They Deserve Better Treatment by Rogue, Senior Editor Bikernet.com, Founder Biker Lives Matter
“I am a Biker and A Disabled Veteran. There are a lot of people who are as well, including Bandit, and most of us deal with the Veterans Administration for our medical treatment. This was promised to us when we enlisted and or drafted into the military.
I have a close friend who is a Navy Veteran and he told me he was not allowed to sign up for VA because his wife makes too much money.
Some people say they are happy with the way they are treated, but most I have talked to are Not and the reasons vary.”
Yamaha Caps 2021 with Record Support of Public Land for Recreation
Yamaha Outdoor Access Initiative Surpasses $5 Million in Conservation Funding
MARIETTA, Ga., – March 21, 2022 – Yamaha Motor Corp., USA, announces the Yamaha Outdoor Access Initiative’s (OAI) 2021 third- and fourth-quarter grants totaled in excess of $250,000, bringing last year’s funding to more than $600,000. Since 2008, Yamaha OAI has been steadfast in serving the motorized and outdoor recreation community, contributing over $5 million in essential support for local and national organizations working to preserve and improve access to public land, fostering productive partnerships between recreationists and land managers, and delivering much-needed funds for safe, responsible recreation.
“The surge in outdoor recreation is both gratifying and daunting. While we love to see families enjoying time spent outside, it amplifies the need to work together to preserve and protect the land so we can appreciate it today and in the future,” said Steve Nessl, Yamaha’s Motorsports marketing manager. “Considering the uptick in use and resulting attention and resources our nation’s public spaces require, we are proud to approve thirty new Yamaha Outdoor Access Initiative grants in 2021 – the most we’ve awarded in one year since 2009.”
From inception, Yamaha OAI has selected projects with the highest potential of providing recreationists with increased and improved opportunities to enjoy the United States’ outdoor public spaces. In the latest funding rounds, the organizations awarded for support include both national and local footprints with diverse communities and interests to create a comprehensive approach to advocacy for access to public land for outdoor recreation.
“We’ve worked with Yamaha and their Outdoor Access Initiative for more than a decade. Together in that timeframe, we’ve launched our One Voice program and matched numerous riding groups with public land managers to establish formal partnerships mutually benefitting everyone’s interests in access to land,” said Fred Wiley, president and CEO of the Off-Road Business Association (ORBA). “Yamaha has a tradition of stepping into leadership roles to support the off-road riding community and ensure opportunities to ride safely and responsibly exist for generations to come.”
ORBA is among the recipients of the third-quarter 2021 Yamaha OAI grants in addition to the following organizations:
Future School of Fort Smith (Fort Smith, AR)
Lakeland ATV Club (Minocqua, WI)
Nevada Outdoor School (Winnemucca, NV)
The Great Outdoors Fund (National)
2021 fourth-quarter Yamaha OAI grants were awarded to:
City of Caribou (Aroostook County, ME)
University Medical Center of El Paso (Texas)
Motorcycle Riders Association (Medford, OR)
National Forest Foundation (Flagstaff, AZ)
Pathfinders Motorcycle Club of Connecticut (Thompson, CT)
San Diego Off-Road Coalition (Calif.)
Three Rivers Land Trust (Salisbury, NC)
Wild Rivers Coast Mountain Bicycling Association (Coos Bay, OR)
The application deadline for consideration in the first quarter of 2022 funding cycle is March 31, 2022. Submission guidelines and an application for a Yamaha OAI grant is available at YamahaOAI.com. Connect with Yamaha on social media via @YamahaOutdoors or search any of the following hashtags on all platforms: #Yamaha #YamahaOAI #REALizeYourAdventure #ProvenOffRoad #AssembledInUSA
About the Yamaha Outdoor Access Initiative
Since 2008, the Yamaha Outdoor Access Initiative has led the Powersports industry in supporting responsible access to our nation’s public lands for outdoor enthusiasts.
With more than $4.5 million contributed to 400 projects across the country, Yamaha has directly and indirectly supported thousands of miles of motorized recreation trails, maintained and rehabilitated riding and hunting areas, improved staging areas, supplied agricultural organizations with essential OHV safety education, built bridges over fish-bearing streams and partnered with local outdoor enthusiast communities across the country to improve access to public lands.
