Probably the best show at the NEC I’ve been to and certainly the most interesting year for me at Motorcycle Live. My day was packed to the gunwales. A little bleary eyed from a Christmas do the night before, I was up at the crack of sparrows and on the road before 8.30am. Bumped into some good biking friends – Chris, Ian and Jay, which were wonderful company and meant I barely noticed Jason’s absence (currently biking in Morocco). Speaking of the devil, soon after arriving, Jason dropped a quick text to say he was having a ball in the desert and being blown away by the scenic Atlas Mountains. Think he used the term ‘challenge’ too…! More of that to follow in an imminent post.
Back to the show then. Although a different layout this year, and not one that was particularly easy to navigate for us punters, Chris noticed the lack of the small independents, which was sad as it’s these small ‘one man bands’ that often leave you feeling like you’ve picked up a great little find at a cracking price; some ingenious addition to your kit or for your bike. Nevertheless, my agenda for the day was centred around networking, rapport building and generally putting our brand ‘out there’ as much as was humanly possible for one pair of able legs and gums that can flap all day long.
After familiarizing myself with the general layout across four halls, getting a quick bite to eat and taking a good look around, it was time to mix some business and pleasure. Popped over to the Overland Magazine stand where I found my good pals – Sam Manicom and Graham Field (both respectable authors of overland travel books). Lovely to see the pair who were working harmoniously side by side on their book sales. And doing very well I might add; their spot was open to some prime footfall – good on them for securing that beaut of a spot.
It was at the Overland Magazine stand I also met Simon Dufton working on the ‘Dambusters 2014 Charity Ride’ and his friend just about to hop on a bike for the first time. I nearly gushed over the poor lad – nostalgically recalling what it was like for me 16 months ago when I was in the same boat. Feels like a lifetime ago. Promised to catch up with Sam after the show but in the meantime, Graham was gasping for his lunch by mid-afternoon so I joined him for a chat and butty in the quiet trader’s area. Lovely to catch up and see what was new in the world of Mr Field. I can hardly wait to read his new book ‘Ureka’, which hones in on his latest trip in the Caucasus region of the Soviet Union. I’m intrigued. Graham’s first book ‘In search of greener grass’ is in one of my top three for two-wheeled travel related books so get your pre-order for the New Year if you fancy a good read.
Off I went, post a late lunch-break and thought I’d say hi to Nathan Milward – another fab acquaintance I’ve made over the last couple of years – now Adventure Bike Rider’s editor. Nathan took his ex-postal Aussie 110cc, Dorothy, all the way from Australia back to England, which took him nine months…great story full of adventure. I digress a little. Nathan asked if he could do a feature on our pre-trip and then a Q&A about the freighter crossing. If that’s not a juicy little present prior to our bon voyage, I don’t know what is. Yes, think that’d be fine Nathan, thank you. Watch this space. Jason and I made an appearance back in the August 2012 issue of ABR magazine when we rode 3,000 miles through Europe ‘two-up’ taking in the BMW bike festival at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany, the Stelvio Pass and Stella Alpina. Amazing scenery through France, Germany and Italy – would love to go again but on my own bike.
It was also an unexpected pleasure to see and catch up with more friends of ours, Barbara Alam and Craig Carey-Clinch inside an inviting bell tent with a ‘take a pew on our plush sofas’ area. Good to see what they had been up to through Motorcycle Outreach and Rowan Public Affairs. Interesting work in the political and legislative world of pushing for motorcycle safety.
As a final treat in equipment investment to myself, I decided to make a considered purchase at the opportunity cost of the trip itself. A pair of Gerbing XR-12 Hybrid heated gloves and the 12V socks. Figured that I do enough UK riding in the winter months as well as going to the deep south of the Americas at one end and Alaska the other to warrant these items. I have pretty slim fingers and am nesh at the best of times; I can’t wait to put these into action. Although size XS felt lovely and snug, I went for ‘small’ in the end as didn’t want to get any uncomfortable ‘hot spots’ on the gloves; great advice from the distributor at the show. And very grateful for the discount I received too! I’ll be writing a review on both of these items so please watch out for that.
On my way back over the Overland Magazine stand to rejoin Sam and Graham, I couldn’t walk by without stopping to say hello to Austin Vince. Another individual that’s significantly contributed towards getting us both in the right place for our trip. Both very excited about presenting him our footage at the end of the experience. Just need to jump on our bikes now and get on with it.
The icing on the cake on Friday was having a meal with Sam, Graham and the guys from Overland Magazine. All of top form and because I was ravenous and the others hoarse from the week’s constant talking, we all enjoyed a quiet meal replenishing some sustenance back into our bodies.
Superb day that I couldn’t have enjoyed more. There’s something lovely about having been sociable with a wide range people, familiar and friendly folks to complete strangers; exchanging stories, intentions and a bit of banter to getting home, donning the pyjamas and flopping in a happy heap..!