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Motofire is for sale

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Literally.

Figuratively at least, most – if not all – UK based motorcycling websites are for sale. The same could be said for a few of the larger US-based publications too, but our direct experience has been mostly here within the UK , where we’ve directly opposed the way that other publications have bowed, kotowed and licked their way downwards towards the current motorcycling media climate’s position of ‘everything is pretty much terrible, but can we have some money please’.

When we launched Motofire in late 2014, both Ian and myself were at the lowest points of our respective lives. Both of us had been independently removed from our jobs at the dwindling circulatory and German-megacorp owned weekly, motorcycling newspaper, and both of us were desperate to prove that the online world of motorcycling could – and should – be different. Which was something that we’d met resistance for believing in over the previous years of employment.

And so – with a large dose of ‘what the hell’ – Motofire.com was born.

We were determined to be different. Having worked previously for companies who had manipulated online audience statistics and had sold potential advertisers placement based upon numbers that were not quite what they seemed, we had hoped that our open approach to running an online property would be precisely what manufacturers and brands wanted.

We were going to openly share our stats, our audience figures and more importantly our recorded and independently audited engagement figures. Sure, we couldn’t claim to have over 2.5 million online ‘visitors’ a month, but we knew that the few thousand that would find us would be those people who genuinely cared about motorcycles, had visited out of passion for a shared past-time, and hadn’t just arrived upon us because they’d been hoodwinked into stumbling across miscalculated MPG data from a random Honda CB600F search on Google.

Two-wheeled machines offer more by way of thrill, excitement and life-affirming adrenaline than any other mode of high-speed travel today

Of course we would need advertising money to survive, but with the market even then looking down the barrel of an ever-aging population, and the beginnings of an electrical onslaught that nobody in the industry seemed either ready for, or even aware of, we were confident that we could get enough young and/or progressive brands to join us on our crusade to show that motorcycles weren’t just the purview of old, white men in hi-viz jackets or Schwantz replica Arai lids. Motorcycles were, are, and always will be fu*#ng cool!

Four years later, we still maintain that two-wheeled machines offer more by way of thrill, excitement and life-affirming adrenaline than any other mode of high-speed travel today – and they are indeed, cool – but the honest truth of the matter is that whilst we have proven that there is an interest in motorcycles above and beyond the, elderly echo-chamber clientele that is attracted to most of the other online press, the marketing departments and advertising of most UK manufacturers and brand distribution houses don’t share the same enthusiasm. At least not when it comes to spending their adverting money with an independent publication such as Motofire.

Motorcycles are fu*#ng cool!

Yes, the new wave custom scene arrived to inject a much-needed shot of inspiration into the arms of new – and lapsed – bikers, and we are proud to have been at the front of some of that development with our early relationships with The Bike Shed and Bike Exif. But whilst we would love to be able to say categorically that younger riders are joining the throng of two-wheel aficionados because of this new ‘scene’, evidence that we’ve been privy to actually shows that even the sales of the most hipster of all hip motorcycles within recent years – the Ducati Scrambler – was bought by more people in their 50’s than anyone else.

The custom scene is not the magical bullet to new sales that the marketing men of Triumph, Yamaha and Ducati had hoped it would be. Or even the one that Kawasaki so belatedly jumped onto the bandwagon of.

So maybe new drive-trains and electrically powered motorcycles will be the saviour of the industry?

We really hope so. We’ve spent much of our time here on Motofire extolling the virtues of electric motorcycles, and that has been due to genuine passion and belief. Just a couple of years ago, we heard tales of respected journalists writing for some of the world’s most ‘respected’ titles refusing to swing their legs over an electric machine, and that backwards thinking sentiment is reverberated around the comment threads and vitriolic social media replies in almost every post about an electric motorcycle that exists online.

But we fostered a different community. You – good and dear Motofire reader – didn’t dismiss battery-powered machines out of hand. You were different. You are different.

The same happened when we wrote about Yamaha’s Motobot, or Honda’s self-balancing tech. You didn’t instantly hate and grumble about the ‘death of motorcycling’. Like us, you were intrigued, fascinated and keen to learn more. This new technology will certainly change the nature of two-wheel ownership, but in the face of dwindling sales and dramatic shifts in our populations’ behaviour, you joined us in believing that maybe, just maybe, this all might combine to become the saviour of motorcycling and not the harbinger of doom.

Sadly, the thin thread of people in charge of the purse strings in motorcycling don’t feel the same passion for this new juncture and our new(ish) venture’s optimism as we do.

And so – now – we find ourselves in a position were the market is at a crossroads technologically, financially and philosophically and instead of exploring new markets or new avenues, the introspective nature of the industry means that our dream of being the ‘new voice of motorcycling’ has been met with wide eyes from our ever-growing audience – (over 1.5 million website visitors, 120k Facebook fans, 25k Twitter followers and over 60k Instagram fans at that last count) – but deaf ears from the media-buyers, programmatic advertising engines and tranquillised fear of marketing managers.

