While perhaps not as glitzy and full of exciting news as EICMA, the International Motorcycle Show at Long Beach provided an excellent opportunity to check out the latest and greatest from established marques and new up-and-comers. Here are my 10 best finds:
1. Nitron Shocks
What is it? Nitron is a UK-based design and manufacturing firm that specializes in high-end suspension systems. They have developed suspension solutions for Aston Martin, Ferrari, Porsche, BMW, and many others in both road-race and F1 contexts. They also have a product-line aimed at consumers that they have just recently begun to roll out in the United States.
Price: Ranges from $500 to a lot more. Depends on your needs and application.
Why I picked it: Nitron is aiming squarely at Ohlin’s corner on the aftermarket high-end suspension market, all while coming in at a more rider-friendly price point. All of their suspension solutions (shocks and fork cartridges) are customized for the specific needs of the rider so you are not relying on off-the-shelf shim stacks and spring-rates that may or may not work for your needs. I got to handle some of their shocks on the booth-table and the quality of the builds felt as good as anything I’ve seen. The best part, however, is that they’ve got some very talented people behind their push in the United States. Their USA Technical Director, Lenny Albin, has years of experience in suspension engineering including working for Ohlins and Racetech and as a AMA Pro Suspension tuner. Learn more at www.nitron-usa.com or visit Lenny at Miller Motorsports Park for a personal consultation.
2. The Beast
What is it? A thoroughly custom, rough and tumble, quirky yet practical, and completely unique BMW R1150GS adventure sidecar motorcycle that will make you a fresh shot of espresso and fill your tank with gas at the same time. Built by a French guy named Raphael.
Price: Not for sale.
Why I picked it: Where to start? First of all, there’s Rapheal, the designer and builder of this machine. He’s funny, personable and undeniably French. Then there’s the sidecar, which sports electronic ride-height adjustability, an 11-gallon auxiliary fuel tank with electronic pump and nozzle (making it the perfect ride support-bike), the lovely “steam punk” espresso machine built into a removable metal suitcase, automotive width tires on all four corners, and much more.
3. Butler Maps and Riding Social
What is it?: Physical road-maps designed, developed and produced for motorcyclists.
Price: $15 per regional map to $300 for the full set. Check out their site for the latest deals.
Why I picked it (them): The folks at Butler have nailed it. It’s rare to find such a close harmony between concept and execution when it comes to motorcycle products, but these maps deliver. They are highly legible, attractively produced, and provide the user with a wealth of relevant and interesting information including the best riding roads. They’ve also included smartphone connectivity via QR code for info on climate, places to tuck-in, sleep and drink, and other useful bits of info like elevation profiles, nearest motorcycle shops and more. To top it off, they are waterproof and tear-proof. Best of all, the information in the maps is backed by hands-on research conducted by the team at Butler. They ride the roads, stay at inns, eat at restaurants and build the maps based on first-hand experience. I spoke with Justin Bradshaw at the Butler Maps booth and in addition to expanding their map lineup, they’ll soon be releasing their own smartphone application, “Riding Social.” Based on some initial details that Justin shared with me, I can already tell that the same kind of thoughtful attention that went into the maps is also being applied. It is going to be something you’ll want to have.
4. Nuviz HUD
What is it? I covered Nuviz and their Heads-up-display (HUD) solution for motorcyclists in a recent article. Basically, it is an externally-mounted HUD display for your helmet that can show the rider everything from navigation directions and telemetry to race-related data and weather forecasts. It also has photo and video capture functionality as well.
Price: $499. Jump in on their Kickstarter campaign to score one for less.
Why I picked it: You truly get a feel for a company and its philosophy when you talk to their people in person. I had the opportunity to chat with Malte Laass, co-founder and CEO of Nuviz, for close to 45 minutes about their upcoming HUD accessory as well as their Ride:Cloud complimentary application. Malte is an imposing guy, standing about 6’5’’ and built strong, but he is very approachable and confident about their company and its mission. In addition to hardware (the HUD unit), they’ll be launching their own motorcycle software application called Ride:Cloud which seeks to enhance the riding experience for both HUD and non-HUD users alike by helping them plan, capture and share their rides with others. I’m hoping that they can team up with the folks at Butler Maps and integrate what they are doing with Riding:Social for the ultimate motorcycle application (*hint hint* *nudge* *wink* *shove*).
5. Makoto Endo
Who is he? Makoto is a talented artist with a penchant for classic motorcycles and splattering ink on large swaths of canvas.
