29th November 2013
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Motorcycle Live, NEC 2013
A tale of two Indians. And two Yamahas, and a Harley. And some other new motorbikes. Martin Gelder brings us the NEC show in pictures...
The NEC show - or Motorcycle Live as they want us to call it - is all about new motorcycle models, so let's start with a model on a new motorcycle.
Indian Motorcycles have launched three all new bikes this year; the Indian Chief Classic at £18,499, the Indian Chief Vintage at £19,649 and the Indian Chieftain at £20,499. The brand name has come and gone a few times over the decades, but this time they seem a lot more serious. More details here: www.indianmotorcycle.com.
This is the Chief Vintage, and it has one of the most comfortable seats I've ever sat on at a bike show. I could have stayed there all day and simply watched the world go past. I know this probably won't translate into equal comfort when riding, but suddenly that £19k price tag doesn't seem so bad.
Quality appears excellent, and you can't help thinking that the other American motorcycle manufacturers must be taking note...
And lo and behold, on the adjacent Victory Motorcycles stand, there was a bit of lowest common denominator marketing going on. Who'd have thought these two companies were part of the same group?
The other new Indian motorcycle is a motorcycle from India, the Royal Enfield Continental GT; read more about it here. It's bigger in the flesh than I expected, and although not as deeply lickable as the American Indian, it seems to be built to a modern standard. It's the type of bike that wouldn't look out of place at any motorcycle meet, that would fit in anywhere. The Enfield stand was quieter than the Indian affair, but the Continental was the bike getting all the attention.
Nothing notably new from Triumph, Norton or - sadly - Metisse, but there were a couple of talking points on the Yamaha stand for those with a retro interest.
The Yamaha SR400 is a slightly smaller version of the familiar and once popular SR500. It'll sell for about £5,199 and judging by the attention it was attracting, it'll sell well. It's tiny to sit on compared with many modern versions of older bikes, slim and low, and might make an interesting alternative ride.
Also new from Yamaha this year is the Yamaha Bolt XV950. Sold under the Star Motorcyles brand in America, it's a direct competitor for the Harley-Davidson Sportster and Honda VT750S. In real life it looks cobbier and more purposeful than the publicity photos suggested, and that kinked front downtube doesn't look as obvious in the flesh. It feels like a much more modern bike than the Sportster, while still showing some of the H-D's 'made from girders' quality that the Honda seems to lack. £7,199 on the road; cheaper than an Indian, dearer than an Enfield.
Harley-Davidson are celebrating their 110th birthday this year and were showing a pretty stunning selection of custom and classic bikes on their stand. Unfortunately, this tended to distract from their production models, making the bikes you can actually buy from H-D look a bit... dowdy.
Their big news is the introduction of liquid cooled cylinder heads to their bigger models. The radiators are cunningly concealed in the leg-shield bodywork and I'm sure Harley-Davidson would be happy if most of their more conservative buyers didn't notice the update.
And finally, hidden in plain sight, the Super Classic 400cc single, from Zing Bikes.co.uk. 'Great reliability, great fuel economy and great style' they say, and all for £4,500. Is this what we're looking for?
Words and photos; Martin Gelder
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