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Riding out winter

Powersport show makes a triumphant return to Winnipeg

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Show manager Jim Flood aboard a Royal Enfield: the show exceeded his expectations.

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Colin Nault sizes up a Yamaha motorcycle while Tavona Molinski offers that much-needed look of approval.

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Keni Harvey, sales manager at Lone Star Harley-Davidson, with a Dyna model the dealership customized.

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Okay, it's official: spring is here.

Forget about the mountains of snow that brought those lightweights in Ontario to their knees. On Saturday night, here in Winterpeg, it was a balmy minus-4. Great weather for shorts, and all the motivation required to attend the first-ever Mid-Canada Powersport Show at the Winnipeg Convention Centre.

Sure, we've had motorcycle shows here in the past, and there's always a popular bike show that runs in conjunction with Piston Ring's annual World of Wheels car show. But, if memory serves me correctly, the last dedicated motorcycle show we had in Winnipeg was back in 2004.

Thanks to the hard work of show manager Jim Flood, the guy who's also behind the upcoming and very popular Mid-Canada Boat Show, all of us motorcycle, snowmobile and ATV enthusiasts were treated to a great variety of all the latest offerings from local powersport dealers.

"This is a brand-new show and we have seven major dealers and more than 40 booths from local powersport-related associations and businesses, making up a 50,000 sq. ft. display," said Flood, a long-time motorcycle rider.

Unlike past events that have been presented by a specific dealer, this show was organized by the Mid-Canada Powersport Association, a non-profit group dedicated to promoting the industry.

"It's great to have all three commodities -- snowmobiles, ATVs and motorcycles -- under one roof, and the crowd numbers and response have really exceeded our expectations," he said. "Based on the success we've had this weekend, we expect the show to be even bigger and better next year."

Although there were many snowmobiles and ATVs to lay eyes on, my focus at the show was on the sea of motorcycles there. This whole winter thing is starting to really bug me, and the chance to sit on hundreds of different bikes was a sure-fire way to beat the winter blues.

One of the displays that immediately caught my eye was the cool line-up of Royal Enfield bikes now being offered for sale here in Winnipeg by Thunder Road Motorcycles on Sargent Avenue. Previously owned by my friend and local motorcycle legend Ted Hector, who recently retired and now chops wood full-time, the shop that has specialized in British imports and vintage Harley-Davidson and Indian motorcycles was sold to local gearhead Brett Burkard. Just weeks after the ownership change the shop has now become Manitoba's only Royal Enfield dealer.

The guys have done some renovations at Thunder Road to make room for the new bikes and, while I question the wisdom behind taking down the B.B. King poster, it's exciting to know that a new line of vintage-inspired motorcycles are now being sold here.

Royal Enfield motorcycles have been around since 1890. Although the current models are manufactured in India, they maintain a distinctly British appeal and are now exported to Europe, Australia and North America.

In recent years, Royal Enfield has undergone a major retooling and the flagship 500cc models available in Canada now feature electronic fuel injection.

Royal Enfield motorcycles have sparked such interest in the market that the plants that build them in India are currently running double shifts. With a price tag under $7,500, it's a safe bet that more than a few local hipsters will be riding these nifty retro-inspired machines on Winnipeg streets this summer.

The latest offerings from Japan are also great-looking bikes and the pricing is more than competitive.

Colin Nault was sizing up a sweet-looking metric cruiser from Yamaha with a price tag of $11,995.

"I haven't ridden a bike in a while, but in the next couple of years I will be purchasing one," he said. "Looking at Japanese bikes now compared to just a couple of years ago, it seems that the price has gone down and the styling has come up." added Nault, who at 43 is right in the target market for new motorcycle owners.

Despite the high cost of insurance he's ready to bite the bullet. "We ride snowmobiles and we know that we're going to spend a couple of hundred bucks every time we go out, so owning a motorcycle really isn't any different."

And there are also emotions at work: "Every time I see someone riding a motorcycle I wish it was me." We feel your pain brother. Pull the trigger and get out on the road!

With all due respect to the "other" brands, Harley-Davidson is still my current bike of choice, and I'm probably not going to change things up anytime soon. Never mind how much I love my Road King -- replacing my vast collection of Harley T-shirts and jackets alone would cost thousands.

Lone Star Harley-Davidson sales manager Keni Harvey was showing off a number of new HD models, including a couple of bikes with custom paint jobs, and a mean-looking Dyna model that the dealership customized with offerings from the Harley parts catalogue.

Tht's still the major advantage Harley has over other manufacturers, in my mind: the bikes may cost more, but the ability to personalize them with a seemingly endless supply of easy-to-bolt-on performance improvements and appearance modifications keeps me busy (and broke), throughout the winter months.

One bike you'd never dream of accessorizing is the 2013 Kawasaki ER-6n that was on display at the Headingley Sports Shop booth. This naked Ninja features a new frame that is fully exposed. Known in the industry as naked bikes or street-fighters, models like the ER-6n feature a minimalist design that really shows off all its internal beauty.

Unlike its Ninja sibling, the ER-6n doesn't have a fairing or side panels and, with a new, taller fuel tank and a shortened headlight and front cowl, looks very compact. The instrument panel has an analog tachometer with a white backlight and an LCD screen that glows blue for better night visibility. It may look like a total bad boy, but the ER-6n also features a new economical riding-light indicator that glows when you're maximizing fuel economy. Take that Prius!

Back in the day, we always had a hugely popular motorcycle show and it was great to have one again this year. I can vividly recall shows dating back as far as 1979 where my motorcycle-crazy friends and I would take sit on every single bike on display. We'd also pester the salesmen for colour brochures and plaster the walls of our bedrooms with them. It seemed everyone had a motorcycle, or was getting one.

Funny thing is, back then gas was cheap -- nowadays, motorcycles are less popular and the price of gas is through the roof. Forget about hybrids and electric cars, if you wxant to save some serious green and help the environment by reducing your carbon footprint, my advice is simple:

This summer, live to ride and ride to live.

willy@freepress.mb.ca

 

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