Opinion: The bike show, the Forum and the newsletter

I screwed up on Saturday when I went to the big Toronto bike show. I had to collect my wife from the airport at 6 pm, which is right around the corner from the show, so I arrived at lunchtime to allow a few hours in the exhibition halls. But her flight actually arrived at 9 pm, and I had more than eight hours there to kill.

You see a show differently when you have so much time. Some commenters on our CMG news story dismissed it outright as nothing but beef jerky salespeople and leather vests, with a tired format, but they didn’t actually attend and were writing from ignorance and previous prejudice before giving it a chance. Yes, there were four different vendors of jerky and sausage (most of it tasty, and I had many free samples), and there were plenty of vendors for leather club vests, but there were also exhibits for literally dozens of motorcycle clubs, motorcycle vacations and destinations, and discounted gear. Not to mention new bikes, used bikes, vintage bikes, insurance companies and lawyers, and handy-dandy stuff.

In fact, the show was as busy as I’ve ever seen it, and I was happy to have the extra time there to see the exhibits I’d normally brush past. We really do need a break in early January to remind us of the coming riding season, and it helps to find such a broad selection of gear. I bought some gloves and a tank bag; my buddy Andrew visited on the Sunday and bought a mesh jacket for $50 off. This year, the stunt riders were motocrossers flying through the air and the audience was enthralled; I’m not so sure about the scantily-clad Perfect Angelz and their dance show over by the custom bikes, but it takes all kinds.

That’s the thing about bikes: it takes all kinds. Dirt riders don’t care about chromed customs, while sport riders just don’t understand Gold Wings. I reckon there are at least half-a-dozen separate genres of motorcycles, and they look out for their own: race bikes, dirt bikes, cruisers, tourers, adventure bikes, commuter bikes – and that’s not even thinking about the sub-genres of customs and hill-climbers and trikes and scooters and the like, as well as, now, electric bikes.

The one thing we have in common is that we like to travel in the open and in the wind. That’s about it. But just because I will never, ever wear a pair of chaps doesn’t mean I look down on those who do. They’re just different from me, that’s all. Very different.

It’s these differences that we used to celebrate in the Readers’ Forum, originally the Soapbox, and I miss having that venue to read others’ opinions. We took down the Forum a few months ago because it was overrun with spam – mostly ads for Russian women and erectile dysfunction. We couldn’t figure out how to protect it while still allowing easy access to commenters, because when we insisted on people proving themselves to be real people and not bots, those same people objected to all the hoops we were forcing them to jump through. But we’ve got the techies on it, and we’re looking forward to reopening the Forum as soon as we can keep it secure.

We’re also looking forward to relaunching a redesigned newsletter, which has been on hold since the site crashed at the end of November. We’re still missing some 4,000 stories from the last five years, which are sitting safely in our server but not actually published; some have been republished manually as they’re needed, such as motorcycle reviews, but many more are just waiting for the site to be secure before coming back online.

It’s not been a straightforward fix: the techies told us they’ve never seen anything like it. A similar bug hit our parent company AutoTRADER.ca in a smaller way, and that had to be addressed first, but the computer people had to figure out just what the hell happened, then design an all-new system that would ensure it not happen again. In the middle of all that came Christmas and New Years, but we’re back to full strength again now. We’re looking forward to getting CMG’s missing stories back onto the site asap.

In the meantime, please be patient if you’re subscribed to the newsletter, or if you miss the Forum. When they do reappear, it will be worth the wait.


  1. I went Sat. evening and got cut short, as it closed at 8 instead of 9 as I expected.
    But 2 hours was enough to see most things. Missed hall 1 with the usual touring clubs and sunglass vendors. Did I miss anything new there?

    Overall, the show was slightly better than expected. Kawi, H-D and BMW corporate displays were good. I like seeing what the non-current market is like. Some deals can be pretty tempting. The MX freestyle show was pretty impressive. They were getting huge amplitude, considering it was indoors. I heard nothing about it beforehand, so not sure it was effective to bring people in.

    All trade shows are suffering in the interweb age, but I still value the opportunity to see and touch things in person. Twenty bucks is a lot, considering all the exhibitors are paying to be there too, but its a diversion on an otherwise bikeless weekend.

  2. Pure county fair cornball merchandising…Last show I went to for 15 minutes for the vintage stuff did have a
    show stopper near the entrance. Someone had a mobile rig to allow you to wheelie a Sportster on rollers.Besides who wanted to drive to Abbotsford (BC) and pay to park as well.Nothing of interest at
    these shows that I can’t see for free at a local dealer.