To put it bluntly, we here at MFHQ have simply not been good enough at manipulating the people with money to offer us any of it, and this means that we can’t earn enough money from this site currently to pay for the two of us to give Motofire the time and dedication that it – and you, our readers – deserve.

Personally we’ve given our all – despite only ever working on it in our spare time whilst managing other jobs – to provide a new and exciting way of covering motorcycling online. We like to think that we’ve done motorcycling journalism veteran Wes Siler, and his excellent manifesto for online bike journalism, justice.

When we started, the major publications here within the UK were publishing one, maybe two ‘articles’ a day of generic, press release and general news. Enough maybe to support their attached print articles or insurance advertisers, but nowhere near what we – as motorcycling fans – wanted to see.

We like to think that it’s because of our influence that you can now see dedicated teams of staff publishing on a nearly full-time basis across those same, said websites.

Sure, some of our stories and articles have been little more than YouTube videos of bears in sidecars, but we’ve also tackled some pretty huge stories when other publications at the time were only tentatively covering them at best…

When MV Agusta went into their latest round of financial trouble, it was Motofire that broke the story first.

Whilst other motorcycling sites ignored them; we were talking about Alta Motors years ago.

We first connected the dots between Norton and John McGuinness last year.

When Nicky Hayden so tragically lost his life last year, it was Motofire that first told the story worldwide – but more importantly, we maintained the coverage beyond just the horrible click-bait from other sites and continued the narrative as exhaustively as possible for the benefit of hundreds of thousands of fans who were desperate for correct and verified information.

Plus (and admittedly we may be biased) we produced the best tribute to the great man available anywhere on the Internet.

Perhaps you’re a brand who feels that they could maintain a daily blog whilst having access to over a quarter of a million motorcycle fans every month?

Through our little website, we gave an outlet to the great and wonderful MotoGP reporter Hannah Smith – an exhaustive talent and voice for whom we will never tire of reading.

And we’re very proud to have been the first publication to offer Emily Macbeth her writing debut; a talent who has since gone on to earn herself the first ever, Kevin Ash Scholarship award.

We may just be ‘two, lazy, disruptive arseholes who deserved everything they get’ (actual quote from an ex-colleague) but we are also two people who’ve given our all over the past four years to make Motofire the best website it can be; and we’ve done it all on a part-time basis with little or no budget to work with, and no major support from anyone within the UK motorcycling industry. Because we had passion for everything two-wheels and both genuinely believed that this industry of ours needed to think differently in order to survive.

But now it’s time to pass on the challenge.

Perhaps you’re a brand who feels that they could maintain a daily blog whilst having access to over a quarter of a million, genuine, real and engaged motorcycle fans every month?

Maybe you’re an existing publisher looking to expand their market?

Or maybe you’re one of the rival publishers we’ve spoken of who just wants to offer a paltry amount in order to watch us squirm and struggle with such an existential decision?

Either way, we’re going to do our best to maintain Motofire for the coming weeks and/or months – so please keep visiting – but if you’re serious about motorcycling online and think you have what it takes to tackle all of the challenges that we’ve menioned above, then we’d love to hear from you.

(Ian has said that he’s happy to sell to anyone who can offer him a kevlar riding jean with more than a 36″ inside leg, and I’ve been known to do almost anything for a free run at the Icon catalogue. Just sayin’).

Anyway, thank you – ALL of you – for the past four years. It’s been a blast, we’ve both enjoyed the myriad highs and lows, and more importantly we’re insanely proud of what we believe to be the best motorcycling-based website on the internet.

So long, and thanks for all the FS1-Es

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Steve fell in love with motorcycles at an old age. Call it a mid-life crisis, call it fate, but nothing can keep him away from feeding his two-wheel addiction.

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One Year On: Remembering Nicky Hayden

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The news that Nicky Hayden passed away was devastating to the whole of the motorsport family.


This article first appeared on Motofire on May 22nd 2017. We’ve republished it here today to commemorate the anniversary of Nicky Hayden’s passing.


Nicky was a champion to his core; from the way he raced to his fierce devotion to his family and the way he made time for everyone. He fought for every single position on every lap of every race and never once gave up. He was firm, leaving no room for doubt on track, but he was always fair and he was one of the hardest workers you’ll ever know, even in a world that includes nothing but riders who push themselves to the limit constantly.

In every way, Nicky was a shining star; images of his tear-stained face when he won his championship in 2006 will forever be ingrained in the collective MotoGP memory, his joy was so tangible that you could have wrapped yourself up in it. And that was Nicky, always inclusive. Whether it was a quick-witted remark in that wonderful Kentucky drawl that we’ll miss so much, his easy manner that made him a friend of everyone who knew him or the way he never turned someone away when they wanted a photo or an autograph. Nicky came from a racing family and he became an integral part of an even larger one.

