NEW YORK, N.Y., Jan. 18-20–The 31st annual International Motorcycle Show was coming to town, and motorcycle enthusiasts were lined up to plunk down their hard-earned greenbacks for the biggest bike show in the New York tri-state area.
The International Motorcycle Show New York City is one of an annual 13-show series starting with Atlanta, Georgia, in early November, and wrapping up in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the end of February. Motorcycle enthusiasts from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania—and even beyond—flock to the Jacob Javits Center on the west side of Manhattan to see the latest offerings from motorcycle and aftermarket parts manufacturers.
The show opened Friday at noon, and once the doors were unlocked the hordes flowed down the escalator and onto the showroom floor. The very first booth was staffed by show sponsor Progressive Insurance, and offered a sitting area for folks to relax and regroup. Motorcycle manufacturers including Harley-Davidson, Indian, Victory, Yamaha, Ducati, BMW, Husqvarna, Honda, Triumph, Suzuki, BRP Can-Am, Kawasaki, KTM and Zero, took up nearly half the exhibit hall, with some debuting their new models for the first time.
According to the promoter’s 2011 statistics, 83 percent of New York show attendees own at least one motorcycle. That leaves 17 percent either interested in buying, or looking for a fun way to spend the day. The IMS is truly a family show with something for every age group. The XDL Street Jam Motorcycle Stunt Show took up a corner of the exhibit hall with freestyle stunting scheduled periodically throughout the weekend. The Pit Stop Challenge offered attendees an interactive simulation of the Daytona 200 Pit Stop. Photo ops with models abounded—from the MotoGP umbrella girls posing for photos to the Playboy Bunnies at the Victory Motorcycle booth.
There was plenty to do even for the little ones. In the Strider Adventure Zone, kids could test ride pedal-less Strider bicycles on a mini race course. Flo clones at the Progressive booth were handing out giveaways, and anyone could get their photo taken on a motorcycle sitting next to a virtual Flo. Industry experts presented seminars on various topics such as motorcycle maintenance, performance, women riders and adventure riding. And once again, Ducati models staged high-energy fashion shows several times throughout the weekend.
The Marketplace portion of the show featured new product displays, including those from helmet manufacturers HJC, Shoei, Arai and LS2, as well as Yuasa, Shorai, J&M Motorcycle Audio, Royal Purple, Odyssey, Ohlins, Saddlemen, Mustang, Dunlop, EagleRider, ChatterBox, National Cycle and Cycle Gear. Representatives from each company were on hand, giving show attendees an opportunity to learn from the product experts.
The J&P Cycles Ultimate Custom Builder Show made a return appearance this year, with 50 bikes entered into the high-level competition as builders vied for their shot at $100,000 in cash and prizes to be awarded over the 13-event series. Rather than delegating the show to a corner of the exhibit hall, each bike was placed along the aisles, giving everyone ample space to admire the expert craftsmanship and meet the builders. Three winners would be named in each of the five classes: Freestyle, Modified Harley, Performance Custom, Retro Mod and Modified Street.
Cruising the aisles
Through a highly unscientific process, I came up with an astounding estimate of nearly 500 booths. Vendors sold everything from cup holders to communication systems. Motorcycle riding schools, ABATE groups and other organizations promoted motorcycle safety, education and motorcyclists’ rights. Rally promoters from Laconia, Americade, Thunder in the Valley, Catskill Mountain Thunder and others tried to entice riders to attend their events. The West Virginia Division of Tourism made a return visit, and Celtic Rider, a touring company from Ireland, waxed poetic about the lovely Gaelic countryside. Let’s just say that I’m planning a road trip to both of those delightful destinations.
Paul Yaffe displayed his Speed Freak bagger to promote his Speed Freak product line. Indian Larry Motorcycles showcased two new custom bikes—the White Devil, completed late last year, and Moving On, a 2008 Sportster modified with the shop’s own parts and accessories. While chatting with ILM owners Bobby and Elisa Seeger, I was introduced to the unique and fascinating Billy Leroy, one of the stars of Baggage Battles in its third season on the Travel Channel. New Yorkers might remember him from the iconic Billy’s Antiques and Props on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
David Uhl, licensed Harley-Davidson artist, had a booth set up with many of his works on display. The centerpiece was his recent painting “Steampunk Seduction” featuring the bike that won the top award at last year’s IMS NYC Ultimate Builder show. The builder of the Steampunk bike, Copper Mike Cole of Gravesend Cycles in Lindenhurst, New York, was on hand, along with Jennie Villano, the model in the portrait.
Harley-Davidson had its 110th anniversary models on display, and during Friday morning’s media day, Mike Morgan from Harley-Davidson Communications briefed the press on plans for the 110th anniversary celebration and H.O.G.’s 30th anniversary party in Milwaukee this summer. He also talked about the Freedom Jacket, a black leather jacket that’s being passed from rider to rider in honor of the 110th, and spoke about the stories each of these riders tell. Mike outlined the new partnership between Harley-Davidson and Kid Rock, who will perform at the 110th. He also announced that New Jersey native Ed Krawiec, Harley-Davidson’s top-point NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champion, would be signing autographs at the show Saturday and Sunday.
