One of the most encouraging things we saw at the Seattle IMS was the amount of families in attendance. Manufacturers are aware the average age of motorcyclists has been climbing and the need to foster the next generation of riders is paramount to the survival of our industry. Over the last couple of years manufacturers have been addressing this issue by producing more beginner and rider-friendly motorcycles. Just look at the small sportbike segment. Once dominated by Kawasaki’s Ninja 250, it now includes the Yamaha YZF-R3, Honda CBR300R, and KTM RC390. At the Seattle IMS we saw plenty of kids sitting on their favorite motorcycles with that special twinkle in their eye that says “Someday this will be mine.” They weren’t the only ones. The “hands-on, sit-on” approach is definitely one of the allures of the IMS and there was no shortage of potential buyers clamoring on the latest motorcycles and trying them for size.
A steady flow of motorcyclists and fans filtered through the Washington State Convention Center to check out the latest 2015 motorcycles at the Seattle IMS.
Harley’s LiveWire, a prototype electric motorcycle, had more than its fair share of onlookers at the Seattle IMS.
A Kawasaki H2R without its bodywork at the Seattle IMS allowed an intimate look at its supercharger arrangement.
TV host, advocate, and conservationist Chris Morgan brought the 2014 BMW R1200GS Adventure he’s been riding to the Seattle IMS. Morgan has used the motorcycle for his most recent quest called “BEARTREK.”
While there was plenty of eye candy spread about the convention center, we observed a handful of motorcycles garnering the lion’s share of attention. With its lofty claims of 300 horsepower and a supercharged engine, Kawasaki’s Ninja H2R was consistently circled by onlookers. The carbon fiber-clad, limited production racer stirred up its fair-share of conversations, as did a second H2R model stripped of its bodywork Kawasaki had on display that allowed an intimate look at the layout of its supercharger. There was plenty of buzz at the Ducati booth, the Ducatisti eager to see the Italian brand’s beefed up 2015 1299 Panigale up-close-and-personal. The latest Ducati superbike features an alphabet soup of acronyms for electronics, including DCT (Ducati Traction Control), EBC (Engine Brake Control), IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit), DWC (Ducati Wheelie Control), and DQS (Ducati Quick Shift). Bathed in Ducati’s racy red paint, the 1299 Panigale sure looks the part, and like everyone else we’re eager to tap into the extra output the 2015 model promises. Sitting nearby with less fanfare was the 2015 Multistrada 1200, the multi-dimensional motorcycle the first with Desmodromic Variable Timing where both intake and exhaust camshafts feature variable valve timing. The star of the Ducati booth though had to be its 2015 Scrambler which had its own display within the display, complete with sparkly-eyed spokesmodels and video screens running footage of the Scrambler in action. Triumph was drawing them in with its popular adventure-tourer, the 2015 Tiger 800XC, which is offered in four variations this year. Yamaha’s revamped superbike, the 2015 YZF-R1, also attracted a crowd. Over at the BMW booth, motorcyclists were excitedly getting a first gander at the company’s stripped-down roadster, the 2015 R1200R. We also observed a lot of interest in KTM’s RC390 and listened to one family talk about what it would take to get their son, an aspiring racer, entered in MotoAmerica’s upcoming RC390 Cup. Another bike that was creating a lot of hub-bub was Harley’s LiveWire, the Motor Company’s prototype venture into the electric motorcycle market.
BMW fans also got a special treat from guest Chris Morgan, an ecologist, award-winning conservationist, and TV host who brought along his well-worn 2014 BMW R1200GS Adventure kitted with additional TouraTech goodies to bolster its off-road abilities. Most recognize Morgan as the host and bear guide for the BBC/Discovery Channel show “Great Bear Stakeout” or from PBS Nature’s “Siberian Tiger Quest.” Morgan has been riding the R1200GSA on his most recent endeavor called “BEARTREK” where “One man embarks on an epic journey across four continents to the far ends of the Earth in search of the rarest bears on Earth and the dedicated individuals racing to save them from extinction.” To reach those “far ends of the Earth,” Morgan usually relies on the versatile R1200GSA to get him to his destination. As a guest of BMW at the Seattle IMS, Morgan eagerly shared his exploits with both fans of his shows and of the bike.
