|The NYC Bike Show 2003|
The New York City International Motorcycle Show, January 10-12th 2003
An unusually bright and sunny day for the show was offset by cold and blustery winds, making the short walk to and from the ferry a tingly affair. The veneer of snow from the morning had evaporated so quite a number of City bikers rode their bikes over (nothing like the NEC bike parks, but then Birmingham's NEC in October is not -1°C, 30°F;).
The ferry was busy, the motorcycle show was busy. Somewhere over the last year a critical mass was achieved; we now have a reborn class of motorcycle. And it's naked. Oddly motorcycles were not the only thing showing a bit of skin at this show, just like shows of the early 80's, when UJM's rolled over the earth, big shows like this were notorious for their scantily clad models. Buxom women striking contorted poses over otherwise dull bikes used to be the norm. This show definitely had more than its fair share of well stretched Lycra, cleavage and bare bellies.
But back to business.
In the green corner, coming at us for a cool $8,500 is the all new Kawasaki Z1000. When I started in motorcycling, Big K had just introduced the KZ1000 MkII. I loved the look of that machine, even though I understand it was a little light in the handling department. Now we have an Orange machine that is only in spirit related to any previous Zed Thou. The Z1000 comes in black or orange, though the orange has a fairly brown hue. The exhaust pipes (4 into 2 into 4) also carry over some of the golden colouration. The machine seemed reasonably well balanced when picking it up, though static testing is somewhat useless. The bike comes with many nice features, and for a standard bike, some very advanced features: the upside down forks, trick instrument cluster, adjustable levers, and fresh body work, to name but a few. The rim sizing on the machine is surprising, the front wheel rim is very wide, yet carries only (only!!?) a 120 section tyre. Another item that surprised on initial viewing was how low the small handlebar fairing was.
In the Benelli corner, just behind the stunning Tornado Trie is the "Naked." This is a power packed machine that offers its rider the ultimate in convenience, comfort and style, yet... Nahahh! Who am I kidding? The Naked is a small scooter, it just does without a screen. However, that Tornado is a stunning piece. I guess it will arrive in a select few dealerships in the not too distant future. I wonder what the Trie will sound like? My heart dissolved back in 1982 when I heard a 900 Sie with a 6 into 6 pipe howl around Brands Hatch. If the Trie sounds anything like that bike lust is sure to follow.
In the other Italian corner, one of the other corners is Aprillia, the new showing is the Tuono, a near naked version of the RSV 1000. This is a 1000cc twin with a small handlebar fairing with high and wide bars. The bike looks quiet resplendent in red, though the carbon fiber version with gold highlighting is very seductive. It looks like an interesting bike. The attention to detail is typically Italian, and the details are exquisite. The only thing that looked odd at first glance was the height of the handlebar risers. These are beautifully crafted aluminium pieces that hold the handlebar about 3.5 inches above the top yoke. They just look too long. I guess that the rise is needed if you get crazy with pulling the fork legs up through the yokes (there is not a great deal of clearance with all the adjusters and valves that crest the fork leg and the underside of the handlebar. A lovely gold anodized handle bar of approximately 'Superbike' bend, graces the top of those risers. Being a barbarian, my first though was to tossing it and putting on a Vincent or Norton flat bar - Steel will do - to get a bit more forward lean.
In our own backyard is Buell making another splash with the big aluminium frame, this year in the shape of the XB9S. It's such a short bike! Sitting on it feels like you should be right on top of the steer stem, the seat front is very close to the handlebars. This makes for easily sawing the bar, and snapping the bike into corners. It didn't feel like there was much space behind me for a pillion, but on the 984cc, 91bhp bike, I'm not sure that's such a bad thing! The stand was made to look like someone had just done a donut, with the bike sitting at the end of it's circle. A clever illusion to put across a hooligan image! Does Buell want to be this closely associated with vagrant activity? The upside down fork and circumferential brake are extremely cool features on this bike. The front looks stunning. This is definitely another Naked bike and one that Buell has been trying to evoke for some time with the older X1 series.
Tucked in a corner was the little Blast! which I understand is still doing brisk business. While not heavily attended, these smaller bikes were clearly much in evidence on this and other manufacturers stands. Some of the models now present have been with us a decade (kawasaki 250 Ninja, Honda 250 Nighthawk, Suzuki CG125, et al). The Blast! is one of the newest in the bunch. I guess one of its biggest competitors would be the Suzuki Savage (650cc single) which is a surprising small bike.
