MotoGP star Nicky Hayden was at the Long Beach IMS helping Ducati celebrate 20 years of the Monster. The Ducati display is always quite a spectacle!
Motorcycles filled the void between the Long Beach Aquarium and the nearby Convention Center, the SoCal weather gods smiling on the congregation gathered for the motorcyclists’ revival known as the Progressive International Motorcycle Show. The mild Los Angeles winters allow more riders than normal to hit up the show, an option that might prove challenging when the IMS swings up to cities like Chicago and New York in mid-winter. Fortunately, the International Motorcycle Shows provide an opportunity for enthusiasts to see, touch, sit-on, and learn from the OEM’s themselves about the latest motorcycles on the market regardless of weather. At a point when many need a moto-related shot in the arm, the IMS sweeps across the country in the fall and winter to provide the fix many need until they can get out and ride again.
Based on the amount of smiling faces we encountered at the show, we’d have to say the Long Beach round was a huge success. Over the course of three days, 54,392 people walked through the doors of the Long Beach Convention Center to check out the Progressive IMS, up 2.2% from last year according to SpinPR. The show featured more new models, sales were said to be up, and it was encouraging to see OEMs working hard to foster the next generation of riders and to put products on the market at an affordable price point.
One of the companies at the forefront of this current movement is Honda. The Japanese manufacturer released a trio of 500s, from the sporty CBR500R to the more adventure-minded 2013 CB500X. Its CBR250R has already won over many riders and continues to be a great gateway motorcycle. Honda’s scooters like the 2013 Metropolitan and PCX150 blend Honda reliability with efficiency, providing a smart way to navigate congested urban centers on a budget.
Kawasaki has been aware of the importance a reliable entry-level mount means for quite some time as the Ninja 250 has entrenched itself as the company’s best-selling model. This year they gave their little green dynamo a refresh, bumping up displacement, adding a slipper clutch and ABS as an option. The 2013 Ninja 300 left our Managing Editor Bart Madson grinning after his first ride on the updated Ninja and the bike generated plenty of interest from the crowd at the Long Beach IMS as well.
Other smaller offerings aimed to bring more riders into the fold include the 2013 Suzuki GW250 and Star Motorcycles V Star 250. The entry-level offerings extend to the dual-purpose realm as well with bikes like the Kawasaki KLX250S and the Honda CRF250L. All of the aforementioned models come with estimated ranges of better than 50 mpg with a price point under $5K, two denominators which will be factored in when consumers new to the sport decide to take the plunge.
KTM could be mentioned in this same grouping if it brings its 390 Duke to the US. The sporty little Single-powered naked bike will provide spirited performance in a stylized package and generated quite a buzz at its overseas debut at EICMA. Since we had KTM reps cornered, we had to ask if the US was indeed going to get the 390 also, to which we received an enthusiastic – “Maybe.” Though they couldn’t confirm that we’ll get the 2013 390 Duke ABS here or not, from the impressions we got we believe KTM is leaning in that direction. One bike we do know the
The Gunny, aka Victory spokesperson R. Lee Ermey, gives a young fan some business at the Long Beach IMS.
US market is getting is the 690 Duke, the sharp-edges of the motorcycle’s design ready to entice riders into engaging in hooligan antics. KTM also used the Long Beach IMS to announce it added Taylor Knapp to its 2013 KTM / HMC Factory Superbike team and then proceeded to march him and teammate Chris Fillmore out to the public.
On the opposite end of the spectrum lies the cruiser front, which had no shortage of good stuff going on in its own right. The one company that noticeably stepped it up the most was Indian Motorcycle. And with good reason. The company is ushering out the Kings Mountain era as it prepares to write the next passage in the storied marque’s history under the guidance of its new owners, Polaris Industries. To celebrate the transition, Indian unveiled the 2013 Chief Vintage Final Edition, the last rendition of Indians that features Kings Mountain R&D.
“What we wanted to do was tip our cap to the people from Gilroy and Kings Mountain that helped us be where we are today,” said Indian Product Director Gary Gray.
Indian also gave attendees a hint at the direction of the future of the company with a booth where you could stand and be surrounded by the sound and feel of the new Indian engine developed by Polaris. After standing in the booth ourselves, the drumming of the new Indian powerplant was rich and deep, the unmistakable cacophony created by twin pistons and a powerful stroke. But even this was upstaged when they fired up of the original Munro Special, aka “The World’s Fastest Indian.” This was the real deal, Munro’s rocket red 1920 Indian Scout which sputtered and coughed before transfixing the crowd when its raw, raspy, revvy engine fired to life. Thanks for allowing us to share in that moment, Indian Motorcycle.
