I’ve been going to motor shows – both car and bike – almost since I got my license. For a long time I went every year. In recent years though, as I’ve got older I suppose, I haven’t. I live a bit outside Sydney, and it can be a hassle just getting to these shows.
Driving there can be a pain. It’s not the “bit” outside Sydney that’s the problem, it’s when you get to Sydney. A million traffic-lights, traffic-jams, idiot drivers who change lanes without looking, cut you off, or give you the old one-finger salute if you just happen to be on a part of the road that they want to be on.
And when you finally get there, you’ve got to find somewhere to park. (And it usually costs an arm and a leg as well!).
I’ve gone by train, but that’s a bit of a drag too. NSW trains are hardly state-of-the-art transport; and then there’s the time it takes. It seems to take hours to go just a few kilometres. You don’t realise how many suburbs Sydney has until you go there by train! And there’s a station at each one of them. Even so, the train stops so many times I’m sure that it must somehow double-back and stop at them all again! Then when you get to the end there’s usually more public transport (or at least a long walk) to get to the show.
I’ve never ridden to a show. Firstly there’s the problem of what to do with your riding-gear once you get there. And even if you can store it somewhere, that still leaves you clomping around the show in riding boots. And I don’t like riding in Sydney. I suppose if you lane-split you get through the traffic a lot quicker, but I always feel riding in Sydney is a bit like entering a war-zone; I feel safer in a car!
I’ve been to motor shows with a variety of people. In the early days it was with various mates, then for many years it was with my wife. She had no interest in cars or bikes, but that was in the early years of marriage when you do things together. She would dutifully follow me around carrying all the brochures I’d collect from each stand (I used to do that back then!). Having kids gave her a good excuse not to come with me; and she’s never been to one since!
I’ve gone on my own a few times. And that’s good in one way, because you can look at what you want for as long as you want. But it’s also good to have someone to talk to while you look. In recent years I’ve taken both my son-in-laws to shows (one car, one bike); and that was good too. Actually, the last time I went to a bike show was with my son-in-law – the one who tried to kill me by giving me his motocrosser to ride around the back-yard! (Click here to read about that).
This year (2006) I decided to go to the motorbike show again. My son-in-law (the bike-enthusiast one) was going away for the weekend, but a good mate of mine was going. I’ll call him John. He’s a good mate, but he probably deserves a bit of anonymity. (Being mates is one thing, but being publicly associated with an opinionated old bugger like me is quite another!).
John’s been a good friend for nearly 30 years. We actually met through bikes. I was stopped by the roadside. He was riding past and pulled over to see if it was me or the bike that had stopped. We got chatting, found we had a few things in common and arranged to meet for a drink after work. And we’ve been good friends ever since. (He often jokes about “the riff-raff you meet on the roadside”!). During that time he has moved away, but we still keep in touch and visit occasionally. So this would be a good chance to meet up again, and also have someone to talk to while we checked out the latest two-wheeled offerings. So we arranged to meet up at the show.
For the last few years the Sydney Motorcycle Show has been held at Olympic Park at Homebush. I’d never been there, although I had driven past it. Improvements to Sydney’s arterial road system meant the traffic wasn’t quite such a hassle (no gridlock or single-finger salutes!). Parking was another thing though!
The show’s web-site said that parking was available in parking area 6 (P6). Only problem was there was no P6 shown on the showground map! That was confusing! So I phoned them up, and they told me where it was. P6 is a series of metered parking areas – you put money in a machine, and get a card to display on your dash. It looked pretty close to the show area, so that was good.
As I drove into the showground there was a sign saying that motorcycle show parking should use parking area P1. Okay, confusion again! P1 had looked like quite a distance away on the map, so I decided to go for P6. That was almost empty, and I drove in. I was still a bit unsure if I was in the right place though, so I spoke to another guy who looked like he’d been there before, to ask what the go was with this. He said that P1 was “like Westfields – takes ages to get out! This is the place to park!” It was $3 an hour, so I shoveled in a handful of coins and went off to the show.
