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Bigtoe and Smalltoe, the Tallest and Smallest Motorcycles in the World

By | General Posts

by Elena Gorgan from https://www.autoevolution.com

Size doesn’t matter, if you’re to believe some people. For inventor Tom Wiberg, size is everything, because he is the man who created the world’s tallest motorcycle and its counterpart, the smallest motorcycle in the world.

June is autoevolution’s Two-Wheeler Month and we couldn’t celebrate it properly without talking about some of the two-wheelers that have written history. Enter the world’s tallest and the world’s smallest motorcycle, as certified by the Guinness Book of World Records: Bigtoe and Smalltoe.

Both “toes” are builds from Swedish inventor Tom Wiberg, a man whose skillfulness is only surpassed by his creativity. Like most Guinness winners, Tom set out to create a new world record and spared no expense and effort to secure it.

Take Bigtoe, for example. It was built in 1998 and certified by Guinness in 1999 as the tallest motorcycle in the world, measuring 2.3 meters (7.5 feet) in height. It was 5 meters (16.4 feet) long and weighed an impressive 1,645 kg (3,626 pounds), which means it was eight times the size of a sportbike and four times the size of a Honda Gold Wing. Because of its size and weight, it required training wheels in order to keep upright. It’s still a motorcycle, but one that uses training wheels.

Bigtoe was pimped out, which is surprising given that it was constructed to set a record for height. It came with a 500W 4-way speaker sound system with CD player and even had a custom stainless muffler system for riders to enjoy the ride without excessive noise.

Powered by a 1975 Vintage Type E Jaguar 300 hp 5.3-liter engine, Bigtoe was able to reach top speeds of 100 kph (62 mph) but – and this goes without saying – it was not made for cruising, let alone for speeding. Upon its certification, Tom said Bigtoe handled best on short runs, at speeds that didn’t exceed 50 kph (90 mph).

He also estimated the total cost of the bike at over $80,000. It took him six years to design and build Bigtoe, since he made most of the parts by hand himself. He had help from sponsors, which is a big deal: once you’re not worried about money, you can focus on the work alone. About 3,000 man-hours were put in to complete the build.

Bigtoe was king of the motorcycle world until Greg Dunham’s Dream Big dethroned it. Dream Big wasn’t just taller but faster and more powerful, but Tom would not let this setback take him out of the Guinness Book altogether.

And this is how Smalltoe came to be. Since Tom probably understood that people would build bigger and bigger bikes, he began looking into how he could make the smallest one in the world. The result is something that is hardly a motorcycle at all: a box-shaped rolling tiny… thing that doesn’t even have room for a human rider, but can easily fit in the palm of a grown man’s hand.

Smalltoe is 65 mm (2.55 inches) tall, and has a front wheel diameter of 16 mm (0.62 inches) and a rear wheel diameter of 22 mm (0.86 inches), with an 80 mm (3.14-inch) wheelbase. It weighs just 1.1 kg (2.4 pounds) and has been the smallest motorcycle in the world since 2003.

It looks like a toy, but Tom actually rode it so Guinness could certify it as a motorcycle. Powered by a single-geared, 0.3 horsepower, ethanol-fueled RC engine motor with forward transmission (the kind used in model airplanes), it has to be force jump-started with an external motor. The rider wears special made shoes with pegs that go into the body of the bike, in what is perhaps the most uncomfortable and silliest riding position ever.

The good news is that it won’t go far: to set the record, Tom rode it at a top speed of 2 kph (1.24 mph) for 10 meters (3.28 feet), a joke by regular bike standards but an amazing feat for something this small, carrying a full-sized human. Smalltoe doesn’t have brakes or suspension, because lol, look at how tiny it is. Nor can it be steered, with Tom saying at the time that he could have probably ridden it for a longer stretch had it not come across an obstacle in its path.

Here are Tom’s famous two-wheel creations in action. Because size clearly does matter.

