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We Talk To Dakar Rider Christophe Barriere-Varju Ahead Of “Riding Morocco” World Premiere

We Talk To Dakar Rider Christophe Barriere-Varju Ahead Of “Riding Morocco” World Premiere

With only a couple of days to go before the world premiere of “Riding Morocco: Chasing the Dakar”, we had a good chat with one of the stars of the show – Christophe Barriere-Varju. The documentary follows Christophe and fellow Australian, TV presenter Laura Csortan, as they ride from Marrakech in Morocco through mountains, gorges, rivers and deserts to reach the Moroccan Sahara. Motorcycle Life: Christophe, this isn’t the first time you’ve taken on a journey like this, is it? You’ve actually competed in the Dakar Rally a number of times? Christophe Barriere-Varju: Yes, that’s right. I’ve competed four times now, twice in Africa and another two times in South America. My first Dakar was in 2006, I have vivid images from what happened to me in this very place, Morocco, which ended up in many broken bones. When I went back at it in 2007 I saw just how beautiful that gateway to Africa was, and for many competitors Morocco has been the gateway to their first experiences in the African Continent, massive landscapes that make you feel you just landed on the moon, it’s absolutely breathtaking. I then went on to race the Dakar two more times in South America, another beautiful continent that offer different challenges. ML: And of course your film “Dream Racer” follows you through one of those events. CB-V: Yes, I wanted to show people what it took to prepare and race the toughest event in the world as a privateer. I was the rider, the mechanic and did everything before, during and post race. It was a marathon day everyday for 16 days with very little sleep each night. I had been wanting to make a film about this to share not just the race itself, but what “goes in” to be in a position to take up such a big challenge, whether it is to race the Dakar, start a business or live life every day. People are quick to point fingers at the surroundings, at the reasons “other than themselves” why they cannot do this or that. What “Dream Racer” shows is that “your only competitor, your only opponent, is yourself”. That message is inspiring and the film just gives you that reminder that you should wait for no one, else it might be too late, but will it be really? We won 7 International Awards for “Dream Racer”, it is a timeless story and is the only film in the entire history of the Dakar Rally to have won awards, we are very proud of this. ML: You did everything by yourself in the film “Dream Racer”, it must have been nice to have a support crew on this film then? CB-V: Yes being part of a production for National Geographic was definitely the other end of the spectrum for me. In “Dream Racer” it was Simon Lee and myself – that was it. In “Riding Morocco: Chasing the Dakar” it took a little while to remember everyone’s name (laughs) and it was great to be part of such an International team with people from Morocco, Japan, England, Italy, Swiss, France, and the good ol’ two Ozzies, although I am a bit of a mix myself – which helps with the languages. We had fancy cameras, tiny cameras, big cameras, cameras that auto-stabilise, fancy tripods, boxes of mounting brackets to capture every possible angle, mechanics, helpers, medic, security, production manager. Logistically it was a bit more challenging to move across thousands of kilometres making sure we had the best light at this time on this spot but we made a lot of friends in the process, and that’s what’s important. Compare this to Simon and I in “Dream Racer” where the 3:30am conversation would go like this: Me: “did you charge the batteries?”, Simon “Yes, good luck”, Me “Thank you, see you tonight” LOL. ML: The original Paris-Dakar ran through the area you covered in this film didn’t it? CB-V: Yes it did, and the show traces part of the route from the early Paris-Dakar event. As I mentioned before Morocco has been the gateway to Africa for many years in the original Paris-Dakar. Just imagine how hundreds of competitors that had never left Europe must have felt when they landed in Morocco? First a massive cultural contrast, then the open desert and landscape with absolutely nothing in sight. The transition is almost non-existent. You go from populated area to being literally alone in the immensity of the desert almost instantly. This gives you a shock to the system, no roads, nothing in sight apart from a distant mountain and cloud formations, the sun, a little map and your gut instinct. To be able to feel this for the first time is amazing, and addictive. Africa offers that possibility for competitors, when you are alone, you ARE alone. ML: And you grew up in Africa too? CB-V: Yes, I was lucky! I was born in France but my family moved to the Ivory Coast in West Africa in 1979, I grew up there, was introduced to motorcycles there, raced motocross there, and as a kid I could have not imagined having a better childhood. I wish I could do it again and again. There is something magic about Africa, something unique, it’s a beautiful continent with very friendly people. My