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AIMExpo 2017: Welcome to Columbus (Part Two)

Monday, September 25, 2017   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Wes Fleming #87301

AIMExpo 2017: Welcome to Columbus (Part Two)

--Read Part One--

With the major motorcycle presentations over, I was able to turn my attention to the gear and accessories for the rest of the day, starting with Shoei. Shoei is one of the biggest manufacturers of premium helmets in the world, and they almost always have a new model to break out at the Expo. Last year it was the RF-SR, a high quality, medium-cost street helmet. This year it was the VXF-EVO, their new off-road-oriented helmet.


Even though I’m unlikely to ever need a hardcore off-road helmet like this, I have to admit it’s beautiful and the specs are impressive. I love that the design is such that the channel to manage your goggle strap doesn’t look like a channel to manage goggle strap. Managing your goggle strap is just cleanly, intelligently integrated right into the design of the shell. Beautiful.


The VFX-EVO starts at $539 for solid colors; graphics will raise the cost to $739 and the helmet will be available at dealers starting in early December. It’s a radical update to the VFX-W helmet and sports Shoei’s new EPS-based Motion Energy Dispersion System, or MEDS, which they say reduces rotational forces to the brain by 15 percent in crashes. It has larger intakes than the VFX-W and a total of 16 vents, including an enlarged vent on the mouthpiece. The replaceable visor is held on with polycarbonate screws, so it shears off in case of a crash, but it then can be easily swapped out for another one.

From the Shoei announcement and a subsequent visit to their booth on the show floor, I headed over to Twisted Throttle’s booth to say hi to Erik Stephens, Jessica Prokup and the rest of the Twisted crew. They always have cool stuff on display, but what immediately caught my eye were two new lines of luggage that they’re distributing, one made by Kappa and one by SW-Motech.

Kappa’s rep, an Italian called Antonio with a heavy accent, could barely contain his enthusiasm when he showed me his company’s flagship luggage product. Kappa is owned by GIVI, so it’s no surprise that a lot of their products look similar to GIVI’s, but they two lines occupy different target zones, with most of Kappa’s products costing less (but still having similar quality) than GIVI’s.

Imagine pulling your top case off the bike, raising the handle like you would the suitcase you fly with, and strolling off to your lodging without a care in the world. Kappa is making that happen!


If you’re a fan of GIVI, you know about their Monokey system. Kappa uses the same system, and the handle-and-wheel-equipped plate latches right on top of any GIVI mounting plate, allowing the rider to then mount any case on top of Kappa’s plate. It’s quick, it’s easy and you can bet it’s going to be convenient!



Kappa also has a line of aluminum – or “aluminium” as Antonio says it – cases for adventure bikes, as well as dry bags sure to please anybody who likes high-visibility orange or that owns a KTM. Kappa has a line of soft bags – not made in Italy like most of their products – and of course, windshields with alarming see-through clarity.




The line of new SW-Motech luggage is aimed more at those with retro sensibilities; it’s a series of waxed cotton and leather bags that look classy and can carry a bunch of gear. From the tank bag to the rear seat pack, they’re all high quality and have MOLLE-style looks on them for attaching other gear. There’s a tank bag, side bag(s), backpack/tail pack and a messenger bag. I won’t lie to you – they’re kind of expensive – but they’re beautiful and look great on the right bikes.


The last thing I checked out at the Twisted Throttle booth before making my last two stops – they were closing at 6 pm and kicking all the dealers, industry pros and media off the expo floor for the night – was the new EVO adjustable foot pegs. They are unlike any foot pegs I’ve ever seen in that they use a unique rotating/ratcheting mechanism to set the peg wherever the rider wants it. They also have a larger contact area than many foot pegs, but SW-Motech took the time to round off the square edges of the rubber insert so it doesn’t get caught on the sole of your boot. Underneath the removable rubber pads are nice, big teeth for grip on those really gnarly off-road sections. I’m looking forward to picking up a pair of these to try out.


