Just like Steve Martin’s 1977 album, one of the main themes of this years’s International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach was “let’s get small”.
Almost every major manufacturer unveiled a bike in the 300cc category. BMW showed off its G310R standard and G310GS dual sport, Honda showed its CRF250L Rally, Suzuki introduced its GSX-250R, and Kawasaki unveiled its Versys-X 300.
Additionally, Honda had its world introduction of the 300 and 500 Rebels. It’s definitely a good time to be shopping for smaller motorcycles!
The other prevailing theme was “what’s old is new again”, as many bike manufacturers continued to push retro versions of popular models. Ducati North America’s CEO, Jason Chinnock showed the crowd the new Scrambler Desert Sled, which adds to an already robust retro line of motorcycles.
Triumph beefed up its retro offerings with the new Bonneville Bobber and Street Cup café models. Even Honda’s Rebels got into the act with a pseudo-bobber theme. Retro is still the rage.
Of course, the biggest purveyors of retro culture in the motorcycle world are Indian and Harley-Davidson, and both companies had significant presence at IMS.
Harley’s big push this year was their Milwaukee Eight engine lineup. All of their big twins have this new four-valve per cylinder motor, and many of these models were available for perusal or a demo ride.
Indian, on the other hand, chose to focus on their new Flat Track racing effort by displaying their FTR750 racer. Though this model is not available for street use, it showed Indian’s engineering prowess. Dripping with carbon fiber body parts and a Swiss Auto designed motor, the FTR 750 is a beautiful machine.
Current Grand National Champion and new member of the Indian Race Team, Bryan Smith, was on-hand to meet with the press and sign autographs. It will be exciting to see the Indian vs. Harley rivalry rekindled on the track next year.
On the non-retro side of the house, Ducati introduced a number of exciting models. The show stealer was the Superleggera. Hand-built, exclusive, and beautifully engineered, the pictures of the Superleggera don’t really do it justice.
Large crowds gathered to check out the $80K beauty. Other new models from Bologna included the Multistrada 950 and Monster 1200.
Notable machines at the show included the Honda CBR1000RR, Kawasaki Z900 and Z650, Yamaha’s new R6, KTM’s 1290 Super Adventure R and Super Duke R, Victory’s Octane, and EBR’s Black Lightning. Erik Buell was even on hand to talk with show goers.
One of the highlights at the Victory Motorcycle Booth was the display that showed off the Cross Country owned by Urs “Grizzly” Pedraita. Grizzly rode around the world, covering six continents and over 47,000 miles in a little over 72 riding days, setting a world endurance record.
An interesting feature on his bike was a dispenser on the left side of the rear fender that released nails onto the road in the event that Grizzly was being pursued by predators of the human or non-human kind. I couldn’t imagine logging miles like that on a heavy cruiser, but it was interesting nonetheless.
IMS Long Beach is the only remaining show on the schedule that offers demo rides. With thousands of show-goers and a limited number of demo bikes, lines were long and time slots for coveted rides (especially BMW and Honda) disappeared quickly.
On a lark, a longtime riding friend and I decided to kill some time and take a Polaris Slingshot for a ride. Honestly, the motorcycle purist in me wanted to hate this thing, but I can truly say that I’ve never laughed so hard in a vehicle of any kind in my life.
Every turn was an opportunity for a power slide, every stoplight a chance for a burnout. We sounded like a couple of crazed teenagers in this thing. Though not a true motorcycle by definition, our time in the Slingshot was an absolute blast and was a great way to kill some time before the next two-wheeled demo ride was available.
As always, IMS offered a large selection of vendors who were happy to take your hard earned money. This year’s show offered a new layout and the vendors were at the rear of the show in the center as opposed to being stuffed off to the side.
I thought it was a better use of space and did a better job of highlighting the wares for sale.
Compared to previous seasons, this year’s IMS schedule is a lot smaller, with only seven venues hosting the show. Unlike previous years, Long Beach was the first show on the schedule. Of course, with a contracting industry, it seems logical that the schedule would be shorter.
At the same time, a number of major markets are no longer covered by this series. It will be interesting to see if this truncated schedule is a permanent thing, or if they will slowly add new venues in the future. Regardless of the shortened schedule, there were a lot of interesting things to see this year at Long Beach.
Though not nearly as comprehensive as EICMA or INTERMOT, the IMS gives American riders an opportunity to see the newest hardware from a majority of the manufacturers.
Hopefully the schedule expands to cover some of the noticeably absent major markets such as the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountain region. Only time will tell.
Photos: © 2016 Andrew Kohn / Asphalt & Rubber – All Rights Reserved