The massive Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, New York, once again served as the venue for this year’s Progressive International Motorcycle Show. New York City is about halfway through the show’s annual 12-city tour, and historically this location has been the most heavily attended of the entire series.
This 31st year of the show saw tens of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut swarm the city. Busloads of bikers also came from all over the Northeast, including Pennsylvania, Maryland and several New England states. For many showgoers, the IMS is the first (and in some cases the only) time they can see—and seat-test—new motorcycle models. For others, it’s a chance to check out the latest parts, accessories and apparel.
Advanstar’s research has shown that attendees spend an average of $181 per person at the show, and I probably came pretty close to that figure on my own little motoshopping spree. I couldn’t resist some of the nifty new products I saw, such as the HelmetLok, a carabiner combined with a combination lock that will fit just about anywhere on any of my bikes; the Chubby Cup quick-release drink holder; and the Thumb Dogs, a set of small “caps” that slide over your gloved fingertips and allow you to operate your smart phone or GPS without having to remove your gloves.
Among the 233 vendors and exhibitors was the Marketplace, a collection of 24 aftermarket vendors displaying products like Akrapovic exhaust, Arai, HJC, Schuberth, Shoei, Nikko and Blinc helmets, Chatterbox and Sena Bluetooth communication systems, Dunlop tires, Brembo brakes, National Cycle windshields, Odyssey and Yuasa batteries, Ohlin suspension, Barnett clutches and cables and Royal Purple lubricants. Product specialists roam the Marketplace floor space to help with production selection and technical advice.
The Dream Pavilion showcased a selection of rare, unique and high-end motorcycles, including the Eric Buell Racing 1190 RS and the Darwin Motorcycles Brawler GT3, which is based on an FXR with modern powertrain improvements and suspension. Progressive Insurance presented their Open Road experience where you could sit on a bike positioned next to a virtual Flo (someday we hope to meet her in person), get your photo taken and share it on Facebook. And you could create custom T-shirts in the Progressive Paint Shop.
The Learning Curve was an elevated stage with lots of seating in front for spectators to enjoy presentations given by a number of industry experts. Seminars included a “Rock the Gear” talk given by Brittany Morrow, the Road Rash Queen who suffered severe injuries when she slid off the back of a sportbike. Other presentations covered riding skills and techniques, touring, selecting your first bike, buying and maintaining tires, selecting the proper helmet, and even a New York State Police seminar called “Your Bike and What Cops Look For.” Leslie Porterfield, the world’s fastest female rider, spoke about her land-speed records, answered questions and signed autographs. My favorite Learning Curve event, though, was the media brunch sponsored by the West Virginia Division of Tourism. West Virginia has some of the best riding roads in the country, and I’m planning a motorcycle tour next autumn.
Other exhibits that grabbed my attention were the bikes displayed by the Rhinebeck Coalition composed of the five AMCA chapters that put on the Rhinebeck Grand National Meet. The National Motorcycle Museum had a fine collection of old iron, as well. And if you wanted to see some fast and furious action, the Smage Bros Stunt Show performed motorcycle trials stunt riding—wheelies, aerial acrobatics, jumps and other tricks—several times each day.
New to you
Last year, amid much fanfare, Harley-Davidson introduced the Blackline at the New York IMS, but at this year’s show, the Motor Company had no new models to unveil. Instead, Harley focused on three new museum exhibits: Watercolors by Willie G., which runs through April 15; Journey of the Iron Elite: The Evolution of the Motorcycle Culture through the Eyes of the African American, which opened February 10; and Worn to be Wild: The Black Leather Jacket, which will run from June 16 through September 3.
Those of us who showed up at the New York show this year felt cheated when we learned that less than two weeks later two new models—the Sportster Seventy-Two and the Softail Slim—were unveiled at Harley’s winter dealer meeting. However, all currently available 2012 models were on display, with a Fat Boy perched on the rollers of the Jumpstart Experience and a Sportster used to illustrate how to pick up a downed motorcycle.
Victory was the king of reveals this year with the brand-new Judge unveiled just hours after the show opened on Friday. Brian Klock of KlockWerks also pulled the drape off a custom Victory named “Tattoo for Life” dedicated to Vic Briggs, a KlockWerks employee who lost his life in a car accident last June. The bike will be raffled off with proceeds to be donated to a fund for Vic’s four children. And on Saturday, Zach Ness, along with film star R. Lee Ermey a.k.a. “The Gunny,” unveiled the Ness Café, Zach’s customized version of the Judge.
Several well-known builders, such as Paul Teutel Jr. of American Chopper fame, had their creations on display. At Paul Jr. Designs, what drew the most attention was the oversized fighter plane-inspired bike that Paul and his crew created for the three-way build-off against his archrival Paul Sr. and Jesse James. Indian Larry Motorcycles exhibited a few of their works as well.
Head of the class
In its second year of competition, the Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show featured 48 entries at the New York show. Fred Montalto won the first-place prize of $1,000 for Spitshine—his ’60 Panhead—in the Retro Mod class, a new category created for this year’s show series. Roman Levin from Full of Hate won $1,000 in the Performance Custom class for his 2002 Suzuki called FOH Café. Steve Iacona of Iacona Custom Cycles took home $2,000 for his Modified Harley entry, a ’96 XL dubbed Challenger.
The big winner of the show this year was Copper Mike Cole of Gravesend Cycles with his Steampunk custom who was awarded $3,000 in the Freestyle class. Copper Mike is well known for the metalwork he incorporates into his builds, and true to form, Steampunk was constructed from a variety of repurposed antique and hand-fabricated copper and brass parts. The ’73 Shovelhead motor was rebuilt to 10:1 compression and features intricate engraving on the heads.
True to his nickname, Mike created most of the bike’s components from copper and brass.
In addition to the cash prizes, each class winner in the show series receives a free entry and assured placement at the AMD custom bike show in Sturgis.
State of the show
This year’s show had some changes in its layout due to ongoing construction and renovation at the Javits Center. The show was split between two adjacent halls connected by walkways, and from my calculations the square footage of exhibit space was reduced by nearly 20 percent from last year. That being said, Advanstar still managed to pack nearly the same amount of exhibitors and people—over 65,000 of them—into the available space.
Aside from the statistics, the IMS is a favorite of motorcyclist aficionados and admirers alike—and the nation’s largest and longest-running motorcycle show tour is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.
ULTIMATE BUIDEAR CUSTOM BIKE SHOW WINNERS
Copper Mike Cole, Gravesend Cycles—Steampunk, 2011 Gravesend Cycles
Stu Speigal, Stu’s Auto—1989 custom chopper
George Stinsman, Chaos Cycles—Model 33, 2011 Chaos Cycle
Steve Iacona, Iacona Custom Cycles—Challenger, 1996 H-D XL
Ron Cirocco, Thundercycle—Thunder Bagger, 2008 H-D Street Glide
Eric Schroeder, Tribal Iron Choppers—Facet, 2005 Buell SB12R
Roman Levin, Full of Hate—FOH Café, 2002 Suzuki
GIO, Blacksmith Motoring Co.—El Patron, 2003 Suzuki Volusia
Harold Bracero—Sephira, 2008 Hayabusa
Fred Montalto—Spitshine, 1960 H-D Panhead
Dennis Harold, TT Cycles—1970 Triumph T120R
Steve Baufeder, TT Cycles—Tri Flyer, 1970 Triumph TR6R