John had come by train. His former job with the public-service got him free train travel, so his choice of transport was an easy one. Getting there had cost him nothing. Meanwhile I’d just put $15 in the parking meter, and the round-trip would cost about $20 in fuel. Financially he was way in front before we even got through the door!
Entry to the show was $15; and well worth it. But you get to enjoy the show before you actually get there. I reckon it’d be worth going just to stroll around the motorbike parking area! Heaps of interesting bikes, old and new!
At this point I should explain that John doesn’t like Harleys. Well I don’t either really (as you’ll know if you’ve read my test of the Sportster). But John dislikes them with a passion! And guess what the first display was, right inside the entrance? The Harley stand! When he arrived he sent me a message saying he was waiting for me at the entrance; with his back to the Harleys! I was tempted to drive around the block a few times just so he’d have to stand there longer, but that would have been too cruel!
Once inside, after a long-ish drive, first place to visit has to be the toilet. In these toilets the hand-basins are fitted with those lift-the-handle type taps. The sort where you pull the handle up and water spurts out with all the force of a burst water-main! And of course the hand-basin is cleverly designed to direct all of this water straight over your pants, just below waist-level. John came in and there I was leaning backwards holding my pants out with my crotch pointed towards the blow-dryer! He just shook his head and mumbled something about “can’t take him anywhere!” and walked away. (Now you see why I thought I’d give him some anonymity!).
Having dried off sufficiently that I didn’t look like a walking incontinence disaster, we started our look around the show. I’m not going to go into detail of the bikes there; you will have read about that in the magazines, and this item is a more general “things that happen on a visit to a motorbike show” thing. But there were a lot of interesting bikes, with a few “teasers” from the next year’s model line-up. In a couple of instances they had the current model and next year’s model almost side-by-side. That’s a bit strange when you think about it! It’s like they’re saying, “Here’s our beaut current model, but don’t buy that because over there is our latest new-and-improved model!” Then saying, “But you can’t buy that because it won’t be available until next year”. How not to sell bikes and influence people!
I sat on nearly everything I looked at. That’s what I do. It’s part of the “looking” process; you look, and you sit! Well I do; some don’t. I remember a mate once saying to me, “You’ll end up with blisters on your bum the way you’re going!” But you don’t buy a bike to look at do you; you sit on them! So I sit on them at the shows. In fact I get annoyed when they have those little signs that say, “Do not sit on this motorcycle without asking for assistance”. Ducati was one offender in this regard. I felt like going up and saying, “Why not? You’re putting your bike on display aren’t you, so why do I have to ask permission to sit on it?” But then I thought they might have seen me coming out of the toilet and said they were worried I’d pee all over it!
The only bike John sat on, that I know of, was the Triumph Rocket. I know he sat on that because I took a photo of him on it. That’s another thing I do, I take photos; lots of them! (I've put just a couple of photos at the bottom of the page here).
The last time I went to the bike-show, the Rocket had just been released. As usual, I had to have a sit on it. My daughter and son-in-law were with me. My son-in-law was off looking at something else, so I gave my daughter the camera and asked her to take a photo of me sitting on the Rocket. Just as she lined up the shot, a big burly-looking bikie-type guy walked up to her. “Go and sit on it with him and I’ll take the photo” he offered. So my daughter unquestioningly handed over my $500 digital camera and climbed on the Rocket behind me. I smiled at the camera, expecting any moment Burly Bikie would do a runner into the crowd! But he didn’t. In fact he turned out to be a really nice guy and we had an enjoyable chat.
That can be another interesting thing at these shows; you can get to have some good conversations with people. Although it’s probably wise not to be too opinionated in what you say. At the Ducati stand John got chatting to a guy standing next to him. We were looking at the Sport 1000 that has the two exhaust pipes stacked on the right-side. John doesn’t like it; he reckons those exhausts spoil what is otherwise a fine-looking retro-sports-bike. And, displaying a surprisingly sadistic violent streak, he began describing in blood-chilling detail what he thought Ducati management should do to the designer who came up with this aberration of styling. “Actually”, the guy replied, “I like it!” But that didn’t stop John. He continued to describe various forms of torture and dismemberment that should be inflicted upon it’s designer, while the guy was looking all the time as if he was about to say he’d bought one! I thought it might get ugly, so I wandered off and pretended to be admiring something else. (Yes, I know, great mate I am!).
