|The NYC Bike Show 2002|
The New York International Motorcycle Show, December 28-30th 2001
It's a cool December day, not quite snow weather yet, but getting close. The 2002 International Bike show has occurred in 2001 (the second Bike show this year) because the organisers wanted additional space. The show was much more appealing as a consequence of this, with more space for everyone, and the market area much enlarged. Turn-out seemed to be quite good, especially given all that has happened this year, just 2 miles to the south. In fact this building was in use as a staging area for rescue workers for the first month after the WTC disaster.
But I digress.
The year has been good for the Bike industry, it has held onto gains from prior years and seems to be doing well going into 2002. A raft of new bikes was on show, giving a sense that 2002 could be a good year. The dark side of me keeps on thinking of the mess that was the early 1980's when too many models suddenly chased a shrinking market, but I hope that is not top be the case now.
There seems to be two main trends in street bikes at the moment, and a third and fourth more peripheral.
For several years cruisers have been big and bad, culminating in the Honda VTX 1800, last year. This year that power theme has been modified to include brakes and suspension. There are Warriors and Mean Streaks at every turn. This fitting of sports goodies to heavy iron barges is not without its compromises: the suspension geometry looks a little suspect on some of these boats, the go-fast and Wow! bits are not going to make a sports bike, and pressed, some of these bikes may give the riders an altogether misplaced sense of agility.
The number of cruisers that are available is stunning. Almost everyone has something that can go slow, have you hanging on for dear life at 60mph, and whose pistons displace about the same as the Queen Mary's. So in all this mess of V-twin cruisers, with the power cruisers coming up fast in the rear, [enter stage left] Harley introduces the V-Rod to the New York Show (this is it's first showing here). I still don't know if I like this bike. I am not taken by the poor welding on the exhausts, nor the exposed plastic fuel tank under the seat (couldn't they have put a cast iron side panel on it?). I do like the silver colour (sort of) but fear it will be a [expletive deleted] bear to keep clean. The motor looks great, though. What are Harley owners going to do with their right knees, now they don't have the air filter to rest against?
Call me Naked!
The last year has seen a resurgence in the UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle) concept, along with a repositioning of several other companies models to sit in the former Standards market segment. This year Kawasaki showed a nice retro 'GPz red' version of the ZXR-1200; Yamaha were showing the FZ-1 now with lots of custom bits (read: Carbon fiber) to go with it; Moto Guzzi were up to their necks in V-11's, now with the LeMans back in the fold, though the V-11 Sport is the true Naked Bike from them. Honda also showed the new 919. The thing I didn't like was the use of flat black paint on so many of these models, while I understand Ducati has sold ship loads of Monster Darks, they painted them black so that you, me and Clive could do our own thing, but to then not bring out a model that has colour in its flanks is a bit cheap if you ask me (that's why they don't ask me...!).
These standards also possess one other feature in common: they are all quite inexpensive. The Kawasaki is downright cheap at just under $8000, your Insurance will cost more! This cost differential is really noticeable when you start to look at the true sports bike or the cruisers; these more sophisticated machines typically cost $2000 to $6000 more than these standard, erm, Naked bikes. At these differentials you would think the bike buying punter might be interested in the segment.
Is this your safari or your city bike?
In the blue corner, all the way from Europe... A whole class of bikes the American market has avoided (like the plague?) have been the Rally inspired dual purpose bikes. I know the US has seen the BMW 1150GS for many years, but the other manufacturers have generally avoided bringing the big tank, knobblie equipped bikes over here. I suppose this might have something to do with the way Europeans and Americans relate to their cities: Europeans live in them, Americans go to them when they have failed in all other efforts to avoid them. This also translates into the types of bike that the public have been buying. But now Aprilia with the CapoNord (huh?) and Suzuki V-Strom (huh??) are bringing the Paris-Dakar Rally Renegades to an American street near you. These beasts are now 1000cc V-twins (no singles) and come with enough luggage capacity to scare the average SUV owner. They are light bikes, a bit top heavy, but generally easy bikes to get on with.
A small Italian Bureaucrat annihilated a market segment, by the simple expedient of demanding that fashion conscious teens wear crash helmets when riding. 60% of the market disappeared overnight as the gel crowd decided to buy expresso rather than Vespas. The fall-out is that everywhere you walked in the Javits center you were trying to climb over refugee scooters. Hundreds of them. They have never appealed to me, my legs are too long and I don't fit on the things, but I think we have to be prepared for a marketing blitz that is going to explain the efficacious-ness of these toys and how they will save our love lives, our jobs and above all our hairdo's (As you may have noticed I am going - gone? - bald, therfore saving me is a lost cause.). Scooters in my formative years had 175cc 2-stroke motors and made more noise than speed. Today there are 500cc beasts that are snatching the names right off real motorcycles (Honda named its latests mondo scooter the SilverWing a name once emblazened on the flank of the CX500 and CX650 based tourers. Nostalgia. Scooters still make more noise than speed though. But look at the disk brakes on these things! Some have more brakes than any Harley has ever been proud enough to wear. They may not go, but they can certainly stop, or is that stand still, on the corner, while the owner chats up a good looking guy from the otherside of town out side the local cafe??
Other sights and sounds
Ebony Biker had a quartet of fine young ladies that my wife would not leave me in front of when she took off to get a smoke, drat!
I managed to get my knee down at the Buell stand where they had a slick X-1 leant over at a cool 45° angle ready for the community to sit on. It was amazingly difficult to get on it and hold the pose - nothing like doing it for real with the bike moving (Your Honour!)
A stand showing various accessories had a cruise control set and heated handlebar set for sale. The handlebars seemed to work, too.
Several vendors were showing billet stuff for the sport bike crew, including clip-on handle bars and steering dampers.
Way Cool Things
All told, a pretty good show!
©2001 A. Maclean
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