Each quarter, Yamaha accepts applications from nonprofit or tax-exempt organizations including OHV riding clubs and associations, national, state and local public land use agencies, outdoor enthusiast associations and land conservation groups with an interest in protecting, improving, expanding and/or maintaining access for safe, responsible and sustainable public use.
Updated guidelines, application form, information and news about the Outdoor Access Initiative are available at YamahaOAI.com.
This week the House and Senate are tackling a self-imposed deadline to pass funding legislation before government departments and agencies run out of money. To avoid a government shutdown, a large omnibus spending bill is being voted on that will fund government operations through the end of September. Importantly for transportation related projects and programs, the omnibus bill unlocks billions of dollars in funding that Washington red tape has delayed.
Lawmakers and transportation officials have been warning for months that full implementation of the $1.5 trillion infrastructure law, which was enacted in November, isn’t possible because government funding is constrained at 2021 levels. So, while the money is actually in the accounts and ready to be spent, transportation agencies are locked out of using a large percentage of the money until this second piece of legislation is enacted.
Only in Washington, D.C. does it take two bills, five months apart, to achieve your policy objectives!
Lawmakers Focus on Tesla
Recently Tesla has come under criticism for its Autopilot and Full-Self Driving (FSD) features, which critics say give the impression to drivers that the vehicles are capable of hands-off operation. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened two investigations into Tesla’s autopilot system and the automaker has launched nearly a dozen recalls in the U.S. Many of those recalls are related to over-the-air updates which allows Tesla to tweak and change its software remotely.
Last month, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) sent a letter to Tesla seeking answers to a series of questions regarding its technology. Included in the letter were questions regarding safety programming, issues related to phantom braking and driver monitoring capabilities.
Tesla responded to the letter last week saying in part, “Tesla’s Autopilot and FSD Capability features enhance the ability of our customers to drive safer than the average driver in the U.S.,”
Senators Blumenthal and Markey seemed less than impressed with Tesla’s response to their questions. In a joint statement they said Tesla’s response was “just more evasion and deflection from Tesla. Despite its troubling safety track record and deadly crashes, the company seemingly wants to carry on with business as usual.”
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation has long been concerned that safety standards for self-driving and autonomous vehicle technology are inadequate. All motorcyclists should remember that these vehicles are on our roadways right now. Remain vigilant while riding, as the operators and perhaps even the manufacturers are not fully aware of what this technology can and cannot do.
To read the initial letter sent to Tesla click here.
About Motorcycle Riders Foundation
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) provides leadership at the federal level for states’ motorcyclists’ rights organizations as well as motorcycle clubs and individual riders. Visit Website at: http://mrf.org
MUBADALA CAPITAL BACKS SX GLOBAL
TO LAUNCH NEW FIM SUPERCROSS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Queensland, Australia (March 1st, 2022) — Mubadala Capital, the asset management subsidiary of Mubadala Investment Company, one of the world’s leading sovereign investors with US$243 billion of assets under management, today announced its investment in SX Global, an Australian company established to develop, promote, and commercialize the FIM Supercross World Championship.
Mubadala Capital has established a track record of successfully investing in category leaders across sports, media, and entertainment—including EMI Music Publishing, Endeavor Group Holdings, Reigning Champs, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network (YES Network), among others—and this investment continues its history of backing world-class management teams in building differentiated global sports, media and entertainment businesses.
Mubadala Capital’s investment will support SX Global’s expansion plans for supercross and its efforts to capitalize on the exclusive rights it has secured from the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) to manage and promote the new FIM Supercross World Championship, bringing the exciting sport of off-road motorbike racing to fans across the globe in a new competitive format.
“Our commitment to SX Global and the FIM Supercross World Championship builds on our strategy and track record of selectively investing in premier content properties with strong global appeal,” said Adib Martin Mattar, Head of Private Equity at Mubadala Capital. “We expect that our investment in SX Global will introduce the exciting sport of professional supercross to a global audience and build lasting value by delivering an authentic, exciting and fan-centric experience.”
SX Global’s President, Tony Cochrane, added, “We’re proud to partner with Mubadala Capital, a company that shares our vision and global aspirations for the FIM Supercross World Championship. With the international reach, resources, and business building experience of Mubadala Capital alongside us, we’re looking forward to establishing FIM Supercross World Championship as a leading global motorsport and entertainment property.”
