Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Toronto Manufacturer's Motorcycle Show - Impressions?

Having attended the show out by the airport last year and coming away generally underwhelmed by it, this year I decided to check out the other show held at Exhibition Place. Rumor was that the manufacturer's show would have more of a focus on bikes and bike culture beyond the other show's beef-jerky/leather/chrome/loud-pipes scene that doesn't really appeal to me.

Indeed, there were lots of great bikes to sit on from the big manufacturers, and it was helpful to be able to do side-by-side comparisons of ergonomics and features, especially on ADV bikes where my passion lies. So that was great.

But this wasn't:

Really, Yamaha? I get it that motorcycle culture sometimes blends with sled/ATV culture. But this thing doesn't even have wheels.

Furthermore, I can't imagine that the market for bike-sled conversions exceeds that for a mid-side ADV bike. Instead of showing us a sled, where is the highly anticipated Tenere T700? Or F900GS or F750, or the mythical CRF450 Rally or for that matter?

Usual press hype aside, my spidey-sense tingles with the idea that the market is genuinely interested in a do-all, mid-weight ADV bike that incorporates modern suspension and engine design yet doesn't break the bank and can be repaired without requiring computer science and mechanical engineering degrees. If the success of the Africa Twin is any indication, further extending the concept of less-is-sometimes-more could achieve a category-killing 450- to 750-twin ADV bike.

So many of the bikes I saw at the show either had too much weight, HP, and other costly technology and breakable parts, or were so anemic or under-specced at the low-end (cast wheels!?) that at each extreme they couldn't be considered credible ADV contenders. Not to crap on the manufacturers here: they do make some fine ADV bikes--but for other markets. Often the more desirable models aren't available in Canada or even in North America.

For me, the real value of this year's show was getting to try on new riding gear and see accessories that are normally just web pics. I was lucky to score one of the last Klim Carlsbad jackets in my size from GP Bikes, and will be reviewing it later as part of a new, minimalist system of riding wear I'm assembling to handle extremes of heat, cold, pavement, and trail for this summer's TAT loop.

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