Yes, and unsurprisingly, the international motorcycle show currently underway at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham is smaller then previous years, reflecting the economic austerity of our times.
But the fact that it’s taking place at all considering the world wide drop in bike sales is something very positive.
Let’s not forgot that the Paris show has been abandoned this year and while two major players opted not to go to Birmingham – Honda and Harley-Davidson – those from both parts of this island who make the journey to the NEC, show runs until Sunday, will not be disappointed.
There’s still plenty to see, including one new manufacturer, Norton, although on a minuscule scale. However, the bike that drew the biggest crowd at its press launch a week ago today was BMW’s first genuine sportster, the S1000RR.
Troy Corser, who campaigned the bike along with Ruben Xaus in World Superbikes this season, was on the podium for the launch. He’s also ridden the road version and he’s full of praise and enthusiasm for it, too. (The local launch is this Saturday at Hurst BMW at Motorrad).
It was interesting to watch representatives from the other makers cross over to the BMW stand to examine the bike because there seems to be no doubt about it that the conventional, inline four is going to give the other super sportsters, Yamaha’s R1, Suzuki’s GSX-R1000, Kawasaki’s ZX-10R and Honda’s Fireblade a run for their money.
Some of the other stands were not displaying 2010 prices on their machines, and for two reasons: they are waiting to see how £ fares against the Yen and the Euro and as far as certain sportsters are concerned, some look like being more expensive than the S1000RR which will be priced at £11,190 for the standard model, including the new VAT rate of 17.5% and £12,500 for the all singing and dancing version.
On paper the S1000RR certainly has the credentials and those who have ridden it and to whom I’ve spoken certainly say it delivers. Who would have believed that BMW, although the pipe and slippers tag is certainly long gone, helped by the runaway success of the GS series, would have produced such a superbike.
Also worth looking at on the German stand was the inline six cylinder concept bike. It will appear in touring clothing as a replacement for the long running K1200LT. Tt’s a narrow six and will have bags of torque.
I was keen to see what Ducati’s new 1200 Multistrada looks like in the flesh and it is being given pride of place on the Italian’s small stand, just a Hypermotard 796 to accompany it. The 150 bhp Multistrada looks the biz in real life.
Ducati’s rationale for the bike is to draw away some sales away from the GS/Adventure. Even if it could take 500 alone in the UK Ducati would be happy. And if aftermarket accessory manufacturers come one board, like Touratech and Wunderlich, then that will help a lot.
One obviously accessory would be a proper front mudguard. The original covers only the front section of the wheel, useless for keeping the muck and crap off the front of the engine. Will makers never learn?
One the Suzuki stand there’s no word yet of the long awaited replacement for the 1,000cc V-Strom, certainly not in the pipeline for next year and it’s one the importers are really waiting on as adventure bikes are an ever growing market as sales of sports machines tail off.
What does look good value from Suzuki is the fully kitted out 1250 Bandit as a tourer, now available with ABS and with some change out of £7,000. The stand is celebrating 25 years of the GSX- R series. Congrats, by the way, to Alastair Seeley from Carrickfergus, who has just been signed up by Relentless by TAS Suzuki for a full season’s racing next year.
Yamaha’s new big gun is being held over until the middle of next year, the Super Tenere, to compete against the GS. As it was, the Yamaha people importers had plenty to sing about with top sales in the UK and the cross plane crank R1 picking up a bike of the year award.
Kawasaki has updated the GTR1400 tourer and freshened up a couple of its other models. But what it’s most pleased about is having two new 125 machines to augment the bottom of its range, an area where it was bare.
Victory is a small seller in the UK with its range of distinctive, big v-twins. I’ve never ridden one but from a close examination the quality is top notch. Part of the giant Polaris group, the UK outlet is looking for a distributor for Northern Ireland. Be good to see them on sale here.
Our own Ryan Farquahar was one of quite a few racers seen at the show on press day. Next Thursday a picture of him on a bike you’re unlikely to see him on in real life unless he strips it down for the Irish road circuits and the TT.