You can almost smell the exhaust coming off the roster at this year's International Motorcycle Shows in Long Beach as it revs up for its Friday launch. The annual celebration of motorcycles and the folks who love to ride them boasts an alphabet soup of bikes from BMW to Yamaha and most manufacturers in between, as well as stunts from Jason Britton's Team No Limit and workshops for riders who like to wrench.
New motorcycle sales have been hit hard by the down economy, but you'd hardly know it from this year's lineup, which is showcasing 450 models, many of them brand-new. BMW's six-cylinder K 1600s, Harley-Davidson's Sportster Super Low, Honda's CBR250R, Ducati's Diavel, Triumph's Tigers and the Mission R electric superbike from Mission Motors (making its world debut Friday) will all be parked on the carpet.
Touching. Ogling. Straddling. That's all well and good, but anyone with a helmet and a motorcycle license can also ride select bikes. Harley-Davidson, Yamaha/Star, Kawasaki, Victory, Triumph and Can-Am are all offering demo rides. Another incentive to ride, rather than drive, to the show: free bike parking, as well as a gear check that negates the need to walk the convention floor with a helmet in hand.
"It's a good value day out for enthusiasts who want to indulge their lifestyle," said Danny Phillips, executive vice president of Advanstar Communications, which operates the show. "If someone buys a ticket at the door and a hot dog or maybe a T-shirt, it's still less than $50 they're spending for a good day with their club buddies."
Movies will be screened throughout the weekend in something new to the event this year: The MotoFlix Movie Theater. It will screen a more or less continuous loop of snippets from nine biker movies, including "Carlsbad USGP" and "Take It to the Limit."
Also new this year is a DIY garage so riders can learn to install exhaust systems, wire GPS devices and set their bikes' suspensions on their own rather than forking out to a mechanic. Other workshops are offered through something called the Hub, a stage that serves as a sort of classroom. Advanced Riding Techniques with racer Lee Parks and Bike Paint Prep with custom builder Dave Perewitz are among the seminars.
Individual manufacturers will be running their own events, as well, including Harley-Davidson and its famed Bike Lift demos, which show it is in fact possible to lift a 500-pound bike if you have the misfortune of dumping one. Ducati will transform its booth into a runway at various points throughout the weekend, letting models parade between its internal-combustion eye candy in a new line of gear designed to complement its new hot rod, the Diavel. Fashion not your thing? Sit back and enjoy the espressos the Italian manufacturer's staff will be pulling for its Ducatisti.
"Our booth is not just a red carpet rolled out with bikes on it," said Ducati North America spokesman John Paolo Canton, noting that the carpet in its booth is, in fact, black. "It's very cool and dynamic."
Ducati team rider and MotoGP world champ Nicky Hayden, a.k.a. the Kentucky Kid, will trot out his drawl and sign autographs Friday from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., as will Superbike World Champ Ben Spies at the Yamaha booth just afterward, from 6:00 to 7:30.
"The motorcycle industry in general is an emotional industry. It's an experiential industry," said Greg Heichelbech, chief executive of Triumph North America, which is making 24 of its bikes available for test rides this weekend. "Butts in seats is the best way to show customers how it feels."
Progressive International Motorcycle Show
Where: Long Beach Convention Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach
When: 4 to 9 p.m. Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: Adults $15, children 6 and older $6, children 5 and younger free; $10 for car parking, free for motorcycles
Info: (562) 628-8200; http://www.motorcycleshows.com/LongBeach