Since I was ten years old or so I've been going to car show, motorcycle shows, both, occasionally neither, sometimes boats . . . you get the idea. This was my fourth Seattle Motorcycle Show, one a year since I've moved here.
Where the hell was BMW. The guys at Ride West told me they pulled out and only will be doing three shows in the US this year. Obviously they think they know best but off hand I'd have to say the Pacific Northwest is a pretty good market for them. They were the only manufacturer of consequence not there.
The show was probably 25% smaller than last year. Lots of gaping voids and empty space. Crowds seemed light as well. The recession is indeed here
The big four, Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Honda were there in force, but sprinkled in ATVs, water thingees (what the hell do you call them anyway?) and assorted other bits and bobs
The thing I like best about Kawasaki is they know their audience. Detroit could take a lesson here. Having said that, it will be interesting to see if painting the mighty ZX14 green is the right answer.
Compare that to the lovely steel gray on the Busa.
I can't say that I love the looks of the new Suzuki Gladius, but mu guess is it will sell due to the bulletproof SV650 drive train and sensible price.
KTM spins my propeller. Mad kudos. The company is so obviously run by uncompromising gear heads. There moto, "ready to race" says it all. Although I don't do the type of riding most of their kit is build for, I would happily take one of each home. The RC8 is too cool for words. Not as sexy as the 1198, but it speaks to me in ways the beauty of Bologna doesn't. I would happily add a 990 anything to my garage: Adventure, Super Duke, SM, whatever.
Here it is in Black. Yes please . . .
Ducati also wowed the crowd, same booth as last year, with a Desmo and of course their new 1198 and Monster. I want to love them but don't. But god bless Ducati for building them.
I have massive respect for Eric Buell, though I wish his bikes were just a bit more finished. The controls are cheap looking and things like the exhaust just look ragged. (This is the fly screen from the CityX, a truly silly little bike that, like many of Eric's bikes, speak seductively to me).
Triumph is another manufacturer that deserves huge respect. I wish I had bothered to take more pictures. The Scrambler is about 75% the bike it could be (hello after market), but their new flat emerald green paint is the bees knees.
I think one of the best things about motorcycles are the people that make the business go. I've already paid my respects to Eric Buell (whom I've never met). I put Michael Czysz in the same league.
Closer to earth are the equally clever entrepreneurs who paint on a smaller but no less ambitious canvass. Many of these shining lights were at the show.
One I actually know is Lee Parks. In so many ways he's like Eric, Michael, and everyone else. He just knows in his bones that there's a better way and he's the guy to do it. He wrote one of the very best instructional books around, Total Control (full notice, I'm a certified instructor). His gloves are stunning. He's just come out with a new tail bag and there are lots more designs on the way.
I own and love the HARD system sold by Legal Speeding, and more recently the absolutely brilliant Park-n-move. Aaron Zimmermann, whom I finally met, is a class act. Buy his stuff.
Damon Skillern is another one of my heroes. He's an enormously attractive guy who has poured his savings and energy into inventing a better tie-down strap and now an even more clever helmet cable. I'll review them both soon, but in the meantime have a look at http://s2straps.com/
Brian Bosworth and Mike Sanders are certifiable motorcycle junkies and pour themselves into writing the best motorcycle guides I've seen: Destination Highways. Save yourself the trouble. If you ride in Washington, and now Northern California and BC, buy these.
Closer to home, Bret Tkacs, along with his wife Christie, run Puget Sound Safety, the local home to Total Control training, Advanced Streets Skills, and a host of other outstanding programs.
I've been following the hot-twin market from close and far here in Seattle for the past few years. One of the really hot players in the game are the guys from TwinLine Motorcycles. I had a chance to chat with Ian Halcott, owner and chief visionary. He's just a lovely guy and made me want one of his bikes in the worst way.
It's not a definitive list, but like I said, it's one of the great parts about motorcycling.
What is it With Exhausts
I'm no engineer, but I get that packaging exhausts is a pretty big deal. You need as much volume as you can get, which creates all sorts of packaging problems. Route them under the seat and you cook the rider and put even more mass up high. Stick them underneath and you centralize the mass but that creates issues with engine placement, insulation, etc. Hang them out the back and . . . you get the idea.
For pure aesthetics, nothing beats the Triumph Thruxton. Slim, pretty, elegant.
In my book, the modern medal winner is the KTM RC8. Tucked up out of the way like it should be.
Buell, the guy who arguably invented the concept, executes the same idea probably as well, but jeez it's ugly. Look at the welds . . .
Honda goes to the same school, with what seems like better routing than the Buell. The can seems like it was designed by someone who never saw the bike it was going on.
The VMax is in every respect a terrifying thing to behold. The exhaust is the size of a major appliance.
The can on the Moto Guzzi Griso is only slightly smaller and hardly better looking.
Compare to the classic high mounted Termingnonis on the new Ducati 1198.
The heavily revised R1 stays with the same high-mounted scheme, the triangular ends meant to echo the snout. They're not ugly and they're not pretty and they won't last as 99% of the owners will replace with something else anyway.
Suzuki tries to clean up the mess that was the previous Gixxer's exhaust with an organic shape that actually looks like it belongs on the bike. On the message boards, they're calling it "the whale dick." Oh well. The KTM is still the best of the superbikes.
The less said about the Gladius's exhaust the better.
Same with this horrible looking bug sprayer by Kawasaki on the new ZX10-R.
Kawasaki does a better job with their new ZX-6R, but it's still a big blob.
For more of my musings, visit www.midliferider.com