2018 AIMExpo Recap

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I came to Vegas for the 4 W’s: work, weather, women, and weed.” My Lyft driver is originally from Chicago but he’s apparently had a great time in Las Vegas since he moved here 5 years ago. I’m just here for a long weekend, and I don’t have a catchphrase. All I want is to see what’s in store at the American International Motorcycle Expo. After years in Orlando, Florida and Columbus, Ohio, AIMExpo came to Sin City for the first time. It was finally close enough that I couldn’t come up with an excuse to not check it out.

The Expo was at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. One of the most appealing aspects for consumers was the demo ride lot.

AIMExpo is put on by the Motorcycle Industry Council, and they say that the purpose of the show “is to serve as the catalyst to bring together industry, press, dealers and consumers in a single arena that creates a grand stage for motorcycling and powersports in the U.S. and North America.” If you weren’t able to check it out this year, come along for a vaguely-structured picture tour of my favorite sights from smallest to largest:

There were several Chinese companies at the show, and even with the stereotypes about intellectual theft I was surprised me by how many of them brought products that were “inspired” by other companies that were just a few booths down at the same show. One knockoff that caught my eye was from a company called Boom. Their branding said that they make scooters, motorcycles, and ebikes, but I couldn’t find anything about them online. They had a little electric trike for a child that was styled after the BMW VISION Next 100 prototype that I covered for RevZilla two years ago. Hell, it even has a “NEXT100” sticker on the “fork”. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anyone from BMW at the show that I could show this to for a laugh – more on that later.

If you rip off a bike that doesn’t exist yet, does that mean you’re just ahead of the game? Note the Monster knockoff in the background as well.

My obsession with Monkeys is not over. If you read my review, you should remember Steady Garage. They brought a Monkey with lots of trick parts as a rolling showroom.

One of the biggest complaints you guys and gals had about the new Monkey was a black plastic cover around the air intake. It was interesting to see what the bike looks like sans ugly plastic.

Yoshimura is offering an exhaust – check out the bananas and Monkey face hidden in the design!

If you’re curious, this is how the exhaust sounds:

Honda’s calling their lineup of tiny bikes “miniMOTO“. The Grom and Monkey are already in showrooms, and the trifecta will soon be completed with the new Super Cub.

It’s cute, but it just doesn’t call to me like the Monkey does.

If Honda can bring back the Monkey and the Super Cub, someone should bring back Hodaka and their amazing model names.

My favorite Hodaka name is “Combat Wombat”, but this ain’t bad.

One of the very few interesting new pieces of information came from Suzuki. They offer a GSX-R150 in a few European and Asian countries, and they brought two to AIMExpo to see how potential customers felt about it. Like the idea of a little motor but you still want bigger ergos that a Honda Grom or Kawasaki Z125 can’t provide? Suzuki wants to hear from you. It’s an interesting package that looks and feels much more expensive than you’d expect from a 150 thanks to the MotoGP rep paint scheme/decals, LED headlights, LCD dash, and even keyless ignition! With that said, who’s going to buy one? It would make for a fun spec class racer, but I don’t have high hopes that the survey results will justify enough interest for Suzuki to import this bike. For what it’s worth, Suzuki did something similar last year at AIMExpo and the Long Beach show with a V-Strom 250, and that bike obviously ain’t in the US.

This is how it would come from a dealer, though Suzuki also brought a version prepped for the track with Bridgestone race rubber, mirror/turn signal delete, tail tidy, and a Yoshimura exhuast. It looks proper with the livery.

The Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club of North America had a significant presence at the show with several classics:

If that Honda CB750 police bike looks familiar, it might be because I featured the owner and the bike in a video at the Quail last year:

This is a 1953 Honda Dream 3E with a 89cc overhead pushrod single that produces 3.8 horsepower. A flyer next to the bike claims that over 900 hours of restoration work and several trips to Japan were required to get this Dream in its current condition.

1953 was the first year that Honda put a four stroke engine in a motorcycle.

It’s not Japanese, but this Henderson is so beautiful that I don’t think anyone minds.

This is a 1956 Yamaha YC-1, and the owner says that it’s the only one of its kind in the US. Per a flyer next to this bike, the colors of the paint job are supposed to represent wet pavement of the Champs-Élysées in Paris. I just think it looks like someone replaced the tank and hasn’t color-matched it yet, but I’m not a paragon of style.

The motor is a 174cc two-stroke single and it was fed with Japan’s first monobloc carb.

This had nothing to do with the VJMC, but K&N had a restomodded Suzuki Katana that stopped me in my tracks:

Have you seen pictures of the new Katana that Suzuki just announced?

Alright, back to newer bikes:

At first glance, this is an Africa Twin, right?

Look again!

That Harley is the work of San Diego Customs. It started as a 2018 Fat Bob and was revealed at Born Free. Here’s a quick video with some more angles and details:

But my favorite Harley at the show was at the Ascot/Dickies booth. Yes, Dickies now makes motorcycle gear (though nothing has armor). This was said to be the bike that Evel used for his car pyramid jump at the LA Coliseum in 1973.

“Color Me Lucky”

When it comes to modern Harley-Davidsons, all the usual suspects were there, including their newest release: the FXDR 114. But the FXDR was overshadowed by Indian’s American introduction of the FTR1200.

The race replica paint scheme costs another $1,000, and I’d say it’s well worth it.

TFT dash

10,000 mile oil change intervals.

Love the styling of the taillight and illuminated Indian logo.

It was great to finally see the FTR1200 in person, however it illustrated a serious issue with AIMExpo: motorcycle manufacturers treat it like a stepchild. Intermot in Germany was two weeks ago, and EICMA in Italy is three weeks from now. Because those countries do such a better job supporting the motorcycle industry, they get rewarded with the truly interesting reveals. As I mentioned above, Suzuki introduced the new Katana at Intermot. At AIM, Suzuki’s biggest news was a survey asking if I wanted a 150cc sportbike. At least Suzuki showed up – BMW revealed a couple of their 2019 bikes at Intermot, specifically the R1250GS and RT. The rest will presumably be shown at EICMA, because BMW didn’t event have a booth at AIMExpo. The same is unfortunately true with Ducati and Piaggio, though I know all 3 brands will be at the Progressive Long Beach International Motorcycle Show in November.

The best (worst?) example of this is the Indian FTR1200. This was the first time they’ve done the premiere of a bike outside of the US, which is great news for them as they try to conquer the world. But damn, it makes for loneliness at home. I had a fun time at AIM because I got to catch up with old friends (did you know that Lemmy from RevZilla wrote a book?), network with some new companies, and watch Eli Tomac win $1 million thanks to a generous teammate. But that’s because you don’t depend on me for breaking motorcycle news. If I was assigned to cover AIMExpo for a major publication, I would have been annoyed with the lack of excitement and debuts.

A pleasant surprise was this photo gallery at the Bonnier booth. Three of those six photos were taken by Nathan for our Royal Enfield Himalayan story!

Now if you’re a dealer, supplier, or distributor, there are some good reasons to go to AIM and network. Or if you’re a local that doesn’t get to try bikes because most Japanese dealers don’t allow it, then it’s nice to have the opportunity to test ride a few. I’m glad I went once to see what it was like, but I probably won’t be returning (especially as AIMExpo is moving back to Columbus next year).

Kawasaki was one of the very few companies who released something specific – they launched an updated Ninja ZX-6R 636, and you’ll be able to see reviews of it on Motorcyclist, Cycle News, SportBikes Inc, and other publications soon.

Yamaha also provided an update that was more than just new paint colors. The new R3 looks better, is more aerodynamic, has more tech (LED headlights, LCD dash), and is equipped with better forks and new tires.

It’s not all good news, though. You can’t tell from this picture because they pulled off the mirrors and turn signals, but the R3 will retain those horrid giant turn signals that I complained about on the Tracer 900 GT.

Yamaha also had some technical displays to complement the usual models lying around for riders to sit on.

This was a great cutaway of a Yamaha R1M, one of the best sportbikes I’ve ever ridden. That Ohlins electronic suspension is simply amazing.

So cool.

