Event

At the American International Motorcycle Expo

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The American International Motorcycle Expo (AIMExpo) was held in Orlando, Florida from October 15th to 18th. It was billed as “the show that changed the powersports industry”; the event included over 560 exhibitors from across the motorcycle world.

Additionally, AIMExpo hosted an outdoor demo area that offered rides on bikes and ATVs from 11 different manufacturers. The question is, with all that it had to offer, did AIMExpo live up to expectations?

The first two days of AIMExpo were for trade and media visitors only. It provided the industry an opportunity to learn about new products, attend educational seminars about the powersports business, and network with fellow professionals.

The list of available seminars was impressive and the networking opportunities plentiful. The first two days were also for product introductions.

First, let me say that none of the product introductions this year were earth shattering. Kawasaki, Yamaha, and Zero Motorcycles had the biggest buzz of the OEMs. Kawasaki introduced a new ZX-10R, a ZX-14R Special Edition, and a Café version of the Vulcan S.

Yamaha was celebrating its 60th Anniversary and introduced a very cool concept dirt tracker based on the FZ-07 called the DT-07. In addition, they showed a lower spec, more affordable version of the R1 called the R1S.

On the electric side of the house, Zero Motorcycles introduced a new supermoto, the FXS, and a new dual-sport, the DSR.

Honda’s presentation was fairly quick, with their only two-wheeled introduction at the show being the updated CBR500R with multiple refinements made to the motorcycle. In addition to the motorcycle manufacturers, the aftermarket and accessory companies provided product introductions as well.

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There were a number of interesting accessory introductions at AIMExpo. AGV helmets introduced a new visor system that allows the wearer to transition their shield from clear to tinted with the push of a button.

SENA introduced a helmet with built-in active noise cancelling technology. And Bates, a longtime producer of military and law enforcement footwear, showed their new line of motorcycling specific boots.

In addition to product introductions, AIMExpo is a place for the industry to learn. One way of learning is to hear from senior leaders from other industries.

On Friday morning, John Hartmann, the CEO of True Value Corporation gave the keynote speech for the expo. Hartmann was chosen to speak because of his love for motorcycling and because True Value is actually a cooperative, with its stores being independently owned.

Many of the lessons that these independents in the hardware business have learned are applicable to independent owners in the powersports business as well.

Hartmann discussed the importance of good people, good customer service, and making one’s store a center of support for the local community. Now of course, seminars, and speeches, and product introductions are great, but it’s also good to have some fun. AIMExpo offered two great ceremonies that allowed visitors to do just that.

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The first big social event of the expo was MotoAmerica’s Night of Champions. This event was an opportunity to recognize the champions in all four of MotoAmerica’s classes.

Cameron Beaubier, Jake Gagne, JD Beach, and Joe Roberts were all on hand to receive recognition for winning their respective categories. Many other racers and team members were on-hand as well. It was a great opportunity to meet and chat with the racers and their families.

The second, and most touted social event of the expo, was the American Motorcyclist Association’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. This year’s class included off-road racing legend Rodney Smith; former CEO of Harley-Davidson, Richard Teerlink; 250cc Grand Prix and World Superbike Champion, John Kocinski; the founder of J&P Cycles, John Parham; dirt track Phenom, Alex Jorgensen; and race mechanic and long-time Yamaha race program manager, Keith McCarty.

Additionally, a special Hall of Fame Legend presentation was made to three-time 500cc Grand Prix champion and President of MotoAmerica, Wayne Rainey.

The evening started with a reception outside of the Chapin Theater. This was a great opportunity to mix and mingle with former Hall of Famers and motorcycling’s legends. Then, the event moved into the theater for a memorable evening.

Before each presentation, a short video was shown that recapped that person’s accomplishments. All of the videos were well done and entertaining, but the most memorable part of the evening was when the hall of famers shared their stories.

Though all of the acceptance speeches were good, two really stood out. John Kocinski presented a very heartfelt and emotional thank you, talking about the importance of the support he received from Bud Aksland throughout his career, and the importance of his own children.

Wayne Rainey shared a recap of his career, including a discussion of his life changing accident. His speech was very personal and gave deeper insight into the man who has done so much for our sport. His stories were riveting and the audience was mesmerized – you could have heard a pin drop.

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After all of the industry events were done on Friday, AIMExpo opened to the general public on Saturday and Sunday. The program changed to accommodate this new audience, including a series of seminars that covered everything from safety, to choosing the right tires, to presentations about motorcycle travels.

The demo area opened up and folks could try their favorite ride. There was also a custom bike show and builder competition, autograph sessions with racers, and lots of product giveaways. The vibe from the consumer show was very different from that of the trade show and the flow of traffic definitely increased.

So with all that said, did AIMExpo live up to expectations? Well, yes and no. First, realize that this is a huge show, based on both the number of vendors and from a square footage standpoint, but interestingly, with over 550 exhibitors, there are still some glaring omissions.

Though the number of OEMs is up from the previous two shows, some of the larger and more visible manufacturers were absent. Indian, Victory, Ducati, Triumph, and Harley were not to be seen (Harley had demo rides, but through a local dealership, and had no presence in the actual show).

Also, a number of the large parts and accessory distributors such as Tucker Rocky and Parts Unlimited were absent as well.

In speaking with many of the vendors, they seemed to feel that the attendance and the energy level during the first two days of the show were a bit low. Some attributed this to the conflicting dates with Biketoberfest in Daytona Beach, which pulled a large number of the V-twin community away from AIMExpo.

Others felt that having a show all the way on the East Coast of the US was problematic for some of the dealers. Others wanted to see dealer meetings held in conjunction with AIMExpo (Intermot and EICMA run in a similar fashion), which would allow dealers to make one trip to one big event per year.

Keep in mind that AIMExpo is still a very young event. This was only the third time the show has been held and a lot of progress has been made over a short amount of time.

Though most of the significant product introductions are still reserved for the big European shows such as Intermot and EICMA, the product intros at AIMExpo were informative.

According to the organizers, attendance was up this year, which is always a good sign. Hopefully with a little time and additional support from some of the absent manufacturers, AIMExpo will continue to grow and serve as the nation’s premier motorcycle trade and consumer event.

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Photos: © 2015 Andrew Kohn / Asphalt & Rubber – All Rights Reserved

Andrew Kohn

Space industry professional full time. Motorcycle writer and photographer part time. Motorcycle rider all the time. Ducati and Honda owner. A&R’s own Captain Slow.

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