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15th February 2013

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2013 MCN London Motorcycle Show

The Excel motorcycle show tries to be all things to all men, be they interested in custom, classic, adventure or performance. Martin Gelder seeks balance but finds only cheap overtrousers and skull shaped indicators...

The London Motorcycle show - held at Excel near City Airport and sponsored by MCN - marks the start of the fettling season for many. It's taken over from the old Ally Pally show as the place to get yourself kitted out for the coming season, to poke and prod the latest accessories, and - increasingly - to chat to the people behind the numerous organised motorcycle 'adventure' trips and accompanied touring holidays that have become so popular of late.

All of life is here...

This year the show was divided into a number of 'zones', with each area having its own presentation stage surrounded by relevant trade stands. At one end of the single hall which houses the show, the Custom and Adventure zones rubbed shoulders somewhat uncomfortably, while at the other end the Performance and Classics zones made even stranger bed fellows.

This is the one I'd take home. The bike, not the man in the stupid hat...

The Custom zone was the venue for a round of the (deep breath) AMD Custom Bike Building World Championship at Excel. Despite the significant prestige and prizes for the winner, the bikes were displayed in a fairly low key way.

Just because you can, it doesn't always mean you should... Norton 961, Flat-Track Style

Nice and clean... Much more work has gone into this BMW than is obvious Airhead BMWs on now...

The eternal argument... Cafe Racer: Fairing, or not?

The centre of the hall was devoted to the Revolution Live Action Show, and clustered around this were the major manufacturers. There was also a series of small booths where you could meet - briefly - some of the motorcycling celebrities appearing at the show. John McGuiness' stall was surrounded by a baying mob, while Dougie Lampkin leaned unrecognised against the side of his, chatting to one of the exhibition staff.

He's twisting the throttle, he's making the engine noise... Moto Guzzi's new California attracted a lot of interest from gentlemen of a certain age. Is it over-styled, or just right?

Pushing on past the cut-price clothing and helmet vendors - there were bargains to be had, but only at the less expensive end of the spectrum - and the shoe shine and miracle polish merchants, the Classics zone was tucked in the opposite corner to the Custom show.

Classic enthusiasts, itching to spend their money. Probably...

There plenty of old bikes on show, but the organisers didn't seem to have attracted many classic traders to go with them. Perhaps us old bike folk are too careful with our cash to put our hands in our pockets this early in the year, or perhaps the classic industry doesn't see the value in mainstream shows like Excel?

Outshining the local competition... 1966 Yamaha YDS3, brought to you by the bloke behind Crowtree Leathers.

There was certainly no shortage of people taking time to inspect the older bikes on show, and it was refreshing to see Japanese classics positioned alongside and in between the more traditional British fare. Personally, I'd have put the Classics zone next to the Custom zone, as to me there's a much more obvious overlap of interest between those two than between Custom and Adventure or Classics and Performance.

Just round the corner, the BSA OC were doing a roaring trade... BSA Bantam Club, Mary Celeste branch

As a place to buy some cheap waterproofs and have a sit on the latest bikes from the major manufacturers, Excel is perfect.

More could have been made of the Custom show, and I'm sure there's a market big enough to sustain more classic and retro traders than were at the show.


The MCN London Motorcycle Show continues on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th February. More details from


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