 

Harley-Davidson Leads the List in Peak Demand for Motorcycles

By | General Posts

by Daniel Patrascu from https://www.autoevolution.com

Like most other countries in the world, the UK is set to relax its distancing measures as of this week, despite the health crisis being more severe than ever. Among the distancing measures to be kept is the obligation for the Brits to wear face-coverings on all public transport means on the island.

That decision seems to have scared people who would normally ride the tube or buses, and that is visible in the number of online searches for alternative means of transportation. Motorcycles and their derivatives seem to be in high demand these days, according to the figures provided by Auto Trader.

The organization says that compared to the same period last year, sales of motorcycles and mopeds exploded, reaching 180 and 2019 percent, respectively. Keep in mind this happens as sales of cars are dropping to levels not seen since the 1970s.

Online interest for such two-wheeled machines is at a peak as well, and the idea that this is not a passing trend is backed by other data as well: Brits are hell-bent on becoming motorcycle riders, and proof to that is the doubling of Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) riders must take before being allowed on the roads.

“It seems to be part and parcel of getting into a ‘new normal’. They’re relatively cheaper options for commuting, they can help you get around easily in congested urban areas, and they’re easier to park in tight spots,” said in a statement Auto Trader’s Rory Reid.

“They can also be a much more viable option than walking or cycling for the majority of people whose commute is longer than five miles.”

As far as what type of motorcycles the Brits prefer, two Harley-Davidson families, the Sportster and Softail, are among the most sought after, followed by the Yamaha R1 CBR1000RR and the Honda Fireblade.

Mechanics with good eyesight bring motorcycles for me to fix – Abugu, blind mechanic

By | General Posts

from https://thecitizenng.com/

Mr Emeka Abugu is a blind mechanic who specialises in fixing motorcycles and generators.

He discloses in his workshop in Aji, Umu-Ida in the Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area of Enugu State, how he lost his sight and learnt to fix motorcycles and other things.

Excerpts:

How did you become visually impaired?

I was not born blind; it was when I was five years old that I had measles. And because of that, I could not go to primary school.

Is your visual impairment partial?

No, I don’t see anything. I am completely blind. At some point, it was partial and like I told you, I wasn’t born blind. It started getting worse gradually and it was around 1992 that I went completely blind.

You repair motorcycles, generators and bicycles, how did you learn to do that?

I didn’t learn it; I started by repairing bicycles in 1993. Three years after, I started repairing motorcycles. I started by fixing tyres and gradually, I started repairing engines and doing wheel balancing. I also work on electrical parts. My father bought the tools I use for me.

It is difficult to believe you didn’t learn how to fix motorcycles and bicycles…

I cannot explain it because nobody taught me. My father had a similar gift; he repaired his bicycle. He would go to market, buy the needed spare parts and fix his bicycle. But he never repaired for any other person. He had tools that he used and sometimes, I used the tools to fix his bicycle when I was a kid. I used to also make a kind of local basket popularly called ‘Abor’ or ‘Nkata’. Apart from motorcycles and bicycles, I also fix generators.

Could you identify the kinds of motorcycles you can fix?

I repair different kinds of motorcycles like CI-80, CG, V-10, RX, C-75, CY-10 and the one called ‘Ladies’ motorcycle’ (scooters). I service them as well. I also repair or service small generators and other similar ones. Any generator or motorcycle engine that has difficulty working, I service it. I also replace parts that are not good or useful to get the engines to work.

How were you able to fix your father’s bicycle despite your visual impairment?

I just kept trying till I knew how to do it. I think God made me understand it. I had to help him because I wouldn’t have rest of mind if I did not help him. Once he knew I could fix it better than he could, anytime his bicycle developed a fault, he would ask me to fix it. It is God’s gift.

Since you started repairing motorcycles and others, was there any time you had difficulty on the job because of your visual impairment?

Yes, when I started, I found certain things difficult to fix. But on such occasions, I would become very restless. At times while sleeping, God would show me how to fix it and when I woke up, I would go back to it and do it. From there, I became good at it. I could dismantle the engine of a motorcycle and reassemble them.

How are you able to identify the different parts of the engines you work on?

I’m able to identify the parts by touching them. Once I touch any part that is worn out, I know.