Prices: $150-300 for prints, and $2000+ for originals and commissioned works.
Why I picked him: Let me just share a poem by Makoto printed on his info flyer:
Humans can be distinguished into two types.
One rides a bike, the other does not.
The one who rides
Doesn’t care how much it costs,
Or about pain or injury.
I paint only for them.
That about sums up Makoto. A genuinely likeable and talented guy who happens to love to paint motorcycles and everything about them. Stumbling on his booth with him sprawled out on the floor and working was a breath of fresh air after many hours at the show.
6. Schuberth C3 Pro
What is it? The latest and greatest from the German helmet maker. This helmet incorporates enough technical features to make every ride enjoyable and safe.
Why I picked it: This is a pricey bit o’ kit, but the level or attention to detail really makes it stand out. The kind folks from Schuberth U.S. were on hand to talk about their products and fit show-goers to the helmet that meets their needs. The C3 Pro immediately caught my interest after Sean MacDonald raved about it to me at the recent Aerostich pop-up event. Leave it to a German helmet manufacturer to design a helmet that seals against your neck, ensures the right amount of oxygen in your lid on cold days, and incorporates an integral antenna for the optional SRC Bluetooth system. All this is built into an attractive flip-up face and flip-down sun visor. This is the Swiss Army and Rolex of helmets rolled into one. I cannot wait to get my hands on, and my head in, one for testing.
7. British Motorcycle Gear and Belstaff Apparel
What is it? Legacy brand Belstaff makes jackets for motorcyclists that have the traditional style that we all crave, with added modern attention to detail and safety.
Why I picked it: British Motorcycle Gear is the U.S. distributor for Belstaff motorcycle apparel; a brand of with real history. Their jackets have been worn by the likes of Steve McQueen and T.E. Lawrence and many others over the years. BMG’s own line of gear felt like quality stuff and the best part is that they are priced reasonably well for the features and functionality built into the jackets and pants. If you’ve tried the other major brands, give BMG and Belstaff a try; it’s quality gear that looks right at an unpretentious price. Pick wisely, however. Waxed cotton outer fabric, while steeped in heritage, will not provide the same level of abrasion resistance as leathers or modern textiles. Nevertheless, it would be a perfect jacket for posing around town and on your retro standard or fancy Italian scooter. For those looking for more protection and all-season performance, take a look at BMG’s Long Way Down and Discovery jackets.
8. This custom Triumph Thruxton
What is it? A Thruxton with a custom Airtech-Dunstall full fairing.
Why I picked it: With a nod towards the thriving aftermarket for their classics, Triumph had a populated their floor space with customs from various makers and owners. There were some pretty off-the-wall creations, including a twin-engined 1955 Triumph called “Double Vision, but the one that first caught my eye was this relatively unassuming red bike. The fairing really transforms the in-person presence of the bike and I think Triumph would do well to enlist the services of Airtech Streamlining to develop an off-the-shelf fairing kit for owners who want some wind protection and old-school racing style. I want one, desperately.
9. Josh Herrin
Who is he? Former AMA Pro Superbike Championship racer, Josh is now jumping up to Moto2. He is the second full-time American rider in Moto2 history and the only rider to have made such a big leap from AMA.
Price: Josh is not for sale.
Why I picked him: At 23-years-old and already on an unprecedented path of success, Josh is refreshingly down-to-earth and fun to talk to. We talked about everything from his training regimen, to mountain biking, to the fact that he is 6-years engaged to his fiancé and how she shows up to every one of his races to support him. That and the fact that his favorite bike to ride on the street is a Yamaha WR250X. You can catch him in the 2014 Moto2 Championship racing with Caterham.
10. British Customs
Who are they? British Customs (BC) designs and manufactures bolt-on parts for Triumph motorcycle owners. They also do creative and functional one-off builds showcasing their most up-to-date solutions.
Why I picked them: The folks at British Customs embody that problem-solution spirit that I really admire about the customs and aftermarket motorcycle industry. They are a relatively small outfit but their products cover the entire Triumph range and they punch well above their weight. I got to chat with Jason Panther, founder of BC, and his team on the show floor and was impressed with their enthusiasm and grounded perspective on work and play. Their project bikes all embody distinct visions about motorcycles and are built with off-the-shelf and prototype farkles (that means function and sparkle folks). The beauty is that if you like the concept behind any of their builds, you can pick and choose which parts you want from the build right from their website. They also had a Scrambler project bike on display at the Triumph booth. The Scrambler Dirt Bike was caked with mud. That should tell you something.