Yamaha also had two Nikens, one with bodywork and one without. It’s easy to find photos of the former, so here are a few of the latter, especially the front suspension:


The last thing of note from Yamaha was the presence of Paul Pelland, more commonly known in the world of motorcycling as Longhaulpaul. I had heard of Paul’s story previously and was looking forward to speaking with him so I camped out at his bike and took a couple of photos while I waited for him to finish a conversation he was having with some members of Socal Hypersport Riders.

First and foremost, what Paul has done is very impressive. The very short story is that he was an Iron Butt Rally competitor who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and gave up riding. But he got back on bikes to raise money for the fight against MS. His ride is called “Chasing the Cure”, and he’s in the middle of covering 1 million miles – per his website, he’s currently at 328,564 and he has raised over $100,000! Yamaha previously provided him with a Super Tenere that he put over 300k on, and they just gave him the Star Venture pictured below. For more details, you should check out this story on META.

I had a whole bunch of questions for Paul so I kept waiting while his conversation turned towards sponsorships. Paul is supported by many companies such as Yamaha and Bridgestone, so I was expecting to hear about the companies that help him on his journey. Instead, he ended up trashing a laundry list of companies he had discussed opportunities with that didn’t work out for one reason or another. To be fair to him, I wasn’t part of the conversation. But I was standing on the other side of his bike and obviously waiting to chat for 5 minutes, not tucked away in a corner trying to listen in with a hidden microphone. I was so disheartened by what the discussion had become that I just walked away.

Paul’s obscured by the mirror of his Yamaha Star Venture, a bike that I didn’t fall in love with after a few weeks in the saddle. Still, I love the styling of the front end – it makes me think of a ’67 Pontiac Firebird.

The silver lining to my relative lack of interest in what the manufacturers were offering is that I got to spend more time with gear and accessory makers.

Vozz Helmets is out of Australia, and their helmet design gets rid of the chin strap.

It’s probably easiest to understand with a video:

The second coming of Skully was also there, and they claim to have completely moved past the horrifying first go-around with new owners, a completely new staff, and a promise to “Make It Right” for anyone who bought one of the original helmets and got nothing. The rep told me that they’ve recently started shipping out orders now so you may actually seem them in the wild soon.

Retail price is $1,899 and your color options are Matte Black, Arctic White, or Raw Carbon.

I got to try it on for a couple of minutes and was pleased with the function of the display, rear view camera, and voice activation. I’m not the target customer for a nearly $2,000 helmet, though!

I put my camera inside the helmet to try and show you what the screen looks like, but it was a tough photo to capture properly. The screen is much more vibrant than what’s on the NUVIZ and it can be a lot smaller because it’s closer to your eye.

Competition Werkes showed off a few exhausts, and I enjoyed staring at the high-quality welds.

The Motoz Tractionator Enduro S/T rear tire is designed to be mounted in different directions depending on if the local conditions are mostly wet or dry.

Cutaway of a Barnett clutch.

I have no words.

Deadpool is apparently looking to Givi for more weapon storage.

I even spent some time staring at tires, which is not a subject I normally find fascinating. I specifically stopped by the Bridgestone booth as they’re helping me out with an upcoming cross-country ride in the next few days. More details to come!

I also got to see Dane and Lisas from SkidBike again. If you’ve seen my video on SkidBike, you may recognize that I’m on the TV in the background – I was honored that they used our footage at their booth.

If you haven’t seen that video, here’s your chance:

Though the “M” in AIM stands for motorcycle, there’s also a significant powersports presence. For me, the coolest 4×4 was the new Mahindra Roxor, which is basically a modern take on the 40s Jeep CJ-2A.

If only these were street legal!

Half the reason I’m even sharing this quasi-Jeep is because it comes with this excellent sticker on the passenger’s side of the dash.

I wonder how easily this rolls over.

Like I said earlier, I enjoyed my time at AIMExpo because the people in the industry are wonderful and it’s hard for me to have a bad time around bikes. But if I have to pick between this and the Long Beach IMS show next year, I’ll be sticking with IMS because AIM’s dearth of bikes and gear I hadn’t already seen before was disappointing. I’ll leave you with one last disappointment – the fact that the Victory Project 156 never made it to production. At least it’s still nice to stare at, and the Indian FTR1200 seems like it might be a great consolation prize…

This was one of the coolest motorcycles to come out of an American company in decades.

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