sister still lives there and I miss it a lot. After high-school I moved to California to study and spent 9 years in the United States before moving to Australia in 1999. ML: How did it feel going back into the area, did it bring back some good memories? CB-V: You can’t compare Africa. I still remember the first time I stepped out of the plane as a little kid in 1979, that first step and first breath out of the plane stamped me forever. A lot of people think of Africa based on what is being shown to them on television, it is easy to paint a picture with a fraction of images if that same fraction is only shown to people – but it is not like that. First is the friendliness, everyone wants to help, then it is the smell, the food, the respect people show the elderly, it is how chaos can actually be self-solved without micro-management of the populations. There are only a few places in the world where you can be on a motorcycle and get caught into a traffic jam that consists of people, bicycles, cars, mopeds, donkeys, goats and whatever else – and you know what, everything works. And when you are in that environment, you have a colourful story to tell every day, and you feel life. ML: Obviously this journey was different without the heat of competition, but what can we expect to see in the show? CB-V: Yes it is much more relaxing and for once I had the time to fully absorb the experience. I am not sure how the editing was done but the viewers will be transported to Africa starting with scenes in Marrakech that may appear chaotic to some viewers and should be funny as well. We will then take the viewers out of the city and start exploring the Atlas Mountains before entering into the thick of it that created the history of the Paris-Dakar, the massive wide open landscapes, being greeted by people in small villages, before ending in some majestic dunes. Some of the footage you will see will make you want to travel, that’s for sure. ML: And I bet we get to see some amazing off road riding skills as well! It must have been an interesting project to do, how did you get involved? CB-V: I got an out-of-the-blue email which I nearly deleted as I thought it was a spam. I really didn’t think it was serious when I first saw it, but I went along with it. One discussion led to another and before I knew it I was helping select the gear, gave feedback on the route, made sure we had enough spares so on and so forth. I was meant to be teamed up with a female presenter and ride a motorbike across Morocco. That’s how much I knew to start with. ML: Now you had Laura Csortan on the trip with you, had she ever ridden on a trip like this before? CB-V: No, she’d never even ridden on dirt before and had not been on the road for quite a while as well. So right there Laura and I had our challenges. For Laura to make sure she could pull this through un-hurt, and for me I had to make sure Laura had to have enough skills to (a) ride the bike on dirt, and not just dirt roads, and (b) to not hurt herself which was a big responsibility. ML: So what sort of preparation did you do with her? CB-V: Everything happened very fast for Laura, she came up to where I live and she went through “The Dream Racer Experience” training course. A very intensive training where I cover all the basics to teach novices or experienced racers a different way to ride a motorbike. To make things more challenging, the weather was extremely hot those days with temperature upward of 45 degrees. When you gear up for the first time with massive boots, protective gear it becomes a daunting task. I started Laura with getting the basics right on the little 125cc bike, then moved her up to the 250cc and onto the soon to be open Island Action Sports Complex motocross track the next day. Finally on the third day she had to get a taste of riding a bigger bike, I was so impressed by her progress that I entrusted her to ride my factory Dakar bike from “Dream Racer”. But my next challenge was to get her off it – Laura didn’t want to stop riding it, and I don’t blame her. ML: What bikes did you take? CB-V: We both rode Honda new CRF1000L Africa Twins. I took a manual model and Laura rode the automatic transmission. ML: And how did they go? CB-V: The bikes are typical Honda, once you sit on them you feel at home instantly. I was surprised by the very low centre of gravity and although they are heavier than my Dakar machine, they actually feel lighter. Vibrations are almost non-existent, the power is very smooth, and the bike is extremely well balanced as well. And as you will see in the show, you can take this bike in more places you can imagine. ML: Well Christophe, we’re looking forward to seeing this latest adventure of yours. CB-V: Thank you. I haven’t even seen it myself yet so I’m looking forward to it as well. ML: And we might have to get you back for a chat again soon so you can tell us more about your Dakar experiences. CB-V: Absolutely, I’d love to. Christophe’s new adventure, “Riding Morocco: Chasing the Dakar”, will air in Australia and New Zealand on June 17th at 10:30 PM More information and the screening schedule for the rest of the world is available on the National Geographic channel website.

