2009 Chicago Motorcycle Show

We’ve threatened to skip the Cycle World International Motorcycle Show the last few years, but we always ended up going anyway. This year, the promise of a new dedicated “Scooter Pavilion” finally scared us out of attending (success frightens us), but 2sb readers Maggie and Sara filled us in on what (little) we missed. Maggie treked up from St. Louis and was unimpressed with the Scooter Pavilion, aside from the Aprilia Scarabeo makeover and Kymco’s new Yager GT300i. (Here’s Maggies complete flickr gallery.) We agree, Maggie, the Yager looks like some good competition for the Sym HD200i (and PGO’s I’ME, if we ever get it here). As far as that other beast, we generally detest tribal graphics, but it works on the Scarabeo. Also: We’re really hoping those pinstripes aren’t standard on the Kymco Grand Vista. Sara, on the other hand, enjoyed Tow-Pac’s booth: “I can’t even imagine how slow a Honda Metropolitan is with a trike kit on it, but it was good for a giggle.” Sara, please be sensitive to people who, for whatever reason, can’t enjoy two-wheeled riding… and, uh, want to go really slow.

We’ve almost finished our Sym writeup from last year’s Dealer Expo in time for this year’s Dealer Expo, which is this weekend, by the way. We’ll be digging up dirt from dealers, seeing new bikes and products, and posting live from the show all weekend, with more in-depth coverage to follow next week.

7 thoughts on “2009 Chicago Motorcycle Show”

  1. We had the Scooter Pavilion in Seattle. It’s really a GEICO booth, with a few scooters scattered around. And lots of pictures of cavement, the most notable being the worst Photoshop chop in history, of a caveman in a white suit standing next to a white P-series, with what I guess is a Roman street scene in the background. Ick.

    I hope BMW thinks Chicago is worth a display. They skipped Seattle.

  2. IIRC, Triumph skipped the last couple years, and Piaggio didn’t have a booth until a couple years ago when they united with Moto Guzzi and Aprilia. Kymco is always there, but I don’t think Genuine has ever participated on a national basis, they usually exhibit through their local dealers. It’s a huge expense to design, transport, and staff a trade show exhibit, and trade shows seem to become less and less relevant in the age of the internet. By February, we’ve seen it all on the internet, from Milan if not earlier, and though seeing it in person is always better, the representatives always seem to know less about their product than any reasonably well-informed consumer.

    The economic situation sure doesn’t help, either. Despite last year’s huge scooter sales, most scooter dealers are telling me they’re playing it safe this year and trying to spend as little as possible. Gas prices are back down and people are wary of spending money, and there’s precious little profit in a scooter dealership as it is. We’ll see how that pans out for Dealer Expo, some dealers and vendors I’ve talked to are scaling back quite a bit, others aren’t going at all.

    I always joke that the Cycle World Show is 4 years late for everything, which is why the “scooter pavillions” at both the IMS and Dealer Expo are probably bad news for the scooter market. It all follows the patterns of earlier U.S. ‘booms,’ big sales tend to dry up overnight, but few people want to learn from history. Luckily, the best scooter shops are run by people who are well aware of history, and are selling scooters because they love scooters, not profits. Hopefully they’ve planned their business model accordingly and can keep afloat until the next boom.

    But who knows? maybe gas prices will shoot back up and we’ll have another boom this summer. It could happen.

  3. The Grand Vista 250 Pin-Stripes were put on in a live “how to” demonstration at the Cleveland show, thank Gary B. the Midwest Kymco rep. I thought the two-tone blue was ghey at best. I like the Yager, but I hate looking at it. The new Suzuki 250 standard motorcycle was my favorite available bike at the show and the Roland Sands 2 strokes


    were my favorite customs. I was thrilled the space vacated by a lack of paid distributors was filled in by the advanstar organizers creative use of local talent. We were able to have 20 vintage scoots on display from our ’51 Lammy C to the TWN Contessa and a bunch of other clubmembers rides. There were at least 30 LOCAL custom bikes there in a stockade and the Vintage Japanese MC Club had over 20 bikes displayed. Another group represented was Cafe Racer magazine who brought 6 “readers rides” that were nothing short of amazing.

    Club booths are HUGE and FREE and get more available 2 weeks before the show when they’re trying to beef up the joint.

    Even the folks from Piaggio commented that they’d never seen so much scooter enthusiasm at a show.

    I’m all for less B/S and more bikes. Suzuki, Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki have given up on the monster displays and now just have semi’s with 50 bikes parked in front. Easier to try on a whole bunch of bikes, and you can get up close and personal without clomping on someones display.

  4. Thanks for the info re the pin stripes, Phil. The live demo explains why they were so uneven etc.. I thought to myself I hope Kymco is not putting stuff out like this.

    Ashame Piaggio could not staff their booth with more knowledgeable folks otherwise the booth looked good.

    There just wasn’t a cool scooter vibe at the show. I think a lot of these companies need to approach people who love scooters and are enthusiastic about them.

    We stood in the Suzuki booth and talked to a lady for 30 minutes about scooters after the salesperson left her standing with questions. Just odd..

  5. To be fair, this year it seemed like they did reach out a bit. They sent 2sb and other blogs that discount code, for instance. I think Scoot! magazine was behind that. Phil mentioned that they invited motorcycle clubs and vintage clubs to display bikes. That’s the most interesting part of the show for me, too, but in Chicago, it’s always a ghost town. I don’t know if that’s a local problem or what, but there are usually only a couple clubs with a few bikes each. I imagine it’s hard to round up a good group of bikes in the off-season and organize club members to watch the booth for several days, especially when you’re just there to promote sales for a manufacturer that generally doesn’t care about you or your club (Piaggio, Triumph, etc).

    I noticed my Dealer Expo press passes came WAY later than the dealer passes, too. I imagine 2sb’s registration got set aside until they realized they needed more bodies at the show.

    I just think trade shows are out of touch with the way buying decisions are made in this day and age. There’s very little a show can offer you that you can’t get at a dealer or online, and it’s too difficult to target a large event to the many various subcultures of motorcycling. Those marketing dollars could be much better spent with more targeted, more modern forms of marketing (local events, dealer outreach, direct advertising, working with clubs, online, etc.)

    Think of just one manufacturer and one segment: Honda Scooters. Even in that limited scenario, your market varies from rural high school kids to college girls to retirees and everyone in between, how can you really communicate to all those people in a compelling manner by putting up some light rigging, banners and checkerboard flooring with some brochures and a clueless spokesmodel in a lycra top and a local temp in a Honda polo shirt?

  6. Ha, Maggie, I’ve done the same thing. Ron, Ryan, and I spent an hour at the Piaggio booth a couple years ago showing the rep and a customer how to take the cowl off a P200 and explaining how the engine worked.

    Dealer Expo’s fun, it’s immediately obvious who gets it and who doesn’t. Sadly, too many of the people who ‘get it’ are selling crap and having a hard time pretending they believe in it, and the people with good product are too-often clueless.

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