Chicago MC Show Impressions

MOron Longride attended the Cycle World MC show in Chicago this weekend and will enlighten the MO readership as to how it went in my obviously biased and illogical manner.

Since I took no notes or pictures, I am doing this from memory, which certainly isn’t what it used to be. If you are really looking for a 100% complete review, you can stop reading now. If you want my overall impression of vendors, bikes and the show, continue on.

Anyway, the show was $11.00 to get in, and the parking was $11.00 also. How convenient. The sign that was by the parking area DID say the parking fee included all applicable taxes and fees. I was greatly relieved that I wasn’t going to be stopped in the parking area or show to pay these extra fees and taxes, so I feel I got a real bargain there. Going inside the show, my first impression was “there are too many people here”. I’m not the smallest guy in the world, but a sardine can would have had more room to move around. I went on Saturday, and maybe Friday or Sunday would have been less crowded. Onward…….

Mfgs. Impressions:

Honda: Well laid out. They got the spot right in front of the entrance so you couldn’t miss them. Valkyrie Rune was on the revolving pedestal right out front. The Rune was…..um…..interesting. I can see why they aren’t making many. A bit too strange looking for me, but seemed to have 20 or 30 people looking at it at all times. Nobody seemed to know the price of one. GoldWings were off limits this year. What’s up with that? Couldn’t sit on one or touch it. New 600 looks really good, but at 6’4”, not in my ballpark. The ST1300 looked very plain and boring. I’m sure it’s nice, but can’t Honda spice things up a bit? Does efficiency have to look like a bad gray suit? Ask Yamaha.

Yamaha: Area was too small to get near any of the bikes’ feeding frenzy. They needed more room. Squids were piling on the sportbikes like a fumbled football. From what I could see, the R1 and R6, still look the best in their respective classes. Some may disagree with that, but at least they look DIFFERENT from the rest, and very nice. FJ1300 looks very cool. Much better looking than the Honda ST, cheaper, and more horsepower. Sport touring score:Yamaha 1 Honda 0. Now if they would only make a few that could be test ridden by yours truly, I might bite on one. Maybe next year.

Triumph: Triumph had plenty of room, as it seemed to be less crowded. Cool. The Speed Triple was calling my name, and I still really like that bike from when I test rode one last year. Daytona and the other models are pretty much the same. I’ll take my Triple in the silver with checkerboard accents, thanks. Keep the pink one. It clashes with my fringed arm chaps.

Kawasaki: Mostly same old stuff for Kaw. ZX12 paint is cool this year, black with purple metal flake highlighting. Always liked ZX12’s for some reason. The Z1000, which I liked in pictures, just didn’t do it for me in real life. Colors were a bit hideous, and the designer of the pipes needs to be beat with them mercilessly. I think they could have had a winner here, but missed a bit. Your mileage may differ. The 636 was very nice looking, and was too small for me, as usual. The 600 buzzword is “tiny” this year. Voyager, Concours, and KL650 all looked unchanged, except for the colors.

Suzuki: Hayabusa still looked the same except for color changes. No orange one, which was a disappointment. I wanted to see how terrible that color looked in person. The SV1000 was there in both faired and naked. The S model is VERY cool. Liked it better than Sean’s pictures of it; it was very narrow and with a compact dash area. I could see one of these in my future. Visions of whipping KPaul on his favorite road were dancing through my head.

Harley-Davidson: Do I really have to describe this area? If you don’t know all the Harley models by now, you haven’t been paying attention. Same stuff as last year with 10th anniversary paint jobs. Paint and arm chaps match perfectly. Thought I saw Buzglyd offering a lost parts pickup service, but it wasn’t him. I saw at least two people slip on the oil patches under the bikes. Maybe another “class action” suit for that one. Lots of people hanging around. Plenty of aloof staff. Usual stuff.

Aprilia: Area was possibly smaller than a coffee can. Mille, Falco, and Futura looked nice, but I only got a glance at them, as getting close to one without waiting 20 minutes would have required a fistfight.

BMW: Easily the most organized, professional, and accessible booth at the show. The models were displayed with plenty of room around each and a small pedestal that displayed the tech sheet and price for each model. Small lines formed to see each bike. I still like that K1200GT model. Built like a jewel. Price is steep, but we only live once right?

Victory: Most models displayed in such a way to prevent sitting on, or signs and a person standing there to prevent sitting on. Why bother showing up? For a company that isn’t selling all that many of these things, you would think they would try to stuff one under your butt as you were walking by, but they seemed to have the reverse attitude. Vegas looked really good, but struck me as very similar to a Harley Deuce. Maybe with closer examination I would change that opinion, but I didn’t like the “protect-a-bike” layout, so I never bothered to look harder. Hint: Harley has all theirs out to sit on.

Buell: Nice fit and finish. TINY! A bit too small for me, but I can dream of one with a big bore kit, headwork, cams, race can, and a polished frame. Smooth.

Ducati: New 1000 and 800 Supersport models are very sharp. New 999 looks MUCH better in person. I can actually sit on one now. The local dealer has a 999 available for a test ride. I somehow my find myself over there after the weather gets above freezing for a little spin. ST4 has ABS and is a sharp ride. Not sure the arm chaps wouldn’t clash with the Ducati colors, but I have to see.

Overall Impressions of show:

Did I miss anything? Yep, lots. But I didn’t miss one thing. Women. I don’t mean the eye candy hanging around the booths, although there were plenty of them. I saw plenty of women checking out the bikes as buyers. Seems to be a growing trend of women buyers out there, at least at this show. BMW had 2 women answering questions and presenting the models, which I thought was interesting. I wonder if the other mfgs. and vendors saw that? The current venue is too small for number of people attending. Time to move it to McCormick Place downtown. Many vendor areas were too small and the space allocated to aisles was crazy. Maybe I am just getting old (who am I kidding, I am old!) but I had to retire to the corner a couple times to down some overpriced beer. All I needed, at times, was one more person to stand in the middle of the aisle, staring at nothing, and I could be writing this from the lockup. Way too many bikes were inaccessible. I came here to touch and feel, not stare at from 10 feet away. I can understand the Rune up there, but any other production bike should be within my grasp, so put the GoldWing back on the floor Honda. It isn’t that special. If Harley can have theirs on the floor, so can you. If this is the future mindset of bike shows, we all might as well stay home. There weren’t many exciting new models, unless 600’s or the new sport-tourers are your thing. This is the year of the 600 without a doubt. Plenty of do-rag vendors, and lots of people demonstrating them. Never knew you could do so many things with a $15.00 rag. My 3 buck one does the same things, and seems to catch those cold weather snots easier. I couldn’t find the fringed arm chaps vendor or the Easy-Leaker, so the whole show was down the tubes at that point. My arm chaps need replacement bad, as the fringe is starting to fray at the ends. If you are getting the impression I didn’t like the show all that much, you would be right. There were some things I came to see, but mostly came away feeling disappointed. Past shows seemed to have more room, better booth areas and it was more organized. It could have been so much better with a little layout planning and better bike accessibility. For my money, I would have added the 94 cents to the admission and got a subscription to MO, including applicable fees and taxes. But that’s just me……..
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George Obradovich
George Obradovich

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