Following EIMCA, a little like the smell in the wake of a Brussel sprout-eating herd of sheep, comes Motorcycle Live at the Birmingham NEC. I'm being mean. I like being mean about the motorcycle industry every now and then. They can take it. I have been attending this show, on and off, for more than 30 years and can't put my finger on one fundamental change in that time. The same might be above to be said for EICMA, too, but I'm less familiar with it. Same location; same halls; same traders; same stands; fewer dolly birds, a bit more noise as manufacturers seem to like to rev they bikes up every now and then and they didn't 30 years ago; same over-priced food.
Despite my negativity, I was told that the first weekend's attendance was record-breaking. People love paying to see motorcycles (and £16.95 to park if they can't face biblical rain and go on a bike). Clearly, it ain't broke, so they're not fixing it.
Here are some of the things I spotted.
The US Super Hooligan series continued to morph from it's dirt track roots, into an old-time AMA GNC-style multi-discipline series with dirt and asphalt races. The road race bikes built for Daytona and Laguna looked mean. Claire D'auria, of Indian Motorcycle UK's marketing department (top photo), commissioned the customisation of a Super Hooligan-spec 2022 FTR R Carbon.
Öhlins suspension, S&S low two-into-one, R&G crash protection, Dunlop slicks, side plates, RSD goodies, carbon seat cowl, lever guards, graphics package...
The second of three American race bikes that caught my attention, was this Zero SR/F. It is raced by Zero Motorcycles' UK country manager, Dale Robinson. If it looks familiar, it's a replica of the SR/F Anthony West raced at the 2019 Pike Peak Hill Climb (though, it looks a lower spec). These SR/F models don't need a lot doing to them to look tough. It is a very traditional design for an electric bike, which must be part of its selling point. A delivery mileage 2021 SR/F can be had for £14K in the UK. New 2022 models are over £21,500. That's the scary depreciation we've been told about.
The final of the trip of US race bikes is the Harley King of Baggers racer. This is the bike every friend who I bumped into was talking about. It was MotoGP, or at least WSB quality, with panniers.
The primary cover, (I'm pretty sure) the swingarm and a bunch of other parts were all machined from solid billet. The budgets hosed at the two top KOTB race teams this years was insane. Who doesn't love an anything goes, unlimited race series? Stand back and watch the fireworks until it burns itself out.
131cu in is 2146cc. People are going to look back on this era in decades to come.
Also on the Harley stand was this Low Rider ST customised by our mate Charlie of Stockwell Design. The Low Rider ST is a bike lots of people with Harley leanings are getting excited about. One of our favourite custom builders, Jeff Wright of Church of Choppers bought a brand new one and has started cutting it up.
Dot Motorcycles had a big stand, that no one except a couple of promo girls chatting seemed to be working on. The comp[any was presenting a bunch of very custom-looking production bikes. The Bolton-based company are pushing the ability of buyers to choose specs and finishes, for their bikes, that start at £18,500 and rise. I can see where the money has gone, but is that a lot for a bike powered by a Kawasaki 650 engine?
Perhaps someone should have taken the protective film off the mirrors too, considering it was day three of the show.
Swingarm is very eye-catching, end can looks cheap and nasty.
There is very much a CCM Spitfire feel to the operation, but with a twin, rather than single engine. And Dot is yet another 'phoenix' brand, a new company acquiring an old name, this time of a Manchester-based company, launched in 1903.
Talking of phoenix brands, here is a BSA Scrambler concept. People seem to like the new BSA Gold Star. I find it such a lazy rehash that I forgot to walk over to the stand, so this is one photo I didn't take, Visordown did. And yes, BSA call is the BSA Scrambler. Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Herald had a big stand too, with a bunch of bikes, including this new 2023 model, the Maverick 250.
They were also showing the clothing range they've launched with VC London.
Italian manufacturer Fantic Caballero will expand their range from 2023, to include a 700 twin. This is the first twin the Caballero sub-brand has produced, and uses the well-loved Yamaha MT parallel. Two were shown at EICMA, but we heard rumours one was left in a van outside a hotel in Italy and was stolen.
Price for the 700 has not yet been released. We hope that Fantic also make a Flat Track version of the 700.
The company launched these retros with 125, 250 and 500 version. Now there are just various options of 125 and 500, as the 250 has been dropped. It always seemed to me like there were too many for such a niche offering. Above is a Rally 500 and a Flat Track 500. These are built in Italy, with engines sourced from Zongshen, China. The 125s use Minarelli engines.
We have seen a couple of version of CCM's Dakar-style concept over the last couple of years. If the price is right, they could have another hit on their hands. I much prefer the design of this to the Spitfire.
The Sand Flea was on the Hagon stand. They supplied an uprated rear shock for the bike, laced a rear 14in rim to the front hub and re-laced the rear wheel with stainless spokes, after CJ Powder Coatings had given it the two-tone coating.
The Royal Enfield stand was buzzing, with lots of people checking out the recently released Hunter 350 and Super Meteor Twin. This Highland Scramble custom Interceptor was in the company's custom line-up.
As was Gary Birtwistle's DTRA championship winning Twin FT. I've seen this bike dozens of times over the last couple of years (and put a load of laps on one of them for Sideburn 47), but I always want to take another look. It's just gorgeous.
And it has Lowery Racing wheels. They were one of the 50 things we celebrated in Sideburn 50.
This is how you do retro race liveries on new superbikes.
Always good to have a quick chat with TT legend (and Sideburn fan) John McGuinness.
And another star of his profession, Mat Oxley. A friend and inspiration. Yep, Motorcycle Live is a bit of an old folks home. GI