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October 13th, 2010

The joy of two wheels was once again celebrated in Cologne (Köln), Germany during October at INTERMOT which takes place every two years. Merging motorcycles, scooters and bicycles there was plenty to see with 1,052 exhibitors from 36 countries and the appearance of big name brands such as Yamaha who were absent from the EICMA show in Milan last year. Organisers, Koelnmesse, registered more than 210,000 petrol heads in attendance which is a 5% increase in visitors compared to 2008.

During our visit, some fine accordion playing was witnessed in the streets of Cologne and much bratwurst was consumed (apparently the white sausage comes highly recommended). As expected there was plenty to see at the show including some cool custom scooters on display, some new scooter models (lots of Chinese and electric scoots), stunting and sprinting galore. One of the first bikes that we came across was the Sampo HMAX-125, an electric hybrid which features an innovative battery charging system developed by Daniel Giudice at Mazziotta Motors in France which, we’re informed, has already caught the interest from the likes of Peugeot and Piaggio.

Speaking of Piaggio, the bulky new four-stroke Typhoon that was on display hardly resembled its predecessor at all. In fact it looked more akin to its Italian-designed Chinese competitors, almost pseudo-Italian.

A similarly bulky new 4 valve injected Yamaha BW’s didn’t look much like its former self either with more angular lines in keeping with its ‘dune buggy’ ethos. While some scooters have evolved more favourably (the Gilera Runner springs to mind) I’m not so sure I’m all for such radical changes in styling, the sleek styling of the original Typhoon was instantly recognisable. But with such changes the originals will become classics, indeed some of them already are.

Tapping into classic branding as a marketing strategy was a MINI branded concept scooter which could be found under the wing of the BMW stand. This ‘E Concept’ scooter as you might expect features an e-motor and offers “a thrilling ride with a good ecological conscience”. It’s a funky looking thing with it’s union jack seat and target motifs, all very British, but the espresso cup holder, although a nod to that Italian lifestyle, is clearly more for show than practicality. Nevertheless the scooter got a lot of interest at the show, but like most concept bikes if the MINI concept ever makes it to the showrooms remains to be seen.

Meanwhile in the new ‘e-motion’ segment, an abundance of new products and innovations for light electric vehicles (LEVs) – pedelecs, e-bikes, e-scooters and e-motorcycles could be found. By all accounts the manufacturers of electric vehicles registered an encouraging visitor turnout from the first day of the show. Electric mobility has been recognised as a vital issue for the future and what with the rising cost of petrol it’s good to know that alternative eco-friendly solutions are being developed. I still think that electric scoots are dangerously quiet though.

Visitors to the show were given the chance to try out some of the new electric bikes and scooters for themselves on test tracks as well as being able to watch the first LEV and electric scooter ‘world championships’ on a specially constructed racetrack. Speaking of which, the racetrack and outdoor events got their fair share of attention at Cologne with some fine scooter racing action to be seen along with some skilled stunt performances from the likes of Chris Pfeiffer, Kevin Carmichael, Oliver Ronzheimer and Horst Hoffman to name a few. An as yet unnamed stunt rider put on a good display of scooter tomfoolery aboard a Yamaha Aerox. His distinctive style seemed to be a mixture of circus clown meets Starboyz involving some strange hopping motion while perform standup wheelies and generally riding like he stole it. I’m not sure if the old folk approved but his antics reminded me of Rich Haywood here in the UK who used to perform in a similar style.

A scooter sprinting demonstration was also put on from the likes of the DSSC (Deutsches Scooter Sprint Comitee) to get the point across to a wider audience that the power of the scooter shouldn’t be underestimated and that scooter sprinting has to be seen to be believed. Sporting highly developed machines from the likes of Scooter Attack and Stage6 each rider managed to cover a short distance and cross the finish line rather swiftly, thankfully, to an unresounding response from the audience. Then again, sprinting has never been such a great spectator sport. But, the question has to be asked, were the sprint bikes running at full power? For all their ‘vorsprung durch tecnik’ their launch didn’t appear particularly aggressive unlike many a British sprinter I’ve seen go virtually airborne off the line. I was informed by a DSSC representative that rebuilds were often the case so maybe they eased off the throttle a bit to save the spanner work later? Anyhow, with scooter sprinting becoming increasingly the hobby of a dedicated few in the UK it’s good to see that the sport is being kept alive in Germany with organisations like the DSSC supporting the cause and keeping the wheels in motion so to speak.

The custom scooters on show were as good as any I’ve seen, the extreme lengths they’ll go to in Europe to produce something out of the ordinary always astounds me. Like the Yamaha R1 kitted Aerox that was on display, firstly you ask yourself “why?” and secondly “how?”, the weight of the engine alone would have required some strengthening of the chassis and I can’t imagine how it handles. The bike certainly got some interest at the show anyhow.

Low and long seems to be an ongoing trend with European custom scoots, i.e. something resembling a sprint bike with bespoke bodywork and some unique details which are more often than not gothic looking with skulls and the like and a phat rear tyre.

Words, Photos & Video: Paul Robinson

More photos from our visit to INTERMOT 2010 can be viewed here on Flickr.