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UK

21/05/2020

E letter / Opinion

In 1952 when I was sixteen I bought my first motorcycle – a 350cc BSA.  It was far from refined but took me around and introduced me to the joys of motorcycling.  I was closely involved with bikes all my working life from joining Mobiloil – then Socony Vacuum Oil Company – in 1953 where I became Competitions Manager in 1957 before moving to Castrol in 1963 as Motorcycle Competitions Manager.  I remained with Castrol all through the 1960’s and during that time saw and met most of the big names of that era.  Times changed dramatically during that period and motorcycling enjoyed huge support both for the touring bikes and then mostly sportsbikes.  What about the weekend when just over 200,000 fans descended on Brands Hatch for the ‘World Superbike’ meeting?  Do you remember the slogan “You meet the nicest people on a Honda”?  That was the overall feeling of the time and motorcycles were used for pleasure and everyday travel.  I seem to remember the mid 1960’s when new registrations were around 240,000.  Eventually the sporting side took over and everyday transport became less and less.

Since then, registrations have slowly dwindled away to the point where nowadays it is not uncommon to drive any distance without seeing a single motorcycle on the roads.  All of this when the bikes themselves have improved enormously and traffic congestion and pollution has become a major problem to us all.  Many dealers have closed and motorcycling hardly gets a mention in the wide media.

The world has suddenly changed beyond all recognition with the coming of Covid -19 or Coronavirus.  People are losing their jobs in their thousands and transport has become too expensive for many to afford.  This situation is not something that will go away quickly and many people feel that we will be suffering the after affects for a long time to come.  Surely now offers an extraordinary opportunity for motorcycling in general?  Machines are clean, reliable, fuel efficient, easy to park and fitted with all the things people are looking for like electric start and weather protection.  Threading through traffic in the towns and cities is easy and there are often lanes available for motorcycles.  The modern 125cc machine has everything that is needed for use as transport as well as enjoyment.  For those people living in the country where bus services have been largely or even completely withdrawn, the motorcycle has to be the best and cheapest way to get around.

This brings me to the main point of my current thinking.  Where are all the PR companies?  What are the manufacturers doing about promoting their products?  Where are the people or groups who lobby parliament?  Where are advertisements showing the good side of motorcycling?  Where are the people who can think outside the box and place advertisements and editorial in newspapers like the Mail, the Sun, the Daily Mirror, TV and specialist magazines like Radio Times, Gardeners World, Countryfile and many other general interest publications that are read by people who do not buy the motorcycle press?  Perhaps we could follow the lead taken by the car industry and arrange for traveling displays of motorcycles to be put on show in public places like town centre squares?  Anything that brings motorcycling under the general spotlight has to be a huge plus in these troubled times.

As a segment of the market, motorcycling is in a unique place to help those who are in difficulty whilst offering a clean alternative to the polluted world in which we now live.  Let’s not just accept that the motorcycle share of the market is falling but make a renewed effort in these changing times to push all the good points of owning a motorcycle.

Malcolm Edgar