It's been a while since we visited one of the larger European bike shows, so with that in mind a trip to Motorcycle Live 2014 was arranged. It would give me a chance to catch up with the latest developments in the industry as well as catch up with my brother who would meet me there.
Visiting Motorcycle Live, which is at the NEC near Birmingham, is a bit of a chore to get to from Spain as you can't simply fly in for the day and see the show and fly back, accommodation would have to be found. After a bit of web searching a nice pub was found in the small village of Hampton-In-Arden just a short, 4 minute train ride from the NEC.
The White Lion is a great pub with real ale on draught and nice rooms, highly recommended for a visit to the NEC.
An early start was in order for the show itself as i wanted to take advantage of the test ride facilities and hopefully take a KTM for a spin. Speaking to a few people in advance of the show it became clear that a plan was necessary as the test places fill up very quickly. Entering the show there were a number of people apparently with the same idea as they set off at a run towards the back right corner of hall 3. I ended up about 20th in the queue and after a short wait managed to arrange a ride on a KTM 1190 Adventure R.
After an alcohol check (zero tolerance) we were all outfitted with boots, trousers, jacket, helmet and gloves and then shown through to the bikes. The staff were great, making us all feel at ease and un-rushed even though they were working to a tight schedule. The bikes were lined up outside for us to look round and try for size before the off, then a quick but thorough briefing and we were off.
The 1190 Adventure R is a tall bike, which for me was about as tall as I would like to ride especially onto a greasy petrol station forecourt. However on the move the bike was superb with enough power to get you into trouble but with good manners so I wasn't caught out on the greasy UK roads. The ride consisted of NEC service roads then out into the countryside, through a couple of villages and back. In total about 20-25 minutes of riding was enough to give me an idea of the bikes capabilities but if I was seriously interested in spending the €18000 on one here in Spain I would be looking for a longer test first.
After the test I met up with my brother scoffed down a delicious pulled pork roll and then took in the rest of the show.
Having no particular plan of attack for the show we meandered around chatting to company reps on various stands and trying new bikes for size. The priorities for both of us have changed somewhat over the last thirty years of riding. Yes we looked at and tried for size the current crop of sportsbikes from Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Aprilia and the like but really, along with many older bikers that cut our teeth in the 80's we are both now more interested in adventure bikes. This is not really in response to videos such as Long Way Round, it's more to do with age and comfort.
Most of the main stream manufacturers now have a suitable bike in there range, they can be split into two main categories, those with off road potential, and those that just look the part. We looked at all of them.
For me the KTM range seemed the best although that may be down to the morning test ride, my brother on the other hand has always liked Yamaha, so he was leaning that way. Which one would be the best for the job? Only time and lots of real world Km's would split the best from the rest.
The rest of the show was made up of classic and custom bike displays, demonstration from Trials, FMX and BMX pros which is always entertaining and then the small stalls selling clothing and new devices to make your biking experience better, faster, warmer, more adventurous etc. etc. The sales areas are always interesting with everyone trying to out do each other on price, some real bargains can be had.
Visiting the HEL stand I managed to get a new front brake hose made up for the BMW F650, to replace the spongy original, it is 19yrs old after all. It was a great service taking around 45mins which saved the hassle of ordering online. Just have to find time to fit it now.
Walking around the other stalls a couple of items caught my eye the first was a helmet from Reevu, which has an optical system built in that gives rear vision much like the rear view mirror in a car. This seems like such a simple idea, and using the sample helmet at the show I could indeed see what was right behind me with just a small eye movement. A real world trial would be good, but maybe my next helmet will be a Reevu.
The other device that caught my eye was a bike starting system, for those days when you left the parking light on or just forgot to plug the trickle charger in the last time you came home. Great to keep under the seat of your bike when touring or just to keep in the garage, the device also came with connectors to charge phones, tablets etc. Sold by PowerCases.com, there is a demo video below of the system being demonstrated by Nik Powell of Power Cases.
The star of the show for me and many others was the new Kawasaki H2R which was being run on the Dynojet dyno. Even if you are not a great sportsbike fan there is still something appealing about the sound of a high performance bike having it's neck wrung especially a supercharged one. i couldn't get close enough to take any video of the bike in action, but found a great example on Youtube.com so turn your speakers up and listen.