Representing Mubadala Capital on the SX Global Board of Directors will be Matt Kim and Russ Pillar, who collectively bring decades of experience backing and leading global sports, media, and entertainment companies. They will be joining Tony Cochrane, SX Global’s President; Adam Bailey, SX Global’s Managing Director (Motorsport); Ryan Sanderson, SX Global’s Managing Director (Commercial); Tom Potter, Rush Sport & Entertainment; and Tavo Hellmund, Founder, Event Partners Marketing, on SX Global’s Board of Directors.
In December 2021, the FIM awarded SX Global the exclusive organisational and commercial rights to stage, manage and promote the FIM Supercross World Championship. Under the leadership of the SX Global Team, and with the financial backing and support of Mubadala Capital, Supercross will become a true global sports property, competing on a legitimate international platform for the first time in history. The FIM Supercross World Championship will commence in late 2022.
Mubadala Capital is a wholly owned asset management subsidiary of Mubadala Investment Company, a leading global sovereign investor headquartered in Abu Dhabi. In addition to managing its own balance sheet investments, Mubadala Capital manages over $10 billion of third-party capital on behalf of institutional investors in all its businesses, including three private equity funds, two early-stage venture funds, a public fund, and two funds in Brazil focused on special situations.
Mubadala Capital and its affiliated entities have a long track record of owning and/or operating globally recognized sports, media, entertainment and premium content and services properties including EMI Music Publishing, Endeavor Group Holdings, Reigning Champs, Ultimate Fighting Championship, and the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network.
SX GLOBAL – BOARD
Matt Kim – Non-Executive Board Member
• Matt Kim is a Senior Principal at Mubadala Capital and leads the team’s sports, media and entertainment investment activities. He possesses over a decade of investment experience, and prior to joining Mubadala Capital, Mr. Kim was an investment professional at Bank of America Capital Advisors, where he focused on evaluating private equity investment opportunities globally.
Mr. Kim graduated from Boston University with a B.S. in Business Administration with concentrations in Finance and Entrepreneurship and is a CFA charter holder.
Russ Pillar – Chairperson
• Russ Pillar is a Senior Advisor and Operating Partner of Mubadala Capital where he initiates, evaluates, and manages investment opportunities globally. He is a tenured sports/media/consumer CEO, with executive roles across the Virgin Entertainment Group, Prodigy Internet, the CBS Internet Group, the Viacom Media Group, the Los Angeles Marathon, and Reigning Champs, among others.
Mr. Pillar previously held directorship roles for more than three dozen private and publicly traded sports, media, retail, entertainment, and technology/tech services companies. A Phi Beta Kappa cum laude graduate of Brown University with an A.B. in East Asian Studies, he also is a Henry Crown Fellow at The Aspen Institute and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.
Tony Cochrane AM – President
• Tony Cochrane’s passion and experience forge a formidable combination and have ultimately resulted in some unforgettable milestones in entertainment and sport generally over the past 45 years both in Australia and on the global stage.
Over the past 45 years with partners and solo, Tony has produced and promoted over 400 sporting and entertainment events throughout the world, sold in excess of 25,000,000 tickets with gross sales exceeding two billion dollars, and written nearly $250,000,000 in sponsorship sales.
In his time as Executive Chairman of V8 Supercars, Tony Cochrane was considered the founding father of the ‘modern’ era of motor racing in Australia, the touring car category that was arguably amongst the world’s best. During this period, V8 Supercars had an extraordinary rise to the top of sport within Australia and on the world motorsport scene. It became a multi-million dollar industry under his strong leadership. His credits and performance in world motorsport are uniquely recognised both in Australia and overseas. He holds an FIA acknowledgement and an Order of Australia for his contributions.
Adam Bailey – Managing Director – Motorsport
• Adam’s experience in Supercross began as a competitor in the early 90s. He established an athlete and event management agency in 2005 that represented some of the most respected athletes and brands in this space. These networks led to valuable and unique international industry relationships.
Launching AME Management with Ryan Sanderson in 2012, the duo combined their experience to establish a boutique sports marketing agency in Australia and launched AUS SX Holdings and the AUS-X Open event in 2015. The events went on to achieve sell-out crowds annually for five years including the successful creation and expansion of the FIM Oceania Supercross Championship into New Zealand in 2018 and 2019. Adam leads key aspects of brand creative strategy, content, industry partnerships, international talent and operations.
