2011 Progressive International Motorcycle Show at Long Beach [Video]

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

A recent story in the Los Angeles Times covering the L.A. Auto Show stated a change in the attitudes of attendees to the show. In recent years, during the height of the economic downturn, patrons to the show attended because they wanted to see what the future of the automobile industry had in store. This year was different: people came to the show not to see the future, but for the present, in the form of a replacement for their current car.

The tone at the 2011 Progressive International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach, California, held at the Long Beach Convention Center Dec. 9-11 had much of the same tones. The general attitude amongst manufacturers and attendees alike was one in which the economy had already reached its lowest point and now things were starting to look up.

Indeed, with a host of manufacturers including BMW, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Triumph, Victory and Yamaha, among others, displaying their entire 2012 model range, attendees were kicking tires with the intent of actually replacing their current rides or simply adding to their stables.

There was no shortage of customized bikes. This work of art started life as a 2003 Aprilia Futura.

Of course, the IMS show never ceases to surprise us, and this year was no different. Here then is a collection of the sights and sounds we witnessed at this year’s show.


Actor, former marine and Victory ambassador R. Lee Ermey admires his customized Victory High-Ball, a gift from Victory for his charity work.

Minnesota-based Victory Motorcycles kicked off the show with actor and rider R. Lee Ermey (of Full Metal Jacket fame) promoting the Toys for Tots Saddlebag Challenge, where he hopes to fill the saddlebags of all the Victory’s on display with toys that will eventually be donated to Toys for Tots, a charity he’s supported for years. For his efforts, Ermey also received a customized Victory High Ball.

That’s not all. Victory also chose the Long Beach show to unveil to the world the new Hard-Ball, which Content Editor Tom Roderick covers in detail here. The Hard-Ball, which combines elements of both a Bobber and a tourer is dripping with attitude and is sure to raise some eyebrows. All we know is that we can’t wait to ride one!

Related Reading
2012 Victory Hard-Ball Preview


While Harley-Davidson didn’t have any new models to introduce, it did bring this contraption to the show. This fully functioning Fat Boy Lo was strapped to this roller apparatus to allow show goers a chance to “ride” a motorcycle without the danger of falling over.

In a bit of a twist, Harley-Davidson’s presence at the show wasn’t to promote a new model, though the Switchback and Sportster SuperLow are new additions to this year’s lineup, instead H-D took this opportunity to introduce three major new exhibits to the Harley-Davidson Museum, headlined by the Watercolors by Willie G. exhibit. The first art exhibit of its kind, Watercolors by Willie G. displays the personal artwork of its namesake, inspired by the motorcycles and the company started by his grandfather.


While Team Green didn’t unveil a new model at the show, it did release the new ZX-14R, which our own Kevin Duke launched to a sub 10-second run down the quarter-mile at its launch in Las Vegas. Legendary drag racing champion, and long time Kawasaki ambassador, Rickey Gadson, was on hand at the launch to give Duke some drag racing tips, and he was also heading up the Kawasaki booth in Long Beach to announce a unique opportunity for four lucky riders to race against him for a chance to win their own 2012 Ninja ZX-14R.

Multi-time drag racing champion Ricky Gadson introduced the new Kawasaki ZX-14R to the crowd and announced the “Zero to Hero” contest, pitting four lucky contestants against Gadson for a chance to win their own ZX-14R.

In the “Zero to Hero” promotion, contestants submit essays to www.Kawasaki.com/zerotohero explaining why they should race against Rickey Gadson. Eight semi-finalists will be chosen and then the public will have a chance to vote for their four favorite essays on the same website. Those four finalists will then fly to Las Vegas, get two days of personal coaching from Gadson himself, and then race in a bracket-style competition, potentially taking home a new ZX-14R in the process.

Related Reading
2012 Kawasaki ZX-14R Review


BMW has taken this opportunity to present the North American debut of the company’s new maxi-scooters, the C600 Sport and C650 GT, both powered by a 650cc inline-Twin cylinder engine. A departure of sorts for BMW, these scooters represent a new direction as part of the company’s ever expanding model lineup.

Making their North American debuts were the C600 Sport (right) and C650 GT maxi-scooters from BMW.

Also on display was the redesigned and upgraded S1000RR superbike, which E-i-C Duke sampled during its worldwide introduction in Valencia, Spain recently, as well as the G650 Sertao, which Pete will put through its paces later this week at its introduction.

