The NI Motorcycle Festival returns this weekend (8th – 10th February 2019) to the Eikon Centre, Lisburn. In it’s fourth year at the Eikon it is touting itself as Northern Irelands’ Biggest Motorcycle Show and it promises a weekend full of action and bikes.
So what has changed from last year and does it deliver on these promises?
In case you missed it here are my thoughts on the 2018 Show : https://tbni.blog/2018/02/07/ni-motorcycle-festival-2018-motorcyclefest-eikon-centre-lisburn/
Truth be told, very little has changed. It is still like a big showroom, with a load of stalls in the back.
As you can see in my previous 2018 review I tried my best to find the positives in the show and to be honest I really hate being negative about such things – especially things that involve bikes, a show – and Northern Ireland trying to bring itself on par with events and exhibitions, but sometimes – when there is negativity it just shines through in the truth.
I am not going to paint this one through rose tinted glasses – I hoped things would have improved but alas here it is – the NI Motorcycle Festival 2019 Review.
I attended on the Friday (8th February 2019). The first thing anyone will notice is that there are no activities or events on the Friday. There are a few speakers on the ‘Main Stage’ – Alastair Seeley for example was gave a decent interview but other than the ‘Main Stage ‘ Speaker lineup there is nothing else scheduled for the Friday.
Honestly – that is not good enough. You pay the same price to go on any given day – however it feels like the Friday is there, just to fill a slot – just to say the show ‘spans three days.’ This year the unfortunate weather situation – ‘Storm Erik’ was in full swing so I am confident that even if outdoor activities had been planned they would have had to have been cancelled. That I could deal with – the weather is what it is – uncontrollable – and motorcycle fans in Northern Ireland know the effects weather can have on a schedule all too well. The point remains that the Friday just seems to be a day that you pay to walk round dealerships and have people approaching you for what they deem the best cause to be. More on that later.
The show itself – maybe my annual attendance to Motorcycle Live, at the NEC in Birmingham, has ruined me? This show is basically Northern Ireland’s Motorcycle Dealerships all under one roof. Notably you have Phillip McCallen, Kawasaki Coleraine, Charles Hurst Motorcycles, Davey’s Bikes along with Husqvarna and MV Augusta (my personal favourite display of the day – the MV stuff is just stunning!)
So the range is good – no doubt. But that’s it. It is a retail show. There is nothing to turn this show from a dealer show to a motorcycle exhibition. Nothing new, nothing upcoming, just a load of bikes, with a load of prices and finance examples. To be fair it is probably better to just go to the Dealership – at least there they will give you a cup of coffee, have a good chatter and you’ll probably even get a test ride. At the show even if you want a chat you are competing for time with a salesman with ‘X’ other people.
So after 20 minutes or so you have probably been round the dealers – then it is time to go to back of the hall. This is where you will take you life into your hands.
It is the back of the hall where the small businesses are, where the Road Races are (except for the NW200 – it is up near the front with the just beautiful looking Burrows Engineering new look bike), where the weird tool stand is that seems to have everything you could ever need in it, but looks like it should be at Nutts Corner Market…
And this is the point where I have to make sure I don’t come across as a Scrooge. Everyone of the stands back here is at this show with one priority – make money.
I get that it is the case that every stand is there to make money – but unlike the dealerships who are trying to secure customers for the coming days, weeks and years the stalls at the back want your cash now. Right out of your pocket – right now. And of course that is understandable.
I should also point out that I support every road race in the country. At some I sponsor a Flag Post, at others I sponsor bales, I sponsor a rider or two every year, at some I Marshal and at everyone I buy my programme.
The problem is not that these stands exist, or that they are here, but that they are all crammed together. So you go from one to the other and each one is looking people to put their hands in their pocket. Everyone is fighting for your attention, everyone is fighting for your cash, within metres you will hit the Enniskillen Races, Tandragee 100, Ulster Grand Prix, private supporters clubs, charities… all looking your cash and to be fair all probably deserving of it. The problem is you are just inundated with it – it is all too overwhelming and the result is most people will put their head down and plough on.
So what is the solution? Spread it out, share the love. It is obvious from the layout the big money companies get the real estate at the start / front of the hall, it is bright and airy. Then as you go towards the back of the venue things get more cramped and squeezed in – the result is you have all the organisations that want your money all baying for it within such an enclosed space it becomes almost unapproachable, almost unpleasant.
The unfortunate thing then is you will miss some great stalls, full of information and events that should be getting the space and publicity they deserve, but aren’t. It is a shame really – but hey money talks – you want the bright airy space, you pay the bright airy space fees.
Then lets briefly talk about the entrance fee?
Why? Why are visitors expected to pay an entry fee to go to a dealership show. The dealers no doubt are paying a fortune for their spot – why then are the punters having to pay to visit the dealership? I’m sure the smaller stalls are also paying a premium to get on the floor, why then are their potential customers having to pay also.
It’s not like Motorcycle Live where you have new releases, first UK appearances, etc to look at – it is a manufacturers’ show rather than a dealership show. It seems the organisers are getting the big note from the businesses that are displaying, then another bite of the cherry from the punters who come to the show.
I have already touched on the entertainment (rather lack of entertainment on Friday). At least you can rest easy in the knowledge that come Saturday and Sunday there is a reasonable looking schedule as outlined above.
Last year the Pitt bike racing and stunt shows were excellent fun, so I’m sure that if the weather sorts itself out those activities will definitely add positively to the experience and give it more of a ‘show’ than a ‘dealership’ vibe.
Hopefully all that doesn’t seem too negative. Hopefully it isn’t enough to put you off visiting. It is worth a visit, especially on the Saturday / Sunday and in conjunction with the schedule that should go over the rest of the weekend. It is more of a critique of the show, a few thoughts and ideas that I feel could make things a little more visitor friendly. I do get that it is quite negative but when something needs to be said, best to say it… and who know maybe somebody will act on it.
Last year I said this right at the end of my review :
I will be back next year and I look forward to seeing this show develop and improve in the coming years.
And guess what? I will be back next year – hoping to see developments and improvements – but at which point do you resign to the fact that it is just ‘more of the same’?
I will leave you with a couple of unmissable bikes from the 2019 show, for me where this show really shines is the clubs, whether it is old Skool cool – like the GT750 Owners’ Club and the awesome looking Rizzla bike, or some of the classic racers, or those that take customisation to the next level such as the Bad Boys Bike Display or the other Custom machines that are on display as part of the Custom Zone – all very, very worthy of a look!
NI Motorcycle Festival 2019 Photo Gallery :