A creative marketer, many of Adam’s unique PR, marketing and content strategies have helped see the events become recognised and respected, globally.
Ryan Sanderson – Managing Director – Commercial
• Ryan spent five years at V8 Supercars Australia under Tony Cochrane’s reign. In Ryan’s tenure as Sponsorship Manager, he serviced some of Australia’s largest sponsorship properties, managing over 20 V8 Supercars Championship partners, with over $22M in annual spend.
Ryan and Adam launched AME, a sports marketing agency together in 2012 and then sold-out Supercross events in Australia & New Zealand from 2015 – 2019.
Ryan secured major commercial partnerships for both AUS-X Open & S-X Open Auckland Supercross events including Monster Energy, Australian Tourism & State Government funding, Boost Mobile, Michelin, Komatsu, Castrol & Repco/NAPA. Ryan developed leading entertainment, fan engagement and innovative commercial experiences, as well as international TV broadcast distribution including IMG, Seven Network, Fox Sports Australia, CBS, Eurosport & Fox Asia to over 382 million homes.
Ryan brings a unique skillset to SX Global and has extensive international broadcast, promoter and commercial partnership networks globally.
Tom Potter – Non-executive Director | Europe
• Tom is a former racing driver, and a commercial veteran of the McLaren and Williams F1 Teams. Tom founded Rush Sport & Entertainment in 2010 which has grown internationally to become one of the most successful businesses in motorsport sponsorship and marketing services whilst also delivering record-breaking deals for other major entertainment properties such as The Rolling Stones. Rush is responsible for placing over $700million sponsorship of F1, Formula E and IndyCar properties since 2016 alone. Rush has helped identify, structure, negotiate, activate and measure sponsorship investments for brands including Petrobras, Mercedes-Benz, Prudential, IHG, Marriott, Avis, Renesas, Adecco (Modis), Progressive and Saudi Aramco.
Few can boast the level of energy, insight and understanding of global motorsports’ commercial landscape and entertainment value. Tom is an expert at leveraging sports marketing and the sports business environment to create value and accelerate growth.
Tavo Hellmund – Non-executive Director | North America
• Tavo Hellmund was the founder of the FIA Formula-1 United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, the co-founder of the FIA Formula-1 Mexican Grand Prix and a co- founder of the Circuit of the Americas race track in Austin, Texas. Tavo Hellmund has been the founder and President/Managing Partner of Full Throttle Productions, LP, Event Partners Marketing, LLC, Grand Prix Partners, LLC and Tavo Hellmund Inc. since 1994.
These companies manage and provide event project management, day of event oversight, staffing/volunteer services, venue planning, consulting and logistics support, marketing, sales, sponsorship, public relations and consultation services for sporting and special events around the world. Tavo Hellmund’s global event production experience includes brokering, sanctioning, producing or promoting over 150 sporting and entertainment events, which have generated more than 1.5 billion dollars in sales.
Thursday afternoon, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg announced a new national road safety campaign. The plan, known as the “National Roadway Safety Strategy,” comes in response to increased year over year fatalities on our nation’s roadways. In 2020, an estimated 38,680 people died as a result of a motor vehicle crash. Of those, approximately 9% were motorcyclists’ fatalities.
What is most alarming about the increase in fatalities, is that the total number of miles traveled on our roads decreased during the pandemic. Americans traveled 13.2% less miles in 2020 than we did in 2019, but we saw a 7.2% increase in deaths.
The preliminary numbers for the first 6 months of 2021 are also troublesome. From January through the end of June 2021 an estimated 20,160 people died in crashes. That is the largest number of projected deaths in that time frame since 2006.
To combat this trend the plan outlines five key objectives:
Safer People: Encourage safe, responsible behavior by people who use our roads and create conditions that prioritize their ability to reach their destination unharmed.
Safer Roads: Design roadway environments to mitigate human mistakes and account for injury tolerances, to encourage safer behaviors, and to facilitate safe travel by the most users.
Safer Vehicles: Expand the availability of vehicle systems and features that help to prevent crashes and minimize the impact of crashes on both occupants and non-occupants.
