There is a lot going on at the IMS every year. Working my way through the crowds that weekend I was left with the feeling of “same old, same old” but after writing the last few blog entries I realize how many photo opportunities I missed. In reality you can spend an entire afternoon at the IMS and not take everything in; custom bike contests, stunt shows, contests, vendors, and demo bikes. Every rider has their own taste and obviously gravitate to what we like to see most, and writing this now, I still wish I would have stayed longer and taken more photos.
Similar to last year, Harley Davidson had a booth right up by the front door. I also assume several dealers where nestled in with the main manufacturing group, again, like last year, the crowd is so thick throughout the Harley booths it’s difficult to get in to sit on bikes and take photos. Admittedly, I’m not a Harley guy; would I ride one? Sure I would. Would I buy one? Probably not; I’m not going to say “never” because that’s just dumb (I do like the Road Glide). I tease my buddies about their brand loyalty (pot, meet kettle), but H-D has their merits; I just wish they’d branch out beyond cruisers. I caught a few looks at the new LiveWire and snapped a photo. I find that the performance of the new battery powered bikes is impressive, but as a long distance rider, batteries just don’t cut it. As a innocent bystander, I have no dog in this fight, but I imagine the LiveWire will be met with mild neglect from the Harley faithful. While I hope it’s a symbol that the American motorcycle staple is going to add more variety to their lineup, I fear it’s more likely to suffer the fate of Buell, or the V-rod at best; it’s hard not to think it’s just a stunt to get the EPA off their backs. Harley had an interesting set up where they were letting folks ride on a few demo bikes; basically on what looked like a dyno. Not a bad gimmick, allowing patrons to sit on the bike and actually “feel” it ride (well, kind of). Between the crowds and the fact that Harley Davidson dealerships are extremely accessible and well stocked, there just wasn’t much for me to see that I couldn’t easily find somewhere else.
Somehow I managed to almost skip Suzuki entirely. Having sat on the Versys, the FJ-09, and the Tenere, I decided a simple photo of the V-strom was good enough. I feel bad, but on paper the V-strom and the Versys appear to be nearly the same bike to me, so I just didn’t put much effort into looking it over after the wife was less than impressed with the Versys. We did walk by the TU-250 model to take a brief look, where I noticed the GW250F which I had never seen before. I can only equate it to something like a 250 cc Bandit or SV650 you put in the dryer. I’ll have to do a little more homework on this GW250F and get back with you; hopefully this is another sign of the expanding “entry level” market. While I didn’t notice it, I assume the DR650 was at the show. I would say that the DR650 would be a qualified dual sport I wouldn’t mind having; but I didn’t bother to take a seat on one considering it in no way shouts “yes, please ride two-up on day on me!”. However, it’s another great single rider utility bike.
I did spend a few moments wondering around the Indian booth. I was really excited when the new Indian came out a couple years back and spent a considerable amount of time in their booth last year. Having been to a few dealerships in the past year, the Thunderstroke 111 is a beautiful engine, on par with a beautiful bike. That said, I can’t do the fenders man; I just can’t. Mind you, I couldn’t afford an Indian Chief if I did want a full dresser; it’s pretty, just not my bag. This year however is the first year for the new Indian Scout, which I had to see up close. For other riders that share my distaste for the long fenders and “fringe” on the Chief models, the Scout is quite the contrast. While the Chief is large, voluptuous, and sweeping; the Scout it angular, cropped, and sporty. In the saddle the Scout feels comfortable, I would say it’s grossly similar to my Speedmaster. The Scout feels light, and has the foot controls right where I would want them (if I wanted another cruiser). I’m a sucker for the new flat paint options, and even the distressed leather which I think tends to be a bit love-hate for most people. I do think that the stock pipes are probably the first thing I would ditch on the bike, I also agree with other folks, the radiator does look a little obtrusive. With the EPA on a rampage, I figure water-cooled is probably an inevitable change to all cruisers, I just hope more attractive means of installing them is found. The new 1200 cc Scout is undoubtedly a potential rival the Sportster 1200 and in my mind even the V-rod. When I saw the first photos of the Scout I immediately thought “That’s a V-rod”; so I think it’s worth comparing the two more closely. The 69 cubic inch Scout falls just short of the 76 cubic inch V-rod in torque (72 ft-lbs. vs. 83) but weighs 538 pounds versus the 666 pounds of the V-rod. Sticker on the Scout is $10,999 which is $5,500 cheaper than the V-rod. Mind you, the V-rod comes with a 5 gallon tank (3 on the Scout), but I have no idea what other features add up to $5k on the V-rod. The air cooled Sportster 1200 brings 70 ft-lbs. of torque to the party, and weighs in at 584 pounds; sticker price of $10,649. Honestly, I think Indian has done their homework and offered a middleweight cruiser to directly attack two options on Harley Davidson’s roster.
Speaking of Polaris, Victory Motorcycles also has a significant presence at the show. My wife has a hard-on for the Victory Gunner so bad I could probably walk out with one tomorrow if I really wanted one. We’ve looked at the Gunner several times, but putting a pillion seat on the Gunner kind of takes away from the intended look (according to my wife). In my mind, the Cross Country in the logical choice if I’m planning on riding two-up, so we took a brief moment to climb aboard. As it turns out, my wife found the Cross Country pillion pad to be inadequate, which is shocking to me for a touring bike. She said that it was considerably small and felt like she was going to slide off the back. Certainly Victory offers “touring” seats to ride two-up, but for the passenger seat to be anything but plush on this bike is shocking to me.
