Published on November 18th, 2013 | by Boris
2013 SYDNEY MOTORCYCLE EXPO – A NEW PERSPECTIVE
I attended the recent Sydney Motorcycle Expo as an exhibitor on the Australian Motorcycle News stand. This is the 12th such expo I have attended as an exhibitor and the 2385th motorcycle show I have been to.
Working (or in my case, volunteering, since there is never any payment involved) at one of these events is an eye-opener and rarely seen through the slitted glare of an exhibitor.
DAY ONE – THURSDAY – SET UP
For reasons of fashion, setting up for the show is now called “Bump In”. It used to be called “Setting up”, but not anymore. The world has moved on and is using entirely new jargon to explain itself to me.
My mission on this Thursday is to deliver the Yamaha XV1900, the AMCN project bike, to the show by the end of the day. I understand that the stand AMCN has will be set up (or Bumped In) and that all that will be required of me is to bring the bike for display.
I arrive at the rear of the Darling Harbour exhibition centre and am confronted by a security guard.
“I need to place this bike on the AMCN stand,” I tell him.
“What kind of bike is it?” he asks.
“It’s a Yamaha.”
“I have a Yamaha,” he tells me. “It doesn’t look like that.”
Of that I have no doubt, I think, but remain silent.
“Wait here,” he says, and wanders off to a booth.
He returns and hands me a fluoro safety vest.
“You must put this on,” he says.
He says this in all seriousness.
I put it on. It burns me.
The gate opens and I ride into the chaos of Bump In.
I proceed to another security guard.
English is not her first language.
Still she manages to tell me I need to go somewhere called: “Kawl-vun”.
Having had some experience with foreigners, I proceed to Hall One and another security guard.
“What stand are you on?” she asks me. Her English is almost as good as mine.
“Australian Motorcycle News,” I say.
She checks her clipboard.
“That’s stand 107,” she reports.
I turn my bike off and begin to push it into the hall.
I then leave it and my helmet and bag in the massive doorway as millions of dollars’ worth of bikes and gear is being wheeled around me and positioned on stands in five halls. The show is big. Thus Bump In is big.
I go to an information counter where three girls sit discussing their splendid manicures.
“Could you tell me where Stand 107 is?” I ask.
A map is consulted and I am pointed back the way I have come.
I go to where I have been pointed and find Australian Motorcyclist magazine’s stand.
Stuart Woodbury and Peter Thoeming are beaut blokes, but I do not think we would be friends if I set up camp in their stall.
I go back to the information counter.
I ask if perhaps she could tell me where Australian Motorcycle News’s stand might be.
The one with purple nails consults her computer and advises me that the stall, number 123, is on the other side of the hall I am in, near the front entrance. I locate it, go back to my bike and push it there.
The stand is indeed Bumped In, and Alex Penklis, who was only recently employed by AMCN, but is no longer, has put up all the posters.
It looks very nice.
Alex is to be my partner during the weekend. This is his first expo. He is very excited. He is less than half my age. I understand his excitement. I do not share it, but I understand it. The two of us will be dealing with thousands of people. I am pleased that Alex is a nice bloke and possessed of a sense of humour. He will need it.
I push the Yamaha into position and clean it. I then clean the counter. All is sparkly and all is nice and all appears to be ready. It has only taken three hours to attain Bump In.
I wander around and say hello to lots of people.
I see the hunted look so many of the seasoned Expo campaigners have. I share it.
I return to the stand after briefly viewing the KTM 1290.
“Do you think you’re man enough for that?” one of the KTM blokes had asked me.
“No-one is man enough for that,” I’d explained to him.
Alex agrees. He has ridden it.
Alex also agrees that we are ready. We then agree to return on the morrow at nine am when the Expo opens and rock our collective shit.
I go home, feeling agreeable. But I am full of trepidation, for I know what awaits.
DAY TWO – FRIDAY – IT BEGINS
I arrive just as the press is being led around the place. I have no interest in being led from display to display, so I make a quick personal lap of the displays, note various motorcycles of interest and say hello to more people.
Joe from Benelli approaches me.
“How could you do that to me?” he asks.
“What did I do, Joe?” I ask, concerned that I had maybe inadvertently damaged the Benelli I had recently ridden to the MotoGP.
“How could you run those pictures of it leaking oil everywhere?”
“I did not run those pictures, Joe. The editor ran those pictures. I just wrote the words.”
Joe promised to take it up with the right people and I went back to my stand.
All the posters had fallen down.
Clearly Alex did not understand that a Velcro patch on each corner of each poster is not sufficient to affix it to the bizarre walls of the stand. Experience has taught me that a minimum of sixteen such patches accompanied by 10 map pins is barely sufficient. As I am driving one of the pins in with my thumb, the top breaks and it enters my thumb. I whimper like a dog and bleed like a pig for an hour. Such is the joy of being full of blood thinners.