I must say though, I agree with John – on the styling issue anyway. I reckon the “styling-police” must have been having a day off when they released that one! But then that’s a bit typical of Ducati, isn’t it. They seem to swing effortlessly from iconic sensual beauty to “why did they do that?” when it comes to style. I mean, as good a bike as the Multistrada might be, you’ve got to admit it isn’t a good-looking bike! And does anyone really like the front-view of the 999 with it’s small round vertically-stacked headlights? But on the other hand the new 1098 is a masterpiece of sleek aggression in sport-bike design!
After an hour or two of looking around it was time to rest the old bones and have lunch. John had brought his with him, so all he had to do was buy a coffee. I have taken my lunch with me on previous occasions, and that’s usually a good idea. Although I recall one time when I went with my daughter and her then boyfriend. My wife made sandwiches for us to take. Cheese sandwiches. It’d been a hot day (and the car didn’t have air-con), and by the time we opened up the lunch-bags the bread was like rubber and the cheese was warm. I just threw all mine in the bin, but my daughter tried one sandwich - and almost threw up!
But taking your food is usually a good idea. For one thing it’s much cheaper! Food inside places like this is expensive. I suppose they figure that if you’re inside and you’re hungry you’ll pay exorbitant prices for food, so that’s what they charge you! And the food isn’t always very good anyway. As I said, John had brought his with him, so he just bought a coffee. The line to the coffee-bar was 3 people long, and the coffee cost him about $4. Meanwhile there were about 27 people waiting ahead of me in the food line. The burger and chips cost me about $12 or something, and then I still had to line-up for the coffee. By the time I got to sit down and eat, John had almost finished his. Oh yes, and he was even further ahead in the cost department!
After lunch it was off to look at the rest of the show. Of course you inevitably each have your favourite stands. That’s okay if you have similar tastes in bikes; as John and I generally do. But I remember going to one car-show where the mate I went with looked at the Holden stand, and perhaps one other, and was ready to go home! He wouldn’t go near the Ford stand (bit like John and Harleys in that regard!), and couldn’t understand why I’d want to look at Alfas and Jags and even Toyotas! John has a liking for Suzuki, so that was a favourite of his. And BMW too. No problem for me with either of those! My favourites? Well, I’ve owned quite a few Yamahas and so have a certain affinity with that brand, and always spend a bit of time at their stand. Triumph is another favourite (although, to date, I’ve never owned one), so I like to have a good look at their stand. We looked at most of the other brands too, and occasionally wandered in different directions, but generally both enjoyed looking at what each other was looking at. It’s all interesting!
Another interesting thing is people you meet. Not just the general public I referred to earlier, but “famous” people. This year we saw Mick Matheson, editor of Australian Motorcycle News, and John had a chat with him; and I got chatting to Peter “The Bear” Thoeming at the Road Rider magazine stand. At previous shows I’ve seen various journalists and race-commentators etc. As I said, it’s all interesting!
After another couple of hours John had to leave to catch the train home. I did a quick circuit through a couple of stands again and bought a mug and a T-shirt; adding another $35 to the cost of the day. John would have done the whole day for under $20. With fuel, parking, entry, lunch, and now the merchandise, I wouldn’t have had much (if any) change out of $100! Hmm, something to ponder as I wandered off to the car.
But it’d been a great day! If you love bikes you’ve got to love going to these shows! Maybe I’ll start going more regularly again. Same time, same place, next year John?
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Some custom choppers next to the Harley stand. Lots of chrome!
I am always just as interested in more "mundane" things, like this FZ6S at the Yamaha stand.
Ducati unveiled it's beautiful new 1098 model at the show.
Click here for a report on the Sydney Motorcycle Expo, 2008.
A brief story, but mostly photos and comments, from Sydney 2011.