At the Long Beach International Motorcycle Show, 2018

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Every year around this time, the streets of Long Beach fill with motorcycles as the International Motorcycle Show comes to town. This year’s show was preceded by three major motorcycle shows at INTERMOT in Germany, EICMA in Italy, and AIMExpo in Las Vegas.

Because of the short turn time between EICMA and AIMExpo, very few of the major product introductions that occurred in Europe made it to the halls of the Mandalay Bay convention center.

Would any of these new motorcycles show up in Long Beach? Well, I’m happy to report the answer is a resounding yes!

Unlike AIMExpo, this year’s IMS had a very strong European presence, with only KTM and Husqvarna not showing their wares.

Ducati’s booth was a hub of activity with multiple new models on display. Jason Chinnock, Ducati North America’s CEO was on hand to make the introductions.

First up were a bevy of new bikes from the Land of Joy. Chinnock introduced the new updated Scrambler models, with Super Hooligan racer Frankie Garcia in attendance for their introduction.

We then worked our way over to see the new Multistrada Enduro 1260, Diavel 1260, and the Hypermotard 950 and its SP sibling. Though all of the bikes are beautiful, there was one bike missing. Could it be under the cover in the center of the room?

Thankfully, the bike under the cover was the bike we all came to see; the Panigale V4 R. Resplendent in red and silver, the new flagship for Ducati is a striking motorcycle with lots of carbon fiber goodies and gold Ohlins parts that glimmered under the spot lights of the Long Beach convention center. And frankly, for $40,000, it should be striking!

Ducati wasn’t the only Italian manufacturer with a strong presence. Piaggio Group was in full force with Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, and Vespa all well represented. Highlights included the new Moto Guzzi V85 TT adventure bike, the Aprilia RSV4 Factory, Tuono V4, and the Shiver and Dorsoduro 900.

On the electric front, Italian electric manufacturer Energica had all of their models on hand. The Ego, Eva 107, and Eva EsseEsse9 make up the range of sporty electric bikes with varying degrees of performance. The Ego sport bike can achieve 150 mph and has 145 hp and 148 lbs•ft of torque.

The Eva 107 is more of a street fighter and can reach 125 mph using the same motor as the Ego. Energica’s last model is the Eva EsseEsse9 which they label as their “old school” model and produces 109 hp and 133 lbs•ft of torque.

Due to economies of scale, Energica’s prices have dropped and their bikes now start at $20,930 for the EsseEsse9, $21,656 for the Eva 107, and $22,565 for the Ego. Though still expensive, not bad for a premium motorcycle.

From Italy, I saved what was arguably the best for last. MV Agusta had a full booth at this year’s show and it did not disappoint. It was obvious that $40 million cash infusion from Timur Sardarov was helping and MV’s presence was strong.

Joseph Elasmar, the head of MV Agusta North America was joined by MV’s Head of Research and Development, Brian Gillen for the introductions.

The centerpiece of the MV booth was the Brutale 1000 Serie Oro. This is a bike with polarizing, but in my mind, beautiful styling, incredible power (205 hp), and dozens of small details that catch one’s eye. Every time I passed this machine, I found something new to look at or photograph.

Other models of note included the Dragster 800 and Turismo Veloce RC with its Tricolore paint and Rekluse auto clutch.

Overall, MV had a lot of bikes to like. Now they need to get their dealer network firmly established and good things will hopefully happen for the small company from Varese.

Now of course, Italy wasn’t the only country with interesting introductions. The folks from BMW made sure that Germany was well represented as well.

Michael Peyton, Vice President of BMW Motorrad North America was on hand for the introductions, talking about the strength of the small bike market and adventure market (with the R1250GS Adventure and F850GS on display), but quickly moved on to what everyone wanted to see: the new S1000RR and S1000RR M-package in red, white, and blue.

Both superbikes are stunners and are well equipped to tear up the road or track with 204 hp on tap in a 434 lbs package.

Usually when I go to IMS, I don’t really pay much attention to the good folks at Ural. Their technology is older, and though they make fun sidecar rigs, there usually isn’t much to report about. Well, dear readers, this year is different.

