MOTORCYCLE LIVE - THE FINALE
Motorcycle Live, at Birmingham's NEC, comes after the other major European bike shows in Cologne and Milan. Because of this, many riders have already received information about the new 2017 models.
If you're in the market for a new bike, you could trundle around the various dealerships and try them for size. But different manufacturer showrooms are scattered over wide areas. So it's more convenient (and satisfying) to swing a leg over these bikes when they are all parked up in one place.
It was quite relaxed when the doors opened at 9am on the final day (Sunday 27th). But by mid-morning, people were there in numbers, and there was much jostling at the manufacturer stands.
The Moto 3 world championship was won by KTM this year, a class for single cylinder 250cc bikes. Yet KTM doesn't have a 250cc in the models it's offering. Strange.
It's making a bigger splash these days with its distinctive orange bikes. My attention on the stand was drawn to a good-looking sports tourer. The 1290cc Super Duke that people were gathered around and clambering onto. At a quid under £16,000, it's not "competitively priced", as they say. One bloke who spent a good few minutes getting comfortable with the riding position was shocked when I asked if he'd pay this amount for the bike. He said no and hustled away.
We recently posted information about the new Ducati models for 2017, so I had to take a look at them in their metal and plastic reality. I was impressed by the new Monsters in their various configurations of 797cc, 821cc and 1200cc. Not only do they look good, as all Ducatis do, but they come in at reasonable prices, under or around £10,000.
The super sports bikes - sleek and very, very fast - gathered clusters of admirers. Though, while motorcycle registrations have been holding up well over the past year or so, bikes in this category have continued their long-term sales decline.
The big, big bikes - Harley, Indian and Victory - were conveniently placed in the same exhibit area. Harley had a DJ pushing out some righteous jazz/funk sounds that caused me to spend more time than I normally would on its stand. Shame about the bikes.
While across the road, so to speak, at Indian, there was a decent singer/guitarist entertaining the mainly older crew who are attracted by these big shiny cruisers. I can (almost) see the attraction. Big comfortable saddle, low seat height, riding position that respects ageing bones, and not too much effort to get on and off. Not for me yet.
Are sidecars making a comeback? Watsonian Squire, the long-standing and historic manufacturer of "chairs", had more space and more staff around this year. It had some nifty third-wheel attachments on display. Including a single seater mounted to a Ducati Scrambler and a BMW R Nine Boxer with a luggage set up.
It must be confident some riders will be looking for stability, touring capacity and passenger comfort to keep them on the road and help them handle bigger capacity solo bikes. Or that they might like to be more visible.
The "attention from the crowd" award must go to Norton, who had unveiled its new V4 at the show. People were four or five deep, gathered around the rotating stand.
One person, peering through, turned to their mate after getting a glimpse and said, 'It's shiny'. Indeed it was. I managed to get close enough for a picture a bit later in the day. If you're a motorcyclist who wants to get noticed and has deep pockets, this could be the one for you.
Adventure Motorcycling & Touring
The adventure biking theme had a lower profile this year. And the motorcycle tour and holiday companies were not clustered in a "village". But it's still a prominent aspect and the bikes and their luggage-carrying capacity seems to be getting ever larger.
The Ducati Multistradas, Triumph Explorers, KTM Adventures, BMW GSs etc. all look quite daunting to me. Help is at hand, though. The BMW off-road team, led by the multi-entry Dakar rider Simon Pavey, were giving tips and lessons in their little dirt arena on how to balance and handle bikes in tricky off-road conditions. Including lifting a dropped machine without doing an injury to your body.
I'm applying my 'I could live with that bike' test across the new machines on offer. BMW tempted me with the R Nine range, as they are still using the distinctive Boxer engine. I liked the look of the F800R parallel twin too.
Yamaha has swept all before it with the MT models on its podium instead of the latest R1, which was tucked away. Pride of place went to the MT09 and 10 bikes. But having read a couple of reviews, I think I'd go for the nimble easy handling that is a feature of the MT07.
Over at Kawasaki, its street/urban bikes are surely among the 'bargains' for new machines. The 2017 Z650 has sharp styling and comes in at £6099. And the larger engine versions, the new Z900 which will no doubt supersede the Z800, are pegged at around £8,000. Its mighty ZX10 gained all the honours in World Superbike this year and bagged second and third places in the final BSB standings.
I've been looking at the prices of the new bikes on display. I wonder whether they are for the stock that has been imported before the pound losing value against other currencies. We may be in for some price rises as almost everything motorcycling is imported.
I don't remember Zero, the Californian electric bike manufacturer, being at last year's show. But it was here this year displaying the slogan "Take Charge". Reminding potential purchasers that from January, a £1,500 discount entitlement kicks in as a result of new government rules to encourage electric vehicle ownership.
Usually, a new marque catches my eye. This year it's Mash, a collection of retro 400cc twins that the website informs me is 'hugely successful throughout Europe'. Mash has established a network of 28 dealers, so it's expecting to be around for a while.
Talking of retro, over at Royal Enfield, there was a big display area with a backdrop of mountains for the new Himalayan. It's had to dispense with the carburettor on the original Indian model to comply with Euro 4 emission standards. And it will be available in the UK next year. Not a great looker, though.
By early afternoon there were queues for everything. Helmet bargain seekers were pulling potential purchases on and off heads. The seemingly ever-present Steve Parrish was introducing teams of road racers to compete in the Question of Bikes quiz on the main stage in front of a good size audience.
The winter days lie ahead and there's not a lot going on in these months. But there's the London show at the Excel event arena in February to break it up. And if you do want to get out and see some bike action and don't mind getting muddy, there are off-road events going on all over the country.
The Motorcycle Live show audience has gorged itself on perhaps the biggest choice and selection of bikes known to modern man and woman. Plus stall after stall providing choices of riding gear to cover all conditions and cost.
The motorcycle trade has been upbeat over the past year or so. With an increase in new bike registrations and an indication that more young people are taking to two wheels. The attendance figures for this year's Motorcycle Live reflect this, with an increase of 2.4% on 2015. A total of 113,172 stepping through the NEC doors.
Tell us what you thought about Motorcycle Live by emailing email@example.com.
01/12/16 - I didn't go, but lots of my friends and customers did and all were disappointed, the common quote was it was too small you could see it all in two hours and there were very few retail stalls selling affordable stuff, and that it would be a long time until htey went again
02/12/16 - I did go, spent all day and didn't see everything. I thought it was pretty good and would recommend it. The Yamaha T7 was best.
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