Some people are just plain lucky.
Like me, when I discovered INTERMOT 2006 would begin this year in Cologne just as my business trip to Berlin was ending. With encouragement from Top Management I took a side trip to this big city on the Rhine and brought along the Kodak to take some snaps, which hopefully will convey to you, fellow MOFO's, the exhilarating experience of INTERMOT.
When you're dealing with big numbers (187,000 registered visitors), size matters. The Cologne Fair must have pressed their size advantage hard in winning INTERMOT away from Munich. On opening day visitors could choose among 1132 vendors spread over 25 football fields worth of quality exhibition space in eight large halls. This left three halls still empty, but maybe that's a good thing as there are limits to what the eye and mind can absorb and what the feet can endure.
Quality matters, too, and the major exhibitors went all out to look good. In fact, there were two features of INTERMOT that impressed me no end. The first was the eye-appealing quality of the exhibits. (We'll come to the second one shortly.) I don't want to know what Suzuki or BMW (or the other majors) spent on their spaces to show their new models to best advantage. They obviously felt it was important. And they knew I'm a sucker for spotlights beaming through smoke toward a beautiful woman standing next to a 180 hp sport bike with equally elegant lines. All this quality and artful design (not just the glitz) made me, and I think all the motorcycling enthusiasts there, feel appreciated and important.
Ultimately it comes down to the hardware - what's new, what's better, what's different. There was a lot new, because INTERMOT is THE trade show for motorcycles and the manufacturers tend to hold their introductions for a big event like this. (For example, BMW brought out a whole new line of 650 singles.) Technical improvements announced here made familiar bikes better, and as for what's different -- the custom design competition showed just different you can get and still call it a motorcycle.
The second thing that especially impressed me was the emphasis on action and riding. There were stunt shows of course, but the trick artists here are the best in the business. Oliver Ronzheimer makes a motorcycle look like a partner in a pas de deux. The racing was exciting to watch, especially the unusual, like the mini motoGP bikes and, yes, the scooters. It looks a little incongruous - a full size man (or woman) in full leathers on 50 cc scooter, knee-dragging around a corner - but you get over it and can then appreciate just how fast these screamers go.
For visitors who want to ride (and who doesn't?), there were lots of opportunities. Courses were set up for motocross, dual sport, quads, skill tests (I did the skill test; rather badly, I'll admit), trials riding and, best of all, rides for those who have never ridden a motorcycle before, no license required. They fit you with all the protective gear and the instructors will talk you through it until you, a total newbie, are able to start, ride, and stop. This is a once in a lifetime experience (you always remember the first time) and one that will help swell the ranks of motorcyclists. That is only good business, it would seem.
But I think there was more to it than that. It's sharing what you love. Watching the expressions on the faces of these first time-riders (some in their fifties) was an experience in itself.
Pictures can help convey the flavor and experience of INTERMOT. Just as the Exhibition was organized into themes and categories, I've tried to do the same with the images. The overview will take you through a bit of everything (everything that I was able to see in three days, that is) and the other photo galleries will give you more of something that you may find interesting in the overview. So, immerse yourself in INTERMOT. Better yet, go two years from now. Don't wait around for that business trip. I hope you'll be as lucky as me, but luck is something you can't always count on. Carpe Diem.