The doors open and the public begins flooding in.
Friday is normally a quiet day. But this Friday is anything but quiet. In fact, it is a record attendance for Fridays.
The people approach the stall in waves. For as long as maybe five minutes, there is no-one at the stall. Then there are suddenly 15 people there. Four want to buy magazines. Four want to buy my book. Three want to fondle the Yamaha. Two wish to sit on it. The remaining two just want to stare at the wall of posters. All of them wish to do this at once.
I sell books. I sign books. I sell magazines. I search for T-shirts in the three large boxes out the back. I struggle to find the needed sizes. They are all jumbled up. They get more jumbled as I search. I must carry the cashbox in and out of the back of the stall each time I walk back there to look for T-shirts. It’s not that people are thieves; it’s just that I do not wish them to become thieves and thus do not lead them into temptation.
Alex is working like a beast. He talks to people. I talk to people. I ask people not to sit on the bike. I tell them that the exact same bike is available for sitting on at the Yamaha stand across the hall. They look at me as if I am mad. I sell and sign more books. I pose for pictures with people. I sell magazines. I go to the toilet. I come back. Alex goes to the toilet. More people arrive. Some want to talk. All of them say nice and kind things about my work. They shake my hand. I am always flattered and touched. Some ask where Sam is. I tell them Sam is no longer with the magazine. I eat my lunch at the counter and talk to people with my mouth full. It’s hard. The strange bread-like dough the wraps are made of becomes like wallpaper paste when it comes into contact with saliva.
After lunch, more people come. I sign and sell more books and magazines. I shake more hands. I talk at length about the vinyl warp on the bike. I assure people that it is not carbon fibre. I assure people it is not paint. They doubt me and they feel the bike. The Yamaha is the most fondled bike in the show.
On Friday, the show closes at 8pm. The final two hours drag on. My feet throb. Alex and I have padded stools to sit on, which is a first. For the past three shows we have had hard wooden stools to sit on. Prior to that, there was nothing to sit on. I admire the progress we have made in this regard.
But it is not possible to talk to people while one is seated. So the stools are only utilised when there are no people about.
At 8pm, the crowd leaves and I head for the Brazilian Churrascura with Irena and Ed from Gimoto leathers and Billy Kaylock. We consume the spit-roasted meat until we begin to sweat. It is delicious. My feet throb in time to my chewing.
It begins to rain as I make my way back to my bike. My ride home is all liquid. I sweat meat sweat despite the pouring rain. I thank Yamaha that I have an FJR1300 with an adjustable screen. It is remarkably effective. I still get wet but.
I am in bed and unconscious by 1130pm.
DAY TWO- SATURDAY – THE END IS FAR AWAY
The following morning I am up at five.
I must complete the grocery shopping so that my family may eat that week.
The shopping is my duty.
I do the shopping, then ride at outrageous speeds down the freeway to make the opening of the show. I am five minutes late.
Alex is very chirpy. I’m suspicious of him.
Two army guys come to our stand.
They also have a stall at the show. They are recruiting.
I ask them how man blokes wanna join up and be Marines.
“A frightening amount,” the sergeant tells me. “An equal amount want to be SAS paratroopers.”
I tell him I have always wanted to be a Field Marshal.
He tells me I would make a good one.
He then tells me that a bloke asked him how many times he’d been killed.
I ask him if an adult asked him that.
He tells me it was an adult.
I observe that such an adult would be ideal for the infantry.
The people start to arrive. Magazines are sold. Books are sold. Books are signed. T-shirts are searched for, but very few are sold.
A new paradigm begins to manifest itself with the Saturday people.
They begin to help themselves to the magazines.
“Sorry, mate,” I say to each of them. “The mags are not free.”
“Because that is how we roll,” I explain with a smile.
“Those magazines are free,” each of them tells me, indicating an adjoining display where a man brought a pallet of old dirt-bike mags and is giving them away. He told me it was better than paying to store them.
The Yamaha is also undergoing more fondling and even more people seek to sit upon it.
“Please get off the bike,” I say to one fellow.
“Why?” he asks. “There’s no sign on it.”
“Pretend that I am the sign,” I say to him.
Happily, lunchtime arrives, and I escape for an hour with some friends. I gag down some lamb chops and some beer, and fret that Alex will drown in the veritable sea of people within the hall.
I rush back and Alex goes to lunch.
I am alone at the stand.
I am also busting for a piss.
I close the door, grab the cash box, excuse myself and head for the toilet. Which is a walk away. Everywhere is a walk away at the Expo.
I return. There is another man sitting on my bike.
I ask him to get off.
