Motorcycle Show Baby!

Well, I went to the International Motorcycle Show last weekend, in Rosemont IL. Yep, I sure could use another motorcycle. What the hell! What’s one more motorcycle in the garage really going to affect anything? Somehow after saying that, I just heard my wife inside my brain telling me “You can only ride one at a time.” Well, duh, everyone knows that. I still don’t understand what she’s trying to tell me.

I broke the plane of the atrium right around 8:45 o’clock in the am. Bam, there it was! Looking down from the escalator there was a humongous line of people waiting to get in. And there was another long line of people waiting to buy tickets. This is not what I remember from past motorcycle shows. A lot of times when I got there early in the morning I felt like the Omega Man. Omega Man is a movie that Charlton Heston starred in some 30 odd years ago. He would walk the streets and not see a single soul. You might want to go to Wikipedia to figure out what the hell I’m talking about.

I realize that in the past five years or so, the motorcycle industry has taken a savage beating. I don’t know if beating is the correct word, probably an all-out ass kicking. Things have been very tough for the motorcycle industry. They had to condense the number of models they have offered in the past. Eliminate models with sub-par sales history. Create all new strategies to capture market share. Also, I think people need to realize that the United States is pretty much topped out or leveled off on the number of motorcycles that will be purchased in the future. The new emerging markets such as India, China and South America will be the customers of the future.

Many motorcycle manufacturers are focusing on these new customers. The manufacturers are adjusting their models to meet the demographics and requirements of their new customers. Honda motorcycle Corporation is a prime example. They are currently manufacturing lower cc sport models that can be sold in other countries. Kawasaki has also jumped on the bandwagon with one of their products. There’s also some chatter that Harley-Davidson may soon be gluing together a product in India. This motorcycle will in no way be a relative of the products that they currently manufacturing in the USA.

Okay, enough about the woes of the motorcycle industry. It’s time to talk about my experience at the show. Well, first off as I step down the stairway into the main show floor, I was greeted by the Progressive Insurance Company’s army of people handing out their promotional bags. They have been there the last five years or possibly longer. I don’t know about you, but every time I got a quote from Progressive, they’re always higher than the current insurance company that I have. I guess if they quit handing out those damn bags their rates might be cheaper. Yeah, I took a few of those bags, got a trunk full of them from the last five years. Need something to carry the groceries home in.

This year, Progressive had a really nice display that took up a considerable amount of space. One part of their show floor area was set up so you could get your picture taken on a motorcycle. I was somewhat surprised because the motorcycle in the picture was a Yamaha. Not that I have anything against Yamaha motorcycles, I’ve got one, I just thought another brand might have been cooler. Yep, I thought about waiting in line to get my picture taken on a motorcycle. But then it dawned on me they were not just taking pictures, but they were mining for data. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need any more people calling me or sending me crap in the mail.

First stop, the Ducati display! I have a thing for Italian motorcycles. But once I got near their floor space, I couldn’t get near a motorcycle. It was like some sort of choreographed dance where they would hop off one motorcycle on to the next. The people jumping from one motorcycle to the next almost looked like they were in some sort of trance. I tried to determine where the entry point was so they could somehow participate in this dance, but I didn’t see an opening. So I watched from the sidelines. Their area was jammed with people. Last year I had the opportunity to ride the Diavel. I really liked that motorcycle. It is really a genuine anomaly as a new motorcycle product. I’ve got my ride posted on YouTube if you want to check it out.

Explaining the Ducati Diavel experience is hard. So I’m going to leave you with this. This is going to be a hard visualization but I’m going to give it a shot. Imagine a Harley-Davidson Road King classic had sex with a Suzuki GSX R 1000, the offspring would be the Diavel. I told you it was going to be tough to visualize. After making a few laps around the show floor, I returned back to the Ducati area and the dance was still going on, lucky them.

There was a brand new vendor this year! KTM showed up with their very fancy display. In actuality, it looks like a folding shipping container. But it really turned out to be a nice display. It was orange, white and very shiny. I’m no expert in marketing, but I think the color orange really perpetuates a brand. All of the other manufacturers have used this color from time to time, but KTM is in love with orange.


While I was walking around I started talking to this lady and she told me the whole reason she came to the show was because of KTM’s display. As we continued to talk, I found out that she rode a motocross motorcycle. “Two-stroke, four-strokes have no balls,” she blurts out. “Okay, cool,” I responded quickly so she didn’t realize she just put my brain at a dead stop. I was still processing the “no balls” part of her statement. Well I don’t know for sure, but I believe it’s the first time a woman has told me something has “no balls.”