How do you buy spare parts and replace bad ones if you can’t see what you are buying and replacing?

I always take a motorcyclist along to the market when I need to buy spare parts. I buy the things I need; he brings me back to my workshop and I pay him.

What if the trader sells a bad spare part to you?

I will find out because I started doing this work a long time ago. I touch and feel the spare parts before taking them away. And if it is sealed, I always tell the trader that if there is any defect, I will bring it back.

Does the motorcyclist who takes you there assist you in buying the spare parts that are genuine?

No, he doesn’t know genuine ones. He only takes me to where those parts are sold and he waits for me. Once I finish my transactions, he brings me back to my workshop.

In what ways have people tried to cheat you because of your visual impairment?

Some people will give me N100 and say it is N200 or N500 or N1,000. That is how people try to cheat me.

Many people complain that there is no job out there for them, what message do you have for them?

I will advise them to humble themselves, learn a skill and be productive. That way, they can become engaged and fulfil God’s plan for their lives. With the situation of things in Nigeria, one needs to have one skill or the other.

Since you didn’t go to school, how did you learn to speak English?

I learnt from the people around and in church. When people speak English, I listen and try to remember the words later. And if there is any word I don’t understand, I ask educated people around me to tell what it means and how to use it. Then, I start speaking it. In church, they speak English and translate into Igbo; I also learn that way.

Will you be able to teach an apprentice to do the job?

If anybody comes, I will teach them. However, no one has come to learn. Many mechanics around here bring motorcycles they are unable to fix to me. It is either I tell them how to repair it or I fix it for them. Then they pay me and take it back to the owner.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

With God’s continued support, I hope to become famous. I also want to make money to give all my children good education and build a house of my own. Although I have started building a house, I have not been able to complete it. This is also because of family problems. I have roofed the house but it hasn’t been plastered.

Are your parents still alive?

No, both of them are dead. In fact, all my siblings from the same mother are dead. I am the only surviving child of my late mother. We were three but two have died. My mother was ill before she died. My father fell from a palm tree and died. My father was a palm wine tapper. My mother died in 2019 and my father died in 2013.

Are you married?

Yes. I’m married with seven children – three boys and four girls. I didn’t want to have up to seven children but God in his wisdom gave us a set of twins twice. I give God all the glory. I got married in 2000. I am 44 years old now. So, I was about 24 years old when I married.

How did you find your wife?

My mother helped to get a wife.

Where are your children?

Some of them live with me while the older ones live with other people so they can go to school. It is not that if all of them are with me, they cannot go to school but my job is all I have and it does not pay well enough. However, I thank God.

Is any of your children visual impaired?

No, none of them has visual impairment.

What does your wife do?

My wife is not working. I am making arrangement for her to start trading but I don’t have the money required for that yet.

What kind of discrimination did you face as a child?

When I was young, other children tried to tell me that I could not do anything. Sometimes they would hit me because they knew I could not chase them. Even my peers insulted me; some flogged me because they knew I could not fight them. They would snatch things from me and run away. And I would not know the person except they spoke and I heard their voice. But if they didn’t talk, I would not know who it was. But I thank God nobody does such things to me now.

Were you able to play with your peers as kids?

I participated in some games like the one where everyone involved would be required to close their eyes except for one person who would run around them.

What kind of discrimination do you face now?

Now, I cannot join my peers to do anything.

Did you have any challenge with having relationships with people of the opposite sex?

I didn’t have friendship with someone of the opposite sex while growing up. I promised God that I would not have sex or have carnal knowledge of a woman until I got married and that was what I did. So I didn’t have any girlfriend while I was growing up.

Did you have any challenge getting a wife?

It is not every girl or woman you propose to that will accept your proposal of marriage and it wasn’t different during my time. However, I didn’t approach many women for marriage. I tried only two women; for the first person, her family initially rejected me though the girl accepted me. Her family later accepted me. When I wanted to know her house, her father asked me to see him and to come with drinks and other things if I felt I was ready to marry his daughter. When I saw him, I told him I was only there to know their house. Then a date was fixed for me to commence the rites required for marriage there but unfortunately, I didn’t show up that day.

