Recession Proof

The 2009 Dealer Expo previews the rise of budget bikes

The Great Recession of 2009 didn't kill the Dealer Expo in Indianapolis as many had predicted after all. In fact, there seemed to be tremendous growth in the budget, small displacement, and entry-level categories. Despite the fact that there were cutbacks and missing manufacturers, there were still several buzz-worthy new models introduced at this year's show. Interestingly enough, most of the booths related to high-end sport bikes and cruisers seemed to be dormant and the majority of the exciting new models introduced were in the small displacement categories by lesser-known manufacturers, many from China.

QLink Motors showed three new 250cc bikes. These new models are based off of the British-designed Megelli motorcycles. QLink will be building sportbike (the R), supermoto (the M), and streetfighter (the S) models based on this platform and while their performance is still up in the air, they certainly look the part. While all three bikes are based on the same platform there are some fairly significant differences between the bikes. Most notable are the differences in wheelbase, power, and weight between the Magelli 250R/M (which are essentially the same) and the 250S. All three bikes feature 5-speed transmissions, 17" wheels, and a relatively square bore/stroke of 65.5mm x 68mm which should prove to be a good engine for beginners. The bikes should begin to arrive at QLink dealers in June.

Another head-tuner small bike at the show was the Wolf Classic from SYM. The Wolf Classic is a great retro styled café racer bike. It looks like it came straight from a 1960s British b-road. This bike is powered by a 150cc single cylinder engine, has a beefy looking 4-piston disc brake, and it even has clip-on handlebars to finish the cafe look. Fit and finish seemed to be SYM's typical great quality and this bike looks to bring the classic motorcycle back for the budget motorcyclist.  The Wolf Classic is set for release in the fall of 2009.

Scooters, mopeds, and electric bicycles were a big focus of the show and among all that we saw, there were three new models that stood out from the crowd.

First was the Symba from SYM. This sweet machine is a modern interpretation of the classic Honda Super Cub. The Symba is one of 2009's most anticipated scooters and the bike lives up to its quickly growing hype. It features a 101cc engine, auto clutch, four-speed transmission, and has an array of cool options. There are several updates when compared to its inspiration, the Super Cub. The most significant update would have to be the addition of modern telescopic forks. These high-tech forks should make for one smooth ride.

Also at the Dealer Expo, Ultra Motors introduced their new A2B electric bicycle to the motorcycle world. Ultra Motors made a good decision when they decided to have this vehicle classified as an electric bicycle. This helps to avoid licensing and registration red-tape. The cool thing about the A2B is that it rides more like a vintage Puch moped than a bicycle. It is capable of a 20MPH top speed and even has a regular seven-speed bicycle derailleur system to assist the electric motor. With the optional second battery pack the A2B has a range of 40 miles per charge. Imagine commuting to work on your electric powered bicycle via the bicycle path and arriving sans sweat. With the A2B electric bicycle, this dream is possible.

Lastly was one of the year's most anticipated concept scooters, the Venti 150. The Venti is essentially a modern Chinese 150cc scooter with the twist of a vintage plastic Vespa VBB body sitting on top of the frame. The manufacturer of the Venti, Hammerhead, wasn't shy about their intentions with the bike and stated that they didn't expect the Venti to attract much interest from the vintage scooter crowd, but built the bike to accommodate customers looking for a modern bike with a classic soul.

All in all, the Dealer Expo proved to be a great learning experience about the current state of the motorcycle market and its place in the weakened economy. Although many high-end motorcycle markets are experiencing a decline in business, the potential for growth in the small and budget categories remains high, chiefly due to the inevitability of rising gas prices and the high efficiencies of two-wheeled vehicles.