CINCINNATI, OHIO, FEB. 2–3—The new year for V-twin industry manufacturers, distributors and dealers kicked off at the Duke Energy Center the first weekend of February. In an industry typically accepting of excess, from 300-series rear tires to 30″ front wheels and 131″ engines, one metric has been steadily decreasing: the number of vendors at the Expo. Still the sole V-twin industry-only trade show, vendor counts have decreased for the fifth straight year.
By my count there were 191 vendors this year, with 22 of them being new. This decline is reflective of several things—the economy as a whole, the industry and the changing way people do business. The Expo made changes for 2013 including new show days and hours, Saturday 8:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. and Sunday 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. The longer hours and elimination of Monday’s show hours altogether met with the approval of most.
The Expo has also become the harbinger of industry trends. If baggers with 30″ wheels are big in Cincy in February, you’re going to see them at your local events this summer.
The Bagmen cometh
So, you want to know, “What’s next?” My answer: parts you can use. The bagger business is still booming, but it is also being refined. Rake kits and neck and tree conversions for 23″–30″ front wheels are plentiful; Renegade, Ness, JYC Industries, Rampage, Get Raked and Misfit Baggers all offer variants to make it easier for you to get the big-wheel bagger look.
Bagger bodywork is also evolving. Cameron Jurow of CamTech Baggers is now offering body parts in both fiberglass and urethane. The fiberglass pieces are more custom friendly and can still be reworked by the end user, while the urethane production parts are more plug-’n’-play. CamTech continues to enjoy success on the Easyriders Bike Show Tour, displaying three award-winning bikes from the recent Charlotte show at their Cincy booth.
Bad Dad is also refining the bagger breed. Their Resin Transfer Molding technology helps achieve a remarkably smooth, bubble-free fiberglass piece that just looks good, especially when compared to hand-laid fiberglass. The resin is drawn into the mold under a vacuum, which accounts for the fantastic finish. Bad Dad is also creating some pretty special fiberglass pieces that combine with integrated lexan lenses, special resins and L.E.D. backlighting to create a true custom look when custom graphics are applied over top. Founder and Chief Bad Dad Derk Hinsey explained they are also in the handlebar, floorboard and exhaust business, due to a supply-side shortage.
Before you begin to think this was the All About Baggers Expo, Sportster riders take note. You will have more seating options in 2013. Saddlemen has the new Americano lineup of café-type seats for Sportsters available in both tuck-’n’-roll and weave patterns, and the Lariat lineup featuring distressed brown leather inserts for Dynas and Sportsters. Bob LePera Jr. also recognizes today’s Sportster riders with his Stubs Café and Stubs Spoiler-style seats available in a variety of upholstery and trim styles.
Cobra’s 3″ Slip-On Mufflers for Sportsters were also well received, but their Center-Pro Slip-On Muffler for Dressers was getting the most attention. This unique 2-into-1 design fits ’09–’13 dressers and slips on as a single unit to the stock head pipes (or Cobra equivalent) and ends with an under-the-fender rolled-edge exit. This American-made product was received with either a love-it or leave-it reaction, but definitely created a buzz on the convention floor. On display in the Vance & Hines booth was a Big Radius 2-into-2 system for the new CVO Breakout and Monster Squared Slip-ons for the FL platform in both black and chrome.
The aftermarket wheel industry was also well represented. Performance Machine, Rampage, Renegade, Xtreme Machine and RC Components all offered custom wheels, matching rotors and more. If you can’t find a custom wheel that suits you in today’s marketplace, give up. Components such as matching grips and pegs are also being offered. Specifically, Avon is now offering accessories to match RC Components’ offerings and Xtreme Machine is offering bag latches to complement their wheels.
One of the most unique and unexpected products was the Ultima T-VO engine. The T-VO is a single-cam replacement engine for Twin Cam “A”-series rubber-mount engines. They’re made to fit ’99–’03 FLs and feature a totally new case design. T-VO features a three-piece crank, two oil pumps and one cam and is scheduled to be available in July 2013.
BAKER Drivetrain featured their 6-into-4 Signature Series Kicker. This limited production run is an overdrive transmission for ’36–’86 FL and FX models. It features supercharger good looks and a bronze kick pedal with main shaft lengths to fit your application. Was it popular? They ran out of catalogues on Saturday. The new reverse side cover for ’09 and later that fits with factory exhaust was also welcomed.
Debuting during the Expo, Metzeler rolled out their new ME888 Marathon Ultra touring tire with Chris Wall and a panel of Metzeler experts presenting the ME880’s successor at a breakfast on Saturday morning. Changes in tread pattern and depth are designed to improve wet weather grip and overall mileage, and repositioning of the tires’ ply line to a more outboard location are also intended to increase mileage and performance.