Safer Speeds: Promote safer speeds in all roadway environments through a combination of thoughtful, context-appropriate roadway design, targeted education, and outreach campaigns, and enforcement.
Post-Crash Care: Enhance the survivability of crashes through expedient access to emergency medical care, while creating a safe working environment for vital first responders and preventing secondary crashes through robust traffic incident management practices.
The recently passed infrastructure bill has components and funding to help achieve some of these goals. For example, $14 billion in new funding was specifically allocated for road safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also announced plans this week to increase the data it collects on crashes. The agency wants to boost the number of crashes investigated and add additional studies that examine crashes involving medium-duty trucks, pedestrians, and workers who are hit on the road.
We at the Motorcycle Riders Foundation are encouraged to see that the U.S. Department of Transportation is taking a complete view of traffic safety, incorporating multiple factors to make our roadways safer. We also remain committed to the theory of crash avoidance, as a crash that doesn’t happen is always safer than one that does.
To get more detail and read the 41 page report click here.
About Motorcycle Riders Foundation: The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) provides leadership at the federal level for states’ motorcyclists’ rights organizations as well as motorcycle clubs and individual riders.
See website at: http://mrf.org/
A half trillion dollars to subsidize renewables would have raised energy prices, worsened inflation, and undermined decarbonization. But what do we do now?
The centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda is dead. Senator Joe Manchin today announced that he could not support Biden’s “Build Back Better” legislation which consisted of $1.7 trillion in new spending and would have added $158 billion to the national debt over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The largest component of spending, $570 billion, was for renewables, electric cars, and other climate change investments.
Progressives, environmentalists, and Democrats are furious with Sen. Manchin, but it was their own climate and renewables dogmatism that doomed the legislation. Democratic Senators could have written legislation that expanded nuclear energy and natural gas, the two main drivers of decarbonization, which are strongly supported by Manchin, and Republicans, but instead investments went overwhelmingly to solar panels, wind turbines, and electric cars.
It’s true that there were good things in Build Back Better, and that one of the worst climate provisions, the Clean Energy Performance Program, was already removed. Build Back Better included a tax credit for existing nuclear power plants, funding for advanced nuclear fuels, funding for fusion R&D, and financial support for communities hurt by the transition to renewables.
But the money for nuclear would not have made much if any difference to the operating of nuclear plans. Nuclear plants in California, Massachusetts and New York are being shut down, despite already being profitable, for ideological reasons. Legislatures in less anti-nuclear states like Illinois, New Jersey, and Connecticult step in to save their plants when they need to. And higher electricity prices due to natural gas shortages are making nuclear plants in other states even more profitable.
Of Build Back Better’s $550 billion for climate and energy, the vast majority of it was for weather-dependent renewables and their enabling infrastructure, including $29 billion for a “green bank” program to finance renewables and $10 billion for rural electric cooperatives to switch to renewables. Such subsidies were being offered despite years of false claims by many of the legislation’s sponsors and advocates that solar and wind were already cheaper than grid electricity.
Most dangerously, Build Back Better would have undermined electricity reliability, raised energy prices, and made the U.S. more dependent on foreign energy imports. Over-reliance on weather-dependent renewables in Texas and California, and under-investment in reliable, weather-independent nuclear and natural gas plants, led directly to deadly blackouts in those states.
I testified as much to this problem to Manchin’s Senate Commitee on Energy and Natural Resources, and Sen. Manchin made clear today that the role of renewables in making electricity expensive and unreliable was one of his top concerns. “The main thing that we need is dependability and reliability,” he said this morning. “If not, you’ll have what happened in Texas and California.” In his statement, Manchin said, “If enacted, the bill will also risk the reliability of our electric grid and increase our dependence on foreign supply chains.”
Adding weather-dependent energy sources can only make grids more resilient if significantly more money is spent maintaining reliable power sources to make up for their lost revenue and lost operation hours. That’s what Germany has done, deciding to burn more coal rather than continue operating its nuclear plants, which it’s shutting down, or rely too heavily on imported natural gas.
Manchin is also right that Build Back Better would increase dependence on energy imports. Over 80% of the world’s solar panels are made in China by incarcerated Uighyr Muslims living in concentration camps and against whom the Chinese government is committing “genocide,” according to the U.S. State Department.