My brain finally reengaged and I asked more about her motocross adventures. She talked about her broken arm, broken legs and a broken hip during her not yet finished racing career. She even told me about some techniques that she used to cut the corners as fast as possible. Now I didn’t want to break eye contact during our communication, but I started to scan her physically. I’m not completely sure since she was in “really good shape,” but I don’t think she was too far from my age bracket.

I think I was in love. A woman who races motocross motorcycles and is not afraid to break a few bones. Did I mention that she was in “really good shape” and uses the phrase “no balls.” Almost a match made in heaven, whatever in the hell that means. But then it dawned on me that I was married and a horrible vision went through my head. My wife was on some sort of elevated platform giving me the thumbs down as I asked her if I could keep my motorcycles during our divorce procedures. Love can be fleeting sometimes. We exchanged the final niceties and broke away on our separate life paths.

Whether you know this or not, Polaris industries now own both Victory and Indian motorcycle brands. They are going to be a force to be reckoned with. And you know who they are gunning for. Polaris makes some sort of utility vehicles as their major bread and butter. I don’t know much about what Polaris manufacturers outside of their motorcycle offerings, I guess I should have done a little research.

Apparently Polaris has monies to invest in their motorcycle endeavors. The Indian booth was a vaudeville show. A lot of effort and planning went into pushing and presenting their product at the show. During their presentations they were giving away all kinds of stuff which included shirts, hats, key chains and so forth. Coolcycledude got a free education at this booth. He learned (sorry about the third party speak) that if you give stuff away, you will put people in front of your booth.

One of the cool giveaways was that they had apps for the iPhone and Android phones. I have an iPhone, so I downloaded it right away. It’s pretty cool using it to promote their product right to your mobile device, but one part of the app is really cool. You twist your phone like a throttle and it makes the sound of the engines used in their motorcycles. So once you show your motorcycle friends, they’ll have to have it, too. Nice strategy to put their product in your face and the face of other motorcyclists.

So I walked around the show a little bit wiggling my iPhone near my ear so I could hear the engine noises with a smile on my face. Yep, I’m easily entertained. Okay, so we have the Polaris /Indian marketing campaign that was a warp 10. But there are only a few Indian models available. I am kind of surprised they didn’t try to introduce some new product. But I guess they’re trying to bring something back from the dead and I guess that takes a lot of work.

I also moseyed on over to the Victory show space. They also had some sort of entertainment going on, but nowhere near the magnitude of the Indian area. Last year, I also got a chance to ride all of their models and I thought they were very competitive products. Nice fit and finish, paint jobs and quality materials used in their construction. I myself am a Harley-Davidson man. But I do appreciate that Polaris industries is going to put the pressure on Harley-Davidson to raise the bar a little.

Of course I hit the Harley-Davidson area and was immediately immersed in an ocean of people wearing promotional products, including myself. Yep I’ve got a closet full of their outfits, too. I’m sure the other manufacturers look at the brand loyalty that Harley-Davidson has generated over the years and just drool.

But Harley-Davidson is on top of their game and they had a display where a potential customer could actually operate one of their motorcycles. This was the second year in a row that Harley did this. Again I’m no expert in marketing, but I cannot think of a better way to get potential customers on their motorcycles. And as I watched the people get on the motorcycle and a smile immediately flashed across their face imprinting a life experience that will not leave their brain until they start getting Alzheimer’s disease.

You know what they say “monkey see monkey do.” I still cannot understand why the other manufacturers do not have the same set up at the show. It just boggles my mind. Maybe they’re concerned about insurance or potential liabilities. Or possibly there other constraints at the facility that limit the amount of displays like the one Harley-Davidson has. I don’t know, but I definitely would be paying some people off so I could be doing the same thing to get customers.

Right around 11 o’clock the place got really jammed. I thought I was waiting in line to go to the washroom at Wrigley Field during the seventh inning stretch. I mean I’ve never seen so many people at this motorcycle show before. I’ve probably got around 25 years under my belt attending this show. I really hope this is a sign of the future for the motorcycle industry to prosper in the up and coming years. I don’t know what the official attendance was, but I’m going to guess that it was up from the last year.

Okay, this thing is getting too damn long, so it’s time to end it. You know I once had a rhetoric teacher tell me that I write too much. How in the hell are you supposed to interpret what that means? I guess I better get back on track. The usual suspects were all at the show such as Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Zero and BMW. Also, a first for me, I met up with one of my Twitter motorcycle people and that was very cool. I sometimes wonder who’s on the other end of their Twitter handles in my Twitter stream.

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