Feb 14, 2010

Another Year, A Couple More Bikes

The 2010 Cycle World International Motorcycle Show has come and gone. Every year it feels like I spend less time circling the show looking for something new to care about. This year it's safe to say I'm not the only one. Wolfe and I planned a late day at the show to catch more than just the bikes. In the past, I have hit the show early on Saturday or as early as possible on Friday to avoid the crowds. That way I can get shots of the bikes without having to wrestle my way around bodies on the bikes. With a press pass I can slip in before the doors open on Saturday and have the run of the show with a camera or video. Last year was my last year for that approach.

Since 1998, I'd been doing the CWIMS as a segment of my cable access television show, Motorcycling Minnesota. But interest has been flagging in that segment. Not view interest, my interest. Lugging around a 25 pound video camera to get shots of the same bikes I shot last year in this year's colors just doesn't seem worth the effort. An advantage of being underpaid or unpaid is that I don't have to shill for anyone. I don't even have to do the show if I get bored with it. Last year, Wolfe and I did the early-Saturday bit and we ended up done in about 15 minutes. We went out for breakfast, came back, watched the bike watchers and talked to friends for a couple of hours and gave it up for a day back home building stuff out of his Electronic Projects for Evil Geniuses books.

This year, I knew there wouldn't be much new to look at so we timed our trip to hit the maximum crowd. As we arrived at the auditorium, I knew this year would be different. There were no crowds in the skywalk. Outside of the auditorium, no smokers in motorcycle jackets or patch-decorated jean vests. Unlike every other year, we instantly found parking on the streets for cheap. In the auditorium, there were no lines for tickets. No motorcycle accessory vendors outside of the hall. No free motorcycle magazines by the entryway. The upside was that I didn't have to stand in line for my press pass and there was no confusion about getting the pass.

Inside the show was more space than I've ever seen in that room. There was no waiting to sit on any bike you chose. I went out of my way to get shots of bikes that included people in the background, foreground, and on the bikes. I worried that those hyper motorcycle salespeople would be traumatized by loneliness. These are, indeed, hard times. Recreational items, like garage candy and overpriced toys get hit hard when people are just trying to hang on to their homes and jobs.

A couple of parts and accessory distributor reps were pretty depressed about the depression. One sales guy said he was taking on a line of non-motorcycle related clothing in hopes of finding enough income to keep his doors open. A couple of reps really wanted to drop samples on me for review and were disappointed when I didn't want to haul their stuff around the show, but opted to contact them later this month. The Zook guy remembered me from my review of his goo from a couple of years back. That didn't go down well. The state's MMSC booth folks looked lonely and bored. No Aerostich. Buell is dead. Observed trials is a thing of history. Still, I saw a few things that were cool. Outside of Jed Duncan's Rider Academy, there didn't seem to be much action around the small booths. Since Rider Academy is also doing the Total Control Advanced Rider Clinics, the downturn/depression hasn't affected his business as much as it has Harley's marketing/sales-based Rider's Edge program or the MSF's entry-level BRC course. This is one instance where targeting the high end of motorcycling (high end skills) may be a niche with a little staying power.

In the OEM booths, Kawasaki has the KLX250SF 250 Supermoto, which they had in the catalog last year, but didn't show at the Minnesota CWIMS and didn't seem to exist as far as local dealers were concerned. It's not light (302 pounds dry) and (ouch!) it's not fuel injected and it's not cheap ($5300). Ducati's Hypermotard is, still cool if overpriced, but who would put a Ducati on the dirt? Honda's NT700V is new, only to the US, but it's cool and I could see owning one if I could make a little room in the garage for it. $11,000 for a 650 is a bit stiff, though. The Honda supermoto, the CRF230M, was also new last year but didn't put in much of a presence on dealer floors. At $5400, with a carb, and no great weight advantage (280 pounds), the Honda seems like the Kawasaki; too little and too late compared to Yamaha's much hipper WR250X. The Kymco Quannon 150 is interesting, although $3000 for a Chinese-made 150 with limited dealer support seems steep even by today's over-inflated prices. Suzuki's RMX 450 Z is an amazing DP bike, but two things -- the $8400 price tag and the 955mm (37.6") seat height -- put it out of my sights. I desperately wanted to swing a leg over that bike, but I had visions of lying under it and listening to my grandson laugh. So, I passed on the experience. If Yamaha brought anything new, I missed it. Several of the brands that might have had something new to show didn't show at all. BMW, for example, had a lot less of a display going, for a company that is bragging that the economy isn't hitting them as hard as the rest of the industry, than I've ever seen from them. In fact, I'm pretty sure the factory wasn't there at all, although I did see at least one farkled-out BMW at one farkle shop.

After a couple of hours, we'd exhausted our interest in laughing at cruisers, checking out the vintage bike displays, and looking at bikes we don't fit on but love. Wolfe still has hope. He's 14 and growing. It's only going to get worse for me.


Anonymous said...

Very odd, then, that the NYC show was jammed. What does it all mean?


T.W. Day said...

I'm sure your guess is better than mine. Maybe the Minnesota economy is in worse shape than New York's? Maybe New Yorkers don't mind looking at what they can't afford to buy?