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AIMExpo Recap

With room rates worthy of dipping into your 401k plan to cover the cost, several of us Pacific Northwesterners opted to stay across the street from the Mandalay Bay Resort when the 2018 AIMExpo was set to happen. Just know, when they say ‘across-the-street’ in Las Vegas, that can mean a literal mile-plus walk from one hotel to another. And so it was. The daily aerobics fit my routine walking schedule just fine.

Vegas was a good pick for the Expo. Lots of people like to go there, the climate is mild in the fall and there’s plenty to see and do beyond a convention or exhibition. But hey – let’s talk Expo.

Thursday morning kicked off with a keynote address featuring Rick May, a former road racer who is presently the senior advisor to U.S. Secretary of the Department of Interior, Ryan Zinke. May's job is to oversee recreational activities on public lands, with the aim of creating access and opportunities. With a Republican stronghold in place, May made it clear that “recreation is open for business again in the United States,” pointing out that 3 million additional acres of land had been opened up for recreational opportunities in the last 20 months. Then he rolled a video created by the department showing kayakers, desert motorcyclists, hikers, side-by-side enthusiasts and several other outdoor recreationalists both human-powered as well as combustion-engine carried. The crowd applauded when May noted that to date they had rescinded 1,400 environmental regulations since the Republicans took control in 2016.

The elephant in the room? E-15, aka 15% ethanol fuel, aka 15% corn water gasoline, streaming into recreational vehicles which causes damage to powersports motors. In case you’ve been living under a rock the last 20 years, plans are afoot to make it legal to sell year around. Who’s behind the lobbyists for that? The growers and the seed provider – namely Monsanto.

So, we ask – is the American Motorcyclist Association and the Motorcycle Industry Council communicating its concerns over the push to approve E-15 to May and Zinke who are the two key players that could stall approval of the fuel mixture being sold? We’ll keep asking.

The show floor opened and the dance from booth to booth began. Missing? European manufacturers. If this show is to be on par with an international exhibition, the lack of showcases from BMW, KTM, Triumph, Piaggio and Ducati made one feel they were only getting half the picture. Sure, these manufacturers had to gear up with the EICMA show coming up in November in Milan, but surely the U.S. offices could have pulled it together to set up representative displays. No?

So, the Japanese four and American two anchored the show. Honda had a large footprint showing off their new 2019 models which had been teased earlier this summer. Yamaha arrived with not one, but two Nikens in tow. Suzuki displayed their 2019 lineup, sadly not too different from the 2018 lineup. Kawasaki rose to the top with the unveiling of its new H2 Carbon model. The latter will unveil up to four more models at EICMA in November.

Indian continues to impress. Making an entry into the Pike’s Peak Hillclimb, on the Bonneville Salt Flats and no snagging wins in flat track, the steamroller is on the move and scooping up market share as it rolls. H-D showcased their latest models, but the ride-by-wire promised for 2019 was nowhere to be seen.

The manufacturer that took a spotlight beyond the big boys was SSR Motorsports who showcased the latest offerings from the Benelli marque and their own lineup. In all they had more than 20 models in the 50-700cc range priced to go. Although all manufactured in China, the fit and finish was superior to what we’ve seen from that region in the past. Time will tell. All Benelli models are designed in Italy. Take a moment and look over their site to see what we’re talking about here.

Luggage wars have heated up at a number of Pacific Northwest companies in recent years. But they were not represented at this show. Instead Givi and Nelson-Rigg were on hand showing some very impressive offerings. See our current Marketplace feature for a look at the soft bags from each.

The intercom showdown continues with both Cardo and Sena showing their upcoming models for 2019. Sena has recently released a helmet with the camera built in. Rumor has it they plan to release a similar helmet with noise cancelling technology in the near future, a feature every full-face rider would love to see. The caveat – US DOT does not want to approve such a helmet. Cardo, on the other hand has partnered with JBL to provide its speaker designs in their intercom systems.

Not a lot going on in the apparel department. Alpinestars showed its latest adventure suit, the Andes Pro. If you’re a Honda fan, the apparel leader has teamed up with Honda to create a version in red, white, blue and black, which will be exclusively sold at Honda stores.

Kids' bikes continue to be a key to rider entry. Stryder has done a great job in the last few years helping youngsters get on two wheels and learn to balance without leaning, literally, on the use of training wheels. StaceyC showed they can take it to the next level offering electric models of balance bikes kids can continue with. These bikes rip. We say – Stryder first, then take it from there.

A number of industry seminars ensued Thursday and Friday. One key presentation, Bringing New Riders Into Your Dealership focused on psychographics of new riders that are key to growing business. Did you know…?

  • 65% of new riders simply want to ride alone and are not interested in joining a club
  • 83% trust online reviews of bike recommendations as much as they do from friends and family
  • 55% of riders would like to attend special events and presentations at dealers if they were happening

That last one gets us as more and more dealers have cut off special events over recent years.

The 2019 AIMExpo is set for Columbus, Ohio. It’s not Las Vegas, but you’re not far from the Motorcycle Hall of Fame which would be a nice addition to a trip into the area.

Be sure to review any of the mentioned websites and have a look at what’s new for 2019.

TM/November 18


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