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This weekend Kristy and I decided to attend the Phoenix Bike Fest. Last year a friend and I went and it was pretty cool... vendors, concessions, dealers, big manufacturer's displays, vintage bike races with bleachers for spectators, a classic bike show, raffle, and demo rides. Last year was a lot of fun but I didn't get to do any demo rides because I didn't bring my helmet, gloves, etc. along as we attended spur of the moment.

So this year Kristy and I go out and expect this great big carnival type atmosphere and are really disappointed. There was no big factory displays, no bike show, no vintage races, and almost no vendors. What the Phoenix Bike Fest had turned into this year was basically a track day for modern super-bikes and some pocket bike and clutch-cart races on the side. The one or two vendors there were selling helmets and jackets and not much else. Hardly worth the $10 admission for the privilege of buying a helmet or jacket that you could buy anywhere.

We make our way back to the demo ride area and see that two dealerships are offering demos on Ducati, Moto Guzzi, Buell, BMW, Triumph, & Kawasaki. Having previously attended a BMW & Triumph Demo day we decided to focus on the Italian bikes and maybe squeeze in a Buell for comparison if time permitted. We asked about the demo rides for the Ducati's and are told that the first demo's aren't for few hours but that everything is booked for the day. They can tell we are really disappointed and tell us to feel free to stop by the dealership if we would like a closer look at the bikes. Upon further prodding we discover that at the last ride of the day (4:15) they have a Ducati Monster 620 and a Moto Guzzi LeMans V11 RC available. Well, did pay to get in so we sign up for the two bikes and put on name on the "standby list" in case anyone doesn't show.

We look around and check out the pocket bikes and try to watch some of the track action but this year there are no bleachers or spectator areas so we bail at about 11:30 to catch some lunch and hit the mall for a few hours. We come back to the Bike Fest about 2:00.

We head back to the Demo area and watch some racers getting their bikes Dyno'd... pretty cool. We find out that the person who signed up for the Monster 620 at 2:50 is a no show. Since Kristy was going to ride the Monster at 4:15 I go ahead and take the Monster for the 2:50 ride. They tell me that I have missed the pre-ride meeting but no big deal, just hop and follow the leader, I nod and grab the bike. Oh, and we're doing demo's on the track this year... that's about the time I realize I am just about the only guy in the group not in full leathers. GULP!

There is some problem on the track so we have to wait cued up on the bikes. The Monster is comfortable and well balanced. One guy can't get the 999 to start, I am sure it is the 15 second immobilizer kicking in... yep, the dealer starts it. Now worries, the "stunt show" is starting and we can see a couple of guys doing wheelies and stopies back and forth. Looks like it might be pretty cool. OK, the track is clear of racers, time to go.

So I am third in the line-up on the smallest bike here, every other bike is over 900 CCs. I have been riding for a few years now but I have never been on a track and I have never been on a Ducati before either. I was not afraid, or intimidated at all but I was not about to ride beyond my limits or experience either. As we take off I am left in the dust and as I get to the first corner before the straight I scrape my boot and the peg HARD. My instincts tell me to ease up and the front end is pushing (my fault, not the bikes) but there are about 10 liter bikes stacking up behind me so I dig in, get around the corner and floor it. I pull way over on the straight and try to flag the faster bikes around me... no one passes me. Weird. I hit 70-80 0n the back straight, brake and turn into the very twisty and technical part of the track. I purposely miss the apex a few times expecting the faster bikes to go by but nothing. The monster is very comfortable and smooth but the stock pegs drag on every corner. If it had been an 800 or 1000 instead of a 620 I could have flowed better, instead I was working up and down between 1st and 3rd gears trying to get the best speeds. I get the feeling the faster bikes would like to go buy and when no one will pass me on the second lap I simply give up and go for the best line I can find.

I pull in a lap early and tell the guy at the demo booth how much I felt like I sucked on the track. The other riders pull in an apparently the reason no one would pass me is I didn't give the special hand signal as demonstrated in the drivers meeting. Crap, the other riders are pissed. Normally I would feel bad but you can only work with the info given to you and no one told me. My bad for sure, but nothing I could do to change it now.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Re: Phoenix Bike fest Review Pt II

Kristy and I have about 45mins. until our 4:15 ride so we think about looking at some riding gear but things are winding down and the vendor is already packing up.
 

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Re: Phoenix Bike fest Review PT III

Once off the track I realize the Guzzi is far less comfortable in parking and maneuvering situations, I realize just how high and tucked up my feet are. What was good on the track feels awkward in the real world. Kristy and I thank the demo crew, say our good buys, hop in the Boxster and head out to find some refreshment. On the way out we are talking about our experiences on the track. We are both impressed with the Monster for comfort and smoothness but realize that being focused on driving the track doesn't really allow one to take in the bike... Neither of us even got the bike past third gear. How does it handle in traffic, a parking lot, or on the freeway? We don't know we just had to get on and ride hard and stay out of the way. Well, it may not have been the most useful demo ride but we both got a new experience and are interested in seriously looking at the Monster.

That is when Kristy points out that the 620 Monster with the stock pegs simply shouldn't have been in the mix with the bigger bikes like the Ducati 999, Buell XB12R, Triumph Daytona 955i, etc,. I chimed in that the smaller Duc also required lost of shifting to get through the course where the bigger bikes could stay in 2nd or third for most of the track... quite a disadvantage for any rider, let alone two who have never been on the track.

This brought us to our final thought of the day. The Phoenix Bike Fest had been transformed. What was once a family friendly event that featured some racing had become a full on track day that happened to be open to the public. I think that was were the organizers made the mistake. If you change your event to exclude the general public then don't charge admission, don't advertise, don't let us in. We don't need to be on a race track with people who are really racing and they don't want us there anyway. I will morn the loss of the Phoenix Bike Fest for what it was but tell anyone who is looking for a track day to give it a shot.
 

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I went out to the "Phoenix bike fest" around 9am Sunday and was really disappointed. The two vendors (one of with has a Harley dealer) and two roach-couches weren't much of a "fest". After I was told I couldn't demo the 999 because I got there to late, I walked around the area two or three times to see if there was anything going on, then left.

I don't hold much hope for AZ bike week... The last few years have s*cked, unless you have a Harley and can go for ride during the week days. :-/
 

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Discussion Starter #6
As far as I know not a single, "civillian" had the opportunity to ride the 999. The dealer doing the demo put on a really good factory supported Triumph demo day at the dealership. There were plenty of bikes to ride and the demo route included city streets, a twisty, hilly, park area, and a free blast. The Triumph demo was very well planned and executed with lots of knowledgeble people around to answer questions, food, fun, freebies, etc.

I sure hope they take a cue from the success of the Triumph demo and do something similar with Ducati. Sure, it is a premium brand but they have as many left over 2002 and 2003 bikes as anyone and I bet a fun demo day, where real people could rides these bikes in real world conditions would lead to sales.

I plan on adding at least two more bikes to the stable this year. I know I like the Monster but it sure would have been fun to demo a 999, Multi, ST3, etc. without the sales pressure you get on an actual test-ride.
 
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