Future from Barcelona

Stephen Edwards 5.4.2013


There can be little doubt that, as motorcycle enthusiasts, we don't really live in the best part of the world to enjoy our passion on a year round basis. This is illustrated better than ever by this years winter, which just does not seem to want to go away.

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I however have just spent the last three days in Barcelona and while the locals were complaining that it was cold, by their standards at least, there was no argument that it was still ideal weather for riding a bike. My friend in the city told me that only Rome has more powered two wheelers in all Europe than Barcelona does. It would be hard to argue against that statement when you see just how many there are. It is little wonder thus that Spain can produce such prodigious talents as Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Carlos Checa when the culture of the motorcycle is so much in the daily mind of everyone.

As I walked around the city and studying, as I do, every machine I passed I noted that I saw only one that was electric powered and on reflection that rather surprised me as this is the environment where an electric scooter would make perfect sense. I personally am not yet interested in the offerings of electric bikes, as nothing so far would meet my demands for workable range but that aside there is no doubt that these vehicles are going to be a growing part of the future. KTM just exhibited an electric scooter, showing their belief in this future but the reaction from the ordinary biker has not been all that constructive. The name KTM is tied to an image of performance machines that have their DNA embedded in off road sports and to a slightly lesser extent performance street riding. The notion that they are showing not just a scooter but an electric one at that, does not sit well with everyone.

I can't predict how things shall unfold for them in the future but it did get me thinking about how some other companies will be able to adapt to the needs of a changing power source. Concepts in electric or hydrogen power from the big four Japanese companies, the major scooter producers and BMW would not raise any eyebrows, indeed it is perhaps expected but the likes of Harley Davidson, Victory, Ducati, Moto Guzzi and Triumph, amongst others, are a different scenario altogether. The character of the engine in these brands plays a huge part in making up the very essence of what they, as a marketable brand present to the public. Legislation on emissions, noise and so on has already effected the internal combustion engine but to a large extent these companies have managed to keep the individual character in their power plant, that is so important to what identifies them. Just how they will be able to compensate for losing that heart and soul when it comes to offering an electric motor or a fuel cell is going to be very interesting to see. As the challenge has to be faced inside these firms it is not just the engineers who shall have the tough time in finding a good technical solution but also the marketing people are going to have their work cut out.

As I write, the opening round of the 2013 Moto GP season is only a couple of days away and it is perhaps the most anticipated campaign for many a year. The arrival of Marc Marquez in the premier class, the return to Yamaha of a certain Mr Rossi, the talent of the current champion, Jorge Lorenzo and desire of Dani Pedrosa to win that elusive crown, make for an exciting prospect. That however is not the full story and we should not count out the talents of Stefan Bradl and Cal Crutchlow who did so well last year and shall be eager to show the world why they are worthy of factory rides. The woes of the Ducat team are well known but things are changing inside that company and when you have Andrea Dovisioso, Ben Spies and the ever classy Nicky Hayden riding your bikes then who knows what may happen?

Our own Karel Abraham surely has to deliver the goods this year as he has one of the best CRT machines, on paper at least, beneath him so hopefully he can show the world his talents and shut up the ever present cynical detractors. It also good to see Lukas Pesek debut in the top flite so we have two local boys to cheer on. It should be a good season and after the procession that Moto GP became over the past few years, this may just be the season that injects some life back into it. Bring it on.




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