This blog has only been up and running since the third quarter, and even in that short space of time we’ve seen some real doozies cross our desks.
Here’s a list of the top five most interesting and unusual stories I’ve covered in 2018.
#1 Curtiss Motorcycles
I don’t know what to make of this company. Or rather, I think I do, but it would be irresponsible to speculate in public. The bare facts are that the company formerly known as Confederate sold their internal combustion cruiser business and announced they were getting into pricy, boutique electric cruisers.
Fine, so far. The first oddity was right before EICMA, when Curtiss put out a press release that began with this sentence;
MILAN – Leading off a busy week of announcements from the EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, Italy, Curtiss Motorcycles unveiled today two new versions of their all-electric Zeus motorcycle.
Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds awfully like (1) they might, maybe be at EICMA, and (2) that actual machines were being shown. Except that what they actually did was put out concept artwork.
So that felt a bit – odd. Then they announced a partnership with a graphite company that’s never sold a graphene battery in its history and fired its president in June, to develop a ground-breaking new battery. The capper was trying to raise money not by finding investors, nor by selling stock in the company, but by crowdfunding. And the crowdfunding documentation they supplied listed 42 ways the company could fail.
Put it all together and you have, well, an unusual way to do business.
#2 Harley-Davidson sales slump
The US motorcycle market is soft right now. But “soft” doesn’t even begin to describe what’s happening to Harley-Davidson. Their sales fell by 13% in the third quarter of this year. It was their worst quarter in eight years. There may be a political component to this that we won’t get into. But the motor company, which dominates the US market, is struggling. That’s why they’re investing so heavily in the electric bike LiveWire project, and why they’re building an adventure bike called the Pan America.
#3 BMW have a new Boxer engine coming
BMW are known to publicize new engines by handing them over to custom bike builders, who build some interesting looking machines around them. That’s how we found out that BMW is making a new Boxer engine that has a strong retro call-back, with massive valve covers and exposed, chrome-plated pushrods (something seen on 1960’s-vintage Boxers.)
Japanese shop Custom Works ZON won a best of show at the Mooneyes bike show in Yokohama with a machine that bears the plate R 18. Does that signal an 1800 cc retro-boxer in the near future?
#4 The Arc Vector electric bike
It’s not that the Arc Vector is electric. It’s that it takes a holistic approach to motorcycling. Huh? (Is that may be the first time anyone’s used the word holistic to describe a bike?) It means that the bike, the helmet, and the jacket are all connected and communicate with each other and with you. They call it the Human Machine Interface (I guess it’s reassuring that the Human precedes the Machine in their priorities.)
The helmet has front and rear cameras, the rear camera projects into a Heads Up Display inside your visor, and the jacket sends you warning signals about things like a vehicle in your blind spot or that you’re riding like a squid. There’s more to this interconnected system and one upshot: it’s a vision of where motorcycling might be heading in the future.
#5 The Staytcyc electric bike for kids
There are plenty of bikes for kids of a certain age, machines like the HVR. What there isn’t is a lot of choices for very young children who are just too small and likely uncoordinated to handle them. But there is one.
It’s the Staycyc, designed for children as young as five years old. It’s electric, it’s small, lightweight, and judging by the kids we saw riding them at AIMExpo, it’s a ton a fun. With bike sales waning in the US, little machines like the versatile, kid-friendly Staycyc may be the way to get new generations into our lifestyle by feeling safe and happy.