It was at that point that I took stock of the vendors in attendance and came to the realization that there wasn’t much in the way of apparel on the show floor. KLIM – absent. IXS – absent. Olympia – which had a huge presence last year – absent! That opened the door for some of the smaller, less well-known brands to get some attention.

When you think about Dickies brand clothing, you probably think of workwear and not motorcycle gear. The guys running the Ascot and Bates Leather brands have partnered up with Dickies to produce a line of motorcycle gear that is protective and looks good whether you’re on the bike or off it. Peter (second photo below) and Jay (third photo below with red-billed cap) are bright, cheery, enthusiastic dudes from California with big plans and bigger expectations of what they’re going to be able to accomplish in the world of cool, protective motorcycle apparel. I’m seriously hoping they make stuff in my size!



The Ascot/Bates/Dickies booth was a happening place to be, with heavy foot traffic from younger attendees.


My last meeting of the day was with the folks from Sena, who are ever closer to getting their high-tech noise-cancelling and comm-equipped Momentum helmet on the market. They’ve also got a pretty sweet new comm unit coming out next year that I got a little preview of.


With Day One in the books, I headed slowly to the show floor’s exit, then walked a few blocks to meet my local cousins for dinner.

This is not one of my cousins.

Creepy, isn't it?



My start to Day Two was nearly derailed before it got going when I was distracted by BMW Motorrad’s Heritage series display. On one level, it was the R nineT and its variants that we’ve come to know and love, but on a deeper level, it was just Makoto Endo on the floor painting a portrait of the new Urban G/S with black ink and what looked like chopsticks. I’m not publishing a photo of the finished painting, but you have to trust me that it was amazing. You bet I put my name in the drawing to win it. Check out Endo’s website,, and maybe you can pony up the cash to get a portrait of your bike done.



With the big bike news from Day One in the rearview mirror and a little gear ogling done, I was fully clear for a long day of checking out every bit of kit I could find. I started with Simpson Helmets, as their booth was right next to the media hub, and found this prominently displayed. Scott from Simpson is both a proud local and a man who knows how to play to his audience. (In case you don't follow college football, this is a Simpson helmet done up to look like an Ohio State football helmet - Ohio State is not only in Columbus, but hosted a home game the same weekend as the Expo.)



My next stop was the Machineart Moto booth. They’re well known at this point for their plastic parts that protect your motorcycle – fender extenders, rear shock internal fenders and cylinder cover protectors instantly spring to mind. Their newest product, based on an aluminum mount with plastic parts, is right in line with the BMW Motorrad aesthetic – function and form, seamlessly combined into the exact right part.


Their new ADVance Guard is configurable, adjustable and fantastic. They can be adjusted up or down with three thumbscrews for varied levels of protection and airflow, and the hand guard inserts can be removed completely, leaving just the mounts behind to protect your hands and give you access to sweet, refreshing air at the same time.


Helibars had a nicely-equipped S 1000 XR at their booth…


…and GIVI had this water-cooled R 1200 GS at theirs.


GIVI’s aluminum adventure panniers look good inside and out, and I’ve used one of their dry bags with excellent results. They’re not just about big plastic top cases anymore!


This fellow stopped by the PivotPegz booth – very, very slowly. He seemed entranced by the pivoting boot model.


The folks at Motonation were one of the only large booths with apparel in them, and they had extensive displays of Sidi boots, Vemar helmets and Forcefield Body Armor. I’m a bit of a boot hound, so I asked a lot of questions about their newest boots, many of which are waterproof.

The Duna Gore-Tex is $225 ($50 less for the non-waterproof version) and comes in a couple of different colors. It’s got a great brushed suede texture, a non-slip sole and features reinforced heel and toe protection. It looks like a great shoe-style riding boot.


The Performer Gore-Tex is $295 (I forgot to write down what the non-waterproof version costs, but it’s less than that) and uses this cool synthetic leather-like stuff Sidi sources that bonds better to the Gore-Tex layer than actual leather. It looks and feels exactly like leather, but doesn’t require oiling – as a matter of fact, oiling it degrades the performance of the boot, as oil fills in the pores in the material and prevents moisture from getting out!


