Friday, 12 December 2008

The Pilgrimage 2008 Review

You have been warned

The big number first, we took some 700+ photos at this years NEC Motorcycle Show and you should find some 424 uploaded on my flickr page. To make things easy they are in alphabetical order, so have a skim through or just look for your favourite motorcycles.

So what news from the show? Well, the most noticeable piece of information missing from most manufactures were retail prices for next year, while the general consensus is that they are all going to go up in price. The reasoning is straight-forward, while money was readily available they could sell more units at a lower price, while now they will be selling less units so the price will have to go up. Some (like Honda) have already announced that they are cutting production next year, I already saw this earlier this year when I bought my Buell, manufacturers just are not going to risk keeping large 'reserves' of motorcycles sitting around. So try and get your deals this year, because they may not be that easy to get from next year onwards.

Hall 1 of 4...yes, the show is popular

While on the topic of Honda, I got to meet Neil Tuxworth (Honda Racing manager) briefly at the show and got a chance to ask a few questions. He is very positive about the BSB season coming up, while he quickly dismissed the rumours of going to WSB earlier this year as just inventions by the media. He was extremely pleasant to talk to and was happy to make some time to speak to a fan. The V4 Concept bike was of interest and while talking to a few dealers they insisted that the VFR will not become a V5 when it is updated. Instead they want to keep the V4 and similar engine CC. The V5 project will be an entirely new model and not a re-imagining of the VFR or Blackbird, they will either continue as separate models or cease altogether. While on the VFR the only colour option next year will be white in the UK (as in my flickr pics).

Neil Tuxworth & Myself


The BMW stand was probably my surprise favourite of the show. They now have an option to make virtually all their models lower with a new factory option that replaces the rear shock and adds a lower seat for less then £100. Trying out the motorcycles was like a real eye-opener, models which I previously thought of as uncomfortable/unwieldy (like the R 1200 RT or R 1200 GS) were now easy to get on, feet down and very confidence inspiring. The only catch with this option is that you loose the option of fitting the ESA (the electronically adjusted suspense option), but there are still the usual adjusters on the motorcycles. So for those of us who have not used the ESA before, then there is nothing to miss. BMW even had a demo area to try out all the low model options to further convince those who are still unsure. I can confidently say that the R1200GS and R1200RT are now on my wish-list of motorcycles.

The BMW R1200GS, the seat height can go lower!

Being a Buell owner I was expecting great things from the Buell/Harley-Davidson stand. Especially since in the states owners were being given free T-shirts and after last year were my partner and I got loads of goodies. Well this year this was the most disappointing stand. The people manning the Buell stand had little interest in the brand or little knowledge. The only person who did want to chat spent all his time telling is about his Honda Accord! That and there were nothing to purchase even though they had clothing and accessories on display. Well, that was their loss and I spent my long saved money on other stands. Hopefully this will be addressed in the future or at least by the Irish Motorcycle Show in February.

The Suzuki was very brightly lit! One felt that they were in some sort of dust-free room. They also had the best feature of any other stand...free Tea/Coffee! You were asked to leave a donation and they had big comfy couches. The staff were very friendly and good to have a chat/laugh with. We also got to see if the complaints about the Bandit 1250GT topbox were true. Sadly it is, the topbox is fitted in such a way that it uses up a few inches of the pillion seat. With both my partner and I on board (without gear) I found myself almost sitting on the tank. This is a shame for such a well priced/specified motorcycle. Fix that and it is a proper GT contender.

Nick Sanders 'fresh' from his 60,000km ride...

Ducati was the usual...giving nothing away! Still, my partner has a soft spot for them and purchased some gear from their clothing stall. The new 1198 was the main draw and it is very impressive looking. While the Multistrada is probably the only model of interest to me, but it does have a face that only a mother could love. Rumours have it they will be fitting the 1198 lump to it and giving in a fresh redesign for 2010 to really go up against the BMW R1200GS, so maybe we shall see that next year.

KTM was the stand I was most looking forward to visiting as the new 990 SMT had me excited. The 990 Adventure has always been a favourite of mine, but its sheer size has always made me hesitate. The new SMT though is much more comfortable and feels much more manageable for a shorty like me. I would recommend that anyone looking for an interesting Sports/Adventure/Tourer type motorcycle have a look at it. The Buell XT's plush seat has really spoilt my partner and I as the only complaint we had about the SMT was the seat, yet that is soon fixed with a look at an aftermarket accessory catalogue.

James Toseland wows the crowds


For my Buell Ulysses XB12XT I bought a pair of Pazzo clutch/brake levers from the Speedycom stand (though the partner has impounded them until xmas...). They are the 'shorty' in black, with a red clicker. The current levers become a pain to use when commuting and my hand soon start aching from reaching, the current clutch lever is not even adjustable. So expect a review and fitting guide in the near future. Also I spoke to some people from Quill exhausts (mine is already badly rusting) who offered a stainless steel exhaust for a very reasonable price and would even fit free of charge if I rode in. So If I visit the UK on the Buell that will be a priority. I have also found that I can buy my tires from the UK and have them shipped over for half the price as they cost here in Ireland. All I would have to pay for is fitting. This is why I love going to shows!

We also got to see James Toseland performing live, his band 'Crash', would be joining him for the weekends. He was very good and was happy to have a laugh, he had nothing to hold his music sheets on so had to resort to using a tea towel...it was a very 'Frank Spencer' moment. We also got to see Chris Walker, James Whitham, Niall Mackenzie and talked to a whole range of 'personalities'. If you ever get a chance to call into the Nolan Racing stand be sure to ask the lads about their experiences on the road and on the MotoGP grid (my lips are sealed).

Of course we have to mention the show is sponsored by Carole Nash

Once again it was a great event with loads going on. We even got to see the 'Batpod' from the latest Batman movie 'The Dark Knight'. I hope you got to see the show yourself, if not then our photos should give you a taste, but try to make some space on the calendar for next year. With the money we saved on gear and accessories the show almost paid for itself.

So one last time, to see all the photos head to my flickr page!

As always...keep the rubber side down.