Monday, 7 February 2011

My Last London Motorcycle Show?

I went to the London Motorcycle Show at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands a few days ago.

As I walked around I found myself wondering why I went. Sure, I looked at and sat on some of the new bikes like the Yamaha’s Super Tenere, Harley-Davidsons Blackline and the Triumph Tiger. But, I looked at helmets I have seen at every bike show I’ve been to, clothing I don't want, tools I already have and paddock stands I don’t need. I walked past insurance stands that wouldn’t insure one of my bikes and pictures of Motor GP racing I’m not interested in. I only glanced at the dolly birds, who seemed much more tarty than usual. Most shows are essentially the same and although I hate to admit it, after you’ve been to a few, they start to look the same. This one was the like that and even though I took my camera, there were so many people, I didn’t feel like struggling to take pictures of bikes without too many people in the shot. I should imagine if you are thinking of buying a new bike, the chance to sit on a number of your possible alternatives is good. I’m not in that sort of new bike market though.

As I walked around, I was bored of mainly seeing the same old things.

Deciding to try to find something different, I walked around the outside of the show and looked at some of the smaller stands and I noticed a large number of people that specialise in motorbike tours. Either I hadn’t noticed there being so many of these in previous years or their numbers had risen dramatically. I stopped and chatted with a few and they confirmed the number of such companies had gone up a lot in the past few years. Motorcycle touring it seems, is growing.

I have been a some organised tours on European roads in the past and I enjoyed them. Travelling around on such tours bikes with like-minded people is nearly always going to be fun. Of course, the people you do it with can make or break the tour and the riding is generally very good as the tour organisers have normally already planned to be on great roads. What I did notice at the bike show however was the large number of adventure tours to places like Peru, India, Africa and even New Zealand. A few of the guys I spoke to put to put this down to one simple thing – the “Long Way Round/ Down” tv programmes that featured Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman which I guess really introduced us to what is possible in adventure touring. Sure, such tours have been around for a while, but that tv series has really made them popular.

This is the list of touring companies I saw.... quite a few really!.....

Adventure Riding Academy
Adventure Peru Motorcycling
Blazin Bikes
Compass Expeditions
Dust Devils SL
HC Travel
Hidden Ireland Motorcycle Tours
Hispania Tours
Kudu Expeditions
M C I Tours
MSL Tours
Nurburg Ring Tours
Paradise Motorcycle Tours NZ Ltd
Pole Position Travel
Toursareus Ltd
Two Wheel Trekkers
VFR - New Zealand

I have decided to give such shows a miss in future and this will be my last London Motorcycle Show. I will go to the smaller and much more fun custom bike shows, where you really see something different in both the bikes and the people, but big general motorbike shows? – probably not. Would I consider going on another organised tour? – to a country where I don’t speak the language – probably yes. Only problem, where.....?


Eve said...

I haven't been to many shows Gary but I think the smaller ones would be more my speed as well. I hope you find the right mix of what you looking for. And where ever you decide to go, we'll be with you!

Webster World said...

Been to a lot a lot of shows. It's been years as they bore me. Tour! I tour solo.

Axel Art Bleiglass said...

Very interesting view, I am not yet at that stage of intensive deja-vu, but then, I did not see much. This year I plan to join more HOG Chapter rides to more distant destinations, hoping the unavoidable deja-vu doesn't kick in too early. But with your organisational talents and USA experience, you could consider organising bespoke tours for the selected few, offering your version of the perfect ride. You will surely find a more approriate name then "Gary's Tours".
Call me collect once this happens :)

Gary France said...

Eve – The big shows are good if you haven’t been before, but I think I have been to too many.

Webster – I agree, touring is better.

Axel – HOG chapter rides generally go to different places, so déjà-vu is unlikely. They are much more fun than bike shows. I have thought about whether I would want to do organised rides in the US and while I think I could do it, I am not sure I would, as I want to go on lots of new tours myself!

Canajun said...

I have a love-hate relationship with bike shows. Because they typically occur during the most miserable time of the year, when everything motorcycle is buried in the back of the garage waiting for the snow to go, they offer a touch of spring, a soul-lifting oasis. So I anticipate them, look forward to going, and usually end up disappointed - for many of the same reasons you state.
But in the middle of January they're all we've got unless one can afford to head south to one of the big rallies like Daytona. And so I still look forward to the shows, and I still go, but beyond a 2-3 hour respite from the cold they don't impress me as much any more.