In suspension news, Öhlins anticipates being able to control the ups and downs of your front forks by August of this year according to Peter Jones, marketing manager. The high-performance shock manufacturer will finally have both ends covered.
Helmet companies aplenty were on hand, and Bell displayed its new Rogue helmet featuring a retro paramilitary look with a removable breath box. It’s available in Army Green, Matte Black, Gloss Black and Gun Metal. Pinstriper Skratch entertained showgoers with his effortless, flowing, freehand striping talents at the Bell booth. Riding apparel in general, though, was only marginally represented Vintage fans could take comfort in the presence of John and Jill Parham’s National Motorcycle Museum exhibit at the Expo. The Parhams displayed several bikes including a 1912 Harley-Davidson X8E, a ’48 WR and a ’46 FL. The museum has recently acquired the 1954 Panhead named King Bill and made famous by its appearance in the opening scenes of Saturday Night Live. A comfy couch offered a welcome resting place for many during the Expo, where a variety of vintage videos were available to view.
In additional vintage news, a full complement of trikes were corralled into the Road Iron Trike Review, proving that we must all still be getting older in spite of ourselves. Kool Trikes, Roadsmith and DFT combined to create an impressive array of completed trikes to view, all featuring the benefits of independent suspension. Paughco displayed their Sportster Trike Conversion kit, based on a Posi-traction live axle setup, and it was getting its share of attention.
Dragonfly’s Harley-Davidson Tri Glide custom Motorcycle Audio Rescue rig was the over-the-top Trike in the Road Iron review, with wider tires, a just-right stance, more speakers than the audio department at Best Buy and perfect, left-out-in-the-sun Big Wheel faded orange paint.
Give me pizza and beer and I will move the earth (apologies to Archimedes)
Saturday night continued the tradition of the V-Twin Awards in a more grassroots setting than in years past. On a stage at the rear of the convention center, Sturgis native Jasmine Cain belted out an acoustical set while the assembled crowd consumed a reported 111 pizzas and seven kegs of beer in 21 minutes! Dave Nichols, dressed appropriately for the pizza-and-beer crowd, presented seven industry leadership awards with the help of the Metzeler Girls. That’s less than half the number of awards that were presented at the Expo during the industry’s zenith in 2008, and while the pomp and circumstance of the awards may have waned, most found it a more suitable and familiar environment for recognizing our industry champions.
Saturday’s official activities concluded with Jasmine playing another set. But for many the night was still young, and it was off to one or more of several after-parties. We attended the S&S party at the Mynt Martini. It was a very cool and well-attended party with a variety of great food, drinks and company. The nightlife around the V-Twin Expo is legendary and there was no shortage of places to party—just a shortage of time to get to them all!
And speaking of S&S, the company is in the oil business! OK; technically the “drivetrain lubricant” business including synthetic and petroleum-based engine oil, transmission lubricants and primary fluids. And why not? S&S has always been about innovation.
Can you hear me now?
The short-duration bursts of aftermarket sound systems were, mercifully, few and far between compared to two years ago. That’s not to say interest in sound systems has fallen off. Cycle Sounds, which won Audio Product of the Year for the Rock Box, was holding court in one corner of the Expo, while Hogtunes, 2010 Accessory of the Year award winner, had an expansive display a few aisles over. We seem to have the option of placing speakers in unlimited numbers, in almost unlimited spaces—saddlebag lids being the most prominent of those lately. The clarity offered by digital audio is certainly partly responsible for driving this market, but our egos clearly play a role, as well.
Bluetooth communication technology is growing faster than the market’s ability to buy it. Sena and Voss both exhibited the latest technology in bike-to-bike and multi-bike communications systems.
Electronic tuning devices are also a market growing by leaps and bounds. Dynojet’s Touch Screen Flash Tuner was this year’s Tech Product of the Year and can provide settings to your bike’s Engine Control Module to improve mileage or performance. You can also install custom tunes, all with the convenience of a touch screen. The advent of fuel injection has certainly opened the door for the electronic performance management market.
Awaiting the next big thing
Both days featured a full slate of seminars designed to improve your business. Some topics like “Growing Your Business via Search Engine Optimization,” were deemed so popular that encore presentations were held on Sunday.
Sunday was a much slower day as far as convention floor traffic was concerned. Elbow room was not at a premium and just about everyone had time for conversation. Most vendors seemed pleased with the show and claim to have done a lot of business, and that’s really what it’s all about.
At its core the V-Twin Expo continues to be supported by a vendor list that reads like an industry who’s who. While some notables were missing, others have simply faded from view. More than most, this show is the V-twin industry.
The 2014 V-Twin Expo is already scheduled for February 1–2 next year and many of the industry giants will be on hand. By then, we may be ready for the next big thing.