NEW YORK, N.Y., DEC. 13-15—It’s said that New York is the city that never sleeps, but I don’t think that cliché was meant to apply to the 8:00 a.m. start time of the Progressive International Motorcycle Show’s East Coast Media Day. While the rest of New York City was still lounging in their pajamas, some 200 intrepid members of the press were making their way to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center very early Friday morning.
Our sleep-deprived crankiness was somewhat mollified by the lovely breakfast spread put out by Progressive Insurance, the presenter and major sponsor of the International Motorcycle Show. This was the fifth in this season’s 12-show series, and the Progressive folks had the routine down pat. While we enjoyed New York bagels, fruit, juice and coffee, the School of Rock put on a performance on the Progressive stage at the north side of the gigantic exhibit hall. And then it was time for the four-hour media tour.
First up was Harley-Davidson, where Matt King of H-D Communications kicked off his presentation by emphasizing the company’s mission statement: “We fulfill dreams of personal freedom.” He spoke about Harley’s enhanced, world-class product development process that resulted in Project RUSHMORE, which launched last August. Matt went on to describe the four highlights of the project—Control, Feel, Style and Infotainment. According to Harley, the customer response to the Project RUSHMORE motorcycles has been extremely positive, with initial retail sales of the 2014 motorcycles the largest year-over-year new model-year sales increase in two decades. Matt also spoke about other changes in the 2014 product line and then segued into some statistics, stating that nearly half of new Harley motorcycle sales were to new Harley customers. He concluded the presentation by discussing the Street 500 and 750 reveal at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy, in November. The first North American unveiling will take place at the Phoenix IMS at the end of January, just after the Harley-Davidson winter dealer meeting.
Victory Motorcycles displayed their 2014 model line along with a Victory-customized Cross Country 8-Ball called “Sixx Sense” that had been unveiled at the Long Beach IMS the prior week. The bike was named after the syndicated radio show “Sixx Sense,” featuring Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe and Kerri Kasem, daughter of radio personality Casey Kasem. Nikki and Kerri helped design the custom bike, which features Arlen Ness parts, wild bodywork and custom paint, and, of course, a killer sound system.
At the Indian Motorcycle exhibit, the Big Chief Custom was revealed to the New York crowd. The Big Chief Custom is the first custom Indian Chief created from the 2014 models introduced at Sturgis last summer. Greg Brew, the director of industrial design, led the effort that resulted in a unique take on the Indian heritage. The bike features a billet aluminum girder front end, custom 23″ front wheel, fender, shock and headlight, and a slew of Indian accessories. Also on display were the Spirit of Munro streamliner and a display of vintage Indian motorcycles, as well as Indian-branded apparel and accessories.
All the world’s a stage
The show opened to the general public at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, with many attendees heading directly to the 15 or so production motorcycle manufacturers exhibiting their 2014 model lines. A new feature this year was the Progressive Garage, an area that contained the “Race America” slot track and other games. Progressive also hosted several School of Rock performances, as well as various seminars on topics of interest to motorcyclists.
One of the unique features of the IMS is The Marketplace, a large area of the exhibit hall dedicated to some of the premier aftermarket parts, accessories and apparel manufacturers. This year’s collection included helmet makers Arai, LS2, Shoei and HJC, along with helmet communication companies Chatterbox and UClear. Battery companies Yuasa and Shorai, along with K&N, Dunlop, Küryakyn, National Cycle, Danny Gray/Airhawk, Vance & Hines, Condor, Twisted Throttle, EagleRider, Mustang, Motorcycle Superstore, Kryptonite, Spidi, TourMaster/CorTech, World of Powersports, DynoJet, KOSO North American, National Cycle and Motorcycle Superstore also set up displays, and technical experts were on hand to explain each product’s attributes and answer questions.
Due to the recent renovations and the expansion of the Javits Center, the IMS was provided with more space to accommodate the hundreds of exhibitors. Vendors included motorcyclists’ rights organizations and riding schools, bike rallies and touring companies, and, of course, riding apparel and other gear.
There were a number of new exhibitors this year including Motorbooks with their MotorbooksMobile, Beartek gloves that give the rider wireless access to onboard devices, and my favorite, the Harley-Davidson Footwear display where I learned that Harley is once again going to offer women’s waterproof riding boots this summer. Soul Custom had an artfully designed exhibit that looked like your hip best friend’s salon and included the Roland Sands Design “No Regrets” bike that won the Biker Build-Off against Jesse Rooke in 2006, along with a nice selection of RSD apparel, Bell Helmets and other goodies. And what weekend-long bike show experience would be complete without purchasing a pair of Happy Feet gel shoe inserts and enjoying a 15-minute chair massage?
A number of custom builders rolled in their latest creations, such as Copper Mike from Gravesend Cycles, Indian Larry Motorcycles, and Jody Perewitz was at her booth with her race bike that broke several land speed racing records. Also on display at Jody’s booth was a brand-new portrait created by artist Eric Herrmann that celebrated Jody’s prowess on the race track. And throughout the weekend, the XDL Street Jam put on skills demonstrations performed by stunt riders from the XDL Championship Series.