Why?

I didn’t go because I felt insulted during my visit to their house. I didn’t like the way I was addressed during my first visit.

What kind of reception did you get from the second family from which you found your wife?

God followed me to the second family. That was where my mother married from because my mother at some point divorced my father and married another man. So, that was where she found the woman I married.

What kind of assistance do you want from the government and society?

I want help; I am getting old and don’t have the kind of energy I used to have when I was young. The Federal Government should extend the Conditional Cash Transfer to people like me and others suffering from deprivation. Are we not citizens of this country? The state government should also help us. – Punch.

Pandemonium Bikernet Weekly News for June 4, 2020

By | General Posts

It’s Nuts with News from all the Wheels

ANOTHER CRAZY DAY IN PARADISE—Nothing makes any sense, but there you have it. It’s all going to be so interesting as the country comes to grips with what’s going on in the streets. Do you want law and order or pandemonium?

I need to start working on new fender mounts for the Salt Torpedo. Oh, and I heard that the Sturgis Rally powers are meeting on the 15th to make the final decision on the rally.

I road tested the funky Panhead last weekend, and I’m almost finished re-editing my first book for reprint. It’s coming out again soon.

So, there you have it. Life is nut

–Bandit

The Bikernet Weekly News is sponsored in part by companies who also dig Freedom including: Cycle Source Magazine, the MRF, Las Vegas Bikefest, Iron Trader News, ChopperTown, BorntoRide.com and the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum. Most recently Quick Throttle Magazine came on board.

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Harley-Davidson Iron RR Is How an 883 Looks Like With Stage IV Tuning

By | General Posts

by Daniel Patrascu from https://www.autoevolution.com

Two weeks in, there are not that many bikes left to talk about in our coverage of the Harley-Davidson 2020 King of Kings competition. Only two are still to be admired, and one them is this Polish-born Iron RR.

The build-off event dedicated to Harley’s international dealers concluded in April, and it has already crowned its winner, the Mexican-made Apex Predator. But each of the builds that entered, 15 in all, had something special about them.

Most of the bikes we’ve seen so far have been all about crazy looks and only minor mechanical upgrades. In the case of the Iron RR, the ratio is somewhat inverted, as the Szczecin-based shop focused more on performance than extreme looks.

The build is based on an Iron 883, but one that got its tendons replaced and its heart pumped. The garage replaced both the front and rear suspension, added a new fork, and fitted the two-wheeler with sports brakes.

All these changes were required because the motorcycle’s 883cc engine got tweaked with the inclusion of the Harley-Davidson Stage IV tuning kit. The new hardware is backed by a new exhaust system.

The Poles did a bit of work on the bike’s appearance as well, just to make sure the build sends the right message. There’s a special paint scheme on the bike’s body, but also a new LED light system up front.

All the modifications made by the garage did not exceed €6,000 ($6,500), which was the budget limit imposed by Harley-Davidson for the participants.

The other rules of the competition stated that the base motorcycle needs to be a Harley-Davidson, at least half of the parts used for the tuning to be taken from the Harley inventory, and the finished product be road legal.

As is the case with all the other builds from King of Kings, this one too is a one-off.

 

How Hamba motorcycles are empowering women in Zimbabwe

By | General Posts

by Faith Ikade from http://venturesafrica.com/

Mobility for Africa is empowering women in rural Zimbabwe with new electric powered motorcycles that can be used as a source of income generation.

The electric motorbikes known as “Hamba” gives women the opportunity to transport and sell their goods, while saving time and effort usually spent walking to pick up household goods for their families around the district of Wedza.

Shantha Bloemen, Mobility for Africa Director said the initiative is centred on women, following research done by the organization which shows that men always get priority on transport. “These are women that never thought they would drive anything. The whole intent was to focus on where the burden is greatest, but also the lowest rural women are on the lowest peg of the pyramid,” she said.

