Two Motorcycle Shows
A Comparison

by

Michele Reutty

Motorcycle Spectacular Show (January 2005)
It was a gray Sunday, steely cold and yet I saw a couple of bikers on Rt. 287 (Polar Bears?). I was traveling alone, planning on an hour down, an hour back and an hour to look around. But pulling in the parking lot for the Expo Center, I noticed very few bikes parked in front. Hey, I didn’t ride there either.

As I was walking into the center I noticed there was no line! How nice, I thought. I was there at 11 a.m. and rightly thought I’d avoid the crowd.

The first table in the vestibule was a raffle of a Harley to support breast cancer research. “How much?” I asked. “Twenty dollars,” the sensitive biker guy in the doo rag and leathers says. “My club donates to the Susan G. Komen Foundation,” I mumble. He thanks me and turns his attention to the next people through the door.

To my left is a roped off gallery of custom choppers, beautiful choppers, each one unique…in the shape of the tank, the finish of the bike, the length of the fork, the pleating of the seat. Orange flamed, iridescent purple, faux copper finishes. Orange County wanna be’s. And there’s an eager kid, asking when the designer of one of the bikes will return so he can get his autograph.

Inside was crowded already. There were tons of people, but very few were women.

I was part of the “one per centers“, but in this case, it wasn’t outlaw bikers, it was the women present at this show!

Wow! You could almost smell the testosterone in the air! Men in duos and trios. Packs of men. Men in leather. Men with long hair, pony tailed or braided; balding men compensating with beards; clean-shaven bald men dressed in long Austrailian sheepherd coats; men wearing short, fringed, zippered and studded biker jackets. One man wore some sort of animal pelt thrown over his shoulders. Men naked to the waist wearing only leather vests on their torsos. Men in chaps. Men in wheel chairs, with crutches, or canes. Silver haired foxy older men. Men-in-training--little boys--bonding with their daddies.

Well, what did I expect in a group where there are 7 men for every one woman who rides a motorcycle???

But for every 25 men there, there was one lady. Some were wives out for a pleasant afternoon with their husbands or boyfriends. There were biker babes with multiple piercing. A lot of the vendors were women. Then there were the Bike-kini Girls. As the name implies they were 20-somethings in bikinis. I tried hard not to feel sorry for them as the men by-passed their stand and headed straight for the bikes displayed across the aisle.

So what was for sale there? Strangely enough-not many bikes. The motorcycles there were for show--in some cases “Best in Show,” as you were asked to vote for your favorite. But there were no dealers there. Funny, I thought, for a motorcycle show.

The first thing I saw when I walked in, after the choppers, was a stand with embroidered patches for sale. Nestled among all the American flags and eagles was a patch with a rose and a rocker that said “Lady Biker.” Hot damn! I had red suede roses appliquéd on my black leather jacket. What was the price, though? There were only 3 left! It said 33-48. Upon asking, the man behind the table said the patch was $33, $48 if he sewed it on right there and then, and he indicated an industrial sewing machine he had schlepped. Being a veteran flea market goer, I asked if he could do better (the No. 1 rule of flea marketing) and he knocked $3 off the price--but cash only , no charges or checks. Ouch! I didn’t count on that. (But there were only 3 left!) I paid him the money, forgetting the No. 2 rule of flea markets: look at everything before you buy anything. The variety of rose patches at stands throughout the show would have filled a botanical garden of embroidery! And the prices were better the further you got from the door. ARGH!

I was looking for a pair of gauntlet gloves; warm, lined gloves because the last time I went riding one frosty autumn morning last year, I realized one cannot pull in the clutch if one’s fingers are frozen stiff. Handling a pair of gloves at one of the leather stands, I heard a woman said to her friend, “Don’t buy there, they sell crap.” Indeed, though the price was right, the gloves were made of pieced together triangles of leather. I moved on. There was CERTAINLY enough leather dealers to chose from. There must have been at least 10 leather dealers with prices ranging from the affordable to the unattainable. Some dealers had leather so soft you could practically ball up a jacket and hold it in the palm of your hand.

A friendly man provided information on guided tours. The company plans the tour route, leads it, books your accommodations and you are followed by a truck with a motorcycle tow attached.

The trip to Sturgis caught my eye. Knowing I was on a mailing list for life, I filled out their form for information for future tours anyway.

There were new part sellers. Neat stuff like designer lights, license plate holders, seats, baloney pipes. Heated handlebar grips. Studded saddle bags.

There were used part sellers-with their merchandise spread out on the floor so you would have to weave in and out of the lanes to see their wares. I’m sure there were undiscovered treasures there and being a newbie, I couldn‘t recognize them, but it looked a lot like a movable junk yard to me.

There was a clothing stand for the next generation of bikers. One tee shirt read, “My grandma drives a Harwee.” Receiving blankets had giraffes riding choppers and what must have been the world’s smallest motorcycle jacket was waiting for some doting relative to bring it home to their favorite toddler.

