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AIMExpo 2017: Welcome to Columbus (Part One)

Sunday, September 24, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Wes Fleming #87301

AIMExpo 2017: Welcome to Columbus (Part One)

With the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) making the decision to move its signature event, the American International Motorcycle Expo (AIMExpo) from its inception point in Orlando, Florida, to Columbus, Ohio, many wondered if the foot traffic would increase over the first five years of the event’s life.

I don’t know what the actual numbers were for the 2017 AIMExpo, but I saw a lot more yellow stripes on badges identifying dealers this September than I can remember seeing in the past three years. I hear from my friends who worked the expo on Saturday and Sunday that consumer foot traffic was way up over Orlando.

Next year, the AIMExpo will be held in Las Vegas, but it returns to Columbus after that, and I heard (consider it an unconfirmed not-secret heavier-than-a-rumor) that Columbus will be the venue through 2023. It’s a wise move on the MIC’s part; Columbus is 500 miles from a huge amount of the population of the United States and a lot of dealers of all marques.

When I go to the AIMExpo to represent the media/content wing of the MOA, I’m focused of course on things that will interest MOA members. For a lot of us that means gear – helmets, jackets, gloves, etc. For a sizeable portion of the MOA membership, that also means motorcycles – and it means motorcycles no matter who makes them. We all joined the MOA because we love BMW motorcycles, but we don’t have to pretend that we don’t love other types of motorcycles as well.

 

DAY ONE

The first day for me is usually about hunkering down in the Media Hub and finding out what new bikes the major manufacturers are going to be pushing in the next year. Usually by the time AIMExpo rolls around, the major product release announcements have already been made, but for many of us, AIM presents the first opportunity to get a good, personal up-close look at new bikes.

It should be no surprise that BMW Motorrad brought out its three newest offerings at AIM – the C evolution all-electric maxi-scooter, the K 1600 B and the G 310 R. The latter two are showing up in dealer showrooms and being sold now; the scooter is only available for sale in California, but during BMW’s presentation, they said it should be available in other states relatively soon.


 


 

Brian Carey, Product Manager for BMW Motorrad, reminded us of the specifics of the bikes on display. The C evo is packed with cutting-edge technology, and that technology will cost the consumer, in this case to the tune of $13,750. BMW is committed to reducing its reliance on fossil fuels, planning electric options for all of their cars (full electric or electric/gas hybrids) by 2020. It’s not unreasonable to expect to see the battery technology present in the C evo spreading to other BMW motorcycles in the future.


 


 

The Bagger, which I had the pleasure of riding for two days during the August press launch of that bike, is BMW’s first bagger-style bike and is based on the Concept 101 that drew a ton of attention when it was put on display. The base model K16B will cost $19,995 and has enough technology options to please even the most jaded of riders.


 

I was surprised at how big the G 310 R looks up close – with such a small engine, I expected it to be a small bike. It’s a normal-sized bike, though, and the fit and finish you get for your $4,750 is on par with BMW’s most expensive models.


 


 


 

The 310 oozes the BMW aesthetic, no doubt about that. I’m looking forward to trying one out. (BMW’s demo truck was in the AIMExpo Outdoors area, but I never had a chance to get out there to try one this weekend.)


 

KTM didn’t have a new production model to announce, but they did unveil their brand-new high-tech MotoGP race bike. It’s beautiful and hopefully will allow KTM to be more competitive in the world’s top-rated motorcycle racing circuit.


 


 


 


 


 

There was a distinct focus on smaller-displacement bikes from around the world, starting with Kawasaki’s presentation. They talked about the Z125 and its “exciting acceleration,” the Versys X300 and its “any road, any time” attitude, and the revived KLX250, a dual sport bike available in their new matrix camo color scheme. The KLX dual sport was gone for three years, but it’s back now with digital fuel injection featuring a 10-hole injector assembly and a price of $5,549.


