|The NYC Bike Show 2004|
The New York City International Motorcycle Show, January 2nd-4th 2004
A wet and warm front passed over New York this morning (Jan 2nd), the clouds passing after a brief attempt at drizzle, leaving a mild day and a watery sun for the ferry trip across the Hudson. An unusually busy ferry greeted us, this year the Bike show shared the Javitts center with the Boat Show : two very different audiences (one splashes around in water, but if they get wet it's really bad news, the other hopes they never see water, but if it comes they just shake it off!) After being told we should go to the Friday opening of the show ("its quieter") , rather than the weekend days, we were glad to see that there were just as many people as on a normal weekend!
The show had the same general format as last year, though I think there were probably more small stands selling goods and a few less major vendors than last. Gone are Indian Motorcycles, a sad loss. Present were many more custom bike builders.
Somewhere in the back the boys from Orange County Choppers were signing pictures, but the line to see them was over two hours long from what we could tell. I guess if you have kids you had to line up to see these new TV celebs.
There were a few new bikes this year, a great deal of hype going into the new 1000cc super bike class, but little earth shattering looked to be going on till I realized that two trends have sneaked up on us, sometimes living together; tiny and retro bikes. This was best seen, I think, at the Honda stand where they were showing racing only 50cc bikes, one (CB-50) styled in line with their 1960's racing efforts (and carrying the famous 17 number plate - is DuHamel really going 50cc racing at Daytona this year?). This little bike with its wire wheels, tiny double overhead cam engine, long tank and boat tail seat, was tiny and very retro. It was labelled as being for racing only, right in line with several other tiddler models.
A company called OzBike were showing a half sized cruiser style bike, along with a Derbi engined 50cc racer (badged as a MetroKit). In another corner a company was selling tiny replicas of all manner of bikes with what looked to be 25cc engines and a size so diminutive that getting on them would seriously compromise your skeletal structure! While, not far from the Boss Hoss stand - talk about opposites - was a small company showing lawn mower powered custom bikes.
Clearly some of these mini-bikes are intended to give young kids a chance to sample the riding experience, but some are also aimed at a growing number of full-sized adults that want to look silly and feel good doing it!
Custom bike builders were all over the place. Some were showing complete bikes, like Arcos with a particularly clever holey mud guard, while others were showing off part finished efforts or frames. An evolving V-Rod customization effort is on-going at Dave Finn Motorcycles, one of several companies stimulated by last years V-Rod drag bike to have entered into trying to make the V-Rod a more sporty raked out custom bike.
These seem to be companies looking to give the bike a bit more crotch for its rocket of a motor! One vendor selling chassis for Harley based bikes was showing off a hard tail frame with the most exquisite rear wheel arm. This arm curved sensually round from one side of the motor to the other side. It would normally be called a single sided swing arm... but then this was a hard tail, no swing arm, but a single sided frame I guess! They also had what looked to be a replacement for a softtail swing arm styled in a similar curvaceous manner.
The new 1000cc Sports bikes by Kawasaki, Honda and Aprillia were on show. Only Honda didn't seem to have a floor model to sling a leg over. The 'big' Kawasaki was remarkably little. Its wavy disk rotors look cool and overall, it looked like a nice bike. It seemed to have a racier seating position that most other big Kwacks I have sat on, but owning the Marquis De Sade prize winner in the ergonomics field (Ducati 996) I can say for sure that the KZ-10R (aka the Z1000 in some other markets) was not too extreme.
Aprillia were showing the new Tuono and RSV 1000 bikes, even one with a nice Colin Edwards motif. The Tuono feels great, its high and wide bars must make it a hoot to throw around. The RSV was interesting for what it didn't seem to have and that was weight. It seemed to be either a very well balanced bike or very light, noticeably so (just try levering a 1500cc cruiser off its side stand then do the same with the RSV and the difference in heft is staggering.)