Related Reading
2012 BMW C600 Sport and C650GT Scooter Preview

2012 BMW G650GS Review
2012 BMW S1000RR Review


To celebrate 110 years of existence, Triumph formally introduced two new models to the U.S. market, the Speed Triple R naked bike and the all-new, shaft-driven Tiger Explorer adventure-tourer. Triumph North America CEO Greg Heichelbech was on hand to commemorate the event, noting that customer feedback was taken to heart when equipping the Tiger Explorer. Traction control, ABS and cruise control were all features added at the direct request of customers.

Triumph North America CEO Greg Heichelbech (holding microphone) introduced the new Tiger Explorer to the assembled press in commemoration of Triumph’s 110th birthday. The bike you see here is currently one of two in existence in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the Speed Triple R sports the same enthusiastic 1050cc inline-Triple we love around these parts, only now top-shelf Ohlins bits keeps rubber to the ground. All told, the ST-R is eight pounds lighter than the standard model. Switchable ABS is able to be turned off, another direct request from customers.

Related Reading
2012 Triumph Street Triple R Review
2011 Triumph Speed Triple Review
Triumph Unveils Three New Models for 2012


Honda was on hand this year with a full array of 2012 machinery, including its updated Gold Wing that debuted earlier this year with slightly revised bodywork, electronic updates, and even a surround sound stereo system. You can read Duke’s review of it after a three-day road trip here.

Also on hand was the updated CBR1000RR sportbike which receives new styling, suspension, wheels and electronic tweaks to make it the best liter-class Honda to date. Later this week, I’ll be attending the new CBR’s intro in Sonoma, California, where I’ll put it through its paces at Infineon Raceway and the surrounding streets. Stay tuned for my first ride report.

Related Reading
2012 Honda CBR1000RR Preview
2012 Honda Gold Wing Review

Twisted Throttle

There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to motorcycle luggage systems, and Twisted Throttle appears to be on the forefront when it comes to innovative new ideas for moto luggage. TT’s Marketing Manager, Adam Redford was on hand to unveil and demonstrate the new DrySpec D28 “Dual-End” and D38 “Rigid” dry bag motorcycle luggage systems. Designed for use on any bike, these bags bring an innovative solution to previously outdated dry bag technology.

The D38 bag has a solid metal core to keep it rigid despite the soft-looking, vinyl exterior. It also features a roll top design that can encase the bag in a self-contained vinyl wrap for genuine waterproofing. As the name would imply, the D28 bag can be loaded from either end, meaning ingress and egress is simple. The universal fitment system uses a series of quick-release buckles to enable the bags to snap on and off in seconds. All told, the two bags together have up to 66 liters of storage space.


The undeniable show stopper in Long Beach was the Ducati 1199 Panigale.

Ducati is riding a wave of success and anticipation for 2012, as the new 1199 Panigale is the year’s most hotly awaited new model. Indeed, it also attracted large crowds in the Ducati booth during the show. And while much of the attention was on the 1199, the Streetfighter 848 and Diavel line (Carbon and AMG) were also on hand for people to admire.

Related Reading
2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale “Superquadro” Engine Details
2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale Preview
2012 Ducati 848 Streetfighter Review
Ducati 1199 Panigale Forum


Arai was on hand in Long Beach to unveil its new XD4 crossover helmet. It features a new shell shape and peak for better stability and airflow at higher street speeds while still allowing full functionality from the faceshield below, which now include brow vents like the rest of the Arai line.

In fact, the rest of the ventilation channels have also been revised to help keep the rider cool. Inside, the XD4 gets FCS cheekpads for a better fit, while the removable liner features 5mm peel-away pads to accommodate different head shapes, much like the new Signet-Q.

Related Reading
2011 Arai Signet-Q Helmet Overview


Ryca Motors, best known for turning the less-than-sightly Suzuki Savage S40 into a cafe racer with attitude and good looks, was on hand in Long Beach and even had one of its bikes in the Suzuki display. To date, the company says it’s sold at least 160 of the $3000 kits. Future projects for Ryca include development of a street tracker and a bobber.

Related Reading
Ryca CS-1 Review


Suzuki had a rather quiet presence at Long Beach and didn’t even hold a press conference for the assembled media. That doesn’t mean there aren’t big things coming from them, however. On the center display at the Suzuki booth was a V-Strom Adventure, complete with full accoutrements to tackle the dirt.

In sportbike news, the new GSX-R1000 was also on hand at Long Beach. Suzuki will be holding a press introduction for it at the end of January at Homestead-Miami Speedway and yours truly will be there.

