Opinion: The Motorcycle Show

We’re lucky in Toronto, compared to the rest of Canada, because we have three full-fledged motorcycle shows every winter. They’re evenly spaced, about six weeks apart, and they fill that period of bad riding nicely.

The next Toronto show is this weekend, held downtown at the Enercare Centre in Exhibition Place. This is the show that’s run by the manufacturers themselves, so it’s the place to get a first look at some of the new models that will come to showrooms this year. Harley-Davidson will be there with the new Pan America and Bronx pre-production bikes, Ducati will show off the Streetfighter V4, Yamaha will debut its entry-level MT-03, and plenty more. We’ll give you a proper, all-inclusive rundown here at CMG on Friday.

There’s a different feel to this show than for the other two of the season – the massive Motorcycle Supershow at the beginning of January, and the Spring Motorcycle Show on the first weekend of April. This month’s show is produced by an organization called Power Sports Services, which is wholly owned by the Motorcycle Moped Industry Council (MMIC) and the Canadian Off-Highway Vehicle Distributors Council (COHV), which between them represent all the relevant motorcycle and ATV manufacturers in Canada. There are booths for clothing and schools and destinations, but the show is geared toward the vehicles themselves.

Ducati showed off its latest superbike at last year’s Toronto Motorcycle Show.

There are five similar shows across Canada, also produced by Power Sports Services. They’re almost done now, in this coldest time of the year. We’ve already had consumer shows in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Quebec; Montreal will tie them off at the end of this month.

It wasn’t always the case. For the 10 years between 1993 and 2002, the MMIC co-ordinated with promoter (and collector) Bar Hodgson to hold a combined show with the January Supershow. That was a huge show that filled the halls of the International Centre beside the airport, but the manufacturers grew to dislike it. They shared space with the sellers of beef jerky and fake vampire teeth, and they wanted a “classier” environment: one with more light, less support pillars, and comfortable carpet on the floor. They wanted to show off their new motorcycles in a place they could better control, and after arguing back and forth for a couple of years, they split away to run their own show.

Honda’s Xasis concept bike stirred some emotions at the 2002 Toronto Motorcycle Show.

That first MMIC show, held in December 2002 at the National Trade Centre, included the Honda NAS 1000 “Xasis” concept bike and Suzuki’s GSV-R Moto GP bike — both direct from the locked vaults of the manufacturers themselves. Attendance, however, was a fraction of the Supershow the following month, where dealers tried to provide upcoming models on their stands, but their supply was thwarted and they could only display what was already on their showroom floors.

Even so, the January Supershow hasn’t slowed down yet. It has a lock on the first weekend of the year, and it’s an excuse to wear your leather vest, meet up with friends, and chow down on jerky. Bar Hodgson eventually sold it to the company that publishes On Snow Magazine and it still claims to be “the largest motorcycle show in North America,” which it probably is.

The North American International Motorcycle Supershow claims to be the biggest bike show on the continent.

In April, the Spring show used to be more of a swap meet downtown, but in recent years, new owner Peter Derry has turned it into a large and well-attended show in its own right. It takes up some of the same halls of the International Centre that are used by the Supershow, and it hosts some of the same dealers, jerky salespeople and bike clubs. It’s well-timed for right at the start of the season, when we’re all starting to prepare our bikes and anxious to get riding again.

So where does this leave the clean-cut Toronto Motorcycle Show? It leaves it debuting motorcycles on the well-lit carpeting of the Enercare Centre, and I, for one, am pleased there are three bike shows in the city. I hope each of them prospers as more people discover our passion for motorcycles.

The fear, of course, is that motorcycles are a tough sell these days, with high insurance rates and a costly price of entry, but that’s all fodder for another column. Motorcycle shows help to display and rekindle our passion, and promote riding as a way of life. If you care about bikes, get down to the show to let everyone know you feel the same way. I’ll see you there.

Interested in some exotic travel? Come talk to Rene Cormier at Renedian Adventures – Booth 1338 at this year’s Toronto Motorcycle Show.

6 thoughts on “Opinion: The Motorcycle Show”

  1. We are spoiled in the first world. I was recently in Costa Rica and noted that almost all bikes were 150cc singles. I went into a Yamaha store and found out why. The Yamaha 150 was $4,000 US!! The MT-03 was $12,000 US!! All from taxes and such on a “luxury” bike like a 300cc twin. At Blackfoot in Calgary I can get a new “Motorcycle Show Special” 2018 R3 for $4,000 loonies!! Our bikes are dirt cheap. I can get a mint, barely used Ninja 300 for less than $2,500. Awesome bike, I own one. We all want a Ninja 400, hence I cannot give my 300 away. It is not mint, it has helped several beginners learn to ride. It has helped me improve my skills, in my hands there are no remaining chicken strips, a first ever for me. In Canada it is derided as a “beginner” bike, in Costa Rica I would be a rock star. Cam

    1. Tell you what, when I see these videos of guys riding their big-bore bikes through the hoi polloi of the developing world, I often wonder if they feel like an absolute boob on their $20k machines. Only time I’ve been in that scenario, I was riding a 50 cc scooter and I was still faster than at least half the vehicles on the road. I felt it made me a lot more approachable by locals, and I didn’t feel quite as much like mid-career Smedley Butler.

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