Build Back Better contained incentives for the return of solar manufacturing to the U.S., but they were far too small to compete with solar panels made by incarcerated people in China’s already-built and heavily-subsidized mega-factories. Nor did they deal with the coming solar panel waste crisis.
“We have been energy independent for the first time for the first time in 60, 70 years or more,” noted Manchin, “and we should not have to depend on other parts of the world to give us the energy, or be able to hold us hostage for the energy, or the foreign supply chains that we need for the products we need every day.”
Everywhere in the world that solar and wind are deployed at scale they increase electricity prices dramatically. California increased its electricity prices seven times more than the rest of the U.S. over the last decade. Germany has the highest electricity prices in Europe, and is breaking new records with the energy shortage caused by lack of adequate natural gas supplies globally.
And now the entire world is paying the price of climate alarmism and renewables dogmatism. Climate shareholder activism and the ESG “sustainable” investment movement caused governments and private sector actors to underinvest in oil and gas production and over-invest in weather-dependent renewables. The result is historic shortages of natural gas and oil.
For the last several weeks Europen and Asian nations have been breaking records for the cost of electricity, due to shortages of natural gas supplies. Oil prices are set to rise to $125 per barrel next year and $150 in 2023, and U.S. winter natural gas prices will be 30% higher this year. Even nuclear-heavy France, which became over-invested in renewables and natural gas, and under-invested in nuclear, is seeing record electricity prices.
But what then, does it mean for climate change? And what should be done to safeguard American energy supplies going forward?
After a 13-month delay and enactment of three separate extensions, Congress finally passed a surface transportation reauthorization bill. This bill, sometimes called the highway bill or the infrastructure bill, has been a hotly debated topic in D.C. for several years. Once signed by the President, the bill will reauthorize many highway programs, provide funding for road and bridge construction and replace the previous highway bill passed in 2015, known as the FAST Act.
Just a week ago, Congress gave itself a third extension running into December. Yet election victories by Republican candidates, especially a win by the GOP in the Virginia governor’s race, seems to have spooked Democrats, and motivated passage of a bill that has been awaiting a vote since the summer.
For the last two years, the House of Representatives and Senate have battled over transportation priorities and funding levels. In both 2020 and 2021, the House of Representatives passed versions of their highway bill, only to be rebuffed by the Senate. Under pressure from President Biden, the Senate finally acted, passing in August a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. This action by the Senate, effectively forced the House to accept the Senate version of the bill or continue to pass short term extensions of current law.
However, pressure from the left wing of the Democratic party delayed a vote on the Senate’s infrastructure bill until an unconnected piece of legislation, referred to as the “human infrastructure bill,” was agreed to. That bill, called “Build Back Better,” had an original price tag of $3.5 trillion and effectively held the infrastructure bill hostage. After months of debate, and Tuesday’s election results, House Democrats agreed to vote on a smaller Build Back Better bill later in the month, opening the door to a final vote on the infrastructure bill.
At 11:27pm Friday night, the House agreed to the Senate’s bill and passed a $1.2 trillion 5-year highway bill, known as the INVEST ACT. The final vote in the House was 228 to 206, with 13 Republicans voting in favor and 6 Democrats voting against.
BENEFITS TO BIKERS
About Motorcycle Riders Foundation
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) provides leadership at the federal level for states’ motorcyclists’ rights organizations as well as motorcycle clubs and individual riders.
For the 3rd time in 13 months, Congress will extend the deadline to reauthorize highway funding programs.
The original deadline of September 30, 2020 was extended for a full year last fall. Last month, Congress kicked the can down the road, giving itself a 1-month extension that expires on October 31st. Facing yet another self-imposed deadline, Thursday night, Congress gave itself ANOTHER extension, this time running through December 3rd, 2021. President Biden now must sign the bill before the first of November to avoid a lapse in funding.
Over 3,700 employees in the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration would be furloughed without these stop gap funding extensions. Passage of a long-term infrastructure and highway bill remains blocked because of an inter-party fight between progressive and moderate Democrats on a host of issues.
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) believes long term and stable funding for our nation’s transportation and infrastructure programs should not be continually deferred. The MRF remains committed to seeking long term solutions that advance the priorities of the nearly 10 million bikers in this country.
About Motorcycle Riders Foundation
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) provides leadership at the federal level for states’ motorcyclists’ rights organizations as well as motorcycle clubs and individual riders.
