DOWN BY THE 'DOCKS'
MCN LONDON MOTORCYCLE SHOW 2016 REVIEW
Those of us that have been on the planet for a while can still remember when there were docks in London. Shipping and freight have now moved downstream to places such as Tilbury and Felixstowe, and phenomenal modern development has taken the space once occupied by wharves and cranes.
Dock workers have been replaced by thousands of office-based workers and apartment dwellers, shuttled to their gleaming skyscraping spires by the driverless trains of the Docklands Light Railway. But last weekend (12th-14th) the same railway delivered thousands of bike enthusiasts to the Docklands Excel exhibition complex for the MCN Bike Show.
It's a scaled down version of Motorcycle Live, with all the major manufacturers taking space, except this year Harley Davidson was a notable absentee; though its machines were well represented in lots of guises. BMW commanded the largest space right next to Triumph, its 'rivals' in the non-Japanese sales market.
I decided to lend more organisation to my visit and review this time round. Rather than just wander, I'd first visit the four 'zones': Adventure, Sport and Performance, Classic, Custom. Then look at the manufacturers' exhibits before visiting the smaller stands and clothing and apparel to see if anything tempted me to hand over the plastic.
It sort of worked, but I kept getting diverted as something caught my interest as I passed by. Adventure biking is still grabbing a lot of attention, and the tailor-made tour companies seem to be doing good business on the back of this long distance touring interest. The adventure stage was surrounded by bikes that had been ridden around parts of the globe, and they came in all shapes and sizes proving also that you don't need to ride a big bike to travel big distances.
Sean Dillon covered 33,000 miles in 2011/12 on his Honda C90. Riding the Pan American Highway from Alaska to Argentina. He then had the bike shipped across the Atlantic to Dakar and rode home to Ireland from there. Dutchman Sjaak Lucassen spent over five years travelling on his R1 Yamaha, has covered 300,000 kilometers and it's still on the original engine. He fabricated his own subframe with a tow bar and fitted it with the most outrageous tyres ever seen on an R1.
In contrast, the Sports and Performance area was small with the main interest being the past and present BSB racers interviewed in the stage area. Then at the opposite end of the hall, the Custom and Classic zones had plenty to tempt the eye. Harrison Billet, the manufacturers of superbly engineered and stylish brake calipers and discs, along with Zodiac International, a Dutch company producing all kinds of parts and accessories for Harleys, were this year's sponsors. The most outlandish exhibit amongst all the glittering bike building expertise was the 'Stinger'; powered by a 5.7 litre Chevy engine!
On Saturday 13th, a new name in bike auctions, Coys, brought a collection of very desirable bikes to be sold. The auction results were not to hand when I wrote this, but Coys did let me into its corralled area to take a few photos. Show goers lined the barriers and were obviously impressed by what the auction company had attracted. If you're in the market for something special in the future, it's worth keeping a watch on Coys' lists. Along with Bonhams', of course.
To mark 100 years of BMW, the company will be producing limited editions of a number of its models, all with custom paint jobs. One hundred of each, naturally. All were on display, and I would think they would be snapped up quickly, as the paintwork and features will make them stand out from the crowd. The other BMW that caught my attention, chiefly because of the contrast with the adventure bikes I'd seen earlier, was the total luxury embodied in the 1600 GTL Exclusive. It's powered by a six cylinder motor and boasts such 'exclusives' as Hill Start Control 'for moving off effortlessly on slopes', as they put it. Within two metres of the bike, keyless technology turns on the ignition, releases the steering lock and other fancy stuff: and there are heated seats and a backrest. All for a shade under twenty-three grand. Don't drop it, whatever you do.
The 'Big Four' were clustered together, and I decided to adopt a 'would I be likely to buy this' attitude when looking around their stands. The bikes would certainly be more within my price range. At Suzuki, I was impressed with the GSX-S 1000/ABS: a well-styled bike for £9235. Along with the GSR750ABS, a couple of impressive naked street bikes.
Over at Kawasaki, the latest dominant ZX10R was getting a lot of admiring looks and leg overs, with mates taking camera shots. But the bike I would have chosen on this stand was the 650 Versys GT in new matt paintwork livery. A couple of guys were trying the bike for size, one about the same size as me just about got his toes touching: I know what you mean mate. Earlier, on behalf of the size-challenged, I'd noticed that Triumph now produces a Tiger 800 Xrx Low. Good for Triumph.
