You'll be hard-pressed to come up with another North American venue that hosts two full-on motorcycle shows within a month of each other. Certainly, no other city in Canada can make this claim.
Yet, every winter in Toronto, motorcycle enthusiasts are treated to two of the largest exhibitions of their kind in North America: the Toronto Motorcycle Show and the North American International Motorcycle Supershow. The first takes place this weekend, Dec. 10-12, while the second gets under way in the new year, Jan. 7-9.
Hot Wheels, Dinky Toys and go-karts: Peter Cheney's nostalgic journey back in search of a simpler, sweeter time
The first is probably the more "official" show, as it is produced by the Motorcycle and Moped Industry Council of Canada (MMIC), which represents most major manufacturers. All the biggies are here: Harley-Davidson, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Piaggio and so on.
Not to mention smaller manufacturers, such as Ducati, Husqvarna, Hyosung and Zero Motorcycles. Zero manufactures a range of electric dual-sport bikes that, the company claims, could travel from Los Angeles to New York on $30 worth of electricity – 80 kilometres at a time.
Lots of Harleys as well, including yet another Sportster model: the Superlow. With a 680-mm seat height and a price tag starting at just over $9,000, this model is aimed at female and novice riders. It's interesting to note how the Sportster has come of age over the past few years. Also noteworthy is how low prices are right now at H-D. With the Canadian dollar being almost at par, bikes from this Milwaukee manufacturer have never been more affordable.
And that other American bike-maker – Victory – will be at this year's show. Victory has hung on despite a less-than-favourable economic climate in the United States, and now has at least seven base models to choose from. Having a parent company with deep pockets like Polaris doesn't hurt, and the Minnesota-based company will also have its range of ATVs on display at Toronto. MMIC also represents ATV manufacturers, many of whom, of course, also build motorcycles.
This includes Honda, who have a brand-new CBR250 for your viewing pleasure. This entry-level bike is built in Thailand and sold around the world, and is a pretty good place to start if you're just getting into motorcycling for the first time.
Its 250-cc single-cylinder engine is game and you can run the daylights out of it without getting in over your head. It'll be at dealerships this spring and joins the extremely rapid CB1000R in Honda's lineup. Honda will also have a beginner rider's clinic at the Toronto show. Nicknamed Ready 2 Ride, it's an impromptu seminar aimed at introducing beginners to the basics of motorcycle riding.
And no motorcycle show would be complete without a display of vintage iron. In this case, it'll be provided by the Vintage Road Racing Association, which is apparently the oldest organization of its kind in North America. Expect to see older Nortons, Triumphs, BSA, Excelsiors and Ducatis in all their glory.
The Toronto Motorcycle Show takes place downtown, at the Metro Convention Centre on Front Street. Admission is $16 ($10 for seniors) and it runs from 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 10. to 5 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 12.
The Motorcycle Supershow, meanwhile, takes place the first weekend in January, at the International Centre on Airport Road. It bills itself as "North America's Largest Motorcycle Show" and is spread out over 420,000 square feet, in seven buildings.
This event is probably less corporate than the Toronto Show clubs, interest groups and non-profit organizations are out in full force. Expect to find accessory booths in abundance here, as well as groups like, oh, the Bikers' Rights Organization of Ontario, the Classic Katana Owners of North America, the Parry Sound Motorcycle Organization and on and on. Some 500 exhibitors in total, apparently.
One of the things that distinguishes this event from others is its used-bike market, where you can buy or sell some pre-owned iron. It costs $50 a bike and is broken down into three groups: vintage, choppers and general. Wash the bike, make sure it has no more than three-quarters of a tank of fuel, stick a sign on it and hope for the best.
The Supershow also features a fashion show and a show-and-shine competition, with some $12,000 in prize money up for grabs. All types of bikes are invited to compete. Last year's winners, for example, included a vintage 1912 Harley-Davidson "Silent Grey Fellow," a Triumph TR6 and a 1968 Suzuki B100P.
Bike customizer Billy Lane's "hubless" chopper will also be on display. This is one of the most striking choppers you'll ever see and was apparently rebuilt after bursting into flames during a televised run on the Discovery Channel.
Price of admission to the Motorcycle Supershow is $18, and parking is free.
For more information on the shows, go to their websites: