Archive for December 23rd, 2010

Winter thoughts

December 23, 2010

It’s nearly winter, and we’re huddling into our annual deep freeze — literally and metaphorically, depending in which section of the country you live.

There’s still some riding in the warm parts, and the cold parts host the hardcore and frosty, but the bulk of the two-wheeled populace has packed it in until the green starts poking through again. Bikes are parked for long-planned projects, rebuilds and makeovers, or merely parked until needed again, content to slowly gather dust and sit on quietly softening tires.

Riding gear is swapped out for snow gear, or at least a sensible winter jacket. Helmets are stowed. Inactivity spreads, slowing our metabolisms and dealership door swings. The end of the year is dark with short days and there’s something about the cold that brings a blue tinge to the sunlight as soon as it’s lost its long-cast autumn glow. Even at midday, it seems shadowy.

Yes, our yearly cycle is coming to a close, ready for rebirth in the new year. But even as hibernation beckons, there’s a little spark, a little flame of passion, around which we motor
cyclists and gearheads and powersports nuts can warm ourselves.

Here in the U.S. it’s the Progressive International Motorcycle Shows, and overseas it’s events like Intermot and EICMA in early fall. At the time of this writing, I’ve not been to any of the first shows on the schedule, but will definitely be there in Long Beach, Calif., when IMS comes to town from Dec. 17-19. I did, however, have the good fortune of attending the EICMA show in Milan, Italy, this year, thanks to the Italian Trade Commission, which organized the trip for a large international group of motojournalists and industry types.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve probably said it 25,000 times: I’m not prone to hyperbole, but there are likely a million different adjectives that could be used to describe the EICMA show. Humongous. Outrageous. Passionate. Unbelievable. Exhausting. Expansive. Breathtaking. Those are just a few, and they still don’t do justice to a show that covers an area of nearly 47 football fields, including 532,800 sq. ft. of booth space featuring more than 1,100 brands from 39 countries.
More than 500,000 visitors attended the show on the public days, and attendance numbers increased every day in comparison to the 2009 show. The visiting press numbered 2,104 registered media types.

Walking the length of the show — spread across six separate pavilions at the Fiera
Milano — is real exercise. Trying to do it on the days open only to press and trade visitors is akin to passing through a moving rugby game. The tension and excitement vibrating from the attendant press corps during the new model presentations is palpable. During Triumph’s introduction of its new Tiger 800s and the Daytona 675R, it was near impossible for the lethargic (me) or timid (others, not me) to get near enough to snap a pic until the crowds filtered away, on to the next event.

But the thing about EICMA that makes it so remarkable, something that transcends the sheer scope of the event or the brimming energy of the motopress, is the passion of those in attendance. It’s cliche to say that Europeans view two-wheels differently than Americans, but there’s no denying that Italians — and those who travel in from nearby EU countries — seem to breathe motorcycling.

During my tour of the show, I saw families and fathers and sons and groups of friends pointing at, posing next to, photographing, staring at, peering under, poking around, discussing in great volume, fantasizing about and generally loving the machines on display.

To paraphrase Ed Sullivan, it’s simply a really big show.

Crowds everywhere you turn. And oh what beautiful motorcycles — the new models and the old favorites — especially those we’ll never see on American shores. And riding gear. And parts and accessories that we’ll probably never see here either. It’s like a living version of the Sear’s Christmas Wish Book directly aimed at motorcyclists.

So as the end of a pretty ugly year comes to a close and I shuffle off to look for a few months of warmth, ready for a spring rebirth, I get to flick through my mental Rolodex of images from EICMA and those I’ll acquire in Long Beach. Each one falling like kindling into that little flame of passion that keeps things revving through the seasons and rough spots.

Dennis Johnson
Editor in Chief