This winter has been relatively mild so far in these parts. In some ways, it makes the normal “cabin fever” escapes seem a little less like, well...escapes. While I watched the Dakar Rally this year, I was able to get out and ride (see Dakar during Dakar). And then, the NY International Motorcycle Show came to town while I was still out riding a few days before. However, the show, as always, is a welcome immersion in the two-wheeled world. The IMS is of course focused on the new, and my interest is primarily in the old, but there is plenty that is of interest, and there are also plenty of accessories and gear aimed at the general two-wheeled world regardless of vintage.
A continuing phenomenon is that there are always many exhibits which exploit the old to sell the new. Honda and Harley Davidson in particular, seem to include some old models or racebikes to remind everyone of the rich heritage that makes them worthy of your investment. For a relatively new marque, Victory always has a model or two that directly translate old styles into new models. Their HighBall model is complete with mini Ape hangers, whitewalls, flat black paint, and a bobber style rear. Triumph unabashedly has a line called Classics which includes the Bonneville, the Thruxton, and a Steve McQueen Edition. Ducati only recently discontinued their Classic line. And then there is Royal Enfield. Nobody else on the planet is selling a 1955 motorcycle today as new. They may have recently made a concession to fuel injection rather than carbs, but they were forced into it by the emissions police in their most important markets. They may have finally lost the kickstart on some models (why ??) and gained a front disc brake, but those are minor concessions to convenience and safety. Other than that, they look and feel, reportedly run and stop, and even tap your wallet, like a proper all-purpose British bike from the late 1950s. For no good reason, I want one.
At the other end of the spectrum is Evolve motorcycles with their Tron cycle. This is a working electric bike which is a replica of the famous machine from the movie. Very cool. Very impractical. Also in the future camp was BMW. For a company with a long and rich heritage, they have not really tried to mine their past for reusable gems. In fact, their booth is firmly anchored in the future with Maxi-Scooters, world-leading Superbikes, and Hyper-Touring machines. There was no sign of the coming water-cooled R bikes, but that too will be ushering in the future to the most sacred component of the heritage. BMW also had the turbo-charged center-hub-steering masterpiece created by Sweden's Stellan Egeland. I spoke with him for a few minutes about his creation. He is mad, and we are all the better for it. As if in contrast, the BMW MOA booth featured only a well-traveled version of my R100GS PD. Back to the future, Kawasaki's new ZX-14 will run in the low 9 second range in the quarter mile out of the crate !! The only problem is that you need Ricky Gadsen aboard to make the happen.
Cafe Racers, Streetfighters, retro clothing and gear, were all mixed in liberally with the new. The good news is that very good gear can be stylish and will no longer break the bank. You can get reasonable heated gear for those that need it, or you can go on a moto-tour of Costa Rica if you prefer to wear your warm weather gear during the northern winter. As a sign of the times though, the show was definitely smaller and less well attended. I thought I would see more products and services aimed at keeping your machine on the road longer, but I did not. I thought I would see more commuter and more hybrid solutions, but actually there was more of that last year. Perhaps it is just that fewer vendors can afford to be present at the show. It did not take me a long time to get through the whole show, but it remains an essential break for us northerners during the Ice Solstice.