2016 New York International Motorcycle Show Top Picks

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Contributor Vipin S went to the Progressive New York Motorcycle Show this year, and he’s reporting back with his favorite rides.

As a car and motorcycle nut, there are a lot of similarities between the two that make it easy for me to enjoy, learn, and want to talk about both often. However, one of the biggest differences IMO are the communities that congregate at their respective shows. That difference is no more apparent than at the International Motorcycle Show.

Having been to over 10 events for each category, there’s sense of a real enthusiast community when going to motorcycle shows. Not to say car enthusiasts don’t show up in droves to the Jacob Javits center each year–it’s just that motorcycles are innately an enthusiast machine. Yes, they fall under “transportation” but let’s be honest, they, for the most part, are a less practical, more fun and journey-focused approach to get from point A to point B. This makes the crowd, while smaller, more of a tight-knit community based simply on a love for riding.

A few weeks back I attended the annual motorcycle show in NYC and the first thing that struck me is how much larger this “small” community is getting year-after-year. What’s even more awesome, is that manufacturers are dishing out brand new models ranging from 125cc urban mini-machines and electric dual sports to 1000cc track monsters and tech-laden continental cruisers. I truly believe there’s a renaissance happening for the motorcycle industry and if there’s a time to get into riding, it’s now!

Below are my top picks from the show in six of my favorite categories and why they would be an instant addition to my garage…if I had a garage:

1. Top Choice for Bagger: Indian Chief Vintage

Why: There are a lot of bikes with presence, but this one takes the cake with its tan leather and that nostalgic cream and willow green paint. The bike’s lines have barely changed over several decades and to still look this good is a testament to simple, elegant design. Vintage looks, enough chrome to blind a bat…further, and modern technology like cruise control, make this the perfect bike to cross state lines.

2. Top Choice for Cruiser: Victory Octane

Why: Victory is becoming more and more of a household name but in order to get to this point, they had to become profitable. A way to do that is by introducing new bikes and new technology. The Octane is a middleweight cruiser that’s a high step above a Sportster 1200 and a low-cost substitute to a V-Rod or similar bikes. The whole point of this motorcycle is to have cruiser enthusiasts with a penchant for American Muscle look to Victory over HD. With a $10,500 starting price, plenty of factory options, and 26 custom bikes from Operation Octane to use for inspiration, I’m certain it will succeed.

3. Top Choice for Around Town Toy: Kawasaki Z125 Pro

Why: The Honda Grom has been the dominator in this diminutive category, but that’s only because it had nothing but scooters and no-name knockoffs to face-off against. In comes the brand-new-to-the-US-market Kawasaki Z125 Pro. The Grom has a cooler name but the Z125 has Kawasaki’s legendary entry-level bike pedigree (think Ninja 250) and a higher load capacity, meaning carrying a passenger is more realistic. Either way, the Z 125 and the Grom represent a new era of mini-bikes focused on giving new and experienced riders a low-cost, high-quality product for real world uses.

4. Top Choice for Sportbike: EBR 1190RX

Why: What’s the difference between a cat and Erik Buell’s bikes? A cat has fewer lives. Even through investments, takeovers, and bankruptcies, Buell has shown the utmost persistence to survive. Without the pressure of shareholder/corporate interests and the upside of a real enthusiast investor in Bill Melvin Jr., EBR has been able to focus on building advanced race-bred machines such as the 1190RX. Where this bike shines is its tremendous but usable power and why it shines even more brightly is the fact that pricing has been slashed from $19K to $14K, putting it well under its closest competitor, the Ducati Panigale. American manufacturing, high-end technology, and a brand that just won’t quit –– seems like a winner to me.

5. Top Choice for Retro Redux: BMW R nineT Racer

Why: The original BMW R nineT is the first bike in its new Heritage line of motorcycles. I thought it was a great looking bike with a lot of room for personalization and enhancements, then I came across the yet-to-be-released R nineT Racer. For me, this bike is a factory version of one of my favorite custom motorcycles, JSK Moto’s Ivory Comet. While the custom is unique in that it’s based on a Harley, the Racer is a beautiful homage to BMW’s R90S. The red, white & blue livery, the Imola-style fairing, and the steel tank provide just the right amount of nostalgia but what’s truly exciting is the giant catalog of factory accessories a new owner can utilize to make this bike truly theirs.

6. Top Choice for Adventure: Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L

Why: The Africa Twin has been a long-awaited model –– a true Japanese adventure motorcycle with an emphasis on off-road riding. This bike garnered a lot of attention at the show and rightfully so because this is a bike that places Honda back into a market it used to lead with its original 750cc Africa Twin. With a 1000cc V-Twin, it’s not as large as the main players such as the Ducati Multistrada Enduro, BMW R1200 GS, or the KTM Super Adventure, which are either at or pushing past the 1200cc mark. But that’s not a bad thing, the Honda is lighter, more maneuverable, and comes with fewer rider aids, leading to a more visceral experience. And of course, I’m a sucker for awesome factory livery and this bike does not disappoint.

I could go on and on about every motorcycle at this show but if a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s a 177,000-word gallery! Let us know what you think about my choices, but even better, let us know about the bikes you would add to your garage.

In the meantime and with a new year upon us, remember to ride hard and stay safe everyone! Happy New Year!

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