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2010 Long Beach Progressive IMS Report
The American motorcycle industry has its annual coming-out party
The annual synergistic mixing of business with pleasure known as the International Motorcycle Show at Long Beach again attracted powersports enthusiasts despite a rainy three-day weekend Dec. 17-19.
For the first time in 17 years, Cycle World was not the sponsor, as reflected by the event’s new title, the Progressive International Motorcycle Shows.
Long Beach is the fourth stop of 12 regional shows Progressive has been promoting since Nov. 12 in key cities around the country. Having begun in Dallas as the winter season approached, they’ll continue through Mar. 9-12, at the spring race-season opener at Daytona Beach.
The organizers say the aggregate buying power for its dozen shows is $3.4 billion. And even if attendees don’t spend to the limit, they are still said to be nine times more likely to purchase powersports products than those who don’t attend.
In turn, the show is considered to be necessary to manufacturers and vendors that want to remain competitive. In the words of one CEO for a well-regarded motorcycle manufacturer, presenting his products at the IMS is like “table stakes,” where it’s merely a cost of doing business. Not showing, he said, could raise questions about a company’s health and viability he’d rather not have to answer.
Certainly such economic clout must be enviable for the organizers, which put on the latest event inside Long Beach Convention Center’s cavernous exhibit hall. The extravaganza featured a cornucopia for the eyes to anyone who enjoys powersports machinery.
In addition to new production models from OEMs, other displays featured gear sellers, charitable organizations and media companies. Also sprinkled around the hall were custom bikes – all vying for selection in the Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Competition. In March, the winner will get to partake from a $90,000 purse at the final IMS show at Daytona.
Because of the rain, demo rides that had been promised by several OEMs were offered only by BRP on Saturday, and these were only for Can-Am Spyders which, as three-wheelers, couldn't fall over in the rain like a two-wheeler could. By Sunday, the parking area had enough flooding that no more demos were held by any manufacturer.
The precipitation did not stop Team No Limit’s Jason Britton and Eric Hoenshell, however, who performed stunts all weekend. Fans crowded outside to watch, even in the pouring rain.
Racers were on hand to sign autographs, including Ducati star Nicky Hayden, and MotoGP Rookie of the Year, Ben Spies.
On Friday, Yamaha gave Spies a customized WR450 “grocery getter” loaded with aftermarket parts, including a GYTR cylinder head, Race Tech customized suspension, Dunlop tires, and much more. Spies said he has minimal experience on a supermoto but he’d take his newest toy to a track, try foot-out style first, then maybe experiment with knee-out style as he breaks the bike in.
Speaking of new bikes there were plenty.
The San Francisco-based technology company of 26 employees rolled out what some were describing as one of the best looking electric motorcycles yet seen, the Mission R.
The company said its three-phase AC induction motor, powered by a 14.4-kWh nickel cobalt manganese, lithium-ion polymer battery puts down 141 hp and 150 ft-lb torque. The exceptional torque, Mission said, is available from 0-6400 rpm, and capable of propelling the one-speed machine to 160 mph. The chassis was developed by James Parker, who is known for his RADD hub-center steering concept seen on Yamaha’s GTS1000 sport-tourer.
The carbon fiber bodywork was designed to hide a big square-edged battery box behind swoopy forms. The top of the box was reshaped in carbon fiber to blend into the bodywork, so extra shrouding is unnecessary.
Unfortunately for now, consumers have as much chance of getting a ride on the Mission R as they do Spies’ new Yamaha. The Mission R is a race-only bike intended for TTXGP competition. No price tag was attached and it’s not for sale to anyone.
Where is Mission getting its money? From investors, government grants, and Mission said it has sold its electronic drive train technology to other vehicle manufacturers, but due to non-disclosure agreements, cannot divulge which they are or what kind of electric vehicles they sell.
Further news of Mission’s consumer motorcycles based around the racer will be announced sometime in 2011, Mission said. Expect uber-pricey, limited production for these bikes that are made in house with many proprietary components, along with Öhlins suspension, Brembo brakes, Marchesini wheels and other top-caliber equipment.
For practical and far more reasonably priced bikes you can buy now, Triumph was on hand to present its new models after a multi-year hiatus from the IMS. With 110 years of history behind it, the Brit bike company is working hard to present customers machines that will satisfy. It debuted seven new or newish models that will be available in the North America this spring, including revised America and Speedmaster cruisers.
The all-new Tiger 800 adventure-touring models are the biggest news from Triumph for 2011. Motivated by “flexible” 800cc Triples, they feature adjustable seats and handlebars, an included rack, optional switchable ABS, and accessories include top and side boxes.
The street-oriented 800 rides on cast-alloy hoops, 19 inches in front, 17 inches in back. The dirt-biased XC runs on durable offroad Excel spoked wheels, with a 21-incher in front mated to a 17-incher out back. The bikes’ charging systems deliver 645-watts to run all sorts of accessories. Base prices are $9999 for the 800, and $10,999 for the XC.