  3. BMW chose this venue to release the R18 and I think BMW should be applauded for this and stepping out of the normal production parameters.
    The manufacturers did attend this show until a dispute gave “reason” for splitting. Like a house divided a show divided makes both weaker. I have never experienced the foot traffic at the manufacturers show as I did last weekend at the International.
    The manufacturers need to get over the issues and once again join The biggest motorcycle show in North America.

  4. In the 10 years I’ve been going to the International Centre my big concern is how every year the show seems to get smaller and smaller, esp in the Vintage section. Hall 3 used to be full of all manner of Vintage bikes and all manner of cook cafe builders, dualsport clubs, racing clubs…this year I was shocked by how sparse it was. And fewer retailers as well. Dualsport Plus, Hully Gully, Apex, all stayed home. And the chopper guys seem to need less and less of Hall 5 every year. Still I hate the thought of missing it, but I feel like it might be on borrowed time.

    • I also noticed the absence of a few retailers and clubs and that there were fewer vintage bikes.

      As far as the vintage bikes go, I believe Bar Hodgson himself owned many of the ones displayed in previous years and with him selling the show his bikes were absent of course.

      • Don’t forget increasing numbers of vintage bike owners are getting out of keeping their bikes for reasons running from no room to store the bikes, poor health and permanent departures from this world.

    • The chopper segment is dying. The cafe racer segment is taking over but it may not have the legs that the chopper offers. Do I like choppers – no, never have, I was a cafe racer guy in the 70s but I’m more interested in the survival of the industry more than anything. We have become a virtual world, I enjoy training on an exercise bike more than riding. Sad to say. Then let’s look at the electric bike world, i think they are/will be in more trouble than our gasoline powered brothers. Most electric manufacturers are thinking that the future is sportbike models which i don’t think the average millennial is keen on. Very sadly, millenials don’t care for speed. Getting to point a to b is all they care about and Uber gets them there in comfort while they can text and upload a selfie to Instagram. I’m sorry but I sense our two wheeled industry is doomed. I wish someone could come up with an idea to keep it alive.

      • Millennials are getting older and more mature, you might want to substitute them with Gen Z when taking cheap shots at the younger generations.

      • Dean, I share your concerns regarding motorcycling’s future. I was speaking to an employee at a Hamilton motorcycle dealer and he said 2019 was a poor year for them. The weather takes some of the blame…lousy Spring, etc., but since when do you make a purchase decision like this based on weather? I ride whenever I can but I ride for transportation, also, and not just fun. This makes it so much more worthwhile…to use the bike as a vehicle. Our future (if we have one) lies in people rediscovering and acknowledging these machines as legitimate and practical transportation. And I get that winter takes people off the roads. High insurance rates for beginners and veterans, high-priced new machines and a generally negative view of riding take the rest of the prospects off the road. My 20 year-old son was quoted nearly $5K/ yr for insurance….really? And, yes, people are correct in their fear of being on 2 wheels. Look around and see the poor driving habits of car drivers. I bet 40 to 50 per cent of people are on their phones at some point. It is an epidemic. Aggressive driving is out of control. Many have decided it’s just not worth the risk.
        We need a European-style graduated licencing system, mandatory (I know people hate that word) safety training and an emphasis on less powerful, more street friendly bikes that allow people to safely and economically ride around, imho. A new rider should not be allowed to walk into a shop, plunk down his money and (try to) ride home on a 200+ HP motorcycle. Or an 800 pound bike. This is lunacy. Bad initial experiences or an accident take that person off bikes often for life. It’s a shame.
        I believe women are still a fast-growing segment of the riding population. This is great news and provides some light in the tunnel. Now it’s up to us to encourage young people to at least consider motorcycles and then to equip them, and the rest of the motoring public, to safely grow into riding over the years.

  5. I noticed a lot of vested clubs walking around. all polite. For myself, a club is the opposite reason I ride. At most I’ll ride with two other people. I also enjoy exploring with my wife. But those same guys could easily not understand why I would want to do that. So as stated in the article, there are many things that separate us but that’s taking the easy route. When that many different people show up for one venue it is still a club in it’s own right.

  6. So…. CMG challenge for 2020: Get Richardson to do a review of the various chaps that are available. On second thought, I can imagine it now “And it was important for me to review them all without my jeans to test how soft the leather is… ” (Shudder)…

  7. Quote “But just because I will never, ever wear a pair of chaps doesn’t mean I look down on those who do. They’re just different from me, that’s all. Very different.” —ROFL !

  8. I love the show for all the reasons you described. Motorcycle riders are a hugely diverse group of people and the show is a great way to expand our views. I’m a racer and sport tourer but I can appreciate the amount of time and effort it takes to create some of the custom bikes on display even if I’d never want to sit on one of them. My son was working the show in the 613 Motorsports booth and they were run off their feet all weekend long with the huge crowds.


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