Entering the cavernous hall of the Duke Energy Convention Center has familiarity, like seeing a distant relative that you visit every year or so. Performance Machine had its traditional slot just inside the doors, the Arlen Ness Industries booth to its right. Ten steps in the door I see friendly faces, John Nasi at the PM booth, a friend from the Big Dog days, Chris McGee nearby at the Ness booth hyping Magna Flow Ness Exhaust. And that’s the beauty of the V-Twin Expo. Almost all your friends are there, while many new friendships and alliances wait just around the corner. You can compress a wealth of business and networking into a quick two days. And Cincinnati is a gracious host, the bars and restaurants around Fountain Square providing fun-filled nights and festive late-night after parties.
Approximately 180 vendors catering to the cruiser and custom crowd attended V-Twin Expo 2015. We dubbed 2015 the “Year of the Pipe” because of the influx of businesses competing in the aftermarket exhaust market. S&S Cycle used the Expo to launch its new Power Tune Performance Systems, Vance & Hines showcased its High-Output Grenades, Magna Flow has its collaboration with Ness going on, while industry stalwarts Kenny Price from Samson and Darryl Bassani continue to compete. And while there was no shortage of representation in the exhaust market, there was a conspicuous absence of tire manufacturers at the show, curious considering the miles this demographic puts on their motorcycles. Luckily Avon was in the house as the only representative we recall seeing. Businesses to put those wheels on were well-represented, though, as RC Components, Renegade, PM, and Xtreme Machine brought their latest hardware to the show.
Saturday night a party was held to honor the 2015 Industry Award winners as J.A. Lacy of the Motorsport Aftermarket Group (MAG) was recognized as “2015 Industry Leader of the Year.” Lacy orchestrated the merger of Tucker Rocky/Biker’s Choice with MAG, a group consisting of powerhouses J&P Cycles, Motorcycle Superstore, Roland Sands Design, Vance & Hines, Mustang Seats and a slew of others including Motorcycle USA and Cycle News on the media side. John Andrews of Andrews Products, Inc. was honored with the “Lifetime Achievement Award,” the company specializing in performance camshafts and transmission gears for 43 years. The 2015 Indian Scout was singled out as “Cruiser Motorcycle of the Year,” the Victory Ness Magnum earned the title of “Custom Motorcycle of the Year” while the 2015 Road Glide Special garnered “Motorcycle of the Year” glory.
Our 2015 V-Twin Expo started before we even got to the event center. On the way to our hotel we shared a shuttle with our friends Lon Nordbye and Greg Smith of the Sturgis Buffalo Chip. It’s going to be a huge year for them. The Chip was on the cusp of announcing the first bands that will be playing there for the 75th anniversary. With a record crowd projected to be at this year’s Sturgis Rally, Nordbye shed light on the fact that it also brings a longer list of logistics for the staff of The Chip to contend with. We have no doubt they’ll have Legendary Buffalo Chip machine well-oiled by the time the rally rolls around.
We also shared a shuttle with Joan Krenning, founder of The Steel Horse Sisterhood Women’s Motorcycle Summit. After organizing a successful first event in 2014, Krenning said this year’s gathering will be even bigger and better. Laura Klock and Genevieve Schmitt will be guest speakers and the list of seminars, workshops and vendors is filling up. This year’s Steel Horse Sister Summit is set for June 11-14, 2015, in Loveland, Colorado, a stone’s throw from Rocky Mountain National Park, so riding opportunities for the event are abundant.
Roaming vendors’ row, we ran into 200 mph club member and land speed record holder Jody Perewitz. Jody and her dad Dave were making the rounds visiting sponsors and checking out new product. They were also spreading the word about the Perewitz Custom Paint Show in Daytona Beach at Bruce Rossmeyer’s March 11. We caught up with one of the cruiser crowd’s favorite performers, too, Jasmine Cain, who played an acoustic set Saturday night during the industry party. The talented entertainer was giving away an Epiphone guitar at her booth where she also showcased her CD’s, artwork and coffee brand.