Triumph said it worked with Öhlins to deliver its new racier Daytona with a sophisticated 43mm fork and TTX shock. It also comes with Brembo monobloc calipers, radial master cylinders, and special paint with distinctive red accents and carbon fiber bits. Although the three-cylinder motor is unchanged, the 675R is a major upgrade for its $11,999 MSRP, which seems quite reasonable relative to Japanese middleweights that are pushing the $11k mark. The regular Daytona 675 returns at $10,499.
The 7-lb lighter Speed Triple gets new eyes, er, headlights, but the biggest changes are in the chassis and layout. The engine, said to put out an additional 5 hp and 6 ft-lb, is positioned further forward and tilted. Other heavy components like the battery box are placed as far forward as possible in the re-worked chassis to provide a nearly 50/50 front-to-rear weight balance. The goal was to make it handle more like a 600-class machine. The sixth-generation Speed Trip retails for $11,799.
Still very much in business, Suzuki said it will be glad to put 2010 behind as the year it sat out by releasing essentially no new street models. On the other hand, Brand S announced it hadn’t been resting on its laurels in the racing department, having won six major on- and off-road championships. In 2011, a total of $4 million will be offered in contingency money for AMA, CCS, and WERA racing.
GSX-R600 / GSX-R750
The news Suzuki focused on regarding the production road side is its re-worked middleweight sportbikes. Boasting the GSX-R600 has the highest power-to-weight ratio in its class, Suzuki said it is 20 lbs lighter and more powerful. The GSX-R750, the bike that started the “GSXR revolution” in 1985 is still around as the only 750 sportbike, and meaner than ever. It weighs 17 lbs less than last year, and like the 600, has a number of tweaks throughout we wrote about in our extensive preview. The GSX-R600 is $11,599, and the GSX-R750 is $11,999.
That other iconic company that makes V-Twins – with its star apparently rising and without negative PR to overcome like a certain American V-Twin company does, for having fumbled the ball with a guy named Eric Buell – was on hand. Ducati celebrated its popularity in stride with a fashion show, no less, while also showing off models of the two-wheeled variety.
In case there’s any doubt what family it belongs to, Ducati’s new-think sporty power cruiser is held together by its recognizable welded-steel trellis frame. A 5.3-gallon fuel tank ought to dispense decent range for the 1199cc V-Twin, even if riders attempt to drive its Pirelli 240-series rear tire to the Diavel’s potential 150-mph top speed along the way.
Aluminum body panels and attention to detail everywhere on the bike named Devil in Italian promise a high-quality experience to, uh, new converts to the faithful among the Ducati, er, fold. And if the standard $16,995 version is not enough, Ducati offers a carbon-festooned version in black, available for an extra $3000 ($3400 in red) more than the standard machine.
A full complement of new Beemers was on display, including an outrigger-equipped S1000R that Keith Code and company use for the California Superbike School. The idea is to safely teach leaning and sliding without that most unwelcome of inconveniences, falling off. Also on hand was a stretched dragrace version on the other extreme of the S1000R’s potential usage spectrum.
On a spinning dais was BMW’s Concept C scooter, a futuristically styled maxi scooter prototype. While not a runner, a radiator shroud behind the front wheel suggests it will house a liquid-cooled engine, perhaps BMW’s 652cc Single.
Also getting a lot of attention were the new six-cylinder touring bikes, the K1600GT and GTL. Lost in their shadows was the G650GS, the single-cylinder adventure bike newly revised for 2011. And new to the American market is the F800R naked roadster. It replaces the F800S in the lineup, and we’ve now got one in the MO garage for testing – stay tuned.
Not every company is suffering in the motorcycle industry. Race Tech’s Paul Thede tells us the last two years have been the best ever for the suspension experts. Notably, riders who’ve bought used machines, or held onto bikes, including vintage and late-model examples, are keeping them fresh with Race Tech upgrades.
With no disrespect intended to other manufacturers, we’ll summarize that the rest of the OEMs, BRP, Honda, Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki, Star, Yamaha and others from the aftermarket were on hand with their products.
Kawasaki is still keeping mum as to what the issue is with its ZX-10R that was placed on a “technical hold” you can read about here. We’re pretty sure it has to do with something in the engine, but otherwise, keep guessing, because other than saying it’s not safety related, Team Green’s people are under strict orders, and mum’s the word.
Harley-Davidson is still sporting the corporately polished bravado with loads of bikes, but sadly, the absence of Buells was still noticeable this year.
Honda is still moving forward, attempting to rebound from a rather lackluster sales year, with new hopes placed in its machines, not least of which is the CBR250R entry-level sportbike which we’ve written extensively about in recent weeks.
The motorcycle industry is still down compared to a few years ago, but certainly not out and with positive stories to be heard here and there as well. Let’s hope the old adage applies that, “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” If true, then the motorcycle industry should be soon strong indeed! And in any case, the IMS show reiterated that there are more choices and better engineered machines than ever before.
Be sure also to check out our photo gallery.