Between bikes, babes, and goofballs, there was plenty of fun to be had at the Long Beach International Motorcycle Show.
Harley-Davidson is in the midst of celebrating 110 years in the industry, no small feat for any company. The Harley party will extend to six continents, including a big bash in Rome and an even bigger soiree in the motherland of Milwaukee over Labor Day. They’ve even got the Pope in on the plan, as the Catholic leader is slated to perform a special bike blessing inside St. Peter’s Square. The Motor Company teased us by saying some killer bands will be headlining the event, but didn’t say who. Until then though, the Harley display was busy with fans checking out the 2013 Street Bob with its Hard Candy Big Red Flake paint. People tend to enjoy Harley’s interactive IMS displays like their demonstrations on how to lift a fallen motorcycle. The also give newbies a taste of riding a motorcycle, allowing them to feel the pulse of a V-Twin and rattle through gears on a demonstration bike strapped down on a dyno.
Victory Motorcycles used the Long Beach IMS to debut a new paint option for its Cross Country, an eye-catching Midnight Metallic Flame. They also pulled the sheets off a Cross Country customized by Cory Ness.
“We played with the sheet metal a little bit as far at the gas tank. We took about an inch out of the height and stretched the tank about eight inches, brought it back into the seat. If you look at the rear fender, take the stock fender off and the stock seat off, there’s a big open area in there. So we filled it all in using some of the styling cues from the Hammer, how the seat just flows into the back fender. The Victory already has great lines so we just wanted to make it even a little bit nicer,” said Cory Ness.
After Cory was done talking about the bike, LA local Jared James Nichols plugged right into the amp integrated into the right saddlebag of the bike and performed an electric guitar solo. The motorcycle is part of the Sturgis Buffalo Chip’s “Sturgis Riders Sweepstakes” and one lucky will be awarded this smooth flowing Victory at Sturgis this summer in
front of thousands of fans at the Buffalo Chip.
While the big news out of Triumph Motorcycles was the unveiling of its latest sport-tourer, the 2013 Trophy SE at the IMS being the only one in the United States, we couldn’t take our eyes off the Triumph Tiger 800XC our buddies over at Icon customized for its “Portland to Dakar” film. It’s hard not to notice a motorcycle with a winch mounted on it. The bike still bore the damage done by E-Dub and the boys during shooting of the film. They even had Apex on hand to help them introduce the R-spec Speed Triple who readily vouched for its merits. There were also some splendid examples of the customization potential of Triumph Motorcycles on display courtesy of the crew from British Customs with upgrades like their racing carbs and BC exhausts.
Star Motorcycles also made sure to demonstrate how people “make it their own” by having customized versions of their models on display. This included Mike McFadden’s incredible 1980 XS650 Special, a clean bob-job with a five-inch over stretched frame and a 21-inch front hoop. Running the wiring inside the frame kept the build nice and tidy. The Yamaha camp was not to be outdone so it broke out with a killer R1 featuring a 240 single-sided swingarm on both front and rear with pipes bending up and out of the top of the bike in a panel fobbed up in front of the tank. The overall design of the bike is based on the history of the Yamaha logos, from its founding years in 1987 to the present and its hand-airbrushing includes a historical perspective of the Yamaha logos in its entirety.
After the custom R1’s intro, Yamaha’s Bob Starr put GP rider Cal Crutchlow on the spot when he chided him about tripping the previous day and busting up his face. Crutchlow is in the US training for a couple of months and was riding a bicycle as part of his training regimen.
This custom Yamaha R1 featured a 240mm tire mated to a single-sided swingarm on both its front and back.
GP star Cal Crutchlow is in the States training and was chided by Yamaha’s Bob Starr at the Long Beach IMS after an unfortunate spill unrelated to motorcycling.
Zero Motorcycles VP of Global Marketing, Scot Harden, stands next to a 2013 Zero S customized by the crew over at Hollywood Electrics.
“I never crashed it. Normally I’m quite used to crashing things now and again, a few motorcycles and that. I managed to trip over a hose cleaning it so I smashed my face in,” Crutchlow said matter-of-factly.
