Going to a Motorcycle Show in the middle of a Chicago winter is like going grocery shopping when you haven’t eaten all day. And you can’t afford any of the food. And it’s not for sale anyway.
After an endless Friday at work, Vina and I raced home, picked up Grace, and skipped dinner for the first time in history. We braved the cold and paid our $11 for permission to park a mile and a half away from the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, on the roof no less. After a bracing hike, we arrived at the Cycle World International Motorcycle Show.
Metropolitan: If you squint, and drink a quart of tequila, it looks like a Starstream.
Big Red shelled out for what seemed to be the biggest display in the prime-est location. Typing this now, I realize I must have passed over the SiverWing, thinking it was a Goldwing. But this was my first close-up look at the Metropolitan and Ruckus.
The Metro is a very nice-looking scooter, in my opinion it’s more refined and elegant than the Yamaha Vino, but a close examination revealed that it doesn’t seem to be constructed any better. I suppose the Vino and Metropolitan are of reasonable quality, and reasonably priced, but chrome-painted plastic and rattly headsets don’t inspire me to believe that these are designed for ages of reliable service. Throw the Malaguti Yesterday into this argument: Retro and Plastic just don’t mix.
The Ruckus has “personal injury lawsuit” written all over it.
The Ruckus, on the other hand, well, wow. What can I say? it was hands-down the most ridiculous, ugly, pointless vehicle on display in the entire arena. And Grace, Vina and I all loved it. It’s basically a 2-wheeled ATV. You can’t look at it without thinking about ways to hurt yourself riding it. It simply inspires jackassery. It’s just begging to be covered in chicken wire and papier mache, or to be ridden “bad-route-style” through the woods while tripping, wearing nothing but cutoff shorts and a gorilla mask. Love it. It’s the future of scootering. Maybe not.
Check out that ass! Aprilia’s Atlantic.
My fellow Helvetica lovers had set out as many scooters as motorcyles, mostly new iterations of the Scarabeo and SR50. Their all-new Barcalounger is called the Atlantic. It’s distictive, if you took the badges off a Burgman, a Reflex, and a Hexagon, I probably couldn’t tell them apart, but this one stands out a bit with a neat, round butt and taillights that look like racing stripes. You can probably tell by now that I didn’t bother writing anything down, and research is counter to 2SB journalistic standards, but I believe it was a 500c.
Aprilia is really good at Risk.
It featured everything you’d expect of an expensive rolling lounge chair, all mod cons and such. Again, Aprilia was the only manufacturer featuring anything close to a hoochie mama in their booth, but this year she appeared to be an actual well-trained saleswoman who just happened to be attractive, unlike the clueless model that Phil put to the test two years ago. In any case, it was refreshing that the only sexism I noticed at the trade show was “The Bitch Fell Off” T-Shirts.
Benelli’s R.E.P.L.I.C.A. (49)1st in MASS stock class.
Cheers to Benelli, the newest manufacturer to come to the US. Their 50cc 491 is liquid cooled and features front-and-rear disk-brakes. It’s a nice-looking twist-and go in the current european style, available in two versions, the RR and the Replica, both nice-looking, if not necessarily innovative.
Vina and Grace practice commuting in the Adiva.
The Adiva is the convertible-covered scooter we mentioned on the site the other day. I came along as two BMW reps were making fun of it. Sad, not only because you’d expect BMW reps to be professional enough to not badmouth other companies’ product in public, but also because they were laughing that the roof would offer no protection at all, ironic in that they seemed ignorant of the fact that their own company makes an almost identical product and can’t be bothered to import it to the USA. In person, it was a nifty bike. I agree that the roof is possibly more a gimmick than protection from the elements, but it was a well-designed bike that I’d love to try out sometime.
At this point, we wandered through the secondary exhibitors: leather dealers, accessory manufacturers, t-shirt vendors, and the like. We were cornered for a half-hour by an enthusiastic sidecar-driving instructor who had us seriously thinking about taking his class.
This will be the last thing I see as I die.
Moped Army beware!
I found a friendly couple of rough-looking Harley dudes that were sewing patches on leathers for donations, so I finally got my 59 Club patch sewn on my biker jacket, sure to make me the only person in Las Vegas next weekend posing as a scooterist, Harley rider, AND brit bike nerd. We also took a walk through the Harley display to get a better look at the machine that is going to kill me in Las Vegas.
Also in the smaller booths, we came across Tomos, who have a fancy new chromed-out moped, which I didn’t look at too closely, but if you like slow things with big wheels, you might dig it.
