The 2018 Northern Ireland Motorcycle Festival (MotorcycleFest) ran at the Eikon Centre, Lisburn from Friday 2nd February 2018 – Sunday 4th February 2018. The event has been running at the Eikon Centre since 2016 and seems to be going from strength to strength.
So what’s it like?
I visited on Friday 2nd February 2018 and Sunday 4th February 2018.
The Friday was a much more relaxed experience. Numbers of visitors were lower (as would be expected) – and it was easier to move about, and have a look about at a much slower pace, to let you throw the leg over a few bikes and not feel as if there was a queue developing behind you as you soon as you did so.
Peter Hickman took to the stage giving a great insight to racing, and also taking up a spot on the stage was joined by Paddy from Emmerdale.
John McGuinness was there interacting with the fans, which was great to see.
The Sunday was much busier. We arrived quite early and by lunch time the place was packed. Ian Hutchinson and John McGuinness were the two speakers to take the stage and you’d have needed three times the amount of seating for the spectators looking to hear their interviews. Great guestline up all weekend without doubt.
I only took in the outdoor activities on the Sunday. They had a great series of pit bike racing from juniors right up to some big named racers all getting in on the action.
Mattie Griffin was also present, doing his stunt display. It is suffice to say that that guy is skillfull, I mean ridiculously skillful. He throws that BMW of his about like it is a toy. When /if you have the chance to watch his display – do so!
Moving back inside and it is all about the dealers. That is where things differ from the likes of Motorcycle Live. MCL is all about the manufacturers, the NI Motorcycle Festival is filled by dealers’ stands which represents a good range of manufacturers. BMW, KTM, Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Triumph, SWM… they are all represented. Some big players are missing such as Harley Davidson and Royal Enfield. More than that though even though there was a good selection of manufacturers present the full range of motorcycles just wasnt there. For example BMW didnt have their new F750GS nor F800GS on show. Honda didn’t have their new CRF250 Rally displayed. Being new models they are what I was expecting see, and was a little disappointed that the manufacturers had opted to display only a cut down selection of the range.
I can’t however pass over the BMW HP4 – for me the absolute highlight of the show. £68,000 of awesome!
Moving on from the main dealer displays there was a decent selection of smaller club and racing stands, charity stands, as well as a couple of options for picking up yourself a new lid or some clothing.
So what is my overall opinion?
The show is decent, it isn’t on a power with the likes of Motorcycle Live, which is simply huge with all the manufactuers displaying all their latest offerings.
That is this show’s biggest downfall and to be honest with all the big European shows having already been during late 2017, and the 2018 ranges having all been announced and revealed there is no real reason why the latest and greatest aren’t on display here.
This biggest downfall is reflected in what I have already mentioned, this comes across more as a dealers’ show rather than a manufacturers’ show. To be harsh it comes across as the Phillip McCallen show, which Charles Hurst has managed to get into. The rest of the space has then been thrown out to the rest of the guys. Moving away from the dealers then the rest of the space at the back of the hall has been offered out to clubs and smaller businesses who are all crammed into about 10% of the available real estate.
The question I have then is why does it cost the visitor so much to attend? £12 for an adult’s ticket? Why are visitors even expected to pay into such an event? Surely this is an opportunity for dealer’s to get customers? So why are customers having to pay to visit a showroom – remembering of course that there is probably a more complete range actually available in the show rooms?
Of course though the dealers are also paying for the plot they have, and from my experience of days gone by and car shows in the King’s Hall – the prices that the dealers are paying are no doubt huge!
So the organsiers are getting two bites of the pricing cherry – first from selling real estate in the show, second from every patron walking through the doors.
I’ll not even mention that a bacon bap and a bottle of Fanta cost £6.50 – the bap was also dressed with rocket lettuce and had a weird spicy sauce in it. For goodness sake a bacon bap is just that – why try and change what works perfectly? I mean honestly – rocket!?! Shake my head!
All that may sound very negative, and that then becomes unfair. It isn’t all negative, the attendance of Peter Hickman, John McGuinness, Lee Johnston (who I didn’t get to see / hear), Ian Hutchinson and Paddy was excellent for all us road racing fans.
The pit racing and stunt shows were great fun and there was some stunning hardware on display. Getting the full manufacturer ranges on display sorted, maybe filling in the missing manufactures and letting the back of the hall be a little less cramped and this show would be onto a real winner. Oh and tell the food outlets no one wants rocket and some weird sauce on our sausage baps, we want butter, and either red or brown sauce. Keep it simple – thats why the bacon bap works so well!
I will be back next year and I look forward to seeing this show develop and improve in the coming years.