Much more than just a trade show
LOUSIVILLE, KY., FEB. 16-17—Some 3,000-plus attendees flooded to the banks of the Ohio River to take part in a late winter rendezvous between motorcycle dealerships looking to stock their shelves and plan marketing strategies ahead of the riding season and aftermarket manufacturers looking to peddle their latest products.
As one of the largest aftermarket distributors in the Harley-Davidson aftermarket, the Parts Unlimited/Drag Specialties 2019 NVP Product Expo appeared to have little trouble getting a jam-packed house of V-twin professionals from all over the country, and Canada. While Parts Unlimited was also in the house representing the metric aftermarket, its presence appeared to take up just 10 percent of booth space.
Held on the second floor of the Kentucky International Convention Center, a center that underwent a massive $207 million, two-year renovation and reopened in the middle of last year, the spacious, naturally lit and airy complex was a perfect venue that I hope Drag will call home for years to come.
Instead of immediately going to the trade show floor, I followed the crowds to a dealer training seminar by Wisconsin’s S&S Cycle. The trio of presenters caught the audience’s attention with their V124 60th Anniversary Limited Edition Long Block Engine—a $9,995 beast that boasts 124 hp with 133 ft/lbs of torque. S&S, fittingly, is only making 60 of these engines, which are legal in all states except California.
Conforming to the overly strict California Air Resources Board, next up was the 50-state-legal Sidewinder 2-1 Exhaust System sold at a palatable $899.95. The exhaust system fits all 2017-2018 Harley Milwaukee-Eight Touring bikes. Lastly, the crew presented their newest item, a SuperStreet 2-1 exhaust for all current M-8 Softail models.
Back on the trade show floor, the horde of attendees who were in the dealer training seminar made a beeline for the S&S display where they could admire the black and chrome finish of the exhaust systems and press buttons to hear audio playback of them in action.
A newcomer to the Drag family was Iowa’s Fat Baggers Inc., or FBI for short, as owner Gary Chipp told me. And welcomed he was as his “revolutionary” 1 1/4-inch bolt-together two-piece handlebar design brought in a consistent and curious crowd. The innovative two-piece handlebar saves time and money when it comes to running wires.
“In Sturgis last year we switched out the handlebars on a Road Glide in 28 minutes, and on average I would say it takes about 45 minutes per bike,” Chipp said.
“This changes everything,” an onlooker said to me.
Carrying on, Dave Kelly, owner of Avon Grips, remarked that he was very impressed with the first-day turnout as nearly his entire selection of sample products were nabbed in a few hours. With one more day still left for the show, he said he would just have to continually do demos with his heated and memory foam grips. Avon’s heated grips have been re-engineered to virtually eliminate the chance for failure, unlike the Harley ones, he claimed.
Another product that caught my attention was Airhawk’s comfort seating system, which utilizes interconnected air cell pads. While Airhawk didn’t have a test seat to take a break and try to get the dogs to stop barking, Minnesota’s Wild Ass did. At their booth, patrons took turns testing an air cushion and an air and gel cushion mix. The amusement of the geriatric cushion material was not lost on some of the older riders, who plopped down onto the wooden stool to give them a squeeze.
At this point, attendees were treated with a fashion show and two free beers, before heading to the after-party. With everyone gathered around the catwalk, a tough bunch of models paraded the latest spring apparel for not only motorcycles but also swimwear and snowmobile garb.
I have to give the models credit. Going from a racing motorcycle suit to a skimpy pair of swim bottoms and then to a snowmobile suit, off with the suit, to numerous helmet styles, facemasks, glasses, hats and gloves and finally a couple of different leather jackets was…tiring. Beads of sweat were caught in the stage lighting and hair was matted to foreheads. The show was worthwhile not just because of the models, but also for the freebies they threw at the crowd.
With that, we all walked to 4th Street Live!, a swanky, clean 350,000-square-foot entertainment and retail complex located between Liberty Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard. Drag rented out the entirety of the Sports & Social Club, a hedonistic dreamland that on two floors housed nearly every backyard drinking game and bar game imaginable. From the hallmark of billiards to darts, to cornhole, an indoor bocce ball area and a 12-lane bowling alley, there was so much to do it was overwhelming. Drinks were served and the buffet was restocked numerous times. The only disappointment was that on the first level there was a cornhole video game.
The party and networking event— well, more of a party—went until about 9:00 p.m.
With the flair of the show, packed with the latest offerings, a large attendance and the treat of a rented-out after-party venue, this show should continue to attract ample interest from dealers and aftermarket manufacturers for years to come.