Assembled in Zimbabwe’s capital city of Harare with parts made in China, Hamba is powered by a solar-charged lithium-ion battery and can travel up to around 60 miles per ride. Mobility for Africa is now in the second phase of the pilot project before it can go commercial.

The project was an adaptation to a similar bike used in China and was an important tool used to reduce poverty in the country. Several households and women could use the bike to transport items from their farm to a local market.

Hamba will be sold for $1,500 USD and changing the batteries at a solar-powered station costs between 50 cents and $1. However, Mobility for Africa is currently leasing the bikes to groups of up to five women for the equivalent of $15 a month, thereby making it affordable for poor women in Zimbabwe.

Women in Zimbabwe can now carry farm produce to markets further away from home, offer transportation services to villagers and use the motorcycle for domestic chores.

Small business owners like Mary Mhuka, who is leasing the Hamba with her daughter-in-law and a neighbour, can now sell vegetables at a business centre 15 km away for more money than she would get locally. “We used to carry firewood on our heads for very long distances but now it’s much easier as this motorcycle has taken away that burden,” she told Reuters

According to Fadzai Mavhuna, the Hamba pilot coordinator since February 2019, “Some of the women have increased their income because they have embarked on projects like baking, tailoring and horticulture.”

Hamba is also helping women in the health sector. Pamhidzai Mutunya, a farm health worker, said before the arrival of Hamba, many women gave birth at home while others had to walk 12 km to the nearest clinic because there was no transport.

More so, Hamba has proved to be an essential in the fight against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis in Zimbabwe. It allows healthcare workers transport patients more easily, and helps rural communities receive essential supplies during a country-wide lockdown.

Although Zimbabwe has not recorded a large number of confirmed COVID-19 confirmed, the lockdown has affected people’s income, especially in the informal sector, which is commonly dominated by women.

Nevertheless, Hamba has given women in Zimbabwe an opportunity to earn and be empowered in a country faced with several sanctions alongside an economy which runs at a declining speed.

Missouri motorcycle helmet law repeal has governor’s support, but it’s a small part of a larger bill

By | General Posts

by Ashley Byrd from https://www.missourinet.com

One of the proposed laws tucked into a massive state transportation bill would allow motorcyclists to drive without helmets, but they must be at least 26 years old and have medical insurance and proof of financial responsibility.

Representative Jared Taylor of Republic in southwest Missouri says the governor promised he’d sign it, but Parson’s spokeswoman says while he has “indicated he is supportive of this issue, but like always, there will be a thorough bill review to see what else is in the bill.’

Democrat from St. Louis, Rep. Gina Mitten opposed this part of the bill on the House floor.

None of my constituents probably care a bit about the myriad of other things in this bill, except for the helmet law,” she told colleagues. “I don’t know about the other folks in this room, but I got a ton of emails over the past few days saying, ‘Do not do this.’”

Mitten says there is a financial cost to citizens for this proposed law.

“You get a traffic ticket, you’re going to pay money to the Brain Injury Fund. That’s basically money for motorcyclists who get brain injuries because they are not wearing helmets or they do stupid things.”

Supporters of helmet repeal want the freedom to ride without a helmet.

Harley-Davidson to offer US dealers smaller selection of motorcycles

By | General Posts

by Reuters from https://nypost.com/

Harley-Davidson is reopening its factories this week at lower production rates and sending dealers a narrower range of motorcycles, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

The US motorcycle maker, which closed its US plants in March due to the coronavirus outbreak, may not ship any additional new motorcycles this year to about 70 percent of its 698 dealers in the country, the report said.

The company did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.

Harley would reopen its plants in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and accelerate production in phases that would be limited to bestselling models and palette of colors and without customizable features for the rest of the year, the report said.

The company has failed for years to increase sales in the US, its top market, which accounts for more than half its motorcycles sold.

As its tattooed, baby-boomer consumer base ages, the Milwaukee-based company has found it tough to attract new customers. To make matters worse, the pandemic has further dented demand as Americans stay at home.

In April, then-acting Chief Executive Jochen Zeitz, who has since taken a permanent role at Harley, told investors about plans to cut costs and “de-emphasize” some of its unprofitable international regions.