Yamaha had a prime location just inside the doors of the convention center and took advantage of it by showcasing a variety of Star Bolts, a popular seller for the company since its debut in 2013. One prime example was done by custom builder and designer Jeff Palhegyi who put a café spin on a custom Bolt C-Spec by cleaning up the tail section and adding a bullet fairing to the front. Yamaha is also conducting a “Battle of the Bolts” contest between Star dealers across the country. Starting with a stock Bolt, dealerships are tasked with customizing it any way they see fit. The contest started with regional contests. The six regional winners are then pitted against each other in a national contest where one champion will be chosen. The winner of the West region is Skagit Powersports out of Burlington, Washington, who turned the Bolt into a commemorative land speed racer. On the “Bonneville Bolt,” Skagit moved the tank back a couple inches and raised the back edge two inches to fill in the gap between the tank and seat. They opened up the airbox to allow it to breathe freer, bent up a new pipe, and gave the rear a slammed look with the addition of a super thin seat wrapped in Ostrich skin. In its homage to the Salt Flats, the tank is painted with “950-AA” in reference to the way the AMA designates motorcycle land speed racing classes. The “950” represents engine displacement, the “AG” means it would run in the “modified gasoline” class, while the first “A” is the frame classification, in this case “special construction.” Voting for “Battle of the Bolts” is being held online until January 5, 2015. The other five competitors are, from the Mountain region – Al’s Cycle INC; South – Big St. Charles Motorsports, LLC; Great Lakes – Wizard of Wheels Yamaha; Southeast – Yamaha of Lumberton; and finally the Northeast rep – Bob Weaver Yamaha. The shops in the contest have demonstrated the myriad of directions the Bolt can be taken, from bobber to scrambler to café racer, so be sure to check out their work at the “Battle of the Bolts” webpage.
At the Seattle IMS, we learned the region has a thriving community of antique motorcycle fans, evident by the wonderful collection of bikes on display at the Vintage Motorcycle Enthusiasts (VME) booth. The collection ran the gamut, from retro Ossa off-roaders to the original Kawasaki H2, a 1975 750cc fire-breather. Vintage Motorcycle Enthusiast member Dan Brecht told us about their yearly Isle of Vashon TT, a wonderful event where hundreds of vintage motorcycles take over Vashon Island for a day of fun and friendship. The Isle of Vashon TT includes a poker run, vintage bike show, and spirited competitions like a kick-starting contest. The VME also sponsors Marymount Motorcycle Week, the third annual event scheduled to take place June 15-21, 2015, in Tacoma, Washington. Marymount Motorcycle Week includes AHRMA Vintage Trials, performances by the Seattle Cossacks, and an event called “motorcycle soccer” we’ve never seen before but are very intrigued by.
Motorcycle USA was exceptionally excited to attend the Emerald City IMS this year. Jeff Najar from Biker Pros had invited us to be a guest editor for Seattle’s J&P Ultimate Builder Bike Show. We headed up the I-5 corridor with an incredible
Brad Hall of Magic’s Custom Cycles of Ashford, Washington, holds Motorcycle USA’s ‘Editor’s Choice’ award at the Seattle Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show.
hand-built trophy made from cams, gears and a classic hood ornament created by Haze Custom Cycles and a $100 gift certificate from the Motorcycle Superstore to give away to one lucky person. While builders vote amongst themselves for top prizes in each category, our job was to single out one bike that spoke to us. While the big purple bagger by VooDoo BikeWorks displayed fantastic bodywork and electronics, and Aaron Egging’s 1973 Triumph T140 with a Wassell tank and ACME Springer was clean beyond reproach, we kept gravitating to Brad Hall’s 2013 Sportster 48. The bike consistently had a crowd around it and Hall happily entertained any and all questions. With a see-through master brake cylinder, a miniature Coca-Cola bottle serving as a sight glass, and a combination of carbon fiber and hand-tooled leather amongst its drilled-out bits, we were happy to present Hall of Magic’s Custom Cycle with our “Editor’s Choice” award.
The Progressive International Motorcycle Show heads to the Big Apple next, the New York event slated to hit the Javits Center December 12-14. With the winter months upon us, the IMS is a great avenue for motorcyclists to keep the fires burning until the next riding season gets here by providing an up-close-and-personal look at the hottest new bikes on the market.