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2016 Triumph Tiger Sport Released

2016 Triumph Tiger Sport Released

The new Triumph Tiger Sport is about to arrive in Australian dealerships. The bike was first shown in London in February and is vastly improved over the previous model. There are 104 updates to the engine alone that have brought more performance, power and torque to the 1050cc triple. The engine produces 93 kW and 106 Nm. The next generation engine also has a new ECU and ride-by-wire throttle that has allowed the addition of many electronic rider aids to the bike. The Tiger Sport now has three riding modes – road, rain and sport – ABS, switchable multi-level traction control and cruise control fitted as standard. A new free-flowing flowing silencer not only sounds richer but also contributes to 8% better fuel economy. Fuel consumption is now reportedly 5.2 l/100 km. Triumph have fitted a new clutch system to the bike that gives up to 48% lighter lever action. There’s an all-new instrument panel that has two trip meters and a live fuel gauge. Ergonomics and rider comfort have been enhanced with a number of updates. The new adjustable tinted screen has updated Aero diffusers, the bike has new footpegs with improved grip and adventure hand guards are now fitted as standard. A new USB and 12V power socket allows riders to charge up personal equipment and help with the fitting of powered accessories. Styling wise, the new Tiger Sport has a more imposing and sporty character with high quality sports adventure detailing & finishes. It has redesigned mirrors, belly pan and heat shield, new badges and eye catching contemporary graphics. The new livery is available in subtle matt black with neon yellow detailing or striking aluminium silver with red details. Triumph says the new Tiger Sport gives a more thrilling and responsive riding experience, and that the new bike has been developed to be better in every way for the motorcyclist who wants a single bike that absolutely does it all. It has a recommended retail price of $17,150 plus on road costs.

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BMW Unveil R nineT Based Concept Lac Rose In France

BMW Unveil R nineT Based Concept Lac Rose In France

BMW Motorrad has used the Wheels & Waves event in France to show its latest concept bike – the BMW Motorrad Concept Lac Rose. It’s the latest take on the BMW R nineT that has been a very popular model for BMW and the basis for a number of derivatives already. Edgar Heinrich, Head of Design at BMW Motorrad, “The BMW Motorrad Concept Lac Rose is our laid-back and very individual interpretation of the bike that won the Paris-Dakar Rallye in 1985.” “It puts the BMW R nineT into an exciting new context and shows what passion for our brand heritage, imagination and a few modifications can achieve.” Tiny Belgian Gaston Rahier won the Paris-Dakar rally on a BMW R80G/S in 1985, and the Concept Lac Rose pays tribute to that bike – right down to the 101 race number that Rahier carried during the event. Lac Rose is the French name of the rose-colored Retba salt lake, located 35 km northeast of Dakar where the rally ended. While the bike doesn’t have extensive off road capabilities, its resemblance to the off-road racer is obvious. The windshield with typical rallye equipment, the characteristic headlamp design with the high mudguard, a large fuel tank and a short rallye seat bench are all reminiscent of the legendary rally winning bike. Longer suspension travel, spoke wheels with studded tyres and signal red on alpine white colour scheme complete the picture. Predictions are that this concept will make it into production, with the finished bike shown at the major European shows later this year and the final model released next year. It would join the Scrambler variant of the R nineT we expect to see in Australia late this year. BMW Motorrad has also hinted at two other variants as well, a minimalistic base model to provide a cost effective starting point for customisers and a half faired model.

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Significant changes to Queensland Motorcycle Licensing Laws

