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Sunday, 25 October 2015

The Biker Brotherhood and Dogs

It's no secret about the biker brotherhood, doesn't matter what you ride if you meet another rider there will always be that two-wheeled connection. Of all the riders I have met for the most part have been good folks, luckily I have only come across the odd arsehole.

The best moments are when you meet another biker in the most unlikely of places or a person you know in passing turns out to be a biker and an instant bond forms.

That was the case this past week. As you know I was lucky enough to attend the AIMExpo in Orlando. Most of that reason is I have annual recurrent flight training at FlightSafety International at the Orlando airport and my company pays for the trip down. I get to spend the weekend at the show, and then a fun-filled week of 18hrs of classroom and 15hrs of flight simulator dealing with every emergency possible, and living to tell the tale at the end of it.

Ok, where is all this going you may ask. Well......I bought an Ace Cafe t-shirt from Red Torpedo, a UK based clothing company. A cool one at that, they sponsor Guy Martin and John McGuinness. Their clothing is high quality and built to stand the test of time, and oddly enough not made in China. Portugal in fact.

So I am proudly wearing my Ace Cafe t-shirt on the last day of school at FlightSafety. I show up in the morning and as usual I checkout the various bikes parked in the lot. Nice Indian Chieftain, a beautiful Triumph Bonnie and a rare Yamaha SR400 (not available in Canada). I'm barely in the lobby a few minutes and one of the instructors that I have never met comes over and comments on my shirt. Tells me he owns the Bonnie out front and that I have to go show the centre manager my shirt because he has a Thruxton Ace Cafe Edition.

On my break from our simulator session I walk in the the centre mangers office and say,  "I hear you have a nice Thruxton."  Chip lifts his head with a big smile, and what follows is a conversation about the AIMExpo, retro bikes, the Ace Cafe, and my trip to the UK in November. Chip bought a new Bonnie and then went back and got the Thruxton Ace Cafe Edition a few days later, man after my own heart. He said send me some pics of you at the Ace in London. Consider it done Chip.

I have been going to FlightSafety Orlando for over ten years, and I have known Ted, the assistant centre manager that long as well. Ted is a great guy, always smiling, easy to talk to, and a great instructor as well. 

All this time and I never knew Ted rode a bike, in fact he has three, a Yamaha, Harley and a new Indian. The Chieftain I was admiring in the parking lot. So we start talking about bikes and I mention how I want to hack my Guzzi. Ted said he would like a car for the HD so he can carry his Lab around. Ted has a Chocolate Lab too. Well, the biker bond was firmly cemented with our love for Labs and the desire to have them ride with us.

My friend Pudge summed it up, "you biker guys have the same bond as smokers" which is pretty funny, if you ever see the way smokers bond while standing outside in freezing rain sucking back tar and nicotine. 

So basically it's a long winded way of saying you find fellow bikers in every facet of life, and how one moment a person you hardly know becomes a 2-wheeled friend for life.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

AIMExpo Part 2

Unfortunately due to my work schedule I was unable to attend the show early to take in the dealer days free from the public masses. It would have been nice to have the vendors in little more of an intimate setting to plug them for more info, and it would have given me more time to really take in the show.

Since I only had one afternoon and morning, I never did make it over to the outdoor portion of the show. It's too bad because most of the OEM's were doing demo rides, and it would have been nice to take out one of the Zero electric bikes, and a Honda NC700 with the DCT. Maybe next year.

Zero had a good display of bikes on hand it was nice to see them in attendance. Battery technology is growing in leaps and bounds and the range on electric vehicles keeps getting better and better.

Zero is a garage start-up company that put out it's first prototype in 2006 out of Santa Cruz, California, and have rapidly grown since with six models in it's current line-up.

Even police departments are getting the bikes. The quiet nature of the bikes make them great for stealth, and for noise sensitive areas like parks. Range on the new bikes varies from 110 miles to almost 200 on a single charge. They can also be charged up from a basic 110 outlet.

If I lived in a large city where I could ride most of the year, I'd definitely consider one for commuting as a second bike.

Kawasaki had a fairly large presence, but no real revelations. A KLR with digital camo that you can see in the background of the pic below. The H2R was there, but roped off, with KEEP OFF on it. Wild looking bike with strakes and spoilers on the fairing, reminding me of an F1 car.

The new Vulcan S has been a good seller for Kawasaki, and they had a big display, with various models showing the different ergo set ups. They have a cafe version, but I just don't see the "cafe" in it. Must be a decaf version.

Poor Ninjas were drove right up the wall.

I was really excited to see Olympia Motosports at the show. If you remember they sponsored Pete and I in "Two Wheels Thru the Bigland" by send us X-Moto suits. I still wear mine, and it continues keeps me warm and dry in the worst conditions.

I finally got to meet Kevin Rhea, the owner of Olympia, face to face. Really nice guy, that is passionate about his apparel line. The Moto-X that Pete and I used is now called the MotoQuest, named after the MotoQuest tour company that they provide gear for. Still a great suit that keeps getting improved upon.

Kevin told me he just sold the business to Motovan of Canada, but is staying on for 3 years to oversee   everything. I hope they continue the great quality. Hopefully Kevin will soon have some more time to enjoy his new 1200GS.

Suzuki also had a large display at the show, they've been coming since the show originated 3 years ago.

The Strom will always have a special place in my heart

BMW was here too, with all the usual suspects, and a couple of really cool concept bikes. K1600 Bagger, and my favourite surf bike.

The bagger is a Roland Sands design, that has been hinted at going into production.

Malcolm Smith was in attendance this, however I missed meeting the American racing legend who is from British Columbia. His appearance alongside Steve MacQueen in the Bruce Brown film On Any Sunday catapulted him into 2-wheeled stardom. 

Malcolm was promoting his autobiographical book now available. It's a big booked filled with a lot of never seen before photos.

Italian racing legends

2 Ride the World, Lisa and Simon Thomas were presented with new bikes. Fully kitted it out and ready for more adventure. Click the link to find out all about their adventures so far.

Sena has jumped into the helmet market with a noise cancelling, Bluetooth helmet, no pricing details at this time. No more ear plugs and having music and your phone available on long trips would be very nice.

Schuberth was in attendance again, and they have jumped into the increasingly popular ADV market with their version.

 Ace Cafe is getting ready to open their Orlando cafe in January and had a large presence at the show, with all kinds of trinkets for sale. I'm headed to the UK next month and will be heading out to visit the original. 

Some crazy-assed Mickey Roarke custom build. No suspension and knobs. Looks comfortable.

Never heard of Premier helmets, but that some pretty cool looking retro style lids, full and open face.

Seems like everyone has a sports camera these days. 4K resolution, I'd like to try that out.

I thought the show was good, but it is easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of vendors and gear available to view. I really wished I could have been there for the first two dealer only days when all the marketing folks were out in full force and willing to talk about all the new stuff. I find once the show opens to the public, most vendors have lost a lot of steam.

The one difference I did find this year is the increasing number of vendors from India and China, which I suspect is going to only grow in numbers as they're manufacturing continues to improve and the demand for less-expensive gear increases.

I'll sign off with what I thought was one of the best parts of the show....the Japanese Vintage Bike Club. A huge collection of beautifully restored Japanese motorcycles sold prior to 1984. I was brought back to my childhood, and teenage years.