Long Forks or False Prophets

In the 29th February edition of Motorcycle News (MCN), Senior Reporter Steve Farrell led an article entitled “EU targets choppers” with a sub heading of, “Latest EU plans would ban long forks”.

Farrell starts the article with, “Choppers could be consigned to history by the latest proposals from Brussels to prevent us modifying our bikes.” The Motorcycle Action Group are reported as saying, “It could make building choppers impossible and accuses the EC of basing proposals on ignorance.

Nich Brown, MAG’s General Secretary is quoted as saying, “The intention to restrict modifications to forks had been expressed in a meeting between representatives of the EC, DfT and motorcycle lobby groups. This is a simple case of an official on the EC who doesn’t understand motorcycles but doesn’t like the look of extended forks believing he needs to regulate it.”

Moving forward a week, that motorcycle soothsayer Kevin Ash, heads his column in Motorcycle News with “Why we need to stop EU banning choppers” and “explains” all the reasons why choppers should not be banned by the EU and concludes that this will be a, “huge blow against individuality and freedom of expression.”

Moving swiftly on to the glossy monthly “custom” magazines,  Back Street Heroes (BSH) and 100% Biker.  Their respective editors Stu Garland and Nik Samson write in their columns about the doom that custom bikes will face due to the EU proposals, and sound the death knell of custom bikes and long forks.

Some Basis in Truth?

The BSH column has snippets such as, “Striking directly at the heart of all that we hold dear is a targeted attempt to prevent builders from fitting “long-forks”……” and “They have gone as far as proposing the successful completion of slalom and U-turn tests before a bike can be registered, which, they figure, should effectively ban long-forked chops without having to put any technical definition in black and white.”

The BSH column continues with all the other interpreted reasons why the EU proposals mean that riders are staring the enemy in the face.

100% Bikers Editor Nik Samson writes that, “The European Commission is starting to get down to business………..And the first proposal of the day is this: they’ve decided that part of the new regulations, which will affect all bikes registered for the road in the future, should be re-written to prevent folk from using “long forks”. Yep, you read that right, and no, we’re not having you on.”

Samson continues, “the Commission now wants any bike being put through MSVA (Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval) to complete tight slalom and U-turn manoeuvres to prevent modifications to the length of the forks.” He continues with all the reasons that choppers are not dangerous adding, “an age-old way of life that brings employment and pleasure to a huge group of people will have been scoured from the planet.”

Both BSH and 100% Biker editors recommend that the only realistic hope of seeing off such dire threats or you care about custom bikes, custom bike building or the custom bike lifestyle is to join the Motorcycle Action Group.  100% Biker’s Nik Samson writes, “to support the fight that they are putting up against this sort of “bullshit”.

And “bullshit” is a very apt word to use for the reporting by these magazines.  Why do we say that? Surely there must be some basis in truth, or otherwise these “respected” magazines and their reporters and editors would not have put ink to paper.

Well Constructed Objections and Solutions

We need to go back to Nich Brown, MAG’s General Secretary’s quote in MCN :  “The intention to restrict modifications to forks had been expressed in a meeting between representatives of the EC, DfT and motorcycle lobby groups. (The meeting referred to is the Motorcycle Working Group (MCWG) within the Directorate of Enterprise and Industry and these lobby groups included FEMA (Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations), ACEM (Motorcycle Industry in Europe), FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme ) as well as other member state government representatives).

It could be argued that this is just Farrell misquoting, because there is a certain truth in that quote, but it is not the whole truth.  Or perhaps this is due to the fact that Brown did not follow the whole debate, or simply that he took advice from FEMA.

In January we reported on the issue of long forks which was entitled “The EU Chop Shop”.

The mention of “extreme chopper style vehicles” was included in a presentation at a Motorcycle Working Group meeting in December 2011.

