2010 Birmingham Bike Show Report

December 9, 2010
Frank Melling
Frank Melling
Contributing Editor| Articles|RSS

Our Memorable Motorcycles expert, Frank Melling also is the organizer of the British vintage motorcycle extravaganza known as Thundersprint. Melling began riding five decades ago and remains as much in love with motorcycles as when he drove his first bike into a cow shed wall aged ten. In the last 50 years, Melling has competed in every form of motorcycle sport and now declares himself to be too old to grow up and be sensible.

Jorge Lorenzo in the flesh was at the Birmingham bike show with no shortage of fans...
MotoGP champ Jorge Lorenzo was on hand at the Birmingham Show, and looking quite pleased with himself and his quintessential Lorenzo-ness.  

If you long for the days when Birmingham was one of the big glitzy bike shows in the world, you would be disappointed with this year’s event held in Britain’s National Exhibition Center on the edge of Birmingham – once the center of world motorcycle manufacturing.

But if you are new to the world of bikes, and were looking for a really good day out, then Birmingham was an excellent show. The event is now very much aimed at the retail buyer. The stands of even the big manufacturers were plain to the point of being utilitarian but were heavily staffed – and not by empty headed show people brought in for the week just to hand out free pens. On the contrary, Birmingham was very much a show by, and for, motorcycle enthusiasts.

Every major manufacturer was present along with a host of world biking stars. Jorge Lorenzo opened the show in addition to Britain’s great hope for MotoGP success, Cal Crutchlow. The young Brit has still got to get used to being an “A List” biking celeb but seems to be enjoying the spotlight.

Norton unveiled its latest version of the 961 Commando with a dual seat for the first time. The new bike is a hefty $1200 extra for the pillion perch – but the price hike is due to needing a modified chassis and sub-frame.

Honda Crossruner
Well received was the Honda Crossrunner, which models the styling of adventure sportbikes.

CEO and owner of Norton, Stuart Garner, was suitably upbeat. “We’re selling bikes like mad here on the stand and exports are on the point of really taking off. I can’t believe how much progress we’ve made in 12 months.”

One of the more interesting bikes revealed for the first time was the Honda Crossrunner. The bike is based on the latest VFR but with styling cues from adventure sportbikes. With current hyper-sportbikes capable of getting you a jail sentence in third gear, the buzz products are definitely adventure sportbikes and certainly the Crossrunner was very well received.

A true AS bike is the all new Triumph Tiger 800. We’ve been seeing the bike for months now in a series of tediously leaked “spy shots,” but there really was no need for all the silliness. Quite simply, the Tiger is an outstanding motorcycle in its own right. It is wafer-thin and highly practical, yet has an edgy styling which makes you believe you can leave home and ride to Alaska without breaking a sweat. I think it is the only AS bike capable of giving BMW a real headache.

Triumph Tiger 800
With a sleek design the Triumph Tiger 800 offers both practicality and style.

The manufacturers were extremely pleased with the hardcore customers coming to their stands, which is more than could be said for many of the retailers.

“We’re having a particularly harsh winter here in England and the customers are staying well away from bike shops.” one leading dealer said. “We’re starving so we’ve had to come here and shift stock just to survive. It’s doesn’t matter if we’re blowing our brains out we’ve just got to stay open and hope for an early spring.”

What does that mean in practice? Brand new Alpinestars jackets – albeit 2009 models – reduced from $450 to $200. Or the latest Arais with a $300 discount. A set of full race leathers, complete with body armor, was going for $300.

In the short term these are tremendous deals but one wonders how long the industry can survive trading like this. However, you need more than a pair of cheap gloves to leave a show happy and, I have to confess, I am in love again.

MV Agusta F3
It was love at first sight for our contributing editor, who fell head over heels for the MV Agusta F3.

If you ever want a reason for becoming a motorcyclist spend 10 minutes looking at the new MV Agusta F3. Styled by English designer, Adrian Short, the F3 is pure, unadulterated motorcycling beauty. The all new 675cc Triple makes a claimed 137 horsepower, but MV is being rather coy about its weight. For sure it will be feather light. The bike is utterly loaded with real world objects of lust from the radial calipers to ultra-trick “ride by wire” engine control. All this is good but the utter perfection of the bike’s lines is what makes it a remarkable motorcycle.

Surprisingly, the punch line is neither the appearance nor the performance – but the cost. Expect to own an F3 for less than $15,000, and at this price you would need a very, very good reason to look at the Japanese competition.

And the downside? No more double cheeseburgers for the MV owner-to-be. In order to squeeze into the F3 you will need to be MotoGP-sized, so stick to that lettuce leaf for Christmas dinner!

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