It has been more than a couple of years since I attended any IMS show. About this time of year, back in 2016, I paid Long Beach a visit for the first time. Back then I was impressed with how big the crowds were compared to the same show when it was 400 miles closer to me in San Mateo.
This didn't change, making me very happy that I got in with the sneak preview media access Friday Morning. The crowd Friday at 5pm flowed from booth to booth like swarms of bumblebees in a field of sunflowers. What were they looking at?
The Big Four Japanese brands all had massive displays packed full of their complete 2020 line-ups. Honda pulled the cover off the brand new (and yet to be priced) CBR1000RR-R - right after they pulled a similar cover off of Marc Marquez' RC213V that he rode in 2013. In the following presentation, Honda was not shy in pointing out that there are some direct carryovers from that world championship winning bike and the new Fireblade.
Not to be outdone with bling display bikes, Suzuki had Alex Rins' 2019 motorcycle on a flippin' rotating table. While the bikes that Suzuki broke American cover on were not based on MotoGP tech, they were pretty damn awesome. The trio of new V-Stroms look like they will be able to take riders on some pretty epic adventures, on or off road. Suzuki also had a decked-out, your 'Strom could be this bitchin' for a price, concept bike to drool over.
Kawasaki would have to go back 10 years to find a MotoGP bike, so instead they pointed out that they are virtually unstoppable in World Superbike and showed off Jonathan Rea's machine. They ran through some of their new machines for sale as well. What caught my eye the most was not the supercharged addition to their "Z" lineup, but rather the polar opposite W800. I guess I am really getting old when an air-cooled parallel twin with 60's styling gets my motor running, but there was something about this machine that spoke to me.
Yamaha had some special guests pop in to supplement their complete assortment of motorcycles. The first was Paul Pelland, aka Long Haul Paul, a man with MS who when he heard that the cure was "a million miles away" he took that as a challenge. He is in the process of riding one million miles to raise awareness and money for MS and the needed research. He has over 400,000 under his belt now on Yamaha products, including a Super Ténéré one of my favorite bikes. Their other special guest has been around the world on a motorcycle seven times, and stopped by on his first-off-the-production-line Ténéré 700. Nick Sanders stuck around long enough to answer a couple of questions before continuing on his eighth trip around this marble we call Earth. And my friends think I have the dream job!
Triumph had some unveiling of their own, with them popping the top on the new Rocket 3 and a special edition Bud Ekins Bonneville T120. Members of the Ekins family were present at the unveiling including his brother and nephew who recounted what it was like to race against Bud. Spoiler alert, Bud won, but only after finishing his cigarette.
Other European brands with American debuts were BMW, Ducati, and (via the Piagio booth) Aprilia. BMW showed us their F900R, F900XR, and S1000XR models, Ducati unveiled the V2, V4, and the new Streetfighter, while Aprilia showed us what the RS 660 looked like in person. Aprilia also announced a special, only in America, limited to 100 each, colorway for both the RSV4 and the Tuono. I called out Piagio up there because the last time I was in Long Beach, they were not. It was nice to see them back so I could get my grubby little mitts on not only some Aprilia's but also a Guzzi or two, and keep my pit crew An happy (confused maybe) with a pic of a multicolored Vespa.
Speaking of not there? KTM. I guess they figured that since I recently rode Eric GoGo Gulbransen's SuperDuke race bike and that I borrowed my buddy's 790 Adventure for the ride down I didn't need to see anything else.
There was a small selection of machines that burned electrons instead of petrol in attendance.
Harley begrudgingly brought out their Live Wire, or at least that was how the people helping potential customers on and off the stationary demo bikes made it sound. The response I heard to the question of if they were for sale: "Yeah, *heavy sigh* I guess you can by one of these but you have to find the right dealer." HD also put the only other bikes I wanted to see inside some sort of bullet-proof container, presumably to stop Erik Buell from taking his ideas back. Energica had their bikes on display, one of which was sporting the MotoGP eSport livery. They talked about how much the range improved over their involvement with the eSport series. How much? Well, the claimed numbers were 249 miles city, 112 highway, and if you did a bit of both you would average 149 miles on a charge. The previous Energica bikes that I rode were quite fun and the most practical for daily riding.
The electricity was not just about motorcycles either. Giant Bicycles had a rather large display complete with Eddie Lawson's GP bike...and Eddie Lawson himself. They talked about the growth of electric assist bicycles in general and how much of those sales are made in motorcycle dealerships. Their hope is that by having electric bikes along with motorcycles, both industries see a growth due to cross-pollination.
They seemed to be on to something.
In the #discovertheride program, people that had never ridden a motorcycle before were spinning laps on a Zero electric motorcycle after a shockingly short briefing on how it worked. Sure they were 11mph laps on a small, carpet, oval, but we all started somewhere. Before they were cut loose on the Zero, riders had to prove they could handle a Yamaha electric bicycle first. I did both, and their plan is going to not only make non-riders into riders, but they are going to get riders on electric bicycles. I know I looked into both Giant and Yamaha bikes before I left the show Friday.
Of course there was a ton of shopping options in and out of the Cycle Gear marketplace for those looking for deals... Or vacation ideas. You couldn't swing a Klim jacket without hitting a booth offering tours of far off lands. I might have offered my services as an almost-famous, technically international, motorcycle journalist to all of them. With any luck I will have stories of Columbia by this time next year. The people in that booth sent me off with a five ounce bag of what I am hoping is coffee, so fingers crossed. Check out the rest of the pics I took at the show, including some awesome vintage machines over on the Oxymoron Photography website, and if that isn't enough head over to the More On Motorcycles Instagram page for even more tasty goodness.