BY ART HALL
Cincinnati seems like a remote place when you are in Southern Cal but it actually is pretty well centrally located geographically from population bases and makes a good destination for this type of show. Cinci is a good convention town with lots of quality hotels adjacent to the large, modern convention center.
Just to validate that – the following week is a huge Expo in Indianapolis, only a few hours drive to almost all types of recreational vehicles including cruiser and v-twin metrics. Some of the Cincy exhibitors head on over to Indy for that show on the tour, though this one, the V-Twin Expo, is far and away the show for the “Harley Guy.” But – I gotta tell you – it can be brutally cold, and it was 25 degrees with freezing rain, but the weather changes first in the east and was a balmy 40’s for the remainder of the show weekend.
This was my first dealers show and I am sorry that I have not attended them in the past but the travel budget for out-of-town reporting is kinda tight. It is the place to see the newest products for the year and the best place to see the people that actually make the products use on just about everybody’s bike. The public is excluded so the attendees are all shop owners, dealers, or other manufacturers. A few of the names I can drop here are Kevin Alsop from Big Bear Choppers on site with a great display. OCC had a debut of their new production line of bikes and I was even hangin’ with Paul Jr. for a bit on Friday night, and his entourage of rock star proportions. Didn’t get to meet Paul Sr. though he was there too. Russell Mitchell of Exile was another West Coast builder showing some new stuff. Renegade wheels showed off their new rolling showroom – a really nice looking rig. These guys had the best looking display (and model) in the show which may explain why their business is going so well in a slowing market.
I finally got to meet Arlen Ness and can say he is quite the personable guy. In all these years I just have never had the opportunity to make that introduction even though I had met his son only a few months earlier in Kuala Lumpur.
Big Dog had a great display of their entire line to represent some of the other American manufacturers. I just missed Mr. Big Dog (ok, not his name) but his staff was friendly and helpful. The hot new Pitbull was on display and looking fine.
It seems the show is as much about being seen out of the convention center as it is taking care of business at the show. The main gathering took place at the Hyatt Hotel’s bar and overflowed into the lobby. There was always a little buzz about who was where and the socializing went on to the late hours. Downtown Cinci has quite a few watering holes if you had the time to look around – seems like a pretty good party town.
It is a four-day show being Friday through Monday and even on Monday when you would think it was over, all vendors stayed on till the 1 pm closing time in a very professional manner. Even though it was Super Bowl Sunday the attendance was huge. The biggest party of the weekend was hosted by Drag Specialties just after the 5 pm closing time and just in time for the game. They took over the entire main ballroom and invited a few thousand of their best friends – I even got in though not quite in the “best friend’ category – the heavy credential of QT got me by and I was even able to bring the affable promoter Seth Dalton, who will be putting on the QT sponsored Motorcycle Madness in Santa Maria in May, and a little event called Hollister in July. It was all you could eat dinner and drinks and a very busy room. Speaking of free meals – I should add here that the show provided a superb buffet Saturday night right at the convention center for the exhibitors only. It was some of the best food and desserts I have seen at any buffet in a while. They had more than enough for the usual voracious biker crowd and I must congratulate the Cincinnati convention Center staff for doing such a great job.
Even though it is not a “custom bike show” in the competition sense they do pick a best of show bike at the Expo and this year it was Russ Marlow, an East Coast renowned builder who featured the new 360 Brakes for a super clean machine. I noticed too that many of the exhibitors and attendees were pretty upbeat and enthusiastic, despite the slump in sales for the last year. Attendance, according to the show promoters, was within 4% of last year, with about 500 vendors making up the show. So there you have it – an action packed weekend with some of the most active builders and manufacturers in the industry. The place to bee seen and noticed by those who understand.”If I have to tell you, you wouldn’t understand.“