Jochen and team have been working on a new five-year strategic plan here to revive sales, which the company plans to reveal in the second-quarter earnings update.

Harley has also moved the launch timing of new models to the early part of the first quarter from August to better align with the start of the riding season. That provided some boost to its US retail sales in the first quarter.

Harley’s annual dealer meet, usually held in August, will now take place early next year.

Harley to sell fewer models, simplify factories

by Bob Tita from https://www.marketwatch.com/

Harley-Davidson Inc. is reopening its factories this week at lower production rates and sending dealers a narrower range of motorcycles, steering away from more expansive plans to stop a yearslong sales slide.

Milwaukee-based Harley’s U.S. assembly plants and most of its dealers closed in March as part of a nationwide effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. As many of the company’s 698 U.S. dealers were making plans to reopen, Harley’s director of product sales, Beth Truett, told them in a memo earlier this month that about 70% of them likely wouldn’t receive any additional new motorcycles this year.

“We are using this time to course correct and rewire the company in pursuit of making Harley-Davidson one of the most desirable brands in the world,” Ms. Truett said in the memo, which was viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Harley’s strategy reversal shows how some companies are pivoting amid the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic, reviewing operations or products that may not work amid an uncertain recovery.

Former Chief Executive Matt Levatich had planned to offset declining sales of the big, expensive bikes favored by Harley’s core baby boomer customers with dozens of new models by 2027, many of them smaller, cheaper and aimed at foreign markets. Mr. Levatich stepped down in February under pressure from shareholders threatening to initiate a proxy contest for board seats after Harley closed its fifth consecutive year of falling U.S. sales.

He has been replaced by Jochen Zeitz, a longtime Harley board member, former CEO of German athletic-apparel company Puma SE and founder of a new contemporary art museum in Cape Town, South Africa.

On an earnings call last month, Mr. Zeitz said expanding the motorcycle lineup and chasing new markets diverted attention from Harley’s more profitable models and made factories too complex. He said the production revamp is warranted by deteriorating demand for motorcycles. New models that would have made their debut this summer will roll out early next year instead, he said, on a new schedule of releases before the peak spring buying season begins.

By having fewer motorcycles in the market, Harley said it is trying to appeal to customers of premium-priced brands with limited availability. That approach is common among makers of sports cars and some luxury products that keep manufacturing volumes well below demand for them.

“Our strategy to limit motorcycle product in the showroom is purposefully designed to drive exclusivity,” Ms. Truett said in her memo.

Harley is reopening its plants in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania this week and said it would accelerate production in phases. The motorcycles that Harley will start making again this month will be limited to bestselling models in a limited palette of colors and without customizable features for the remainder of the year, Ms. Truett wrote.

Some U.S. dealers said the production cuts will sap further sales at dealerships that were closed for nearly two months. “You’re not going to catch up,” said Zoli Dudevsky, owner of a Harley dealership near Cleveland.

Some dealers said they have enough new motorcycles to cover a month or two of sales, but that those stocks would be depleted sooner if demand rises. Several said customer traffic at their reopened showrooms has been better than they expected, in part because motorcycle riding is an alternative to other types of recreation discouraged under social-distancing rules.

“We’ve noticed a lot of people getting bikes out of storage that haven’t been running in years,” said John Lyon, a dealer in Vermont.

George Gatto, owner of two dealerships in the Pittsburgh area, said he isn’t expecting any new motorcycles from Harley until August, when the company plans to deliver two motorcycles to one of his dealerships. The company is urging dealers to sell more used motorcycles, a market that Harley executives in the past regarded as detracting from sales of new models.

“If Harley is taking all the new bikes away from me, I’ll have to make that up with used,” Mr. Gatto said.

Mr. Gatto said he is trying to acquire more used motorcycles, but so are other dealers. Prices for used Harleys purchased at auctions have risen by about 20% in recent weeks, he said. Dealers who need new bikes to fill orders say they will have to buy them from other dealers, in some cases at a premium.