There were several products that caught our attention at the 2015 Expo, like an attractive, compact blower from KraftWerks. It’s a modular, two-piece design and comes with everything you need for installation, including plug-and-play electronics. How could a product that projects a 50% gain in power and 25% more torque not be enticing? The crew at Rekluse had two new H-D offerings, one with their EXP technology, a centrifugal clutch that allows riders to start and stop without using the clutch lever. Performance Machine recognized a niche in the big-wheeled bagger segment and created an 8-piston caliper brake and 16-inch rotor combo for baggers with monster front hoops, claiming the arrangement is comparable performance-wise to having a dual disc set-up on a single rotor. While the styling of PM’s Jet Air Cleaner caught our eye, its capacity to be mounted horizontally or vertically is its strong selling point. The Fastback Seats at Mustang are the first we’ve seen for Harley Street 500/750 models. We’ve got a ten new hot products list from the 2015 V-Twin Expo in the works, so we don’t want to tip our hand too much, so keep an eye out for a more detailed list coming soon.
As usual, a diverse collection of motorcycles were displayed around the convention center, from the Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley Destroyer drag bike to an old Indian flat tracker to a 1934 Harley VJH Hybrid. But it was the hubless big-wheeled bagger Ballistic Cycles brought out that created the most buzz, its lack of a front wheel hub enticing many to move in for a closer look. Ballistic custom engineered a billet girder-style wheel clamp and a perimeter brake system along with a one-of-a-kind 30-inch front wheel assembly to pull off the engineering feat. Outfitting it with a 56mm Aerocharger turbo system, slamming it to the ground and giving it an organic, Giger-esque paint job gave on-lookers plenty to admire.
The 2015 Industry Leader Awards included J.A. Lacy of the Motorsport Aftermarket Group who earned ‘2015 Industry Leader of the Year’ and the 2015 Harley Road Glide Special as ‘Motorcycle of the Year.’
We wrapped up our Saturday at the 2015 V-Twin Expo with the Hot Bike Happy Hour at O’Malleys in the Alley. Friend and fellow editor Jeff Holt announced details of the 2015 Hot Bike Tour including the five stops on the route and list of builders who will participate. Brian Klock of Klockwerks was on hand as his hometown Mitchell, South Dakota, is one of the stops. Klock shared the story of how he lobbied his town council to bring the tour to Mitchell and is excited the stop will coincide with his 49th birthday. Thanks Jeff, John and Ed, for letting us hang out and share a pint.
After that, we shot over to Rhinegeist Brewery for the inaugural Garage Brewed Moto Show. What an event. With 50 motorcycles on display ranging from a 1935 Hagon speedway bike with JAP motor to rare race bikes, land speed record holders and garage customs, it was quite the scene. The brewery was packed as organizer Tim Burke said “Our secret formula consisted of some concepts that just go great together: Beer, bikes and winter cabin fever suffered by Midwestern motorcyclists in February.” It definitely bolstered our V-Twin experience. Read all about the event in our Garage Brewed Moto Show Review 2015 article.
While there was plenty of business to get done in one weekend in Cincinnati, turnout felt light at this year’s Expo, from the number of people wandering the floor to number of vendors. We remember the not-so-distant past when Big Dog, Big Bear Choppers, Sucker Punch Sallys, and Orange County Choppers all had a huge presence. We recall how the collective group of builders and shops known as the Limpnickie Lot breathed life into the show by representing the younger generation. While this year’s Expo featured all the traditional players, the smaller, homegrown, younger shops Limpnickie comprised were noticeably absent. To sate our curiosity, we took a look at the show by the numbers, comparing the number of vendors listed in the 2010 V-Twin News Magazine to the number in the 2015 V-Twin News publication. The 2010 magazine was 52 pages long and listed 299 vendors. In comparison, the 2015 version was 32 pages long with only 157 vendors listed. A handout of additional exhibitors for this year brought the total up to 180, but that’s still a far cry from the 299 listed solely in the 2010 magazine. While the motorcycle industry feels as if it’s on the rebound, the residual effects of the most recent recession continue to resonate in the cruiser realm.
2015 V-Twin Expo Review