Now this shouldn’t have shocked me, being a middle aged woman who has been married twice, but the sexist tee shirts with high school humor abounded! I guess the all-time low tee-shirt (in more ways than one) was a close up photo of a man with his nose nestled in a tuft of pubic hair with the words “how the mustache was invented” written above. A close second: a tee that read “Nipples and Tits, Nipples and Tits, I’m Gonna Get Me Some Nipples and Tits”. The dubious distinction for third place was given to: “I love to snatch kisses and vice verse.“ (Well, OK, that one made me laugh.)

Variations of the tee shirt printed on the back with, “If you can read this, the bitch fell off the bike,” were rampant, but I’m happy to say the distaff side was well represented with shirts that read, “If you can read this, the dick won’t let me drive” “If you can read this the bitch got her own bike,“ and “If you can read this the bitch just passed your ass.”

More stuff than I care to remember was drug related (Harley Davidson roach clips--I wonder if they were copyright cleared?) and/or dealt with death--skulls being a re-occurring theme, way up there with the ever-present snakes.

The most practical thing I saw were tiny cylinders to put on the back of your vest pins so they wouldn‘t fall off. They even came with their own miniature allen wrench to tighten it on the shank of the pin.

I must have spent an hour and a half just walking around, getting broken in as to what to expect from motorcycle shows. I filed these things away in the part of my brain labeled, “Neat Stuff.” As I left the Expo center around 12:30, I couldn’t help but notice that the line snaked out of and down the entire front of the building. Note for future motorcycle shows: come early, bikers like to sleep late on Sundays.

Northeast Motorcycle Expo (February 12-13, 2005)
I can tell you everything you need to know about the difference between the January Motorcycle Spectacular Show and the February Northeast Motorcycle Expo in two words: Balloon Clown.

I knew this was something different from the time I stood in line clutching a discount coupon from a sister Spokie. There were women standing in the same line-real women-lots of women: women pushing strollers, women on dates, women with their husbands, women who were wives, daughters, mothers, toddlers! Sure there were leather-clad, multiply-pierced biker babes with Jersey-girl hair, but they were in the minority. Clearly, this was going to be a different milieu than the last expo.

As I stood in line a guy named Jeff, at least 10 years younger started chatting me up. He told me he was looking for a Triumph (note capital T) and had moved here from Florida. I heard about his failed long-term relationship and how he thought the older women he had seen on the cover of AARP were very attractive. AARGH!

Fortunately the line divided, he zigged, I zagged and there was Sue from the Spokes-Women, waiting as we had arranged, with her boyfriend Jim, also a biker.

One of the first things I saw was a person in colorful silks with a pompom of pink hair. As we walked past, I saw it was a lady clown making balloon animals for the children who had gathered around her and were happily waiting their turn.

And that was the second big difference--families! People clearly thought this was the kind of event to bring their family to on a Sunday afternoon. There was enough to keep the kids entertained and while there I didn’t hear a scream or a whine in the bunch! Even the crumb crushers in the strollers behaved. It was a little incredible.

The only false note in this family fest was the Texas Bikini Team (is it now an Olympic sport???). The “team” consisted of 4 or 5 bikini-clad girls strutting their stuff on a make-shift stage next to a make-shift beer bar, as they threw gee-gaws to the men who crowded around. The men with women at their sides would stay a minute, then move along.

I did find my gauntlets--a good quality at a good price--at a stand that also sold beef jerky. I also found out that the nylon gloves would have been a better choice for warmth and flexibility, but I never did find the stand that sold them.

There was only one dealer--a Honda dealer--who had bikes for the public to try on for size.

The other bikes on display were one of a kind originals that you were asked to vote for Best in Show. And they truly were works of art.

Oddly enough, one of the vendors was selling works of art--prints. And not primarily of motorcycles! There were many landscapes and city scenes, the required Marilyn, and James Dean, and the photo of a very juvenile Sinatra with his police arrest number framed below his face.

And I ran into Liz Sann and her son, David, who had dropped by for a bit. Liz also works at a library and was my first contact with the Spokes-Women.

It was like day and night--the two bike expos. Since I’m a newbie and Sue and Jim had been riding so much longer than I, I had been asking them questions along the way. But I had one more question: why the difference in the audiences for each show? Why did the first show attract the quintessential Harley man while the second had Family Fun stamped all over it?

The shows had essentially the same dealers. The same beef jerky dealers, (More than ONE! I’m still puzzling about the connection between beef jerky and motorcycles), the same “Art’s Cow Parts-Going Out FOR Business” leather stand. The same vendor selling Pig Snot (a motorcycle cleaner). The same tee shirts that said, “If you can read this, the bitch kicked me off the bike.”

“Marketing” said Jim. “The target audience of the first show was the Harley crowd and the second was marketed toward the family.”

I think I need to go to more shows.

If only to buy something called Pig Snot.

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