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.
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!
It would be hard to count the number of motorcyclists who got their start in the two-wheeled world on a Honda Rebel motorcycle, with the line going back through decades of time. The number is certainly a large one. Now, a new generation of rider can begin their two-wheeled journey on a new generation of Rebel, with Honda debuting the all-new 2017 Honda Rebel 300 (above) and 2017 Honda Rebel 500 (after the jump) ahead of the IMS Long Beach show. The Honda Rebel 500 and Honda Rebel 300 use the same power plants found on the CBR500R (471cc parallel-twin) and CBR300R (286cc single-cylidner), respectively, repackaging those engines into a cruiser platform that is friendly to new and shorter riders, with a 27″ seat height.
In September of this year, EBR Motorcycles let it be known that the American brand was working on new models for the 2017 model year, in addition to a sub-$10,000 platform that would be available in 2018.
Teasing that we would see something “quick, dark, and low” by the year’s end, we subsequently saw EBR trademark the name “Black Lightning” for use as a new motorcycle model. This certainly got our imaginations turning, wondering what the folks in East Troy had up their sleeves.
Unfortunately, it would seem we alone had our imaginations at work, since EBR Motorcycles has given us a glimpse of its Black Lightning project today, which shows a true lack of inspiration, as it turns out to be an all-black EBR 1190SX that sits about an inch lower than before.
With Christmas nearly upon us, and very little happening in the world of motorcycle racing, time for a round up of recent news. Here’s what’s been going on in recent weeks, as well as some recommended reading and listening for over the holiday period.
Brno vs Indy – On or Off?
The news that the Indianapolis round of MotoGP had been dropped came as a huge disappointment to a lot of US fans.
Though few people were fans of the track layout – despite recent improvements which took the worst edges off the layout – the event as a whole was well liked, and, for a US MotoGP round, fairly well attended.
In recent weeks, rumors have been circulating that the event could make a return. Though just speculation at the moment, Indianapolis could be being groomed as a possible replacement for the Czech round of MotoGP at Brno.
Given the troubled recent history of the Brno round, and the excellent organization behind the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there is a chance that behind the smoke, there is a fire powering the rumors.
The excitement is back! After many years of somewhat somber motorcycle shows, the 2015 Long Beach International Motorcycles Show (IMS) did not disappoint. The crowd was large, the vibe was great, and the manufacturers brought lots of new machines to dream about.
Though EICMA occurred just last week, many of the bikes that were introduced in Milan had their American debut in Long Beach. Not only that, but the manufacturers upgraded their displays with new materials and concepts that made viewing more enjoyable.
The overall feel of the show was one of positive energy and excitement. It felt as though the post-recession doldrums are finally subsiding within the motorcycle industry.
The manufacturers pulled out all the stops for IMS, bringing some of their top executives for media presentations before the show opened to the public.
American MotoGP fans have likely already surmised from the 2016 MotoGP Championship provisional calendar that the premier motorcycle racing series will not return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway next year, thus leaving Austin as the sole American round on the GP schedule. The move comes about primarily because Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) did not want to pay Dorna’s sanctioning fee, which had increased for the 2016 season. Though IMS plays host to many of the world’s premier racing events, MotoGP will no longer be one of them. Where once the United States played host to three MotoGP rounds, now the American market will only have one race, held at the beginning of the calendar at The Circuit of the Americas.
With the news that the Brno round of MotoGP has been handed to a consortium consisting of local and regional governments, and that they are working to secure the long-term future of Brno, a major piece of the puzzle surrounding MotoGP’s schedule for 2016 slotted into place.
Brno, along with Indianapolis, had been the two biggest question marks still hanging over the calendar.
Most of the schedule fell into place once Formula One announced its calendar several weeks ago. The combination of an unusually late start (F1 kicks off in Melbourne on April 4th, two weeks later than last year) and an expansion of the schedule to 21 races has left few gaps for MotoGP to fit into.
The upside to F1’s late start is that MotoGP can get a head start on its four-wheeled counterpart, and kick the season off before F1 begins.
Roughly four years ago, I wrote a story called “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” that implored the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers to build elements into their brand that went beyond the tangible and into the intangible — I was basically asking these brands to create what motorcyclists call soul. From that story, I got a number of insightful emails from employees at these Japanese brands, who shared my frustration with the soulless machines their employers were creating. Despite those emails, when the Honda RC213V-S debuted, I was struck by how extensively that message had fallen on deaf ears. The day of the RC213V-S’s launch, I asked my Facebook followers if the Japanese brand had “just pulled a Honda” on its release Honda RC213V-S.
This is part two of our Indy round up, covering the excellent Moto2 race, and the intriguing Moto3 race. If you want to read about MotoGP, see part one.
The Moto2 race turned out to be a barnstormer, a welcome return for the class. Once, Moto2 was the best race of the weekend, but in the past couple of years, it has become processional, and turned into dead air between the visceral thrills of Moto3 and the tripwire tension of MotoGP.
At Indy, Johann Zarco, Alex Rins, Franco Morbidelli, Dominique Aegerter, and Tito Rabat battled all race long for supremacy. They were joined at the start of the race by a brace of Malaysians, Hafizh Syahrin running at the front while Azlan Shah fought a close battle behind. Sam Lowes held on in the first half of the race, but as he started to catch the leaders in the last few laps, he ended up crashing out.
In the end, it was Alex Rins who took victory, just rewards for the man who had been the best of the field all weekend. It was Rins’ first victory in Moto2, and confirmation of his status as an exceptional young talent.
Whether this is the last time MotoGP visits Indianapolis or not – the lack of an announcement on Sunday night suggests that this was the last time – the 2015 edition will certainly go down in history as memorable.
Race day saw the biggest crowd since 2009 head to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, though in a facility this vast, anything less than a quarter of a million fans is going to look empty, and all 67,000 were treated to some genuine racing spectacle.
An upside down Moto3 race, where those bold enough to gamble on slicks were duly rewarded; an old-fashioned Moto2 dogfight, where a group of evenly matched riders brawled from start to finish; and a pair of exceptionally tense duels in MotoGP, with championship positions raising the stakes even further.
The race of the day? Hard to say. All three had their own appeal. Rain and a drying track made Moto3 a weird contest, with massive gaps between the leaders, and yet still strangely exciting, because of the potential effects on the championship.
Moto2 harked back to the halcyon days of Márquez, Iannone, and Espargaro, and reminded us of why we used to love the class. And MotoGP was more about tension than straight up excitement, brains kept busy calculating the ramifications for the championship as the front four swapped positions.
That Marc Márquez ended up winning the MotoGP race should come as no surprise. The Repsol Honda rider extended his winning streak, both at the track and in the USA.