It’s Motorcycle Live at the NEC this week and yesterday LincsGeek and I headed over to have a mooch about and get some biking inspiration for the coming year. Anyone who is anything to do with motorcycling is there to advertise their wears – bikes, clothing, accessories, equipment, tours and holidays, clubs, and lots more besides. We take the show as an opportunity to fuel our love of motorcycling, to add to our biking bucket list, and to generally have a nice day out.
One of the main reasons to head to Motorcycle Live is to see loads of bikes – from brand new models not even on the production line yet (such as the new Ducati Multistrada, which had stickers on it to tell us the build quality might not be perfect as it’s only in pre-production), through the classics, and going right back to the iconic bikes of old. Most of the bikes are available to sit on, which helps the dreams of owning a showroom full stay in the mind.
LincsGeek is always considering his next bike, even when he has no intention of buying one for a long time yet and is happy with his current one. I don’t think he’s unusual in that, most bikers are considering their next purchase, and as such he had a list of bikes he wanted to sit on to see how the riding positions suited him. His list included the new Ducati Multistrada, the BMW S1000XR – which is BMW’s brand new direct rival to the Multistrada, the Yamaha MT-09 Tracer, the Triumph Tiger Explorer (1200) and the KTM 1190 Adventure. Although LincsGeek is of distinctly average height (bordering on short), he doesn’t like to feel cramped on a motorbike. He’s happy with the height of his Triumph Tiger 1050 and having ridden thousands of miles on that doesn’t want to go back to a more sporty riding position. We commented that the sports bikes were all being tried out by the young men who hadn’t done many miles yet – they weren’t bothered about their back or the rock-hard seat!
He’s ridden a Multistrada before on a half hour test ride, whilst being followed by a policeman, and found it quite comfortable. A quick sit on the new model and he said it felt virtually the same. He wasn’t so keen on BMW’s S1000XR though – he said the foot pegs were too high and too far back for his liking, so that one has been crossed off the list and LincsGeek prefers a 2 or 3-cylinder engine to 4 anyway; it does look like a very nice bike though. Similarly, sitting on the Yamaha MT-09 Tracer, he felt like he’d want a bit more leg room so it too is off the list. He’s sat on the Triumph Explorer 1200 a number of times, and always says it seems like the bars are slightly further forward than he’d like and the tank feels very high. Coupled with many reviews that say it feels very top heavy at low speed, and conversations with people who’ve ridden it backing that up, it too might be off the list (but LincsGeek likes Triumph’s and the fantastic triple engines, so perhaps not – who knows!). Whilst on the Triumph stand he also tried out the Tiger 800 Explorer for size, and it seemed like a really good fit; persuading him to come down in power might be difficult though. (Thanks to the Big Ed of MCE for joining him for the photo – it gave us a good giggle!) Finally, the KTM 1190 Adventure. He’s never ridden one, but every time he climbs aboard he says the riding position feels really comfortable. Of course, it’s not all about the position alone – seat comfort, vibration, controls and so on all play a part and we haven’t even mentioned handling, engine responsiveness or anything else. It’s time to book a test ride or two, perhaps.
By the way, if you ever need to compare the ergonomics of different bikes based on your own measurements and from the comfort of your computer, Cycle Ergo is a really good tool.
While LincsGeek had a list of bikes to try out with a view to purchase (one day), I am quite happy with my low and light F650GS and its nippy 800cc engine, and haven’t even considered trading it in for another model. I’m more inclined to give the iconic bikes, dream bikes and also the slightly ridiculous a sit-on, you know, just because I can. I made sure I sat on an Indian or two, and a Victory of course, tried the new full height version of my bike (the F700GS, also with an 800cc engine), and couldn’t resist this three-wheeler with waterproof blanket!
A Spot of Shopping
One thing you can’t avoid is the number of retailers at the show, luring you in with offers and brightly coloured signage. The shopping areas in the NEC halls are even more packed than the manufacturer’s stands, and there are always people wandering around with their arms full of carrier bags of motorcycling-related goodies. We’ve been there, but this time stuck to the window shopping instead.
I really wanted to have a look at the Dr Martens motorbike boots. Dr Martens are a brand I love – they are made in a factory that was just round the corner from where I used to live – and the Faris is a short boot that appeals to my larger calves. Thanks to twitter I knew these boots would be on display at the Infinity Motorcycles stand and so persuaded LincsGeek to let me go and touch a pair. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with the product, though, they weren’t what I was expecting. I was expecting something that looked more like a traditional pair of Dr Martens, and also something that would be uber comfortable. There were a couple of things about the design of the boot that made me think the comfort wouldn’t be all that great, and so I didn’t even try them on. Sorry Dr Martens, I still love you.
