Every year, ‘round about the third weekend of January, the motorcycle industry girds up its loins and shows off its wares in Vancouver. The last in a string of motorcycle shows that wings its way across Canada, the Vancouver Motorcycle Show has been kind of an institution in the lower Mainland for years and is routinely packed to the rafters. Weather permitting, more than a few hard-core riders even bring their own bikes and wander into the Tradex Centre in Abbotsford to see what’s shaking in the motorcycle universe. I’ve been coming here for at least 15 years.
And every year, it seems that more and more riders and wannabes show up to wander among the static displays, manufacturers booths, and assorted ancillary industries. Weather notwithstanding, you can count on a full house. In 2016, for example, over 30,000 enthusiasts showed up for the three-day event.
A few observations.
– The show seemed to be more crowded than ever this time around, and it was bumper-to-bumper, arses and elbows every step of the way. Good for exhibitors, perhaps, not so great for those who actually want to see something…..which leads to my next point.
– The Tradex venue is simply too small. It’s always a mob scene and the organizers need to expand. As well as making it difficult to get around and check everything out inside, parking is a nightmare. There is but one exit and it took me at least half an hour just to leave. Too many cars and bikes, not enough places to put them.
– After flirting with the heavy cruiser market for a few years, Victory motorcycles has decided to call it quits. This is good news, as far as I’m concerned. I made the mistake of owning two of their V92C models and they were unmitigated disasters….absolutely unreliable, with zero re-sale value. Parent company, Polaris, will remain in this market, however, with its Indian line of bikes. Polaris acquired Indian three years ago, and I guess it doesn’t make sense for them to be competing against themselves.
– Still with Polaris, they are now officially the manufacturer of the ugliest motorized contraption in the world. Their Slingshot three-wheeler is an abomination….and looks like it should be in a Mad Max movie…..hopefully to be destroyed. And it starts at $27,000. Pass.
– Harley-Davidson is hanging in there with its line of “Street” lightweights. It’s interesting to watch the world leader in heavy cruisers grapple with changing market demographics. Currently, the company has two on offer: 500 and 750 cc models. As well, I couldn’t help but notice the new military theme Willie Davidson and his designers are slapping onto their models; olive drab paint schemes, exhaust pipes that look like rifle barrels….the Softail Slim, in particular, wouldn’t look out of place parked outside an army barracks.
– BMW clearly still believes everyone that rides is well over six feet tall. Every single model they make has a ridiculous seat height and anyone not super-sized is going to be riding with legs dangling. I saw one guy struggling to get onto an F800GS….I was tempted to offer him a boost.
– The scooter market segment is alive and well. Most of the Japanese manufacturers offer something here…..Honda, for example, has four available, and I must admit, the Forza – and its Suzuki counterpart, the Burgman – is looking increasingly appealing. This is a market I think Harley should look into….slap a Harley-Davidson sticker and a little attitude onto a peppy little scooter like the Burgman, and those die-hard, but aging Harley riders who can’t quite make the jump to other makers would be all over it.
– Triumph bikes are more than holding their own in Canada. Despite some initial start-up problems – a huge fire at the home factory and arguably the worst public relations in the business – the British company has some 21 different models on sale and has tapped deeply into the hipster market with its “Bobber” Bonneville. Many riders who would otherwise be looking at Harley have moved over to Triumph, if for no other reason than to separate themselves from the old farts perambulating around on Softails and baggers.
So many bikes, so little time.
Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist Of The Year twice and is past president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).