Related Reading
2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650 ABS Review


At the Yamaha display, Ramsey Ackad, winner of the Super Street Bike/Yamaha amateur virtual bike show unveiled his customized YZF-R6. The bike features a host of carbon fiber bits and gold accents all around. A beautiful bike indeed, but a trailer queen it is not. Ramsey rides the R6 regularly, as evidenced by the balls of gummed-up rubber on the outer edges of the tires.

Proving that custom choppers aren’t limited to American brands, this bad boy started life as a Star Road Star.

Over on the Star side, there were a host of custom Road Stars unveiled with an array of chrome bits and intricate paint jobs. A further testament to Star’s tagline, “We build them, you make them your own.”

Those weren’t the only tricks in store, however, as Monster Energy/Graves Yamaha and Two-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes, Team Monster Energy Tech 3 MotoGP Rider Cal Crutchlow, and Factory Yamaha MotoGP Rider Ben Spies were all on hand to meet and greet the crowds. When asked about the final race of the season in Valencia and being narrowly beaten at the line, Spies shrugged off the loss saying, “I had crashed the previous six sessions I was on the track, so I’m happy with second.”

Yamaha stars Josh Hayes, Cal Crutchlow and Ben Spies were all on hand to answer questions.

Related Reading
2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 vs. 2011 Aprilia RSV4 R APRC
Yamaha Champions Riding School
2012 Yamaha and Star Motorcycles Model Preview
All Things Star Motorcycles

Elsewhere at the Show...

While there wasn’t much fan fare surrounding the Brammo display (except for the lovely models), the electric motorcycle company was cautiously optimistic about 2012 prospects. According to Adrian Stewart of Brammo, the 100mph, 100-mile-per-charge Empulse is due to be released by the end of Q2, with the new six-speed transmission the only tranny offered. Stewart noted the transmission isn’t so much for longer range at higher speeds, but for quicker acceleration off the line. Expect the production Empulse to look slightly different, especially since it will be the first e-bike to be equipped with a pillion seat.

Brammo was clearly the best represented brand in the entire convention center...

Distribution channels for Brammo will be in the form of approximately 25 Polaris dealers across the country, with another 25 in random facilities like e-friendly Bartels Harley-Davidson.

Aside from the Empulse, Brammo displayed pre-production versions of a supermoto and mini-moto — two categories popular in Europe. Both motorcycles also feature the company’s six-speed transmission.

This pre-production Brammo Engage looks to be a fun supermoto machine. Note the six-speed transmission.

Despite winning the TTXGP North American championship on a racing version of the Empulse, Brammo is still non-committal in regards to defending the number 1 plate in 2012.

The ever volatile Indian brand was on hand in Long Beach, now with funding from new parent company Polaris. Also making a return from the dead is British brand Norton with the 961 Commando it had on display. The styling harkens back to the Commandos of old, but with completely modern running gear and Ohlins suspension. According to Dan Van Epps of Norton, the Commando 961 is in the process of getting its EPA certification and is now scheduled for U.S. deliveries by late March or early April 2012.

Two companies looking to make comebacks in 2012 are Norton (left) with its 961 Commando and Indian, now under Polaris ownership.

Related Reading
2011 Brammo Empulse Preview
2011 Brammo Enertia Plus Preview
2010 Brammo Enertia Review
2010 Norton Commando 961 models unveiled

Ride for Kids

In the Ride for Kids booth, the war to battle childhood brain tumors waged on. Last year Ride for Kids, in cooperation with Cycle World Magazine, raised more than $16,000 for childhood brain tumor research. This year famed helmet painter and designer Troy Lee introduced his customized Honda Ruckus, while Gregg Desjardins of Greggs Customs fame revealed his Honda CBR250R street tracker.

Troy Lee had so much fun playing with this Honda Ruckus that he got a second one for himself.

Lee admitted he had to add side panels to the Ruckus as there weren’t many body panels to customize. Aside from the trick paint job, he also added a front rack underneath the headlights that doubles as a cup holder, an idea that came about after he acquired a second Ruckus to make coffee runs. “I realized I couldn’t ride the Ruckus while holding coffee for my wife and I, so I built the rack in front.”

Desjardins’ wild CBR250R dirt tracker started life as a normal CBR250R but quickly transformed into the wild creation you see here. Much of the bodywork was scrapped, a Leo Vince exhaust was fitted, and the custom dirt track wheels and tires were wedged front and back.

This Honda CBR250R dirt tracker comes from the mind of Gregg Desjardins, owner and founder of Greggs Customs.

The best part is that both of these machines could be yours. Visit the Ride for Kids website to purchase raffle tickets, with the grand prize being one or both of these creations. For every dollar received, 84 cents goes directly to Ride for Kids and childhood brain tumor research.

Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

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