Minneapolis, Minn., Feb. 3–5—Checking out the 36-inch front wheel of a custom build contestant, the chainsaw tear of a motocross engine crescendos throughout the Minneapolis Convention Center. A bike floats into view, the rider’s fingers grasping its steel tail. The perspective was all wrong from where I stood and it looked like he was heading straight for the pillar. The bike disappeared under the rows of heads now bobbing toward the smell of oil. I heard the ka-thunk of wheels landing on a ramp. The crowd roars, and the engine tears out another rev cycle. Welcome, all, to the stunt show at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show 2017 in Minneapolis.


Hanging out at the Progressive International Motorcycle show in Minneapolis today

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Men flying through the air and roaring crowds weren’t always the vibe at this year’s IMS. The Progressive Chop Shop was a much more mellow sight to greet the public as we streamed in. The Chop Shop was a series of open-air rooms adorned with barber and shoe-shine chairs, scarred wood floors, and pictures of riders past. Anyone could go up and register for a quick beard trim or a shoe shine. We caught the stylists in action when we arrived. One man sat in the barber chair, his impressive beard being shaped. The black leather of the boots on the man next to him shined as the buffing cloth ran along them—these boots ready for the floor jammed with bikes that lay in front of them.

A convention goer gets a quick beard trim at the Chop Shop before hitting the show floor
A convention goer gets a quick beard trim at the Chop Shop before hitting the show floor | Haley Nelson

Titanic leaders of the American bike world were there in Minneapolis to give a glimpse into their lineups. Indian Motorcycle was, of course, present at the International Motorcycle Show on its Minneapolis stop. They had many great bikes on display, as well as a cross section of one of their engines with pistons and gears exposed. Most special of all, though, was a brushed steel bike from their partnership with Be the Match. Be the Match is an organization that matches people afflicted by diseases affecting bone marrow with donors so that they can get the best match for their body.

A cross section of an Indian engine on display this year
A cross section of an Indian engine on display this year | Haley Nelson

IMS 2016–2017 wasn’t just the territory of the behemoths of the industry. Walking around the great, domed convention center, the floor was littered with custom bikes of all ilk. They were all creations of contestants in the custom build competition. Whether beefed-up Indians or custom-from-the-ground-up frames, everything on display was impressive. One particular bike with a custom frame from a builder named Cabana Dan captured the madness on display. It was a land speed bike that stretched ludicrously far back. Powering this speed machine were three separate Harley engines from 1948, ’49, and ’50 working together.

IMS even held a warmly welcomed surprise—a full-size display from Victory. Although Polaris is winding down production on Victory bikes (though they will be manufacturing parts for another decade), it didn’t stop an impressive showing in Minneapolis. When I came to the Victory booth, a great arch rose over the display area with their name bending across it. Metallica’s Enter Sandman was blaring out of a bike’s hard saddle bags. Those tail-mounts hid an impressive array of speakers and power amps, filling a whole third of the hall with crunching riffs. In characteristic fashion, Victory refused to exit light and enter night quietly. Off to never-never land they may be, but not without one last shout.

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