2013 Chicago IMS Report

February 11, 2013
By Mike Calabro

The Progressive International Motorcycle Show (IMS) is a much anticipated carrot on the end of a stick for Chicagoland riders and enthusiasts. Being a rider in the Midwest requires a special dedication. Some might say mental defect depending on who you talk to. That defective dedication comes with an appreciation for riding not shared or understood by many West Coast riders who enjoy the luxury of riding year round. In February the closest thing to riding most Chicagoans can enjoy is the IMS, a welcome glimmer of hope for what awaits them in the spring. Given these facts, the IMS could not have asked for a more eager and appreciative town, with the exception of waking up to six inches of the fresh white stuff the first day of the show.

The Chicago show had a much larger crowd than the past few years. The economy is slowly rising and bike sales should be better this year. After having two mild winters in a row, minus the opening day’s snow storm, Chicago area riders have been able to squeeze in more riding days. I did a 500-mile run in January, which is usually the time when my battery freezes and bursts because I forgot to winterize it.

One of the biggest highlights of the weekend was the unveiling of Honda’s new 2014 CTX700 series, both the CTX700 and its naked version, the CTX700N. The bikes were shrouded in black veils and were revealed to the press at 1 p.m. It would have been a bit more exciting if Honda didn’t send out its press release to the public right after midnight. It was like finding an itchy wool sweater in my mom’s closet with my name on it for Christmas.

That’s not to say that I hate the new Honda, it just wasn’t that exciting. It gets an estimated 70 mpg and Honda compared its Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) to the dual clutch of a Ferrari. The DCT would be a gift from the gods for some clutch-weary commuters in the exasperating Chicago rush hour traffic. Experienced riders will almost certainly feel the DCT is a soul stealing experience. It is an urban roadster that is meant to look non-threatening to a new rider akin to a reprised version of the Pacific Coast, less some Tupperware. It would make a great first bike, but only if you love one of the two colors it comes in, maroon or black. The low seat and center of gravity of the bike makes it feel very nimble, almost like a scooter. I have my doubts about auto shifting and hope to test ride one soon.

Honda’s new baggerized Wing, the F6B, got plenty of oohs and ahhs.

Do you want to get a refresher on riding safely or have one of your newbie friends taught by the pros? There were multiple outlets pushing their free motorcycle riding course. Yep, I said Free. This is a great boon to the Midwest powersports industry. Not only will there be safer riders on the road, but there will be a no-excuse way for newbies to learn riding safety the proper way. University of IllinoisMotorcycle Rider Program offers a free MSF rider course, as does the Illinois State Police. I plan on taking one and am hoping they don’t tell me to use all four fingers while braking.

Victory was showcasing its 2013 Cross Country bike and matching Epiphone guitar customized by Cory Ness that will given to a lucky rider this year by the Sturgis Buffalo Chip. Corey Ness put $12k of extra work into it and it shows. There are a nice set of speakers by Kicker in the rear bags with a plug to connect your guitar to. It’s a rolling rock show. Seat is made of stingray skin. The Victory booth was one of the busiest at the show. Chicago seems to be warming up to them, which is hard to do with the house of H-D being only two hours away.

The Chicago IMS show was a hit for Indian Motorcycle. Its display was full and it seemed that the attendees really enjoyed hearing the sounds of the 1948 Floyd Emde Big Base Scout replica when they fired that bike up. They seemed to enjoy the sound of the upcoming new Indian Motorcycle engine in the custom sound booth, too.

E.A.R. Inc was successfully located right next to Victory where they were able to promote their specialized hearing protection. I was able to get fitted for a custom pair of “on-the-spot” Insta-Mold earplugs. I instantly felt the difference in decibels and comfort compared to my at-home-kit that I tried last year.

Suzuki was showing off its GSX-R1000 “One Millionth” Special Edition. In its 27 years of GSX-R branded bikes, Suzuki has sold over one million Gixxers – an impressive feat.

Chicago has some CRAZY bikes entered in the J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Competition! The oversized front wheel trend on baggers is still running strong. Personally I hope the fashion doesn’t last much longer. I prefer to ride bikes than to look at them. The modified street class had some insane looking monsters to say the least. I am excited to see what bikes won.

Ron Kittle, former Chicago White Sox American League Rookie of the Year 1983, and currently an Ambassador for the White Sox, motorcycle enthusiast, sports designer, motivational speaker was attending the Chicago Progressive International Motorcycle Show as a guest of JDA Custom.

Zero Motorcycles showed Chicago their 2013 production lineup of electric bikes – featuring a claimed 130-plus mile range and top speeds up to 95 mph. Chicago riders learned more about the new Zeros, and their impressive new Z-ForceTM powertrain.

Also in attendance were multiple tourism bureaus from the Great Lakes Region. Thanks for the maps the crew at UP Cruising me. I hope to ride with you guys when the snow melts.

The ADV market was pushed but still not fully appreciated in the Chicago area.

As the end of the day came, everyone in attendance went home happy. There was something cool and new for all who came to be a part of the fun. Midwest riders left the show with something to hang on to until the spring comes, a welcome reminder of why they love motorcycles to begin with. See you all on the road this spring.

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