Congress Kicks the Can… 30 day Highway Bill Extension Passes
With the failure of Congress to pass a new highway bill, by the September 30th deadline, nearly 3,700 United States Department of Transportation staffers were furloughed on Friday. Most of these workers belong to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
Without dedicated funding to operate, those agency workers were forbidden from coming into work on October 1st. Operations in these agencies, related to safety and construction projects, were halted as a result.
On Friday evening, in an effort to end the closure of these agencies, Congress passed an extension of the recently expired FAST Act. The 30-day extension releases federal funds so workers at the FHWA and FTA can return to work for the month of October.
An interparty fight between progressive and moderate Democrats created a stalemate on infrastructure legislation and produced the need for an extension.
This is the second time the FAST Act has been extended in just over a year. The original 2015 bill, expired on September 30, 2020, but was given a full 1-year extension, creating the recently passed September 30, 2021, deadline.
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) remains engaged with lawmakers on this important bill. The MRF continues to stress the need for action on the transportation policy priorities of the nearly 10 million bikers across the country. We will keep you updated as events warrant.
Norton Motorcycles Head of Design Simon Skinner thinks the British brand has what it takes to go head-to-head with Ducati.
Admittedly, Norton taking aim at Ducati is a very, very bold aspiration. Considering the Norton name is just as synonymous with bankruptcy and financial turbulence as it is with beautiful motorcycles, you’d be forgiven for taking the current brand revival with a handful of salt. I spoke with a refreshingly candid Norton Motorcycles Head of Design Simon Skinner via video call, who said this time will be different. While there is an incredible amount of bias in that claim, this time around there’s evidence elsewhere to back it up.
Back in January 2020, Norton entered the UK equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The following April, the British brand was purchased by the third-largest Indian motorcycle manufacturer, TVS Motors. Now Norton has a new temporary factory in Birmingham, UK, is on a hiring spree and as Skinner puts it, ”the shackles have come off, in terms of design and innovation.” If this sounds at all familiar, there are similar plotlines going on at Jaguar Land Rover with Tata and Volvo and Lotus via Geely. Success isn’t guaranteed, but having a potent resource like TVS certainly helps.
Speaking with Skinner, I wanted to hear just how Norton plans to not just take on Ducati and become its British equal.
Bryan Campbell: Is Norton looking to follow Ducati’s lead on creating an accessible entry point with a Scrambler-esque model paired with top-tier sportbikes?
Simon Skinner: Absolutely. We’ve already designed the 650cc parallel-twin range of motorcycles — the Atlas Nomad and the Ranger — and they are comparable to the Ducati Scrambler. Ours is probably a bit more modern, a bit more capable in terms of the geometry and weight of the bike. We have a slightly smaller engine with the 650cc compared to the 800cc of the Ducati, but it’s got the same power.
The bikes in the “lifestyle” class tend to be more lifestyle-ly than capable. Where the Ducatis are a little bit of both, with the Desert Sled leaning to the more capable end of the spectrum. The Norton Ranger is very similar to the Desert Sled in that way.
Campbell: Traditionally, Norton has been a small volume manufacturer. Is the focus of the new facility meant to buck that trend?
Skinner: Yes. I’m not allowed to get into the numbers, but TVS has already invested large sums in the business and the new facility in Birmingham, in the UK, is a temporary facility. It’s 75,000 square feet, but it’s still only temporary for 3-5 years while we find a more permanent home in the local area. TVS very much have volume aspirations not far off from the production numbers of Ducati. However, the current temporary facility can handle up to 7,000 bikes per year.
Campbell: In the past year, especially in the United States, ADV motorcycles and dual sports have taken off and part of that is due to what those bikes can offer at their price points. The bang-for-buck value is undeniable. If Norton is looking to capitalize on that rising tide, where will the brand’s bar for entry be?
Skinner: An Atlas Nomad is just under £10,000 and that’s our entry-level model. If we come down from that, only time will tell, but it’s usually depending on the volume we can achieve. Our volume will never be at the level of say, Honda, but to get the combination of luxury and volume we’re chasing, it’ll be somewhere near Ducati pricing. And I can’t see us dropping below that, at least not while we’re building the brand back up.
Campbell: Stepping away from the cold hard numbers for a bit. In terms of design, where is Norton pulling inspiration from?