The other thing we looked at was the new Drift Stealth 2 video camera. We’ve never really got into video, and while we’ve thought about the benefits of GoPros and other adventure cameras before we’ve always come to the conclusion that they probably aren’t for us – mainly because of the time we’d need to spend sifting through footage and editing it down into a short shareable video. Now I realise I’m thoroughly enjoying watching adventure-related videos and am considering some video content for my blog, we are thinking about it again – and seriously. The Drift Stealth 2 appeals because it’s small and neat, mounts to just about anything, has a neat remote control, and at under £200 seems like pretty good value. We didn’t take the plunge at the show despite being promised a bar mount in with the price of the camera because something like this needs some more thinking time. What do you reckon? Go for it? Would you watch our videos?!
Planning our Next Motorcycling Adventures
It was chatting to people at Motorcycle Live a few years ago that got us actually saving up for our Wild West adventure. Now we’ve been on our trip-of-a-lifetime we are thinking about what might be next, and while we promised ourselves we wouldn’t book anything this time, we had a wander around in the hope of finding inspiration, and naturally came away with a number of brochures.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest inspiration came from our friends at The Lost Adventure and Eagle Rider. We made sure we went to say hi, and are so pleased we did – the guys at Eagle Rider just ooze passion for riding and touring and have so much enthusiasm you can’t help but want to jump on a plane and join them on their next trip. We now have a list of places we want to visit on our next tour, including more of the San Francisco and Yosemite areas, more of Utah, and possibly up as far as Seattle and into Canada. I’d love to ride in Canada, definitely near the top of the list! We shall go self-guided this time, but like the idea of letting The Lost Adventure giving us route and hotel suggestions – it’s always good to use local knowledge.
Tim Orr, of The Lost Adventure, recommended I gave the Indian Scout a try – new to the Eagle Rider fleet the Indians are absolutely stunning and proper old iconic bikes that look totally natural over in America. The Scout is their smallest model, with a 1200cc engine, but I’m told it has significantly more power but less torque than the Harley Davidson Fat Boy I rode earlier in the year. We made a return visit to the Indian stand and look – it’s an absolutely perfect fit, and a gorgeous looking bike at that. Decision made, if – no, when – we go back to America to ride, I’ll be picking up an Indian Scout. Can’t wait!
In the mean time we’ve already promised ourselves we’ll go and do the BMW off road skills next summer, and so we headed to the BMW stand to pick up a copy of the brochure and chat to the guys there about bike choice. The course is supposed to be loads of fun as well as help with general riding skills and confidence. I’ve always fancied off road riding and see this as a very safe way of giving it a go under the watchful eye of someone who knows what they are doing. We ended up speaking to Llewelyn Pavey about it, Simon Pavey’s son. I sat on a few BMWs just to see how tall they were – the F800GS was by far the tallest, my feet being nowhere near the ground. The R1200GS was smaller although it was like I was doing ballet on point. Thankfully Llewelyn said that they’ve just put the F700GS into the fleet for the course, and have low seats available, so that’s my choice made. Phew. I promise there will be blog posts about our trip to Wales to do the off road skills course next year 🙂
Social Media for Bikers
Before we left home to travel over to Birmingham I tweeted @motorcyclelive and received a reply from @motortourer, who were exhibiting, telling me to make sure I visited their stand in hall 4. As they were the only company that did so, I made an effort to find them to see what they were all about, and am glad we did. Motortourer.com is a new social network for bikers – not dissimilar to the one LincsGeek piloted for his Masters dissertation project a couple of years ago – designed to help bikers meet each other, share routes, organise meet-ups and the like. It’s in the very early stages at the moment, just a website, but this could be a very useful tool as it develops and more people start to use it. I can just imagine planning a ride into Europe and meeting up with a local rider or two for a guided tour of the best roads around any given county – we’d certainly be happy to show anyone passing through Lincolnshire some of our favourite routes. We both signed up on the stand and have completed our profiles, now we just need some friends! The idea is great, I hope they can make it work and I look forward to seeing what I can do with it.
Motorcycle Live is open every day between now (it opened on Saturday 22 November) and 30 November. If you enjoy biking then get over there and enjoy a day fuelling your hobby.
If anyone wants to lend LincsGeek a bike to review he’ll happily do it. He’ll ride almost anything!! I’m a little more restricted thanks to my height but am still up for a bit of motorcycle testing if you reckon what you’ve got would suit me. Get in touch!!