 


 


 


 

Kawasaki talked about their other offerings as well, showing us lots of specs and photos of their bikes in action. They pumped the Z series bikes heavily, using terms like affordable, lightweight and comfortable. The flagship Z900 starts at $8,399 without ABS; expect the other models to cost less (except for ABS-equipped Z900s, that is).


 

Kawasaki’s venerable Ninja is split in two tracks, with the Ninja Sport bikes marketed as sport-tourers and the ZX-named bikes taking on the sport/supersport mantle. They’re offering limited edition H2, H2 Carbon and H2R bikes for riders to order only through the end of November, and the ZX-10R, -6R and -14 are all still in the lineup alongside the Versys 650 and 1000, the KLR650, four different Vulcans and the Concours 14, which uses the same engine as the ZX-14.

Suzuki is taking its focus on new and returning riders seriously, and much of their line is geared towards that end. They understand that motorcycling competes with other activities and that not everybody sees motorcycling as a way of life, with many riders treating it as a hobby or strictly a recreational activity. They see the younger generation more interested in experiences and less interested in possessions – especially expensive ones, so they’re trying to appeal to that generation with their introductory-level bikes while still maintaining their “championship DNA,” as the presenter put it.

They showed us six models – either on the floor or on the video screen – aimed at new, younger or even returning riders. The one that immediately caught my eye is the VanVan, which looks FunFun. It’s a 200cc bike that looks like – well, it looks like a beach bike, or a dirt bike, or a street bike, or an anything bike. It’s not big, but it’s big enough to be an everyday commuter if you want it to be. It’s cute, it’s cool – and above all, it’s not the least bit intimidating or aggressive. With its low seat height and $4,599 price, it stands to be a fantastic gateway bike for just about anybody.


 


 

Suzuki’s other low-displacement bikes include the TU250X ($4,599), which evokes that classic Bonneville style; the 70 mpg Burgman 200 scooter ($4,999); the “dual personality dual sport” DR200S (over 80 mpg!); and the GSX250R Katana ($4,499). Not available in the United States but on display on the dais was the 250cc V-Strom; Suzuki’s rep said if Americans want access to this motorcycle, they need to get on the phone to their dealers and tell them they want to buy one.


 


 

Yamaha talked a lot about the introduction of 13 new models in the last three years – an impressive number, no doubt about it. Derek Brooks and Shun Miyazama talked extensively about how cool and fun the XSR700 and 900 motorcycles are – and how easy Yamaha has made it for people to modify them once they get them home. They emphasized the retro look of the bikes, but reminded the media in attendance that behind that look is modern technology and modern design aesthetics. They’re attentive to Yamaha’s history and heritage, but continuing to move forward at the same time by involving custom builders in the design process for the XSR bikes.


 


 


 


 

I quickly scooted over to Indian’s booth to see what their media presentation was about, but was disappointed that they didn’t have any new models to announce. However, they saved the day by having Jared Mees give a little talk to the assembled media. If you’re not up on flat track racing, you should know that Indian’s three-man team has been winning left and right all season, leading to a championship run for Mees on their purpose-built 750cc race bike.


 

You can buy one just like it for $49,999.


 

I was surprised at how short Mees was. I’d never met a pro flat track racer before! Jared is a nice guy, but he couldn’t stay – he had to get on a plane and get to his next race almost immediately.


 


 

Like just about everybody else at the Indian booth, the media was all over Indian’s Scout Bobber, which is their newest model. It’s based on the larger of their two Scout engines, a water-cooled 1130cc V-twin that puts out 100 horsepower and is embedded in a chassis that only weighs 554 pounds with fuel in the tank.


 

Also on display was Indian’s Spirit of Munro bike, dedicated to the memory of Burt Munro, who achieved a world land speed record of 183.59 mph in 1967 on a 950cc Indian built in 1920. While the motorcycle on display failed to set any world records during its recent runs at the Bonneville Salt Flats, it’s a fitting tribute to the New Zealander by the company that’s resurrected the iconic brand.


 


 


 


 

To read the rest, click on over to Part Two.


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