BeemerGirl said...

Your experience is very similar to mine at the local MC show last weekend. So boring that I haven't even written it up yet. The custom ones seem to much more interesting.


bluekat said...

We haven't done any shows, other than old bikes/classics type shows. Those I like. Seems like several people have expressed disappointment in some of the big motorcycle shows.

iansolley said...

your comments are so true - when I went to the NEC in december - I did the whole show in 45 minutes! - I do like the idea of the adventure tours, but cant see me taking a custom over the Andes!

Gary France said...

Canajun – I agree with you about the love – hate thing. That is a good way of putting it. I think that is why I went – the miserable cold weather, but like you, I was disappointed too. Roll on the sunshine!

Lori – At the custom shows you also tend to meet more interesting people who want to talk about what they have created.

bluekat – The big shows are great if you want to buy a new bike and want to sit on a few different bikes to compare them, so they do have their good points. Just not my cup of tea any longer.

Ian – I lasted longer than 45 minutes, but only just! Taking one of your seven over the Andes would be, umm, interesting!

bobskoot said...


Your LAST motorcycle show has hit home with me. Sort of like buying your last car, eating your last meal, taking your last trip, selling your last bike. It depresses me to think that I am thinking about buying my last bike and my last car. I am coming to a crossroads. Winding down.

I used to go to a lot of car shows but then they all seemed to be the same cars but parked in different locations. You talk to the same owners. We don't have many bike shows here, by that I mean show & shines. The only one of consequence is the one sponsored by the BMOC: British Motorcycle Owners Club. Lots of old iron, but most of the members ride Beemers. I went to a meeting once and that's their daily ride of choice.

Wet Coast Scootin

motoroz said...

The organizers of these types of shows get in a rut and the shows start looking all the same. I think skipping a few shows makes helps keep them from getting stale.

Chris Luhman said...

Sorry you didn't enjoy it Gary. We just had our local show in Minneapolis. It was the first time we weren't going just for the bikes. We ended up enjoying the shows, movies, and other events going on after the hour to look at the new bikes. Two of the talks I really liked were "building a cafe racer" and "suspension adjustment" do they have talks like that at the london show or is it just bikes?

-Chris @ - year round riding in Minnesota

FLHX_Dave said...

I stopped going to shows for the most part. It's just the same swag and crap from one spot to the next.

I have been itching to do a motorcycle touring company. I really wanted to do it out of Utah...that seems to be the place with the greatest variety of scenery. Heber, UT is where all my family is and that place is turning into a major destination for tourist. There are endless places to go and see around there.

Gary France said...

Bob – I’m not ready yet to depart this planet, and I hope you are not either. I see myself buying a few cars and bikes in the years to come and to certainly eat a load more meals! I think I have just chosen not to go to any large bike shows. I will go to future custom bike shows and even some car shows, but my preference is now for the smaller shows where you see older cars and bikes, not the new models from the big manufacturers. Sure, our lives change as we get older, but I see it as a crossroads where we are able to choose a different direction, but not yet a road to nowhere.

Oz – Skipping might be better than giving them up completely, but I won’t go to the big city or national shows for a few years.

Chris – We don’t really have talks at the big UK shows. There are 2 each year, one in London and one in Birmingham and they are mainly just the big manufacturers new models and the same old clothing and stuff for sale. Talks would be good.

Dave – I feel the same about the big shows, but I still like the smaller one-off shows. I too have wondered about doing a motorcycle touring company. If you did, I could give you advice about getting business from Europe. I am serious, if you are really thinking of doing it, I will help with the marketing and ideas from London!

Manoj K said...

i was just searching some pics of indian ladies on google where I cam across your bike's fotos.. may be the the 'lady' similarity. i love to ride but here in india the bikes are only for commuting. but yes i have done a couple of 700 kms ride on these.

if you r thinking of bike riding and exploring, rajasthan in India shall be the ideal place to visit.

Manoj K

Gary France said...

Manoj – Thanks for finding my blog and good luck with both your search for Indian Ladies and good bike rides in India.