New York, N.Y., Dec. 9–11—Just like clockwork, the second stop in the annual Progressive International Motorcycle Show series chugged into New York City. The 2016/2017 show season launched in Long Beach, California, three weeks prior, and then brought with it a bit of the SoCal sunshine. Although the temperature was in the 40s all weekend, there were no snowstorms this year, making for easy travel to the Javits Center in midtown Manhattan.
At 8:00 Friday morning, a slew of us press types showed up to participate in Media Day. As we gathered at the Progressive Parlor setup, I heard a distinctive voice booming over the P.A. system. Where have I heard her before? It was Jacqui Van Ham, who’d been the announcer for the Super Hooligan races at the Buffalo Chip during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and is now emcee for the IMS series. Her delivery was much the same as we heard at the races, geared towards getting everyone revved up for the six-hour tour of the show floor.
The Progressive Parlor featured a multitude of attractions such as the barbers, boot shiners and manicurists at Flo’s Chop Shop, hot beverages at Flo’s Coffee Grinder, the Studio where artist Makoto Endo painted images of motorcycles using only chopsticks and ink, and the Progressive Stage where musicians alternated with seminars provided by racing schools, adventure travelers, and aftermarket company representatives.
About a dozen motorcycle manufacturers exhibited their 2017 models, including Harley-Davidson featuring its 2017 lineup with a special focus on the Milwaukee-Eight. Also on display was a complete M-8 engine, a Screamin’ Eagle M-8 Stage III kit, and a developmental 3-D printed prototype of the M-8. And for the wannabe riders, a Jumpstart Rider Experience station was set up with a Street model for people to get a taste of what riding a motorcycle is like without fear of dropping the bike or crashing.
At the Indian Motorcycle booth was an Indian Scout FTR750 flat track racer, signifying Indian’s return to flat track racing. And Brian Klock of Klock Werks was showcasing the Red Wing Scout he built to commemorate Indian’s partnership with Red Wing Shoes. Brian was inspired by the Indian Motorcycle boot collection by Red Wing Shoes as well as his tour of the Red Wing factory. In fact, some of the leather accessories were constructed of the same leather that Red Wing has used since it first began manufacturing footwear.
Victory Motorcycles displayed some of the winning bikes from its Operation Octane custom build contest which saw 26 Victory dealers from around the world customize their own versions of the 2017 Victory Octane. Fans voted for the top builds which were announced the first day of the New York show, with Strokers Dallas taking first place. Strokers owner Rick Fairless quipped, “Take a mean bike and make it meaner. That’s the vision we had in mind for our evil Victory Octane that we call Ethel.”
Erik Buell of EBR Motorcycles was on hand, promoting the new EBR Black Lightning that had premiered at the Long Beach show. The previous night Erik spoke at a technical seminar held by Wide World Powersports in Wayne, New Jersey. He commented, “The seminar went great. It’s the first dealership we’ve run into that is selling all the American kinds of bikes. They have cruisers covered with Indian, EBR for sport bikes, Zero for electric, and Motus for touring.” When we asked about the Black Lightning, Erik told us, “The new model, the third in our lineup, is shipping in March. We wanted to build an all-around, everyday super motorcycle. I’m getting a little older and I started modifying our SX superbike with higher handlebars and lower pegs and all of a sudden it became my everyday ride. The production model is lowered 2”, has deeper gearing and bigger sprocket on the back, 2” higher bars, lower pegs, the riding position is more relaxed and comfortable—it’s closer to the ground—and it’s even quicker because it’s geared lower. It has the 185 hp superbike engine and we built it with a lot of midrange. If you’re between 3000 and 6500 or 7500 rpm, it’s a wonderfully fast, torquey, powerful twin; it feels great. But then if you pull out to pass, it goes to 11000 rpm, and it just screams.”