Losing anyone is always heartbreaking but the loss of a rider when they were out training, doing something as everyday as cycling, makes Nicky’s death at just 35 years old even harder to comprehend.

Nicky holds a place in the MotoGP Hall of Fame, his status as a Legend firmly cemented long before he left for World Superbikes. But he holds something even more valuable; a spot in the collective heart of the entire motorcycle racing family.

His accent will forever raise a smile, at least for me, and his own superstar grin will now bring with it an indescribable sadness. But remember Nicky as he would’ve wanted; that fierce big-hearted champion who pushed himself and everyone around him to be their very best and as that young man who brought so much joy and who left us far too soon.

My thoughts are, of course, with all of the Hayden family, Nicky’s fiancee Jackie, his friends and his teams both past and present.

Now, I’m going to wipe away the tears and watch Valencia 2006 again. I hope you join me to remember Nicky Hayden; a champion, a gentleman and a star that can never truly be extinguished.


This article first appeared on Motofire on May 22nd 2017. We’ve republished it here today to commemorate the anniversary of Nicky Hayden’s passing.

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Custom of the week: ‘V09’ BMW R80 by Vagabund Moto

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BMW AIRHEAD CUSTOMS are like AC/DC songs: after a while, it’s hard to tell them all apart. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the style is usually pleasing to the eye.

But no one could ever accuse Vagabund Moto of following a conventional formula. Their approach is unique and their bikes buck the mainstream trend. So it’s ironic to learn that the owner of this razor-sharp R80 asked Vagabund to replicate the style of a custom R80 they finished two years ago.

Not surprisingly, builders Paul Brauchart and Philipp Rabl weren’t keen on the idea. “We don’t like to remake bikes we’ve done before,” Paul tells us. “So we suggested sketching out a concept that related to the V05—while adding some special parts.”

Paul and Philipp do their wrenching in a workshop in Graz, Austria, and do as much work as possible themselves. “We’re trying to stay a two-man operation for as long as possible,” says Paul. “We’re good friends and perfectionists. It’s hard to think about trusting someone else, or giving up our awesome workshop relationship.”

The pair started out with a relatively fresh classic tourer: a 1992 R80 RT with only 25,000 km on the dial. And thanks to BMW’s historically good build quality, there wasn’t much engine work needed.

“We took apart the engine and carbs, checked everything, and replaced the not so good parts. And then blasted and painted it.”

Getting the striking Vagabund ‘look’ meant ditching the bodywork though, apart from the fuel tank—but even that’s not quite original. The back end of the tunnel has been closed off, where the gap would normally be blocked by the bulky OEM seat.

Just behind it is a svelte new perch. Vagabund designed the tail hump digitally, then got it 3D printed. It means they could pack a ton of detail into a small space—from the multi-faceted upholstery by Christian Wahl, to the sculpted recess under the tail that hides an LED back light.

Everything sits on top of a custom-made subframe, and the main frame’s been liberated of any unneeded mounts. The rear’s now propped up by a new YSS shock. The wheels are stock, but the rear’s clad in a pair of glass fiber-reinforced plastic covers.

Up front, Vagabund shortened the forks by 60 mm, milled and powder coated the lower legs, and added a pair of fork boots. There’s a custom-made top triple clamp too, playing host to an integrated Motogadget speedo.

The handlebars are from LSL, and have been trimmed down. They wear a Grimeca master brake cylinder, a Domino clutch lever, and custom switches in a 3D-printed housing. There’s a small headlight out front, and a pair of Motogadget bar-end turn signals.

The rest of the bike’s been treated with equal consideration. It’s sporting a set of Continental ContiRoadAttack tires, K&N filters, and a Supertrapp muffler attached to the modified stock headers. And then there’s that striking livery, quite unlike any other we’ve seen, and expertly applied by Graz neighbors i-flow.

But it’s what’s missing that’s just as important: there’s no mess of wires vying for your eye’s attention. The bike’s been totally rewired, with a new diode board and two tiny Ultrabatt lithium-ion batteries, hiding under the tank.

“It’s very important to take care of every cable and braking line, and so on,” says Paul. “Even the handlebars are as clean as possible. It’s one of our biggest jobs to do a totally minimalist wiring setup, and we put a lot of work into parts that nobody ever sees.”

Despite the sano approach, this BMW is completely street legal in Austria. On top of the usual lighting, there’s a license plate bracket at the back that holds a pair of tiny Motogadget turn signals—with just the right amount of visibility to check legal boxes.

“It’s really difficult,” says Paul. “Every light has to be ECE-approved, and has to be mounted at the right angle and position. We have to examine all our builds and every point of customization with a civil engineer before we‘re able to (hopefully) pass the vehicle license authority.”

Titled ‘V09,’ this BMW leaves us thunderstuck. It hits the mark with its stance, proportions and finishes—so we’re counting it as another win for the Austrian duo.


This article first appeared on Bike Exif; It’s republished here with permission.

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