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An In-Depth Look At Chicago's 2015 International Motorcycle Show
At winter's top dead center, this year's IMS proved itself a welcome escape for hibernating motorcyclists across the midwest. No matter how many critiques we attempt to devise, the end truth is that manufacturers go well out of their way (with sales in mind) to provide riders with a break from the freeze. Nothing warms us more than a big room full of shiny new motorbikes!
“This year’s International Motorcycle Show proved itself a welcome escape for hibernating motorcyclists across the midwest.”
Such an event calls for a special transition and so, with your prospective inability to attend the show in mind, we hereby declare this post our podcast/vodcast debut! As with any first-time presentation, our limited experience may be evident in various forms. Travis Burleson's otoscopic microphone doesn't mix well with Robin's "furnace duct" mounting system. It took two music degrees to clean things up. Future issues will be resolved before hand.
As a seasoned attendee might expect, opening day (Friday) is the best of three. Saturday's flood of hangovers compounded two-fold against Sunday's controversial/confrontational stroller pushing plainly demonstrates that it's worth requesting a day off. It also makes for more personalized interaction with dealer representatives.
Once through the gates, we're greeted with a three-lane motorcycle slot car track complete with overhead stat board. This novel welcome puts a smile on my face by revisiting my youth. Winning a round gives ticket holders a chance at winning something bigger.
Just past memory lane, I see what I consider to be a beautiful show bike. Tony of Analog Motorcycles has added his '49 Indian build to the show's voting ballot. This contradicts my podcast statement (I thought it was a 20's era hull). The bike's priced at eighty thousand dollars. I vaguely remember that figure being mumbled during a recent gathering.
Elegant or not, Tony's bike isn't why we're here. We're here to find out what distance-ready sport touring machines are on the market and first up is my beloved Suzuki. They've strategically aimed this year's GSXR directly toward the entrance. I sit on this track-enabled bike for humor's sake but it doesn't cater to my tastes. Remove the "R", on the other hand ...
The base platform for the 2015 GSX series is their GSX-S. From an ergonomic perspective, the model's history is effectively built on the GSX becoming the GSF (for three separate manufactural generations) before then becoming the GSX-FA and now the GSX-S. Confused?
Their concept for this model is blurry in it's billing/branding/promotions as a sport tourer. They make no mention of, nor will they confirm interest in, hard luggage. I suppose the after market realm will make up for their misrepresentation accordingly (Twisted Throttle). On the upside, a Suzuki representative did take me aside, reporting my concerns to the higher-ups. Who knew a business card could wield such power?
As it stands, the GSX-S is a butt stomping street fighter with metric tons of attitude to boot. They have a '16 prototype one-off on hand that they appear to be metering responses to. Dear Suzuki: give us a faired version with factory hard bags similar (if not identical) to Givi's V35 series.
Other Zuke models worthy of hoppin' on include their GW250 twin and TU250 single. Little or not, they both look like a lot of fun and would make a perfect entry-level machine. The GW250 comes in faired and naked versions.
Immediately past the Suzuki section, vendor numbers begin to pick up. Knowing that area to be absolute chaos, I beeline diagonally across the entire building in mental division where I find a KTM Duke 990 staring me down. KTM hasn't found their way onto these pages beyond their color scheme, mostly because they aren't typically affiliated with long distance road riding. Still, the release of their Super Duke 1290 could change all of that, so I take a knee to get a photo.
Their Woodstock dealer's talking head changed the subject matter of my photo instantly.
It's right about now that I pass a Triumph Daytona that's up for grabs contest style. My entry is in error as I accidentally checked the Speed Triple box but no matter. I openly invite Triumph to send me my new bike whenever they see fit. ;)
During much of this time, Señor Burleson is glued to the seat of Kawasaki's Versys 1000 (making it's American debut this year). Also shining in their mix is the beastly C14 (Concours 1400). Among the H2 and random variety Ninja, she too is lookin' pretty sharp.
Kawasaki appears to have brought the most extensive range of bikes in terms of sport touring conversion possibilities. While the C14 is obviously designated for said use, it's lumbering wheel base doesn't provide for the spirited demands that are typical to our maps. Me thinks the Ninja sport and standard Kawa classes might better suffice, especially come track day.
Honda draws me in when I see their lovely, early-model GL1000 gently nestled behind a "do not touch" strap. I've always had a bit of a crush on their standard, naked Goldwing but this is a ruse. On arrival, I'm seduced by their latest rendering of the VFR Interceptor.
One sit on this auspicious sport tourer and I'm hooked. The ergonomics, more forward than most factory luggage equipped machines, suggests a feeling of riding on the tail of a stingray. I do find it strange that a motorbike with such an aggressive rider profile should have it's side cases positioned so low to the ground but no matter.
The gauge cluster is minimized to simple joys. A digital speedometer and front/center analog tach scale things down to brass-tax riding without distractions. As sexy as she is, however, I'm not sure my lower back could handle it after more than forty five minutes.
Beamer's F800GT still wins my vote as the most beautiful of sport touring machines. What's more, they seem to be the only manufacturer currently providing a mid-size bike for the genre. Note the shelf in their sidebags (slideshow above). The clamshell design isn't tedious to use as a result. My wife prefers the previous year's rust-orange flavor but I'd take one in just about any color.
Dwarfing both the F800GT and F800GS, The K1600LT fries their use of six cylinders into memory by engraving a numeric "6" onto the engine case, blinking it on the dash and separating three holes per exhaust pipe. Joking aside, it really is an incredible machine that commands respect of the smoothest running fashion. If there are any D.O.T. approved Panama hats on the market, this motorcycle demands it be worn with a tilt.
But then ... let's go back to the F800GS. Our dirtiest of dirty girls is still as adventurous as ever and now comes complete with a preinstalled moon lander (kidding). Hint: if it "all goes down", have one of these in your pocket.
I'm not even sure where to begin because every bike they produce is represented! The FZ, FJ, FJR, R6, R1 and Super Téneré are all accounted for in each of their respective displacements. At 6'1", Travitron has plenty of good things to say about the (taller) FJs whereas I myself am partial to the tighter FZ frame.
Then there's this year's FJR1300. Ooohhh the FJR. She remains favorable for pristine handling and luxurious design. Unfortunately, even my knees hurt after testing it on the showroom floor. I'm told there are aftermarket pegs available, so maybe there's still hope for my "gal that got away".
Triumph is cool. They build great motorcycles and, courtesy of their speed triple, coddle the craziest of riders in demographic form. The Daytona is another obvious example and my personal favorite. Two of which were being given up contest style and again, I imagine mine should be arriving just about ... sigh. Come on, guys!
At the same time, sometimes Triumph brings about a chicken/egg debacle. As much as I like their Sprint series, It's hard for me to tell if they're a reflection of Suzuki's third generation Bandit or the other way around. The same goes for their goliath Trophy (pictured above).
If the Trophy were to pass me by at speed, I'd misidentify it as a BMW R1200-RT. Now, that's on me. I should know the intricate differences but my point is made. Triumph is good. Sometimes they set the standard and other times they simply better it.
If you live anywhere near the midwest or east coast, you needn't read this. You already know that the cold keeps getting colder and as easy as it is to wait out winter's duration, an active social life is key for clarity. The 2015 International Motorcycle Show has everyone out and about, looking at new developments in motorcycling while preparing for what's to be a welcome riding season.
Be safe out there!
What Events Are You Attending This Year?
There are a lot of motorcycle pertinent gatherings on the calendar. Which ones do you prefer most? What do you like about them and why? Your input is invited. Leave a comment!