Another display that attracted constant attention was that of Vanguard Moto Inc. which debuted its brand-new Roadster at the New York City show. Vanguard is Brooklyn, New York based and was founded by entrepreneur Francois-Xavier Terny (CEO) and Edward Jacobs (CTO) who heads design and engineering for the firm. At first glance, the Roadster reminded me of the Confederate, which made sense once I learned that Jacobs was previously designer/engineer there. According to Jacobs, the bike features a load-bearing stressed-member engine and incorporates modularity in its design. The entire bottom end is one module, the top end is another, and the third module is the front end. The entire motorcycle goes together with only five bolts. The exhaust, fluid reservoirs and other elements are integrated into other major components, aligning with Jacobs’ philosophy of making all parts multifunctional, resulting in 30-percent less components. Jacobs told me that a lot of the elements, like wiring and fluids lines, have always been afterthoughts, but these were incorporated into the bike in the very beginning. He stated, “We feel we’ve created an elemental, minimal expression based on functional necessity.” Two more models, the Cruiser and Racer, will be released in the future. The anticipated purchase price of the Roadster will be around $30,000, and Vanguard is looking for more funding to meet the targeted production date in the third quarter of 2018.
People also come to the International Motorcycle Shows to find products related to the motorcycling lifestyle. The Marketplace, presented by Cycle Gear, is a recurring exhibit that showcases a number of products such as windshields, helmets, tires, exhaust, stereo systems, batteries, and more. And for the first time this year, visitors could order these products at the Marketplace Online Shop, which consisted of several tablets placed throughout the exhibit. You could also visit various retailers on the show floor to purchase many of these products.
And there were vendors aplenty—apparel, jewelry, pins and patches, eyewear and cleaning solutions, fuel treatment and oil products, custom ear plugs, and a plethora of hard parts. Also well represented were motorcycle rallies, touring companies and destinations, riding clubs and organizations, street and track riding schools, and charitable organizations.
Every year the IMS invites local vintage motorcycle clubs to exhibit, and this year’s setup, the IMS Vintage Garage, was quite impressive. I saw an impeccable H-D Sprint displayed by the U.S. Classic Racing Association, a nice XR750 from VinMoto, and many other beautifully restored antique and retro models.
Nearby was the Inked Tattoo Parlor presented by Inked magazine where artists were applying airbrush tattoos. Other diversions included the Kids Zone that allowed the little ones to ride balance bicycles on varied terrain, and FMX stunt riding by freestyle motocross stunt team Metal Mulisha Fitz Army.
One of the most popular IMS features over the past eight years has been the Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show, and here in New York, there were approximately 40 entries that vied for the cash and prize awards in four classes, Modified Custom, Modified Harley, Modified Retro, and Freestyle. Prizes were also awarded for special categories that included Best Paint that went to Michael Cupelli, People’s Choice taken by Steven Clark for his custom Evo chopper, the Ingenuity award claimed by Mark Klein of Different Horse Customs for his Indian Motorcycle Scout Reverse Trike, and the Most Original award won by Paul Andrecola of Green Earth Technologies for his custom trike. The K&N award winner was Thomas Foulds of DIY Cycle Parts with his 750cc Yamaha Virago, and the SHO DOG award went to Dennis Tang for working the show to promote his business.
Evan Favaro of Speakeasy Motors won first place in the Modified Custom class with his 2015 custom, and Modified Harley was taken by Steve Iacona of Iacona Customs with his beautifully customized 1200 Sportster. The big winner of the weekend was Nick Beaulieu of Forever Two Wheels who earned first place in Modified Retro with Cupcake, his custom Panhead chopper, and then Nick took the Freestyle class with his hand-built chopper The Hate Machine.
In early 2017 the IMS picks up its pace, packing in five shows over six weekends: D.C. Dallas, Cleveland, Minneapolis, and finally Chicago. This year’s series has been reduced from 10 shows last season to only seven, and in New York, attendance was down about five percent from last year. It appeared there were somewhat fewer vendors than last year as well. However, the IMS is still the largest show series in the U.S., with several hundred thousand people attending every season. And it’s still a great way to while away a winter day, or even the entire weekend. After all, with 36 years in operation, the promoters must be doing something right. 4