There's a scene in Robert Persig's book in which the owner of an expensive new BMW bike consults a fellow biker over a mechanical problem. His brake lever assembly turns slightly on the handlebar tube, even though he's tightened the collar's nut and bolt as far as he can. The friend advises the use of a thin aluminium shim wrapped around inside; you could cut one from a coke-can and the tighten the assembly up again. The BMW owner was horrified. A coke-can shim was not a BMW standard part; surely BMW manufactured and sold their own shims, to be fitted by authorised dealers? Why hadn't the shim been fitted in the first place? Where was Quality Control?
It seems Persig's BMW bike owner went on to draft EU regulations. As absurd as it appears, it may shortly be illegal under EU law to fit your own coke-can shim to pack out a slipping collar, let alone change your bike tyres or tune the engine. Some bikers even think changing your own oil could be illegal. And proposed emission regulations, rules on engine management and braking systems and other EU meddling could well make a 1975 Honda 90 the most exciting bike you'll ever see on the road.
Why are they doing this? Well, it's the Euro obsession with environmentalism and safety taken to an absurd degree. The previous big step, banning two-stoke engines, had less environmental benefit in Europe than scrapping a small herd of Fresian cows, and has left yachtsmen struggling dangerously in underpowered tenders with overweight four-stroke engines. And now they've started on the bikers in earnest. The proposals are out to consultation at the moment, so do let the Transport Department know what you think if you have a few minutes.
I'm proud to say my brother, the MD of a small engineering firm and with a garage full of bits of 'work in progress' bikes (not to mention the newly lacquered petrol tank curing in the airing cupboard ...) took part in the Ipswich protest ride at the weekend; the four good-humoured escorting police bikes allowed them to make three circuits of the Orwell Bridge, no doubt themselves thinking of the day they're downgraded to electric bicycles, causing a measured and quite English disruption to traffic.