by Bruce Mike
Over the past few months I attended both The International Motorcycle Show and The Donnie Smith Bike Show. I thoroughly enjoyed both shows for very different reasons.
The International Show did a pretty good job of giving me a glimpse of what’s new from the world of motorcycle manufacturers. While not all of them were represented, local dealers did a pretty good job of filling the holes. I love looking at new bikes. I go through and sit on the ones I have an interest in, try to get friends to buy the ones I really like and make a mental list of which ones, in priority based on need, I plan to purchase when I win the lottery. I then make my way through the vast array of vendor booths and purchase things I don’t really need as well as get my glasses cleaned and my boots polished. I am easily impressed with new technology as well as an easy mark for clever marketing.
The Donnie Smith Show appeals to the other side of motorcycling that I enjoy. The place was filled with customs and choppers of varying degrees of modification and fabrication. For me, modification is taking an existing part and making it better or more personal, while fabrication is creating something new because what is needed just doesn’t exist. Wandering around this show, I found great examples of both. One of my favorite things about this show is the high school shop classes that build bikes. The kids are always very excited to talk about why and how they did the things they did.
Ten years ago I bought my first brand new motorcycle. One of the deciding factors in my choice of bike was the new technology that had been implemented in it’s design. It wasn’t exactly how I wanted it so before it even left the dealership I had modifications made. Over the five years that I owned that bike I continued to modify it to meet my riding needs. When I got to the point that it no longer met my needs, I traded it in and got my second brand new motorcycle. Again, it was modified before it left the dealership. As with the first one, I have made modifications to this one. This bike was purchased a little smarter than the first one so the degree of modifying has been less substantial.
Over the years I owned a lot of older motorcycles that needed as much fabrication as they did modification. Modification usually means different bolt-on parts and accessories where as fabrication, for me, requires knowing a “guy” (or “gal”), with the required skill set. Usually skills they’ve learned through years of honing their craft. Recently, I found a “guy” with a small shop to do some factory recommended service on my bike. I’ve always liked small shops but with my newest bike I was bringing it to the dealer for service. More out of habit than anything else. The thing about small shops is often the owner is the one working on my bike and it gives me an opportunity to develop a relationship with the person turning the wrenches. This particular “guy” is qualified to do the recommended service on my bike and he did a very thorough and detailed job. Outside the service, he fabricated a part that improved the performance. While the dealer I went to did a great job servicing my bike, they never made any special parts for me. Today, I have a fairly high-tech bike that has modifications that include a fabricated part.