If you’re the kind of person who’s always glued to your phone checking out the latest motorcycle news, then the International Motorcycle Show series in the US and Canada can be tough to get excited about as every debut seems to happen a couple of weeks earlier at EICMA. But there’s a lot more to the show than breaking news, so I make it a point to go every year – here are my highlights from 2019!
At Long Beach, the show technically starts Friday at 3pm but they open up early in the morning for press/media. I rode in on the new Suzuki Katana, which I’m enjoying tremendously. Baby Jack’s enjoying his new ride, too.
The show organizers do a good job of ensuring that media can get dedicated time to learn from each company, but I had to get some work done at my real job in the morning so I wasn’t able to see the formal presentations from Suzuki, Triumph, Giant Bicycle, or EagleRider. I made sure to stop by each booth afterwards to see what I had missed.
Triumph left their booth presence to a local dealer, who brought out most of the lineup as well as the new Rocket 3 R. Nathan was disappointed that the new 765RS wasn’t available to drool over. Still, the 2,458cc engine in the Rocket is impressive in its own right: 165 horsepower and 163(!) pound-feet of torque.
Suzuki had two major reveals – the Katana, which I won’t get into now because I’ve currently got one of the first test units in my possession and I owe you a formal review on it, and the new V-Strom 1050. I think the bike looks great, and I love that Suzuki is being bold with the color choices.
The displacement stays the same from the last generation (here’s my review of that bike on RevZilla) at 1,037cc, but the name changes from 1000 to 1050 because of…progress, I guess. With a few changes, power increases from 100 to 106 horsepower and it will meet Euro 5 emissions. There will be three models, the base, the XT (wire-wheels and electronic rider aids), and the XT Adventure (bags and grips in addition to the XT goodies). I dig this a lot, especially with the squarish LED headlight that takes inspiration from the DR Big.
I don’t know much about bicycles, but my visit to Giant was enjoyable as they had Thad Wolff and Eddie Lawson, the latter of whom was kind enough to pretend to remember me from a previous event.
EagleRider has rolled out an evolution of Club EagleRider (a program I’ve sampled in the past). As you may have seen in the last few months, they’ve been working on adding machines from Yamaha, Triumph, Zero, BMW, Royal Enfield, KTM, Husky, and other brands that would interest non-cruiser fans. Now, they’re trying to create a “motorcycle subscription” – pay a monthly fee and get access to a variety of bikes.
The three plans are:
$29/month, 1 credit/month, credits roll over. Same standard membership that’s been around for a while.
Premium Member (Pick 6):
$149*/month, 12 credits per month, for 6 months. Credits do not roll over and there’s no initiation fee.
Premium Member (Ride 12):
$199*/month, 12 credits per month, for 12 months. Credits do not roll over and there’s no initiation fee.
*These are introductory prices during IMS. Once the shows end in February or so, pricing will go up.
The idea is that riders who aren’t on their bikes every day can save the costs and hassles of maintenance, registration, monthly payments, etc and just ride up to 12 days a month for relatively cheap. It’ll of course depend on where you live – my local EagleRider has bikes that I’m genuinely interested in like the KTM 790 Adventure, Husqvarna Vitpilen 701, and the Royal Enfield 650 twins. Yours may not. Click here to learn more. What do you guys think of this program – would you give it a try?
Trudy Hardy (Vice President of BMW Motorrad Americas) and Vincent Kung (Product Manager) told us about how BMW was going after the “volume brands” in terms of pricing, but with technology typically not seen as standard features in the mid-sized roadster segment – LED headlight, TFT screen, keyless ignition, quickshifter, etc. There’s also optional cornering lights in the headlight, different seat heights, and a bunch more stuff that we’ll get to learn about early next year when BMW starts offering us rides.
The F900XR also seems interesting, though the seating area was a little more compact than I was expecting when I threw a leg over. It felt great at the moment but I suspect a little more room would be welcome when doing hundreds of miles in a day. I guess I’ll find out eventually!