Polaris is celebrating a big year in 2013, as well—the 15th anniversary of Victory Motorcycles. To mark the occasion, a 15th Anniversary Cross Country Tour Limited Edition was revealed. The motorcycle had the same paint scheme as the first Victory ever built—Antares Red over gloss black paint with gold pinstriping. Some of the special features unique to the bike include 15th anniversary badging, billet wheels, Garmin GPS and XM radio with Kicker speakers, black Blade windshield and lots and lots of chrome. Only 150 will be sold.
Victory had other delights in store, too. Cory Ness was on hand to unveil a 2013 Cross Country he’d customized to raise funds for the National Motorcycle Museum. Also on display was another Cross Country that Cory had customized for the Sturgis Buffalo Chip’s Sturgis Rider Sweepstakes, where the winner will go home with the motorcycle and a Les Paul Epiphone guitar.
The Indians are coming!
Indian Motorcycle presented a road show much like the one we saw at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally last summer, but with a few extras. Added to the exhibit of Indian Motorcycle history was an area featuring Indian Motorcycle’s involvement with the military. A 1942 Model 741B Army, just one of the many models Indian manufactured for wartime use, was on display, as well as a four-wheeled Polaris UTV used by our armed forces.
For 2014, Polaris will introduce a brand-new Indian, and the company has been teasing us with hints of what’s to come. Another addition to the Indian display was a specially constructed sound booth where you could hear the sound of an actual 2014 Indian engine. All the hype seemed to work because the booth was packed all weekend. Or maybe everyone was there to see Mike Wolfe of American Pickers who chatted with fans, posed for photos and signed autographs. Mike is a spokesperson for Indian Motorcycles, and took part in an Indian Summit Friday afternoon along with Polaris VP of Motorcycles Steve Menneto, Polaris Director of Motorcycle Planning Gary Gray and Senior Industrial Designer Mike Song.
During the summit, Menneto announced that the new motor will be unveiled during Daytona Bike Week, and the launch of the new 2014 Indian is scheduled to take place in late summer or early fall. Gray added that the bike is newly designed from the ground up, while maintaining the Indian heritage. Mike Wolfe spoke about his background as an Indian enthusiast and collector, and explained how he came to partner with the company. He described how he felt the first time he saw an Indian Chief, saying, “When you look at something like that, unless you’re a real enthusiast, you look at a motorcycle like a piece of art. You look at the lines, how it flows; you have an emotional connection before you even get on it. That’s the kind of connection I had that day. I did what they call the Johnny Cash special. I looked for a front end, frame, top end, engine… Finally I pieced that bike together, and I’ve had a number of Indians ever since. I like the early creation of the company, and appreciate the history of the motorcycle. It’s so easy to love the Indian story. It’s epic.”
When Mike was asked what he’s doing with Indian Motorcycles, he responded, “I feel like my role with the company is helping people understand the past. I think that’s what I do best. We’re all experiencing history right now, being able to tell the story as it goes on. For me, it’s all about pride. I’m very proud and honored to sit up here with these guys and talk about this brand, because this is it, man. This is the first American motorcycle company that set the bar for everybody. And it will continue to do that. And that’s what’s awesome about it.”
At the conclusion of the summit, we flocked to the Burt Munro streamliner on display. In 1967, the home-built 1920 Indian Scout earned the title of the fastest Indian in the world, with Burt setting a land-speed record for his 183.58 mph run in the Streamlined Motorcycles Under 1000cc category at the Bonneville Salt Flats. His qualifying run was 190.07 mph, securing the title of the fastest speed ever recorded on an Indian. The streamliner now belongs to the Hensley Family Collection, and Tom Hensley and his wife fired up the motor right there in the convention center! Lord knows the hoops Polaris had to go through for the fire marshal to allow it.
The International Motorcycle Show is the nation’s largest and longest-running motorcycle show tour, and New York is the series’ largest venue. This year’s attendance reached 72,943 throughout the weekend, topping last year’s numbers by 12 percent. After three decades, it’s safe to say that the show has found a winning formula.
2013 Ultimate Builder NY Results
1. George Stinsman, Chaos Cycle—The Long Bike, Custom Chopper
2. Nick Genender, NYC Choppers—Speedster, Custom Chopper
3. Jesse Bassett, The GasBox—741 Indian, ’40 Military Scout
Modified Harley Class
1. Jason Grimes, NE Chop Shop—Damascus Bike
2. Eric Schroeder, Tribal Iron Choppers—Café Grinds, ’94 Sportster
3. Jason Grimes, NE Chop Shop—13 1/2, ’84 Sportster
Performance Custom Class
1. Roman Levin, FOH Cycles—FOH Street Racer, ’79 GS 750
2. TT Cycles—1970 Triumph Drag Bike
3. Mike Davis, Speedworx—Saluda, ’06 Honda CBR
Builder Retro Mod Class
1. Justin Reid, Longwood Customs—66 Bonnie, ’66 Triumph
2. Will Ramsey—Dead at 19, ’81 HD FXW
3. Fred Montano, East Coast Super Bikes—Spitshine, ’60 Panhead
Modified Street Class
1. Evan Favaro, Speakeasy Motors—Butler 650, ’78 XS650
2. Mark Tempesta, Break Lite Motorsports—Ultimate RR, ’96 CBR900RR
3. Damian Collins—Aztec, ’02 R1