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What could the easing of lockdown mean for motorcyclists?

The UK looks set to ease some lockdown measures in the coming days - but what could this mean for motorcyclists and the industry?

It’s felt like a long old slog but it seems we are inching towards the end of the current lockdown restrictions with news outlets reporting the official easing of the measures will be coming either at the end of this weekend or the start of next week.

On March 23 the UK government initiated a strict rules on movement across the country in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus and now, six weeks on, there appears to have been a marked effect with daily cases and deaths beginning to fall.

That’s not to say we are out of the woods yet and any easing of the lockdown will be monitored very closely for spikes, but after a painful April, what can we expect for the coming weeks?

Will we be able to go riding again?

Though motorcycle riding wasn’t prohibited entirely with two-wheels becoming a key tool for those needing to complete essential journeys with the safety of being out solo and wearing automatic protective gear, leisure riders were discouraged from taking unnecessary trips out on the bike or risk getting pulled over by police with powers to do so.

This could change to the extent we will be able to use motorcycles to get from Point A to Point B, such as friends and family members in a single location (known as the Bubble format), but there may be still be some restriction to tackling your favourite road with the intention of meeting up with other bikers in a public locations. 

While it’s unlikely any guidelines will mention motorcyclists specifically, take note of any guidelines that mention mass gatherings or groups (such as in parks) and whether these will be allowed or to what extent.

Regardless, since the lockdown will need to be eased rather than ended, care and precaution will still need to be taken. Indeed, while the reputation that motorcyclists could put stress on the NHS should they come off has been rife in recent weeks from various quarters, the advice will always be to ride safely (just as cyclists should cycle safely).

The government is considering adopting contact tracing whereby your movements are (anonymously) monitored and you are alerted in case you have come into close quarters with anyone that goes on to report a case. This has been used extensively in South Korea which – having been one of the first countries to report huge numbers – has now reduced it immensely.

Adopting the ‘New Normal’ as a motorcyclist?

One of the more fortunate circumstances that work in favour of motorcyclists is that you are (mostly) travelling solo and you come with protective equipment built in with leathers and a helmet – a form of PPE, if you will. It is the most socially distant of all transport modes.

However, precautions will still need to be taken when filling up on fuel, for instance. Avoid human contact where possible by using self-service stations and use gloves – as you would be - to hold the nozzle and punch in the pin numbers. 

It would also be prudent to carry hand sanitiser with you at all times and ensure you clean your leathers regularly when you return home.

Will we be able to buy motorcycles again?

While production has now restarted for some manufacturers in Europe, there is still a backlog when it comes to getting spare parts through the system, but efforts are now being made to get back to some normality.

The MCIA will release April figures for motorcycle sales very soon and they are likely to make very grim reading, but non-essential businesses such as car showrooms (and by logical extension perhaps motorcycle dealerships) are being considered for re-opening straight away according to ITV.

However, they will need to make provisions to ensure they are safe workplaces adhering to social distancing and limited staff on staggered work schedules where possible. The guidelines will likely draw inspiration from supermarkets on only allowing a maximum number of people inside at any one time, using floor markings and restricting communal areas entry.

Some manufacturers and suppliers have begun shifting to an online model to complete transactions you would normally do face-to-face so expect these initiatives to be developed further, even to the extent of motorcycles being delivered straight to your door to either try or pick up.

Servicing for motorcycles was still available for key workers during the lockdown, but this could be rolled out to everyone else now provided provisions are in place to ensure staff handling machinery can do so safely.

In the meantime, several manufacturers have also already extended warranties to ensure there are no concerns there. 

Breakdown services, meanwhile, have also remained on call during this period but have warned it may take longer to reach you if you do have a problem as a result of the extra precautions being taken by staff

When will motorcycle racing kick off again?

We have run a number of articles detailing plans for MotoGP to restart again in July or August with closed door races, but what about motorsport on British soil?

On paper it would be easier for national series’ like the British Superbike Championship to get underway because of its (largely) internal logistics. However, there remains a question mark over whether it could go ahead as a closed-door series.

Stuart Higgs says he isn’t keen on the idea of running races without spectators and said in early-April the plan is to squeeze some form of season into the latter half of the year beginning August and September.

However, a number of nations – such as France and Netherlands - have extended a ban on mass gatherings until the end of summer, a method the UK could replicate if it feels it’s still too early to run events with tens of thousands of people in close proximity.

As such, the BSB potentially faces a tough decision on going ahead without the fans – which would have a big price to pay anyway - or risk running out of time with which to make a decision by clinging onto the hope things will return enough of a normality by August or September.

As for track days, question marks would remain over how the marshals needed to ensure these events take place can be safely protected.

What next for the motorcycle industry?

While lockdown may be eased, it will still take months for the industry – and general populous – to recover. The MCIA has predicted an annual slump of 18.2% for 2019 versus 2020, but it is basing this primarily on the difficult months of March, April and May.

It is hopeful the industry will return to the buoyant results in the run up to the coronavirus crisis to soften the blow by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, models on the drawing board could be delayed by some months, while BMW and KTM have already said it won’t be attending any international motorcycle shows this year as they tighten their belts.

However, the one thing that binds us together is the desire to get back to some normality and so long as that means being responsible at all times, we hope this is the beginning of the end for the darkest of weeks…
 

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