Kawasaki showed off a series of new motorcycles, including the KLX230/300 that I truly enjoyed earlier this year. I was most interested in two models – the Z H2 and the W800.
The W800 has already been out for a year in other markets, but the US only got the W800 Cafe. That’ll change in 2020. The Z H2 is a naked version of the supercharged H2 SX SE+. Ditching the bodywork and some of the touring features like bags saves quite a bit of money – the SX SE starts at $25k, while the Z H2 starts at $17,000.
The supercharged motor is a treat, and this presents an interesting opportunity as it’s the cheapest way you can get your hands on one. Or maybe around one – Ken Essex, Kawasaki’s Manager of Public Relations, says that riding the Z H2 “is like hugging a giant supercharger” thanks to the lack of bodywork. I absolutely adored my time with the H2 SX SE last year because of the motor, so I like the idea of making it more affordable.
Yamaha also had two reveals: the 2020 MT-03 and the 2021 Ténéré 700. The MT-03 is a naked version of the R3, which means:
a.) it will be a very fun bike to ride
b.) based on my experience with the R3 and the Ninja 400, it’ll have it’s work cut out for it against the Kawasaki Z400. I’m willing to find out, though!
But the big news for Yamaha at Long Beach, just like it was last year, was the T7. The difference is, Yamaha USA finally revealed pricing: $9,999. Yes, it’s taking them forever to get the bike here, but that’s definitely a number to get excited about. It’s one of many bikes this year that I’m itching to try out for myself early next summer.
Jenny Smith of Rider Magazine and I have a habit of getting 2-up photos on press bikes, and this seemed like a good bike to keep it going with.
On top of all of that, Yamaha had Nick Sanders (their UK ambassador for the bike) stop by on his machine, which he’s currently taking around the world on an 8 month trip. It’ll be his 8th time circumnavigating the planet on a motorcycle!
3 years ago, did you think a Harley dealership would have this in it?
Harley showed off the new Revolution Max watercooled motor, which will power two “middleweights” – a 975cc in the Bronx streetfighter and 1,250cc in the Pan America adventure bike. Yes, the they called a 1,250cc bike a middleweight.
The most common questions that Joe Gustafson, H-D’s Public Relations Lead, seemed to get were about price and weight, but he wasn’t sharing any of that just yet. He was, however, glad to let us know that the 1250 will make more than 145 hp and 90 ft-lbs of torque, while the 975 will make more than 115 hp and 70 ft/lbs of torque. These bikes will be available in late 2020 as 2021 models.
Honda’s celebrating 60 years of racing this year, which was a good enough tie-in to introduce the new CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP. That’s a lot of R’s.
Colin Miller from Honda speaks to media, while Manny Pandya gets some photos for show organizers.
Rob Dabney of ADV Pulse checks out the new Africa Twin, which gets a displacement bump to 1100 and saves a couple of pounds in the process. Annoyingly, the base model uses tubed tires – you’ll have to spring for the Adventure Sports to go tubeless, but the $2,000 will also get you Showa electronic suspension, heated grips, larger skid plate, 6.5 gallon tank, aluminum rear rack, and a couple of other goodies. Plus you’ll get the much better looking red/white/blue livery. Otherwise, hope you like black, because that’s the only option for the base model ($14,399, add $800 for DCT).
Honda, like Kawasaki, spent plenty of time talking about their new 4-wheeled side by side. I didn’t care about either. What I did care about was Piaggio, as they are releasing 10 new vehicles over their 4 brands in 2020. Shane Pacillo started things off at Vespa:
I’m a bit indifferent about scooters, but the one that caught my eye was a Vespa Primavera collaboration with Sean Wotherspoon.
VW did this 20+ years ago with the Golf Harlequin, but I still dig it.
Moto Guzzi announced a Travel version of the V85 TT, which is going to basically steal all the thunder from the upcoming review of my trip to San Antonio. Almost everything I wanted on the bike from a touring standpoint (taller windshield, heated grips, a not-silver paint job, side-loading bags) is now standard on this model – it’s like I designed it myself but they got someone more creative than me to come up with the livery. Well done.
