Show Business

March 1 2009

In a rare occurrence coinciding with planetary alignment, or perhaps as a result of the brutally abrupt end of the riding season last fall, I found myself attending two of the several Toronto area motorcycle shows this winter. Formerly an avid attendee, these days I’ve lost track of the multiple shows that now take place over the colder months. Twenty years ago, I recall venturing down to the big smoke regularly and scouring the tables of both new and used items at one of these shows, looking for deals on parts for the Sportster I owned at the time. These days, as many are aware, each of the several annual shows seem to be a little different, be it the Manufacturer’s Show, the Supershow, the National Show, the Spring Show, etc. Forgive me if I’ve excluded any; as someone who usually needs a pretty good reason to travel down to Hogtown these days, my very content, small town mind just can’t keep up. So then, the following are my random observations after shuffling among the racks of leather jackets, sunglasses, beer nuts, and oh yes, bikes.

I had cause to attend the December show which is primarily a manufacturer’s showcase for new models. A friend is getting back into riding after a few years absence and invited me along to do some tire kicking and to look at potential candidates for purchase. It seems to be a calling of mine, aiding and abetting anyone within shouting distance who may be thinking of getting back into riding. Though not always successful, I can never turn down the opportunity. I’m usually not one for “test sitting” on bikes that I know I won’t be buying, it’s sort of like near-beer; it really has very little meaning. But there’s not much else to do at this show other than look at the price tags, and after reading various magazine model reviews often leaves me curious for a closer look. As I’m sure the readership is interested in knowing, I’ll share my three “read-about-and-sat-on” picks of the show, in no particular order.

First, the new-last year Triumph Street Triple. As a former owner of this bike’s big brother, the Speed Triple, I know how much fun these engines are, and with a four figure MSRP this L’enfant terrible seems like a lot of British bang for the buck.

And speaking of bang, the big ZX-14 Ninja makes my short list as well, even though I could physically feel my driver’s license being suspended while just looking at it. Still, I sat on it. Twice. Even stationary, I felt like I should have been wearing a helmet.

The last model was one that caught my eye the first time I saw an artist’s concept rendering of it a while back, though my enthusiasm for it is often met with quizzical looks. The Victory Vision’s “love-it-or-hate-it” styling makes many shake their heads, but (as someone who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about style) when I sat on this thing it just felt good, like a well designed motorcycle–if all the reviews I’ve read are any indication, it is. I’m not in the market for a big touring rig at the moment, though if I were, this thing would get serious consideration, and very likely a parking space in my garage. As the “other” American motorcycle company, Victory could certainly be a hard sell to some, and indeed the V-twin market in general is a competitive arena. Assuming they’re not casting pearls before swine and it’s dealer network continues to grow; by the time I’m ready to ride a couch I’ll be looking for a dealer nearby.

The busiest display I noticed of course belonged to H-D; boy oh boy, people really do like sitting on those bikes. I could barely get near the only one I was really interested in seeing (the new XR1200), but I really didn’t mind, there’s already a big twin in my garage anyway. It was quite remarkable though, watching people hovering around the Cross Bones Softail waiting for a chance to sit on it. Must be something about sitting on a bike that has a skull painted on it right from the factory.

Just three weeks later I ended up at a second show almost as if through osmosis. Thankfully another friend and I arrived just before it opened and beat the massive crowd that filled the place within two hours, unlike the more moderate numbers at the previous one. The CVMG displays are always a treat wherever I see them, and–apart from the long low swoopy ones–the trends in customs are interesting to see as well. Among new things I was previously unaware of were a duo of diva coteries, of both the Durham and Chrome variety. Nice to see these community-minded women-only riding clubs out there promoting a positive image of motorcycling; they certainly counter the unorganized rag-tag bunch I ride with (must be because we’re a men-only club…) But what caught my interest more than anything else at this show (sorry Divas) was a vendor selling a small handheld device developed for pinstriping. I was riveted as he demonstrated this little gizmo, applying perfect stripes regardless of speed or pressure, though I didn’t buy one. Editor Roberts was as taken with this thing as I was, and was already talking about pinstriping his kitchen appliances and eavestroughing. I figure I’ll borrow his once he’s finished the tribal tiki stripes on the family dog.

By the time we left the show it was shoulder–to–shoulder packed, with what appeared to be about an hour–long wait just to get inside. So despite all the talk of economic downturn, the business of motorcycling in all its forms at least appears to be chugging along steadily. I did notice a few vendors who’s wares seemed rather far removed from the show’s purpose, though I guess this perhaps speaks somewhat to the need to keep the booths filled during these times of uncertainty. Maybe in the future there will be at least a partial return to the “motorcycle flea market” aspect, as more people press older bikes into service. Not a bad idea, perhaps even a whole new show.

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