The 10 Biggest Biking Blunders

Every now and then we all drop a clanger. But for some the effects are more acute than just a red face and the mother-in-law refusing to speak to you for a few years. Here is the definitive list of biking’s biggest blunders

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By Visordown on Wed, 17 Nov 2010 - 04:11

SORRY, WHO ARE YOU AGAIN?

In May 2003 KTM were approached by a TV production company called Elixir Films blathering on about how they had two actors (well one actor and his posh mate) who wanted to ride around the world on motorbikes. Could KTM supply two 950 Adventures and all the necessary backup to support the trip? KTM weren’t convinced by the pitch and chose not to get involved, deciding that they simply didn’t have the infrastructure to help out with such an ambitious project, so the production company approached BMW instead. The Long Way Round TV series promptly became a global smash hit, a marketing company’s dream and subsequently had enormous impact on the worldwide sales of BMW’s GS range of bikes.

“In an ideal world we would have loved to have supported them, but at the time we decided against it,” said a tight-lipped KTM spokesman. At least they didn’t have to put up with the Boorman turning up at the opening of every envelope afterwards...

FUEL-INJECTED UTTER BLOODY DISASTER

In 1997 Bimota launched its Vdue 500, a two-stroke race replica that was heralded as being the closest thing to a GP bike on the road. Limited to only 300 bikes it was super-exclusive. It also didn’t run. With a powerband narrower than a gnat’s cock due to a terrible fuel-injection system, horrific reliability and a price tag of over £14,500 it was a complete and utter disaster. Bimota was forced to recall every single one of them and offer owners replacement SB6R machines. Not all of them took the offer up, and most opted for cash back. “It was the worst bike I’ve ever ridden, totally unrideable,” reckons motorcycle journalist Chris Moss.

The Vdue was meant to be Bimota’s saviour, but its total failure hammered the final nail in Bimota’s coffin, plunged them into financial crisis and the company went bust (again) in 1999. At which point collectors turned up at the factory’s gates in white vans and snapped up the remaining Vdue’s at bargain prices. Some were converted to carbs, and still ran like shit, while others currently sit in humidity controlled glass cabinets as very beautiful, but completely useless Italian ornaments. “It was a very pretty bike but not very good,” says Bimota’s UK importer today, Hoss Elm. “Now we keep it simple with Ducati engines, using tried and tested fuel-injection systems. You can’t blame Bimota for trying to do something special. It would have been fantastic if the Vdue had worked.”  As, indeed, would have time travel.

HELLO TO UGLY BETTY

Ducati unveiled its long-awaited and much anticipated replacement to Massimo Tamburini’s legendary 916 design in late 2002. And the world stood still. Then the world drew in a breath, paused for thought and formed a collective impression that this was indeed a very ugly bike.

Despite being a better motorcycle to ride Pierre Terblanche’s concept was panned the world over for its physical appearance. Sales were slow despite WSB success (in the UK the last 916-style bikes actually out-sold the 999 in 2003) and even a few tweaks to try and improve its look failed to help. The 999 was replaced in 2007 by the 1098, which looks an awful lot like an updated 916, something the 999 should always have been. Unsurprisingly the 1098 has proved a tremendous hit, breaking Ducati’s sales targets and helping turn the company’s fortunes around from the hole the 999 was a large factor of it being put into in the first place.

“Some people had a negative reaction to the styling, not everybody did,” says Terblanche today. “May be it was a bit early, too futuristic, who knows? When you do projects like this you obviously intend that that they will be liked by everybody, but that doesn’t always happen.” Nope, it doesn’t.


Sorry, who are you again?

In May 2003 KTM were approached by a TV production company called Elixir Films blathering on about how they had two actors (well one actor and his posh mate) who wanted to ride around the world on motorbikes. Could KTM supply two 950 Adventures and all the necessary backup to support the trip? KTM weren’t convinced by the pitch and chose not to get involved, deciding that they simply didn’t have the infrastructure to help out with such an ambitious project, so the production company approached BMW instead. The Long Way Round TV series promptly became a global smash hit, a marketing company’s dream and subsequently had enormous impact on the worldwide sales of BMW’s GS range of bikes.

“In an ideal world we would have loved to have supported them, but at the time we decided against it,” said a tight-lipped KTM spokesman. At least they didn’t have to put up with the Boorman turning up at the opening of every envelope afterwards...

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