With the 2014 editions of Intermot, AIMExpo and EICMA now done and dusted, the Progressive International Motorcycle Shows circuit is now making its way across the country. Its stop in Long Beach, California is usually regarded as the most important on the tour, due to its proximity to many of the major OEMs who make their home bases in the SoCal area. And while the international shows are important for making big announcements, it’s here in Long Beach that many important regional or national announcements are revealed.
Your MO team was on hand at the Long Beach IMS, where we noticed the overall attitude at the show was one of positivity. The industry is bouncing back after the bleak years during and immediately following the economic meltdown. Personally, I can remember attending this show in years past and leaving with a sense of pessimism, reinforced by limited new model introductions and statements from manufacturers about simply weathering the storm.
For 2014, your MO crew left genuinely excited about the year to come in motorcycling. Below you’ll find some news, notes and takeaways from various manufacturers who attended the Long Beach International Motorcycle Show. We hope you’ll find them as promising for the 2015 model year as we do.
The Motor Company didn’t announce any new models in Long Beach because it had already revealed its 2015 lineup back in August. For Model Year 2015, H-D will come stacked with seven new or revised models. Included in those seven is the next generation of bikes to receive Project Rushmore updates. On the three-wheel side, Harley’s Jen Hoyer informs us that interest in the Freewheeler has been “phenomenal.” Let’s hope that interest translates into sales. Meanwhile, in response to Softail customers who asked for better stopping power, Hoyer tells us that request has been met, with the new Softail brakes offering a purported 40% improvement.
In other news, about 3,000 demo rides have been given on Harley’s electric prototype, Project Livewire, with additional U.S. dates still to be announced. Importantly, Harley is now going to extend the demos to Europe and Canada next year. While our time with the Livewire has been relatively brief, we’re largely impressed with its performance. Lastly, another controversial H-D, the Street series (which consists of the Street 500 and Street 750) is performing well. Its inclusion in the Harley-Davidson Rider Academy program has resulted in the highest rate of take-up in its history, and contrary to what some think, the Street “is not cannibalizing Sportster sales,” says Hoyer, who explains the Street is instead bringing in new riders to the brand.
KTM came to Long Beach riding on a high of good news. The brand is experiencing record sales in the first nine months of 2014, with 115,000 units sold, up a solid 14% worldwide from this time last year. Even more impressive are its street-going models, which are experiencing a whopping 66% increase, according to KTM. That trend is likely going to continue into 2015, as KTM’s street line, which includes MO’s 2014 Bike of the Year, the 1290 Super Duke R, is expanding.
As if KTM’s line of Adventure bikes wasn’t enough, we’ll now be getting the 1290 Super Adventure, meant as a more touring-oriented adventure bike. Included in the Super Adventure’s $20,499 price are saddlebags, semi-active suspension, adaptive cornering lights and a touring-appropriate 8-gallon fuel tank.
Moving from big Adventure-Tourers to small corner carvers, KTM will be bringing the lithe 390 Duke into the U.S. next year as well. Priced at a very competitive $4,999, it will likely undercut the larger Honda CB500F (whose 2015 price is yet to be determined, but retailed for $5,799 in 2014) and is sure to have a bigger performance envelope. And the lil’ Duke’s sister, the RC390 we tested a few months ago, has a similarly nice price of $5,499, which ought to scare manufacturers of other entry-level sportbikes.
Sticking with the 390, KTM also announced the RC Cup will be coming Stateside, running as a development class with the newly formed MotoAmerica series to help bring America’s next young talent up the ranks. Youths aged 14-22 will be able to compete at selected rounds of the series on identical RC390 race bikes. Rounding out the racing news from KTM, Chris Fillmore has re-signed with team Orange to ride the RC8 in MotoAmerica’s Superbike class in 2015.
Bob Starr, General Manager of Communication at Yamaha/Star, was ever his buoyant self this year, and with good reason. The new R1 and R1M are poised to be absolute knockouts in the literclass superbike wars this year. We’ve written plenty about the R1, and it sounds appealing enough to make it the bike some MO editors are most excited about riding in 2015.
And there’s plenty of other topics to cover from both Yamaha and Star. Starting with the former, Yamaha was also excited to announce the new Smax scooter, FJ-09 and R3, in addition to the R1. The FJ-09 expands upon the FZ-09, which was Yamaha’s best-selling bike in America for 2014, and gives it more touring-oriented features along with electronic updates, including traction control and revised EFI mapping. We expect the FZ-09’s status as Yamaha’s best seller to fade next year, once the $4,990 R3 is in dealers. The 320cc Twin will up the ante in the hotly contested beginner bike wars, and Yamaha is standing behind the bike with contingency money in certain racing series in 2015 with the expansion of its bLU cRU program for young racers.
On the Star side, Starr affirmed it was the best-selling metric cruiser brand in America, helped in part by the Bolt, the bike Star hopes will steal away Harley Sportster customers. The latest Bolt, the C-Spec, places the pegs in a more neutral position and replaces the bars with clip-ons for a more cafe-ish look. As Star’s motto is “We build it, you make it your own,” the Battle of the Bolts contest is pitting approximately 75 dealers across the country to customize a Bolt for a chance to win a variety of prizes. Take a look at all the entries and cast your vote(s) at www.battleofthebolts.com.
