The Dublin bike show comes round every two years and a lot can change in that period so it was off to the RDS to get get a handle on what was going in the biking world.
The market for new bikes is not vast in Ireland so huge stands and packed isles stretching into the horizon are not expected and were certainly not present, but there was still plenty to see and quite a few new models to drool over. Overall the impression was that bikes are getting physically bigger simply for the sake of doing so. Outside of the cruiser market (where size really does matter) both engine capacities and bulk have been expanding in line with the the desire, and financial need, for manufacturers to charge more per unit rather than rely on volume sales. I really can’t see any other explanation for the modest Suzuki SV650 being dressed up like a Spanish Galleon under full sale with top boxes and panniers large enough to make shifting iron ore in bulk a viable proposition. BMW, with their highly successful GS range, have been leading this particular charge for a while now and it seems that nobody else can resist following the trail, Triumph with their Explorer, Yamaha with their Super Tenere, Ducati’s Multistrada, KTM’s Adventure range and so on. Many of these machines are pushing the €20k barrier when fully kitted out which is hardly modest, but if it helps keep the biking scene alive then there should be no low muttering from the hoi polloi.
Yet it wasn’t all about penis envy for there were other models less inclined to boast of their middle age spread and remain small enough to still be considered a proper motorcycle. Even BMW appreciate that touring is not always an exercise in heavy haulage and so offer their much more amenable R1200RS, a 125hp machine that, on paper at least, seems to have everything required of a sporty all rounder without being over focused on any one area of performance. The new Yamaha Tracer suggests that Yamaha are also aware of over egging the big tourer pudding. The bike is compact, yet appeared a surprisingly roomy and comfortable place to be, it could be just the ticket for trips along the smaller roads which offer up so much more to those showing an interest in the traveling rather than merely blasting across continents on motorways. Despite all the boxes it was ticking there are reports of it having an economy figure of only around 45mpg, we get that from our cars nowadays and they are carrying a darn site more weight. Come on lads, you can do better than that surely!
One company that has taken this message on board is Honda with their twin cylinder NC series. There are rumours of 80mpg with a standard hatchback like performance, adequate but not electrifying, which might be all that is wanted anyway. It would be nice to look at their site and find out more but since they are playing a marketing game of having to hand over your email address to yet another unanswerable database we’ll pass them out. At least Yamaha give you the basic facts on the Tracer up front with no messing about.
So what was on offer for the novice, or returnee looking for something that’s not too scarey? It would have been true to say not a lot up until a year or so ago. The Japanese had their rather plain but quite competent multipurpose 500’s or you could go retro with the Triumph Bonniville or even a Royal Enfield, a bike built in India, for India and may be better off staying in India. 24hp is, realistically, not enough over here unless gentle trundles along forgotten byways is the attraction, and there is no harm in that, but you have to get to them first. Triumph are still churning out the Bonniville, which I mentioned in a previous blog, and as good a little bike as this is there must be a limit to its appeal. Having had a good share of the ‘small but perfectly formed’ bike niche to itself there is now the Ducati scrambler knocking on the door, a machine far more up to date, possessing a handy power margin over the Bonnie and good dose of heritage to go with it. Presently it looks raw and undeveloped, but as Ducati start pushing out variants of the theme then it could well start taking sales off the old slogger from Hinckley, or, more correctly, Chonburi in Thailand, which lies just 60 miles to the north of Italian company’s own facility over there.
So that was the bikes, well, all that immediately caught the eye anyway. The other great happening (for me anyway) was that I manged to rip my trousers while crouching for a photo, so it was rather a good excuse to get a proper pair of bikers jeans as I have been promising myself for a while. I ended up on the Salt Flats Clothing stand who very helpfully sorted me out with a pair of Resurgence jeans that are not only meant to be protective but also somewhat more waterproof than standard denim. I’ve not had the chance to ride with them yet so can pass no comment other than they were comfortable enough for the day at the show. I wasn’t sure what happens when it comes to washing them though for I couldn’t see any instructions included, and the greasy biker look can be so easily overdone. However, an email containing that very question was answered in a impressively prompt and friendly manner so the customer service would appear to be spot on, and that’s always a plus in my book.