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Monday, 26 September 2011

EU and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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.


Weekend Yachtsman said...

It's not generally known that the ban on two-stroke outboards applies only to leisure use.

If you're a commercial user, you can still buy a two-stroke outboard and run it for 12 hours a day if you want.

otoh a yachtsman who might run the same engine (or, in fact, a much smaller one) for about five minutes every other week, is not allowed to do so "for environmental reasons".

Do you still think that it's for environmental reasons?

As for the bikers, this is no doubt the thin end of yet another regulatory wedge. Soon we will see sealed engine compartments in our cars and boats - "qualified personnel only". Anyone betting against?

Does this never ever end? Can anyone imagine the end state?

Greg Tingey said...

IF they get away with this, then car-owners will be next.
I specifically bought a (110" County Defender) Land-Rover, so that I could do at least 90% of my own maintenance.

It's like the "Qualified Electrician" scam.
I've got an M.Sc. in engineering, but, IN THEORY, I'm not allowed to install single-phase 240V AC wiring in my own house.....

Utterly utterly loopy.
And you can be sure that whatever earnest EU exhortations are produced, our own delightful civil service will FUBAR it completely!

Blue Eyes said...

Classic EU salami slicing. Motorbikes are dangerous and therefore it is a long-term aim of the continental nannies to get rid of them. They don't care that motorbike riders know they are dangerous and choose to take that personal risk.

It is stuff like this that makes me realise that we cannot influence from inside, because our political culture is totally against the prevailing political culture (mainly of Germany).

We have to stop the EU from doing this stuff altogether or we have to leave.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

@BE: since we can't influence the EU in any meaningful way at all, we have to leave.

Anonymous said...

I was rather hoping that the failure of the Euro would precipitate the fall of the Eurozone and the meddling diots in it. Seems now that they have managed to come up with a 2 trillion Euro plan to bail out all the banks and governments that have misbehaved.

I think this just serves to show (if we didn't realise already) that there is no end of sacrifices (us on the alter) that they are prepared to make on our behalf.

Coney Island

wiggiatlarge said...

They have already tried to do away with two-stroke engines in horticulture and agriculture ,they failed as there is no four stroke engine thats capable viz power to weight ratio and torque available that would do the job,particlary as applied to chainsaws.
But i wouldn't bet on them coming back on this one as California has gone down this road and it is noticable that because of the huge market in the states nearly all the major manufacturers are now producing small four stroke engines for hedgecutters and strimmers ,they are not as good but its a beginning and the EU will make the point that this is the way forward even when it isn't.

Gary said...

Anonymous at 13:22:
The failure of the EU will not result in the end of EU meddling in your life. The only result will be demands by EU supporters that the EU must be given more power.
The cartoon version of "The Road to Serfdom" (link here: shows what happens when the central planners (read EU) fail.
The next step is to demand more power for the central government because (to socialists) the reason the central plan failed is because the government didn't have the power to make it work (i.e. it is the citizens' fault).
Expect more power grabs from the EU (note they already insist a central fiscal authority with control over national budgets would have prevented these problems).
Similar demands for more central control are common in the US now as the Obama govt fails miserably. As the socialists fail, they become more desperate and more dangerous.

Elby the Beserk said...


Quite so. And I wonder how many national parliaments for the countries signed up to this bailout will debate it? In effect, a coup is being planned in clear view of all of us.

Anonymous said...

Personally I adopt a measured 'continental' approach to the EU rules and regs. If I don't like them I don't abide by them. If/when the EU start to have the Stazi capability of monitoring individuals on a daily basis then perhaps I'll be looking for a XXL wetsuit and being 'creative' with my lathe.....

Anonymous said...

Are any motorbikes being manufactured in the home of Triumph?

nisakiman said...

"The previous big step, banning two-stoke engines..."

I live in the EU, and I just bought (two months ago) my wife a brand new Piaggio two-stroke scooter. WTF? Mind you, I am in Greece. Ha, I'd like to see them try and regulate Vlasis, my bike mechanic. He's an adapt-a-part meister!