No new models came out of the Victory camp on this day, but instead the focus was on an older model, a 2008 Victory Hammer, to be exact. This wasn’t an ordinary Hammer, however, as Lloyd Greer, longtime Victory tuner with his shop Lloydz Motor Workz, built the bike into a Bonneville land-speed record-winning bike with the help of a team of school kids.
As part of the “Helping with Horsepower” program, Greer, along with Laura Klock of Klock Werks Custom Cycles, lead at-risk youth in a hands-on program to modify a Freedom 106 engine with a supercharger kit claimed to bump up power to 200 horses, good enough for a record-setting run of 173.321 mph. (Lloydz also sells a street $6,200 supercharger kit Greer says cranks out 155 hp at the rear wheel.) The team isn’t finished, though, as 2015 presents the team’s next goal: 201.5 mph.
Kawasaki is thumping its chest to the H2 and H2R wave, and rightly so, but with over two dozen teaser videos and countless press being given to the supercharged hyperbike, we fear Kawi may have taken the hype-building exercise a little too far. Our enthusiasm for the H2s is still there but can only be satiated now with a chance to actually ride them.
Meanwhile, a nicely updated (and far more attractive) Versys 650 and its saddlebag-equipped LT sister is good news for 2015, as is the U.S. introduction (finally!) of the Versys 1000. Also new is the Vulcan S, which uses a tweaked version of the Versys 650 motor as its powerplant. The S Vulcan’s most appealing feature is its highly customizable rider triangle that can be configured by by dealers to fit really short riders and really tall riders and everyone in between.
Suzuki displayed the new 650 V-Strom XT ABS, GSX-S750 and GSX-S1000, while also announcing a slew of price reductions for many of its models. Whether those price drops are enough to convince someone to purchase an outdated GSX-R1000 over the sea of new literbikes is yet to be seen, but it’s a solid effort to try and remain competitive.
Honda used the Long Beach show to celebrate 40 years of the Honda Gold Wing, displaying each iteration of the bike throughout the years in its booth.
No new announcements from Bologna were made at Long Beach, with the company blowing its load (and rightly so) at EICMA 2014 with the announcement of the 1299 Panigale and Multistrada 1200 DVT to go along with the Scrambler line. However, Long Beach was the first time many of us got to see the new bikes in person.
Dominique Cheraki, Ducati North America’s CEO, tells us the Scrambler’s first two months of production is already pre-sold, causing Ducati North America to worry about frustrating buyers who don’t want to wait for their Scramblers. This is in contrast to the worst times of the economic crisis, when the production lines of many OEMs were cut back because of reduced demand, Ducati not being able to pump out enough motorcycles is a relatively good problem to have, and a sign the industry is on a positive uptick.
Despite being the last manufacturer to present on the IMS media day, BMW came ready with plenty of exciting news. For starters, BMW is on pace to achieve the best year of sales in the company’s history with a 7% increase over 2013 – which was a record year in itself. The company also reports American sales are up 120% over “pre-crisis levels.” Interestingly, BMW’s top four models in terms of sales – the R1200GS, R1200GSA, R1200RT and R nine-T – are all Boxer Twins. The fifth best-seller is the F700GS.
Two thousand fourteen also presents the fifth straight year BMW has introduced five new models. For those who struggle with math, that means over the past five years BMW has introduced 25 new models! At Long Beach, BMW rolled out a new R1200R, R1200RS, S1000RR and S1000XR, though the XR will technically be labeled a 2016 model when it hits dealer showrooms in June. Also new for 2015 is an updated version of the F800R, but it was held up in customs and didn’t make it in time for Long Beach. It will be present by the time the IMS visits New York, December 12-14.
More interesting tidbits: BMW is abandoning the Telelever fork on the R12R and R12RS, instead reverting to standard inverted forks in order to mount the radiators needed for the liquid-cooled Boxer engine lower in the chassis. Also, BMW racer Nate Kern says data from the new S1000RR during its launch indicated he reached a 60-degree lean angle on DOT tires – that’s nearly Marquez-like territory! Pricing for these models will be released at a later date.
Triumph’s offerings for 2015 were mostly updated colors and special editions – with a couple of important exceptions. First, to celebrate a decade of Rocket III production, Triumph showed the Limited Edition Rocket X in all multi-toned black glory. The 2015 Triumph Thunderbird Nightstorm Special Edition takes a similar approach to the existing Storm model. The Bonneville line receives three different styling options: the Bonneville Spirit, Bonneville T214, and the Bonneville Newchurch. Triumph updated the Street Triple line with the new Triumph Street Triple Rx. Although functionally similar to the Street Triple, the Rx features styling cues taken from the Daytona 675. If you’re a fan of the Daytona 675 but want the more upright riding position of the Street Triple, this new model may just be the prescription for you.
First shown to the riding public at the 2014 EICMA show, Tiger 800 XR/XRx and XC/XCx are variations of the Tiger platform with a sharpening of purpose. The XR, as the R might imply, is directed towards road riding with a smidgen of dirt. The XC flips the two, focusing primarily on dirt. The XRx and the XCx benefit from premium features, like cruise control and rider modes. Expect the new Tigers to arrive in dealerships in the spring of 2015.
So, as you can see, things are looking up for the industry, which ultimately means things are looking up for you, the riding public. The amount of options coming to us in 2015 is dizzying, and Long Beach didn’t even have representation from brands like Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, Husqvarna and MV Agusta, just to name a few. Let us know which 2015 models you’re excited about in the comments below.