I have ridden a few Victorys (or is that Victories?), and plan on riding a few more this year at the local demo days. I make jokes about how polarizing water-cooling is among cruiser guys, discussing Harley vs. Victory is even more so; hell even among non-cruiser guys. I’m actually on the fence; the looks that most can’t get past don’t really bother me, but some of the fit, finish, and engine tuning turns me off to some degree. Victory has done an excellent job differentiating themselves from the sea of V-twin motorcycles with their distinct look. Having ridden a few Victorys, what surprises me is how soft the suspension is. Looking up the stats, the Victory Cross Country has 4.7″ rear suspension which is miles in cruiser speak. The downside for me has been that the 106 cubic inch engine is tuned for HP over torque which is completely alien on a cruiser in my opinion. If Victory is diametrically different from Harley, that includes the toque curve apparently. In conjunction with my dissatisfaction with lack of grunt on the low end, some of the fit and finish items like “wobbly” shifter and brake levers, and seemingly “bolt-on” plastic cruise control leaves a bit to be desired. If those are not deal breakers for you, stop by your local dealership where I’m sure they will live up to their motto: “Ride one and you’ll buy one”. Having sampled the used bikes on the local dealer’s used lot, I’ve seen no shortage of Harleys, so they’re doing something right. Most of their models are on the “touring” end of the cruiser section, starting at $17,999, but the Vegas 8-Ball and Gunner can be taken home for under $13,000; which is a sweet deal on a 1700 cc motorcycle.
KTM brought their sweet connex setup again this year. Sorry, “Connex” is a slang term GI’s use when talking about “container transports” or “Ocean Containers”. KTM has a couple of orange steel ocean containers that open on the sides that they use for their booth display. They brought a big lineup again this year, but being a more street faring rider, I was mostly interested in the Adventure and Duke lineup. Because of the unorthodox setup, the line to get on the bikes was pretty considerable, so much so we actually moved on to the Indian booth and came back. I finally got to take a seat on the new 1290 Super Adventure. I have a friend with a 990 Adventure and I’m already very familiar with what a KTM is capable of. I’m a big fan, like Ducati, KTM takes a toquey V-twin, sheds weight, and adds suspension until they have a “race ready” bike. Without spouting off about how great I think KTM is, I found the 1290 to be ultra tall, so much so I would have to do a lot of research to figure out how to get it lowered; I doubt factory options would be sufficient for my 5’10” frame. I never did get to sit on the 690 Duke like I wanted to, but I’m still pretty convinced the 690 single would be an awesome bike to tool around town on. Along with Ducati, I would say KTM is on my bucket list for “motorcycles to own”… someday.
I’m almost too embarrassed to call myself a motorcycle enthusiast considering I think I spent less time in the Honda booth than I did in the Suzuki booth this year. Last year was a totally different story, I was all about the new Grom, CTX700, CTX1300, F6B, and the CB1100. Unfortunately this year, besides rumors of the “True Adventure” Honda just didn’t seem to have anything new worth looking at. Hopefully 2015 is just a retooling year. When the “True Adventure” is finally released, you better believe I’m going to be all over it. Considering Honda’s reputation for reliability, and their race teams’ performance, I still cannot fathom why Honda still doesn’t have a more dirt worthy “Adventure” bike. It’s just odd for such a successful company to almost be completely absent from an emerging market. If the legends of the Africa Twin are any hint, hopefully Honda will strike back with a vengeance next year.
I think it’s probably only fair to give Can-Am honorable mention even though I didn’t stop into their booth at all. Like so many other things, I also find the Can-Am Spyder to be love-hate among riders still on two wheels. Maybe it’s the engineer coming out in me, but I feel more secure on a trike with two wheels up front versus two wheels in the back. I know it’s not stylish, but neither are helmets and armored gear; I wear both so I guess I’m a square. I will comment that the fully loaded Can-Am is a gas hog that almost makes my car look efficient (like 36 mpg), and the price tag is more than said car. Perhaps Can-Am should consider running two wheel drive up front, that would at least offer me a feasible “winter solution” that I can currently only get with a sidecar. We’ll see if I still feel the same when I’m too old or injured to hold up two wheels.
I’ve looked over the exhibitors list and have yet to find Moto Guzzi or Ural on the list anywhere. Both of which disappoints me considering my taste for Cafe Racers and thirst for a motorcycle that is “Snow-worthy”. Last year there was a local Cleveland dealer that had Moto Guzzi and Royal Enfield; I didn’t see their booth this year and cannot find them on the list; mind you I don’t remember their dealer’s name. Hopefully that will change next year, the addition of Husqvarna would be even better. I also didn’t spy any Cleveland Cycle Werks bikes there either. Last year there was some other Chinese knockoff company selling cruisers/choppers, which I also didn’t see this year (probably for the better); but considering it’s Cleveland, I figured I’d still see CCW.
In closing, your local International Motorcycle Show is an event worth doing at least once. I hope you’re as “blessed” as we are in Ohio to have the show in the heart of winter; that way you can at least look and sit on bikes when you’re lucky to see yours from under the cover in the garage (don’t know so much about that myself). Hopefully next year I’ll take more photos, drink more beer, and take better notes.