Two Wheel Tuesday: Everything people hate about bikers crammed in one room

Last night a co-worker and I went to the local introduction event for Triumph’s new Bonneville Bobber model, or by Triumph’s marketing, the “Brutal Beauty Tour.” That name should have tipped me off to what lay ahead. I expected to pop in after work, look at a couple of bikes on display, perhaps ask a few technical questions of knowledgeable factory reps, and be on my way. Instead, I got an excruciating dose of everything that motorcyclists do that turns off just about everyone—even more than a few who, themselves, ride.

The event was held at a local coffee roasting plant, and Triumph required attendees to pre-register. The various communications my buddy Tom and I had received listed conflicting start times, so I was unsure if it started at 5PM or 6PM. I split the difference and arrived about 5:40. Tom, who needed to stop home after work, would arrive later.
Upon arriving, I was handed a glossy black swag bag at the door that contained a product catalog, a can coozie, a cheap black stocking cap, and a raffle ticket. A new Thruxton stood beside the doorway. When I went inside the hall, there were four motorcycles. At the back of the room were a new Bonneville T120 and T120 Black, decked out with various factory accessory add-ons. Up front was the new Bobber we were all here to see, and in the center was the new Street Scrambler, which frankly I didn’t really care much about. To my dismay, the last two were covered with black lycra shrouds. I guess the start time was six o’clock, I thought to myself.
Unfortunately, the top of the hour came and went, and the covers stayed in place. A guy finally asked the staff when the wraps would come off. “Seven o’clock,” they said. Oh crap, they were going to get all dramatic about this. The bikes had already been plastered all over the Internet; there was no mystery to what they looked like. At that moment, the black shrouds seemed like a stupid, unnecessary affectation. I would realize later that they were a crucial element of the evening.
Arranged around the room were a couple of bartenders and a catered spread of hors d’oeuvres and small sandwiches. The caterer hovered about, stressing to everyone that the food was American fusion. She was obviously very proud of that term. “Excuse me, do these sliders have onions on them?” “Yes, they’re American fusion.” People drank and snacked, and the room grew more crowded. I stuffed the hat in my pocket and tossed the rest of the swag, and then found a place against the wall. And waited. And waited. Uncover the bikes already!
As I stood there, I looked around. From the crowd, I could tell that Triumph has a winner on their hands. There was an impressive mix of young hipster types and old, crusty guys. I listened to the conversations around me. And I realized that nobody was talking about bikes, at least not specifics. They weren’t discussing why they liked this or that motorcycle, what trouble they’d had with theirs, or why they’d purchased the one they owned. Everybody, younger and older, was talking about motorcycling in a vaugely abstract sense — why riding was so great, and how cool it was to be a biker. Everywhere were vests and jackets and t-shirts covered in logos and patches. You know that rule about not wearing a band’s T-shirt to their concert? Nearly everyone here was being that guy.
I realized that everybody here was busy convincing each other that they got it. Every conversation included how long somebody had been riding, and/or how many motorcycles they had owned, or perhaps currently owned. There was a whole raft of passive-aggressive posturing, from the old gray-hairs and the young guys in plaid flannel: I’m a real biker. I deserve to be here, damn it. I belong in the club.
Tom arrived. He’s the kind of industry insider who has an impressive list of famous names in his contact list but would have zero interest in name-dropping. “I had hoped to just stop by for a quick look,” he said when he found me. “Here, have my raffle ticket; double your chances.”
Shortly after seven, the speech-making began. Eventually, the Scrambler was uncovered. The rep on the mic went through a couple of the features and benefits, but kept sliding into cringe-inducing phrases like “don’t worry, we’ll let you fondle it” and “I know you want to take it home and make love to it.” That’s when I realized that the black shrouds were not there to make the bikes seem special, they were there to make the audience feel special. They weren’t there to see a new motorcycle; the new motorcycle was their excuse to be there. Their aim was spending an entire, blissful evening knowing they were participating in the “biker scene.” Whatever that is. This wasn’t about selling a product, it was about selling a lifestyle that was only tangentially related to actually going down the road on a motorcycle.
By about 7:30, Tom and I were bored and had wasted as much of our evening as we were willing to sacrifice. We both headed home. The Bobber was still wearing its black shroud when we left.