To be clear, all of those accessories on the Travel (and more) are available from Guzzi, so you can just add them to your standard TT. But I like that it’s offered as a package, and one would have to assume that there will be a relative discount with the package vs. ordering everything individually.
Aprilia’s got limited edition variants of the Tuono and the RSV4, both of which will only be available in the US. Called the Misano, it’s named after the track where Aprilia earned its first GP victory – Loris Reggiani piloted a Aprilia AF1 250 to the checkered flag on August 30th, 1987, starting an insane run of nearly 300 wins in the 125/250 categories.
This livery pays tribute to how Loris’ bike looked in that first victory:
Also at Aprila was the US reveal of the RS660, a bike that many riders are excited about. Even though the bike was officially released at EICMA so everyone knows what it looks like, Aprilia went through the trouble of doing a reveal anyway.
The RS660 basically utilizes half of Aprilia’s legendary V4 – the end result is a parallel twin that puts out about 100hp at the crank. If you don’t care for sportbikes, don’t worry. Expect to see a Tuono with this motor, as well as the possibility of a Tuareg adventure bike rebirth!
Next on the tour was Ducati, which announced a new Dark version of the Scrambler Icon (meh) and said we should expect to see something new announced in the Scrambler family in early 2020 (hopefully cool). I was hoping to see the DesertX prototype which was shown at EICMA but that wasn’t meant to be.
Most attention was paid to the new Streetfighter V4, a naked version of the Panigale V4.
The bike debuted earlier this month at EICMA, where it was voted as “Most Beautiful Bike of the Show“, presumably by a crowd of 14,500 blind people. The voting is done by EICMA patrons and Motociclismo visitors, which confirms my suspicion that Italians just vote for whatever new thing comes out of their home country (Ducati has won it 10 out of 15 times).
Obviously, the performance of this machine will be incredible and I probably won’t care what it looks like when I’m riding it, but the front half of this bike is gross. To be fair, way too many new bikes (especially 200hp naked ones) are pretty ugly right now, but I’m just picking on the Streetfighter because it won that award at EICMA.
Hell, the new Panigale V2 (which I have high hopes for) would have been a better choice, but it’s too similar to the V4, which of course won the award in 2017. I really like the V2 – I think it looks sleeker and simpler than the V4 does.
That wrapped up the media tour with the manufacturers, but there was a section for older bikes called the IMS Vintage Garage – this post is already long enough so I created a separate gallery for you to check out.
Speaking of vintage…Kawasaki offered a few media folks some time with the new W800, and I was very curious to see how it compared with my recent experience on the W800 Cafe. Expect a review soon on the latter from Jeff Pamer, but I prefer the new bike. I’ll have a short review for you soon!
That’s what I liked with regards to what the manufacturers were offering, but that’s only probably half of the show. There’s also plenty of vendors to check out, as well as several custom machines that blow my mind (some in good ways, some in not so good ways).
Ron West of Backcountry Discovery Routes brought out a badass Husqvarna 701 Enduro with the Aurora Xplorer rally kit. BDR has 9 routes already published, 1 coming in January 2020 (the Northeast), and 4 more in the pipeline. I’d love to try the Southern CA route (817 miles of mostly dirt from the mid-Sierras down to the Mexico border) on the new Yamaha T7…
GG Retrofitz showed off their fairing kit for a Yamaha R3, though this custom is packing a modified Banshee two-stroke motor!
I’ve got a few (not many) more photos from the day here in this album, if you’d like. If you’re not local to Los Angeles, here’s the schedule for the remaining shows – find your closest one! More than once, Nathan mentioned to me that this was the best IMS he’s attended in Long Beach, and I’d have to agree. Go check it out for yourself, and bring a friend who’s expressed interest in motorcycling, because we need more kids like this:
Hope you enjoyed!