Behind the Aprillia stand was the Moto Guzzi stand, now a part of the Aprillia family of marques. The two bikes there that mean a lot to this company are worlds apart in image; on the one hand we have the history behind the relaunched Le Mans line (I remember riding an 850cc Le Man Mk II many years ago) and on the other the new Breva 750. With the 750, Guzzi have tried very hard to give the bike a friendly seating position and even my wife felt struck by its cosy familiarity. The Breva looks to be a fine long term owner, and a nice entry into the Guzzi line. It reminded me a lot of the old V50, I hope it has a longer life.
Ducati were showing the latest in the new (for last year) 999 line, with the latest 999R and 999S models. These are mostly unobtainium based bikes. You might be able to own a 999S, but a 999R is not for the likes of I, or probably you, with a stratospheric price take and enough horsepower and torque to start scaring a Suzuki GSXR-1000 rider. They also widened their line up of MultiStrada models with more colours. A nice Monster tucked in a corner had an odd collection of aftermarket parts that included an orange metal flake tank, ally fairing and front mud guard and slick lights and mirrors. It had the look of that 650cc Aprillia that came out a few years back...
Ducati were saving their best for last though. They brought along three concept bikes. I guess all three were runners, however I doubt they were of production level design. The three bikes showed off retro themes with a modern twist. All powered by the same 1000cc V-twin they showed a 750cc SS look-a-like, an Imola winning concept and a more normal standard bike (Apollo in a twin?). The swing arms were impressive, the Imola bike having a double sided swing arm that had only one shock and a banana-ed side that allowed the pair of exhaust pipes to exit from the right side. They were all quite eye catching.
The bike show, unlike the car show, has vendors at it and in the midst of the show. The vendors are responsible for some of what makes this show so popular. This year there were many interesting bits and pieces.
A retracting license plate holder was being shown by one vendor, rather sheepishly, as they were positioned next to the New York State Troupers stand! The retraction occurred by pressing a button under the saddle, and pulled the full sized plate into the rear mud guard in about 5 seconds. Another press and it re-appeared. Obviously intended for show bikes, an NOT the riding public, it was a neat idea that has all manner of illegal possibilities!
The Brooklyn Butt Buffer was being shown by the company of the same name, it is a polymer (gel like, but don't call it that) filled pad that really seems to work to make the saddle comfy. The test stand has some interesting pointy bits beneath it to prove just how well it insulates you from the saddle.
As we wound down on our visit to the 2004 show, we tripped through the Buell stand where they now have several show models lent over at silly angles. I managed to fall off this year! We also tried out the latest 1200cc based XB-R and Lightning models. Back to back the only difference I noted was the huge jump in clutch pull needed on the new bikes. Those 12's must really have some torque for them to require clutch springs this strong.
And finally, they also showed an example of what has been this years surprise sporting success: Revvin' Kevins No. 34 SuperMoto Suzuki. It was a slick looking machine, and it is odd to see what is obviously a dirt track inspired bike with a slick tyre on the front.
All in all 2003 has seen the bike industry mostly weather the darkness that has afflicted parts of the US economy, sales are still up; Harley does well; and even the Japs are not doing too badly. We will have to see what the lowering Dollar does to European and Japanese bike prices, though I guess Russian Ural models will still continue to be cheap! The show reflects the generally good health of the industry, and the interest the public has in motorcycles at this time, and a good show it is.
Somehow, in review, I realise that I missed a few bikes (Kawa 2000 cruiser, new Triumph triple, and Honda VTX1500.) Drat. I hope you have more success finding them!
From Weekhawken a ferry and show ticket is $25 a person.
Small bikes for small folks
End of an Era, DuHamel's old RC-51 racebike
Kawasaki wavy brakes on KZ-10R
Colin Edwards logo on RSV Aprillia
Ducati Concepts : 750SS
Ducati Concepts : Smart and Imola winning
Ducati Concepts : 750GT
Ducati Monster customized
Ermmm, I fell of a stationary motorcycle... again!
Till next year.
©2004 A. Maclean
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