Motocrosser versus motorcycle show

A quick peek at the Vancouver Motorcycle Show, which took place January 17 to 20, 2013

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A close up of a shiny gold motorcycle.

Attendees of the 2013 Vancouver Motorcycle Show got to oogle over the newest bikes on the market. — Jim Muir photo

The Vancouver Motorcycle Show is actually in Abbotsford, B.C. It was a beautiful drive along rural farm roads, with the mountains as a backdrop, to get to the location beside the airport. I was feeling good. Then I hit the parking lot.

About 20 minutes later, I found a spot to park about a mile and a half from the entrance to the show. OK, I’m exaggerating a bit, but I was amazed at the masses flocking to the event. According to the press gal, they expected about 33,000 people to attend. As I trekked to the entrance I was thinking, “This is gonna be fun.” Then I hit the lineup to get in. Fortunately, I remembered I was on “the list,” and I squeezed past the line, walked up to the media counter, got my pass and I was in. I took one last look at the lineup for tickets and thought, "See ya later suckers!

This was getting fun again—until I entered the building and absorbed the throngs of people walking shoulder to shoulder in tiny little grandma steps. I merged into the melee, but no matter which way I walked I felt like I was swimming against the traffic. Everything I came across that seemed like it was worth seeing required me to either stand on my tippy-toes, elbow my way forward rudely or wait patiently for people to move along. It was like being stuck in a traffic jam all day long. It was evident that the vast majority of people attending the show were street bike riders, and I was reminded of a thought I’ve often had about the difference between riding a motorcycle on the street and on a motocross track.

Motocross versus street bike

I’ve had plenty of street bikes in my days, and yeah, I like them, but not like I love motocross. Street bike riders talk about the freedom of riding a motorcycle, but they obviously haven’t ridden motocross.

For me, riding a street bike is, at best, a “limited” kind of freedom. In motocross, you can go as fast as you can go, wheelie whenever you feel the urge and spin your tires in every corner. Apparently, this is frowned upon when riding a street bike. When I had my Suzuki GSX 750 I felt constrained. I chose my moments to really let ’er go, but I still ended up paying thousands of dollars in fines until they finally just took my licence away. You call that freedom?

Being at the motorcycle show made me feel constrained, but for street bike riders, I get it. If you’re in the market for a new street bike, it’s a fantastic opportunity to see all the bikes in one place, see which ones appeal to you esthetically and sit on them to get a feel for which one fits you best.

As a dirt biker, though, this doesn’t really apply. Dirt bikers only care about how a bike performs, and looking at them or sitting on them tells you nothing. This brought me to the thought that occupied me for the rest of the day.

Two kinds of bikers

As I watched people ogling over various bikes, it occurred to me that there were two kinds of bikers and various degrees of these types in between. There are those for whom motorcycles are a means to enjoy a particular experience and those for whom motorcycles are a sort of egocentric expression of “self.”

For the first type of rider, the particular bike they have matters very little—it’s all about the pleasure of enjoying the experience of riding and how the bike performs. Of course, some bikes are more pleasurable to ride than others and perform better but on the whole, these people can have fun on virtually any bike.

Then there are other people for whom a motorcycle is an object to behold, a thing of beauty, to desire and possess. They choose their motorcycles as an expression of their individuality and put them on a pedestal for all to see. These people spend hours cleaning and polishing their bikes, and sometimes even cover them up and leave them in the garage so no harm can come to them.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to sound overly critical here, I’ve been there myself and I get it. I believe that some bikes are works of art, and I love bikes enough that I too dribble out of the corners of my mouth over particular bikes. I know exactly what bike expresses “me” perfectly and if money was no object, I’d own it.

My point is just that this distinction exists and usually both elements co-exist to various degrees within every biker—and further, that motorcycle shows cater to the second aspect of biking I’ve described.

As a dirt biker, though, I have come to lean more and more towards the first aspect of motorcycling. For me, it’s all about the experience provided and less and less about the object itself. I think this explains why I stopped going to motorcycle shows. They’re great for some people—33,000 people to be exact—but not so much for me and probably not for most dirt bikers.

It was still fun

With this understanding, I have to say that there was still lots to enjoy at the bike show. Jordon Szoke put on an amazing trials riding display; there was a freestyle performance and a little circle track where kids could get on an automatic bike and actually ride. And, of course, there was a good selection of exotic bikes to drool over! I was able to handle the constraint of the elbow-to-elbow crowds for almost two hours before I headed back to the arenacross races in Chilliwack to see motorcycles do what they really love to do—perform!

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