The CW show had lots of exotic Italian bikes in evidence, and by exotic I don't mean Ducati. Ducati is nice but are like belly buttons, everybody has one. Ducati does win the award though for having "Booth Babes Most Likely To Get A Husband Elbowed In The Ribs." Yowzer! Sorry, no pictures; Wife has sharp elbows. The Duc stuff was nice though, especially the SR decked out Monster, but where was the Desmosedici RR??
KTM seems to do things very well these days and with a style that is their own and not borrowed from anyone else. The KTM Super Duke looks edgy and brutal, like some evil device you would like to own in order to frighten other people. I was going to take a photo of the bike but the lighting was so poor I didn't bother. The bigger mistake on my part was not going back today for a test ride to see how it compares to the Aprilia Tuono I rode last year.
The new Victory Vision touring bike was much in evidence and just as bizarre in person as in the pictures. I still think the thing looks like the accidental love child of a weekend fling between a Harley-Davidson and a BMW 1200LT. It's one of those bikes that is more impressive and better looking with the bodywork off than on. And even at that, the appearance of the aluminum castings is not a nice as what's seen on the Italian bikes like the Benelli.
I spent a few minutes talking to Dennis Manning whose Bonneville bike set the land speed record for motorcycles last year at 350 mph with Chris Carr at the controls.
Manning is an interesting fellow, very successful outside of racing too, and with plenty thoughts on what it takes to succeed at the highest levels of that sport. I asked him "Ergonomics notwithstanding [Manning is a big guy], do you regret not being able to run the bike yourself instead of having Chris Carr do the job?" His reply, paraphrased here was an emphatic "No! The goal was to set the record. To do that you have to use the very best of everything or you compromise the effort."
He pointed to the Manning, Riley & Rivera LSR bike from 1970 and said he ran it a few times himself and when the team decided Cal Rayborn was a better choice as a rider, he had to agree and the results showed it.
If you have not seen the movie, shame on you.
For you young whippersnappers, Cal Rayborn was was of the best dirt and pavement racers of the 60s and early '70s.
Manning's '70s orange stripped LSR bike ran a record 265mph with Rayborn at the controls and if the goal is to set motorcycle land speed record, Manning told me " 'Something old, something new,...' isn't how you get it done." Apparently that lesson stuck and 36 years later Chris Carr was the best to get the job done and it worked again to the tune of 350+ mph. I asked Manning if they were going to run the bike again and he said they'd done parachute tests this past summer. "Going to shoot for 400mph?" I asked. He replied with an uncontrolled smile "Well, we were the first bike to 350mph so why not?"
There may be other reasons I'll not get the job.
60 years and 200 mph+ is the difference between them.
I didn't see any great deals on accessories or goodies this year as there were last year or maybe I didn't look close enough at the booths selling chrome lightning bolt jewelry or magic mending tape or overpriced home sites in vineyard country. I did wind up buying a new pair of Lee Parks deerskin riding gloves ($80) to replace my old ones that I bought from Thurlow Leather works in Sandy Eggo when I was over there for the now defunct Del Mar Concours. I paid $65 for the Thurlow's and they lasted about 10 years so I guess that's not too bad a return on the $. I heard that Thurlow is out of business now and I know the website is gone. Too bad, Mr. Thurlow's stuff was the best, somewhat better than what I bought yesterday if thickness of the hide and placement of seams is any indication. If I'd have taken better care of the the Thurlow gloves they might have lasted another 10 years. We'll see if Lee Parks' stuff is as good as what the gumpy old biker guy used to make. I do hope so because a nice pair of deerskin riding gloves is wonderful thing to wear.
The number of vendors seemed to be way down and the people staffing the displays seemed mostly uninterested or perhaps just discouraged by the low attendance. If the show comes back next year the promoters will need to do something to juice it up a good bit or the turn out will be even worse and then that will be that for mainstream motorcycle shows in Arizona. Hard to believe that in a metro area the size of Phoenix that a something besides a RUB Harley show cannot be successful. I blame promoters who don't know really understand motorcycling and a local motorcycle community that is too shallow in their love of motorcycling.
The AMA had a big, empty booth there with a few people standing around hoping to add to the membership. The layout and organization of their displays and vintage bikes was such that it did little to draw people in to sign up. Buying an AMA membership is about as inviting as buying term life insurance and the long, imposing AMA display with little in front of it to entice people closer wasn't much more inviting that your typical insurance office.
Mind you, I belong to the AMA because they are all we have worth anything at all in that might be able to keep the freedom grabbers Washington, DC at bay a little longer. That's not a comment on one political party or the other, either. Democrats and Republicans both, in their lust for power and control, will happily ride roughshod over on road motorcyclist's and off-road user's rights. Question for the AMA: How many politicians do we have on our pocket compared to the number in the earth friendly hemp hiking shorts pockets of the Sierra Club? Stop playing nice or you're going to lose. Nice guys finish last, remember?
Note to Cycle World: Connect more with the local people for ride-in bike shows and maybe even a bike swap meet ("horrors...how tacky!! They would never do that at Pebble Beach!") . Making it more of a motorcycle event than a sterile bike show might not seem as slick and urbane as press folks dream of the show being but having an empty parking lot and empty booths doesn't seem all that sophisticated either. And oh yeah, at this point in the history of motorcycling, the stunt show out the back door was trite and largely ignored as far as I could tell. Some guy doing big air tricks on a pit bike was not that impressive, it looked more like a filming location for a YouTube.com crash video. You'd have been better off with a good indoor trials bike demo or someone with a top fuel drag bike doing huge, smokey burn-outs, or both. Better: Give Dennis Manning and extra $5,000 to start his LSR streamliner once a day. That should wake up a few people.
Another note to the AMA: Match up the Super Moto series with the Cycle World shows. Goodness knows there's enough empty parking lot space to handle the track and extra spectators and maybe both events will begin to get the spectator draw they should be getting.
There, now that I've groused a bit, let me say that the show was great fun if you most anything with two wheels and an engine. The cool stuff was there but not in great depth. If you're single minded about one particular aspect of motorcycling you were probably disappointed in the show. Your loss.
One of the bikes hard to ignore was the "Revelation." Take a Mazda RX-7 rotary engine, mate it to a BMW transmission and final drive, chop the exhausts short, and the stand back! You have something that is a bit crude but surely must sound like the Apocalypse itself coming down the highway.
The wisdom of building a 250hp rotary engined street bike might be subject to question and riding the beast (no pun intended) might bring you closer to God sooner than you expected so it's best to be prepared. The builder of the "Revelation" seems to have figured out that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
So there was a little bit of everything and not a lot of anything at the show. However, anyone who truly loves motorcycles (like me) could easily find much to love and drool upon. The level of craftsmanship in the customs, the race bikes, and the one off specials like Roland Sands' KR MotoGP engined tracker was striking.
The new MV Agustas are a work of art but this older generation was blessed by Count Agusta himself.
The current generation of Bimota Tesi.
to design a bike like that.
If you know bikes you could meet a few famous people, see some very rare vintage bikes, and test ride all kinds of fun machines from the new Can Am Spyder to the KTM Super Duke. How can anyone say that's not worth $12.00? Not me. It could have been a better show if the organizers and Cycle World loosen up a little and remember that motorcycling is about excitement and find a way to build real excitement, not the contrived excitement of stunt shows, into the event. Still it was a fine time and a day well spent. I recommend you go when the show hits your neck of the woods.