This year’s IMS kicked off in Long Beach, signaling the start of the consumer motorcycle show season in the United States. The three-day show was a mix of both excitement and disappointment.
On one hand, the show was an opportunity to see many models for the first time in North America.
On the other hand, many of the amazing offerings from EICMA, such as the KTM 790 Duke and 790 Adventure prototype, the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701, Yamaha’s futuristic three-wheeler, the Niken, and the Kawasaki Z900RS and H2 SX, were curiously absent at the Long Beach show.
Besides missing motorcycles, there were some missing manufacturers as well. Triumph did not have a factory booth at the show, but rather, used a local dealer to provide a small representation of the British marque’s lineup.
Additionally, Can-Am pulled out of the show completely, with neither a show display, nor demos outside. Conversely, it was great to see the Piaggio Group back at the show with a display of Aprilia and Moto Guzzi motorcycles, as well as Piaggio scooters.
By far, the manufacturer with the most buzz at this year’s show – and the largest number of new products – was Ducati.
Ducati North America’s CEO, Jason Chinnock was on hand to introduce many of the models that were previously debuted at EICMA. The belle of the ball was of course the Panigale V4 Speciale.
With its beautiful tricolore paint job and stunning technical details, it was the center of attention for many show-goers and media alike. The Panigale V4, Multistrada 1260, Panigale 959 Corse, Scrambler 1100, Monster 821, and updated XDiavel S also made their North American debuts.
Not to be outdone, BMW also had a strong lineup for the Long Beach crowd. The gem of their display was the HP4 Race. Resplendent in carbon fiber, with an $80K price tag to match, the bike was truly drool-worthy. Other notable mentions from BMW include the K1600B, K1600 Grand America, and the G310GS.
For me, one of the highlights of the show was the new lineup from Royal Enfield. Focusing on mid range, reasonably priced motorcycles, the Indian manufacturer introduced two new 650 twins and their 400cc Himalayan lightweight adventure bike.
The 650 Continental GT and 650 Interceptor displayed clean lines, good attention to detail, and nice fit and finish. Evoking memories of classic British motorcycles, the new 650 twins seem to offer a lot of value at a good price.
The Himalayan on display was loaded with hard cases and crash bars and looked to be a fun, small displacement adventure bike with a sub-$5K price point. No, none of these bikes are barn burning racers, but they are very accessible and offer mechanical simplicity.
Royal Enfield will produce over 800,000 motorcycles this year and is increasing their dealer network in the US. It will be interesting to see if they are able to develop a foothold in this highly competitive (and somewhat fickle) market.
As has been the recent standard at IMS, both American manufacturers were well represented at the show. Indian touted their double-digit share of the heavy motorcycle market and showed off their new 116ci big bore kit for the Thunderstroke 111 motor.
Indian brand ambassador Carey Hart debuted this new performance upgrade. The Scout Bobber also had a strong showing, with multiple configurations of the bike available for perusal and demo.
Meanwhile, Harley-Davidson was excited to show its new Softail lineup to the crowd. All nine models from the Softail line were on hand, with the easily configurable Sport Glide being the highlight.
Though many Dyna fans remain whingey about Harley’s decision to change their storied platform, the move to the new Softail chassis seems like a move in the right direction.
I had a quick opportunity to take a Fat Bob for a spin at IMS, and I can honestly say it was the first Harley that I’ve ridden that didn’t feel like a compromised motorcycle. It actually turned and stopped admirably.
The competition between Indian and Harley is good for consumers, as competition breeds better products. In the end, it will be fascinating to see how the battle between these two iconic manufacturers turns out.
Honda’s booth was abuzz with excitement this year, with Big Red introducing the new Gold Wing to American consumers for the first time.
The Gold Wing is a critical product introduction for Honda and the reception by the crowd was enthusiastic. The lighter weight and modern amenities seemed to resonate with the attendees.
Throughout the show, the emphasis on finding new riders in a contracting motorcycle market continued. Almost all of the manufacturers touted their low-priced entry-level models and discussed the fact that bringing new riders to the fold is critical in the upcoming years.
In order to reach some of these new riders, IMS created a new display space called “Shift.” This new display catered to a younger generation of emerging riders who are looking for a new experience.
In addition to more established manufacturers such as Rev’It and Husqvarna, Shift also displayed wares from Meta Magazine, NuViz, Furygan, and many others.
IMS also introduced a section focused on adventure riding called Adventure Out. Hosted by the ever enthusiastic Jamie Robinson from MotoGeo, Adventure Out showed riders how they can have great adventures, both near and far from home.
Jamie is an entertaining speaker and shared some interesting stories about travels both locally and internationally. If you run into him, ask him about how his CBR600 adventure bike came to be. It’s a great story!
IMS is not EICMA and is a smaller, consumer-only show. It’s one of the only opportunities in this country to see all of the new models on display in one location and have a chance to get the pulse of the industry.
As always, I appreciated the opportunity to surround myself with new motorcycles, new gear, and other riding enthusiasts.
At the same time, I was disappointed that the manufacturers didn’t bring more of their new wares from EICMA for display, as they had in the past.
Maybe it’s a logistical issue to get product to the US in a short amount of time, or maybe it’s the declining influence of the US in the world motorcycle marketplace, but I hope this isn’t the foreshadowing of worse things to come. Only time will tell.
Photos: © 2017 Andrew Kohn / Asphalt & Rubber – All Rights Reserved