Motorcycle Show Vancouver shows off 2014's best bikes

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Unlike cars, motorcycles are, for the most part, discretionary transportation. You don’t buy a motorcycle because you need one; you buy it because you want one.

When the economy isn’t up to snuff, motorcycle sales are one of the first things to suffer. If people are having trouble making ends meet, the last thing in the world they’re thinking about is a new bike.

By that yardstick, things must be looking up, because according to the Motorcycle & Moped Industry Council, motorcycle sales were up last year. They're not at the levels of, say, five years ago, but definitely better than they were. Leading the way are Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta, with large-displacement cruisers accounting for the majority of sales by a long shot.

There will be cruisers in abundance at this year’s Motorcycle Show Vancouver, set for this weekend (January 24 to 26) at the TRADEX in Abbotsford. Harley-Davidson, for example, will be featuring the largest new-model introduction in its history, with eight new bad boys being unveiled. All will feature Harley’s revised 103-cubic-inch V-twin, with improved aerodynamics on the touring models.

But arguably the biggest news coming out of Milwaukee is the new line of “street” bikes. In a nutshell, these are 500-cc and 750-cc city bikes with attitude to spare but not aimed at the traditional older riders. Street models are intended for a new demographic: younger buyers, with women figuring prominently in the company’s strategy. The 750, for example, is completely blacked out and is powered by a 740-cc V-twin mated to a six-speed transmission. Weighing in at 480 pounds, it’s aimed at “a new generation” of motorcycle enthusiasts. It should go on sale this spring.

Yamaha—one of Harley’s fiercest competitors—has four new bikes for 2014. These include the 950-cc Bolt: again, an urban machine tricked out and aimed at riders who want the power but not the discomfort. Yamaha says the Bolt will be priced at just under $10,000. It joins a new FZ-09 “naked” bike.

At Honda, meanwhile, the entry into the growing street-fighter market is the CTX700, which is equally at home in town and on the road. It has an upright riding position, moderately sporty suspension, and a 670-cc parallel twin for power. Also from Honda, the Valkyrie is back—breathed upon and stripped down for 2014. It has the same 1,800-cc flat six with more attitude than ever, according to the company.

For Italian-bike lovers, Ducati is bringing its Panigale 899 superbike to the party. Developing an eye-watering 148 horsepower, the 899 weighs in at a measly 425 pounds. Do the power-to-weight-ratio math and you’ll come up with a bike that’s essentially a race machine in street-bike clothes. Make no mistake, this one is an acquired taste.

Moto Guzzi, meanwhile, has a freshened-up California 1400 for the new model year. Powered as ever by an air-cooled transverse V-twin, the California is apparently good for some 96 horsepower and, in the company’s words, is a “world ambassador” for Moto Guzzi. Ewan McGregor likes it.

About as far away from the California as you can get without going onto the track is Kawasaki’s new-for-’14 Z1000. This is a hellaciously quick sport bike designed to get you there as rapidly as possible. There’s some 140-plus horsepower at your behest, and it weighs in at a paltry 487 pounds. Yeah, it’s fast, and definitely not for beginners.

Suzuki, meanwhile, has a new iteration of its popular V-Strom dual sport adventure model, the 1000. This is one of those bikes that can, in a pinch, double as a sport bike while offering outstanding long-distance cruising. Its liquid-cooled 1,037-cc V-twin has been redesigned and now comes with adjustable ABS. Suzuki may no longer be selling automobiles in Canada, but its bike division is hanging in there.

If gazing longingly at motorcycles isn’t enough, this iteration of the motorcycle show has other diversions. At the popular Yamaha Riding Academy for kids, those aged six to 12 will be shown the finer points of learning to ride a motorcycle. As well, there will be freestyle stunt-riding demonstrations and trials demonstrations, with champ Jordan Szoke putting a bike through its paces. Two Triumph Bonneville T100 bikes will be given away during the show, and women only can enter to win a Kawasaki Ninja EX300 that will be given away on Friday night.

The show starts at 10 a.m. on Friday; admission is $14 for adults and $10 for kids. For more information, see www.vancouvermotorcycleshow.ca/.

Comments (2) Add New Comment
gregsfc
HD and Honda have at least recognized that the industry is going to soon start dying a slow death in North America if the manufacturers don't start finding a way to appeal to younger folks who could care less about these chromed-out cruisers or super-fast sport bikes. The only hope is to appeal to them with practicality and gee wiz devices built in. This generation doesn't think about transportation products very much. They just want something easy to operate, cheap, and something that they don't have to work on. Honda's coming through with products to achieve this (except that they will not abandon chain drive), but they lack the marketing that will be needed to attract them. Advertising in bike magazines won't do it. They're going to have to spend some money on the marketing end; at least in the U.S. I don't see that happening. When is the last time anyone has seen a street motorcycle t.v. commercial. HD, on the other hand, with their upcoming, easier-to-deal-with belt-drive, small, cheaper bikes may strike a cord with the younger generation. If only they will reach out and tell them what they've got.
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BilboBaggins

Well put.
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