Ural teamed up with Zero Motorcycles to build a proof of concept electric side hack! Note that I didn’t say pre-production. Ural is still figuring out whether to proceed with this model, but I must say, the possibilities for a battery powered side car seem really great.

The sidecar is able to hold additional batteries which solves a lot of the inherent range issues with electric motorcycles. Interest about this model at the show was keen and I hope that Ural moves to a pre-production model soon!

Rounding out the European manufacturers was Triumph. The British marque’s focus was on their Triumph 1200 Scrambler. With long travel suspension, high pipes, and classic styling, the Scrambler 1200 evoked thoughts of Steve McQueen racing through the desert.

There was also a racing version of the Scrambler on display that was supposed to be used for the Baja 1000, but unfortunately, rider Ernie Vigil broke his leg in a training accident. Maybe next year.

Both Harley-Davidson and Indian were present at IMS, and the differences between the two American manufacturers were quite evident. Harley had their full model lineup on display, but just as at AIMExpo, none of the newly introduced models such as the Livewire were present. Disappointing to say the least!

Indian expanded their lineup from AIMExpo and had multiple iterations of the FTR 1200 displayed, including the tracker, sport, rally, and touring versions.

Indian also introduced their new Wrecking Crew flat track racing team for 2019, which includes reigning champion Jared Mees, as well as newcomers Briar and Bronson Bauman.

We’ll see if Indian can continue their dominance in American Flat Track in 2019.

Japan was well represented at the show, with all of the big four showing their wares. Suzuki struck a nostalgic cord with its new Katana. Kevin Cameron of Cycle World fame introduced the bike by providing a history from the original Katana to now.

Interesting stuff. The bike is true to its styling origins and should be a good blend of nostalgic styling with modern technology.

Honda focused on their upcoming 60th anniversary in the United States, talked about the success of their small bikes, including the recently released Monkey, and introduced their new CB650R naked bike to the crowd.

Yamaha’s lineup was mostly the same, with the blue brand highlighting their new Niken GT. The polarizing three wheeler adds bags, a bigger windshield, and other touring amenities to the leaning tri-wheeled bike.

Interestingly, I think the GT version actually is a better looking motorcycle, as the saddlebags and taller windscreen help to visually balance what is a very front heavy motorcycle.

Wrapping up the Japanese contingent was Kawasaki. Team Green introduced a new W800 Café retro bike, the Z400 standard, an updated Ninja 1000 sport tourer, and the Versys 1000 SE LT with electronic suspension.

Add that to the previously introduced Ninja models at AIMExpo and Kawasaki has had a pretty strong year for new products.

Other than motorcycle introductions, IMS brought together the usual array of show activities including a new rider area where folks could take a Zero electric motorcycle for a ride around an indoor demonstration track, a wheelie machine, and drifting rides in a Polaris Slingshot with a professional driver.

As always, demo rides are a big part of the Long Beach experience and this year was no different. Demo slots filled up quickly, with many manufacturers running out of slots before 9 A.M. and long lines throughout the day.

I know in the comments section below, there will be negative remarks about IMS Long Beach. Some will complain that there weren’t enough vendors, or the food wasn’t good, or their favorite manufacturer didn’t have demos. My answer to those complaints is IMS is really the only consumer show in town and we should be happy it exists at all.

In speaking to an unnamed industry professional, some manufacturers see large shows as archaic and prefer targeted marketing events to spread the word about their products. The costs associated with supporting the full tour for IMS are high, and some marketing folks question whether the juice is worth the squeeze.

AIMExpo is really a trade show that happens to open its doors to the public, and frankly, its consumer days were a bit of a yawn. I can’t speak for the rest of the IMS tour, but Long Beach was a good show. The crowd was large, with lines going from the show’s front doors all the way to the motorcycle parking lot and the energy level was high.

It may not be perfect, but it’s what we’ve got, and frankly, this year was pretty darn good! Though old school from a marketing perspective, having the ability to compare multiple brands of bikes under one roof is invaluable.

Hopefully, the manufacturers continue to support this type of show; it really is beneficial.

Photos: © 2018 Andrew Kohn / Asphalt & Rubber – All Rights Reserved