In the electric motorcycle realm, Zero Motorcycles was representing with an enthusiastic 2013 lineup highlighted by longer range and quicker charging times across the board and the battle cry of “World’s longest-range production electric motorcycle.” Another strong selling point is the motorcycles ability to be synced to iPhones and Droids to tap into diagnostics and fine tune performance. Another exciting prospect was provided by Hollywood Electrics, Zero Motorcycles leading dealership, who brought one of the first customized electric motorcycles we’ve encountered, a sportbike based on a 2013 Zero S. The company also had special guest Terry Hershner on hand, a Zero Motorcycle owner who embarked on a 3000 mile journey across the US in five days riding a Zero electric motorcycle.
There was no shortage of other innovative products at the Long Beach IMS. Included on this list is Ohlins Mechatronic Shock, an electronically controlled shock absorber initially developed for the Kawasaki ZX-10R. Up until this point, the ZX-10R was manufactured without electronic suspension. And though the Mechatronic Shock barely debuted Friday, thanks to our Road Test Editor Adam Heed, Kawasaki and Ohlins, we’ve already published a review of the shock for all to enjoy.
Over at Twisted Throttle, Kevin Nixon lit the rafters of the convention center when he shot up a beam of light from Twisted Throttle’s latest Denali LED. The Denali DX can shoot its beam a claimed 695 feet while drawing only 1.5 amps of power. Twisted Throttle had a set mounted on its Triumph Explorer 1200 which is fully decked out and ready to be an apex adventure-tourer.
We also checked out Reevu’s Rear Vision Helmet at the Long Beach IMS. The British-based company was eager to showcase what is purportedly the “World’s First Rear Vision Helmet” in the United States. With a front and rear visor, the helmet uses an adjustable optic system which provides riders with a glimpse as to what’s going on behind them. What the rider sees is comparable to a thin mirrored image just above the standard line of sight at the top of the visor opening. Reevu offers the system in both a full-face and a modular helmet with prices ranging from $339 to $479.
The Long Beach IMS also provided an opportunity to catch up with many friends. We bumped in to our buddy Gordon McCall who puts together this great annual event called the Quail Motorcycle Gathering. It is a two-fold affair, one day spent riding through Carmel Valley with a stop for lunch at renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (including a couple of parade laps on the track) surrounded by vintage and collectible motorcycles. This is followed the next day by a splendid motorcycle concours on the greens of the Quail Lodge’s golf course. This year’s Quail Motorcycle Gathering will be taking place Saturday, May 4, 2013. If you’re a vintage motorcycle enthusiast, we highly recommend you participate in this intimate and fun event.
Just down from them, we ran into our friend Nick Nguyen from Outlaw Network Enterprises (O.N.E.) A while back we tested one of their Outlaw vests and came away impressed by the quality of the workmanship and materials. Not to mention it looked damn good. Now they’ve passed along a new leather jacket with a hoody called the Reaper that is constructed from super supple leather. It was comfortable as soon as I put it on and once we get a chance to put it to the ringer for a couple of months we’ll get back to you with our findings.
Bobby Seeger of Indian Larry Motorcycles fame was a special guest at the Long Beach IMS. We still can’t believe Bobby let Hensley ride the White Devil!!
There were some incredible custom motorcycles entered in the Long Beach Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show.
The Long Beach IMS also featured the fourth round of the J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show. There were some absolutely incredible motorcycles entered in this year’s show, from Chris Richardson’s 1948 Harley-Davidson FL to the Dallas Freestyle class winner, Palo Duro. We don’t envy our friends and peers Marilyn Stemp of Iron Works and “Easy E” Eric Ellis who were busily inspecting the craftsmanship, score sheets in hand as they helped judged the show. Bikernet’s Keith Ball was the official media sponsor who selected Seth Slagiel for his “Editor’s Choice” award. But it was Shaun Ruddy of Chop Deluxe who rode out of town with top honors in the Freestyle class for his 2012 Retro Racer featuring plenty of hand-machined brass accents and a beefy 127” Ultima El Bruto engine.
We came away from the Long Beach International Motorcycle Show excited about the state of our industry. It seems like the OEMs get it. We need to concentrate on fostering the next generation of riders and to keep price points down. Efficiency and affordability are paramount. People are beginning to spend again, which is a good thing. The recession helped fuel a garage movement and people are doing things the way they used to in small shops and garages all across America. Events like Born Free support this movement as more people than ever are reinventing their rides and wrenching on their own. After a successful Long Beach showing, the Progressive International Motorcycle Show will be setting up shop up in Seattle, Washington, this weekend. Check it out if you get a chance because try as we might, we only mentioned a fraction of everything there is to see and do there.