He glares hatred at me.
Almost every other bike at the show has someone, male, female or child, sitting on it, climbing on it, scratching it, and in the case of a Panigale, having its tailpiece kicked off.
It seems to be like some kind of sport.
Come to the bike show and sit on every fucken thing you can sit on. Twist the throttle, press all the buttons, pull all the levers and bounce up and down on it. Because fuck you, that why.
The afternoon drags on, but the show finishes at six pm tonight.
At 630, the organisers are hosting the exhibitors at the nearby Hard Rock Café, and providing beer and nachos.
I head straight there through the pouring rain and consume four peoples’ worth of Mexican food and cold beer.
I ride home in the pouring rain, check to see that my family hasn’t been murdered in my absence, take a hot shower and lapse into blessed unconsciousness. My last waking thought is that I cannot feel my legs below my knees. I hope that will repair itself by morning.
DAY THREE – SUNDAY – THE CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND
I make it to the Expo five minutes before the doors open. Alex is chirpy again, despite being out all night. I am now seriously suspicious of him.
We are hopeful that the rain might keep the crowds at a manageable level, and at first, that seems to be the case. Then all hell breaks loose and they begin flooding in.
I am always pleased that many of them have washed and brushed their teeth. They are a welcome relief from those who have eschewed such practices.
I sell the last of my books by 11am. We are down to the last 50 magazines. I sell a cap. Alex sells a hoodie. Clearly, the garments we are offering for sale are not capturing the imagination of the buying public.
More people need to be advised that the magazines are not for free.
“They should be,” a women resembling a couch filled with cheese spits at me.
“That sounds like a great business plan,” I smile. “We pay for them to be created, then we give them away. Big success.”
A disturbing amount of people come to the stand and leaf through the magazine. The peruse every page at their leisure, then toss the mag casually aside, stare at something over my head and then wander off.
The Yamaha is now being constantly stroked. I trust the vinyl will not start to fade or peel off. I am concerned when some of the people start to pick at it with their nails. But it is good vinyl and it resists their frenzied scrabblings.
Someone wishes to buy one of the display posters.
“I’m sorry,” I say, feigning sadness. “It’s not for sale.”
“Why not?” the man demands.
“Because they are not,” I explain. “It’s one of those inexplicable mysteries of the universe.”
“They should be,” he tells me.
I agree. What choice do I have?
More people come. I sell them magazines. Some of them want books. There are none left. I send them to Andy Strapz, for I know he has a few left. They buy the books and come back for me to sign them. They are very nice and compliment me on my work. I thank them.
Then Christians come to the stall. It is Sunday after all.
They throw proselytising propaganda brochures onto the counter top.
“Please take that off the counter,” I say to them.
“Why?” one of them asks.
“Because I do not wish to have it on the counter.”
“What do you believe in?” he demands.
“I believe you should remove that rubbish from the counter,” I tell him.
A brief discussion follows.
He agrees that he believes the Bible is the inerrant word of God.
It goes very badly for him after that admission.
I go for another pee. I make another attempt to consume the local food. It goes poorly. I resign myself to eating fruit salad. That, at least, appears to have originated naturally.
The hours slide by slowly. It is raining like crazy outside. Lukey Luke’s stunt shows and Supercross displays have been cancelled. The crowd is relentless. Alex is still cheery. I am in awe of him and decide that he is made of very stern stuff indeed. Or he has gone mad and shall shortly commence to cull the herd. The promo girls have surrendered their high heels and are now limping around in flats. I mock them for being weak and soft. They look at me with hurt in their eyes. They know that I am right. One of them rushes off and comes back in heels. I applaud her.
The last hour is the longest.
Everyone is clock-watching now. Everyone except the people who are climbing on the motorcycles like marmosets in a forest. They are too busy pulling levers and taking photos of themselves to care what time it is.
But it is time.
Time is called over the PA.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the Sydney Motorcycle Expo is now closed. Please make your way to the exits.”
Alex and I immediately begin gutting the stall.
Bump Out has commenced.
Of course, Bump Out is not possible without the donning of fluoro vests.
We don them, and in half-an-hour the posters are all down, rolled and stashed. The T-shirt boxes are taped up, the cash box has been emptied and I am wheeling the Yamaha to the exit.
I ride it through the pouring rain and park it in the office carpark in town. I walk back in the rain to get my FJR, which is parked outside the Expo.
But before I ride home, I must have a final ale. I am hoping it will restore my voice and inject some feeling back into my legs. I am doomed to be disappointed. I almost fall asleep in the bar across from the Expo. My damp leather jacket feels like home. Irene and Ed from Gimoto share my suffering. They have also been awash in people all weekend.
Show attendance has broken all records.
It has come close to breaking me.
But it has not.