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24 responses to “Two Wheel Tuesday: Everything people hate about bikers crammed in one room”

  1. mrh1965 Avatar

    thumbs up

  2. Jeff Glucker Avatar
    Jeff Glucker

    We’re going to need you to cover more events in this exact tone (when it’s clearly warranted).

  3. I_Borgward Avatar

    Perhaps less “everything people hate about bikers”, and more “everything people hate about contemporary marketing and event planning”.
    A coffee roasting plant? No parking lot demo of the hardware? No greasy bits, thrum of engines or fragrance of exhaust?
    The prolonged NAIAS-esque unveiling shtick is truly a dopey, amateur move.

    1. Wayne Moyer Avatar
      Wayne Moyer

      That’s what I was thinking as well. Triumph has a good set of products right now. This was on the heads of whoever planned it.

  4. Batshitbox Avatar

    Triumph Bonneville Bobber…
    …will henceforth be known as the Bonny-Bobby.

  5. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    It’s sickening, isn’t it, when you realise that most of the things you care about are just products.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      As for myself, I also care about rocks.

      1. Vairship Avatar

        Which retail at Nordstrom!

      2. crank_case Avatar

        I am not fooled by the rocks that you got, your still running a small engine block.

    2. Alan Cesar Avatar
      Alan Cesar


    3. jeepjeff Avatar

      Next you’re going to say 2017 isn’t the Year of Linux on the Desktop.

  6. JayP Avatar

    I’m holding out for a Ural open house.
    Those guys should be awesome.

    1. Maymar Avatar

      I don’t so much picture “open house” as “abandoned building, missing a wall.”

      1. JayP Avatar

        I’d rather be there than with the “fusion” dildos.

        1. Maymar Avatar

          I thought it was implicit that that was part of Ural’s charm.

          1. Alff Avatar

            Ural offers fusion dildos? Sounds dangerous!

    2. neight428 Avatar

      It would involve rummaging through the back of an unmarked medium duty delivery truck to move the boxes of knockoff purses and untaxed cigarettes.

  7. neight428 Avatar

    I do like the looks of the new Triumphs, but it does appear that they are trying to Harley their way in to justifying the premium over a functionally equivalent Japanese bike, but if it works, I can’t blame them for trying.
    I get the same feeling around most groups of “car people” too. It’s usually some variation of Corvette Grandpa or the guy who is a better credit score away from YouTube infamy leaving Cars and Coffee. Triumph seems to be aiming for a different gestalt, but it’s not about the machines, which is a shame.

  8. HoondavanDude Avatar

    We are more alike than different.

  9. Lokki Avatar

    Yeah, been there, done that with SAAB, of all people. Was invited to “The Mansion on Turtle Creek” for horderves and drinks, and an art exhibition by a famous photographer. In return for test driving a SAAB convertible I received a matted and framed print of one of the photographer’s works.
    A. I didn’t buy a SAAB.
    B. They went out of business a few years later.
    The thing BMW does where they let you slide their cars around a track are a lot more effective even if the food isn’t quite as nice.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      SAAB should never have tried moving upmarket with the introduction of four-strokes.

      1. Lokki Avatar

        You know, my interest in SAAB comes from the string of 2-stroke SAABs my parents owned in the 60’s. They had two sequential sets of matching his and hers 95’s. My dad never bought a Sonnet with the two-stroke, but he test drove one a couple of times… and I got to go along.
        I have fetishized the 2-stroke Sonnets ever since. If you knew how to keep the engine on the boil, you could zoom zoom one across Pennsylvania mountain roads at a pretty brisk pace. The fact that they weighed less than 1500 pounds wet helped a lot.
        They are such beautiful cars too. I still want one.

  10. spotarama Avatar

    just had a quick google of pics of the new bobber, looks ok until you put someone on it, then it looks like someone’s taking a big old dump on the back wheel, a truly silly looking concept