One of the inherent hazards in motorcycle rallying is that of a mechanical failure. Some failures you can do nothing to prevent nor preempt, some you can, such as punctures. This is especially relevant when on a rally with time pressures to consider. If you reach a time-check more than 30 minutes late, there’s a good chance you’ll be disqualified and as well as the time you’d waste removing the wheel and changing the tube, there’s also the tyre irons, tools and spare tube you’d have to carry in your pack too, which add significant bulk and weight.
There is an alternative, however. Rather than using an inflatable inner-tube, a common alternative is a mousse. This is a foam rubber ring, effectively a pre-inflated inner-tube but made of solid foam rubber. As such, it can’t be punctured. Now while this already well known within the world of off-road motorcycling, it does present it’s own issues and cause for debate.
If’ you’ll excuse me for a moment while I don my anorak and open the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 , then you’ll find that mousses are technically illegal, as ‘resilient tyres’ can only be used on works trucks or pedestrian controlled vehicles (section 24 of said regulations).
Now around about the same time as these regulations were coming into force and, therefore, some time after they were initially drafted, Michelin had developed a product they called the Bib-Mousse and had been campaigning it on bikes in enduros and rallies for a few years. http://www.motorsport.com/wrc/news/bfgoodrich-on-the-technical-front/
Needless to say, this technology is more recent than the regulations which dictate it’s use, or non-use as it is in this case.
For motocross, enduros and some larger rallies which take place entirely off-road this isn’t an issue, however, many rallies in the UK take in at least short sections of public roads and/or by-ways to join up the off-road sections. This presents a quandary for some. Do you run inner tubes and remain 100% road legal for those incredibly short stretches of road which are also, arguably, irrelevant to the competition, or do you take a chance and run mousses knowing that for those few minutes you’re technically breaking the law?
With this in mind, I contacted my MP, Jonathan Djanogly, to suggest that it might be possible to reexamine the status of resilient tyres on motorcycles or at least suggest that their use be permitted under specific circumstances.
Well, this morning I received a reply.
He had contacted Stephen Hammond MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Transport. In the Minister’s reply, he explained that the Dept is currently revising tyre related aspects of the Construction and Use Regs as part of the Government’s response to the Red Tape Challenge.
So if you’re an off-road motorcyclist, now might be a very good time to contact your MP and ask them to consider the revision of the status of tyre mousses as not being road-legal, or at least to recognise their use under specific circumstances.