There are now several American motorcycle manufacturers (H-D, Buell, Victory), some are doing Real Well, other just holding on. Indian has been back in business for a few years now and has been trying to slowly evoke a look of yore. When I first spied their stand I was surprised at just how well, from a distance, they are managing this. The long, low look with a big gangly v-twin so reminiscent of 1920's and 30's Indians is being conjured up again. These bikes look quite sylph-like from a distance. Up close the detail is gorgeous. The lusterous gas tank, with the old style gold Indian logo is truly a work of art. As with the Triumph Bonneville the front fender gets used stylistically as more than just something to stop water splashing up. Indian was showing bikes with chromed and gold front fender lights, with the light eminating from a white Indian Chiefs face. Very Deco, and a lovely use of space.
Mention of Triumph also brings up this company's effort to give us naked bikes. Not one model but at least 3 or 4. From the modern interpretation of the classic twin, to the modern triple given a dose of 1970's Trident, and onto the wild styling of the Speed Four, a 600cc renegade. The Bonnie looks quite at home now on the stands, like it never left. I hear that it is Triumphs best selling model. The Triple continues to give me problems, I keep thinking it's a late model (1980's) Bonnie until I see that third pipe. It has the correct line to the exhaust that the real Bonnie somehow still avoids. The bikes are comfy and perfect for hitting backroads with. As Britain's last bike manufacturer, I hope they are successful in this their 101st year, even accounting for their decade long absence, and recent fire.
In plain view this year were some very well heeled clubs, resplendent in their club leathers. A group of DC based women were giving the Kawasaki sales folks a hard time, all in good fun though, when I got this image. All over the show, inside and out could be seen (mostly Harley, I guess) groups of riders with matching leathers, or matching graphics. Again I haven't seen this sort of club activity in a few decades.
The Ducati stand was corroded with people. Obviously attention was focused on the gleaming new 999 and 748 models, which look so iffy in print, yet in the metal are simply stunning. But between the Monsters and the ST's was a big stand showing the new Multistrada: Ducati's new direction in usable street bikes, their new naked bike, sort of anyway, leaving aside that the Monster has practically kept the concept of naked bike alive, single handedly since the early 90's. The Multistrada looks a lot like a cross between a dual purpose bike and the MH900E that came out a couple of years ago. The exhaust pipes look so MH900 like it's almost scary. The front is very dual-purpose bike though with a big fairing whose top portion works with the handlebars and the bottom is fixed to the frame.
But if you go to the Ducati stand you are frequently going there to ogle the superbikes. This year it is the all new 999 and 748 models that are the highlight. I still maintain the stylists at Ducati made a mistake; they should have made sure the bikes were photogenic. As it is, they do not photograph well, yet in person they are truly stunning machines. They will evoke the same pleasure in the garage as the old 916/996/998 models. The cockpit of the new bike is a work of art. I love the top yoke, it looks like something you could put on the office desk and no one would question your choice of Object D' Art. Next to the red bikes, Ducati also had one in a clear plastic fairing, which was creating quite a stir in it's own right. Whether they would ever actually manufacture a clear fairing is questionable, but it looks wild!
In no particular order are some images of other machines seen at the show.
The new 600 race replica from Honda, the 600RR, note the underseat exhaust.
Nicky Hayden's championship winning RC-51
A vintage 1924 R32 BMW
Chops. The show was well stocked with chopped bikes. I hate to say that many looked almost boring in their vivid colours and near communal similarity. The crowd is ogling a young woman with basket ball sized breasts.
In the ongoing search to find Honda Valkyrie customs...
Rare and expensive MV Agusta F4 Senna. Wasn't Aayrton Senna dead long before the F4 came into being?
Harley V-Rod in drag. Fitted with Nitrous and in black this looked like bike built for business.
And before we call it a day, we found the Boss Hoss stand. If you have never seen a Boss Hoss then you are missing out on one of the Biggest manufacturers in the World. Eminating from a bunch of woods over in Tennessee, Boss Hosses are BIG bikes. On show were a variety that included three 'normal' models and a trike. The normal models included two short blocks and a big block. The big block bike, weighing in at a cool 1300lbs (say 600kgs, ball park, no need to check the scales, kind of weight) but with a piddling little 502 motor... Wait, that's 502 cubic inches! My sliderule says thats somewhere in the 8 Liter capacity range. It seems this little engine puts out a paltry 502 bhp. All 8 cylinders of churning Chevvy power probably give the average Boss Hoss rider tyre life measured in seconds, not miles! See these bikes stationary and they look like ducks out of water. See them on the road, and you wonder how the World is still spinning. I'll probably never ride one, but what a bike to end the 2003 New York City International Motorcycle show with!
Till next year.
©2003 A. Maclean
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