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Bikinis for summer, Easter eggs for Easter, and motorcycles in the depths of winter…

Motorcycling is not only my career but also my love – after my wife, kids, dogs, chickens and breathing!

Even after five years as a motorcycle courier (1979 to 84, pre-emails, etc), then 37 years in varying degrees involved in the industry and still going strong as I enter my slowing down stage, I still love bikes.

However (and there’s always a however) what I cannot understand, together with my customers, is why in this often wet, seasonally cold-climate country do we insist on having the main public show for motorcycles in the winter? It’s a time when people are thinking of spending their money on Christmas presents, paying off credit card bills, experience higher heating expenses and find excuses not to walk the dog as its too cold, wet, and snowy! Why would they be thinking about buying or riding a bike when they have the use of a nice, warm, dry car?

Not only do we pay more to enter the NEC International Motorcycle Show (more than the European shows held in Cologne or Milan), we also get fleeced for parking. Us old folk remember the shows at Earl’s Court and Brighton, and when we were told the move to the NEC would centralise the show, (correct-ish), it would give better rail access (correct), better road access (correct) and masses of free parking (got you there suckers!). Believe it or not, some of those historic motorcycle shows were held in April, just as the warm weather starts and just when people might spend money on a new bike and fresh kit.

Any normal, sensible salesperson can see the sense in advertising bikinis before summer trips to the beach and advertising Easter eggs before Easter, so what’s wrong with getting bikes out there at the start of summer?

No excuses, see proof (right) from 1968 of the International Motorcycle Show, held at the start of the biking season.

How can we get our industry to see common sense? Excuses in the past have included: “There is no available space at the NEC earlier in the year”.’ Codswollop! Booked in advance the NEC will accommodate, and if not, there are plenty of other suitable venues. If the NEC thinks they will lose custom, they will soon find the space.

What about the promised “free parking”? What about the higher-than-European-show entrance fees? And also the rubbish, overpriced food and drink? Factor those into the deal or go elsewhere.

In December, I went to the show and asked several of the established importers about the show’s timing. Without fail, all of them would prefer to see the show held in a March or April timeframe. One issue that the “establishment” keeps reminding us of is that most new models are released late in the year. Hence the shows are timed for those new models and manufacturers budgets. I can say without fear of contradiction that virtually all of the Indian and Chinese manufacturers, along with most of the smaller motorcycle manufactures (i.e. electric bikes) and the clothing and accessories suppliers want to display, promote and sell their wares at the start of the motorcycle season.

As for December’s show, there was a distinct difference to European events. Yes, they are also currently held in early winter, but those countries are generally warmer and have a different rider mindset to motorcycling. We can be different and hold our big consumer show earlier in the year, which would encourage attendance as well as expand and introduce more people to biking. We should also look at the show’s content. I can get around the NEC show in four to six hours (this year, it only took two and a half hours before I was on my way home) because it’s like a massive autojumble. You pay £20-£25 to enter, £12 to park, and all you have is people crowding around, buying the latest reduced end-of-line or so-called ‘deals’.

In contrast, in Europe, it always takes me more than one full day to see everything, so much so that I get a two-day ticket, which is still cheaper than a one-day ticket at the NEC. So far, parking at the European shows is free, and they are more like a show, where things are shown! Yes, you can buy some stuff, but principally, they are shows. I have met British manufacturers of bike-related components at the European shows who refuse to go to the NEC due to the conditions, timing and costs involved. What is wrong with us?

Please, all out there, from quality first-line dealers all the way through to back street bike fixers, raise your voices, get this moronic situation changed. Pester the magazines, supplier reps, importers, everyone, to bring back common sense and to get what could be the UK’s most important public display of motorcycles and motorcycling gear modernised, to become more professional, moved to springtime and be customer loving (free parking, cheaper tickets, better and cheaper services, food, drink, etc…)

An example of customer care, at Milan I wanted to take someone around who had difficulty walking. I picked up (on the day) a free wheelchair and was given free entry for one of my crew to push them around. At the NEC I had to book in advance and pay for the hire of a wheelchair, both the disabled person and “pusher” had to pay for show entry.

The Milan show also has a Ladies Day where females get in for free on one designated day, thus encouraging more females into the show and hopefully onto bikes…

Thanks for listening… now get started.
Andrew Stoker, CTGoC, Somerset

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