reducing fatalities.”

Ups and Downs

Strickland’s comments on helmet use echo comments made by Sen. Frank Lautenberg on April 14, 2010 during a U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works hearing entitled, "Opportunities to Improve Transportation Safety."

In that April hearing Lautenberg asked the DOT’s Deputy Secretary of Transportation, John D. Porcari, “If we are to have real gains in motorcycle safety, isn’t it time to reinstate the law that requires helmets to be worn by all motorcycle operators and passengers?”

Sen. Lautenberg stated that since the 1995 repeal of the “motorcycle helmets required law” that he authored in 1991, “motorcycle fatalities have skyrocketed.”

In response to Lautenberg’s rhetorical question about reinstating the federal helmet mandate, Porcari stated that “motorcycle helmet use is the single most effective way to reduce motorcycle fatalities … we strongly support motorcycle helmets laws because they do work.” And that “it’s [wearing helmets] the single most effective thing that any motorcycle rider or passenger can do.”

The American Motorcyclist Association is concerned that Strickland, like Lautenberg, would like to re-institute a federal helmet law.

The potential backlash to this mandate, according the AMA, is that if passed in to law it would “penalize any state without a mandatory motorcycle helmet law for all riders by denying federal transportation and safety dollars to that state.”

Ups and Downs

The AMA’s view is that the motorcycling community is better served when funding goes to rider education and motorcycle awareness programs “that decrease the likelihood of crashes from ever occurring,” as well as funding to the national motorcycle crash causation study currently underway at Oklahoma State University.

In a response to the AMA concerns, Strickland highlighted results from a particular checkpoint in New York wherein 225 motorcyclists were inspected, and that among other violations noted, 36% of the cyclists wore helmets that didn’t meet New York State law. He also said that safety checkpoints – not specific to motorcycles – were successful strategies for addressing safety issues such as seat belt use and impaired driving.

In that same response to the AMA, Strickland said that NHSTA has “long supported rider training and activities to increase motorist awareness of motorcycles,” but he also revealed again his support of universal helmet use when he said that the “encouragement of use of DOT compliant helmets” is part of an effective strategy for crash protection.

U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) is sponsoring a bill (H. Res. 1498) in the House of Representatives that ultimately aims to prevent the NHSTA from helping to implement a federal helmet law.

It’s likely that NHSTA has motorcyclists’ best interests at heart, but is considering implementing a national helmet law more reactive than proactive? Perhaps a better approach is an intensive and comprehensive training regimen that, as part of the training, makes clear to new riders the dangers in not wearing a helmet.

As the saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Related Reading
Administrator Strickland’s September 28th statement to U.S. Senate subcommittee
AMA’s letter to Administrator Strickland
NHSTA Administrator Strickland’s response to AMA
H. Res. 1498
Letter by members of Congress to Secretary of U.S. Dept. of Transportation
Motorcyclist fatalities down in 2009

Up! – The Electric Motorcycle Movement Marches (Quietly) Onward

Ups and Downs

Five years ago, about the only time the word electric crossed most motorcyclists’ minds was when considering that new electric can opener as a Christmas gift.

Now, at the close of 2010, there are at least six models of electric motorcycles available to the consumer. And key players Zero and Brammo are promising new and better models just around the corner.

In fact, this burgeoning segment has grown enough that this year we conducted our first (and what we believe with confidence was a first anywhere!) all e-bike shootout, followed just recently by a unique e-bike vs. traditional gas-powered dual-sport comparo.

Ups and Downs

The e-bike segment has grown at a seemingly exponential rate this year, so much so that we’ve created a whole new category, called Electric, on Motorcycle.com. This emerging market segment has become considerable enough in size that it warrants its own share of the two-wheeled world.

Furthermore, in 2010 there were two all-electric bike road race series: the FIM-sanctioned e-Power International Championship, and the TTXGP ran a series of races in the U.S. as well as one based in Europe and one in the United Kingdom. The first large-scale pro-level all-electric road race was held during the 2009 Isle of Man TT, although the TTXGP event wasn’t an official part of the TT that year.

Following a split with the TTXGP in 2010, the IoM plans to continue the event (now called the Zero TT for zero emissions) during the 2011 IoM TT, marking the second consecutive year for the e-bike race, with increased prize money for e-racers – the first team to post a 100-mph lap gets a £10,000 (approximately $15,500 U.S. dollars) reward.

This rapid development of e-bike tech and seemingly warm embrace by the racing community is impressive. And based on reader feedback to the numerous e-bike-based articles and reviews on this site, we surmise the general consensus in the moto community is that this electric thing could be good for motorcycling.

Yet, there are the very real issues of e-bikes’ limited range and long charge times due to current battery technologies versus gasoline-powered scoots that boast known values in terms range, reliability and wide-ranging horsepower selections. Also, e-bikes tend toward the pricey side; however, various states along with the federal government offer tax incentives and rebates that can add up to thousands of dollars.

Ups and Downs

It’s worth noting that Brammo’s forthcoming Empulse model boasts a huge improvement with respect to range, the Oregon-based company claiming its new, sportbike-like e-bike is capable of a 100-mile range on a single charge in the Empulse 10.0 version. Two other Empulse models will provide less range but will also cost considerably less than the 10.0 model.

Many folks seem genuinely interested in the novelty of e-bikes and the various legitimate benefits they present, like no carbon emissions, low noise emissions, comparatively lightweight, low maintenance, ease-of-use, possibly reducing our nation’s reliance on “foreign oil,” and the patriotism-boosting knowledge that these consumer level e-bikes are essentially American-made.

However, despite this surface optimism, the battery tech limitations and high-cost-for-what-you-get issues continue to keep many riders, veteran and new, from running headlong into the e-bike category. Thus far, it’s kind of like that thing people say about visiting a new neighborhood or vacation spot: nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.

If you polled the Motorcycle.com staff you’d likely find that our preference is for stinky, noisy, gasoline-burning bikes with plenty of horsepower on tap.

But we also recognize that, barring some major setback to the entire e-bike scene, this new branch of two-wheeling could become commonplace – an electric motorcycle sitting right next to a good ol’ petrol powered superbike in dealer showrooms – or in your garage.

Related Reading
The Electric Dept on Motorcycle.com
Dual-Sport Shootout: Electric vs. Gasoline!
2011 Brammo Empulse Preview
2010 Electric Motorcycle Shootout
Lots of Ebike News (especially in Sept and July!)

Other Notable Moto Happenings in 2010
U.S. Highland company execs perish in plane crash
Ducati Factory out of WSBK
Ducati announces Rossi signing
ZX-10R call back due to unstated tech issue
World Moto-Clash Pre-Announced
BRP Developing Hybrid Can-Am Spyder
AMA Pro Road Racing 2011: Fewer races scheduled than 2010 and 2009 season
Paris Hilton Starting 125GP Team
See all 2010 news items on Motorcycle.com

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