Harley projects that dealers’ stocks of new motorcycles will fall by 65% by year’s end, Ms. Truett’s memo to the dealers said. “Dealers should plan for an extremely tight year from an inventory perspective,” she wrote.

The Mysterious Bikernet Weekly News for May 14, 2020

By | General Posts

Some ups and downs…

I completely understand the need not to overwhelm our medical industry. And recently the Sturgis Rally discussion surfaced. One report worried that all the decision makers had solely financial cards in play and that the decision might be forced in one direction, to make money off the rally.

I said the players run the gamut from Zero tolerance control freaks to freedom riders, party animals and the money makers. I hope they can find balance. But in the end motorcycling wins. As long as we are riding, we’re safe and free. Just ride through Sturgis and keep going. Ride into the hills of the Badlands. Ride through Yosemite and Zion. Ride through Flagstaff and Monument Valley. Just Ride!

Think about it. Life can be fucked or fun, it’s up to each one of us. Find the path and follow it to Nirvana or another Redhead, both are heaven. And make sure you ride all the way…

Freedom Forever,

–Bandit

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Electric motorcycles made and designed in Singapore set to rev up Southeast Asia

By | General Posts

by Zhaki Abdullah from https://www.channelnewsasia.com

SINGAPORE: Although the COVID-19 pandemic had affected their initial plans, two Singapore-based start-ups are still set on revving up efforts to produce their own electric motorbikes.

This comes as Singapore relaxed its rules on electric motorcycles in April, allowing high-powered motorbikes with power ratings of more than 10kW to be on the roads as part of efforts to encourage the adoption of cleaner vehicles.

The coronavirus outbreak has caused “little hiccups” in its supply chain, said Scorpio Electric’s acting head of operations Muhammad Taureza.

But the brand remains on track to roll out its zero-emission, fully electric smart motorcycles, with no “appreciable delay”, he said, adding that it aims to do so by the middle of this year, or as soon as the COVID-19 situation stabilises.

Scorpio Electric is a brand under Singapore-based EuroSports Technologies, which is backed by SGX-listed EuroSports Global.

Since March, Scorpio Electric has expanded its premises at Teban Gardens to 7,000 sq m. The space includes offices and showrooms, as well as 4,000 sq m dedicated to a factory and warehouse.

This facility is expected to produce about 8,000 electric motorcycles a year, said Dr Taureza.

Although the components will be manufactured elsewhere, Scorpio Electric’s bikes will be assembled at its Singapore location, he added.

Scorpio Electric chief technology officer Tham Kwang Sheun noted that making its motorcycles “smart”, with the use of artificial intelligence and data analytics, will allow them to be even more energy efficient.

“That means that when you get on, the bike will actually have the intelligence to tell you how can you better plan your trips, and how much fuel consumption you’re going to use, accounting for operating conditions,” he explained.

The aim is also for Scorpio Electric to extend this environmental sustainability to its production line, said Mr Tham, noting some of the materials used in the making of motorcycles can be substituted by “bio-derived” materials with “some recyclability”.

The switch to electric motorcycles is “very promising” in terms of reducing carbon emissions in the region, said Mr Tham, who was previously with the Land Transport Authority as the head of its autonomous vehicle programme office.

Motorcycles in Southeast Asia are “typically lagging behind the curve in emissions standards”, said James Chan, co-founder and chief executive of Ion Mobility, which is headquartered in Singapore.

The firm’s other co-founder, Joel Chang, was previously with Scorpio Electric as its chief operating officer before he formed Ion Mobility last year.

“In Singapore, ICE (internal combustion engine) motorcycles are on Euro 4 standards, while Indonesia is still on Euro 3,” noted Mr Chan, referring to the emissions standard introduced by the European Union. The latest standard for motorcycles in Europe is Euro 5, which came into effect this year.

Motorcycles may seem to have better fuel efficiency, but on average, they produce twice as much carbon dioxide per passenger-kilometre over their life cycles when compared to cars, said Mr Chan.

