GAS PRICES MIGHT be high, but it didn't stop about thousands of touring riders from making the pilgrimage to Appalachia to take part in the 15th Annual Honda Hoot, held last week in Knoxville, Tenn. If there was a difference in attendance this year, it was that more riders seemed to arrive in time for the Friday and Saturday events, leaving earlier festivities more, well, open.
It's unclear whether economic factors kept people away, or whether near-perfect riding conditions just kept them enjoying the road. Temperatures in the 70s and clear skies lured many tourers to Deal's Gap (and the famed Tail of the Dragon route), the Cherohala Skyway or even Cumberland Caverns, where an estimated 800 motorcycles took part in a ride organized by Honda.
Most of the main events, including a Metric Motorcycle Show sponsored by Cobra Exhaust, were held at the World's Fair Park and riverfront area in downtown Knoxville. On the northeastern edge of town, the vendor showcase and Honda demo ride area at Chilhowee Park seemed unusually quiet on Wednesday and Thursday. Dealernews was told that the vendor showcase had roughly 50 fewer exhibitors than last year.
Although big crowds weren't in evidence at the showcase, several vendors did report brisk business. A custom Gold Wing equipped with $10,000 worth of running lights (making it look more like a Peterbilt than a touring bike) attracted onlookers to the Honda of Cool Springs exhibit. Niehaus Cycles' selection of Honda gear made by Joe Rocket was popular, and a range of bolt-on luggage kept installers busy at the GiVi tent.