It’s time to go to the bike show!

Now that your bike’s put away and all the wackiness of the holiday season is over, are you feeling kind of bummed? No fear, Canadian moto-nuts, the roads may be full of ice and the temperatures may be cold enough to freeze you into a giant popsicle, but motorcycle show season is about to start, with this weekend’s Toronto Supershow and Calgary Motorcycle Show.

Most towns only have one motorcycle show, but Toronto has three: the Supershow (at the International Centre this weekend, Jan. 4-6), the MMIC show (Feb. 15-17 at Enercare Centre) and the Spring Motorcycle Show (April 6-7 at the International Centre).

Otherwise, the Calgary show also runs this weekend, Jan. 4-6 at BMO Centre, the Edmonton show runs next weekend, Jan. 11-13 at the Expo Centre, the Vancouver show runs Jan. 18-20 at Abbotsford’s Tradex, the Quebec City show runs Feb. 1-3 at Centre de Foires d’Expocité, and the Montreal show runs Feb. 22-24 at Palais des congres. These are all organized by the manufacturers, through the Motorcycle and Moped Industry Council (MMIC). There used to be an MMIC show in Moncton but it won’t be held this year; the only show in Atlantic Canada is now the independent Halifax show, running March 1-3 at the Halifax Exhibition Centre.

As for which specific day of a show weekend to go, you’ll usually see less of a crowd Friday, which can be good or bad, depending on whether you’re hoping to meet up with other riding buddies. Friday is always ladies’ night at the MMIC shows, so women can get a discount on admission after a certain cut-off time, and also usually get a ticket for a female-only motorcycle draw. You typically see the biggest crowds Saturday, and traffic generally trails off Sunday afternoon.

But first! What can you expect at the bike show? What’s there to do, to see? Why bother going?

What to see?

Well, duh. Motorcycles. Lots and lots of motorcycles. The whole point of the motorcycle show season is to get new products in front of buyers, especially new motorcycles.

While the independent shows might not have official OEM presence, the MMIC shows are sponsored by the manufacturers, and most of them have official displays from the Big Four Japanese manufacturers, Harley-Davidson and Indian, and most of the European manufacturers. Sometimes, smaller manufacturers are represented at the dealer level at the MMIC shows, which means you’ll see most of the new models there, even without an official OEM setup.

The motorcycle show circuit is the best place to see the new models all under one roof.

The independent shows might have the occasional OEM display, but often there’s more of an emphasis on dealership displays, which means you might see a mixture of new bikes, leftovers from the previous season, and maybe even used bikes. At some shows, there might even be a significant used motorcycle market, with private sellers bringing their bikes in — Toronto’s Springshow and Supershow both have used machines for sale.

Along with motorcycles, there is usually a fair amount of gear and accessories on display. Several (not all) of Canada’s big aftermarket importers have significant floor space at the shows. This gives you a chance to try on new gear that you might otherwise never see at your local dealer (who’d be only too happy to order it in for you, if you know your size). Or if you’re shopping online, again, this is a perfect chance to figure out sizing.

Most of the shows have some sort of display of vintage bikes or otherwise interesting machines (despite the demise of those customization programs on TV, chopper displays are still a thing at some shows, and now we’re seeing “barn find” displays, to further emulate the glamorous life of reality television). Depending on the show, you might see race teams showing off their bikes and trying to raise sponsors. Some shows often have a large contingent of motorcycle clubs present, hoping to persuade you to join the Brotherhood of Tim Hortons Loiterers, or the Sisterhood of Starbucks Runners, or whatever.

You can also check out interesting gear and accessories at the motorcycle shows, including stuff from smaller manufacturers that you’d never see in your local small town motorcycle shop.

Finally, the MMIC shows in particular usually have several riding demonstrations. There’s often a stunt team performing mad wheelies and stoppies, and at some shows, you’ll get a trials riding demo too.

What to do?

The shows are more about “showing” stuff, but there are some things to do as well.

The most exciting activity, at least for the kids, is the Yamaha Riding Academy at the MMIC shows. This traveling moto-school puts kids aboard minibikes and gives them basic riding instruction. It’s a great way to expose children to motorcycle riding in a safe environment.

The Yamaha Riding Academy is a mainstay of the MMIC shows, getting kids out on minibikes and learning the basics.

There’s also a fair bit of shopping opportunity at most of the shows, ranging from dealer displays hawking their helmets, jackets, etc. at good prices (usually), to independent entrepreneurs selling their moto products (ear plugs, ratchet straps, chrome polish, etc.), to less motorcycle-oriented stuff (beard oil, hillbilly teeth, beef jerky). Some shows, the Toronto Spring show in particular, have a big emphasis on swap meet-style sales for used motorcycle parts.

Some of the shows also have lounge-type areas for you to hang out with other motorcycle enthusiasts, often with a hipster-oriented angle, and lots of bobber and cafe-racer fans wandering about, muttering about pipe wrap and pod filters. And if winning prizes is your thing, most of the shows have some sort of giveaways, ranging from equipment to free motorcycles (the Toronto MMIC show is giving away three bikes this winter, and the Spring show has a poetry contest for cash prizes).

You’ll also see smaller-scale manufacturers at the shows. This might be your best bet to check out cool stuff like this Suru electric moped.

Why to go?

There’s lots to see and stuff to do at the motorcycle show, but the biggest reason to go is to just plain survive the winter. It can be a long, long time between putting your bike away for the winter and getting it out for the spring, especially if you’re not working on any maintenance or other moto projects over the winter. Do yourself a favour and get out to the bike show — there’s no better way in Canada to remember that spring is coming, with all its two-wheeled glory.

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