In addition, particulate matter (PM2.5) from motorcycle emissions is taken into consideration due to the sheer number of motorcycles on the roads in the region, he explained, noting that PM2.5 is one of the largest “air pollution culprits” to health costs and premature deaths in Southeast Asia.

Ion Mobility’s electric motorcycles would produce zero tailpipe emissions and play “a big part” in reducing PM2.5 and greenhouse gas emissions produced, added Mr Chan.

Southeast Asia is the world’s third largest market for motorcycles after India and China, he noted, adding that there are currently more than 200 million ICE motorcycles across Southeast Asia.

The company had originally aimed to offer test rides and launch pre-orders for its Model 1 electric motorcycles in Jakarta by the third quarter of 2020, although it had to go back to the drawing board because of COVID-19.

“We aim to launch our Model 1 in Indonesia by early 2021 or sooner, COVID-19 permitting,” said Mr Chan.

Apart from its headquarters here – which will serve as a regional centre for design as well as research and development – Ion Mobility also has offices in Jakarta and Guangzhou. Mr Chan said the company is focused on becoming the top electric motorcycle company in Southeast Asia.

It aims to begin with Indonesia, where 6.5 million new ICE motorcycles were sold in 2019, aiming to claim 1 per cent of the Indonesian market within its first two years of sales.

Scorpio Electric, meanwhile, aims to be a “global brand”, said Dr Taureza.

“We want to be in the same ranks as Apple and Tesla,” he said, although he noted that this needs to be done one step at a time.

As a “homegrown Singapore brand”, Scorpio Electric’s first priority is the Southeast Asian market, primarily Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore, he said.

Although sales of electric vehicles (EVs) have been increasing in recent years, they are still in the minority, making up just 2 per cent of the total vehicle population worldwide.

“The reason why the uptake of EVs generally, whether cars or motorcycles, is low is because the price is expensive, let’s not beat around the bush,” said Dr Taureza, noting that the main reason for this has been battery prices.

However, with battery prices declining in recent years, it is only a matter of time before price parity is reached, he added.

To attract consumers, Mr Chan said the onus is on companies like Ion Mobility to “up our game and offer a compelling product that provides price- and performance-superiority over ICE equivalents without relying on subsidies”.

While both firms welcomed Singapore’s recent measures to accept electric motorcycles here, Mr Chan believes more can be done.

“Certain categories of electric motorcycles should be permitted to charge from normal wall sockets provided they are UL2272-certified,” he said, referring to the fire-safety standard used in Singapore for personal mobility devices such as e-scooters.

“Singapore’s touted network of EV charging stations are also all zoned for EV cars, not EV motorcycles. There is a need to consider the zoning and charging sockets for EV motorcycles too,” he added.

More refinement is also needed in the categorising of electric motorcycles, which do not neatly fit in with existing categories of conventional motorbikes, he said.

“Horsepower and kilowatt power output is not a one-is-to-one relationship,” he explained, adding a more “engineer-centric approach” is needed.

In 2018, Scorpio Electric secured S$2 million from its parent firm EuroSports Global, which promised another S$3 million if certain milestones were met.

Mr Tham said the firm aims to close another round of funding in the coming months, although he declined to provide figures.

“We started our fund-raise in January this year, and in spite of COVID-19, have been able to secure healthy investor demand amidst these tumultuous times,” said Ion Mobility’s Mr Chan.

He declined to provide figures at this time, but Mr Chan noted that it would be able to launch its motorcycle without raising more funds.

When asked how Ion Mobility would fare against other players in the electric motorcycle market, he said such discussions were “premature”.

“There is plenty of room for all of us to coexist, with each player going after different market segments,” he said.

“The real competition, the elephant in the room if you must, is consumer preferences, which have been honed by what Japanese incumbents have offered to them in terms of design, price and performance over the years,” he added.

Scorpio Electric welcomed competition, said Dr Taureza, adding that competition helps the company to “grow and continue to improve”.

He noted that apart from the two new players, established traditional motorcycle manufacturers have also entered the market.

“I think there will be tremendous growth in the EV motorcycle segment next year,” he said.