The Triumph Bonnevile. Ship to: 2stroke Buzz, Chicago IL, 60707.
Obviously, there were hundreds of motorcycles I’m not going to go into because this is a skateboarding and music webpage. I mean a scooter webpage. But we love motorcycles, too. A lot. And while there are a lot of neat-o whiz bang new bikes out there, the one bike at the show that inspired the most drool from the three of us was the bottom-of-the-line, basic black 790cc Twin Triumph Bonnevile. I figure that, in spite of my jacket, i know next to nothing about Triumphs, and my insane love for this bike is probably as wrong as all the yuppies out there with new Minis, new Beetles, and new Vespas, but this was the one bike at the whole show that really did it for me. Triumph seems to have done a nice job of modernizing an old classic rather than slapping together a pale imitation and calling it “retro.”
Halfway through the room, we took a break from the exhibits to see the Trials show, featuring Tommi Ahvala. Trials riding is amazing and bizzare, it’s all about climbing out of ravines and jumping impossibly huge logs. A Trials course was simulated by a gated-off area featuring a 20′ high maze of ramps and platforms covered with rocks and foliage.
Assymetry rules at BMW.
What Tommi was able to do was so astounding that it didn’t even seem real. Within the first couple minutes, he’d done so many cool things that we didn’t even stay for the whole show, partially because the dialogue between Tommi and the announcer was so corny, partially because there was only 45 minutes left to see the rest of the show, and partially because we didn’t want to hear Republica’s “Shout it from the Rooftops blah blah blah” song anymore.
P.J. Chmiel wonders, “Why don’t you love me, Stella?”
After the show, I had to drag Grace and Vina out of the Moto Guzzi and BMW displays, respecively (why do people always think Grace and I are married?) before they got talked into buying something. Down the aisle from BMW was Scooterworks/Genuine’s booth, with a cute garage backdrop and a red Stella and an old white Vespa on display. This was my first view of the production Stella (The one at Slaughterhouse was a prototype), and I gotta say, it’s pretty sweet, even nicer than the prototype. They had mounted P-series crashbars, and it looked great. Sure, maybe it’s not a real Vespa P-series, but at least on the surface, it couldn’t legally be any closer. In terms of paint and finish quality, I don’t imagine Piaggio’s bikes are any better. I chatted with PJ for a while as Grace and Vina continued their game of “Can I touch the ground on this one?” in the Kawasaki display. When I could barely make out Vina’s orange jacket past the sea of lime green dirtbikes, I took my leave and caught up with them at Yamaha, stopping in Suzuki for a quick Burgman photo.
The Burgman: Sit back, it has autopilot.
The Suzuki Burgman is another huge-displacement cruiser scooter. It looks allright, but I can’t get excited about big cruiser scooters. That might change right around 75mph on the Burgman, but I’ve never had the chance to try one out.
With the advent of Digital Photography, it’s now a snap to catch people in embarrassing situations.
Yamaha had the Vino on display on what appeared to be new colors, or at least colors I’ve never seen before. And they had the Jog or whatever they call it, but you don’t care about that.
The Professor and Mary-Ann
Time was running out and there was still a good bit to see, we hit the last row of booths with about a minute and a half left until the show closed, which was a bummer, because there was a patch booth with about 10,000 different designs, from Minor Threat to Bultaco, and Grace noted a wide selection of Philippines patches and stickers, but they were closing up as we arrived. Also, we were sad to see that one Vintage display had already packed up and left, and the other one had several really cool old bikes that we didn’t have time to look at.
All in all, it was a good show, I could write a dozen more paragraphs about the motorcycles, but scooters were amazingly well-represented. All in all, there were over twenty scooters on display, an awesome sight considering four years ago, your choices were limited to a Honda Elite or Helix or a Yamaha Jog. Almost every scooter was getting attention from the crowd, and the reps seemed to be happy to talk about them. There was a wide variety, consider the differences between the Ruckus, the Adiva, and the Burgman.
All this points to a good future for scooters in the US, and makes one wonder why Piaggio appears to think shows like this are a waste of time, especially since they have a dealer here and a new line to display. Kymco, Malaguti, Bajaj, and Italjet were also conspicuously absent. While one could assume it was left up to the local dealers to book a space, this is probably a hard time of year to justify such an expense. But it’s great exposure, and for every guy I saw drooling on a Dyna Low Rider or a 999, there was a wife, kid, or realist loser like me ogling the Adiva or Ruckus.