Yamaha's MT09 Tracer looks like a nifty sports tourer. It's similar in styling and purpose to Honda's Crossrunner. The Honda display was more understated than what we're used to seeing. At Motorcycle Live, Honda usually dominates the show space, as it did in '15 with the launch of the new Africa Twin.
Meanwhile, over at Ducati, a quiet revolution is taking place. Having introduced and heavily promoted the Scrambler – it had its own separate display section – Ducati now has its marketing eye on the cruiser purchasers with its X Diavel, introduced at last year's Milan show. It looks mean in matt black and alloy and sports a lovely comfortable leather bucket saddle. Its accompanying slogan: 'Are you ready to change position' tells us a lot about the way they see some of their future sales, with the average age of motorcyclists creeping ever upwards.
Lottery winners were catered for by Brough Superior showing its single bike. Forty-five grand to you, sir or madam. The Bimota importers gave pride of place to its Tesi RC, powered by an 803cc Ducati unit. This one at £29,450.
Meanwhile, in the Slide Arena, Barry Nutley, the British Superbike commentator, was trying to whip the crowd into a frenzy as BSB riders and champions from down the years duked it out on 125s around the short oval track. It looked great fun with a lot of gentle offs. And in the centre of the hall, the Joey Dunlop memorial display was very nicely arranged to exhibit just how fast and versatile on a range of race bikes this man was.
At the end of my visit, I hadn't bought anything. They'll be other shows and opportunities through the coming year, though.
Did you go to this year's show? Tell us what you thought about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
19/02/16 Great show
19/02/16 Enjoyed the show and the Broughs looked great. Better in the flesh. Especially the black tank ones.
19/02/16 Too busy went on Saturday.I mean the venue as a hole becuase their was other shows going on
19/02/16 'Twas good
20/02/16 I was disappointed this year. There were some major manufacturers who didn't show, and the clothing selection seemed limited compared to previous years. Oh and we're not to be trusted with seats in the bar area? What's that all about?
20/02/16 Great show,the Broughs were a true work of art,could had looked at them for ever,and what a nice fella Foggy is,meet him on the Triumph stand.
20/02/16 I asked the organisers to make a weekend ticket available in future. I live in London and would prefer to go both days for about 5 hours each day. I think they're going to do it.
20/02/16 Best show so far at the Excel , good mix of stalls and things to see
20/02/16 That new brough look horrible from back of tank to the tail light
20/02/16 Disappointed there was no HD stand, and totally in love with the new Brough Superior
20/02/16 I agree about the lack of HD
20/02/16 How did those rusty bikes go for in the auctions???
22/02/16 They were amazing. If I had found them one would certainly have gone on the scrap pile as totally worthless(Auction estimate £16-22,000)
20/02/16 Didn't buy anything but had a great day.
20/02/16 Enjoyed it. my sister and her fella have agreed yo go to NEC already!
20/02/16 The Broughs did look good
20/02/16 We enjoyed it
20/02/16 I enjoyed it. Was easy to get to.
20/02/16 some ace customs
21/02/16 Overall a great show. I thought the Jory Dunlop exhibition was superb and the only disappointment for me was the Suzuki stand.
21/02/16 Not bad but not enough main dealers present. Masses of kit dealers though, too many really selling samey stuff. Joey Dunlop display of leathers and trophy's much more appreciated than last years James May collection of rather ordinary bikes, their only real claim to fame being he owned them. The big draw back would be the price to get in! About half the size of the NEC show but more £££ to get in. And what ever happened to the complementary tea and coffee with a donation! The show price catering is just WAY over the top.
21/02/16 Not that impressed was ok if you wanted a new lid or pair of gloves but I was hoping for some stalls that sold other goodies like levers and cans and stuff
22/02/16 Same here mate, looking for some Streetfighter bits. Nothing really.
22/02/16 This used to be the road race and super bike show full of stalls you could buy tuning bits trick bits cans exhausts all the bolt on stuff you could ask for,, it's not anymore obviously times change and I thought the show was crap tbh
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