Pomp and circumstance
One of the biggest draws is the J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show, which has entered its fourth year partnering with IMS producers Advanstar. This year, between 50 and 60 bikes were entered at the New York show. And the layout was much better than in years past, with a premier spot assigned right in the center of the exhibit hall, making it much easier for attendees to view the bikes and for builders to perform their judging duties.
A total of $7,000 in cash prizes, trophies and plaques are awarded at each bike show in the series, and the classes are Freestyle with a $2,500 first-place prize, Modified Harley with a first-place prize of $1,500, and $1,000 for each first-place winner in the Performance Custom, Retro Mod and Modified Street. And for builders who best work the show floor and engage the spectators, SHO DOG awards are given.
Several other special attractions took place during the weekend. Indian Motorcycle sponsored free admission on Saturday for men and women who have served in the U.S. military. Indian also displayed a custom bike built to benefit U.S. military personnel and their families in support of Jack Daniel’s Operation Ride Home program, which helps service members and their families travel home for the holidays. Klock Werks of Mitchell, South Dakota, partnered with Indian on the build, which was a customized Indian Chief Vintage. The bike will be shipped to Scottsdale, Arizona, for a Barrett-Jackson auction in support of Operation Ride Home.
Another reveal took place Saturday when David Uhl unveiled the portrait he created of Steven Tyler who was a special guest at the show. It’s not the first painting Uhl has done of Tyler and his family, but it may well be the most controversial to date. “The Reckoning” is a physical manifestation of Tyler’s fight for privacy for public figures, and illustrates him riding through a crowd of paparazzi. Remind me to never again point a camera at the Aerosmith frontman. Uhl and Tyler have also collaborated on a charitable cause benefitting arts and music programs for public school students in need. They have teamed up with DonorsChoose.org, an online charity connecting classroom requests from teachers with people who wish to help by donating to underfunded arts programs.
Also on Saturday, Dirico Motorcycles, owned by Tyler and Mark Dirico, and Metzeler Tires unveiled a custom bike named Black Hawk Down. Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Danny R. McKnight, one of the veterans portrayed in the book and the movie, was present and took part in the special ceremony. The bike will also be sent to the Barrett Jackson Auction in Scottsdale and proceeds will benefit the Veteran’s Count and Easter Seals Foundations.
All’s well that ends well
Saturday brought more than celebrities and special bike builds; a wicked snowstorm hit the region causing terrible travel conditions. As a result, the day’s turnout was well below the anticipated levels. Total show attendance was 58,811 for the weekend, about 19 percent less than the New York show held in January 2013. Time will tell whether NYC keeps its crown as the largest show in the series.
Another reason for the smaller-than-usual crowds could have been a result of the show’s timing. The New York IMS show is usually held in January, but according to Advanstar, it show was moved to December because of the Super Bowl being hosted at MetLife Stadium, throwing every January public event in the New York City area off schedule.
Even with the dearth of new American motorcycle models, which was also somewhat related to the timing of the show, there were enough custom reveals and custom bike show entrees to satisfy the masses. Hopefully next year’s show will be scheduled in January, giving the manufacturers a little extra time to unveil something really special.
NYC Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show Winners
1. George Stinsman, Chaos Cycles—The Hate Tank, 2014 Chaos Cycle
2. Satya Kraus, Kraus Motor Co.—Achuma
3. Lone Wolf Custom Cycle, David Lamoureux—The Beast, ’05 VTX 1300R
1. Jon Shipley, Hoosier Daddy Chopper—Firehouse Racer, ’13 Boardtracker
2. Kary Reilly/Matt Kaplan, 60 Degree Cycle—Lanior, ’08 V-ROD
3. Chris Lindsey, Westchester Powersports—Red Bike, ’07 FXSTB
1. Mike Terwilliger—Scrapyard, ’63 Panhead
2. Will Ramsey Faith Forgotten Choppers—Tight & Shallow, ’56 Chopper
3. Copper Mike, Gravesend Cycles—7 Deadly Sins, ’80 Shovelhead
1. Street Bikes Inc.—Alien, ’09 Suzuki Hayabusa
2. Roman Levin, FOH—Rage, ’11 FOH Rage
3. Break Lite Motorsports—Nightmare Before Christmas, ’11 Hayabusa
1. Thomas Foulds, Working Class Choppers—Jizzeppi, ’82 Suzuki GS450
2. Speakeasy Motors—Raw Dog, ’77 CB750F Super Sport
3. Justin Reid Lonwood Customs—The Rising Star, ’82 CB750
Editor’s Choice—Perewitz Cycle Fab
People’s Choice—Speakeasy Motors & Joan Mernick
Metal Scorpio won a $250 Rocking K Custom Leathers chain wallet
Billy Millington of Speedmill Customs won a Garage Leathers solo bag