Skinner: Norton, traditionally, is an innovative, cutting edge, modern company. Some people think Norton a classic company, but it’s not at all. The Norton Commando, when it was launched in 1968, was the fastest superbike in the world and the Manx chassis bikes dominated race tracks year after year. That’s all down to the technology and innovation that was used. That’s where Norton needs to be again.
So, from a design perspective, I’ve employed a diverse group of designers and created an environment where they can thrive. We take our inspiration from all over but we do look at the past — the design cues, the styling cues, the ethos behind the brand — where Norton’s tend to be low, sleek, have a strong character line down the bike and are really evocative.
But on the other hand, we need to be a modern company similar to the way Ducati is a modern company. They’ve accomplished so much in history, but that doesn’t mean they make every bike look like a 916. We need to go beyond that. To go back to the glory days of Norton, we need to be innovative and right at the bleeding edge of technology and design.
It’s also natural to look to the automotive industry because it’s so advanced and there are so many resources being put into it, in terms of technology and design. The big difference is a motorcycle is more of an integrated design and engineering project. A car is clad in metal and plastic and all the engineering happens underneath. Whereas on a motorcycle, it’s all on display, so there a very few components that aren’t both functional and aesthetic.
My goal is to create an environment and process within Norton that combines engineering and design. Now we have the resource in TVS and we can take that design and engineering ethos and give it some power. The shackles have come off.
Campbell: The comparisons and competition to Triumph will be inescapable. In terms of product focus, will Norton focus on vintage-styled bikes as well as modern sportbikes, similar to Triumph’s current strategy?
Skinner: For us, it will be the other way around. We are going to do modern bikes. That’s a given. The question is, are we going to classic bikes? If we remain completely true to the Norton ethos of innovation and modernity, then we don’t do classic bikes. But let’s be honest, there’s such a huge market for motorbikes like the Triumph Bonneville and it would be crazy to ignore it.
With that said, if we most certainly will be in the modern design space. If we do a sports tourer, an ADV, or a sportbike, they will all be modern bikes.
Campbell: Drawing comparisons from the automotive industry, it sounds like Norton is in the same position Volvo and Lotus were when Geely came in and provided funding and resources. Is that a fair assessment?
Skinner: It is. Obviously, we’ve got a new owner and new shareholders to answer to and everything we need to do needs to be commercially viable. But, at the same time, TVS recognizes we have some real talent within the Norton team who have never had the opportunity to be let loose. Also similar to when Tata took on Jaguar Land Rover, it allows us the freedom to operate and gives us knowledge and personnel, so the resources go beyond just putting money in the bank.
Campbell: You could argue financial distress is almost as synonymous with the Norton name as is beautiful, fast motorcycles. Having TVS as a resource is one way to help mitigate history repeating itself, but how does Norton plan to shake that reputation?
Skinner: It’s true Norton has been through the mill, so to speak and interestingly, as a brand, it has always come out the other side with a good reputation. Regardless of who’s owned Norton, they’ve always understood what the brand means and I think that’s the strength of the brand.
Norton has been up and down financially over the years and this is the most recent chapter. TVS see themselves as the guardian and custodian of the brand, not the owners and that’s a welcomed relief. They could have taken a meaningless 200cc motorcycle, slapped a Norton badge on it, and charged a few more dollars. What they actually want to do is give Norton structure and stability and have the mindset that they need to look after it for future generations.
The quality will filter down into the product because TVS won’t compromise their beliefs for Norton. They want to build a motorcycle that leads the world in innovation, technology, design and quality. It won’t happen overnight, but that’s the vision. It’s a challenge, for sure, but TVS have that desire and drive.
Campbell: What’s the production timeline look like with those goals in mind?
Skinner: We have about 18 months before the new product starts to filter through. But we need a bit of time to fully adopt the new engineering quality, procedures and processes. When we launch in May and start production, those bikes will be the highest quality Nortons ever built in over a decade, if not ever. We’re taking it step by step and it’s going to take a period of time to have the processes in place, the structure and get the right people on the team.
When we went into administration, we had 55 employees. We now have 125 and we’re still hiring and that’s without selling any motorcycles yet. That’s a statement of TVS’s intent and investment: they want to put the people in place to make this the best brand in the world and make the best motorcycles in the world.