OK I’ll be honest from the start: this trip was a great success, but not the way I’d hoped it to be. Not because it wasn’t exciting but because of my own lack of pre-thought. You see what I WANTED to do was to find various bikes that took my interest then review them and post the video for all of my biker bros to see. However I realised quite early on what my mistake was: if you’re going to do reviews then DON’T GO ON A WEEKEND DAY!! There were far too many people to be able to hear ourselves let alone see most of the bikes in detail. Eventually we did get to sit on some of them, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Saturday the 24th November was the day that myself and my good friend Selim hit the road for the Birmingham NEC. Selim is an interesting character, in that he has the “whaaaa?” factor. Let me explain; he is one of the kindest and most placid people you could ever meet, so when I told people that he was coming with me to Motorcycle Live the general response was “whaaaa? Selim?” Yep: to say that it was a shock to most people is an understatement. But that was another element of the trip that made it interesting for me – that plus the fact that he had booked one of the bike taster sessions and would be having his first ever bike experience at the show. But I will let him tell that story later.
For me Motorcycle Live was like going into a sweet shop for the first time: you know there are many different types out there, but suddenly they’re all under the same roof and your eyes pop out of your sockets (metaphorically speaking fortunately). So many bikes to choose from I didn’t know where to begin. Fortunately the Yamaha stand was in front of us, so we started there.
A bike show such as this is a great opportunity to sit and try out different styles; bobbers, adventure bikes, sports bikes, tourers, you name it. All there for you to sit on to see how they suit, and it’s definitely worth taking advantage of the opportunity. For me it was the adventure bikes that I was the most keen on, as was Selim – although I think he fancied himself as a Harley-riding bad ass at one point!
My two highlights of the show were not actually bikes – they were experiences. The first was watching Selim take what I hope will be his first steps into a long biking career. The second was me having my first go at off-roading.
Anyone who has been to the show will know that there is an off-road experience offered by Triumph and Honda on an artificial course consisting of bumpy tracks, hills and even a set of steps. I had booked a Triumph Tiger XC for my slot; originally I’d wanted to try the Africa Twin but I was concerned I wasn’t tall enough to ride it. However, the Tiger did not disappoint. Once we had been supplied with our protective gear we were led out to the bikes and given a quick talk on how to start them and how they were set up to ride the course.
Climbing on to and adventure bike from a sports tourer is an unusual experience at first-the riding position, apart from still being on a seat, is completely different. You sit pretty much in an upright position, and the feel is a lot more commanding than normal. The surprising part was that although it looked quite top-heavy and cumbersome the Tiger was well-balanced, agile and quite a lot lighter than expected.
We stayed in first gear as we rode around the oval track; firstly over rough ground and then progressively up and over the hills and finally down the steps. The Tiger was very easy to handle and took everything in its stride as if to say “is that all you’ve got?!?”
And this is definitely an area of biking that I would like to explore more. Do you remember when you were young and you had to take public transport anywhere you wanted to go? Then you learn to drive, and when you go out on your own for the very first time there is a feeling of exhileration tinged with nervousness as you take that trip. That is the feeling I had when I took Kingpin out for the first time. And I got it again whilst I was riding the Tiger on the off-road track.
Touring has a draw of its own; visiting different destinations whilst taking in the vast and varied sceneries on twisting roads has an almost romantic appeal. But imagine if, instead of having to stick to the tarmac road, you could actually take your bike onto the rough ground and admire the view from a closer position? I’ll have some of that!
All in all the show was a great day out, but it appeared to be missing something: more muslim bikers. So if you’re out there then keep a day next year aside and insha’Allah Selim and I will see you there.