5 stories from the 2017 Vancouver Motorcycle Show that will surprise you

The author ventures to the edges of Tradex to root for The Underdog at the 2017 Vancouver Motorcycle Show

by Trevor Marc Hughes

Terry Rea stands next to Trev Deeley's favourite bike.

Terry Rea stands next to Trev Deeley’s favourite, a 1949 Harley-Davidson WR Racer. — Trevor Marc Hughes photo

Often, the focus of much media attention during motorcycle shows across Canada is on the hot bike. It could be the one expected to be the best seller or the trendsetter. Remember last year’s Honda Africa Twin? How could we forget?

Motorcycle manufacturers have a great opportunity to promote that prominent bike in their lineup at the Canadian string of motorcycle shows. Sometimes at past shows, I’d been tempted to take more time to take in the smaller booths on the periphery of the exhibition space. This was my chance. Away from the major manufacturers I hoped to find, from the underdogs untold stories and up-and-coming talent.

Top products and specific booths is where I’m at this year in a review of the 2017 Vancouver Motorcycle Show, which took place January 20 to 22 at the Tradex in Abbotsford, B.C. And I shopped local whenever possible.

1. Canadian National Champion Jonathan Finn

How envious are the classmates of this 13-year-old honour student? Where most kids his age are getting used to their locker combination, Jonathan Finn is setting his sights on racing at the MotoGP level.

Motorcycle road racing phenom Jonathan Finn.

Jonathan Finn, who is from Bushell Park, Saskatchewan, is a Canadian Motorcycle Association National Champion. — Trevor Marc Hughes photo

Finn has collected four Canadian National Championships and several regional championships in Mini Road Racing. His smile said it all as he sat astride his bike, posing for photographs in his modest booth, eyes focused and appearing much wiser than his years.

Going head-to-head against the best MiniGP riders in Europe has sharpened Finn’s race skills and he is bound for Spain in 2017, when he will take part in the Spanish Speed Championship’s Challenge 85 series.

Finn has been racing for seven years already and is showing no signs of slowing down.

2. The Deeley Exhibition

Visitors to the show had no problem determining it had been 100 years since Harley-Davidson motorcycles were available for purchase in Vancouver. Trev Deeley Motorcycles opened its doors in August 1917, making it one of the oldest H-D dealerships in the world.

Terry Rea shows off a 1920 Harley-Davidson WJ Sport Twin.

Terry Rea shows off a 1920 Harley-Davidson WJ Sport Twin. — Trevor Marc Hughes photo

Next to one of the largest pieces of real estate at Tradex that was dedicated to the current offerings in their lineup was the small H-D space containing just six motorcycles. But these were not just any motorcycles. Ranging from the 1920s through to 1976, the vintage motorbikes ranged from an olive green 1920 WJ Sport Twin to a red 1976 SX125.

It was next to a 1949 WR Racer that I met Terry Rea, who has worked at Trev Deeley Motorcycles for decades as an events coordinator, as a service manager and more recently a historian. He knew Trev Deeley personally and tells me the bike next to us, a black WR Racer numbered 22, was his favourite. Deeley raced the bike in the 1950 Daytona 200, taking 10th place.

Rea is a consummate storyteller who thrives on the frequent interaction with visitors that the motorcycle show offers. He even told me he worked with Johnny Depp and many others as a stunt double in many movies and television shows filmed in Vancouver, such as Wiseguy and MacGyver. Whenever someone needed to have an actor do something daring on a motorcycle, he told me, he would get dressed up as that actor and ride into frame.

Rea was keen to get across to me that it was “a small miracle” to have the vintage motorcycles displayed outside of the exhibition’s home on Boundary Road in Vancouver.

3. Flat Track Canada

Every motorcycle show is an opportunity to learn, and to the right of the entrance to Tradex was my opportunity.

The Flat Track Canada booth.

Flat track is enjoying a revival, according to Flat Track Canada. — Trevor Marc Hughes photo

Flat Track Canada is dedicated to reviving interest in, what it claims, is the oldest form of motorcycle competition. It was big in the 1960s and ’70s, declining in popularity in the ’80s. Flat Track Canada claims that attendance at flat track events is up, partly due to a revived interest in dirt track motocross bikes and the simplicity of the racing format. Participants just show up, sign in and race.

Across British Columbia there are plenty of flat track events, as was made quite obvious by the many leaflets that were on offer at Flat Track Canada's table. Flat Track BC is hosting races in May, July and August at Pemberton Speedway and there are upcoming indoor race events at the Armstrong I.P.E. Grounds.

Visit the Flat Track BC website and the Flat Track Canada website for more details about this reviving race format and how you can learn to do it from the pros.

4. Moto Meccanica

For those with an interest in Italian motorcycles, located across from the Ducati section were several modified Ducati motorcycles. A red-and-white 1299 Panigale welcomed visitors into the spare booth.

A customized Panigale at the Moto Meccanica booth.

A customized Panigale at the Moto Meccanica booth. — Trevor Marc Hughes photo

For MV Agusta, Aprilia and, yes, Ducati enthusiasts, the Burnaby-based specialists at Moto Meccanica work on engine builds in their Merritt Avenue workshop, preparing bikes for track days and competitive racing.

Customizing bikes from “The Boot” is another specialty. The six spotless race bikes on display at the booth reminded me of the Deeley Exhibition I had visited earlier, except the Italian bikes were ready to race. Impressive.

5. Globe trotter Jeremy Kroeker

You may have seen his motorcycle travel books, Motorcycle Therapy and Through Dust and Darkness, at your local bookshop. He has ridden a Kawasaki KLR650 all over the world. But in 2015, Jeremy Kroeker did something unprecedented. He compiled a collection of stories from some of the most prominent and accomplished travellers on two wheels, successfully crowdfunded the project through Indiegogo, and produced Motorcycle Messengers: Tales From the Road by Writers Who Ride into the world.

Jeremy Kroeker is an award-winning author of "Motorcycle Therapy: A Canadian Adventure in Central America." — Trevor Marc Hughes photo

Featuring tales from the likes of motorcycle adventurers and authors Lois Pryce, Sam Manicom, former Rush drummer Neil Peart and Ted Simon, the book has been a success story, allying authors and writers used to penning their stories alone, and creating an anthology for those of us dreaming of spending weeks, months and years travelling the world by motorcycle. The word is that Kroeker is working on another collection of stories through his publishing company Oscillator Press and seeking submissions.

Next time you’re at a motorcycle show, show and shine, classic bike meet or other similar event, I recommend visiting the smaller tables. There’s plenty to see with the big manufacturers to be sure, but sometimes you’ll find the more memorable stories with the individual vendors . . . and that’s certainly what I found at Tradex in Abbotsford this year.

Trevor Marc Hughes is a writer, an adventure rider and a book author. You can see what Hughes is up to on Twitter @trevormarchughes or by visiting his website.

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