The 14th Annual V-Twin Expo in Cincinnati
Not even the ice and below-zero temperatures could keep the crowds away from the 14th Annual V-Twin Expo in Cincinnati. The event was hosted downtown in the Duke Energy Convention center where over 180 exhibitors from California to Denmark showcased hundreds of new industry products across 200,000 square feet of motorcycle-loving floor space.
The name of the game at the V-Twin Expo was business. The event is not open to the public and is only available to motorcycle retailers, manufacturers and the press. There was major emphasis on keeping the public out as several greeters/security details checked my name badge again and again. Mike “Pez” Pesdirz from the Hogtunes booth said, as a result of this, the show has improved greatly from the Orange County Chopper days when droves of the public would wander in distracting from business getting done. Pez said, “Now it’s less party and more business which is great for me.”
The mood of the show was definitely positive as nearly every representative in the room felt the motorcycle industry was going strong amidst a growing year for business. Additionally, for being just a convention center full of industry representatives and no general public, it was packed.
There was a lot of buzz swirling around the show floor and a few names and products kept coming up over and over again, none more so than Indian. It was no surprise to many in attendance when Indian Motorcycles received the “Industry Leader of the Year” award.
Several manufacturers, including Johan Kristensen from SBS (a company specializing in brakes), were telling me about their development of products for new Indian models that haven’t yet debuted.
Motorcycle royalty Zach Ness, grandson of Arlen Ness, was also excited about the new Indians, specifically their acquisition by Polaris. He told me at Arlen Ness they have already begun developing a new line of products for the 2014 Indians, among the impressive 497 other new products they will be releasing this year. He echoed several other industry representatives in the vein that, not only is Polaris one of the most professional companies with the utmost stringent product testing he’s worked with, but also that Polaris has big money behind it, ensuring a secure future and a safe investment for the new breed of Indians.
Aside from the business deals going down left and right, there were several informational seminars for attendees. One of the most popular seminars was by Daytona Twin Tec, and presented by the company’s tech support manager, Kevin Baxter. The seminar highlighted how to use their scan tools for diagnostics and tuning aids which is apparently a hot topic on a hot item, because the seminar was standing room only. This was, again, reflected later when Daytona Twin Tec won “Performance Product of the Year” for their ECM Twin Scan 3 for CAN Bus.
It wasn’t all business; there were also booth babes and jaw-dropping custom bikes littered around the floor to drool over. If I were giving awards, I would have given the ladies representing the LA Choppers booth the award for “Smoking Hottest Booth Babes” hands down.
The other made-up award I would have given would have been for “Booth with the Sickest Bikes” which would have gone to Metalsport Inc., for their display of the $300K Matt Hotch Biker Build Off bike and a couple of Shannon Davidson show stoppers.
Metalsport didn’t need my made up award though, because they ended up securing “Accessory of the Year” for their 3-D Big Homie Wheels. Owner Mark Ashton told me he never expected to be receiving an award in the motorcycle industry since his wheels started as a labor of love. He already had established himself as a machinist going back 40 years, but when Matt Hotch approached him about making the first-ever 26-inch motorcycle wheel, he couldn’t resist. At first he didn’t even know how he was going to build it, but six years later he’s the big wheel Harley world leader. He contributes his success to the builders that have pushed his abilities, namely Matt Hotch and Shannon Davidson (there in attendance to represent him), and to Vee Rubber whom he says stays right with him making bigger tires every time he makes a bigger wheel.
There were also some really cool live demonstrations. At the Bell Helmet booth, pinstripe specialist Skratch was laying down some groovy designs on a fresh set of helmets. Curt Green of Bare Bones Leather, and part of the collective the Chop-In Block, was carving some amazing Japanese tattoo-style designs into leather hard seats to an impressed crowd. There was no shortage of talent on hand.
Curt Green tours as part of the Chop-In Block, a group of over a dozen custom motorcycle specialists from the Detroit area, whom each have their own respected businesses in bike building whether it be seats, paint, or bodywork. They realized if they banded together, their presence in the industry would be greater and they would have an established support base of experts for any customer. Curt emphasized a theme, which several other builders like Match Hotch would repeat later, that the future of the industry will be bright if more builders learn to shed their egos and band together.
It seemed to me at the a V-Twin Expo after-party at the Mainstay Rock Bar that the industry guys were learning to shed egos and interact, as I watched several of them down beers together and rock out to the heavy metal styling’s of the bands Moonbow and Dandelion Death. I can honestly say from my experience at the V-Twin Expo that the future of the motorcycle industry is indeed bright, and 2014 will be a year to remember for new high-quality products, technological innovation, and hot bikes.