Significant changes to Queensland Motorcycle Licensing Laws

The Queensland Government has announced sweeping changes to the state’s motorcycle licensing laws. The reforms will be rolled out from October 2016 and include: An off-road practical pre-learner training and assessment course (increasing the required number of courses to obtain an R licence from two to three), A minimum learner licence period of three months for all learner riders, The extension of the minimum RE (restricted) licence period to two years, Removing the restriction prohibiting R licence holders from carrying a passenger for the first year; and A stronger emphasis on riding behaviour and higher order skills in Q-Ride courses, and greater standardisation in the course curriculum. Anyone holding an RE class provisional, probationary or open licence before October 2016 will fall under the current rules and will only be required to hold their RE class licence for 1 year before being able to progress to an R class licence. In announcing the changes, Main Roads and Road Safety Minister Mark Bailey said “Motorcycle riders and passengers continue to be over-represented in the road toll.” “The figures are unacceptable and highlight the need for us to review and reform the motorcycle licensing system in Queensland.” The Government examined crash data, reviewed road safety research and looked at practices in other States and jurisdictions before coming to its decision on the changes. The review also involved a public consultation process last year and took into consideration feedback from the community and industry. The topics of road safety and rider training are always controversial, and the problems around these areas are complex. The changes to the licensing process have already come under heavy criticism from some riders and members of the media. Among the criticisms, they correctly point out that a large percentage of fatalities and serious injuries do not involve novice riders, but those riders returning to motorcycling after a long break, and feel that new riders should not be subjected to tougher laws. The changes will, however, help to equip our next generation of riders with better skills and experience for the future – long term solution! We must realise that while the changes to the licensing legislation do not address the needs of returning riders, they can’t. These riders already hold a licence and fall outside the licensing process, and need a different approach to improving their skills. Many have never done any form of rider training at all because they were licensed before mandatory training was introduced at various stages throughout Australia. Queensland Government’s motorcycle safety fact sheet (available here) states that “there are 3.5 times the number of people who hold a motorcycle licence compared to the number of registered motorcycles”. Short of cancelling licences for those riders who hold a licence but do not own a motorcycle (political nightmare and very unfair!) there is no way of enforcing training upon them. There are options for these riders though. They can participate in refresher training offered by many licensing schools, or appropriate post-licence training that develops observation and anticipation skills that help riders to avoid crashes. Some critics dispute the effectiveness of post-licence training yet offer no alternative, however experiential evidence from within the rider training industry shows there are significant benefits to be gained. A good rider will have developed heightened observation skills and be able to anticipate potential problems before they become an issue, allowing time to respond in a calm and controlled manner. A poor rider is likely to find themselves in trouble and then blame outside sources for the problem. Road safety advisors and governments base their decisions on evidence-based research, and in this instance, the evidence is compelling. There is plenty of evidence available in the Australian Road Deaths Database, in studies such as the MAIDS Report and other quality research papers that suggests that riders need better on road skills. (WARNING – OPINION AHEAD) Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but …. Illogical rants from opinionated and poorly informed people who have no professional experience in road safety work or rider training will do the riding community more damage than good. I would question whether the critics have even looked at available data, thought through the process or can offer any alternate suggestions. (END OF RANT)

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Yamaha To Show XSR Customs At Throttle Roll Street Party

Yamaha To Show XSR Customs At Throttle Roll Street Party

It’s party time in Sydney this weekend with the Sydney Café Racers – the same people who run The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride – running the Throttle Roll street party in Marrickville. Railway Parade in Marrickville will be closed off for the event that runs from 11am to 11pm this Sunday 12th June, 2016. The Throttle Roll Party was started in 2013 and brings together Australia’s best café racers and custom bikes alongside a huge line-up of DJ’s and some of Australia’s hottest Rockabilly, Blues and Rock bands. This year Yamaha will be displaying the XSR900 triple and the soon to be released LAMs approved XSR700. Both bikes fit into what Yamaha is calling their sports heritage range. The XSR900 uses the engine from the MT-09, and adds a touch of neo‑retro styling with a split level stitched seat and plenty of aluminium used for the retro styled covers on the fuel tank, both front and rear fenders, and headlight stay. It comes standard with ABS, traction control and Yamaha’s D-MODE engine power control. The XSR700 also has a generous mix of old school charm and modern tech. It takes the 655cc inline twin-cylinder engine from the MT-07LA and its styling is inspired by the old XS650. The round headlight and speedo carry on the retro theme, and Yamaha has even fitted Pirelli Phantom tyres with the authentic 80’s tread pattern. The bikes on display this weekend have been given given a special tribute bike treatment. The XSR700 has been finished in a DT1 enduro theme, and an RZ250/350 inspired look has been given to the XSR900. For more information on the Throttle Roll Street Party, head to www.throttleroll.com.

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