The text in the presentation stated; “Specific requirements – on steer-ability, cornering properties and turn-ability to address issues observed with extreme chopper style vehicles

  • mainly for national and individual approval purposes introduced width of 6.0 m and 3.0 m slalom pitch under review
  • display of rider skill, just as brake testing, therefore acceptable for type-approval testing

At that stage we wrote to the Commission for clarification, to ACEM (the European Motorcycle Manufacturers Association) and the UK government representative at the MCWG for their views and received a response from each of them.

The Commission representative responded that, “As the title of the MCWG paper says, it is a discussion paper and concept design for the RVFSR – Regulation on vehicle functional safety requirements on the vehicle functional safety requirements.”

Let’s be clear on that text referred to, which is an exchange of views which in turn refers to a draft paper on the vehicle functional safety requirements for the approval of two- or three-wheel vehicles and quadricycles.  This is a DISCUSSION PAPER which has the caveat that it does not represent an official position of the European Commission. It is a tool to explore the views of interested parties. The suggestions contained in this document do not prejudge the form and content of any possible future proposal by the European Commission.

This working document was presented in the MCWG meeting in December last year as a starting point to be able to draft the delegated act on functional safety.

At Right To Ride, we believe that the ride-ability test proposed by the Commission, which would include a slalom and U turn test, is not within the remit of the “Technical” regulations and therefore should be abandoned, because this would already be covered under the General Product Safety Directive.  This is also the opinion of ACEM.  Furthermore, the UK government representative in the MCWG is clear that he wants to see this proposal deleted.

According to the Commission representative, “The objective of this proposal focuses specifically on mainstream manufacturers and not unique builds or small series which would remain under member state single vehicle approval”.  This is fundamental to this whole discussion and nowhere in their presentation is there any mention of “Long Forks”

The Commission stated that they had put out their proposals to the Motorcycle Working Group a year ago, but had not received any response up to the last meeting in December (2011), which is worrying because the essence of the Motorcycle Working Group is to involve stakeholders who should be “in there” with alternative proposals and well constructed objections and solutions.

Choppers Are Here to Stay!

In conclusion, those who should be reporting responsibly, in depth and with the whole truth, are themselves reporting “bullshit”.  We would argue that it’s not their fault.  After all, they rely on the information received from Mr Brown and Co. (We presume that they do not rely on MCN for their information).  Thus, Nich Brown does no favour to MAG UK.

Even other EU rider organisations have had to put out press releases to refute this latest episode of “bullshit”.

SMC -The Swedish Motorcyclists Association – reports that they, SFRO (Sveriges fordonsbyggares riksorganisation) which is a Swedish national organisation to help builders to build their own vehicles and register them for road use, and the Finnish rider’s organisation SMoto have met the European Commission to discuss issues within the proposals.

SMC say that it has not seen anything to indicate prohibition.

There is NO evidence that choppers are to be banned.

So where do we go from here?  Good question!  But one thing is for sure – Choppers are here to stay.


The EU Chop Shop – pdf 702kb – Click Here

Working Group on “Motorcycles” (MCWG) 14 December 2011 Regulation for approval and
market surveillance of L-category vehicles – Click Here

Regulation on vehicle functional safety requirements on the vehicle functional safety
requirements (RVFSR) – for the approval of two- or three-wheel vehicles and quadricycles – Click Here

Draft meeting minutes of the Motorcycle Working Group MCWG/ MVEG on Motorcycles(L-category vehicles).Brussels, 14 December 2011 – Click Here

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  1. Steerabilty could equally refer to sports bikes as any one who attempted a 3 point on the high street could testify is darn nigh impossible as it trying to get one to do a figure of 8 on a narrow track like cadwell

  2. Congratulations on once again exposing the black propaganda that the UK riders groups and motorcycle press now delight in hawking around as the truth.

    It would seem that the truth or at least accurate reporting is being sacrificed on the alter of populist campaigning.

    Once truth leaves the room creditability is never far behind.

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