Sidi brought back an older style boot recently, the Scramble ($275). It uses a synthetic fabric similar to the Performer (above), but not identical. I love the Mad Max look of these boots – perfect for those retro aggressive bikes.


The Crossfire 3TA ($545) is Sidi’s top-of-the-line off-road boot. It’s got a traditional sole – which, like Sidi’s other boots, can be replaced when the time comes – and a mechanism that lets your ankle bend, but prevents it from bending too far with a hard stop. You can get it in garish or more demure colors.




The Vemar Kona adventure-style helmet looks good, isn’t terribly heavy and looks to give a lot of value for its $149 price. It’s got an internal sun visor and removable/washable liner to go along with its ABS shell shaped to accommodate neck braces. The fit and finish were excellent on every Vemar helmet on display.


If you’ve never checked out Forcefield’s armor offerings, you should. They make shirts, shorts and pants that you can load up with their Level 1 or Level 2 armor and wear right next to your skin, where armor does the best job, and then layer whatever gear you want over it as outer shells to protect you from abrasion. For somebody like me who prefers to ride in jeans, it’s a great solution. One of the nifty things about Forcefield armor is that it’s pliable in a way that belies how tough it is – and temperature extremes don’t degrade its performance.


Kirsh Helmets got my attention before the AIMExpo even started because of some press emails that went out the week before the expo. They make what look like stereotypical cruiser-rider uniform brain bucket helmets that you wouldn’t expect to protect your head from an acorn falling out of a tree. Up close, though, the shells are substantial and hide the technology that Kirsh is using.


Inside the Kirsh brain bucket is this liquid-filled liner. It’s got some kind of proprietary liquid in it that both transfers heat away from the heat, keeping your head cool, and protects against impact injuries by moving that liquid around the point of impact. I don’t really understand the science behind it, and since their lead engineer wasn’t at the show, I couldn’t get technically detailed answers to most of my questions.


The important thing to note here is that Kirsh is working on a number of helmets – not just full-face motorcycle helmets, but football, ice hockey, military and construction applications as well. If they can find a way to manage the weight (the brain bucket weighs as much as a full-face helmet, if not a smidge more), they may be on to something.

The Rekluse crew are turning their attention towards more BMW motorcycles, with plans to offer a full range of clutch parts for BMWs that use traditional basket-style clutches – think the F series, the new water-cooled Boxers and of course the S 1000 platform.


I swung back by the Twisted Throttle booth to grab some photos of the two BMWs they had on display, an S 1000 XR and an R 1200 GS.



As things were wrapping up for the day, I ran into MOA Director Chad Warner, who lives somewhere in Columbus. I caught him checking out some gnarly-looking off-road tires made by MotoZ; they were a vendor at the MOA Rally in Salt Lake City in July and they have some exciting stuff going on for BMW motorcycles.


My day wouldn’t have been complete without catching another super creepy wall statue. I don’t know why the convention center sourced these or hung them up after they took delivery, but they freaked me out. A lot. And I’m not even going to see It!


Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the consumer days this year – AIMExpo is open to only industry and media the first two days (Thurs/Fri) and then open to everybody the last two days (Sat/Sun). It would have been nice to wander around and find some BMW owners to talk to – I know they were there, too, because Ohio has a number of BMW motorcycle dealers and I saw a lot of BMWs on US 33 headed into Columbus when I was headed out on Saturday morning.

Next year’s AIMExpo will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada, 11-14 October. There will be a bunch of stuff going on in Vegas around the Expo, including some racing events, so it might be a good time to start planning a special vacation. The average high temperature in Vegas in October is 82 degrees, with the average low being 54 degrees – basically perfect motorcycling weather. If you stay out of the casinos, you might even have enough money to get back home after the Expo. See you there!


David Crawford says...
Posted Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Nice report

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